Negative Feedback on eBay


Any marketplace that relies on reputation to allow users to decide who to buy from needs to receive plenty of feedback, both positive and negative (and inbetween). It seems that eBay is having trouble persuading buyers to leave (useful) negative feedback, and sellers are worried that a single piece of negative feedback (compared to other sellers who have no negative comments) could ruin their reputation. There are also problems with personal feuds resulting in negative feedback.
With a proper reputation network, the reputation of the people leaving positive or negative comments would be visible so users could discount negative feedback from those that are held in lower esteem. It's not one-man-one-vote any more then, but it's more like trusting the judgment of someone you already know rather than the opinion of a (possibly biased) stranger.

The number one concern was “unfair” negative feedback, usually from new members who are unfamiliar with the norms of working out problems and leaving negative feedback only for unresolved problems, and from non-paying bidders who retaliate after receiving negative feedback. EBay is unwilling to make any editorial judgments about feedback, lest it be held legally responsible for all the feedback content. One of the recent changes they’ve made is to add a “think about it and confirm that you mean it” screen between submitting negative feedback and having it posted.
I think there are two problems with the official and community encouragement to resolve disputes before leaving negative feedback. First, patterns of mild dissatisfaction are not recorded, so lots of useful information is lost. Second, sellers have become overly sensitive any negative or even neutral effect because it is so rare. If negative feedback were given 5% or 10% of the time, on average, then sellers would worry about keeping their percentage down, but wouldn’t be as concerned about any particular feedback.

[Paul Resnick, via Corante: Social Software]