A few more words re Unvarnished, the "Yelp for people"

A few more words re Unvarnished, the "Yelp for people"


Unvarnished is a site (in private beta) where people can review and
recommend each other, and maybe come to a fair consensus regarding trust.
That's difficult and frankly pretty scary, but also useful. I'd like to have
more trustworthy sources of information, and something like this could help.

Can they pull it off? I spoke with Peter Kazanjy, cofounder, about this,
trying to learn just a little more.

Looks like their work is in good conscience, aware of the downside of any
recommendation site, where people might recommend people or defame them in
unfair ways. From day one they're figuring out how to prevent the bad stuff
occurring, and realizing some will happen, want to provide means to fix it.

Part of the solution is to use Facebook Connect, along with the usual
profiles. Someone's invited into Unvarnished via their profile, which
provides a reasonable level of confidence that the person is really who they
say they are. Also, their profile reveals a lot about them. (Yes, this can
be faked, not easy.)

All reviews are anonymous to the public, but reviewers can be held
accountable by the company. You can draw company attention to a review, and
the company reviewer can look for unsavory patterns of reviews. (It's not
fun, speaking from analagous personal experience.)

This will probably only work if large numbers of people get involved; people
are normally trustworthy, and their numbers can overwhelm the shills…

An advisor of mine, a reputation management pro, says that the Unvarnished
folks would be smart to have the site thoroughly vetted by reputation
experts and members of the public.

I do feel that we'll need a number of systems handling reputation, maybe in
different ways, to act as checks and balances.

An emerging ethics issue: is it okay to invite someone new in, someone
trustworthy, who might interpret that as a request for a positive
recommendation? I think it's okay, but want to hear from you. Thanks!




I've been watching the progress of this, and do find it a little scary

Sean Conner

Very interesting topic Craig-
Scary? Not in my opinion- but then again I'm under 40, and live in a major city in the US, which seems to be a breaking point on these types of issues… in fact, I think it's not unreasonable to think that in the next 10 years issues like these may even become political wedge issues.
From my perspective I think there's too much anonymity on the Internet and in life. I see excessive anonymity and authenticity as being at odds with each other, and I see the future going full speed in the direction of things like 'Unvarnished.' I also see the rapid expansion and extension of things like trusted social networks (i.e. Facebook, etc), earned trustworthiness scores, veracity scores, etc.
That said, in general too much of anything becomes its polar opposite, and I think that some anonymity is necessary to create balance. People change and they need opportunities to atone for their past mistakes and re-invent themselves virtually as they re-invent them selves in the material world.
Here a story about the folly of excessive anonymity…
I drive on occasion and virtually every other times I go for a trip I encounter, or observe, a driver who’s getting out their road rage on “all of the idiots on the road” who “don’t know how to drive.” For a long time I found it curious that I only ever ran into these types of people on the road. I thought ‘How come when I walk down the street there aren’t people walking 1 inch behind me and yelling for me to get out of the way, and then unnecessarily cutting me of once their an inch in front of me?’ And yet I encounter these people traveling down a five-lane superhighway with barely three cars in sight. It’s statistically not possible that these ‘road rage’ people don’t also pass me on the street with regularity.
Then one day I was driving with my wife (a fundraiser for a children’s non-profit and the kindest person I’ve ever met) and she started tailgating this person in front of us, and I think she might have even said something about ‘the idiots on the road’ – it was in that moment I realized that some people ‘become different people’ based on the context of their surroundings. [You may be thinking, ‘well duh’ but this was a revelation to me because as an Aspie I’m pretty much exactly the same person regardless of the context… sometimes to a fault.]
So the idea hits me that some people are a-holes to each other when they’re driving because it’s largely an anonymous activity with little accountability, no tracking and no social aspect… as opposed to walking down the street, which is by comparison a much more social activity.
There are of course the nightmare scenarios – oppressive regimes, etc – that detractors will bring up, and those concerns are valid, but a few bad actors are not likely to change the tide. So, I think as anonymity decreases and is replaced with things like “Unvarnished” we will see less anonymous attacks, less blog/chat flaming, and more energy put into to things like collaboration, coalition and community building, and participation in governance.

Craig Newmark

Sean, thanks! I hear you, lots to digest here… and back to customer service now, also something to help vets, see nearby entry.


Seems like the same problem linkedin has with recommendations. Recruiter friends have said that they apply a discount to recommendations of people that are glowingly reciprocal.

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