Peeple and CATS


Peeple is an app that allows users to recommend and be recommended by the people you interact with in your daily lives in the following three ways you can know someone: personal, professional, and dating.

According to its web site, Peeple is a concept that has never been done before in a digital space. Peeple wants character to be a new form of currency. Peeple will provide users a safe place to manage your online reputation while protecting your greatest assets by making better decisions about the people around you.

Peeple was first announced last Fall, and it just went live this week, amid a great deal of controversy. One of the concerns is that the app does not allow users to opt out of being reviewed.

TechCrunch notes that with the app’s debut, Peeple is trying to present itself as having a more positive aim and image, with gestures toward anti-bullying and settings for hiding unwanted recommendations. However, there are still valid concerns that the company is planning to profit by selling access to the hidden negative reviews left on its platform.

If you are curious about the Peeple app, you can download it here, but I would certainly recommend reading the TechCrunch article referenced above before you begin using the app.

I don’t know enough about the app to offer my opinion, but I am already used to being rated by others on a five point scale. At the end of each semester, students complete evaluation forms that ask a variety of questions about the course and the faculty member.

Known as CATS (Course And Teacher Survey – pretty clever, since our school mascot is the Wildcat), the results are used as part of the annual faculty evaluation process, as well as for decisions regarding tenure and promotion.

My view of the CATS is that from an overall, collective perspective, they probably provide a useful broad summary of the course and the teacher. Yes, there are some comments that are difficult to read, but then there are some that will put a smile on your face.

If a teacher has several years of CATS scores that average close to five, it is fairly likely that the person is a superb teacher. On the other hand, a teacher that has overall ratings close to 2 or 3 is likely not an effective teacher. Yes, sometimes the comments get personal, but when 100 students are reviewing you each semester, my belief is that the forms are offering useful information.

Some teachers complain that the CATS may be favorably biased towards teachers who are too easy, or are more form over substance, i.e., they are entertainers. But I think students are savvy enough to recognize good teaching, and bad teaching, when they see it, and will complete the CATS form appropriately.

I ask my students to take the completion of the CATS forms seriously, and to provide honest feedback about what they liked and did not like about the course and my teaching. As noted above, students know what makes for effective teaching, and I find such feedback helpful in my growth as a teacher.

(There is also the Rate My Professors web site that is another, less formal approach for students to provide feedback on teachers.)

So while it is too early to offer a verdict about Peeple, I think if it is used appropriately, there is the potential that it could help its users to grow as people by knowing their strengths and weaknesses, much like what the purpose of the CATS form is.

Yes, there will likely be some feedback that will be brutal, and that there will be trolls who just enjoy belittling people. But if a person receives 100 reviews in Peeple, there is a good chance that the numbers are likely offering some grain of truth.

Seth Godin has also written a good deal about the value of feedbackstating “…if you want to improve, you should actively seek feedback” and “genuine, useful, insightful feedback is a priceless gift.”

I think that’s what our CATS form does for us as teachers; is it possible that Peeple could do the same for us as individuals?

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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