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Rating Creative Peeple

Peeple. The people rating app, apparently mistakenly nicknamed “Yelp for people” by the internet’s most recent pariah and CEO Julia Cordray. (Oh the irony of the critics who took to the internet to condemn the app, claiming that it would lead to bullying and harassment. The critics who were so vicious that Peeple deactivated all their social media after a barrage of insults to the founders… and their families, and of course the oh so familiar death threats!)

This isn’t about Peeple or the Peeple backlash. This is about the trend for rating everything!

We are living in a world of constant feedback. We are rating and tracking everything we do, and everything that happens around us. We track our exercise, we track our food, and our locations, our technology gives us feedback when we don’t walk enough, or we eat too much. We ‘Like’ (and soon) ‘Dislike’ other people’s thoughts and daily lives on Facebook. Isn’t that rating?

Julia Cordray described Peeple as “An app that let’s you rate and comment about the people you interact with in your daily lives on the following three categories: personal, dating, professional.” Professional? Hang on!

We’ve been rating each other for years in our personal lives, but this instant rating behaviour is spilling over into work. Our delivery drivers are rated on how efficient customers think they’ve been. Uber drivers on how friendly and safe they seemed (Oh, and they rate us back by the way). Google have a rating system for employees, Amazon employees are given performance ratings, and allegedly have a process referred to as “Rank and Yank” to build a competitive culture and get rid of the worst performers.

So Peeple doesn’t sound so controversial, right? Performance targets and ratings, and peer feedback are common in lots of professions. It’s old news. It seems obvious that our love of rating things will become common in our personal and business life, whether it’s through apps like Peeple, or through business and HR strategy. But in all professions? Even for us in Advertising?

A place where we’ve been taught that “Safe, conventional work is a ticket to oblivion”. Where Paul Arden tells us “Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite”. Where we know that great ads and great design will polarise, and that if everyone likes what you’re doing then you’re doing it wrong. Would we still come up with ideas so freely if we were being rated on them? Would we still collaborate and share our ideas if we were being rated on our individual outputs? Is our love of instant feedback and rating going to kill great work and make us make things that the most people will like? Is that our job?

In her defence of Peeple Julia Cordray said:
“Peeple is a POSITIVE ONLY APP. We want to bring positivity and kindness to the world.”

Now for the aftermath. Julia Cordray has confessed that she was “humbled to admit that previous versions of Peeple’s policies were ill-conceived”. She explains a number of changes to the site in light of the feedback they’ve received. Users will not be able to create accounts on behalf of anyone else and they can delete their accounts at any time, also rejecting anything written about them (previously, negative comments would be posted automatically after a 48-hour wait).

At the time of going to press, Peeple’s social media pages were still down, while Cordray’s latest comments promise the site will continue in beta testing until November.

So with the media backlash of Peeple, are we safe in the knowledge that we won’t be rating each other from one desk to another? Or is our proclivity to rate only going to intensify with the possibility of receiving 5 stars in the workplace? The future trend for professional rating seems a terrible idea, akin to the empty affirmation of the LinkedIn Endorsement feature. ‘Your colleague has rated you 5 for nice design and a nice idea.’ Nice!