As our society and economy are increasingly digitized, rating the quality of services and companies is all the rage in many sectors. Airbnb, YELP, The Fork, Uber, Glassdoor, and many others are establishing a new feedback norm accessible from everyone’s phone or computer. Surely, it allows users to access better insights before making their choice and improving their experience at the same time.
But what if this trend was extended to rating not only services or companies but also individuals themselves? As a digital native and a TV show binge watcher, I regularly watch a TV Show which imagines with a dystopian angle our future behaviour in relation to the Internet, technological developments and our relationship to social networks.
If you are a fan of the “Black Mirror” TV Show, you certainly remember the episode named “Nosedive”, in which all people lived around a rating app. In this episode, the young woman Lacie lives for one purpose only: to be correctly noted by others to be able to access her dream house.
Well, fiction just partly became reality with the launching of the Credo application.
What is the Credo application?
Credo is a new application launched by the start-up Credo360. The aim of the application is to assess the credibility, the reliability and the trustworthiness of people you deal with. By providing anonymous feedbacks on people and on the quality of a transaction with them, the goal is to give to the community an idea of the reputation of Credo users. At a time when more than a third of the comments/rating posted online are fake (according to marketingland.com), the idea is to allow people to safely deals directly with strangers and avoid bad surprises. Concretely, the user gives and receives a personal rating after having experienced a transaction relationship with someone (sale of a house, of a car, a tenant/landlord relationship, etc.).
On their website (accessible here), Credo360 explains that their algorithm calculates your reputation based on the strength of your profile, your circle of friends, and the ratings that the people you interact with have attributed to you. The average is between 0 – lowest score – 360 – highest.
Credo 360 tries to avoid the outcry Irakliy Khaburzaniya, the creator of the application, tries to differentiate his application from the dystopian episode of the Tv Show produced by Netflix and explains the differences with the uses of Credo360 (his blog post is accessible here).
First, the criterion that determines an interaction that can be rated is quite strict. Users will not be able to rate their interactions when sharing a lift or buying a soda. Transactions that can be rated are more serious sale, or an employer-employee relationship for example. It is for “people well placed to know if you are reliable or not”.
Also, the app differentiates itself on the intensity of the interaction. “Ratings from people you often deal with should be more influential than people you only meet once, for example, a landlord and a tenant should have a considerable influence on each other. Selling a bike is not the same thing. ”
The goal is to avoid the pitfall of the TV show, where you can sink someone’s score.
Last point: ratings are anonymous. This should avoid the crowd effect and the excesses related to the fear of having bad marks if one does not fit into the mould: “This encourages honesty, and people think more as individuals, less as a crowd. ”
Fairly and objectively rate people, an utopia with an underlying dystopian risk?
Certainly, Credo undeniably displays values – and knows where not to go to avoid a dystopian outcome of the use of the app. However, this goal is hard to reach fully.
Again, it is difficult to limit the misuse of false reviews, whether from one to five stars or from 0 to 360 points. Then, our subjectivity inevitably comes into play: the application cannot certify the integrity of your relationship with someone and nothing prevents you to unfairly underrate someone you already know and cannot stand.
How can you accurately evaluate your relationship with someone? It is important not to overlook that the “quality slider” in such an application can quickly turn against the user who provides the service – recent history showed it with Uber, where not to receive five stars can be very damaging for drivers (and sometimes for passengers).
As for the argument about anonymity advanced by Credo 360, it might not be enough to avoid mass scale scapegoating if a group of malicious people decide to unleash their venom on somebody’s reputation.
In short, objectively rating people’s reliability is a goal that may not be within reach.
Apps like Credo claiming to be staunch defenders of trust turn to have a worrying Orwellian aftertaste.