A solution to the loss of trust in Twitter apps?

The trust that many people have in Twitter has been shaken recently by three major events – but there’s one idea that could solve some of the problems.

The events have been:

Stopping anyone with admin access from using a password like ‘happiness’ should cure point number 2, and deadling with mass traffic is something that only Twitter itself can solve.

However, the loss of trust in applications is something that effects the whole Twitter ecosystem, as Mark Evans writes on Twitterati. And even implenting the much-requested OAuth as a technical solution doesn’t guarantee a rogue app can’t affect people. (via the MrTweet Blog)

So what’s the solution then?

It’s a simple idea – there are a lot of sites currently listing Twitter applications as soon as they become available to be the first to carry the news, and also to be a useful resource.

But what about an agreement between some of the Twitter bloggers and established app developers to implement a testing and approval procedure – a relatively simple process which could then list approved and tested applications, and allow them to display an badge of approval.

What gives bloggers the right?

The reason for pulling together reasonably prominent bloggers to implement approval is that we have something to lose if we’re not utterly honest – anyone can update the Twitter wiki with a link to a malicious application, but if 5 prominent Twitter bloggers did it, we’d all lose trust and social reputation, so it keeps us honest.

So what are the benefits?

  • A list of Twitter applications which are being used and monitored to ensure they work as stated
  • An independent approval system by people with a vested interest in keeping things honest
  • More authoritative testing, and a larger quantity of apps being tested than each of us stating individually which apps we use – and a safeguard in case we’re tempted to recommend something without taking a proper look because we’re busy or going on holiday that week.
  • And it means developers can display something to give them a trusted status without the need for a paid store (like the iPhone store), or worrying about being tarred with the same brush as malicious scammers?

So I’m throwing it open – good idea or bad? And are my fellow Twitter bloggers interested?

Want to spread the word? Copy, paste and tweet:

A quick and simple solution to sort the trusted and honest Twitter apps? http://bit.ly/vL48

Is your online identity in your control?

Image by stevec77 on Flickr

This post was inspired by a request by an individual to be removed from the voting on The Rock Stars of Web 2.0 list on Ditto.

We quickly complied and I want to make it absolutely clear that there’s no malice or irritation at someone wishing to be removed. If it had been an article of a blog post which was in the public interest, things would have been different, but the list is intended to be an interesting bit of fun, nothing more. Although I’d always suggest polite responses will get a quicker reaction.

But it raised some interesting questions about online identity, as the reason given for removal was that the profile listing (Image, name and main claim to fame) ‘was not approved’ by the individual in question. It’s lead me to wonder if anyone can really hope to control their online appearances to only those which are officially approved, especially if they have any level of internet ‘fame’.

A quick Google search for the name reveals many thousands of mentions, images, quotes etc. Are we right to assume that all of these have been individually approved? Or are they seen as valid if they are on established sources, blogs, or media sharing sites? Is it the voting mechanism which prompted the request?

And how would I feel about a similar situation? I’d be happy if I was considered a ‘Web 2.0’ celebrity (which I’m blatantly not), but what if I was at the bottom of the list? (Luckily at the moment it’s Jason Calacanis, who never seems particularly fussed about risking negative sentiment online).

And what happens if it was a list which I found distasteful or offensive? Something which was racist or homophobic for example? Would I even know it existed in the first place, if it didn’t pop up in a Google alert, or someone didn’t bring it to my attention somehow?

So:

  • How do I reassure myself I can find every instance in which I appear online?
  • Do I need to check the context of every appearance?
  • Should I expect to give my approval every time I appear somewhere?
  • Should I expect to be able to request my removal and have a prompt response?

The first task is tricky. A Google search will pick up a lot of things, but not all of them. There could be some bizarre story or rumour about me, hidden away on a tiny un-indexed website, that could, theoretically, suddenly make the front page of Digg at any time (It’s pretty unlikely though!). If my online identity and network are what I base my career on, one big article, image, or video could have a big effect on the people that know me, and a huge effect on anyone seeing me or my name for the first time.

That’s why I do tend to check the context if I see or hear my name mentioned somewhere. It’s not about checking mentions are always positive, and getting upset if they aren’t (Like famous actors, I never read reviews!). But checking that things haven’t been mis-attributed, taken out of context, or words put in my mouth.

But I definitely don’t expect websites to seek my approval before they publish anything about me, or for them to necessarily remove it if I complain. And a removal request wouldn’t be triggered by a positive or negative response. It’s dependant on whether the mention is truthful, although I would expect a right to reply for a negative response, and they should be asking for my response before publication. It’s good journalistic practice and also good from a legal standpoint.

And anything I do online is done with the knowledge that it could be re-used, re-compiled, or twisted with, or without my knowledge, and that although technology and good working practices should mean I have a chance to respond to any damaging mentions, hopefully I’m now findable enough that anything out of context will be obviously so, by comparison to my blogging, twittering, facebooking etc. There will be rotten apples online as well as offline, and having control of a brand, even a personal one, will have a limited impact at best.

At the end of the day, perhaps the best way to ensure a consistent online identity is to be open, and swamp anything out of character with quality insights into what you and I are really about?

I’m really interested to hear what other people think, although I’d like to stress this is about identity rather than a place to spam online reputation management services…

(Funnily enough I just logged into Flickr to find the above image: Who Am I by stevec77, and found a message asking to use one of my images for an article on lolcats. Having to register to agree to let them publish it, and in the process having to sign up for emails as part of the Ts and Cs is pretty rubbish, but hey, I’m always interested in crowd powered media. And lolcats.)
Hizzy as a lolcat