What is the trust metric system?
The trust metric system used on robots.net is part of the underlying mod_virgule software which runs this site. Originally developed by Raph Levien for the free software developer's site, Advogato, the trust metric is designed to provide a security infrastructure that resists even massive attacks while excluding spammers, trolls, and other problems common to community websites sites. A technical description of how the trust metric is computed is available for those who are interested. Another example of a trust metric system is the Google page rank algorithm. The robots.net trust metric is combined with a three level reputation system. The combined system provides two pieces of information about each user: 1) is the user believed to be who they say they are and 2) what is the user's reputation among other users. This information is an approximation and reflects the communities opinion rather than that of the user himself.
How do I certify another user?
To certify someone, make sure you are logged in, then go to the person's page and use the pulldown form to select the certification level you believe to be appropriate for the person. The trust metric system is more robust when there are many trust certificates so please certify all the other robots.net users you know.
How do I become certified?
If you know other users already on the system, ask them to certify you. If you don't know anyone currently using the system, it's still possible to get certified but it may take some time for other users to develop trust that you're a real user and not a troll or spammer. The best way to get started is to check your bio and make sure you've provided a real name, a description of yourself and your work, and a link to your website so that other users have some basis for evaluating who you are. Also, all users are able to post blogs, so you can use that method to tell the community a little more about yourself and what sort of projects you're working on. Keep in mind that trust is something which has to be earned.
What are the certification levels?
robots.net has four certification levels (actually five if you count one reserved for system administrators). Certification levels are recalculated several times per day. Any certification level higher than "observer" is enough to provide access to most features of the website. The additional certification level represent a community reputation estimate of each user. The following descriptions are intended to explain the intent of each certification level and offer guidelines for deciding what level to use when certifying a user.
Observer is the default certification level given to all new accounts. It generally signifies either a new user or a user who is not involved in robotics. This untrusted level provides the user with the ability to post entries in their blog but no other special capabilities. All information on the site is available for their viewing, however. Everything on this site is always freely available to all users regardless of their trust ranking. Only the ability to add information is restricted based on trust ranking.
The apprentice trust level signifies that a user is at least known to other users of the system as someone who has interest in robotics. This level of trust certificate (or higher) should be given to any robots.net users that you know personally and that you feel is interested in learning more about robotics. In addition to posting diary entries, users with at least this level of certificate can post replies in the public message forums.
A journeyer must meet the requirements of the apprentice, above. A journeyer must be someone you know personally either in the real world or online. They must be someone actively working with robots either as a hobby, in school, or as a profession. For example, perhaps they have built one or more robots, are an active member of a local robotics group, or work in a robotics-related position at their place of employment. The important qualifier is that a journeyer is someone who has moved beyond a mere interest in the field to the point of active participation. Most active robots.net users should probably be certified at this level.
A Master is someone who meets all the qualifications of the journeyer, above. In addition, it is someone who has accumulated a high level of real-world experience in one or more areas of robotics through full-time (or nearly full-time) participation and is actively using that experience to mentor others in some way. This is someone who has built robots, founded robotics clubs or competitions, published useful books, or started successful robotics-related businesses. And this should be someone who has learned not only a mastery of robotics but the communications skill necessary to share their knowledge and help others learn; someone who is able to serve as a mentor to apprentices and journeyers.