Yesterday I received two emails informing me that I just got reviewed on Completed, the new platform that its founders are billing as “Yelp for professionals.” My profile was created and filled in without my consent with some basic information that was pulled from my public LinkedIn and Twitter profiles by algorithm. My ratings (which were submitted anonymously) were top notch: five stars.
The reviewer(s) didn’t leave any additional comments that detailed why they thought I was so stellar.
How It Works
Completed algorithms pull in data from publicly available sites like social media accounts, but people can also create profiles for themselves or others that they may want to rate. There’s no hard and fast rule on who gets a profile, but Michael Zammuto, CEO of the San Francisco-based startup, has big goals for the platform: His plan is to have 10 million profiled on Completed by mid-summer, and keep growing from there.
“In the next three years, nearly every business professional in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand will have a Completed profile,” he asserts. This is an important step because it makes it easier to find people and leave reviews for them, Zammuto says.
Completed won’t stop at just the star rating, though. Rather, it’s meant to provide detailed and constructive feedback to a whole spectrum of professionals including your colleagues, your CEO, and even service workers you deal with says Zammuto. Completed, which just launched out of a monthlong private beta this week, is catering to what Zammuto calls “an appetite and strong demand” for reviews that are both trusted and constructive.
“Reviews are incredibly important for all decisions in our lives,” Zammuto explains, “from hiring a doctor (RateMD) to retaining legal counsel (AVVO) to hiring a good developer (Upwork) to rating a restaurant (Yelp).” He points to the fact that there were approximately 7,000 users that actively participated in the beta test, who created a total of 150,000 entries of people into Completed’s database from reviews.
But What About The Trolls?
Zammuto is elusive in addressing how this will happen. He says that Completed is partnering with “some very large data originators” that will provide the “top-quality information” necessary to make the platform a valuable tool. “We want to make sure we have single verified data sources for all so that it’s consistent and up-to-date,” he says. Zammuto also points out that they are not talking to data brokers who simply buy and sell data, but are in negotiations with the small number of organizations that create data packages to then resell.
He asserts that on the surface, such data seeded profiles do work like PeopleSearch or Spokeo that both offer a lot of personal information like addresses and relatives. However, Zammuto notes that no personal information like birth dates or locations will be published. The verification is embedded in the platform’s backend.
“Completed has invested heavily in a patent-pending algorithm that seeks to publish reviews that are trusted based on a number of criteria from location of the reviewer, patterns of reviews left by the reviewer, IP matching, language filtering, and more,” he explains, adding, “We don’t reveal exactly how our algorithm works, just like Google.”
If all this still smacks of opportunity for trolls and cyberbullies, Zammuto says not to worry. (Yes, he’s familiar with Black Mirror’s horrific people-rating episode, as well as the people-rating app Peeple that generated controversy when first introduced.) The algorithm is also responsible for Completed’s strict anti-bullying policy. According to the website, “Any reviews that we deem as harassing, threatening, embarrassing, or targeting will not be posted. We only allow constructive criticism that provides constructive feedback for people to improve in business.”
When asked about how that is going to work, Zammuto was vague, saying he couldn’t discuss the details of how machine learning would be able to pick apart the constructive from the destructive. He did say that Completed currently has a quality assurance team of two people that review the reviews, in addition to his own involvement. His representative tells us, “Michael is actively involved in the quality of the reviews right now and will continuously be, similar to how Sergey Brin and Larry Page are always deeply involved in the results that their search engine produces.” This is not an uncommon practice. Google has large teams of human raters who test their algorithms.
You have to hope that they have the same opinion of constructive as a user because, Zammuto says, “Just like Yelp, Completed profiles cannot be deactivated. These are permanent profiles that will track an individual’s performance in business for a lifetime.” This is unlike Peeple, which first gave users 48-hours to broker a change in review before going live and now doesn’t post any review without the person’s consent, after receiving much criticism. But again, Zammuto points out that this is a site for professionals and not meant to review an individual’s personal attributes.
Zammuto insists that previous work experience in the rating and reputation business including Brand.com informs their attempt to forge a drastically different and more useful path. “One of the things we really saw was how horrible user-generated reviews can be,” he says. “What we are trying to do is offset that,” Zammuto contends, and provide valuable information about employees for their future managers and colleagues. It’s meant to seed a true meritocracy, but also a path to monetization.
Completed has already received $250,000 from an angel investor (and former Googler who prefers to remain anonymous) and Zammuto says they’ll be looking to raise a Series A round of funding in the summer. Right now he says, they aren’t focused on a money-making strategy, but to make the user experience as streamlined and trustworthy as possible.
Eventually, though, he sees potential in helping companies hire the best candidates by bypassing jobseekers’ provided references. “Everybody has somebody who thinks they did a great job,” Zammuto observes. “Our business creates a real market demand,” he says among recruiters and hiring managers who want to research what candidates’ strengths and weaknesses are, “not just internally but through the entire ecosystem.” He explains that if an employee goes out of their way to help someone on the job, their boss may never know about it, unless the person receiving the excellent service takes the time to write a letter to their supervisor. Completed makes it simple to rate and review the individual.
But what if you didn’t create your profile and someone left you a poor rating? “If a person did not create his/her profile and doesn’t want one, there’s nothing you can do,” says Zammuto. It can’t be taken down, unless there is a case of libel or slander, he says.
Eventually Completed will move from what Zammuto currently calls a minimally viable product to something much more sophisticated. “We will have geo-location technology released that will act like Tinder, where you can review those closest to you,” says Zammuto. “We are also investing in facial recognition software.” The mobile app will make it easier to post and share reviews on social media to encourage others to do the same.
Personally, I’m going to be hyperaware that my profile is up (even though I didn’t put it there) and anyone I interact with on a professional level can now rate me. Even in a restaurant or store, handing over my credit card gives that person my name. Theoretically they can find me and ding me if I forget to smile and tell them to have a nice day. And what if I have a complaint? The future of AI at work is here, and I’m not so sure I (or anyone else) is quite ready.