TrustedPlaces is a rewarding experience.

TrustedPlacesTrustedPlaces is a “word of mouth” social network where people can review, rate and recommend places they know for their friends or just use the site to (re)search places for their own benefit.

TrustedPlaces is a project that Walid Al Saqqaf and Sokratis Papafloratos have been passionately working on since the beginning of the year with consultancy help from Peter Nixey. This week TrustedPlaces announced that they had became a public beta and in this release they also added a handful of new features. Last night at Mashup I met up with the TrustedPlaces team who are very excited about reaching this milestone. They also told me that they were already working on the next release candidate and had more new features coming down the track to extend the value/fucntionality of the site. e.g microformat support for hcard, hreview and geo microformats.

“With this release you’ll see a new home page, some very useful options for your reviews, favourites and friend’s favourites, quite a few design tweaks, but you’ll also be able to search for places that are near you.”

I think they have done a really good job and have implemented most of the useful web 2.0 features and functions you now come to expect on social networks – tag clouds, profiles, friends networks, ratings but one of the most interesting aspects of TrustedPlaces is the reward system which they have implemented for reviewers.

“You earn different set of points for certain actions you do on the site such as adding a review or adding pictures to someone else’s reviews. Each of those points counts as a single ticket towards a lottery draw that we will hold regularly. You can increase your chances of winning the prize by being more active on the site and collecting more points. The system notifies you on how likely you are to win, by placing you in 3 different categories:

  • cold: > 20% of winning
  • warm: 21 – 60% chance of winning
  • hot: > 61% chance of winning

At the end of each month we will randomly draw a ticket. If your ticket is drawn you won the monthly prize. At the end of each year will also randomly draw a ticket for the yearly prize. If your ticket is drawn you win the yearly prize.”

Like TrustedPlaces, I firmly believe that sites which rely on “User Generated Content” to increase their profitability or to increase their overall value – Amazon, YouTube, Yahoo! with Answers and TechReview to name but a few – should reward their contributing users in some way, either in the form of prizes, coupons, credits or micro-cash payments (if feasible) in order to ensure a sustainable flow of valuable content.

For example it should be easy enough for Amazon to use their mTurk service to reward people who place reviews on their site. I know Microsoft are working on a points reward system similar to the one they have for Xbox Live points which they will use across their Live sites such as Expo.

Yahoo! Points are already available and I can imagine this eventually linking to their recently introduced Yahoo! Answers points reward systems. Not to be out done, Google of course plan to have their own points sytem.

The only problem I foresee with rewarding people using points is that we have been here once before with Beenz, who tried to create a global points system.  Maybe this time around, like “Federated ID’s”, maybe we will get a Federated Points exchange? The only fly in the ointment will then be how much is a point worth and when it comes to exchanging points will 1 Google be worth 2 Yahoo!’s???