Book 24 of 52: "The Reputation Economy" by Michael Fertik

Sometimes, especially when I read non-fiction books, I feel a bit of despair (especially when the book discusses some large-scale environmental, governmental, or economic problem).  But other times, after I’ve read a book, I feel galvanized to take action, to get out into the world and start working on improving my status.

“The Reputation Economy,” by Michael Fertik, falls strongly into that latter category of books.
This book talks about how, in the near future, there will be far too much available data on any person for hiring agencies, airlines, and other companies to make a manual evaluation.  Instead, these companies and corporations will turn to computer algorithms, using these algorithms to create “reputation scores” for each person.

How valuable are you?  That depends on your reputation score.

There are lots of ways to increase reputation scores, Fertik insists, by doing everything from leaving Yelp reviews, to building social networks, to keeping an up-to-date LinkedIn profile, to modifying your online browsing habits.  The author recommends checking out what happens when you Google yourself (is the first page links to your professional work, or links to an amateur blog that just won’t seem to die?).

In the future, Fertik argues, online, automatically calculated reputation will be reflected in nearly every facet of your life.  Whether you earn that promotion at work, whether you get bumped up to first class on your next flight, whether you get a good rate on your home mortgage – it all depends on reputation.

Of course, there are some caveats to the author’s rosy vision of the future.  Most of the current computer algorithms can best be described as “good, not great”, and a lot of sites can’t offer a full, all-encompassing “reputation score.”  And these days, with privacy concerns looming large, more people are taking steps to cloak their online actions.

Still, I felt compelled after reading this book to get on Yelp, get on LinkedIn, and start trying to polish up my outward-facing reputation.

Can’t hurt, right?

Time to read: About 6 hours.  It’s pretty straightforward, but I paused a lot to consider the far-reaching consequences of some of the author’s suggestions.

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