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Craig Newmark

Craig Newmark

Posted: April 13, 2010 11:15 AM

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

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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... hopefully.

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!


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