In “Crowd control at eBay,” Nick Carr writes:
EBay has been struggling for some time with growing discontent among its members, and it has rolled out a series of new controls and regulations to try to stem the erosion of trust in its market. At the end of last month, it announced sweeping changes to its feedback system, setting up more “non-public” communication channels and, most dramatically, curtailing the ability of sellers to leave negative feedback on buyers. It turns out that feedback ratings were being used as weapons to deter buyers from leaving negative feedback about sellers.
He goes on to rail against the usefulness of feedback loopss:
As these sites grow, keeping them in line requires more rules and regulations, greater exercise of central control. The digital world, it seems, is not so different from the real world.
However, he doesn’t question EBay’s central decision. If the goal is to control retaliatory feedback, then require all feedback be given within N days (N might vary for transaction types, international shipping, etc), and don’t reveal the feedback until both buyer and seller have finalized what they want to say.
(Personally, I think that some structure in the feedback–was the item as described? was it shipped quickly and as requested? was the interaction business-like, chatty, or rude? could enhance things a lot, as would displaying the value of the transactions. But that’s an aside.)
What’s important is that EBay is replacing a transparent and manipulated system with one that’s going to be worse for their customers, and more expensive to operate. It will be interesting to see what emerges from this. Will a worse feedback system be enough to overcome the network effects and allow a strong competitor to emerge?
Thanks to Nicko van Someren for the pointer.