June 25, 2017

Peeple: When a Start-Up Shouldn’t be Allowed to Start Up

No matter how you slice it, people rating people, like they do a restaurant, is a bad idea, unless you are the owner of Peeple.



We already have Klout, a tremendously useless way of determining if anyone is worth our time. Now, because everyone has a start-up idea that is going to change the world, we have Peeple.

Sorry to all the positivists in the audience, but this is a truly stupid thing to do unless you are the one doing it. Yes, I have have every faith that Peeple will be a huge success, for the same reason Klout has been.

The reason is, people like this kind of crap. They thrive on it. They live for it. In the same way people love their own Klout score, as if it actually means you have any clout at all, they will live their lives to get their Peeple star rating as high as can be.

What is Peeple?

From the Washington Post…

“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.” 

Out of the gate, and seemingly for the purpose of protecting people, Peeple has established the following Peeple protocol:

  • To review someone, you must be 21 and have a valid Facebook page.
  • You must make reviews under your real name.
  • You must affirm that you know someone you are reviewing
  • To add someone to the database you must have their cell phone number
  • Positive ratings post immediately
  • Negative ratings take 48 hours in the case of disputes
  • If you are not active on Peeple, you will only show positive reviews
  • If you dont like a negative review, you can report the issue to Peeple. Peeple doesn’t yet say what they will do about it.

Seems like a great start to a meaningful metric, accept for the one thing Peeple isn’t accounting for: actual people.

Putting aside for the moment that Peeple is adding yet another way to waste time pursuing vanity metrics that do nothing to add value to either your life or mankind as a whole, I have a three concerns that stem mainly from the following three points of view:

  • The Law
  • Meaningless Social Proof
  • Harassment

The Law

I had been seeing a lot of “Peeple” in the social streams, but until I clicked on an article written by Alabama attorney, Keith Lee, I didn’t know what “Peeple” was all about. 

Keith says…

“On the one hand, if it’s true, that’s a good thing for people to know that someone is a thief and a sexual predator — even if it’s not “love and positivity.” On the other hand, if I’m lying, then I’m defaming someone and Peeple is providing the platform for doing so. Either way, Peeple is laying themselves up to be involved in all the lawsuits. It’s why I’ve repeatedly said that you should lawyer up before you startup.” (emphasis added)

Yes, Peeple is setting themselves up to be sued, but what about the shear volume of lawsuits that will afflict users of this game changing ridiculousness?

Keith says…

People already have such a loose understanding of defamation law and feel justified in suing people over imagined slights. Can you imagine what’s going to happen when there is a platform in which everyone has some ranking based on what others have said about them? 

On one hand, I hope the application launches so that I can butter some popcorn and watch the internet spin itself into a feeding frenzy for baseless defamation law suits. Yes, this is going to happen. Why? Because real people get butthurt about everything, and other real people love to give other people butthurt.

I predict that lawsuits will be so prevelent that there will likely be the need for a new legal specialty in handling Peeple specific law suits.

On the other hand, I cant stand that Peeple has even a remote chance of success because of all the bullshit social proofing we are all going to have to deal with. Imagine everyone’s Twitter profile with a tag line that says “5 Start Peeple Rating”.

Meaningless Social Proof

What’s your Klout score? Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who not only know what their Klout score is, they actually think their Klout score is meaningful, or even worse, means they have actual clout.

What are these same people going to do with the delusional “power” of an actual star rating system about their character? The answer may lie within the sentiment of one of Peeple’s founder, Julia Cordray, when she says…

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

Translation: given that people can dispute negative reviews, or have them all together eliminated by not having a Peeple account, many Peeple ratings are going to be completely unreliably positive.

Which leads me to the other founder, Nicole McCullough when she says…

“As a mother of two in an era when people don’t always know their neighbors, she wanted something to help her decide whom to trust with her kids.”

I am all for keeping our kids safe, but how is Nicole going to adjust her own assessment of a person based on her apps inability to properly filter the good and the bad?

For that matter, what makes Julia and Nicole think they can build an application that adjusts to any level of precision the internet troll problem? 

Even more hilarious, are Julia and Nicole going to function as the worlds authoritative source of mediating disputes brought on by the subjective lenses we all view the world from?

While they are both so happy and perky, they are missing the boat entirely. One, there is virtually no way to stop people from harassing other people using this rating system. Two, if they are able to stop the harassment, the same protocols would likely be used to filter out the accurate negative reviews making the people on Peeple look way to awesome.

No matter which way you turn, either the metric is going to be meaningless, or the application will result in people be harassed.


Caitlin Dewey, the author of the Washington Post article, says it all when she says…

“Unfortunately for the millions of people who could soon find themselves the unwilling subjects — make that objects — of Cordray’s app, her thoughts do not appear to have shed light on certain very critical issues, such as consent and bias and accuracy and the fundamental wrongness of assigning a number value to a person.” 

No matter how much Julia and her partner Nicole build into their application the ability to adjust for real harassment, or trolling, and inaccurate reviews, the truth is, as Caitlin implies, the entire concept is dehumanizing.

Doesn’t surprise me at all that the concept is coming from a recruiter because frankly, I have never met a recruiter who accurately assesses the talent of a person, or their fit for a particular job assignment. What I have seen is recruiters who love to rate people using things like meaningless personality tests and aptitude tests. Peeple fits nicely into this category of useless assessment tools.

That aside, the most abusive component of this entire concept, and one that will lead many to feel overwhelmingly harassed, is that it isn’t possible to accurately assess someone’s character because character assessment is almost entirely subjective.

There is no way to capture the essence of a person completely through the eyes of another person, or group of people. Said another way, and something these two positivists are not considering, if Socrates were alive today, there is a good chance his Peeple rating would be for shit.

Think it through for just a moment. What if you are a person of the highest magnitude of character and integrity, but you have the personality of a rock, making you not so popular? Is your Peeple rating going to suffer because you don’t fit the Peeple founders zeal for perky positivity?

Wait, how about this one. Your online personality is not an accurate reflection of your true personality given the inability to deliver yourself in full. What is going to stop all the internet people you unknowingly offend on Twitter from writing, what would be in their mind, and accurate assessment of who you are?

You don’t think that is harassment? Caitlin thinks it will be…

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.

And I agree 100% with Caitlin.

Sadly, this ridiculous application, much like Klout, or any rating system, isn’t going to account for variations in people’s cultural beliefs, values, personality preferences, but will surely be used, even by Nicole, as a definitive source of validating someone’s worth.


Julia and Nicole are surely nice people with the best intentions. The problem is that they make the same mistake everyone who is perky makes: they can’t see the world through the eyes of anyone who isn’t perky. In fact, they can’t see the world through the eyes of anyone who doesn’t see the world the way they do.

Their statements in the press lead me to believe that they just want everyone across the world to give each other one big hug using the Peeple application. This is not likely to happen in real life or via their Peeple application.

No, what is more likely to happen is what Keith Lee or Caitlin Dewey suggest: People are going to be filing law suits because they can’t handle the emotional distress of someone saying something really bad about them, true or not.

Great idea? No, not even close.

Will it be successful? My prediction, given how lost most people in the world are, yes, Julia and Nicole will make a small fortune off of setting the world into a state of Peeple despair.

With any luck, I will be proven wrong. 

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