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April 4, 2010 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Unvarnished: A Clean Well-Lighted Place For Defamation (from TechCrunch). Operating on top of Facebook Unvarnished "is an online resource for building, managing, and researching professional reputation, using community-contributed, professional reviews. 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."

Initial reaction has not been positive.

Lawyers are standing by.
posted by pianomover (42 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm gonna write a bot that posts "no wireless. less space than a nomad. lame." to every possible person's page.
posted by GuyZero at 12:21 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


They're calling it Unvarnished?

Shitstorm is more like it.
posted by Skygazer at 12:22 PM on April 4, 2010


If this remains, I wonder if it's going to turn into a Yelp-like extortion scheme but for individuals instead of companies.
posted by treepour at 12:26 PM on April 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is this supposed to make me regret my long history as a BOFH? Don't make me get my LART out, people.
It's bad enough that in my long job search that I've had to deal with skill checks, credit checks, criminal checks, employment checks, unemployment checks and honesty checks, but now I have to worry about personality checks and someone from a past job badmouthing me about some policy enforcement issue that they didn't agree with and had to be reminded about 10 times until finally I pulled their net connection until they got it right? As a longtime sysadmin, I'm pretty much fucked right here.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:28 PM on April 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


If I was an employer, there is no way I would ever, ever hire Jane.

If you're an employer who bases hiring decisions on random internet reviews, you will get the employees you deserve.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:29 PM on April 4, 2010 [30 favorites]


There have always been sites like this online, but they never became all that popular or amounted to anything. Of course, with the facebook angle, maybe this will get more attention. But I doubt it.
posted by delmoi at 12:34 PM on April 4, 2010


I'm rather amused that their definition of "well-lighted" is "we hide the identities of review authors." Well-lighted ≠ transparent.
posted by zarq at 12:35 PM on April 4, 2010


I don't get the concern with damaging employment prospects. This is opt-in, right? What you don't sign up for can't damage you. Or can people just build reports on you without your knowledge? I read the article, but I'm not really familiar with the terminology and jargon of all these "networking" sites.
posted by MysteriousMan at 12:39 PM on April 4, 2010


Huh... I probably should have read the bad parts before signing up for the beta.
posted by codacorolla at 12:40 PM on April 4, 2010


Part of me thinks I should just accept that this is a Social Networking Bubble, develop some stupid application that "connects with Facebook" drive up some buzz on TechCrunch, cash out my $1.5mm in first round funding and be done with it.

Here it is, Rolodx.com, where you create a "Social Rolodex" with your friends, it'll even have an iPad app ... the lede for the NYT article will be something like, "Rolodex for the Twitter set. Rolodx.com seeks to bring an old icon to the social media landscape." This will be followed up by 3 (3!) snide Gawker stories.
posted by geoff. at 12:40 PM on April 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


In happier news, that skeevy PersonRatings site has gone kaput.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:44 PM on April 4, 2010


I don't get the concern with damaging employment prospects. This is opt-in, right?

From the article: "any user can create an online profile for a professional and submit anonymous reviews." [emphasis added]

So, I can create a profile page for MysteriousMan and submit my review of you.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:48 PM on April 4, 2010


zarq: I think 'Well lighted' was a criticism, I think they are referring to the way the site highlights defamation.
MysteriousMan: No, its not opt-in, thats why its causing concern. Anyone can create a profile for anyone else and start anonymously slagging them off.
posted by memebake at 12:52 PM on April 4, 2010


so it's a forum for bullying, for professionals. High School 2.0 indeed.
posted by seawallrunner at 1:00 PM on April 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


memebake: "I think 'Well lighted' was a criticism, I think they are referring to the way the site highlights defamation."

