Getting in that giving holiday spirit: Profile Awards and a Matchmaking Contest!

November 30, 2010

awards

 

Honestly.com is excited to announce a set of new profile recognition features—top rated profile awards, on individual profiles—and a matchmaking contest to kick off the release!

Top rated profile owners can win a chance for a one-on-one session with a high profile venture capitalist or tech entrepreneur. Details below.

Top Rated Profiles!  Bona Fide!Top Rated Profile Awards!

Honestly.com is all about giving and receiving credit—and making sure that professional excellence is properly recognized, and rewarded. Today we’re kicking that up a notch.

Back in September, we started publishing “Top performer” lists,  populated by Honestly.com profiles within certain disciplines that sported many high quality reviews. Like Investors, Marketers, Product Managers, and so on.

Today, we’re bringing that recognition to the Honestly.com profile page, by including both “Top performer” discipline awards, and a new set of “Top rated” awards right on the profile page, the better to recognize and celebrate the Honestly.com community’s high opinion of that professional.

 

Blog badges too!That, along with a host of tools to share your Honestly.com profile around the web, like blog widgets (at left), email signatures (below), and more. You can find those tools here.

email sig-1

Matchmaker,  matchmaker…

Lukas Biewald, CrowdflowerJosh Kopelman, First Round CapitalBijan Sabet, Spark CapitalAlexis Ohanian, Reddit

Premal Shah, Kiva.orgDavid Feller, YummlyRyan Block, GDGTJeremy Liew, Lightspeed Ventures

To celebrate the launch of these profile recognition tools, Honestly.com is sponsoring a “matchmaking” competition.

The top rated profile owners on the site have a chance for a one-on-one session with a host of high profile venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, like Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital, Premal Shah of Kiva.org, Lukas Biewald of Crowdflower, Alexis Ohanian of Reddit, and many more.  You can see the full list here.

Take the opportunity to pitch your big idea, ask questions, or even just chat.

Details on the competition are here, which runs through January 1st.


Honestly, what do former colleagues think of Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina?

October 19, 2010
Meg Whitman Carly Fiorina

Honestly.com is helping the voters of California get the inside scoop on the two major “business crossover” candidates — Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina — by letting their former colleagues surface real, honest evaluations of the candidates’ professional performances during their time in industry.

The Races are Close!

The elections for California’s next governor and U.S. Senator are right around the corner on November 2, 2010 — and both races are close!  As of today, Jerry Brown leads Meg Whitman 50% to 44%; and incumbent Barbara Boxer leads Carly Fiorina 49% to 46% (Rasmussen Reports).

Both races feature the classic campaign contrasts of the career politician v. the career corporate executive, with the public service records of Boxer and Brown pitted against the corporate performances of Fiorina and Whitman.

We know what the candidates say.  But what about their colleagues?

Brown and Boxer are career politicians, so much of their entire lives — particularly their political views and actions in office — are in the public record.  It’s relatively easy to test claims they make about their past performance in order to judge what they’ll do in the future.

This is harder with Meg and Carly.  Meg and Carly’s campaigns are built on their career experiences in corporate America, with a particular emphasis on their most recent and renowned times at eBay and HP, respectively.  Because the financial performances of the companies are known and their brands are well-loved, their campaigns claim that, by extension, Meg and Carly’s professional performances on the job are the reason.

It’s time to test these claims

meg_profile_card carly_profile_card

Were Meg and Carly really the accomplished executives that their campaigns claim?  This information is certainly relevant to the choices voters are being asked to make. But traditionally, this sort of information is quite challenging to access.

To help address this, we’re asking former employees and peers to weigh in, and provide honest assessments of the candidates’ professional performances.  These real-world, honest reviews provide invaluable information to help validate or refute the claims made by these campaigns.  Either way, it’s information the voters of California have a right to see.

For California Voters

As an interested California voter, check out these professional reviews before you vote:
Meg or Carly

For Meg and Carly’s Former Colleagues

As a former employee of eBay, Hasbro, FTD, Stride Rite, Disney, Bain, P&G for Meg; or HP, Lucent or AT&T for Carly, contribute to the substantive debate.  Share your opinion on Honestly.com.

