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Box 19: Reputation systems - extract from a report by the Welsh Consumer Council (forthcoming)

'Among the simplest means of online consumer self-expression is the indication of opinion through ratings. Ratings allow numerical data from individual contributors to be crunched to provide aggregates and patterns representative of a whole.

'Product scores given by Amazon users provide median ratings that people use to judge the quality of a book or CD; review spaces give customers the opportunity to expand on their numerical expression (their poor ratings and statements [about a product] provided a valuable counterpoint to the product manufacturer's positive marketing campaign ).

'The simple technology of submitted averages lets consumers become self-informing communities. The Tripadvisor website allows customers to make judgements about the appeal of hotels and resorts, based on scores assigned by previous holidaymakers; mandatory feedback from eBay users assigns karma scores, on which judgements are made as to the trustworthiness of buyers and sellers; users of the Yahoo! Shopping retail gateway and price-searching service can likewise benefit from each other's merchant ratings. Consumers are no longer reliant on individual reviews by magazines and critics, but, when collected, have become a resource to inform themselves.'

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