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A Private, Pluralistic Rating System is an Excellent Idea

museOct 10, 2018, 1:43:52 PM


1.  Introduction
2.  Rating Systems
    2.1    Monolithic, Non-Public Rating System
    2.2    Public,  Non-Monolithic Rating System
    2.3    Monolithic, Public Rating System
        2.3.1    Minds
        2.3.2    Bitcoin
    2.4   Pluralistic (Non-Monolithic), Private(Non-Public) Rating System
        2.4.1  Organic Relationships

1. Introduction

For quite some time now, there has been no small degree of cacophonous kerfuffle and memetic aversion to even the mere suggestion of any form of "rating system" or anything of even remote homophonous similarity to this phrase.

It may be quite clear to those who commonly frequent the Minds list of top blogs, that rating systems have lately been predominantly featured. This blog is named after A public rating system is a terrible idea by @GlennVincentie. I am not necessary going to disagree with this title, but I am going to reorient this discussion completely toward the concept of a "private rating system".

Firstly, it needs to be asked "what even does it mean for a rating system to be public?" I would be very interested in hearing the answers of others to this question, but I do not think that the answer I will give to this question can possibly be avoided. That is:

A Public Rating System is a metric for measuring the importance or contribution of users that is both public and monolithic. By public, we mean it is visible to all people equally. By monolithic, we mean that the metric is system wide, not different for each user.

I think the main objection one could have to this definition, is that a public rating system is necessarily both public and monolithic. Actually, it's quite possible that some might describe a system as a "public rating system" if it was not public (as i have defined it), but was monolithic; or was monolithic, but not public. I should make the distinction clear before I propose an alternative.

2.1 Monolithic, non public Rating System

A rating system is monolithic if it is system wide, and does not differ for each user. In this case, every person could have a single rating and whatever benefits that a rating gives a person those benefits would be system wide, such as appearing higher in a newsfeed of all members equally. This rating does not necessarily need to be public. The system might choose to hide which members are rated higher than others. In this sense, the rating system is "private", yet, it is still system wide, so we call it monolithic. Most likely, Facebook and Twitter already have such systems to describe the virtue of their users, rating them according to their marketability and coherence to their company politics, yet these ratings are not public. They are monolithic, but private.


1) Facebook
2) Twitter
3) Black Mirror

2.2 Public, non monolithic Rating System

A rating system is public if it is viewable to all users of the system. Yet the ratings viewable to the users are not necessarily given by the system, a single identity or majority vote. Each user may recommend their peers to different extent. Their is no unifying principle that applies system wide to describe each user. LinkedIn in is probably a good example of this, as users are able to rate each other, and this data is publicly viewable. Therefore, the rating that is viewable is not a single determination, every user may interpret the opinions of others differently. If LinkedIn users were not able to see separate commendations of each user, but only a single aggregate rating, this system would be monolithic, because it there would be only a single system wide measure for each user.


1) LinkedIn
2) Amazon
3) Ebay

2.3 Monolithic, Public Rating System

So what do we get if we combine Monolithic and Public? In this system, there is no peer to peer/non monolithic rating. Only aggregate votes from users are counted. If I upvote a post, it's not clear it was upvoted by me, or how much i liked it. It is also Public which means that whatever this aggregate rating of a user or their posts are, it is visible to all people, these aggregate ratings are visible to all people on the network.

Good examples of this, are
1) Minds
2) Bitcoin.

2.3.1 Minds blogs can be upvoted, but at any point in time, only the aggregate upvotes are viewable by any person, which means that the upvotes are a system-wide monolithic rating system. Yet because these upvotes are also viewable to all people, the Minds system is also Public. Facebook actually has a non-monolithic element that Minds doesn't: The ability to view who upvoted a post. Yet Facebooks' monolithic, private elements of watching and rating users secretly are considerably more ominous that this minor networking feature does not redeem them.

