I was trying to explain South by Southwest to a less-techy friend: “The day after the party hosted by Chris Brogan you just walk down the hall, and there’s Charlene Li just sitting there with her laptop. She’s actually shorter than I expected”. She looked at me blankly, not knowing who I was talking about.
“Charlene Li? She was co-author of one of the most important books about social media.. she used to work at Forrester…”. My blathering was met with a blank stare.
Reputation isn’t actually about a particular individual: it’s about the perceiver, the perceived, AND a particular context. No wonder we’re not yet sure how to measure this stuff…
Before I saw Charlene in the hallway, she’d taken the stage of the largest room in the conference center, to share her thoughts on “The Future of Social Networks”. Obviously a topic for someone with some significant insights to share. And what was one of the most salient takeaways? That she’s not just a “social technology thought leader”, she’s also a wife and mother. In those areas, however, she doesn’t necessarily consider herself such a leader.
When I tried to describe who I’d seen to a friend, I mentioned things that were relevant to me (but unfortunately not to her, or this example may have gone better). Seeing Charlene Li was significant to me given her position of authority in an arena that interests me.
While Wikipedia declares reputation to be “the opinion (more technically, a social evaluation) of the public toward a person, a group of people, or an organization“, I believe that this opinion is also impacted by context as well as the opinion-holders themselves. I may look to Charlene as a thought leader and reputable source with regards to social technology, but the tables may turn if the context were marathon running!
So if reputation is a combination of a number of factors that may be extremely personal, can we really expect to quantify it? Does reputation matter at all?