A few months ago I let Noah crash at my apartment. It was the second time we’d met in person and I allowed him to sleep on my couch for a week.
Strangely enough I wasn’t bothered by this. Actually, I was more bothered by the fact that I wasn’t bothered at all (sorry to get all meta ya’). I found it incredibly odd that I was totally cool with this stranger staying in my home. I kept asking myself why I trusted him.
The more I thought about it, the more his website came up. Noah’s homepage has his cellphone number. He writes about his mom and dad. He exposes how many RSS readers he has to the world. That’s some serious controlled exposure (or radical transparency if you prefer Chris Anderson’s naming schema).
After cataloging all these things I realized that I was allowing him to use his reputation as a form of collateral in our trust exchange. By combining Okdork.com with the fact that we traveled in similar circles and have shared acquaintances, I was willing to give him my trust. I guess I felt like someone wouldn’t risk an, albeit micro, empire to do something bad to me.
And I turned out completely correct.
So looking back, what were the big lessons of this experience? (And I’m sure my buddies at trustmojo would have much more to say.)
- Reputation, reputation, reputation. As my friend Ryan Anderson said, “You only have one reputation, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s yours to ruin.” While the value of reputation may be indirect, there’s no question it’s there (just ask the thousands of bloggers who are profiting off it) and if you lose it you’re screwed. In some way, I felt like Noah was putting that reputation on the line by staying with me.
- Transparency breeds trust. When someone puts themselves out there for the world to see they’re vulnerable. They’re saying I’m willing to leave myself open to wounds in order to reap the benefits. Vulnerability is another form of collateral. Putting your cell phone on your website is pretty damn transparent.
- Go with your gut. Not to get all Gladwellian on your asses, but a big part of trust is built on instincts. When you first meet someone you probably either trust them or you don’t. Now they can change that impression, but it’s pretty damn difficult. Letting him stay at my apartment seemed like the right thing to do.
I’m sure there are more, but it’s getting late and I’m tired. I also hoped to get to how this relates to brands, but I’m going to have to put that off to another day. Unless you all want to help . . .
Update (12/21/06): Thinking about it again this morning, the most interesting part of this for me is the trust process. Transparency helps build reputation which can be used as colatteral in a trust exchange. This is possible because reputation has real value and can be used in lieu of things like diamonds or money. Not that I wouldn’t have accepted either of those.