I love the concept of financial tourism – a term referring to the act of logging into an electronic bank account to "visit" your money … just to check and verify that it’s still there. But what about personal reputation tourism — the idea that some Internet users are spending minutes each day, hours each week simply engaging in activities to validate their egos and see what others have said about them? When I started on ebay, I found myself logging in on occasion to check my feedback rating. No other reason. Sometimes I still do it, and it got me thinking about where this might fit in the spectrum of online activities. It’s not online shopping, not online information gathering, just online validation seeking. I am not talking about Googling my own name, though that may be a part of this idea. I mean the phenomenon of logging into my Typepad account before heading into work to see any new comments, trackbacks or visitor stats. I mean looking at a comment that I’ve posted on Amazon to see how many people have rated it.
People care about their reputation, and in the online environment, they have a much more quantifiable way of measuring it (a group called Opinity has published some interesting thoughts in this area). Do people like me? Do they think I’m smart? Well, no matter what someone may tell me – online I can look at what they have posted anonymously, or traffic levels to a particular blog post and get an idea for myself about where the truth lies. And this external validation feels good – in a grade school kind of way, I begin to understand who likes me – and who doesn’t. That in itself is a powerful notion, and one that I think has been a big part of what propels ecommerce sites, online communities, and even marketing campaigns to success. Having the biggest product selection or the best interface cannot in themselves provide an emotional connection. Personal reputation and ratings systems online can do that.