The new social networking website, Unvarnished, allows users to write glowing reviews of people in order to build that person’s online “reputation” by extolling their virtues. Or you can simply trash them anonymously without consequence.
Talking trash about people on the internet is nothing new. In fact when Tim Berners-Lee published the first ever website in 1990, odds are the first comment ever posted was something in the vein of the website “teh sucking”, possibly followed quickly by a “first”, followed by that same poster’s irate diatribe at not being first, but instead falling to the dreaded internet dead spot of second. And thus an anonymous revolution of angry comments and untouchable libel was born. Feeding off that noble history, the website Unvarnished now offers you that same opportunity, and it then goes one step further by posting your comments on the social networks of those reviewed.
First reported on by Techcrunch.com, Unvarnished is still in beta testing, but plans a full release soon. Once the site is up and running, users can create accounts that connect with social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, then it will allow the user to write reviews about their target, which will then post to those accounts for all to see. A favorable review will help build the subject’s “reputation”, while a negative one will detract from it. “Unvarnished is an online resource for building, managing, and researching professional reputation,” according to the official Unvarnished website.
Only users that accept or create a profile of their own will see their reviews posted on other social networking sites, but anyone can create a profile for anyone, and it will be searchable to people on the Unvarnished website. And assuming you claim your account, once a review is up, you cannot take it down without deleting your entire profile- always assuming it was you that created the profile in the first place. So far 400,000 users have signed up, many of which are pre-seeded and taken from other social networking sites according to the Wall Street Journal. So if you use LinkedIn, Facebook, Yelp, or any number of other social networking sites, you might already have a profile.
While the website has the potential to give people the recognition they truly deserve, it also offers reviewers all the fun of libel and defamation, without all the hassle of proof and potential lawsuits.
“By contributing Unvarnished reviews, you can share your knowledge of other professionals, giving credit where credit is due, and valuable feedback where needed,” the website states. But let’s be honest, why go out of the way to create a profile, load a new application to your Facebook profile, and make sure your comments are anonymous if they are going to be positive. Even if 90 percent of the reviews are spot on, the 10 percent that are not could easily be enough to invalidate the rest of the website.
The ability to abuse this technology and write scathing reviews about former bosses, ex-girlfriends, or anyone that looked at you funny is staggeringly high, while those wishing to post favorable reviews can already do so on LinkedIn, or any number of other websites without worrying about anonymity. And with no responsibility from the poster to be fair- or even honest- the dark side of this technology becomes glaringly apparent. If one person has 30 positive reviews, but one comes from a jilted ex, or grudge wielding former coworker stating that the person regularly stole from a company, that post would stay with the favorable reviews forever, with no way of removing, or even tempering it short of deleting the entire profile. With social networking being more and more relied on by potential employers, the consequences to bad reviews could be very, very real.
Currently the website is still in beta and has 1,000 “alpha testers”. At the moment, the only way to activate your account is to be invited by one of these members, but they are accepting names on the waiting list.