Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The GORB: Bathroom Wall 2.0

It's rare that I have as visceral a negative reaction to an idea for a web site as what I felt when I read about the GORB.

The site is, essentially, a giant bathroom wall on which you can scrawl anonymous comments about people. Okay, that's not how they'd describe themselves; they say it's a place to post your opinions, good or bad, about people.


All you need in order to post is a person's email address. So, anyone who knows my email address could go and post a note saying that I'm a brilliant marketer, a loser who should never be hired, borderline psychotic, or a really good golfer. (I'm not a good golfer.) Or anything at all.

The site claims that this will lead to real, honest feedback that's constructive and intelligent. (Because that's our experience with online communities, isn't it: complete anonymity leads to lots of constructive feedback!)

As a special plus, you can send anonymous notes to people to make absolutely sure they hear what you want to say, but lack the balls to just tell them.

Oh, and if you get GORBed, you can't do anything about it:

Can I choose not to be rated?

No, as in the real world, you do not opt-in or opt-out of your reputation. Anybody can enter your email address and get your page started. But don't be afraid, the truth is that all of us will have some negative information (like on your credit bureau) and so what? What are we supposed to be perfect or something? Let's listen to the truth about us. Let's learn and grow with this information.

Not happy with what's being said? Well...

I believe I am being unfairly rated; what can I do?

Just like in real life some of us have people who do not have our best interest at heart. The GORB gives you the information so that you can be aware of what other are doing to your reputation. These people are doing this whether The GORB is around or not. We recommend you counter these bad ratings with your allies, friends and people who you consider to have a good perception of what you do. Ask them to GORB you. The GORB allows for the community to reject an opinion, just like in real life your friends should come to your defense.

In other words: help us build our site traffic!

I have no doubt that someone will have an alternate plan: sue the GORB's owners. (The business owners don't think so, according to this item from ZDNet blogger David Berlind.)

Also at ZDNet, Andrew Keen offers a rather blunt explanation of why this is a horrible idea, and notes that the people behind the site did not identify themselves. So much for opening ourselves up to scrutiny by our peers! (The site now does list names; I'm guessing they noticed Keen's comments.)

The material on the site makes it clear that they have a problem with things like LinkedIn, where the only feedback on users comes in the form of recommendations... because who, after all, is going to publish criticisms on a networking site? They've got a point, but come on - everybody understands this, and nobody's taking these recommendations as anything but some extra information about a person.

The good news: everyone knows the value of an anonymous opinion, and that's likely to keep most people from ever caring about the GORB at all. It's easier and more entertaining to just read the bathroom wall at your local pub... plus you can have a beer while you're at it.

(And the name... I have no idea where it came from. It makes me think of an alien race from Babylon 5, though.)

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Maureen Rogers said...

John - You've made my day by finding what has to be one of THE WORST uses and abuses of the Internet. Truly hideous. I can see the ads for James R. Sokolov and other lawsuit specialists..."If you have had your good name besmirched on GORB, call...."

Anonymous said...

The Gorb comes from "The Good or Bad" :) So far I checked it and most comments are OK, except a very few.