With some help from baby Bwogger Aditi, EIC Jenny takes a look into a new startup drawing roots from our very own Columbia community.
If you’ve been seeing those underlines on signs around campus, don’t fret – you’ve not been living in some elaborate fever dream. The differently-colored underlines are in fact part of a broader marketing scheme for a Columbia startup, Yup.io.
Yup.io, which its developers describe as a “system for monetizing your judgement [sic] of anything on the Internet,” is essentially a Google Chrome extension that allows you to review nearly every object, business, building, class, and product on the internet. This review system itself is rather limited, in that you can’t actually write comments on the objects you review. Instead, you “react” to the objects you review; the objects with the highest number of reacts are considered the ones with the highest “social value.” This social value is not displayed numerically but through colors.
Thus, an object with a blue underline means that it’s very good or of highest “social value.” An object with an orange underline, conversely, has the lowest “social value.”
You can react to objects in different ways, as well, in categories similar to those on iMessage or on Facebook. Reacts can be classified under “like,” “smart,” or “funny.” Why are there these different categories, you ask? This provides for a more accurate reviewing system, and as the extension’s documentation puts most articulately: “Marylin Monroe was more popular than Einstein, but Albert was surely smarter, and Charlie Chaplin was funnier than both!”
Because we live in a society tainted by the perils of capitalism, Yup.io also incentivizes users to add the aforementioned reviews through payment. As users vote, they earn YUPX tokens if other users vote similarly. These YUPX tokens can be redeemed for Amazon, PayPal, or Venmo credits, as well as holdings in blockchain. If you keep the tokens instead of redeeming them, however, you can “grow your influence and earn greater rewards in the future” – the exact terms for these “greater rewards” are ambiguous.
Now here comes the fun part: since its developer team originates from none other than Columbia University in the City of New York™, Yup.io also has done some special outreach to our very own Pantone 292 community. First and perhaps most noticeably, you might have seen the underlines underneath just about every physical sign around Columbia.
View this post on Instagram
These underlines are meant to represent a physical version of the Yup.io app. Therefore, according to Yup.io, while Mathematics and Havemeyer seem to have high “social value” among Columbia students, Dodge and the Fitness Center are second-tier buildings.
It’s a cool concept, and an interesting way to advertise a Yelp Lite-like technology for a wide variety of products. But we were a little unsure of what authority grounded the claim that Pupin Hall, out of all place, really had that high of a “social value” – especially given that the app itself, now well into its launch, boasts 144 users.
Though we applaud the commitment it took for the Yup.io team to tape up these underlines around all of MoHi’s various signposts, we’re still wondering how and if they gained permission from the actual businesses themselves? No Bwogger has yet spotted an orange taped underline, which would denote low social value, and we think it’s questionable that any local business would consent to leaving up a piece of tape that essentially denoted, “This Restaurant Is Very, Very Bad! Don’t Come Here, Please!”
To be fair, Yup.io has done other outreach, though. When CULPA was still facing its various technological problems at the beginning of the year, Yup.io jumped on the frustration bandwagon and sponsored Instagram ads claiming its title as a replacement for our long-beloved, yet oft-janky, review site.
View this post on Instagram
All jokes aside about the “#clout” hashtag attached to the caption, Yup.io did make some specialized modifications to supplement the existing Vergil reviews site. Indeed, if you use Vergil with the extension, Yup.io will add little icons next to class names to react in three new, different categories: “easy,” “interesting,” and “useful.” Furthermore, it also places an underline below the professor name to display their “social value,” like it does with buildings and restaurants.
To say that this would completely supplant CULPA, though, is definitely a bold claim. Yup.io is more of an extra add-on dessert to Vergil, than a whole damn meal. Its fundamental flaw is that it lacks the capacity to add any comments on classes, skipping out on the nuances that a written review might possess and forgoing the emotional CULPA prose that we have loved to read for so long.
In short, Yup.io does its job. Its interface is relatively intuitive, it works smoothly, it integrates with multiple websites (Google Maps, Twitter, Reddit, etc.), and the design itself is pretty nice (hey, graphic design is our passion!).
Yet at the same time, the branding and the extension itself contains some indelibly frosty sense of robotic apathy, rendered void of the human subtlety and liveliness that makes social networks and contributing reviews so, well, fun. For us as users, it lends a discomfort reminiscent of Black Mirror’s “Nosedive.” Maybe it’s the use of the term “social value.” Maybe it’s the appropriation of our classroom buildings as objects to be rated for money. Maybe it’s the strangely invasive feeling of waking up one morning and seeing all our favorite lunch spots taped up. But who knows? Perhaps this feeling will all but disappear, once we gain enough YUPX tokens.