Remember that app Peeple? You know, the "Yelp for People?" It launched this week under the guise of a more sugar-coated definition of rating your friend. But guess what: It still sucks. Founders Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough announced the app in October last year, and it was immediately received with a flurry of ethical and legal criticisms. At the time Cordray told The Washington Post, "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?"
Now, only five months later, Cordray has changed her tune. "Who we were then is not who we are today," said Cordray in a interview with Gizmodo. "Peeple is so far from Yelp that they shouldn't be compared ... You can't compare a restaurant to a human being!"
And so, following yesterday's North American launch, the app is almost unrecognisable from last year's version. And unfortunately for everyone involved — it's still awful!
I would definitely give me a bad review. Peeple has implemented four major changes that are primarily based upon the initial wave of criticism last year. The main adjustments are as follows: A person must consent before another user adds their profile to the app. Users have full control over which reviews are posted to their profiles and can deactivate their accounts at any time. And the five-star rating system has been banished to the depths of software developer hell and replaced with a tally of a user's total number of reviews.
Unfortunately, most of these new features completely undermine the purpose of the app. The beauty of a reviews website like Yelp is in the unfiltered ratings and reviews it contains. By checking out bad reviews (as well some good ones), users can weed out the establishments that don't fit their standards.
Peeple's new rules, however, don't give users the benefit of seeing every review. Instead, they just see the ones a user deigns to allow on his or her page. Given that humans are generally preening, narcissistic arseholes, it's a safe bet that most people aren't going to allow someone to write, "This guy sucks!" on their profile.
When I asked Cordray about this obvious shortcoming, she said that the app has plans to roll out a paid feature called a "Truth Licence", which lets people pay to see every single review, not just the good ones. She said the price and timeline for Peeple's "Truth Licence" has not been hammered out yet.
But, wait a minute. Isn't the "Truth Licence" just taking the earlier functionality of the app — and the criticism that it provides an easy way to harass users and leave them negative reviews even when they may not deserve them — and shoving it behind a paywall? Is it not the same fundamental feature that everybody hated about Peeple when it was first announced?
Cordray refuted our criticism, referring to the lack of anonymity and the fact that Peeple users must have a connected Facebook account in order to use the platform. If there are negative reviews, she implied, they won't be totally off the rails because they will have names attached to them.
"We just really feel like currently in social media, the ability to be anonymous doesn't lead to good or honest reviews," she said. "When you hold people to integrity and transparency, you get better quality information."
The app apparently believes people will be more responsible when their names are attached to their reviews, a belief that is kind of bullshit. Just check the comment section of Facebook.
Even if you take Peeple and its cosmetic changes at face value, you're still left with an app that treats a person like a mere conglomeration of cells destined to be judged. Sure, it might help you learn about the myriad ways in which you suck, but isn't that what society's responsibility? Do we really need an app to learn more about our shortcomings in the real world?
Peeple is simply heaping all of us skin tubes into a massive pile and painting a bullseye on our backs. And if that bullseye is only fit for positive reviews, as the new incarnation of Peeple forces us to believe, then what the hell is the point?
This isn't to say, of course, that Peeple should revert back to the way things were before everything blew up in its face — that version is arguably much worse than the watered-down version currently available in the app store. But if neither of those options seem to be working, then it's tough to make an argument for why an app like Peeple exists at all.
I did, of course, try it out myself, but I'm still review-less. So are most people in my vicinity, a sad truth that makes for a distinctly boring user experience. In my quest to find some interesting user experiences, however, I came across Peeple's Facebook page, which certainly had some, uh, opinionated users.
It seems as though at least some of the bad blood for Peeple 1.0 has seeped into the second version. But given that it's been around for less than 24 hours, things could conceivably still change for dear old Peeple. Cordray, for her part, was optimistic.
"There's a big relief that the app was misunderstood back in October," she said. Ah, misunderstandings! Let's hope that Peeple's user base also gets the chance to correct any pesky misunderstandings about how much they suck.