The Positives and Negatives of Ebay

When you really think about it (which is the job of an iMedia graduate student after all) interactivity online was born when Ebay hit the interetubes back in the day.

It had it all…

People selling stuff.

People buying stuff.

Pez Dispensers.

The thrill of outbidding someone at the last minute for a used garden gnome.

But what truly made Ebay stand apart was the concept of buyers and sellers leaving feedback. By allowing its users to comment about their experiences, Ebay transformed from a run of the mill auction site to an ever-evolving online community. One could argue that the feedback feature is why Ebay survived the Internet bust in the early aughts and is still thriving today.

Online feedback is the currency that fuels Ebay (if, of course you disregard the actual currency being exchanged). Consisting of a positive, negative, or neutral rating, each member’s Feedback Profile can be found right next to their name in parentheses. The people who sell things on Ebay for a living rely on positive feedback to build their reputation.

Rarely ever in an online forum, does one’s community reputation have such an impact on one’s real-life.

In role playing games like World of Warcraft, a player’s online status only affects that person in that virtual environment. It has no consequence in their  lives outside of the game (unless, of course if they become addicted… which is a whole other blog post entirely).

But in the world of Ebay, negative feedback can affect whether or not buyers will purchase from sellers in the future. This need for positive reinforcement is also the foundation of civility on Ebay, which in turn is the reason the community functions as a well as it does.

Essentially, the idea of positive and negative feedback is akin to Ebay’s interactive conscience. Without it, there would be anarchy. Pez Dispensers would rise up and virtually take over the world.

And that is a world I don’t want to live in.


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