Read, evaluate, and contribute, and help the voters of California be more informed.

Honestly is the best policy.


Unvarnished gets venture backing, opens up to the world, and has a new name and look.

October 18, 2010

Why yes, it is shiny and new. Thanks for asking.

Unvarnished, the community-powered professional reputation and peer review site, has some news to share with the broader community that we’re really excited about.

In it to win it: Funding to build the team.

First, we’re proud to announce our seed funding by First Round Capital, Charles River Ventures, and Ron Conway’s SV Angel, along with a number of individual angels, like Joshua Schachter, Travis Kalanick, and Richard Chen. The $1.2m in funding will be used to grow the engineering team and accelerate product development. We’re hiring!

Come one, come all: Now welcoming the entire professional community.

Second, we’re excited to welcome to the site the broader professional community. No longer is an invite or specific company membership required to join the community to read reviews, contribute your own, or claim your own profile.

New look. New name. New chapter.

And lastly, the site is getting a brand new look and a new name: Honestly.com, which we think does a better job of communicating the intended goals of the site and how it’s been used to date–to provide honest assessments of professional performance, from real people.  Plus, Honestly.com is easier to spell! (Hat tip to James Hong for inspiration.)

We’re pretty excited about these three pieces of news, and encourage one and all to come check out the new site.

More details on Honestly.com.

More details on the announcement

Funding: Backing the Vision of Transparent Professional Reputation

Honestly.com is honored by the strong backers who are validating and supporting the company’s vision, from First Round Capital, to Charles River Ventures, Ron Conway’s SV Angel, and a host of accomplished and talented angel investors.

Josh Kopelman, founding partner at First Round Capital, was especially interested in the idea of bringing transparent, portable reputation to bear in the larger business professional market.  Josh has extensive experience and familiarity with both the intricacies and power of reputation in helping guide important decisions, reward excellence, and encourage improvement.

From his founding of Half.com, and later time at eBay, where he saw firsthand the importance of community feedback in differentiating and rewarding good behavior by participants, to his time at spam killing company TurnTide which heavily relies on concepts of reputation to determine safe and unsafe email senders, to his time as a venture capitalist, Josh’s experiences and skills are a strong complement to the company’s goals. Josh is taking a seat on Honestly.com’s board.

Saar Gur, Partner at Charles River Ventures, in addition to sharing Josh’s experience as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur whose reputation heavily impacts his success and colors his decisions about others he comes into contact with, also has a unique blend of real world experience to bring to bear.

Saar has seen the power of community feedback both as the owner of offline businesses in the form of organic frozen yogurt shops Fraiche–subject to community feedback and review on Yelp–but also as a hiring manager as an entrepreneur. And with his involvement in CRV’s investments in both Twitter and Blippy, Saar has seen firsthand the power in tools that accelerate information transparency. Saar sponsored CRV’s investment in Honestly.com

Both, of course, bring a long operational track record as enterpreneurs to the team as well, including much experience with the trials and tribulations of hiring, partnering, and deal making, and the associated challenges around getting the inside scoop on people you don’t know, to guide better decisions.

The Honestly.com team will use the proceeds of the investment to funding the expansion of the engineering team, and focus on building the right feature set to help Honestly.com community members easily surface honest peer reviews of fellow professionals, while ensuring that this information is professional, productive, and accurate.  Openings can be seen here.

Opening the Site to the Broader Community

Honestly.com is also pleased to announce its availability to the larger professional community, and is dropping the invite-only requirement of our beta, and now welcomes the entire professional community to the site.

Initially, the only way to get on the site was to be invited on by an existing user, by them requesting a review from you.  This was one of our safeguards to ensure that the community formed the proper norms to start, to better educate community members who joined later.

However, over the past six months we’ve witnessed the value a platform for honest, candid professional peer review can provide to reviewers, review readers, and reviewees alike.