2.3.2 The Bitcoin network is also both Monolithic and Public. Bitcoin is Monolithic, because it has a single blockchain to maintain. There is a single set of data which, though repeated across this network, there is still only a single set considered to be correct. The good thing about the Bitcoin network is its ability to maintain this  single set of data through time and space across many network participants that are in competition with each other. Bitcoin is also monolithic because the bitcoin quantities stored are fungible, which means that the same amount of bitcoin is worth the same amount of bitcoin, regardless of it's location or which address is holding the bitcoin(there are small differences due to bitcoin "dust" and if certain addresses are risk averse due to their association with dirty money). Bitcoin is Public, because any information stored on the blockchain is accessible to anybody who wishes to make a query. Bitcoin is Onymous, which with respect to bitcoin, means that all the information about which bitcoin belongs to which address is public information. If you want to be Anonymous with bitcoin, you need to hide your addresses. If the addresses are tied back to you, any activity that the addresses are associated with will lead to you being held legally accountable. Note, this is actually an aspect of Bitcoin which is considered undesirable to most Bitcoin enthusiasts, who believe the best thing  about Bitcoin is being free from legal or political obligations of corrupt regimes( ie. every Nation State on earth).

2.4 Pluralistic (Non-Monolithic),  Private(Non-Public)

So. What about a system that is neither Public, not Monolithic? This is the form of rating system I would like to suggest would be valuable.

In a Non Monolithic system, every user may hold a different trust or recommendation of every other user, but these ratings are not all aggregated into one, as is the case with upvoting on Minds, and to a certain extent when you view a Facebook which shows the upvotes of people and potential bots about whom you know nothing. A Non-Monolithic system, which I would like to call pluralistic, allows for every user to treat every other user differently, there is not one aggregate rating such as "number of likes" for every post or blog.

In a Non Public system, which I would like to call private, no data about any individual is available to anyone unless the user makes it available. If you want to know who of your friends likes a blog you just read, you need to ask one of your peers to provide that data, which they may or may not do, depending on whether or not they feel comfortable with you having that information!

What are the examples? Apart from ordinary relationships, I don't know of any yet. @ChrisAndAmber has suggested Bitcoin Talk is similar to what I'm suggesting, when I do an analysis, I will update this blog accordingly and link to my blog there. However, aside from this, and aside from everyday relationships, where we have different estimations of different people, and we also do not reveal those estimations to anybody who asks, I DO NOT KNOW OF THIS EVER BEING TRIED BEFORE. Whoever tries this first may be pioneering a radical and beautifully organic system which is patterned after nature itself.

1) Organic Relationships
2) What I have called "Recommends", but is not yet implemented
3) Bitcoin Talk (questionable)

2.4.1 Organic Relationships

Now consider how human relationships ordinarily operate. If I want to know if you recommend a certain person or a certain blog, I do not go to a central government to ask, I go to you specifically, or perhaps to somebody who knows you to find out from them how you would think about it. Different people may hold different opinions about the same blog, and a pluralistic rating system does not collapse these ratings into one aggregate monolithic rating.

Consider also, that if you do not trust a certain person, you may refuse to tell them your opinion about a certain blog or certain person. Therefore, the information about a particular topic is not instantly, publicly available to all, it is privately available only to whom the individual holding the information entrusts it.

Thus, Organic relationships between peers are generally both pluralistic and private

Note that organic relationships are pretty much the exact opposite of how the Bitcoin Currency and Minds upvoting work. Note also, I am not talking about the Bitcoin concensus algorithm, I am talking about the fact that such a consensus exists.

Some people might turn sour at the thought that what I'm suggesting that to be precisely the opposite of Bitcoin or Minds is an "organic" thing. But think about this:
1) The Public nature of Bitcoin is frequently considered to be a bad thing within the Bitcoin community itself.
2) In the real world, there is no consensus on relationships or reputation. Consensus is necessary for a currency, but not for a reputation network.

Thanks to:

@ChrisAndAmber for stimulating this topic
@GlennVincentie for writing your blog
@RealMindsChan for always being ready to chat, and being a constant peacemaker
@bill @Jon & @Jack for listening
@zeqkrix and his blog Future of Advertising
@TitanThinkTank for his suggestion to read wikis discussion of review sites