Frequently asked questions
Hi, my name is Juan and I am the cofounder and CEO of Traity. I would like to take the opportunity to answer all your questions in the same way I answer them when I speak face to face, basically avoiding all the bullshit. Below, I have covered all the questions that I am asked on a daily basis. If you have other questions, please feel free to ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer those questions here.
About the profile
So why do I even need a Traity profile?
Whether you manage it or not, you have a reputation. Etymologically, reputation means "what other people think about you". And everybody already has an opinion about you. Traity gives you the opportunity to aggregate that information in one place, where you can control it and use it in ways that are beneficial to you and to society.
Trust is in every transaction we make as human beings. And 99% of transactions work out well. Unfortunately, because of that 1%, humans are cautious. This means that, in a trustless environment, we either start very slowly (trusting other people with small things, then progressing to bigger and bigger ones) or trusting a third party, like Visa, in the case of payments, or Harvard, in the case of hiring a doctor.
But why can I not use other social profiles?
Online we have limited choices because there is no Harvard. If you try to rent a shared appartment on CraigList, many people will ask you for your "Facebook" or "LinkedIn" profiles (I wonder what people expect to do with that information beyond looking at your pictures, and if they your picture, assuming you are a good guy or girl). The same goes to any other peer-to-peer transactions, such as online dating (I did meet my ex-girlfriend online and she was concerned about whether I was a good guy), or buying and selling second hand: I tried to buy a second hand laptop on a well known website and the guy never sent the product. I traced his email address, eventually found his name and took him to court. Unfortunately I never got my money back because it was sub $500 and it was not considered a crime. If I had had Traity, I would have been able to see the track record of this individual.
Traity is not a social network per sé. Traity is an aggregator of information that you can use to prove your reputation to other people. The repository of your reputation, your reputation passport, a gate to the data you want to share with others to prove you are a good online citizen for any kind of transactions, giving you all the control.
About the reputation indicator
How do you calculate the reputation?
This question is critical. Calculating reputation is difficult because, "what is reputation and where does it come from?" Let's try to answer that question first.
Reputation comes from endorsement. A management consultant gets reputation from his/her firm, like McKinsey or BCG. A lawyer gets reputation from his/her client, like Samsung or Apple. A doctor gets reputation from her university, like Harvard or Stanford. Reputation, therefore, comes from other entities, which have reputation themselves, acquired over time. In most transactions, reputation comes from some common friend or contact, or from building a relationship over many years.
The thing is that reputation means different things to you than to me. If we look at the same random person on the street, we should have the same appreciation for reputation, but we don't. If that person seems more familiar to you than to me (for example, because of clothes that you find similar to your style), you automatically assign more reputation to that person than i do. That´s interesting because the person is the same and is still a stranger.
If you are a blood donor and we learn that this person is also a blood donor, your trust in this person automatically multiplies, simply because you both share some values. So transparency is critical, positive actions are important, endorsements are the base of reputation, and at the end, familiarity of how that person relates to you, is what makes you trust someone.
However, this is not enough. We still don't know if this person is a good driver, or a good cook. We only know this person is "nice" from a reputation point of view. To have reputation about the skills or traits of this person, we need to go back to a history, either endorsed by friends ("she is a great driver") or look at real transactions ("5 stars on Uber or Lyft"). This is why reputation is not just about an absolute number, it's about the context for reputation and about the people involved.
Got it, now answer the question, how do you calculate it?
1. The first stage is the phase of identity. We have to know that you are who you say you are. I believe that, although this seems simple, it's one of the most impeding challenges of the reputation economy. It is purely a matter of transparency. We ask users to login with different social networks and we'll check that those networks seem legit (in terms of friends, content, when they were created, friends are legit themselves, etc.) and will check that the name is consistent across them, or that you have many of the same friends in the different networks. We'll also go offline, to ask you to upload your passport or ID, so that we can "verify it".We delete the picture, we just maintain the fact that "you verified yourself with the right name".
