My 4/25/10 Missoulian column
I’ve been checking out the beta of (Website is gone), the test site for a new web service – and possibly web paradigm – where you can read (and write) anonymous and unabashed reviews of people working in the high-tech sector of Silicon Valley.
In a way, Unvarnished matters as an angle on social networking itself: Everything on the Internet adds up to an online reputation, and traditionally, our online reputation was mostly under our own control. If Unvarnished or similar sites grow in number, it might not be that way anymore.
The GetUnvarnished.com sign-up process seeks to get users in a professional state of mind, by asking that reviewers “maintain a focus on business related topics and professional performance.”
Reviewers are advised that “obscenities, personal attacks, and aggressive or discriminatory language are prohibited,” and “passing off false statements as fact is prohibited, and may open the reviewer to potential legal claims,” obviously on the advice of Unvarnished’s attorneys.
And, because Unvarnished is a community, “Well written and concise descriptions will reflect highly on your review, enhancing your reviewing authority.”
Which might be the reason that 99 percent of current reviews can be paragraphs long and glowing with adjectives. The founder of Unvarnished – Peter Kazanjy – has more than 80 reviews, all overwhelmingly positive except for a few, which he responds to.
I read a somewhat uncharitable review of Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia – the free online encyclopedia. And I noticed the review was gone the next day. The only people who can can take down reviews are those who actually give them, so maybe the reviewer had second thoughts? Is that an example of Unvarnished working itself out?
No one has yet reviewed top computer industry executives such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison or others. (But I’m sure they have an assistant tasked with the job of watching for reviews.)
One of the real values of Unvarnished may simply be in the information one can issue and glean in a Machiavellian sense. Up against someone in a sales meeting or business deal? Check Unvarnished. Or, want to take someone down a few notches? Try it on Unvarnished, but the community might keep you in check.
Many writers have gone the gloom and doom route and predicted that Unvarnished will destroy personal reputations and businesses. Not yet, anyway. No real knives have come out. And they may never.
This week in Mac Q & A: Make your MacBook Location Aware