User-rating systems are cut-rate substitutes for a skilful boss

Jun 29, 2018

IT OFTEN arrives as you stroll from the kerb to your front door. An e-mail with a question: how many stars do you want to give your Uber driver? Rating systems like the ride-hailing firm’s are essential infrastructure in the world of digital commerce. Just about anything you might seek to buy online comes with a crowdsourced rating, from a subscription to this newspaper to a broken iPhone on eBay to, increasingly, people providing services. But people are not objects. As ratings are applied to workers it is worth considering the consequences—for rater and rated.

User-rating systems were developed in the 1990s. The web held promise as a grand bazaar, where anyone could buy from or sell to anyone else. But e-commerce platforms had to create trust. Buyers and sellers needed to believe that payment would be forthcoming, and that the product would be as described. E-tailers like Amazon and eBay adopted reputation systems, in which sellers and buyers gave feedback about transactions. Reputation scores...Continue reading

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