August 30th, 2007
We needed a computer for our family so I just bought an academically priced MacBook. Great laptop by the way. If you buy a laptop you get a free iPod ($200 rebate). The idea was that I would get the iPod for free, then sell it and the money made would effectively reduce the price paid for the MacBook. I got a guy at the bookstore to tell me what the highest selling iPod model they had—turns out it was the Black 30GB iPod Video by quite a distance.
My first thought about where to sell the iPod was eBay. I’ve never sold anything on eBay so I have no reputation there. I ask myself, “would I buy a $200 iPod from someone who’s eBay rating is 0?” and I think, probably not. Let’s face it, with eBay the size it is I’m a small small fish. I just can’t compete with someone with a reputation rating in the thousands.
As reputation systems become more pervasive I think we will run into more problems like this. I don’t plan on selling a lot of stuff on eBay (hey I’m a poor college kid so I don’t have very much to sell anyway). Without the ability to bootstrap from another source I’m forced to build my reputation via transactions or sales. That doesn’t work so hot since I’m just interested in a one-time sale.
What to do? Go old school. I listed it on KSL.com’s online classified ads. No reputation system. No feedback mechanism. Just like the paper version of the classifieds.
There is a cost to this. I had to give my address and home phone number. These are attributes that have value to me, and like I described last post, give me some reputation as each buyers knows I have something to lose if I misbehave, giving them an avenue of recourse.
A topic for another post perhaps; there is no explicit reputation system, but my reputation is most definitely being evaluated. It’s just instead of looking at my past behavior (transactions), people have to rely more on the metadata about the transaction. This is one difficulty of automating reputation calculations/algorithms. Sometimes it doesn’t matter so much that I say “I assert I have an unused iPod for sale” than how I say it. Instead of being about “what I’ve done” (past transactions) it’s instead “who I am” (metadata about me and a transaction).
This is one way local online classifieds have a leg up on eBay; face to face meetings, actual inspection of goods gives buyers and sellers lots of metadata.
The happy ending: I guess I priced it right, and expressed enough trustworthiness in my description that after listing it at 10pm last night it sold first thing this morning.