Peeple, A Cautionary Tale About Rating People
The announcement, in late September, of an unreleased app (called Peeple) that aims to allow individuals to rate each other triggered a huge media frenzy (both in traditional media and social media) about the toxic nature of this app.
Peeple, as described by its founders, will give the possibility to rate individuals, with a 1-to-5 star rating system, and provide review from three different angles: personal, professional, or romantic. The traditional media and social media reaction was extremely negative, they deem the app a total disaster that will take cyberbullying and harassment to a whole new level. Critics from all over the digital world pointed out how the app will do more harm than good. Peeple’s founders got death threats; their social media accounts were hacked; their private photos were leaked. At some point, even cops and the cybercrimes unit were involved.
Peeple’s founders for sure made some glaring mistakes both from a design and communication standpoint. Talking about an app that deals with sensitive issues, such as privacy and reputation, before getting any feedback from potential users and iterating to build a product people would love is a misstep of Everest proportions. Discussing in major media about features that, if they are not put in context, would alarm any sensible user (like the impossibility to opt-out from the service and the absence of any form of consent from those subjected to rating and evaluation) is another blunder.
But at the same time, we were surprised by the fact that this app was unanimously vilified, the main argument being we cannot rate people or judge their personality and behavior. But the fact of the matter is that the digital world is full of services that allow to rate people and judge their traits and behaviors. Actually all the services related to the so-called sharing economy (you know Uber, Airbnb and the likes) include comprehensive rating systems. More than that, it is an essential feature to foster trust and reputation among their communities and exclude dishonest and ill-mannered individuals.
Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)