What Do People Really Think of You? Web Site Helps You Find Out

Failin.gs Similar to Professional 360 Degree Feedback Programs

Like 360 degree feedback programs, which companies have used for years and allow employees to receive anonymous feedback from peers, supervisors and subordinates, Celis and Peck hope Failin.gs will also help give people the information they need to improve socially or professionally.

Frederick Morgeson, a psychologist and professor at Michigan State University's Eli Broad College of Business, said though Failin.gs is similar to 360 degree feedback processes, its anonymous nature could present challenges.

In an office setting, a person undergoing a 360 degree review for developmental purposes selects a small group of people to critique him. When the comments come in, he isn't able to match each comment to each reviewer, but he knows that all comments came from trusted sources, Morgeson said.

With Failin.gs, however, it may be more difficult to determine how valuable the comments are, he continued.

For example, you could potentially receive comments from someone who hasn't seen you in three years as well as from someone who sees you three times a week, but you have no way of knowing which comments came from whom.

Can You Trust Sources of Data?

"If you can't trust the source of that data, it's unclear how much benefit you will derive," he said.

He also said that under the guise of anonymity, people sometimes say things that are more extreme than they would say face to face.

Soliciting the kinds of comments that are most valuable could be another challenge, he said.

"The advice we typically give from a feedback standpoint is to be objective, focus solely on behavior and consequences of that behavior," he said.

Morgeson said he hopes the site provides some guidance so that reviewers refrain from being evaluative and judgmental.

But others familiar with the world of online comments say Failin.gs shows that the Internet is growing up.

Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender.com, a site that helps people monitor their online reputation, said that it wasn't so long ago that Web sites, such as Juicy Campus, tried to keep comments about other people as public and as lascivious as possible.

"It's a signal of the maturing of the Internet that they are trying to encourage liquidity and participation in the market by allowing privacy in the results," he said.

While the technology isn't especially new, he said that increasingly he expects online mechanisms to emerge that help people understand how they compare to others.

"The trend is very good. The practice of allowing you to hide the feedback is very good," he said. He said the success or failure lies in the implementation.

Still, he urged potential users of this site (and any site with the potential to store and publish personal information) to be cautious.

"Are you exposing yourself to a possible worry? And if you're not, then go for it," he said. But added, "there a lot of good here and there could be a nifty factor too."

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