Thursday, October 11, 2007

No, Really - How Was it For You? Kumquat Launches Simple Performance Review Service

lockupKumquat.pngPortland, Oregon based Kumquat went live today in a limited beta release. The service is a very light-weight but well thought-out tool for gathering self-initiated performance reviews in any field. Account registration will be open for the next 24 hours at the URL - after that you'll have to provide an email and get in line.

The company believes that there isn't a really easy way to secure performance evaluations from people you've worked for, they aim to make it simple and they do a pretty good job at launch. See also competitors iKarma, YouRater and to some degree Rapleaf.

It's got some early performance issues but scores high on usability otherwise. If you are seeking feedback on your work from clients or peers - Kumquat could be just what you're looking for. First some product description and good news, then the bad news last.

Form creators can select from a list of 6 general questions to ask respondents about their work, ranging from the "value of the effort" to the proficiency with which it was managed. After each of the 6 basic questions is a field where more details can be added for specifics or clarification.

Respondents can be allowed to respond anonymously or not and to either see the list of all recipients of the request for evaluation, or not.

Those questions are answered with a series of sliders for scoring and text fields for details. The interface is crisp, clear and pleasing to use.

Throughout both the admin and the resulting form, Kumquat uses clever witticisms to flirt with the line between a formal and informal tool; inquiry emails can even be sent out with a "more stuffy," "less stuffy" or custom message. The messages are well composed and genuinely useful.

Results can be viewed individually, multiple replies to questions can be viewed as an average and replies can be viewed in PDF format.

And Now for the Bad News

For all its elegance, Kumquat's also got a ways to go before anyone should be too enthusiastic about the product.

Forms can only be sent out once, they can't be edited later. Templates are on the roadmap for later. There's performance issues - forms market private by the creator are said to recipient to be not private. That's a deal breaker, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't fixed by the end of the weekend. Did I mention the spam thing? The company's working on that too, though it might be a bit trickier.

Microformats are supported wherever possible, Kumquat says, and you can log in with an OpenID account. All great news, but the OpenID login is just a grunt and a request for a URL. OpenID is becoming widely enough known now that I'm going to start holding it against people if they don't treat it as a teachable moment and make logging in with brand-name accounts as easy as falling off a log. Kumquat does not.

Finally, I can't help but think that there's something more that could be done here. Simplicity is good, maybe it's good enough. Integration with other reputation systems? A widget? I'm not sure, maybe those steps would be overkill and Kumquoat is just what independent workers need.

Once the above problems are fixed, I'll likely try using it myself in some real-life situations.


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