'Unvarnished': People Ratings Web Site Unleashes Controversy

Similar to Yelp and other sites, Kazanjy also said that users can rate the reviews. If users think a given comment is overly critical or abusive, they can report it, which could result in a comment being removed or a user being labeled "not trusted." Over time, their reviews could fall in ranking or be entirely invisible across the site, he said.

Other People's Opinions Help Shape Your Reputation

"This is not about empowering people to give an F minus," he said. "It's about creating an environment that's safe to give a B plus."

He said the site's algorithms can also see if a reviewer and the person being reviewed share any contacts. If they share none, he said, that could be a red flag that the reviewer might not have any legitimate reason to leave the review, which could affect the review's placement.

But he said he knows that the onus is on his company to prove its value.

While people have become used to sites like LinkedIn and Facebook that give them almost total control over how they appear on a given site, he said that in the real, offline world, that's not how reputation works.

Frustrating though it may be, the person's whose reputation is up for negotiation doesn't actually own the conversation, Kazanjy said. It's other people's opinions that shape the construction.

Online Reputation Expert: Anonymous Review Sites Tend to Be Lopsided

Balancing the interests of the people who want to review, the person being reviewed and the person consuming the review, he said, is the key to translating what happens offline to an online community.

If an Unvarnished review does that successfully, it could be one of several pieces of information potential employers use to determine how a candidate performed in a previous job, he said.

"If unvarnished information isn't predictive, then we've failed," he said.

Despite Kazanjy's goals, those familiar with how reputations are built -- or broken -- online say that anonymous commenting sites tend to produce lopsided, inaccurate results.

"The major failings of a lot of these Web sites is that they tend to be used -- if they are used at all -- by people looking to slam one another for fun or profit, or looking to game it for themselves," said Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender, which helps people monitor and manage their reputation across the Internet.

He also said that these kinds of sites only succeed on a massive scale. Kazanjy said the site currently hosts about 400,000 public profiles (mostly unclaimed, he said), but Fertik said success is counted in the millions of users, not thousands.

Biggest Source of Reputational Info Online? Google

As people become more comfortable sharing information and opinions online, sites like Unvarnished will continue to proliferate, Fertik said. But although he believes the creators are trying to create a site with credibility, he said he still expects some people's reputations to be unfairly tarnished.

"It's inevitable," he said. "There's no way a site like this is not going to do some amount of massive damage to some people. That's not by design, that's just how it works."

But others take a different view of the new site.

Owen Thomas, executive editor of the technology and innovation blog VentureBeat, said he thought the early reviews were not only unfair but ironic.

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