Website Review: Social Recommendator

If you had a project management position open at your company, and happened to see this recommendation I wrote up for my friend, Dennis Johnson, would it make you more inclined to hire him?

“I have had the distinct pleasure of having Dennis as a colleague at Acme Products. He has a very strong work ethic and unparalleled analytical and problem solving skills. Dennis is dedicated, self-motivated, methodical, and very capable. Working at Acme Products is most challenging, and Dennis fulfilled all our requirements. Dennis will find a way to weather any storm with a smile. He learns quickly and I would have no hesitation in working with Dennis again in the future.”

Guess what.  I didn’t write it — a robot did!  Or more accurately, it was automatically generated by an intriguing new website somebody told me about called Social Recommendator that quickly and conveniently generates letters of recommendation for people — as well as social media testimonials — based on the entry of a mere 2-3 quick facts you submit about the person’s background.

Is this new technology evil or wonderful?  I haven’t quite decided yet.  But it’s brilliant, I’ll give it that.  Knowing that there are thousands of professionals and managers out there who get asked to write recommendations for folks they know, and despise the task, this site takes the work out of the process and allows people to crank out flowery, customized reference notes in about 30 seconds.  And the end product isn’t half-bad, either.  For example, could you immediately tell the sample recommendation at the start of this article was a fake?

But wait, there’s more.  In addition to the “standard” testimonials available, you can also give your recommendations a little extra flair by clicking a button that will give an individual the “rockstar” treatment — and really talk them up — or add the “cute factor” and make your letter more gushy and personal.  And for whatever bizarre reason, there’s even a  “pirate” version where, well, you can have your reference for somebody sound like it came right out of Captain Hook’s mouth.

At any rate, you owe it to yourself to take a quick peek at this site and see it for yourself.  It’s pretty wild — and while it seems a bit silly, at first, I’m not so sure it doesn’t meet a growing need out there.  As the social media universe expands, after all, we’re all going to be asked more and more to write up nice things about the folks  in our network.  And if this isn’t your cup of tea, or you’re not very nimble with words to begin with, Social Recommendator lets you cheat a little…

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10 Responses to “Website Review: Social Recommendator”

  1. Thanks for the write-up! And great to go through the comments.
    It all started out as a joke really. My wife got a request for a recommendation from a colleague, and she was “quickly” going to write one up before we were heading out. An hour and a half later we still hadn’t left! That’s when I got the idea of “automating” it (though it’s all pretty simple and limited really). Thanks again!

  2. Scary. Technologically brilliant, I’ll give them that, but it’s only a matter of time before recos of any kind will become completely insincere, let alone believable. Leading us to ponder: what’s the point in having them at all. Resume scruinty and electronic parsers are bad enough. Let’s not take the human element out of hiring (hang on to you hat) humans!!!

  3. Although I do agree with Alison that this type of program *could* be an aid to those who do not possess polished writing and grammar skills, I think it would become nothing more than a tool for enabling the grammatically illiterate in “Corporate America” to continue wallowing in their inefficiencies instead of forcing them to learn how to properly write and spell! An automated recommendation program is simply perpetuating the problem and we need to stop doing this with these ridiculous, technological gadgets!

    As a Sr. Executive Assistant, I have encountered so many people over the years (both in the business sector and general public) who can barely spell their own name correctly – let alone write a full letter with proper grammar and punctuation! I scratch my head in amazement because so many of these individuals are management-level personnel, directors, high-level executives, and public speakers who are paid extremely well (though, in my opinion, grossly overpaid) to speak to the masses and run companies yet they cannot compose a simple, grammatically correct letter with proper punctuation! WTH? Even with the invention of spell-checkers (of which I’m not a fan) on every electronic device, I see emails, letters, and resumes still being sent out with countless errors!

    Mind you, I am barely into my 40’s so I’m not what most would consider “old school”. However, I might be more naïve that I want to admit because until very recently I held on tightly to the notion that in “Corporate America” the way to get ahead was to have (in addition to actual job experience) polished writing skills and be a stellar verbal communicator. Clearly there are many ways to ‘climb the corporate ladder’ and get ahead without ever composing a letter or document but some of us have standards and prefer to excel through hard work and by exhibiting exceptional invaluable skills and knowledge acquired through a good education.

    Write your own letter!!!

  4. This reminds me a bit of software that I’ve seen to generate performance evaluations, which to me is an even more outrageous thing to automate.

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everybody! As always, I love when my blogs polarize people and create controversy — since to me, that’s usually a sign of “shifting paradigms” and an issue that we need to be talking about. So in this case, I’m not surprised several of you wrote in to lambast this site for “automating” what should (according to historical norms) be a very heartfelt, personal gesture. At the same time, I love Alison’s comment that many people AREN’T very good writers — and this site may give them some verbiage and training wheels to help put a good testimonial together on somebody else’s behalf. So don’t get me wrong — I, too, prefer to give and receive personalized recommendations versus having a robot write them. But the fact that this site even exists reveals a “need” out in the market that can’t be totally ignored or overlooked. Anyway, good fodder for discussion and it will be interesting to watch this issue, going forward…

  6. Oh and about the “pirate” option: I think it’s both fun and an effective PR/social sharing strategy!

  7. I think this is brilliant. There are many executives out there who are terrific speakers but terrible (or reluctant) writers and know it, causing them to delay or even duck giving written recommendations. As long as they can customize and then edit the final “product,” the essential truth remains: the executive values your work and publicly recommends you.

  8. Richarcd McLeland-Wieser October 26, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Before learning it was generated by a machine, my reaction was, “this is terrible.” Using nothing but cliches It seems so generic and tells me nothing about the person. It reminds of how every website describes the company as “premier” or “leading” or “award winning.”

  9. I have to agree with Mr. Levy on this one. My first thought was how soon it would take for everyone to recognize a standard letter from this site and completely disregard it. On the other hand, I do think it has an interesting template basis to facilitate more customized letters that will improve efficiency for the writer while at the same time providing more specific and personalized information. I will be curious to see where this website eventually lands.

  10. Call me old fashioned but I think a “robo recomender ” is an abuse of technology. Ultimately, it will reduce the value of a recommendation. No one is too busy to help another pasenger on this planet who need a real recommendation, based on their valued relationship. If someone where going to send a robo rec for me, my answer is DON’T BOTHER.

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