A Few More Words Re:Unvarnished, the "Yelp for People"

06/13/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

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 OK to invite someone new in, someone
trustworthy, who might interpret that as a request for a positive
recommendation? I think it's OK, but want to hear from you. Thanks!