To help extend that value to the broader professional community, while maintaining the many strong safeguards we have in place to ensure professional and productive behavior on the site, Honestly.com is welcoming in the broader professional community, to share their opinions, read others’, and claim and build their own profiles, if they choose.

In addition to our existing, and continually evolving company moderation, community moderation, and algorithmic moderation tools, we still require Facebook Connect to validate the “humanness” of reviewers, along with their age as being 21+.

Based on the professional, honest, and nuanced review content that has been contributed by the community over the past six month, we’re confident that now is the right time to take this next step.

Redesign and Renaming

Lastly, we’re proud to announce that the site is getting a new look, and a new name: Honestly.com. Honestly.com, we feel does a better job of communicating to current and prospective users, at a glance, the intended purpose of the site, and how the community indeed uses the site: as a place to provide and read honest, real reviews of professional performance.

Additionally, we’ve been hard at work with a fresh redesign that seeks to enhance the user experience of the site.

We thank the community for its participation in making Honestly.com the valuable, productive community resource it is, and look forward to continued effort in making online professional reputation transparent, portable, and accurate.


Expanding Our Community, Step by Step

September 22, 2010

Come on in, but wipe your feet...

As part of a gradual roll out strategy, emphasizing trusted community members, Unvarnished is now allowing members of 200+ companies in the technology eco-system access to the site, without requiring an invite. We’re really excited to welcome them to the community!

How does this work? We’re using Facebook “work network” membership to validate company membership for new users (membership in “work networks” is validated by Facebook using a corporate email address — this is akin to how we validate “humanness” via Facebook Connect, and a benefit of using a third-party identity validator.).

The companies chosen are a subset of those that already had the largest presence on the site–primarily Silicon Valley technology companies and their service providers (law firms, venture capital firms, etc.).  A full list is provided at bottom.

Choose your salt mine...

Why now? Since launch in early April, the Unvarnished team has been extremely focused on fostering the proper community norms on the site (some of our thinking on community norms on our blog here) , and making sure that the site was achieving its goals of providing a venue for productive and honest conversation about professional performance.  Many of the safeguards we implement to support these goals are talked about on our blog here: http://blog.getunvarnished.com/category/safety/ Not least of which was the requirement that all users on the site had to be invited by an existing user, by having that existing user “request a review” from them.

So far, so good: Over the past months since we launched, we’ve been extremely impressed with how the community has evolved.

We’ve been impressed by the professional, honest, and nuanced reviews being contributed by the community of reviewers, the way in which profile owners have engaged in the conversation by actively responding to reviews, and reaching out to their own networks for reviews, and the way that the reader community has actively engaged with reviews, actively voting on them to help properly recognize great reviewing behavior on the site.
Mainly, we’ve been very happy to see people behaving on the site as you would expect community-minded web citizens to act: in a professional, respectable fashion, creating lots of value for the community by sharing their honest opinions about other professionals.

What gives us confidence that the community is healthy?

Anecdotally: As noted in our “trust and safety” blog series, we engage in “company moderation”, by which we review all the reviews that come on the site. And the reviews that come onto the site are very high quality.  Honest, articulate, nuanced, and most importantly, professional.

We even like to point to the profile of Pete, one of our co-founders, to demonstrate that even as someone who potentially has many folks with their ire pointed at him, reviews of him are still professional and balanced.

200 reviews strong

Statistically: Right now, the statistics on our reviews point to a healthy community, too.  Contrary to what many predicted, our review distribution is actually heavily positive.

Star Rating Distribution

Star Rating Proportion of total
5-star 60%
4-star 30%
3-star 5%
2-star 3%
1-star 2%

Text Review Distribution

Also, we’ve seen a very healthy participation in terms of reviewers who have written thoughtful text reviews.  We do allow reviewers to only leave star-ratings if they choose–some reviewers feel more comfortable with that, and it allows reviewers to quickly review people they may want to add more text to later–but even in the face of that, 40% of reviews on the site do have text in addition to star-ratings, while 75% of the reviews on the site have some sort of detailed rating (e.g. a “skill” or “productivity” or “relationships” score, in addition to a star rating).

