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3/9/2007
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A Scarlet Letter For Second Life

Residents of Second Life will be able share their opinions of people in the form of a five-star rating, which is designed to establish which individuals are commerce-worthy.

Second Life scammers and griefers, beware. RatePoint has your number and it's somewhere between one and five.

On Monday, RatePoint plans to announce that it's extending its free social rating service -- used to rate and discuss Web sites, products, and services online -- to Linden Lab's virtual world, Second Life.

Just as RatePoint members share their ratings for books and videos, residents of Second Life will be able share their opinions of people, in the form of a one-start to five-star rating, provided the appropriate extension is installed.

The goal is to establish which individuals are commerce-worthy, as eBay attempts to do with its buyer and seller ratings.

"Second Life has a primitive ratings system already, where you can give someone a thumbs up if you like them," says Chris Bailey, co-founder and CEO of RatePoint. "You pay for that service. What we're doing is adding several things. This is more of an automated, natural flow of things, where as people approach you, their ratings will simply appear in your private view. And that information will be presented to you in a more personalized way."

For example, RatePoint members can add comments so that reviews can be discussed with the community.

In addition to tracking personal ratings, RatePoint calculates an aggregate rating based on a user's "ditto group," an algorithmically determined group of peers who have rated things similarly. "We take your rating, compare it to everyone else in our system and everything they've ever rated before, and then try to see who's the closest to you," says Bailey. "If you rate Web sites today on RatePoint.com, you can see your ditto group actively growing as you rate things."

These aggregate ratings are used for objects and people you haven't rated yet. In cases where no ditto group rating is available, RatePoint will supply Second Life residents with an average rating based on everyone's vote, rather than just the votes of like-minded peers.

Bailey maintains that gaming the system won't be easy because the ditto group score will protect against individuals that attempt to burnish an ill-deserved reputation or tarnish a stellar one. "The gaming problem isn't taken away completely, but it's reduced substantially," he says.

At the moment, RatePoint's Web-oriented ratings and its Second Life ratings systems are separate, but Bailey says the two will be merged in the next few weeks.

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