I thought it was a reference to Hemmingway's short story, which touches on themes of gossip and public judgment.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:05 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would US law-aware folks comment on the "knew or should have known" angle if anonymous posters to Unvarnished claim X harasses her direct reports, then X does that at the company that just hired her? It seems a morass, because one person with the ability to create a bunch of reports like that under different sock-puppet accounts could create the appearance of a chorus of warnings, yet it doesn't seem like evidence because the accuser isn't really there.
posted by jet_silver at 1:22 PM on April 4, 2010


If you're an employer who bases hiring decisions on random internet reviews, you will get the employees you deserve

Ditto. I just don't get it. Who would ever take such a site seriously? Or this, from the PersonRatings site.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:32 PM on April 4, 2010


From the comments on the 'positive' link:

Now they'll be able to rate us at our jobs for telling them their property taxes are going up to build new schools.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:38 PM on April 4, 2010


We already have this system at universities; it's called online course evaluations. At UofC at least, all student evaluations are posted on a website that is viewable by anybody with access to the university's network (or anybody who knows anybody with…), and there's no possibility to edit, contest, or take down defamatory/untrue/unfair statements—so far as I can tell. I don't know if this serves to strengthen or weaken the argument for Unvarnished; it depends on how well you think evaluations systems work.
posted by LMGM at 1:40 PM on April 4, 2010


It worked so well for JuicyCampus!
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:52 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why not just call it SlamBook.com?
posted by sallybrown at 2:15 PM on April 4, 2010


Defame! makes a man look things over! Defame! What you got is no tomorrow! Defame, fame fame fame fame.
posted by The Whelk at 2:29 PM on April 4, 2010


Trolls should be ignored.
posted by cotterpin at 2:34 PM on April 4, 2010


Seems like it would be fairly easy to game this favourably. Just get a bunch of friends together, everyone registers, rates each other highly, then rates each others' ratings as high quality: "Unvarnished provides a suite of tools to allow the community to rate and moderate reviews.

And while reviewer identities are hidden from reviews, the quality of an individual revewer's 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."
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:06 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


So users cannot take down or have bad information about them taken down? I'd be interested how consistent this policy is enforced in regards to the reputations of those that started this service.
posted by el io at 3:06 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I look forward to someday seeing a whole bunch of anonymous reviews that are split 50/50 between people who think that I'm a stupid prick and people who think that I'm a reasonably intelligent prick. Maybe I should just add "prick" to my linkedin profile and save everyone the trouble.
posted by bpm140 at 3:10 PM on April 4, 2010


Defame! makes a man look things over! Defame! What you got is no tomorrow! Defame, fame fame fame fame.

Baby look at me
And tell me what you see
You ain't seen the best of me yet
Give me time I'll make you forget the rest

I got more in me
And you can set it free
I can catch the moon in my hands
Don't you know who I am

Remeber my name
Defame

I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna learn how to fly
High

I feel it coming together
People will see me and cry
Defame

I'm gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame
Defame

I'm gonna live forever
Baby remember my name

Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember
Remember
posted by iviken at 3:34 PM on April 4, 2010


There are times when having the same name as a bunch of other people isn't so bad.
posted by vespabelle at 4:07 PM on April 4, 2010


PunchedInTheFaceBook.com
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:08 PM on April 4, 2010


I can see where techcruch was going with the Hemingway allusion, but it's... pretty awkward.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:14 PM on April 4, 2010


A Clean Well lighted Place For Books was a chain bookstore in San Francisco.
posted by pianomover at 4:24 PM on April 4, 2010


I'm glad nobody really cares who I am.
posted by desjardins at 7:53 PM on April 4, 2010


I'm still creeped out by how much info Spokeo has on me, including address, birth date, credit rating, etc...
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:35 PM on April 4, 2010


I'd never heard of Spokeo, but I just checked it out and apparently my 25 year old sister is actually a 90 year old parent, someone I've never heard of is the "Male Decision Maker" in our household, and my 60 year old mother is in fact in her 20s and both "enjoys reading about world news and politics" and "is not interested in politics."

