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Can social media determine how trustworthy you are?

As more and more services focus on the arbitrage of consumer-to-consumer transactions and rentals, the problem of trusting a stranger becomes a significant drag on success.

The rent-out-your-home service Airbnb had a very bad and very public problem last year when a renter trashed and robbed a home.

A new API designed for collaborative applications called Whit.li. claims to be addressing this very problem. It does so by looking at a person’s social media activity and determines a trust score.

Whitli Trailer SXSW 2012 from Emptyset Media on Vimeo.


Whit.li claims the app “magically divines your psycho-social profile”. The company also has an app out, which has a social element of its own. The ad for the app on the Whit.li. homepage encourages you to compare your psycho-social profile “to your friends and others you meet. Discover whether you’d make good traveling companions or workmates or just have a good time at the pub…”

According to Whit.li. founder Jack Holt:

The things you tell the world (city, age, etc.) and those you do not–specifically, your choice of words in your status updates or reviews.

You could call it the, “dependability” or, “reliability” score.

… we track your use of ingestion and perception words, which allows us to divine a particle of your personality and attitude. Combined with other factors we calculate like lifestage, class, income and more, we can paint a pretty good picture of who you really are.

We have a psychologist on retainer who has pointed us to research and, with our own testing, has validated the correlations we use. But we are early, so the algos will surely improve greatly as we track their effectiveness in apps.

You can test it against your Facebook activity.

It’s a reasonable approach to use social media activity to gauge ‘trust.’ However, only a tiny number of people are active in social media compared with the large number of people engaging in consumer-to-consumer services.

And will the headlines of articles that people share be counted and the wording used against them?

People who trashed and robbed people’s homes won’t be found through their social media trails. There’s little protection to be gained from that type of behavior using this approach.

Also, Whit.li sort of sounds like “white lie,” which is not encouraging when it come to matters of trust.

Author | Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley

Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley
Tom Foremski is a former Financial Times journalist and the Founder and Publisher of Silicon Valley Watcher, which is an online news site reporting on the business of Silicon Valley and the culture of disruption. More
  • http://twitter.com/jacks_whitli Jack Holt co-founder

    Bah, humbug! Tom brings up some interesting points I strongly disagree with and address here: http://bit.ly/xxMBvU

    And incidentally, we’ll have a follow-on movie short to the trailer Tom posted for SXSW – see us at Circus Mashimus..or reach out to me directly: jack@whit.li