I had a chance to get more detailed information from Peter, co-founder of Unvarnished, who graciously took time to respond to my previous post: The Bad, the Ugly & the Unvarnished: Why Anonymous Professional Reviews Don’t Work.

A couple things are apparent:

  • Unvarnished is prepared for our uncertainty and ready to engage
  • The team is smart (from his Facebook profile, it looks like Peter went to Stanford)
  • The competition is watching closely: I was immediately contacted by Coworkers.com
  • I am still not convinced of the anonymous nature of the service

Here’s why: Currently, the site is in beta and all of the invitations for reviews happen between Facebook friends. Meaning, only my friends on Facebook can be invited to review me. The good news, now I am friends with Peter. My social standing just increased.

My issue is this: I would only receive positive reviews from my friends on Facebook because they are (big surprise here) actually my friends*. Many are from highschool, but some are relatives or parents of my kid’s friends and 3 of over 100 are people that I have actually worked with at some point. [My BFF from highschool who worked with me at Hot Dog on A Stick does not count.] *Maybe I am doing Facebook wrong, because I have saved that for friends and purposely have not invited business associates, except a couple of groups.

So, everything that Peter stated in terms of positive reviews dominating the site is accurate. And I understand why. I firmly believe that if I invited my 3 Facebook friends that I have worked with in some capacity to review me I would get 100% glowing reviews, although it would be hard for them to remain anonymous, because I would know exactly who they are since I invited them from my Facebook account.

So yes, it is anonymous to other viewers who reviewed me, but even for a gal who would have never made it to the Ivy League, I could easily figure out who posted what. Knowing that, are the reviews still unvarnished? Or are they are just unattributed?

I am not a reporter and am not the most qualified person to dissect the nuances of what anonymous professional reviews means to social media or society in general (that sociology major from UCLA that I wanted would finally be useful for once, Mother). I am a PR lady who values transparency and a high professional and ethical standard. When it comes to managing mine or my client’s reputation, I don’t want to see either going down in flames due to an anonymous post. Most of us are perfectly capable of going down in flames at least once all by ourselves.

The world is a sad place and we all have pressures; do we need another form of Lord of the Flies to fight? No.

Is the Unvarnished team right for wanting to cut through the pooh and get some straight answers about potential colleagues, managers or clients? Yes.

Is anonymous posting the way to get through the pooh? Not sure.

I am going to check out some other professional review type sites (suggestions welcome) and then wait for Unvarnished to go live to weigh in with my final thoughts. Until then, I am holding firm on my (not so original) idea that anonymity breads malice.

I found this NYT article when reviewing the comments section of PR Squared’s blog post on the same subject. Eric Schwartzman, who interviewed Slideshare CEO Rashmi Sinha for On the Record…Online mentioned in his comments a quote from Sinha: The key to maintaining high quality B2B conversations online is attribution. Anonymity is what destroys it.

Thoughts? Would love to hear them.

~ Jules

8 thoughts on “The Bad, the Ugly & the Unvarnished: Part 2

  1. Jules thanks for the post (part one and two) this was an interesting read — before reading your blog I hadn’t heard of Unvarnished.

    A few random thoughts:
    – Unvarnished seems like a bad idea, but I bet it will be a big hit.
    – I can’t help but be impressed with how quickly and how well Unvarnished replied to your original post.
    – And, without a doubt the best line in the post had to be…”are the reviews still unvarnished? Or are they are just unattributed?” That summed up everything.
    Keep up the good work. I’m finally getting caught up on your recent posts.
    -Paul

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    1. Thanks Paul. I always appreciate your insights.

      Honestly, I was prepared to hate Unvarnished, but now I simply question it and the change of hear is due to the efficient, nice, point by point response by Peter, Unvarnished’s co-founder. I know nothing about him except what I read at the top of his Facebook profile, but he’s been a real sport about all of this and is clearly prepared to engage, which I like.

      I’ll be the first to fall apart & throw a fit when I get ripped up via Unvarnished review, but until then, I think I’ll be nice. 😉 I guess we’ll all know how it will turn out once they go live and the process begins to work in the non-Facebook world.

      Glad you’re here.
      Best,
      Jules

      Like

  2. Jules;
    Reading this, I had to do a lot of catch up. Kind of got lost. Lots of inside baseball? Anyway, as a former print journalist of 13 years in 4 states, and now a PR guy of 7+, I am opposed to unatributed anything. Others may acknowledge, I will not, and won’t read. I spent 5 years as PR director for a state agency and did not have time to waste reading or listening to anonymous comments unless it was safety related. May be some who value such a source, and that’s fine, but to get real respect and to garner real value, there must be source. Hold firm.

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    1. Lost? Oh no…then the long and winding story warning was needed.

      For sure in journalism there must be a source, but save very rare occasions where anonymity is required to protect a source. In the rest of the world, social media & internet allows for some anonymous posting. I understand wanting to cut through the marketing clutter (my Linkedin profile is basically a brochure about me!) but I am not sure this is the way to go. Time will tell.

      Thanks for stopping by.
      Best,
      Jules

      Like

  3. It’s all about two-way communication, or at least that’s what one one my grad school PR professors would say.

    I would argue that folks interested in maintaining anonymity when posting reviews of anything (Jules’ awesome work for a client, wineries in Boise or dining in a local eatery) aren’t interested in two-way communication. Criticism and feedback are vital to just about any enterprise, I think, and if I’m interested in further exploring Person X’s critique of whatever I did that caused the feedback that precipitated my response, I want to ensure I’m able to do so. Otherwise what’s it all for?

    Additionally, Mr. Cole’s perspective mirrors my own. I don’t need criticism from friends. I need it from folks without a rooting interest in my feeling OK about something I’ve done. It’s honesty I’m after, really, and something about the anonymity under discussion rings false to me.

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  4. I agree and I do ask for critiques (from employers, clients, etc.) but you are right, rarely do I request those from friends. Unvarnished focuses the feedback to work reviews, but the Facebook friend route adds a layer of friendliness that might undermine the feedback (in addition to the “anonymous” nature). All interesting points to consider.

    Glad you are here.
    Best,
    Jules

    Like

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