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Karma – the website that reviews you!

By Steven Bailey - 7 May 2015 32

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.53.05 pm

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely game and in the case of these young Canberran gents, it can be controversial too. Monish Parajuli and brothers Dayne Rathbone and Clyde Rathbone (pictured above) are in the latter stages of developing a website which’s primary function is to publically evaluate human beings.

As I sat to chew the fat with the three business partners I couldn’t help but think that Orwell was somehow, somewhere, listening…

Karma aims to give honest reviews about people; not reviews about products or plays or food, but people.

After satisfying a rigorous process to verify one’s identity, a person can log on to read and write appraisals on other human beings. Once an appraisal is published on the site it too can be appraised with comments and a tick to indicate the reader’s approval or disapproval – a digital democracy perhaps.

Obviously such an endeavour gives rise to numerous political, social, legal, and ethical questions.

From a legal perspective, Karma is a tinderbox of defamation cases. Generally speaking, defamation laws protect your reputation by disallowing false information about you to be published. If a publisher is asked to remove potentially damaging material, and it refuses to do so, the publisher may then become liable for any damage caused. As a result, Karma will remove any published material if it is so requested… but, the catch is that it will publicise details of the fact that you have requested that the material be removed. By no means is this strategy a full proof firewall against legal cases but, it’s a start.

The development of the website is as much the result of a shared world view as it is a determination to succeed in the online market. Karma’s mission is stated on the home page of the website: “Our mission is to help create a more informed, accountable, and honest world.”

But is creating a forum where people can write whatever they like about another person ethical or not?

Comedian and generally clever guy Dayne Rathbone says that “transparent societies are more likely to behave ethically, and we should all be working together to celebrate the good in the world whilst protecting each other from potentially harmful experiences.”

But is it as ethical to apply the same notion of transparency to institutions, authorities, and companies as we would to an individual citizen? For instance, it is certainly of public importance that we know how much influence Rupert Murdoch or Gina Rinehart has over Australian Governments, but is it as important that we know the sexual preferences, or medications, of a school teacher or police officer?

The business partners contend that Karma is unique when compared to other similar websites such as LinkedIn or Facebook.

Because the website places an exclusive focus on an individual’s personhood through the eyes of others, it attempts to operate as a deterrent to anonymity – where it is quite easy to create a fake Facebook, Gmail, or LinkedIn account and troll with gay abandon.

Former Wallabies and ACT Brumbies player Clyde Rathbone contends that although one’s first impression may be to the contrary, it would be unwise to lie, make false accusations, or to bully people through Karma. His reasoning is that those who post “slander” and “junk comments” will be realised and appraised accordingly.

“Any review site that wants to maintain a high level of authenticity needs to live up to those ideals, and that’s what Karma does more than many other websites,” he says.

“Heaps of websites are already doing what we are proposing, they’re just not doing it very well.”

On that point, I agree with him.

Where existing websites allow users to create their own profiles or identities, Karma’s function relies on the premise that the collective interpretations of a person’s identity will be a more accurate reflection of who a person really is – and therefor, more ethical.

Monish Parajuli, and Dayne and Clyde Rathbone are certainly an intelligent and driven team. Regardless of whether or not this idea frightens the hell out of you, if their only goal was to inspire people to think then they are instant success stories.

The success of Karma will depend on the team’s ability to assuage people’s fears while maintaining people’s interest. Remember, we will be judging you. 😉

What’s Your opinion?

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32 Responses to
Karma – the website that reviews you!
RDS 9:23 am 08 May 15

Solidarity makes a good point. What is to stop people from paying for reviews?
How are identities going to be checked to ensure they are not fake profiles and why do we need this extra invasion?

I believe we should be able to meet people and provide them the information we choose to. Networking websites such as Facebook, linked-in already make it easy for someone who does not know you to find out where you work, who you know and where you go if you are not careful with your privacy settings.

‘RDS threw food at me and humiliated me in front of friends and family because I did not agree with her views.’

Are you going to have to censor your behaviour in case someone writes a karma review?

I don’t like it.

Postalgeek 8:55 am 08 May 15

I take it only people signed up to Karma would be appraised?

krackers007 6:23 am 08 May 15

Some of the aspects are interesting, however I believe there should be a opt in option. I think that social networks have created enough ability for people to share their opinions and judge other people. Karma have dealt with fact that you cannot do this anonymously but unless your identity verification process reflects what banks and government processes it is easy enough for someone to create fake identities. My concern with this is more the impact on the individual. People make mistake, have bad days, and they should be given the opportunity to move on, right their wrongs not have something that publicly records this against them. The application of these sorts of concepts needs to be considered, there is enough stress in society, and if you look at some of the negative impact Twitter and Facebook have on individuals being judged such as suicide. The owners of karma need consider this to take an approach that is socially responsible. The idea of a goodwill engine is great and the focus should be on that, I would remove the negative feedback capabilities.. You are still meeting your ethos of building a better society.

vintage123 7:05 pm 07 May 15

If anyone writes anything negative about me and the moderators let it through, truth or not, i would file an immediate defamation case on both the site administrators and the individuals and let the courts decide where the truth lies.

John Moulis 4:02 pm 07 May 15

I can already hear the defo lawyers rubbing their hands with glee over this…

girlygirl 3:09 pm 07 May 15

Wow, I so want no part of this. People posting personal things about me (or you) online kinda sounds like a terrible idea.

Testfest 1:42 pm 07 May 15

Hi Clyde,

I have a question about how will work. According to the post by Steven Bailey:

“After satisfying a rigorous process to verify one’s identity, a person can log on to read and write appraisals on other human beings.”

Does this mean that the only way to read reviews of people will be to sign up as a member? Or will you allow non-members to read everything on the site but not allow them to post until they join up?

