There is an ongoing discussion about the rating system for articles posted to a business oriented social network site that I belong to. While am not part of the discussion, my one and only post to that site had been rated very low despite the fact that I am recognized internationally in the subject matter of that particular article. I stopped posting articles to rated sites because the rating systems are flawed at the core of logic – Frankly, it’s too risky. As the creativity, originality, or controversy of the post increases, the disincentives to sharing it also increases. I don’t want my customers googling me to see this rating without also being able to google my reviewer. No sour grapes – I’d wear a D+ from Stephen Hawking as a badge of honor.
The objective of any business/social network in today’s world should be to make human knowledge more tangible outside the construct of the corporation, such that it emulates a financial instrument – at the end of the day, it’s about the money. Otherwise Social Networking amounts to active recreation – like guitar hero, or tubing; fun but somewhat trivial.
ALL financial instruments, without exception, are described in terms of a quantity and a quality. ALL quantity and quality measures for financial instruments are statistical in nature – that is, they fall on some kind of “bell curve”. This is true for EVERYTHING from a stock valuation to credit score to marketing demographics to health/home/life/car/business insurance, baseball players, GPA, etc. – the bell curve is ubiquitous. Whoever is not minimally familiar with the simplest basic concepts of a Normal Distribution, et al, is at a severe and unfortunate disadvantage in the innovation economy. This is how the world of money is organized, this is what money is, this is what Wall Street does – for better or worse, like it or not….it is what is.
One obvious failure of most Social network rating systems is the linear 1-5 “stars”. If there were 6 stars then at least we could have a leg up on applying the most valuable mathematical tools available from the world of wealth and value creation (hence, Six Sigma). Second – the bell curve is not linear and the reviewer needs to be aware of this. 6 stars would mean that a post falls (in some measure) between 97%-100% of all similar level posts ever read by the reviewer. 5 stars falls in the 85%-97% range; 4 stars, 50%-85%; 3 stars, 35%-50%; 2 stars, 3%-15%; 1 star 0-3%.
If Calculus isn’t your thing, consider this – the bell curve rating system makes the reviewer really think about who they are in the process, the responsibility they hold in the rating of others, and the implications of their ratings – too high, or too low. It would be good to know how many articles the reviewer has read and rated, the average of their ratings, as well as their own rating on articles published (is this staring to sound like EBay? – it should, at 25B market cap, they’re not silly people). Social accountability does wonders for market efficiency and wealth creation.
Social Networks are ideally suited for correctly rating their own knowledge inventories so that when their members go out in the new world trying to make a living, it is known to all that they have been vetted by a respected community. This increases the value of the member and it increases the value of the community in the market. Communities that empower and release great talent to a market actually empower themselves; Harvard, GE, Frank Zappa. This has happened at the local level since the stone ages.
What about our competitive instincts? There can only be one winner and the rest are losers, aren’t all good Capitalists supposed to decimate thy neighbor? Always remember, it is all about the perfect combination of average assets, not necessarily the single excessive asset that makes product most valuable in a market. The market for Toyotas is far greater than the market for Ferraris, yet each are competitive in their respective market. The studies of ‘beauty’ discovered a collection of perfectly average features – in the eye of the beholder, consistent with balance and harmony. So we’ll need to drop the win-lose culture on this one and worry about competing with the real threats that lie before us.
Sure, most people will complain about such a system because it is too complicated, too math-ish, not the easy tweet (OMG CUL8R!). But this is the reality of how money is organized – and disorganized (did I mention Wall Street yet?). There is no exception, there is no rational alternative – the world does not care if people agree with the way things are or if they understand the math.
Fortunately, once people learn to roll over this metaphysical speed bump, the rest is real easy as a vast world of possibility for generating extreme wealth in social networks will unfold before our eyes!! Knowledge tangibility is the Holy Grail of modern finance but Social Networks are at risk of squandering this unique and historical opportunity to paint this empty canvas in their own image. Act now, please – this chance may never happen again.