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October 18, 2005


Rob Russell

Some interesting and diverting thoughts, Irving. I agree that trust is important, if not vital, and that trust is built on integrity - visible, testable, recognisable integrity. This integrity is implicit in the underlying cultural fabric of our communities and tested or demonstrated in many ways. However it's not so easily judged online - not yet, anyway.

Some thoughts and questions pertinent to this - in no particular order. Firstly, whilst the Internet is facilitating new global connections and thus bringing into being new communities, what are the implications for 'culture'?

Assuming that we have measurable cultural diversity in terms of personal values (it's obvious enough, but let's measure and compare it to be sure) how do we bring together these diverse expectations and definitions on a global platform? I am suggesting that 'trust' and 'integrity' could be viewed and enacted differently across cultures. Cultural research by such as Trompenaars would certainly say that's the case.

So is the Internet facilitating a new, common definition for concepts such as trust and integrity, perhaps even culture; or are our online communities simply bringing about a temporary agreement on these terms, perhaps lasting only as long as it takes to complete (for example) an eBay transaction? After which we return to our native cultures, values and norms?

If the Internet as a facilitator for idea exchange, analysis and dispersal is to be truly pervasive then these questions of culture and definition need to be examined and understood globally.

Finally, the flipside of 'trust' is of course open analysis and engagement - critical thinking, if you will. Do we deserve to be trusted? Again obvious enough; but when we do offer up our trust it should be on the basis that this trust (be it as employers, employees, customers or as members of a community) is respected, earned and valued.

I note that eBay has a simple mechanism by which the 'earned trust' value can be measured and presented for each trader. Whilst simplistic it may show a way forward, where our personal authenticity and demonstrated trust value can be measured and displayed throughout our online lives. Unless we don't like the implications of that, either ;-)

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