Inside Unvarnished: A Close Look at the Controversial Site
The major problems with Unvarnished, as I see them:
* You might have a profile on there and never know it. Peter K. says down the road, Unvarnished may attempt to notify people when someone has posted a positive review of them (though how exactly that would work is still unclear to me). He says they wouldn't do it in the case of negative reviews, though.
* People you don't know and have never worked with might be "reviewing" you. Kazanjy says the site has an algorithm that will detect these and give them less authority; it may eventually weed them out entirely. But I never saw this in action, so I can't tell you how that would work.
* You may have posted a review that got flagged and removed, but you may not ever know that. An email is supposed to be sent to you telling you why the review was problematic, but this didn't always work. Personally, I think if a review doesn't pass muster, the problematic parts should be highlighted so people can change them. But it's not my site, so...
* You can reply to a review and rebut it, if necessary. But that's where the conversation ends. The reviewer you're replying to never gets notified that you've responded (though your reply will appear in his or her "My Unvarnished" page). So if they call you a lying weasel, and you say "au contraire, mon frere," that's the end of it. Personally, I find this deeply unsatisfying.
* It's possible (though difficult) to create multiple identities in Unvarnished and cross post between them.
* It's possible to add fictional people to its profiles database (though why you'd want to is unclear).
* The anonymity of reviewers won't withstand a legal challenge. If you post a negative review of someone and that person issues a subpoena demanding Unvarnished reveal your identity, they're legally required to do that.
Peter K. says the site will do all in its power to keep that from happening -- by notifying the person who posted the review about the legal challenge and giving them 60 days to amend the review or remove it; by informing the aggrieved party of just how difficult and expensive it is to pursue any kind of defamation case, as well as the unlikelihood of success.
If gentle dissuasion doesn't work, however, you can be held liable for things you say on Unvarnished. If nothing else, that should make you think twice before you make jokes about throwing knives or donkey marriages.
My overall view: Unvarnished is a bit (wait for it) ... unpolished. Then again, it's still in beta. But the idea isn't going away. Your online reputation is hugely important -- it's what social media is ultimately about -- and it will only grow more so with time. That's something I'll be addressing a lot in future posts. Now I'm tired and need to lie down. Who knew slander could be so exhausting?
When not spending a ridiculous amount of time playing with Unvarnished, Dan Tynan tends his geek-humor-gone-wild site eSarcasm, which surely has destroyed his own reputation by now.