Inside Unvarnished: A Close Look at the Controversial Site

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Inside Unvarnished: A Close Look at the Controversial Site

Contrary to popular opinion, Peter Kazanjy is not trying to make the Internet a safer place for slander.

But given the hostile reception he's received from my blogging brothers and sisters for his new startup, Unvarnished, you'd think he was taking kittens and seeing "if they blend."

Unvarnished is a crowd-driven reputation site like Yelp, but with a key difference. Instead of reviewing restaurants or dentists, people are reviewing you. More specifically, they're reviewing your performance as an employee, manager, or independent contractor (and you, of course, can do the same to them).

The site's goal is to get an "unvarnished" opinion of you or your colleagues, instead of the falsely glowing recommendations you find on other sites -- what CNET's Molly Wood brilliantly calls a "LinkedIn tongue bath." So all reviews are posted anonymously to encourage candor. And once a review of you is up, you can't take it down, no matter how negative it is.

That drives some people nuts.

TechCrunch's Evelyn Rusli calls Unvarnished "a clean well-lighted place for defamation." Internet Evolution's Nicole Ferraro calls it a "dangerous tool" and "just what the Internet didn't need." Lawyers have termed it a "litigation nightmare," while The Inquistr inquires whether Unvarnished is merely "a bad networking idea" or "the worst networking idea ever." And those are some of the nicer responses.

Could Unvarnished possibly be that evil? I decided to find out. But finding out isn't as easy as it might appear, because Unvarnished is in a closed beta. Visit its Web site,, and all you can do is sign up for a waiting list. To actually use Unvarnished, you have to be asked by someone who's already using it to "review" them. The site suggests you ask around and try to find someone who'll invite you. Not very helpful.

So I did the next best thing. I sent an email to the site and politely asked to be allowed in. Literally two minutes after sending that email I got a call from founder Peter Kazanjy, and we had a long chat about the service. He also invited me to review him, giving me entry into Unvarnished.

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