7 April 2016 | 32 Comments
Airbnb and Kickstarter have something big in common: They both rely heavily on trust.
Airbnb hosts trust that their guests are going to respect their space, and their guests trust that their hosts aren’t going to endanger them.
Similarly, Kickstarter backers trust–by paying for something months before it will be created–that creators are going to deliver on their promises (or at least communicate when things aren’t going as planned), and creators trust that backers are going to be constructive, not destructive.
What does this have to do with prejudice? I recently watched a fantastic TED talk about trust by Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia. I’ve linked to a pivotal moment in the talk at which Gebbia starts to talk about a joint study Airbnb did with Stanford University.
The study measured trust levels between two complete strangers, with tests like asking someone to hold your baby for a minute or to take care of and return your unlocked phone. The study revealed two key findings. Here’s the first:
- We have a natural social bias to trust people who are similar to us. The more different someone is, the less we’re inclined to trust them.
This is the root of many of our biases. It’s an unfortunate side of human nature that we’re more likely to trust people who are the same age, race, nationality, gender, religion, sexuality, etc. Most of us fight against these biases all the time so that we can base our trust on evidence, not our innate fear of the unknown. But the study reveals it’s an uphill climb.
This bias is in effect all the time, including when we’re browsing Kickstarter. Our human nature dictates that we’re more likely to trust creators who are similar to us.
I don’t know about you, but that scares me. It scares me that I might have some kind of built-in predilection to backing projects by white, male, American creators, because those attributes have no correlation to the trustworthiness of those creators.
Fortunately, there’s a solution. This is the second finding in the Stanford/Airbnb study:
2. High reputation beats high similarity.When it comes to trusting someone, if we’re aware of someone’s reputation, our similarity bias goes away.
When first heard this, I had to pause the TED talk. The implications of this were huge. I’ve always thought it would be nice for Kickstarter to have a rating system, but it had never occurred to me that it could be an effective tool for fighting prejudice.
Imagine a Kickstarter platform where we trust creators based on what they’ve done, not who they are. A platform where our deeply rooted biases are trumped by hard data.
I think this is a pretty big deal. For me, it elevates the KS rating system idea from “nice to have” to “must have.” And I’m not talking about implementing it on an ancillary site like Kicktraq or Smarter Backer. I think it should be fully integrated into the Kickstarter platform.
Here’s my proposal:
- After a project has been fulfilled, the creator can check a single box on their dashboard to signal to Kickstarter that all rewards have been delivered (not the current system where you have to check each backer individually–who does that?!)
- Kickstarter then sends a message to all backers asking them to rate the creator’s performance on a 1-5 scale for that specific project.
- The rating is displayed at the top of the project page and as a composite rating on the creator’s profile and on all of their future project pages.
One criticism I’ve heard about this idea is that it could create a disadvantage for new creators. That may be true, but it’s not much different than seeing “0 projects created” on the current version of Kickstarter. Plus, unlike the similarity bias, it’s fair to expect that someone needs to earn our trust, and they can start to do that on the project page itself.
Secondarily–less about prejudice and more about creating a more welcoming ecosystem–would be a creator’s ability to rate backers. This information would probably only be seen by Kickstarter to identify backers who are consistently destructive and disruptive. I don’t think the current spam system accounts for this.
Now that you’re aware of the Stanford/Airbnb study, what do you think about Kickstarter implementing a reputation system? Feel free to comment and/or respond to the poll below, or even tweet to @kickstarter if you think they should know about this.
Here’s the video, with the study on trust discussed at the 8:00 minute mark: