Monday, October 05, 2015

There’s Peeple that’s creeple Then there’s Peeple the peephole people. (I stand with the peepholers.)

A decade or so back, some enterprising recent Duke grad set up a site called JuicyCampus, on which students – not surprisingly, mostly frat bros and sorority girls - could spread malicious rumors, tell outright lies, or just in general trashtalk and malign fellow students – all with the guarantee of full anonymity. Just what the world needed!

Fortunately, the market spoke, and JuicyCampus went out of business. (Interestingly, its founder seems to have matured. He has more recently developed an app, Kindr, which is focused on trying a little kindness.)

But now some enterprising Canadian women decided that the world did, indeed, need an app in which people could rate other people, “basically Yelp, but for humans.”

When the app does launch, probably in late November, you will be able to assign reviews and one- to five-star ratings to everyone you know: your exes, your co-workers, the old guy who lives next door. You can’t opt out — once someone puts your name in the Peeple system, it’s there unless you violate the site’s terms of service. And you can’t delete bad or biased reviews — that would defeat the whole purpose. (Source: Washington Post)

(After the interview, co-founder Julia Cordray walked back the “can’t delete” feature. People (peeple?) can ask for something they “deem inaccurate” to be removed.)

And, unlike JuicyCampus, this is not an anonymous app. Reviewers need to use their real name, which should tamp down some of the more odious comments.

“As two empathetic, female entrepreneurs in the tech space, we want to spread love and positivity,” Cordray stressed. “We want to operate with thoughtfulness.”

Well, it seems to me that truly operating with thoughtfulness would be to not provide the opportunity for individuals to rate each other online.

What it you don’t want to be rated?

It’s not as if most of us are running hotels that might have bedbugs or something. We’re just trying to live our lives.

Here’s WaPo’s Caitlin Dewey’s take:

It’s inherently invasive, even when complimentary. And it’s objectifying and reductive in the manner of all online reviews. One does not have to stretch far to imagine the distress and anxiety that such a system would cause even a slightly self-conscious person; it’s not merely the anxiety of being harassed or maligned on the platform — but of being watched and judged, at all times, by an objectifying gaze to which you did not consent.

To Cordray, it’s all “feedback” that “You can really use it to your advantage.”

I already know that I’m podgy and sarcastic. So what do I need with feedback already?

But wait, there’s more! There’s another entrepreneur with a product named Peeple:

…a smart, Internet-enabled peephole that lets you peer at your phone to see who’s at your door. “It’s like virtual caller ID for your home,” [founder Chris Chuter] says, happily grabbing a miniature door frame (“my doorframe for ants”) and dragging it into view of our video chat. A bright orange circular gadget on the door shows you who’s on the other side, even when you aren’t home. (Source: Wired) 

The good news for Peeple is that they’ve been winning awards and kudos for innovation. The bad news is they’re getting caught up in the trashtalk, errrrr, feedback, Peeple app.

Peeple the peephole people have a trademark in the US. The creeple Peeple are going for trademark in Canada.

With luck, the creeple Peeple will meet the same fate as JuicyCampus.

I’m standing with the peephole Peeple.

Real people should feel free to rate this product online. But rating real people. Bad enough when it’s done in private, or in the privacy of our brains. Who needs or wants it all living on line forever?

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