Rollersk8r 1:28 pm 07 May 15

Thanks for taking the time to respond; I guess that’s -1 Karma point for me! Good luck with it but I still don’t see it working in either positive or negative scenarios. In helping others out you are still seeking some kind of “reward” by having it documented online. Plus if you started to get negative comments I imagine you’d just disable/delete your account.

chewy14 1:05 pm 07 May 15

It’s a good idea but will have too many problems in reality.

Honestly, who is going to join up to the site if people are going to badmouth them?

In Clyde’s example above, why would his friend Mike’s tenants even join the site so their landlord can “warn” others? Or can you rate people who aren’t members which raises another whole kettle of fish?
And if they are members of the site, what’s to stop them returning fire on their landlord with made up and unproveable claims? Even if it’s untrue, we all know mud sticks.

I think due to human nature it will end up with pockets of congratulatory backslapping interspersed with lots of bullying.

Good luck.

rosscoact 12:38 pm 07 May 15

Hey Clyde,

I read about the dramas you were having on the tech side and that resonated with me, been there and smarter if not more advanced because of it.

I think this has the potential to be a game changer for people who deal with people. The trust business is absolutely booming and you’re part of that. It will be interesting to see how it pans out and evolves. Anonymity can be an app killer as I know you’re aware.

Nice work.

Holden Caulfield 12:36 pm 07 May 15

The idea is sound, I think, it’s just a shame there’s too many whack jobs/trolls out there who would see the value (for themselves) in messing around with a site like Karma.

It would be cool if it worked, though, so don’t let my negativity stop you.

Solidarity 12:06 pm 07 May 15

I’ll paste good reviews for $20 a pop.


ClydeRathbone 11:49 am 07 May 15

Rollersk8r said :

I don’t get it. I really don’t.

So best case scenario you have a bunch of people sign up to say their friends are all nice. Then what? It would be extremely foolish to write anything about anyone else in a professional capacity.

Maybe let people share pictures of coffee and food. We’ll call it The Facebook.

Hi Rollersk8r (if that’s even your real name 🙂

I’d like to share a short story with you.

I grew up in a small town in South Africa where our parents were always entrepreneurs. We call my dad “The Mad Scientist”…he’s this highly creative and eccentric guy who’s built all kinds of businesses…some have been epic failures and others have been successes. And my mother was involved in the local community, lending a hand to important social causes. Both my parents have fantastic reputations in our hometown.

But when they immigrated to Australia, nobody knew them. So in terms of their reputations they were starting from scratch. It was frustrating watching them struggle to make friends and find opportunities. I think that many organisations would have benefited from my parents experience, but local businesses were totally oblivious to this resource that was available to them. I often wonder how different my parents experience of moving to a new country might have been if all the goodwill they gained in South Africa was easily knowable to people here.

When you do a search in your web browser for “reputation is”, Google predicts the next word will be “everything”. We intuitively know that our reputations are incredibly valuable, but even as human lives increasingly move online and the world becomes one large village, reputation is still mainly transmitted by word of mouth or locked in a small network of personal friends and contacts. And so we’re just not accessing the full potential of our reputations.

Let me give you a practical examples of how Karma could be used and why we think there is tremendous value to be gained by making honest information about people more easily accessible:

Learning About A Person:
If you’ve ever Googled someones name because you needed to learn more about them. You probably found their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, but how useful are those resources? The content on those pages is controlled entirely by the individual you’re trying to learn about. There’s a reason people read reviews on TripAdvisor rather than testimonials on a restaurant’s website. Social networks allow us to appear in the world as we want to be seen. But Karma is designed to reflect how the world really sees us.

The second value proposition is Thanking Someone:
I recently lost my wallet at the farmers market before it was handed in by a person who wouldn’t accept a reward, so I thanked them, and while that’s a nice thing to do it offers very little value to them. Imagine if I could write a short review saying: “John handed in my lost wallet and refused to take any reward…what a great guy” – then anyone wanting to learn about John can immediately know that he is the kind of person who will return a lost wallet – I’ve then offered John real value.

The third use case is Warning The Community:
Our friend, Mike, rented his apartment out…the tenants trashed the place. Legal recourse is one option to him but it’s time consuming, potentially expensive and there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually recoup losses. But Mike really wanted to warn others so they could avoid the same negative experience. So Karma is also about preventing the spread of harm.

The final use case is Mobilising Reputation:
I’m sure we can all think of times when it would have been extremely useful to make your reputation available to someone else.

In fact, in an online world we’re constantly experiencing this problem. Right now, I’m trying to convince you that there is real merit in what Karma is trying to do – and you’re trying to work out if there is any reason to pay attention to what I’ve got to say.

Just before you post a comment here a message reminds you of the following:

“Please read our guidelines on how to write constructive, thoughtful and positive comments. You will appear smarter, and are less likely to be moderated.”

Notice the worlds “appear smarter” – that’s reputation management being encouraged right here on, and rightly so.

This problem that you and I are dealing with – right now – of not being able to easily learn about a person’s true character and competencies, is a problem we think Karma can solve.



aleayr 11:39 am 07 May 15

There have been surveys and research done that shows disgruntled people are at least twice as likely to tell someone about their experience.

Would be interesting to see what strategy the site owners have to avoid this turning into a whingefest, and encourage good reviews as well.

That said, I can’t see myself ever using a site like this.

Rollersk8r 10:04 am 07 May 15

I don’t get it. I really don’t.

So best case scenario you have a bunch of people sign up to say their friends are all nice. Then what? It would be extremely foolish to write anything about anyone else in a professional capacity.

Maybe let people share pictures of coffee and food. We’ll call it The Facebook.

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