Wednesday, September 30, 2015

We the Peeple? No, and Thank You

Tonight while I was goofing off on Facebook, as I am wont to do, Chuck Wendig posted a link with one word as his own comment — “NO.” It was this Washington Post link,  in fact. It’s all about people. Or Peeple, as it were. 

Peeple is apparently a soon-to-be app that’s designed to let you and your friends and my friends and me (Well, maybe not me. More on that later.) rate each other. It’s slated to launch in beta testing some time in November. And it sounds super cool, right? 


You know how Yelp works. And Angie’s List. Peeple is imagining itself to be similar, only different, only better. Peeple lets you rate everyday people. You and me. The best part? It’s all, at least as of right now, without our permission. YAY! You don’t have to opt in to be part of this train wreck, and you are not allowed to opt out. At least not at the time that I’m writing this here blog post. 

That’s right. Anyone can add you without your permission, and they can say that you’re worthy of a great, big, fat 5 stars! 


They can say that you forgot to shower one day last week before heading out to Target, you smelled like feet, bought 3 boxes of Krispy Kreme, and you, my friend, only get 1 star. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

I’ll tell you what. If you spend any amount of time on Twitter, you know how fast a few comments can turn into a full-on dogpile. Reputations are destroyed like that. And then there was the Great Amazon Debacle over Wendig’s latest book where one bad review turned into an avalanche. 

People are not nice online. They just aren’t. You know it, and I know it. And some third-party’s quasi code of ethics (Ethics that we have no say in, yet are bound by without our permission) will not change that. 

If this thing has even half the capacity to take off that they think it does, people are going to be wrecked. And people will find loopholes around any sort of ethics code. One screen shot of something nasty before it gets defended (or even after, for that matter), then it’s posted on Facebook and Twitter, and suddenly all of Peeple's people ethics are out the window because they are no longer in control of the monster that they created.

But hey. At least it's profitable, right?

Not my circus, not my monkeys

They assert that with negative reviews (We’re all pizza now) we will have the opportunity to state our own case in defense. Publicly, of course. They also assert that they’ve got some mighty strict policies about Peeple behavior. But whose policies are they? Are they mine and yours? Newp. They’re theirs. And remember, we can’t opt out, even if we disagree with however they might decide to stoke up their puffing, heaving steam engine and run it off the rails. 

We are all along for the ride. 

I know of some little spots on planet Earth where folks are opted into someone else’s order and beliefs with no way to opt out. 

This is a whole new kind of identity theft. Instead of commandeering your identity and using it for their own gain, they’re … oh, wait. That is exactly what they are doing! 

But instead of plucking your identity and leaving it as-is, they’re letting any hairy monkey down the street define your identity, and then the Peeple people get to cash in on your reputation to make money. How much? According to the Post, about $7.6 million so far. 

How can you get in on this action? Why, you have to pinkie swear that you really do honestly and for true know the person that you’re reviewing in a “personal, professional or romantic” way.

And they want to do all of that with love and light and fluffy bunnies and happiness!  *twinkle* 

This just feels like sunshine and ice cream wrapped up in a great big hug from the Lord, am I right?

The people behind Peeple are Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough. According to the Post article, Cordray has a degree in marketing and can't figure any reason why anyone wouldn't want their reputation bookmarked and continually added to by any user who has a whim and opposable thumbs. 

It's like Angie's List meets Topix. 

McCullough, again according to the Post, apparently thinks that she needs an app to help her decide who is ok for her kids to hang out with and who isn’t. 

The two initially wanted to let Facebook do the dirty, behind the scenes (read: without your knowledge) work of gleaning people to populate the app. But the site’s API said a great big honkin’ NOOOO to that BS. At least someone in this disaster has some scruples, even if it is digital and not human. 

All of this sounds creepy enough. But there is still more. This evening, September 30, Yours Truly decided to spread some light and love of her own.

Ok, what I really did was express some concerns about Peeple on their Facebook app page. I posted about how I smell libel lawsuits in the future, how I think this is a VERY bad idea, that it could do some pretty serious harm to people with stalkers, and be a breeding ground for bullying. Before you think that I’m just a big, fat meannie, I was in no way the only person expressing these concerns. So guess what the Peeple people did. 

Go on, guess. 