2. The next phase has to do with you. Your bio, your personality, your achievements. The more you tell us about yourself, the better for your transparency and the better to show others. This does not "prove" reputation in any way, because any person could write anything they want about themselves, but this is part of that subjective reputation where we might trust other people who are similar to us, and this is not about what is right or wrong, it's just about how/who you are.
3. The next phase has to do with studying your social networks. I mentioned this earlier, but there are more algorithms we are running. Who are your best friends, where do you spend most of your time, is it consistent with where your best friends spend time? If you say on LinkedIn that you worked for McKinsey, do you have friends in your network who also worked for McKinsey? If they did not, it might seem strange. This does not cover all aspects of reputation, but now if you want to fake a profile, you have to fake 500 profiles of 500 friends, and probably also their friends, so we are making it more difficult for people to fake their social identities.
4. The next phase has to do with recommendations. We ask your friends what they would recommend you for. They might think you are friendly, or disciplined, or any other trait. This is part of your reputation. These are actions within Traity. We are decentralising it so that you can give "badges" to other people for whatever you believe they have reputation. From being creative to being great leaders or being funny.
5. The more visual aspect is that we are integrating with different reputation webs like collaborative consumption companies. Sharing houses, sharing cars, etc. All of them have its own reputation system, which is very inefficient because users need to start from zero in every market. And if they have passport verification, you have to upload your passport to 100 sites. Not very efficient. This is what we call the ReputationAPI. When you give us access, we take reviews information from collaboration economy companies. Algorithms here don't play a big part. Aggregation is more important. If you think about it, eBay gives you the % rating and the number of transactions. The % is important (you want to see 99.9%) but the number of transactions as well. Less transactions is worse, more transactions is safer. Even if you see 98% in 50 transactions, you will want to read "the bad one," so that's why I say that algorithms are not so important here. It's all about transparency and letting people have access to the full history so that they can read the bad one, or whatever they want to make up in their minds.
Can you tell me more about the Reputation API?
Yep, the ReputationAPI is the real base of the infrastructure of Traity. Reputation economy companies will be able to push information and pull information (accepted by the user) in order to enter more reputation into the system and to integrate that reputation with their own reputation profiles.
Other companies can enter reputation too. I mentioned earlier about blood donations. We are working with a number of partners on this matter. More news soon.
What about privacy issues?
Many people ask me this. The short answer is: There are no privacy issues. We give you full control and we don't sell your data.
The long answer: Quite the contrary to having any privacy issues, we are here to defend your privacy. What does this mean? When you use eBay or AirBnB, you accumulate reputation there. And where can you use that reputation? on eBay or AirBnB. That does not seem very fair, right? Are you the owner of your reputation or are they the owners of your reputation? Why can you not use it to improve your life elsewhere, to have safer transactions elsewhere, to get access to opportunities elsewhere?
With Traity, it's the contrary. You upload your information and you have control. You can reuse that information in any way you want. If you want to use your eBay scores, great, if you don't, that is also great. You will simply have less information to show, and by having a smaller "digital citizenship," your reputation might be lower than when you made it public, which is what you would expect.
Furthermore, when you upload information to a site, they use it for whatever they want. When you upload it to Traity, you choose what information you share with the site. For example, if you verify your account of some house-sharing website, instead of giving them your passport, you can let them access the ReputationAPI so that we can tell them, "Yes, the passport was verified," and nothing else. No need to upload the passport or the picture or anything. They just get confirmation from Traity that this person verified their passport. Give the information once, reuse it anywhere you want, and furthermore, you don't even need to "share such information," but just the fact that you are verified makes you even more trusted.
Aha! but then how can I know I can trust Traity?
Good question. As I mentioned before, in a trustless environment, you end up needing a trusted authority, a third party. Why should Traity be that party?
