“Character is destiny.” This is the ironic tagline for Peeple (I’m not linking to it), a new app that wants to be the “Yelp for people” allowing anyone to rate you “professionally, personally and romantically” as long as they have 1) a Facebook account, 2) your phone number and 3) that they’re a real person.
I’m not kidding. This is a real app that is one-to-two months away from impacting your social, professional and dating graphs all because two enterprising entrepreneurs are confusing capitalism and privatism. Even as I write this, I can’t help but wonder if we’re all being trolled. The concept is just that absurd. It’s almost unbelievable that this is just another attempt at ranking people with each failing due to public backlash. The problem here is part entrepreneurial shortsightedness and also the shameless investors who pour money into these ventures.
There’s already a Change.org petition to stop the release of the app.
So, if character is destiny, it is certainly rooted in legacy. Borrowing from John Wooden, “character is about who you are when no one is watching.” And, we don’t need an app for character let alone who and how we are as friends, colleagues and lovers.
Yelp for restaurants is not at all the same thing as Yelp for humans. The fact that this needs explaining demonstrates the gall or the ignorance or the lack of basic human understanding (or all of the above) that co-founders Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough appear so intent on avoiding.
In an interview with Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post, Cordray justified the app this way, “People do so much research when they buy a car or make those kinds of decisions, why not do the same kind of research on other aspects of your life?”
Nope. It’s not even close to being the same. Not at all. We really don’t need or want an app for that.
If you want to rate someone professionally, well, go to Yelp or any number of online business-focused apps and communities. If you want to rate someone romantically, swipe left or use a dedicated dating app with an integrated review system. Even Lulu was chastised for its approach to radical transparency when it allowed women to rate only men. If you want to rate or explore reviews to understand the character or reputation of another human being AS A person, then consider how you got to that very moment and start to rethink your life goals and choices.
Everything about this app is wrong. According to the Washington Post, the app was originally supposed to scrape names automatically from Facebook, but the site’s API wouldn’t allow it — to Cordray’s visible annoyance (the video has since been removed of course). Could you imagine if the founders got their way even if for a moment before it was stopped?
“All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.”― Gabriel García Márquez
Blurring professional, personal and romantic reviews for anyone to see is preposterous, even if it’s comprised of only glowing reviews. The lack of context and more so consent is senseless and more so irresponsible. Having a human “score” is far worse than having an attempt at it. I’m not sure if McCullough and Cordray are simply headstrong, ignorant or oblivious to social norms and ethics but judging by how they’re reacting to the public’s reaction, there is certainly a combination of all of the above.
Even as critics provide constructive and also destructive feedback, the team does not seem to grasp why people are lashing out with such avidity. Mike Morrison writing for the Calgary Metro News published his thoughts on the app and was basically harassed by McCullough and Cordray publicly…how ironic.
The duo even tried to appeal for emotional support by publishing a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, “It’s not the critic who counts; the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”
It’s a beautiful quote. But there’s a difference between trying to do what’s right and simply trying to do something just because, well, you… The replies are priceless and symbolic. But what’s troubling is that the founders are insistent on not actually listening to the very people they’re hoping to spotlight with their app. Try considering each response “a review” of your review app…an overwhelming opposition is taking shape across the entire web.
“As two empathetic, female entrepreneurs in the tech space, we want to spread love and positivity,” Cordray stressed to the Washington Post. “We want to operate with thoughtfulness.”
If that’s true then perhaps these founders should listen as much as they’re talking…or should I say promoting. They’re currently on a media blitz raising awareness for the app. And with every new story they sell, the greater the waves of logic and humanity that crash upon them.
Here’s a short list of organized feedback for starters…
– No consent.
– Zero path to accuracy.
– The objectifying of people.
– Belittling reputation with unscientific and even harmful algorithms.
– Absence of context
Rather than use these reviews to inform their decisions, like you know, the way a review app would work, McCullough and Cordray are further validated in their mission to dehumanize human character by talking around or down to its critics across the Web. This would be a good time to take a step back and rethink the purpose and approach overall. Instead, they lean on the private emails they receive as justification for their premise—even if that feedback eerily demonstrates the dangerous butterfly effect this app may wield.
Here’s one such example…
Comments by people who email us:
“Great idea! I work in the cryptocurrency space, and we have a huge need for this sort of information. Do you plan to open up an API for querying? Could we, for instance, display a person’s reputation information in one of our apps, to give our user extra info before sending payment? I’d be very interested in hearing more, and/or beta testing! ”
Ira M. thanks for your question. We have had a lot of API requests to help companies and organizations make better decisions with online purchasing such as yours. We will consider it in the future and will have a licensing agreement available to companies that want to do just that. Keep in mind that only the professional side of the app will be available for purposes such as your request.
The response is exactly how a normal person would react…
Wow. So you want to have an app that allows others to publicly judge the character of people that use it, and then allow third party companies to mine that information?
The entire thing is so strange that a parody account already exists on Twitter. For further evidence of this, just hope over to Peeple’s Facebook page for an immersion in how not to engage communities.
If that isn’t enough, read this incredibly perverted twist on feedback masquerading as courage published by Peep’s founders…better yet, read it in line with colorful commentary by analyst/author and good friend Josh Bernoff. In this strange “Ode to [Delusional] Courage,” McCullough and Cordray refer to themselves as “unapologetic, bold innovators.”
Discovering human qualities is supposed to be part of life. And how you and I live our lives, for the most part, is not expected to be gamified and recorded at every step let alone partially reassembled through random dealings and unsystematic, and imperfect reviews of those that get around to publishing them.
As “Anthony B” so astutely points out on Twitter, how can Peeple stand for the right things if its founders don’t even want or like unsolicited feedback.
The people of the Internet have spoken and they choose not to be Peeple. Character is indeed destiny. It’s human. It’s imperfect.
To quote John Wooden once again, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
UPDATE: I noticed that the Peeple team deleted a page on its website listing the company’s shareholders. It’s a curious move considering that each of the 20 individuals put money into a business that forces people (mostly involuntarily) onto a digital stage for peer-to-peer evaluation. I then visited the Internet Archive to see whether or not that page was cached and indeed it is. So, I took to Twitter to ask whether or not I should publish the list of shareholders as testament to app’s premise. The response was swift and varied with an overwhelming share suggesting I do so. However, I choose not to publish anything. After all, anyone looking for said information could easily find it. Internet caching is not a secret.
Then last night, I received a bizarre Tweet from the Peeple team accusing me of “cyber crimes.”
“The police have your name and private info and will come knocking. You have committed cyber crimes. #Peeple.”
Was I just threatened by the team who wants everyone to be subjected to feedback through their app and refuse to accept feedback in return?
I was surprised and speechless to say the least. I responded calmly but honestly…
UPDATE 2: The Peeple Facebook page and Twitter account have been deleted.
UPDATE 3: Co-founder Julia Cordroy has officially announced the pivot of Peeple. Thank you for your support. I’m happy to hear Julia is listening. The comments aren’t so kind however.
My next book is coming out soon, X: Where Business Meets Design