Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Britannica fights back on trust

Encyclopedia Britannica, the once-uber knowledge harvester, is still trying to hold on despite the bulldozer growth of Wikipedia. Their claim has always been that their knowledge is approved by experts and can be trusted much more than what you read on Wikipedia. That's fine when there's equivalent depth of information from each source, but there just isn't, so Wikipedia gets more visitors and becomes the loyal destination for knowledge.

Today, Britannica announced they were going to compete with Wikipedia by opening the doors slightly to user-generated content, allowing only approved qualified people to contribute. According to the article, users can "list their qualifications" and they will be manually approved to contribute.

Wouldn't it be more scalable, consistent and trusted (and offer a hope of competing with Wikipedia) if users' qualifications were not just claimed by the user themselves, but part of an objective, automated system of credibility accreditation? Users would be accredited with knowing about certain subjects through their other contributions online. Know Between aims to offer such features.

Lending money to individuals

You lend money to your bank, and trust that they will look after it. They're a big organisation afterall, and your money is pretty much guaranteed. This didn't stop a huge drop in trust when UK bank Northern Rock got into trouble in September 2007.

You also lend money to friends and family. You trust they will pay you back, and you know where to find them if they don't. But what about people you don't know? How do you trust them, especially if they're online rather than face-to-face?

The rise of social or peer-to-peer lending websites such as Zopa is luring people into the benefits of lending money direct to individuals rather than banks. Better rates, but can you trust the borrowers? They provide a profile on the borrower rating. This is based on credit checks, borrowing history and lender feedback, much like an eBay seller.