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The Sound of Silence in Online Feedback: Estimating Trading Risks in the Presence of Reporting Bias


  • Chrysanthos Dellarocas

    () (R. H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742)

  • Charles A. Wood

    () (Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556)


Most online feedback mechanisms rely on voluntary reporting of privately observed outcomes. This introduces the potential for reporting bias, a situation where traders exhibit different propensities to report different outcome types to the system. Unless properly accounted for, reporting bias may severely distort the distribution of public feedback relative to the underlying distribution of private transaction outcomes and, thus, hamper the reliability of feedback mechanisms. This study offers a method that allows users of feedback mechanisms where both partners of a bilateral exchange are allowed to report their satisfaction to "see through" the distortions introduced by reporting bias and derive unbiased estimates of the underlying distribution of privately observed outcomes. A key aspect of our method lies in extracting information from the number of transactions where one or both trading partners choose to remain silent. We apply our method to a large data set of eBay feedback. Our results support the widespread belief that eBay traders are more likely to post feedback when satisfied than when dissatisfied and are consistent with the presence of positive and negative reciprocation among eBay traders. Most importantly, our analysis derives unbiased estimates of the risks that are associated with trading on eBay that, we believe, are more realistic than those suggested by a naïve interpretation of the unusually high (>99%) levels of positive feedback currently found on that system.

Suggested Citation

  • Chrysanthos Dellarocas & Charles A. Wood, 2008. "The Sound of Silence in Online Feedback: Estimating Trading Risks in the Presence of Reporting Bias," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 54(3), pages 460-476, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:54:y:2008:i:3:p:460-476

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gächter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
    2. Patrick Bajari & Ali Hortaçsu, 2004. "Economic Insights from Internet Auctions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 457-486, June.
    3. Paul Resnick & Richard Zeckhauser & John Swanson & Kate Lockwood, 2006. "The value of reputation on eBay: A controlled experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 9(2), pages 79-101, June.
    4. Dellarocas, Chrysanthos, 2003. "The Digitization of Word-of-mouth: Promise and Challenges of Online Feedback Mechanisms," Working papers 4296-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
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