More on Trust Agents

So, Trust Agents.

Since Chris came out earlier today to write about what our book would be called, I figured I would add some of my comments. I won’t speak for Chris here, since he’ll probably go into detail on his own, but here’s what the phrase means to me.

1. Trust agents deal in social capital, which I see as a vague, undefined– but nonetheless very real– currency. I talked about this a while ago on my blog, and then promptly forgot about it. I revisited the audio this morning, and it seems like I had the seeds of this idea all the way back in February of 2007. Here it is in case you’re interested.

2. If social capital is the currency of the web, trust agents are people that understand how it works through their understanding of how people work on the web (how they join together, how they come to trust others, etc). They do this, at all times, with *people* in mind, not profit.

3. Trust agents know how trust and influence work, but they *do not* take advantage of people– not only because it’s against their nature, but because it doesn’t work. They know that there are no secrets on the web, and everything is uncovered eventually, so taking advantage of people doesn’t make sense, and they don’t do it.

4. Trust agents develop trust and influence for some purpose; some do it for other companies (ie, Scoble did it with Microsoft), and some do it for themselves. It’s the use of the methods that define what a trust agent is, not where the trust is eventually going.

5. I dunno… other stuff. 🙂

We’re getting a ton of comments from people on Chris’ blog right now about the title, and how it’s not something people will understand– I see that, and we’re still working on it. But the concept is there, and the people that do this are real. The rest is details. 🙂





7 responses to “More on Trust Agents”

  1. Neil Gorman Avatar


    I’ve been following this concept on Chris’s blog, and I commented on it over there… but Julien’s post here has put some new thoughts into my head.

    Social capital is VERY difficult to define, but I’m going to take a crack at it and with some luck not embarse myself.

    I have worked as a substance abuse counselor, and a a teacher of BD, LD, ED students. In both jobs I wanted my cleints / students to enjoy more success in life.

    The first steps that in a mutually beneficial therapeutic are…

    1. Get the client to trust you.

    a. you do this by doing things that are in the client’s best interest, with out breaking any laws.

    b. you are honest with the client. Period.

    c. you treat your client with unconetional positive regard, at all times.

    2. You get the client to internalize the relationship that you have built (on trust) with him / her.

    a. If the client HAS internalized the relationship, than their actions will be influenced by the way that the client believes his / her actions will affect the relationship.

    b. i.e. the thoughts “what would Neil do / what would he like me to do” will cross their mind before they take an action.

    IMHO trust agents do the same thing. People on the web are their clients, just in an unofficial way.



  2. Annette Schwindt Avatar

    Yes, connecting with people on the web IS a real currency even if it doesn’t immediately come out in form of money. But it definitely helps you to improve, it can result in business, interesting collaborations and not to forget friendship!

  3. Moses Avatar

    “Trust agents deal in social capital,”
    You may be looking for the word ‘wuffie,” used in Cory Doctrow’s book “Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom.”

    Real world example: A friend recently purchased a trip to Las Vegas, to attend the Star Trek Experience before it shuts down, using nothing other than wuffie.

  4. paul merrill Avatar

    I like the title “Trust Agents” – that’s the key to getting things done in way more than just the realm of social media!

  5. Justin Simonsen Avatar

    I really wanted to jump on here and say something intelicualy stimulating and all that, but the only thing that came to mind was,“Copycats finish last in the human race, staying glued to safes too prude to take a buddha break.”

    Anyway I look forward to what you guys have to say and I’m sure it will be more inspiring than some old recycled lyrics.

  6. Michael Cayley Avatar


    This is very interesting thinking.

    I wonder if you would be interested in writing a guest post over at and/or reviewing my ChangeThis manifesto & e-book on these ideas on your blog?

    Maybe you be a trust agent with Chris too?


  7. Gab Goldenberg Avatar

    Hey Julien,

    Funny to read this in a totally separate context – I came up with an idea for software to track your social capital, at least in a limited way. It’s linked through my name, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.


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