First and foremost, because we are committed to it. Maybe my word is not worth a lot, but our investors are very successful people, and they would not put their money in a company that could hurt their own personal brands, so here you see a link of how reputation is connected by people. We will not let you down, as we will not let our investors down.
Secondly, we commit to being very transparent about what we do and how we make money. More in the next question.
Thirdly, we are looking into processes such as B-Corp that could help "verify Traity" as a "trusted company". Again, here you would have to trust a third party (in this case B-corp) to ensure we are good people. We'll initiate the process with them shortly.
Ok, so let's get to it. If the service is free and you don't plan to sell my data, how do you make money?
A typical social network will use your data for advertisement. It makes sense, they give you a free service and in exchange they have your attention. In order to optimise the attention they get from you, they use data to show you the right products.
Our approach is different because we are not a typical social network, and we don't even expect users to spend too much time on Traity on a daily basis. There are no cats being shared or "What happens next is amazing" videos.
Our approach is to let you use your data in ways that make your life better, and in doing so, we hope we'll be able to make money in the future. Let me explain:
A typical bank will give credit to people based on some credit score. This credit score usually comes from previous loans. This means that it is difficult for people to enter the system, because in order to have a credit score you need previous credits. Funny, right?
The thing is that at Traity we have the strong belief that social data can tell a lot of things about people's credit worthiness as part of their trustworthiness.
Funny enough, in countries like India there are 100 million bank accounts, and 500 million Facebook accounts. This means that there are potentially 400 million people without a financial identity who do have a social identity. This is similar in many emerging countries. In first world countries, it happens with new entrants into the market, like young people or foreigners.
If we could create systems that would allow people to get access to credit, insurance, jobs and other opportunities based on their reputation, we could be creating something truly meaningful, reducing fraud, reducing risks, increasing efficiency and opening doors to opportunity for many people.
And again, we don't give access to any data that you as a user have given to us, unless you want to proactively give it to someone else. If we ever partner with a bank, the user will decide whether to provide access to his/her Traity data to the bank or insurer, so that the bank can reduce the interest rate. This is the same as if the user decides to give access to his/her data to some collaboration economy company. It's all about giving people choice.
So our business model is based on proactively letting users give access to elements of their private data in order to get access to opportunities that otherwise might be unaccessible or simply too expensive. For example, Short-term credit companies in the UK will give you a crazy interest rate of 2700%. Why? First, because they have limited competition. Second, because they know nothing about you and therefore the risk for them is high and they have to increase the rates to get their money back. But if you could prove to them that you are a good and trustworthy person, based on all your digital history, you should be able to get a reduced interest rate. In that case, signup with Traity and prove to them how good a digital citizen you are. Your reputation will actually have a real economic value in what I call "Critical Transactions."
What if I want to delete my Traity profile?
Of course, go ahead. Delete it, or make any information private that you wish. Or download the information. We don't want to hurt people. We want to help people manage their reputation and use it in ways that improve their lives.
What if my reputation is not good?
As explained before, in most cases reputation is not a matter of good or bad. First we'll check the identity, and here you should be able to be as good as anyone. Then we check what type of person you are, based on your interests, knowledge, personality tests, etc. Here people have different strengths and weaknesses and there is no right or wrong. Then we'll look at endorsements, and here most people show positive engagement on sites like AirBnB, eBay, etc. Of course if you have bad reviews on eBay that's not good for your profile, so please, have good reviews on eBay, don't hurt people and don't commit fraud. If you promise to sell something, send it to them as you promised. That's fair, right?
And then again, we are not reducing people to one number. The profile is very rich, allowing people to interact with it. Some people looking at your profile might trust you for different reasons. Maybe because you practice the same sport, or visited the same cities, or have great reviews, or both like cooking, or because the viewer likes your pictures. It would be pretentious for us to think that we know how to put a number that means "everything", so by opening up the profile and letting people see the transparency, we let people choose who to trust with all the information available, reducing asymmetric information and risk.