Peeple is a terrible app, but not for the reason you think

It joins the ranks of apps that don't provide any real value.

Peeple app
Credit: Peeple

There used to be an app that showed creepy dolls staring at you.

Another one had something to do with feeding puppies constantly and keeping them alive. You know how that one turned out.

You could argue that Flappy Bird was pretty terrible, considering the game was almost impossible and even the developer decided to pull the plug on it.

Yet, none of these apps could shine a candle next to the utter mind-numbing stupidity of an iPhone app released recently called Peeple. When it was announced last year, the Internet went a little crazy and took issue with the basic concept of rating people ala Yelp.

All of it was justified. At the time, it seemed like the app was going to let you write a negative “review” of a person and have that available for anyone to see. The actual finished app lets you rate people you know professionally, personally, or in a dating relationship on a scale of Positive, Neutral, or Negative, but the person receiving the “recommendation” can decide if it goes public. Newsweek called this a toothless gambit. I wonder if it was all a bit toothless from the beginning.

Peep, the company that created the app, announced that there will be a new feature that eventually makes all reviews available to you--for a fee, of course. The idea is that you can see ratings even for those who may not want you to see them. For now, we are stuck with an app that just lets you writer recommendations.

I tested the app as much as possible, given the fact that so few “peeple” are using it. I tried to convince a few social media friends to rate me, and a few obliged. Many others wondered why they should take the time and couldn’t see any benefit to using the app.

Of course, the foundation is shaky. Humans cannot be rated. Someone who knows me on Twitter can’t possibly know everything about my personality, my family, my skills, or my background. The term “recommendation” is a misnomer. A colleague could send a note with a negative rating and a harsh comment. No one can see it in public, but Peeple could be yet another way for trolls to send harsh and vindictive comments without getting enough information. Isn't that why Twitter exists?

Even worse, Peeple doesn’t really do anything. It joins the rank of apps that don’t provide any real value to you, like the one I found at SxSW that helps you find food trucks. My guess is that this will be positioned as some sort of recruitment tool, made superfluous by the fact that you can already recommend people on LinkedIn. When I was at SxSW last week, I tested several apps that promised to make the conference easier, including one called Favor that delivers goods to you for a fee, another one called Service that promises to handle customer service issues. Like the din of an out-of-tune choir off in the distance, these apps just fall into a pit of mediocrity. 

Then I tried Peeple. At first, it was a ghost town. I eventually located a handful of contacts but didn’t recognize any of the names. Then, I had a few friends “recommend” me but it wasn’t clear how this really helps in any way. Even in the crowded halls of SxSW, no one I knew was using the app, so no one could see the two or three recommendations I have and no one I knew had any recommendations.

Despite the Yelp for people angle, here’s what really makes Peeple so terrible. Apps like this give app development a bad name. Features that don’t provide value, a subset of options found in other apps, an interface that doesn't really work. (I tried pulling in contacts from Facebook and it never found any.) It’s a company trying to make a splash and garner attention without providing anything that helps you in your job.

Blah humbug.

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