Reciprocity: all my friends are sexy!

All my friends are sexy. Well, those in Orkut are. Well, they would be but Safari can’t believe it; so it crashes about half way down the list. Maybe it’s a particular friend in the list? Maybe Safari knows something I don’t know?

I was quite taken by David Weinberg’s comment over at many-to-many that prisoner’s in solitary confinement will tap on the walls to communicate with each other. It was just after that that I noticed the amusing way that in Orkut people are finding ways to hear thru the walls of their rating system; so they can figure out what the rules of the road are.

Orkut’s autistic model of a person is trust/cool/sexy. Those linked to you can vote on a scale from 0 to 3 on each of these. To help keep these votes slightly anonymous they don’t display your score (which is just the sum of all the votes you’ve recieved) until you have accumulated at least five votes.

One way that standards of behavior emerge is by mimicing the behaviors of others. If your friends are into the high-five then it’s likely your going to mimic that. If your friends use jargon or cuss a lot you’ll get with the program so as to create cohesion in the group.

Some group standards, like the common handshake, are more coersive than others, like wearing the same color ties. Exchange standards, like handshakes, force the two parties into conformance at least for the duration of the exchange. Where as a the community uniform only signals membership and always has some non-conformance around the edges. Well, to be perfectly honest and remembering the alpha-male behaviors revealed during some handshakes, you get a lot of non-conformance around exchange standards as well.

In anycase people in a community labor to conform to the community’s standards as part of contributing to the public good established inside that community. And since we all know there are risks of being talked-about, scolled, shunned, ostracized, or beaten up in the play ground, if we fail to get with the program.we all expend energy puzzling out what the community rules are.

So I’ve noticed that most people in orkut seem to vote either zero or three. And I suspect that they tend give the same vote to all their associates. I infer this from the tendency of my scores to step forward in units of three. People seem to vote early, but not often.

It looks to me like a lot of people have decided to either opt-out of the rating system; or they have decided to turn all the dials to eleven. The second choice seems kind of friendly than the first; though both signal that we’re too cool to take this autistic model of acquantance seriously.

This is not dissimilar from the tendency of eBay ratings to be effusive and over the top; or a similar patten I’ve noticed at epinions. I don’t think I quite know what this says about the hypothisis that diffuse internet based rating systems can displace proffesional reviewers – a theory I generally agree with. But, you just can’t stop them – people trend toward nice and cooperative.

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