Fail. (Although Success for us, I guess.)
posted by sallybrown at 8:43 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


So users cannot take down or have bad information about them taken down? I'd be interested how consistent this policy is enforced in regards to the reputations of those that started this service.

I've actually been on the site.

I can tell you that the founder Peter Kazanjy does have one 2 star review. He was previously a project leader at VM Ware, and one of his former employees talks about him being headstrong and a pain in the ass or something like that.

I can also tell you that I see this sie going in one of two directions:

1.) It actually works as planned - people start creating profiles for themselves and having people come on and review them and creating reviews for other people, and downmoderating and responding to bad reviews when they appear, like yelp. I do think that the no opt-out policy is problematic, especially since there are very likely to be users who have no idea it's out there, so they can't address any negative reviews they receive.

2.) People use it for grar of whatever kind and people lend it about as much credence as they do RateMyProfessor, and everyone goes on about their lives and Unvarnished fades into obscurity.

There are all kinds of checks and balances that are built into the system to attempt to offset the damage a bad review could do. Attached to a reviewer is a "reputation" score or something like that. If they go around posting bad reviews and never post positive reviews, or if they post very few reviews, they have a lower reputation score, meaning their reviews are supposed to be taken less seriously.

Additionally, Unvarnished is integrated with Facebook through something called Facebook Connect (you can't join without a Facebook profile). It is designed to look at how long your Facebook account has been active and how often you use it (so if you're squicked out by that, too bad. If you want to address a bad review, you have to let it analyze that data.) If the Facebook account appears to have been created solely to join Unvarnished, they will not allow you to leave a review on unvarnished.

Reviews are limited to 500 characters, so you can't write a 90 page thesis on why your old colleague sucks dog boners, reviewers have to make their points fairly succinctly. There is a team of moderators that will remove anything sensationally defamatory or things that you can prove is factually untrue. However, anything that is simply "Orville Sash is unreliable, and I always had the feeling he was looking at me lasciviously," well, that is likely to stay up, unfortunately. But hey, at least I can mod it down, right?

I'm definitely ambivalent about it. I think that the conceit is somewhat useful, but I think that the inability to opt-out is pretty gross. However, that very fact is what has brought it so much media attention, so, it's no accident.
posted by orville sash at 10:46 PM on April 4, 2010


I do think that the no opt-out policy is problematic, especially since there are very likely to be users who have no idea it's out there
How would an opt-out ability help users who have no idea that Unvarnished is out there? It'd only help people who are aware of Unvarnished and are interested enough in it to go and disable their profile.
posted by hattifattener at 11:35 PM on April 4, 2010


Um...if there was an opt out policy and they discovered they were being slagged off they could claim their profiles and delete?

I don't know, it made sense at the time.
posted by orville sash at 11:54 PM on April 4, 2010


I'd never heard of Spokeo, but I just checked it out and apparently my 25 year old sister is actually a 90 year old parent, someone I've never heard of is the "Male Decision Maker" in our household, and my 60 year old mother is in fact in her 20s and both "enjoys reading about world news and politics" and "is not interested in politics."


Did you search by name or email address? It managed to dig out quite a bit of stuff on me, to the point where I've created a new email addy, purely to register on social networking sites. Very disturbing, IMO.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:36 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If anybody is getting creeped out by that Spokeo site, you can have your listing instantly removed here. You need to give them an email address in order to click a confirmation link, but a throwaway account from Anonmail.de works (they block Mailinator).
posted by Rhaomi at 1:57 AM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Hm, Spokeo tells me that the last house I lived in was worth over $1 million, when the neighborhood median is $190,000. I WISH.
posted by desjardins at 6:00 AM on April 5, 2010


wow, spokeo just has wrong info all over the place. i guess that's a good thing.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:17 PM on April 5, 2010


RE: Spokeo

Stupid wrong info all over the place, but accuracy isn't the goal.

The illusion of in-depth information is the goal so people buy their dodgy service.

But to see all the places they can draw from for information is surprising.
posted by Skygazer at 12:57 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


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