Trust in Web Communities

To some degree, most successful communities on the web, from couch surfing to ebay, depend on Pierre Omidyar’s maxim “people are basically good” being mostly true. Communities rely on trust, whether that trust risk little– such as cooking a meal or knitting an object based on the instructions for others– or a lot, such as potential losses of money and even physical danger with sites like CouchSurfing.com. What kind of trust(s) do you place in these kinds of communities, large or small?

I use eBay for a lot of my educational needs – both as a teacher and as a student. Everything’s cheap, I can typically find what I’m looking for, and I can get what I want in a timely manner. However, because I’m buying from strangers on the internet, I have to trust that they’re not scammers looking to get a quick buck. It’s difficult at times, and I do follow my own set of stipulations to make purchases – there has to be a thorough description of the item, there needs to be a photograph of said item, and the seller’s feedback needs to be above 99.5% to get my business. Not everyone on eBay can be trusted, and I think that it’s in part up to the buyer to make informed decisions. As much as I’d love to say that everyone on the site is worthy of 100% positive feedback, I already know from my own experience that it’s far from the truth. However, because eBay as a whole is a trust-worthy site (and has always been quite helpful if I’ve had an issue that needs to be addressed), I don’t think twice about putting my trust in the company.

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