TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: On a scale one to 10, how productive do you think your boss is? What about the integrity of the guy who sits next to you? One? Two? Ten? They don’t necessarily have to be hypothetical questions, you know. A new Web site called GetUnvarnished.com lets you rate your coworkers, one to 10, anonymously, in categories like productivity and relationships. And then they get rolled into star ratings — one star to five stars.
We called co-founder Peter Kazanjy to run us through it. Pete, welcome to the program.
Peter Kazanjy: Hey, thanks for having me Kai.
Ryssdal: All right, so explain it to me. How does Unvarnished work?
Kazanjy: So, essentially what Unvarnished is trying to do is take how professional reputation works in the off-line world and bring it online. Right now, professional reputation information, it exists in the minds of all of our colleagues, and that information is kind of very fractured and not accessible. And what we’re seeking to do is surface that information in such a way that it makes it much more accessible and much more valuable — much the same way that Web sites like Trip Advisor has done for hotels and Yelp has done for restaurants and dentists and doctors and plumbers and individuals as well.
Ryssdal: And all of those things, I get, right — hotels and travel experiences and even dentists. But somehow, this idea of professional reputation being open to such interpretation, it’s a tricky thing, isn’t it?
Kazanjy: Well, I think it is, but I think that a lot of times people say, they immediately go to thinking about themselves being reviewed, as opposed to “Wow, it would be great for a forum where I can express my opinion and give great credit where credit is due, and also feedback where needed.” And also, great to have a resource where I could actually get the inside scoop and figure out who’s great to work with, who’s good to work with and who maybe I want to avoid.
Ryssdal: All right, so here’s what we did: We set up an account for me on your Web site. And in all honesty, I did pretty well. I got a whole bunch of five-star reviews, which is very nice. I’ve got some sixes in relationships, which, frankly, is a little bit troubling, but I guess we’ll work on that. But basically, people said, “hardworking,” “smart,” this and that and here’s the thing: I’m just not that great a guy.
Kazanjy: Well, I think that the mechanism that you’re seeing right there is part of how Unvarnished works. So, we do obscure the reviewers name, in order to allow them to be candid and nuanced. And I think you actually saw that Kai, because there are a lot of plaudits there, but also some of the commentary was, “Kai is a no-nonsense kind of guy, and if you try to snow him, he’s going to drill down on you.” And I think that sort of information would be really valuable to like a would-be producer who’s looking to work with you or even maybe a radio guest.
Ryssdal: Yeah, so it’s interesting. I’m pulling yours up. You actually got a three star there, dude, did you know that?
Kazanjy: I did know that. But the three star ones, they don’t have text with them.
Ryssdal: Right, right. It was the un-commented three star, which has to be painful.
Kazanjy: Un-commented, but I think that what’s more interesting is if you click through some of the pages there, I do actually have a two-star review. But I was able to respond to it, and the community has down-voted that vote, saying that they don’t agree with that, and of course, I’ve been able to request more reviews to tell my side of the story.
Ryssdal: That brings up the Yelp question though. Yelp, this site where consumers can rate and review consumer items and stores and restaurants and all that stuff. And a lot of the stores and commercial establishments that were getting rated were getting skewered by people who, you know, those commercial establishments said, had some kind of ax to grind.
Kazanjy: The way that we approach the safeguards associated with this — because there needs to be a lot of safeguards here — is kind of a layered approach, where, first and foremost, you can’t get on the site unless you’ve been invited by somebody by having them request a review from you. That makes it very challenging for somebody to just spin up a new account in order to say nasty things about Kai. But then yes, we do have community flagging, we do manually review all the content as it comes onto the site right now, to make sure that it’s business focused. So there is accountability on this site in that capacity.
Ryssdal: Pete Kazanjy, he’s the co-founder of GetUnvarnished.com. He’s got a five-star rating, by the way, nines out of 10 on all this things. I’ve only got, like, sixes and sevens, but that’s alright. Pete, thanks a lot for your time.
Kazanjy: Thanks for having me.
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