by Kristin Burnham

Social Networking Site or Rumor Mill? Unvarnished Lets You Burn – and Be Burned

Mar 31, 2010
Enterprise Applications

New professional social networking site Unvarnished tries to ride the line between useful hiring info and uncontrollable rumors.

Picture this: You and another coworker are vying for the same promotion, but your boss awards it to you. Your coworker congratulates you through gritted teeth, then logs on to a new corporate-inspired burn book, and blasts you for “sleeping your way to a promotion that you didn’t deserve.”

Sound far-fetched?

Not anymore. Today, Unvarnished made its debut. Unvarnished is an anonymous social network (think: LinkedIn meets Yelp review features) where professionals can praise—or criticize—past or present coworkers. Right now, the site is in invite-only beta (so you can breathe a momentary sigh of relief). But you can join the waiting list by visiting the site, or wait for a private alpha user to request a review from you via Facebook.

Once you’re a member, you can choose to claim your profile (which gives you “super user” privileges, which include updates, ability to comment and request new reviews), but with a catch: You have to accept every post people have submitted—the good, the bad and the ugly. And once you’ve claimed your profile, there’s not taking it down; it’s there forever, the company says.

[Read how you can proactively manage your online reputation here.]

If you choose not to join, people can still post about you. You just won’t have the opportunity to add anything yourself. It’s an unappetizing situation, either way.

Unvarnished’s cofounder, Peter Kazanjy, says he’s not creating a monster of a site with a red-flag feast for HR, rather he says the site merely condenses, organizes and helps you refute claims.

Oh please. This sort of he-said, she-said gossip site may grab a lot of initial media attention—but will it really help HR people or applicants when pure fiction and nasty innuendo accumulates online?

This isn’t the first time a site like this has appeared. In 2007, launched. The controversial site was a forum for college students to anonymously spew gossip, rumors and rants about fellow students and professors. In response to it, Pepperdine University passed a resolution asking for a block on the site. High Point University and Tennessee State University followed suit. Two student blogs at The George Washington University called for students to spam the university’s JuicyCampus page to fill the site with irrelevant material.

And in 2009, JuicyCampus was shut down. Is it farfetched to believe Unvarnished could face the same fate?

[For more on reputation management, read “Managing Your Reputation Online: 5 Essential Tools.”]

Everyone knows the importance of managing your online reputation. And while Unvarnished may begin innocently enough, it will undoubtedly become a breeding ground for unsettled workplace scores, a repository for libelous and slanderous comments and a nightmare for current and prospective employees.

Once the negative comments start flying—cue the flame wars, cue the HR interventions, cue the lawsuits.

Will you log on, or take the ignore-them-to-death route? My unvarnished opinion: It will be hard for this site to survive.

Do you tweet? Follow me: @kmburnham.