Credibility, whether on the physical or virtual world, is not easy to gain. It takes time, a good track record, and good relations with people. Like what I learned in Social Entrepreneurship (SE), one builds "Social Capital" as he moves around and interacts with society.
In the real world, it's easy to imagine how one gains credibility-- one can get it by good character, proper actions, or deep knowledge. A simple act of honesty can help one's reputation and credibility. But when it comes to the online world, how does one gain this valuable commodity?
My research brought me to a recent study entitled "Web Credibility in Online Journalism" where the researcher sought to find the link between web credibility and several factors, among them the author's identity. The study cited a work by MIT Media Lab expert Judith Donath:
The writer’s identity – in particular, claims of real-world expertise or history of accurate online contributions – plays an important role in judging the veracity of an article. Similarly, knowing the writer’s motivation – e.g. political beliefs, professional affiliations, personal relationships — can greatly affect how we interpret his or her statements.Based on what the study found, there is a link between the credibility of an online article and the identity of the author. If you read the study, it suggests that in normal circumstances, an online article where the author's identity is known has more credibility than an article whose author hides in anonymity.
I got this insight just as I started blogging years ago, that's why I decided to put my real name and even my picture on all my blogs. I want to gain credibility as an online author and I want to take responsibility to whatever I write on the web.
I'd like to believe that in the 20 months of this blog's existence, it has built a good reputation on the web and gained credibility in the Asian Institute of Management community (students, alumni, faculty, staff, and even incoming students). Based on the feedback from the various AIM stakeholders, I have good reason to believe that is so.
That is why I got upset when I was implicated in the debacle a certain forum site created. I don't see the justice in a situation where I'm getting some flak for the mess the forum created, and the site owners are roaming around scott-free (albeit anonymously).
Sheesh, the forums now is so unpopular among the students, faculty, alumni, and staff, that students filed multiple complaints against the forums site and they asked the school's IT department and administration to have it blocked. The forums site lost its legitimacy when it allowed unfounded accusations, exaggerations, and even racially-offensive content to fester on its threads.
The question now: Will the forum site get the sympathy of the AIM stakeholders? If you can assess the site's credibility, you'll have the answer.