At a time when Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are pushing people to put forth their most polished, digital selves, a new class of mobile applications is more interested in uncensored honesty. Anonymous social applications like Secret, Rumr, Whisper and Slight could be seen as a response to the shift in the way mainstream social media is used today. If the first phase of social media was all about building and sharing our polished online identities, the current phase is all about fleeting encounters. And anonymity is gaining popularity, perhaps because social media users are beginning to see the disadvantages of living an exposed life. The latest of this new class of anonymous applications is Unsaid, owned by 25fifteen, an Australian company that builds, collaborates with and invests in startups.
Although many of the principles are the same as social applications like Yik Yak – for instance, the idea that not everything in digital communication platforms needs to be perpetual and calculated – Unsaid specifically targets the enterprise market. The startup claims that it is “[bringing] the freedom of anonymous apps to unchartered territory: your company.”
As an initial offering, the app is centring on ‘the office christmas party’ theme, meaning that employees will be able to openly share their thoughts, questions and feedback about the company Christmas party amongst their colleagues, while still remaining completely anonymous. The overarching purpose is to ‘facilitate transparency in organisations’, according to Kim Heras, Co-Founder of 25fifteen.
Why an app for the office Christmas party? In a media release distributed recently, the company states that the location and quality of an office Christmas party tells employees how well the company is doing and how much it values its employees. The lead up is a source of chatter as employees prepare for everything from Secret Santa to the fancy dress party. The event then brings out the most interesting gossip topics for weeks to come. Much of that gossip, however, resides in small pockets and cliques because there’s no place for employees to talk openly without fear of repercussion. This is where Unsaid comes in.
Heras says that everyone who worked on Unsaid shared the same view that “modern businesses are too opaque” and believe that controlling information is critical to controlling employees. But this opacity “[holds] back employee engagement and business success.”
“Today, organisations like Square and Buffer are demonstrating that radical transparency can have a positive effect on experience for employees and the business as a whole,” Heras adds.
“Our view is that engaged employees are much more valuable than controlled employees so we are working on a solution to allow employees to create their own open information flows.”
“That’s not to say that employers can’t be engaged or drive adoption of Unsaid (in our beta trials this was the case about half of the time). The point about Unsaid is that it’s not *dependant* on management driving or controlling it.”
So how does it work? Employees within companies must sign up using their company email address and a group is automatically created. After confirming a user’s email address all identifying data is removed from the Unsaid servers.
Employees can then start posting and other people who have signed up with an email address from the same domain can see those posts. Only people from the same company can see posts or comments from their colleagues. And there is no way for Unsaid to know who has written which post or comment. Subsequently, there is no way for colleagues, managers or anyone else to know who has written a post or comment.
“Anonymity in a social app is one thing – but in a work related app you need extra safeguards. We take this responsibility very seriously”, says Heras. “We’ve worked hard to make sure we don’t go down the path of a Secret or Whisper, where anonymous means ‘almost anonymous’.”
“This is very much a bottom up approach to internal communication. Most other attempts to get a true sense of employee sentiment have always been top-down – and it’s hard to be honest when the person in charge of the communication channel is the one you may have an issue with,” says Heras.
“With Unsaid, there’s a place for management to be involved but communities are very much created and driven by employees. This is their space.”
Heras adds that while Unsaid isn’t controlled by employers, they’re working on backend tools to make it easier for employers to engage in the conversation and manage how they deal with issues that come up that may affect their business.
Although employees can finally share all the things that go unsaid in a workplace, it’s not recommended that they be rude or inappropriate in any way. Comments like ‘Tas has gotten really fat, hasn’t she?” isn’t the kind that’s acceptable on Unsaid. A level of curation exists to allow community members to prevent inappropriate behaviour including harassment.
As Heras explains, “We can’t stop people from being silly. At the moment though, curation is done by the community – so if people start flagging inappropriate content it automatically disappears from the feed. We’ll fine tune this over time but we’re very committed to engineering a solution which brings the best of transparency to the fore – not the worst.”
And despite what many may think, that chatter is not only negative according to Heras: “Posts sit across the full spectrum: questions, comments and feedback – both positive and negative”
The Christmas theme is only for this time of year. The bigger vision is to create technology solutions that facilitate and promote greater transparency in the workplace.
Prior to extending Unsaid’s utility, the company will focus on testing the enterprise market and ensuring users find value in the offering.
“We’re just really keen to emphasise that this is a serious business tool that we think will add value to an organisation. Secret and Whisper have brought out the worst in anonymous apps, but as an enterprise tool, this is no more like them than Yammer is, for instance, like Twitter. Similar but very different use-case with different challenges.”
Featured image: Kim Heras, Partner at 25fifteen. Source: Provided.