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April 16, 2010

I’m intrigued by the soon to be launched site Unvarnished.  Unvarnished allows its users to anonymously comment about other people on a public profile.  They claim that the site is an online resource for “building, managing, and researching professional reputation, using community-contributed, professional reviews.”  The site is in private beta know but I’m anxious to poke around on it (if you have an invite please send one my way).

I think that Unvarnished represents a shift for how people will use social media.  Slander and bashing is not new to social networks but it has always in some capacity been discouraged by developers and/or culturally taboo.  Facebook doesn’t have a “dislike” button and the lack of anonymity on sites like LinkedIn probably keeps most recommendations hollow and superficial.  Charlie O’Donnell at the Business Insider pointed out that Unvarnished represents an unprecedented opportunity to actually get valuable and constructive feedback.  Let’s face it, no one is going to give you anything but a glowing review on LinkedIn.  There just isn’t any incentive to be honest.  However, when you obscure the identity of the commenter, you allow for genuine and honest feedback.  Your comments or collective reputation on Unvarnished could end up being a truly valuable asset in your career (and especially in a job search).

You might also think that Unvarnished could unravel into a free-for-all bashing by bitter clients, coworkers, and even psycho ex-girlfriends.  I admit that’s quite possible, but Unvarnished has built in some checks and balances to prevent absolute libel.  There will undoubtedly be some bashing going on, but as the service becomes more mainstream, I would argue that users will start to discount and even ignore blatant attacks.  Everyone has enemies and the internet makes it too easy to bad mouth someone.  It’s impossible to please everyone at all times in the business world and tiffs and hurt feelings are inevitable.  I think that experienced Unvarnished users will be able develop a filter for comments based in fact and hollow praise or worthless attacks.

Regardless of the outcome, I think Unvarnished is poised to become the next big culturally phenomenon.  Bold statment I know but everyone wants to know what people say about them behind closed doors.

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