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Sarah Hall Headshot

Reputation Capital and the Dawn of the New Era of Credentialing

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Flickr: unnormalized
Flickr: unnormalized

Brace yourself for an obvious statement. You do a lot of things on the Internet, like a lot. This includes things like selling on Etsy, renting on Airbnb and reviewing on Yelp to countless other interactions, every day. All of these interactions, or more aptly called transactions, demonstrate aspects of your character and personality. Do you always ship your homemade jewelry to buyers on time? You are probably reliable. Are you a gracious and accommodating Airbnb host? Chances are you are an affable person who is trustworthy. The problem is that these interactions are currently "siloed" in the domain within which they take place. This means that you may have a stellar reputation as a seller in the Amazon marketplace, but when you first sign up as as Airbnb host, no one would ever know. You essentially have to start from scratch each time you establish yourself as a credible resource within a new digital domain when it comes to your online actions and your reputation.

This may all be changing. There is a new cadre of start-ups springing up to help alleviate this "pain point" by providing you with tools to assess and store your "digital" reputational capital. This includes companies like Connect.Me, TrustCloud, TrustRank, Legit and WhyTrusted, which are trying to correlate and analyze this data by building "reputational" APIs. While this concept is interesting, it also creates a whole host of new challenges, raising many questions like:

How do you integrate online reputation building actions with "offline" behaviors? How to they make this new "credentialing" process safe from fraud and hacks? Will third-party players like Etsy and Airbnb make their data accessible for true API integration?

This push into reputational capital analysis and storage is just one small piece of a growing credentialing market, which is primarily focused on employment and education. For far too long, we have relied on static resumes and numbers to represent our abilities and potential. Resumes are imperfect and un-engaging at best, damaging at worst. They do not give any real insight into an applicant's talents or skills. When we send resumes out into the abyss, we typically get little to no feedback in terms of how they were received. This makes it extremely difficult to refine them for more successful outcomes in the future.

The numerous potential pitfalls of the current resume carries huge ramifications. Particularly now, when a large percentage of the population is unemployed and bad hires have a large financial and organizational culture impact. Luckily, this is starting to change and companies like Pathbrite and Seelio are leading the way. They are developing products that enable users to create rich, multimedia "portfolios" showcasing their achievements and skills. These portfolios can then be personalized and shared with potential employers and education institutions, revolutionizing the way we assess, represent and understand our individual and aggregate human capital.

Underlying these beautiful achievement capture and storage machines are rich data insights. Since these portfolios are dynamic, users will be able to see what parts of their achievement and experience resonated with which educational institutions and different types of employers. Companies providing these services will be able to aggregate this data and it will ultimately reveal deep insight into admission and employment trends and outcomes. These aggregate insights will help both individuals and companies to be more successful in the long run.

It's easy to imagine a day when the new employment/education portfolio platform will be as ubiquitous as Facebook. The majority of people will have one and it will change the way that we educate, hire and retain. Some of the most basic and fundamental collective actions we undertake in both imaginable and unimaginable ways.