Ok, I’ll tell you. Shortly after my posts were made, they deleted them!  Not only that, they barred me from the ability to post anything on their page whatsoever. I asked a friend to go check it out. I mean, it might have been that they needed to take a moment and breathe, and they just locked down the page to everyone. But no. Just widdle old me. 

Well, me and probably everyone else who posted anything negative that they didn’t want to defend. (Edited: I was right. They deleted posts from a lot of my friends and other folks that I don't know, and then blocked us from posting again.)

They did leave a sprinkling of negative posts. In my estimation, that’s to leave the illusion of fairness. It’s all about what people see, right? Yeah. That’s my argument, too. 

So are you following me, here? These people praise the gods of accountability, but refuse to be accountable! 

In their own words from the most recent post at their Facebook page , “The media does a good job of ruining lives and publicly shaming someone by not allowing a full picture of who the person was before they did something we didn’t approve of and how they showed up in the world after. We all deserve a second chance to do better next time.” They have argued that we all need those negative things out there so that we can learn from them and grow and do better. 

Um . . . 

I think that Ms. Cordray and McCullough should practice what they preach. Do better next time. At least pretend that you have some sort of understanding of how horribly wrong this will probably go, and how you will have been the facilitators of a lot of pain and harassment, not to mention the outright theft of privacy. 

Most of us are not public personalities and we like it that way. But if Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough have their self-centered way, none of us will ever have privacy again.

This is turning into a 7th grade slam book, just for grown ups. Those never end badly, do they? 


Sunday, June 7, 2015

This 1 Reading Hack Will Change Your Life

No particular reason for the Buddha. I just like him a lot. 

Any writer knows that a great headline makes all the difference. You’ve got about two sixteenths of a second to grab someone’s attention, or not. Attention spans are about the size of a gnat brain these days, and just as flighty, so those well-oiled headline hacks are part of the game sometimes. But it’s getting a bit ridiculous out there, folks.

Baity blog post titles give me a twitch, and not a happy kind of twitch. You know the ones. They read something like, “… and You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!” or “ … When I Saw, it My Mouth Fell Open!” And a personal favorite, “ … After Seeing This, My Life was Never the Same!” 

When was the last time anyone’s life actually changed because of a post about rubbing coffee grounds around the eyes, or how different a girl looked wearing makeup, or a recipe for blueberry lemonade? 

For that matter, has anyone’s Mind really been Blown because of a way to keep a doorknob from slamming into a wall? Isn’t that why some genius invented these things about a thousand years ago? 

I fell for all of it at first. Hook, line, and proverbial sinker. It was different. Sometimes it was even clever. And clever is good. But now, the whole thing is pretty much a guarantee that I won’t click. Why? The answer will ASTOUND YOU!

Because the copy never lives up to the title (sorry, not sorry about that).

If my life had ever been changed by any of those life-changing posts, I would be all over it like my crazy dog on my cat’s latest deposit in the litter box. Ew. But it hasn’t. 

She really is smarter than she looks. Except when it comes to the cat box.
Have I seen anything in one of those posts that I thought was interesting? Of course! It really is clever, I think, to fold over the top of a potato chip bag to make it easier to reach into. And now I know that if there’s ever a power outage AND I happen to have a bag of corn chips in the house, I can set them on fire and burn them like adorable little triangular candles. 

Weren’t tips like that usually something Heloise would tell us about? If she wrote a title about a “Mind Blowing Way to ___________” you’re damn right I’d click! But that’s because Heloise has developed a reputation for being straight up, smart, and to the point. She’s genuine. If she told you that you could remove a ketchup stain from your wedding dress using motor oil (Please don’t try that, because she hasn’t. And why are you eating French fries on the way to the church anyhow?), you’d better believe that it would work. 

I guess that’s what’s so bothersome. It’s false advertising. All of it. Click here to have everything that you ever thought you knew about life permanently changed … by a dude who tells you to cut a basketball in half and duct tape it to a wall to prevent the door knob from crashing into it. 

You need a springy door stopper thingy. Now. 

I realize that I sound grumpy. I guess I am. But it really is getting so ridiculous out there. A great headline really is important. Without it, most people won’t even click at all. But if most of the effort is spent on the headline while the copy is as soggy as yesterday’s salad, I’m just not buying it. I’m smarter than that. 

And despite what the people who churn out this crap by the ton want you to believe about yourself, you are smarter than that, too. 

So what's that one reading hack that will change your life? Be skeptical. Always be skeptical.