Society - Written by Tim Bevins on Monday, May 3, 2010 9:54 - 4 Comments
Is “Unvarnished.com” an Internet inevitability?
I just heard about the site Unvarnished in Jeremiah Owyang’s daily email, and decided to check it out. It is still in beta. I think people need to read this page to draw their own conclusions about the site, its value, its purpose, and its processes, but I offer my own views here.
Here is a how the site describes itself:
“What is Unvarnished?
“Unvarnished is an online resource for building, managing, and researching professional reputation, using community-contributed, professional reviews.
“Unvarnished reviews help you get the inside scoop on other business professionals, providing candid assessments of coworkers, potential hires, business partners, and more.
“By contributing Unvarnished reviews, you can share your knowledge of other professionals, giving credit where credit is due, and valuable feedback where needed.
“Lastly, your own Unvarnished profile, which you may create yourself or claim one that has been created for you, helps you take control of and build your own professional reputation. Get recognition for your accomplishments and actively manage your career growth.”
Here are a couple of phrases that jumped off the “About” page for me (emphasis added):
- “To help reviewers be honest and candid in their reviews, Unvarnished obscures the identity of review authors. This lets reviewers share their true, nuanced opinions without fear of repercussions.” (I have to wonder how nuanced anonymous reviews will be.)
- “An Unvarnished profile can be created either by an individual for themselves or, alternatively, by an individual for another professional, in order to review them.” (The ability for an anonymous person to set up a profile of a colleague or former colleague to contribute a review seems disingenuous. If I have something positive to say about a colleague, I’d want to put it on LinkedIn or another public site with my name attached so the other person would benefit.)
Unvarnished presents itself as a way “professionals can take control of and build their professional reputation. Profile owners can manage and build their reputation, by receiving notifications of new reviews, requesting reviews from trusted colleagues, adding resume details, and responding to reviews.”
IMO: It sounds a bit like LinkedIn, with a dark side: the potential for bullying and retaliation. I cannot see a reason why I’d want to set up a new profile for myself for anyone to “review” me anonymously. I cannot see a why a reputable potential employer would trust anonymous reviews, good or bad or in-between, more than reviews by people willing to give their names. Other reviews of the site can be found here, here, here, and here, but there seem to be dozens.
Unvarnished does have a Reviewer Authority scoring mechanism: “the quality of an individual revewer’s (sic) submissions, as rated by other Unvarnished users, contributes to a Reviewer Authority score, a badge for which is attached to each review by a given reviewer.” Personally, I don’t see why anonymous reviewers’ ratings of one another can create an “authority” score. How can one establish credibility as an anonymous reviewer?
Unvarnished, to me, is an inevitability of social media. It seems only logical that someone would formalize the process of anonymous “reviewing” of colleagues, present and former, for business. And my guess is, like morals, this kind of entrepreneurial approach to making a business out of bad manners cannot be legislated away. I can’t say how it will turn out, who will use it – I am not a likely user regardless of whether I might get trashed or praised there – and whether employers will tap into the unsubstantiated and anonymous reviews to make employment decisions. Most bad ideas for online sites die from lack of attention or nourishment – i.e., no traffic. But gossip (that’s what I think this will turn into) tends to have a strong pull.
My first take: People may feel forced to check up on themselves. Employers may feel tempted to see whether what they saw and heard from candidates with their own eyes and ears is accurate, but then that says more about their own skill at hiring than about the candidate.
I wonder whether writing this will prompt someone to open a profile for me. Guess that tells you more about me than Unvarnished, huh?
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