Monthly Archives: July 2013

Digital Reputations, Development and Diplomacy – the video presentation

Below is my presentation from the June 7 Tech@State: Moneyball Diplomacy where I analyzed how reputation scores might transform how diplomacy and development are assessed. I’d love any comments you might have on the prezo.

Digital Reputations, Development and Diplomacy

The full slide deck is here.

Following is the text of the presentation as delivered.

Hi I’m Matt Chessen.

I’m going to talk to you about digital reputations and how they could transform diplomacy and development in the future.
Where online reputations are beginning to change how people are perceived across a variety of professions and industries, diplomacy is still struggling with the analog past.

This is part of a performance evaluation for US diplomats from 1949.

A supervisor was expected to circle the selection from each of the different groups that best described the officer.

Some of the more interesting options are:

He is slow to wrath
He shows little taste in his clothes
He is a leader of a group of mature men.

These are obviously highly qualitative, personality-driven forms of evaluation

Unfortunately, subjective evaluation still dominates how diplomats and development professionals evaluate each other and the people we work with.

A diplomat’s reputation, known as their corridor reputation, is still mostly analog, circulating through word of mouth and direct experience.

However, we may be on the verge of a technologically driven transformation similar to what is happening in the private sector.
So lets take a look at what’s out there.

If you’ve ever tweeted, written an online review or posted something on Facebook, you’ve established a digital reputation.

Someone could get a qualitative sense of your reputation from reading your Facebook page, tweets or reviews, and some employers are now doing this as a part of their interview process.

But what we’re interested in is quantified rather than subjective reputation. Something like a reputation credit score.

eBay is one of the pioneers of digital reputation. They had to create a feedback and star system to build trust between distant anonymous buyers and sellers.
Now reputation scores are widely used in these types of online transactions.

For example, freelancers on eLance and oDesk provide services in everything from administrative support to multimedia design; and reputation scores represent the quality of their work.

Now there are many more companies using reputation scores are used to build trust into online commerce.

However, reputation scores are increasingly important in niche professional communities as well.

Kaggle is an interesting example.
Kaggle allows companies to post competitions to see who can come up with the best predictive models for data-sets.

Data scientists compete for the right answer, and get points based on the predictive accuracy of their model.

In the data science field, your Kaggle score is becoming as important as where you went to school or what companies you’ve worked for.
Data scientists with top Kaggle scores are considered stars in their profession.

This isn’t unique.

Reputation scores are now relied on in medicine, programming and translation as an indicator of quality and trust.
The professional reputation score is here to stay.
But the trend is even bigger than that.

Sites like and Facebook are trying to use big data and aggregation models to create the equivalent of a reputation credit score.

I’ll make the prediction that in ten years, your digital reputation score will be as important in your professional life, as your credit score is in your financial life.

So where are the digital reputation scores for diplomacy and development?

There are sites like Global Giving and Great Non-Profits that score development projects and non-governmental organizations. And we need more of this to ensure quality.

However, online communities for development professionals like DevEx, have no reputation scoring.

We need a cultural shift to move away from subjective evaluations based on: who you know, degrees, or years of experience, to qualitative evaluations that more accurately measure talent and work quality.

In the future, more development and diplomacy work will be crowd-sourced.

State is developing an micro-tasking platform that will create an internal marketplace for foreign policy work,
But it creates trust and quality concerns similar to what you see in online commerce.

One solution is to tie the micro-tasking platform to Corridor, which is State and U-S-A-I-Ds internal social network.

Corridor is already used by diplomats to collaborate with colleagues, share professional and personal interests, and interact with potential supervisors during the bidding process.
Combining micro-tasking with Corridor through a reputation engine will allow State personnel to develop digital reputations tied to specific accomplishments that transcend their physical location.

Looking ahead, it’s easy to imagine a future where every foreign contact we meet is electronically catalogued and rated for trust and competency.

Or perhaps diplomats will use the reputation amalgamators to assess foreign diplomats and contacts, and tailor their interactions to the individual.

International assistance programs and managers will certainly be rated online, perhaps even by the communities the programs are designed to help.

And perhaps someday we’ll de-centralize policy development, and use crowdsourcing and reputation scores to source effective solutions to foreign policy problems from the general public.

We can’t really predict how quantified reputations will transform foreign affairs,

but based on the private sector experience, we can infer that reputation scores will improve trust, and elevate the status of high quality people and organizations that make biggest positive contributions to the world.
Thank you.

Note: Comments in this presentation do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of State or the U.S. Government.

A wiki for US government crowdsourcing efforts

I created a wikipedia page for US government crowdsourcing initiatives. Update your projects here!