Review Type Proportion of total
At least star-rating 100%
Star + Detailed Ratings (Skill, Productivity, etc.) 75%
Star + Text 40%
Star-only 28%

Top Performers

The reviewing community has been so prevalent and engaged, that we’ve been able to start publishing “top performers” pages of the highest reviewed profiles on the site in various disciplines, like entrepreneurs, product managers, marketers, and even investors.

As a result of these various healthy indicators, we feel that this is a good time to loosen admission requirements (previously, the only way to get on the site was to have an existing user request that you review them) to allow the larger technology community access to the site, to share their own opinions, read what their colleagues have been saying about each other, and to engage in the conversation themselves.

We welcome them to the site, and look forward to this next stage of growing a trusted, professional community.

List of approved “work networks”

Below is the list of Facebook “work networks” that can now join the site without needing an invite.

For people who are members of these companies but not yet members of the work network on Facebook, you can join that here by verifying your corporate email address.

For people who are not members of any of these networks, they can be invited by an existing user requesting a review from them.

List of invited Facebook “work networks”:

4INFO
Accel Partners
AdBrite
AdMob
Adobe
Amazon
Apache Software Foundation
Apple
Asana
Aster Data Systems
Autodesk
Automattic
Avaya
Battery
Bazaarvoice
BEA Systems
Bebo
Benchmark Capital
Bessemer Venture Partners
BitTorrent Inc.
Bix
Bloom Energy
Blurb Inc.
Box.net
boxee
Brocade Communications
Buddy Media
CafePress
Canaan Partners
CareerBuilder.com
Causes
Cisco Systems
Citrix Systems
Cloudera
Compete
Connected Ventures
Cooley Godward Kronish
CoolIris
CrowdFlower
DailyCandy
Dell
Digg
Dogster
Doostang
DoubleClick
Drop.io
EA
eBay
eGain Communications
eHarmony
Elevation Partners
EMC
Etsy
Facebook
FanSnap
Fast Company
Federated Media Publishing
First Round Capital
Fleishman-Hillard
Flickr
Flock
Frog Design
Gawker Media
Genentech
GigaOm
Google
Gratis Internet
Greylock Partners
Gunderson Dettmer LLP
Hewlett-Packard
Hi5
Hitachi Data Systems
Homestead Technologies
HotOrNot
Hotwire
HubSpot
IBM
IDEO
iLike
imeem
IMVU
Intel
Intuit
IronPort
Kiva
Kosmix
Lala
Last.fm
LaunchSquad
LeapFrog Enterprises
Like.com
Linden Lab
LinkedIn
LiveOps
Loopt
Mahalo.com
Marvell
Mashable
Match.com
McAfee
Meebo
Meetro
Meetup
Metacafe
Metaweb
Microsoft
Mint Software
Monster.com
Move
Mozes Inc.
Mozilla
MySpace
NAVTEQ
NetApp
Netflix
NetRatings
Netvibes
New Enterprise Associates
Ning
O’Reilly Media
oDesk
Omidyar Network
Oodle
Openwave
Opera Software
Opsware Inc.
Oracle
OutCast Communications
Overstock
Palantir Technologies
Palm
Palo Alto Research Center
Pandora
Paychex
PayPal
PBwiki
Pelago
Pivotal Labs Inc.
Pixar
Plaxo
Playdom
Playfish
Polaris Ventures
Powerset
Prosper
Quantcast
QuinStreet
Quora
Rambus
Rapleaf
Raptr
Rearden Commerce
Red Hat
Redfin
richrelevance
Riverbed
RockYou
salesforce.com inc.
Samasource
SAP
SAS Institute
Scribd
Seesmic
Serena Software
SHIFT Communications
Sidestep
Siemens
SimpleGeo
Simply Hired
Six Apart Ltd.
Skype
Slide Inc.
Sling Media
SocialCash
SoundBite Communications Inc.
Sparkpr
SRI International
StubHub.com
SuccessFactors
Sugar Inc.
SugarCRM
Sun Microsystems
Symantec
Taleo
Tapulous
Techcrunch
Technorati
Tellme Inc.
Tibco Software
TiVo
TokBox
TrialPay
Trulia
Twitter
Ubisoft Entertainment
Ustream.TV
ValueClick
VeriSign
VMware Inc.
WebEx Communications
Weblogs Inc.
WebMD
Wikia
Xobni
Yahoo!
Yelp
Yodle
YouTube
Zazzle
Zillow
Zong
Zynga


Surfacing the best of the best: “Top performer” lists on Unvarnished

September 13, 2010

Just by a hair...

