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Keeping your network clean

Upon first learning about Outfoxed, people invariably ask the question, "But what happens when some jerk comes in and rates everything bad, or otherwise misbehaves? Doesn't that ruin the network?"

A key aspect of Outfoxed is that you can rate not only web pages and programs, but also other informers. Every informer in a user's informer network has "authority" over any informer which is less trusted by the user. (In the most simple case, trust goes down with each hop. See Trust Levels for more fine-grained approaches.) In this way, network maintenance is delegated to others, and many users can benefit from the action of a few.

This tree shows an idealized informer network. The user is at the top, with her four informers below. Each of these informers introduces four unique new informers, and so on. Only links which bring new informers into the network are shown. As indicated by the red dotted line, an informer 1 hop away has given a negative report to an informer 2 hops away. This action will remove the second informer from the user's network, and any informers (and their reports) which were only connected via this second informer.

An Analogy for Network Construction

The network of informers trusted by a user can be thought of as an exclusive club, with the user as the club’s founding member. Informers can become members of the club only if a current member is willing to sponsor them. Thus there exists a “chain of sponsorship” from any member back to the founding member. Members with shorter chains have more influence within the club. If more than one member is willing to sponsor an informer, the informer will always maximize his influence by taking the sponsorship of the member with the shortest chain.

But there is one catch: Even if an existing member is willing to sponsor, a potential new member can be barred from joining the club if there is another member closer to the user who has written a complaint about the potential member. This is his right as the more influential member. (Just like the CEO of a company can nix the hiring decision of a subordinate.)

Members may add sponsorships, revoke sponsorships, or write complaints at any time. Members who have lost their sponsor can keep their membership only if there is another member who is willing to sponsor them, and this new sponsor is closer (i.e. more influential) than any members who have written complaints.

In the next section, I'll show how this method relates to the infamous "six degrees of seperation" and the science of "small world networks".