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Controversy Over ‘Peeple’, the Upcoming ‘Yelp for humans’ app

As if people aren’t judged enough online, a new app that will allow users to rate anyone they know out of five stars is set to launch sometime in November.  Developed by Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough, ‘Peeple’, which has been dubbed “the Yelp for humans”, has already caught loads of flak before even entering its beta testing stage.

The app works by effectively using character as a rating system, with Cordray saying she hopes the app becomes a place where people find the good in someone.  Users must link their Facebook profiles and phone numbers in order to start posting reviews of their peers, taking away the anonymity factor that could otherwise lead to mass negativity.  Cordray also said that only the app’s users will be able to see the reviews, meaning the profiles will be relatively private as people won’t be able to Google them, since the search engine doesn’t have access to the app’s data.

The reviews will be tailored to three categories: personal, professional, or dating.  If a user writes a positive review (meaning three stars or higher), it’s posted immediately.  However, if the review is two stars or lower the review is sent to the person who was reviewed, giving them 48 hours to reconcile with the reviewer and turn a negative rating into a positive one.  If they don’t come to an agreement after the designated time limit is up,  the review goes live.  The incentive to leave positive reviews comes from each user having a positivity rating, which starts at 100% and will go down if the user writes a negative review and vice versa.

“This encourages people to keep it positive as it affects the way you are seen in the app and how seriously your comments are weighted,” Cordray explained. “If you leave negative reviews you will have a low positivity score which will be right next to the comment you left and you will not be taken as seriously by the reviewees.”

The app’s idea came after McCullough called Cordray to ask for babysitter suggestions.

“She called me up last April of 2014 and was trying to solve a problem that I think many parents face. She didn’t know who to trust to watch her children or which neighbors she can have her kids go on playdates with.  She called me because I am in recruitment and source information on people all day long and she thought I would have an easy solution for her.” said Cordray.  “I didn’t have an easy solution but I did suggest that there should be an app for that with kindness, accountability, and integrity features in mind.”

Cordray said that since the app is still in its early stages, they might end up rebranding it if they find it leans towards one categories more than the others.

“This is a real possibility.  If we see more activity in the professional section or the dating section we may just become an app for that one category. We are open to the app becoming what it is meant to become based on how users intend to use it.” she said.

In fact, Peeple’s core function may suit the professional world more than others.  When asked if the app could hurt someone seeking a job, Cordray responded by saying it would actually do the opposite.  If the app works in the way the duo intends, then positive reviews might help employers make a hiring decision.  McCullough and Cordray are confident that the app will work with integrity and will bring out the best in others.

However a majority of people online beg to differ.  Many began expressing concern with the idea on twitter once word got out, especially over the idea of being reviewed without consent and how it could lead to many other problems.

The creators have been listening though, and appear to be open to taking out the option of someone making a profile for you if they happen to have your number.  Cordray posted on their Facebook page Thursday saying “We hear you loud and clear. 1. You want the option to opt in or opt out. 2. You don’t want the ability for users to start your profiles.”  The duo is adamant on keeping as much negativity from the app as possible, explaining that they will receive a copy of all negative reviews before they go live and decide whether or not it should be put up.

“If they try to [bully] they would be reported and removed from the app.  We will always give the upper hand to the person being reviewed.”

However if the app blows up and the team has to suddenly watch over millions of users, one has to wonder how effective they will be.  And even if the creators do somehow filter out all the inevitable negativity, the app still seems to pose a threat to the core principles of how people interact with each other.  If enough people actually use Peeple, things could very quickly turn to a reward based culture, where people aren’t good for the sake of being good, but because they expect something out of it.  This kind of mindset, what has been called the ‘nice-guy’ syndrome, is already very active in some people.  Individuals may stifle their real feelings and opinions for the purpose of being as politically correct as possible and avoiding conflict under the impression that karma will come and drop rewards into their lap, even if they aren’t really decent people deep down.  This of course then leads to frustration, resentment, and depression when reality sets in and nothing really awards them for their ‘good deeds’.

I can’t help but see a world where, should this app become big enough, this becomes the norm.  A world where everybody just puts on a mask when interacting with others, motivated not only by a need for validation of how nice you are, but also by the idea that employers may be looking at your profile when hiring.

Maybe it won’t turn into a dystopian society, but I’m clearly not the only one who’s worried that the idea sounds like something out of a George Orwell novel.  Then again, I’m also clearly not the only person who’s against the concept wholeheartedly, so it’s very likely that Peeple will be a complete flop.

Beta testing for the app will begin in November and it will officially launch on iOS later that month.  If the app is a success, it will launch on Android and possibly on desktop.

About Jürgen Rae

Jürgen is an avid writer. His love of creating content is only surpassed by his love of consuming it. When he isn't surfing the web or hanging out with friends he can usually be found immersed in music production, sketching, or a good book. Contact Jurgen: [email protected]