We’re proud to announce today a new feature on Unvarnished: Top Performer lists, featuring highest rated professionals within various disciplines on the site.  You can check the lists out here.

Making sure excellence is properly recognized

At Unvarnished we have a clear vision of our goal: to help the community surface the true reputation of professionals, such that the market can better discover, recognize, and reward excellence, while providing valuable feedback and incentive for improvement where needed.

Top Performer lists are another step in that direction.  By aggregating the top-reviewed profiles for various categories, we hope to spotlight the professionals that the community has deemed the best of the best.

So far, we have lists of top product managers, top software engineers, top marketers, top investors, amongst others.

We’ll be adding more categories over time, as the site gains more volume and breadth of reviews in other disciplines, and based on recommendations from you, the community.

Check it out, and let us know what you think!

The best of the best...product managers.

Top Performer FAQs

How are lists compiled?  Lists are compiled of highly reviewed profiles for roles within a given discipline, and then ranked by a combination of average star rating and number of reviews.

How can I get on a list / climb a list? Reaching out to trusted colleagues to review you is a great way of making sure that profile gets the recognition it deserves.  You can do this via both Facebook Contacts or Email requests.

I think I should be on a list, but I’m not… If you think that your highly-reviewed profile should be present on one of these lists, but isn’t showing up, please let us know and we’ll get on it.

My discipline isn’t represented! If we don’t have your professional discipline represented, let us know, and we can set it up!

Neat! Can I share this? Yup. The Top Performer pages are publicly available. So you can share your list(s) to Facebook / tweet it all you like.


Truth, and Safety, in Reputation: Community Moderation

August 30, 2010

Choose one...

Healthy review systems ensure that the reviewers themselves are reviewed. Doing so creates a virtuous cycle that rewards good community members, censures bad ones, and helps readers better understand what content is better, and more important, than other content.

In post, we’ll talk a bit about how Community Moderation—the rating and moderation of reviews on the site, by community members—plays a key part in the mix of safeguards on the site, helping identify and reward great reviewer participation, while discouraging and flagging less desirable reviewer behavior.

There will be a quiz: Rating the Rater, er, Reviewer

Sites like ours, Amazon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other community review sites, operate on the theory that by allowing the community to surface its opinions about various reviewees (whether, you’re talking about Product Managers, Investors, Software Engineers, Dentists, Plumbers, Doctors, Hotels, Restaurants, or so on), an accurate aggregate of market opinion will surface as to which reviewees are great, which are good, and which could use improvement.

Of course, the same peer review mechanism can and should be applied to the reviewers themselves.  22 people have vetted this review!

Voting and abuse reporting

We approach this two ways: first, by allowing users to vote on reviews, and second, in the case where community members believe a review to be a violation of our Community Guidelines, by reporting abuse.

This peer review mechanism lets the community vote on which reviews they believe to be accurate—or inaccurate—and aggregating those votes, two important goals are achieved…

Which reviews are more important than others?

The first outcome of this is to help readers identity the reputation of the review they’re reading.  The aggregation of these votes on a given set of reviews helps readers of reviews differentiate between which reviews others find to be more credible, and thus, should be given more credence.  And, of course, the reverse is true too, where reviews that represent perhaps an uncommon opinion can be identified as such, and treated accordingly by the reader.

Up-moderation, validation in action:

The community validating a positive review…

5 others agree...

and confirming a candid opinion that’s not 100% glowing….

6 people have validated this review...

