I've been looking at the social software movement (see e.g. Many 2 Many) and in particular computer-mediated reputation systems (see e.g. Resnick et al's readable overview). These well-known examples of these include eBay's feeedback rating system, Amazon's seller rating system, and Slashdot's moderation system.
Anyway, this got me thinking about reputation in virtual worlds...
One would think that some means of coding the reputation of users would be of central importance to MMORPGs and social VWs. After all, you don't even know the most basic facts about the typist of the avatar you're interacting with: is she really female irl or just female presenting? Of course, there are a number of obvious examples: the UO pk flag, and red linking/tagging in TSO being the most obvious examples. Neither of these have been profoundly successful, at least as far as I read them (though I'm not trying to be dogmatic here, and would be interested if YMMV).
The one unequivocally successful reputation-signalling institution isn't software coded at all, it's human-coded. The guild. The guild not only enforces reputational cues within its members, but it also sends strong and enforceable signals to the outside world about the reputational capital of any individual member of that guild. And afaik, these institutions are basically user-created and not software mediated (though I recall vaguely that DAoC has built it into the gamedesign, and no doubt many other games I'm not familiar with have it too).
So, I'm interested in others' views of the nature of reputation in VWs/MMOGs. Software or Society? Success or Failure? Coke or Pepsi?