Cliff Lerner thinks the problem with hot dating apps like Tinder and Hinge is a lack of accountability. It’s just too easy to be a complete jerk on these apps and continue to get away with it, he tells Business Insider.
And Lerner’s plan is to eliminate the bad apples from online dating by employing an old concept: user reviews.
Lerner is the creator of a dating app called The Grade, which launched last year with the goal of creating a space that was free of creeps, and therefore more hospitable to women. In its first iteration, The Grade relied on an algorithm to weed out the worst people on the app, and garnered more than 100,000 downloads.
But Lerner admits using an algorithm was probably too broad of a brush, and he says user feedback, mostly from women on the app, led his team to the idea of letting people dictate the rating — not machines.
While this idea might make intuitive sense, it still comes with its own hornet’s nest of concerns. But all these boil down to one main question: how do you stop the trolls? How do you stop people from trashing someone they have a grudge against?
Lerner is trying to do that in a few ways.
First, the ratings won’t allow any freeform text. When confronted with someone’s profile you’ll be able to answer one question about them: “Is this a ‘quality’ person?” That’s it.
The thinking is that combing through a dating app to leave one bad “yes/no” user review on your ex doesn’t seem particularly fun, even for the most vindictive among us. The Grade then takes the sum of all these “yes/no” answers and gives your profile a grade.
Lerner says that in preliminary data, 85% of the reviews have been positive.
Beyond the “grading,” you’ll also be able to pick from a list of pre-determined hashtags to describe someone, in a move that is similar to the girls-rate-boys app Lulu. This too is meant to control the trolls.
Lerner takes great pains to emphasise that The Grade is not an “elitist” app, like invite-only Tinder clone, The League. And you get the sense Lerner feels like his app has been misunderstood. Part of this may be his own fault, with a name like “The Grade,” and literally a grading system for humans, a bit of elitism feels implied.
But Lerner says The Grade is not about creating a separation between the haves and have-nots of online dating, but merely about booting the people who do things like send unsolicited pictures of their manhood to other users, or stand up someone they were supposed to meet on a date.
When Lerner describes The Grade, it seems reasonable, but the question is whether he can make the idea of rating other human beings as palatable in a dating app as it is in an app like Uber. When Peeple, the “Yelp for humans,” was announced recently, there was an outpouring of anger from the media and the general public.
Lerner thinks part of that is because of the idea of rating anyone, even people who don’t use the app. With Peeple or Lulu, you can blindside someone with a horrible review even though they never consented to the app in the first place. It feels invasive.
His argument is that the ratings in The Grade are different. If you are downloading The Grade, you know what you are getting yourself into, and you are choosing it because you want some accountability. And the way it is set up, the only risk you’d be subjecting yourself to is a few negative ratings in a general sense. The Grade lacks the specificity that can be the most stinging part of anonymous online gossip, which is essentially what apps like Lulu are.
Lerner thinks that reviews, in some form, are the logical next step of dating apps. Someone has to deal with the fact that dating apps often devolve into an intensely hostile place for women, he says. He just doesn’t know yet whether The Grade will be the app to crack the code.