And down-moderation in action:

The community rejecting an unwarranted negative review…

And the community doesn't buy this either...

And the community not agreeing wholeheartedly with a positive review…

Apparently some in the community don't agree...

Which reviewers are more important than others?

The second important outcome of this, and this related to the importance of persistent reviewer identity on the site, is to help contribute to a reviewer’s reputation as a participant on the site.

These votes (and very rarely, abuse reports) discussed above, together, across all reviews left by given user, roll up to characterize what the community thinks about that reviewer.  It surfaces that reviewer’s reputation on the site, which he carries with him characterizing the credibility of all reviews he leaves on the site.

Highly reputable reviewer.

Persistent identity coupled with peer review-created reviewer reputation enables a virtuous cycle within the site where the authority of highly-rated reviewers rises in importance compared to lowly rated reviewers.

Productive participants are rewarded, there is incentive for improvement where needed, and bad actors are identified and properly removed from the conversation…not unlike the feedback loop peer review sites help foster in the offline markets they to review.

Many eyes make all bugs shallow

Of course, this sort of peer review of reviews on the site works best when many eyes are reviewing the content in question, and that those eyes belong to community members relevant to the reviewee in question.

What do you think?

This is one of the reasons why we focus so intently on presenting relevant reviews to our users in an easily discoverable way—whether through the Review Update Digest , home page, or other part of the site—and making it easy to pass judgment on those reviews by voting on it as they see fit.

A virtuous cycle to support a productive community

The result of all of this is a virtuous cycle that validates and verifies new reviews as they come onto the site, helps review readers understand which reviews are more important than others, helps reward and recognize productive reviewer behavior, all while discouraging undesirable behavior.

Professional reputation simply works better when the reviewers are reviewed, and accountable, themselves.

Read more: about our trust and safety controls in our blog series on the topic.

Next up, we’ll explore how those community moderation tools, mentioned above, work on the site.


Truth, and Safety, in Reputation: Community Norms

August 26, 2010

To continue our series exploring our safeguards that ensure a safe, productive, and professional community, in this post, we’ll discuss how community norms fit in with our other approaches, like Verified Identity, Persistent Identity, Company Moderation, and others we have yet to cover.

We already live in a community with norms

It's just what people do around here...

Much like the founders of eBay—where one our founders started his web career—we believe that people are basically good.  In general, the larger, offline, community has norms that encourage good behavior and censure bad. And those norms come online when people do.

As such, we feel that to a large extent, providing a fertile ground for a community of professionals to share their candid, honest opinions about the performance of other professionals will result in…a community of professionals sharing their candid, honest opinions about the performance of other professionals. 

But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t want to make extra special sure that our community started out on the right foot.

Bootstrapping the way to the right tone…

And to date, we’re happy to see that our early community has indeed seeded and maintained a professional and productive conversation about professional reputation.

However, we felt that this seeding of productive community standard could use some rocket fuel, and as such, since our launch, the has remained invite-only, where the only way to get onto the site, is to have an existing user invite you, by requesting a review from you.

I trust you, and you trust him, and he trusts her...

By “vouching” for each new user on the site, and creating a chain of trust, users ensure that only people who are trusted enough to review an existing user can join in the conversation. Yes, this may encourage a bit positive selection bias to start…but this is something that we’re willing to encounter is order to ensure the right norms were established.

A pervasive sense of what’s OK, and what’s not

And through this approach, we were able to ensure a rich set of professionally posed reviews for each new community member to learn from, by example.  So in addition to the many “rate the rater” tools we have (which we’ll discuss in another blog post) that allows the community to actively provide feedback on reviews, community members see firsthand what is expected of them as reviewers.

An honest, balanced, professional review we can all

The result is a community that has strong norms that pervade the site of honesty, candor, and professionalism.  And these norms are an extremely important asset to the Unvarnished community—norms that are continuously reinforced via the rest of our safeguards, and ultimately help make Unvarnished to important resource that it is.

Read more: about our trust and safety controls in our blog series on the topic.

Next up, we’ll explore how those community moderation tools, mentioned above, work on the site.