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Turnabout is fair play with Lulu, an app that helps you rate and date guys

Before going out on a date with a new dude, the wise modern woman does a little online research. Most of the time, though, a Google query or a Facebook search won't get you the information you really need, like will he offer to pay for dinner or do you need to bring a stash of cash with you?

Alexandra Chong hopes to change all of that with Lulu, an app she created in 2010 after a Valentine's Day brunch with her gal pals. Two years and two successful rounds of venture capital fundraising later, the app for iOS and Android launched a new PR campaign resulting in recent appearances on CNNMoney and Good Morning America on ABC -- but is it really worth the download?

Like any social media or dating site, the content is only as good as the number of people using it. From its initial launch when only 400 women had signed up through Facebook, Lulu revised its strategy to focus on college-aged women in the US, growing its user base to roughly 200,000 female-identifying members over 8 weeks in spring 2013. This results in a great database for comparison -- if you want to find out dirt on the kinds of guys that mostly college-aged women have dated, that is.

When you sign up for Lulu (and remember, this is for women only), the free app takes publicly known information such as who your friends are and where you went to high school or college and uses it to create a virtual wall of manflesh about whom you can provide strategic dating information. Again, if you're a single gal, one could suppose that you'd be doing womankind a favor by providing useful anonymous information about your guy-friends. However, if almost all of your guy-friends are married, already in serious relationships, or gay, this kind of information really doesn't help the database at all.



To review a guy-friend, all you have to do is click on their picture, and then click on the big pink button which promises that your review of him will be anonymous. You're then asked to determine the level of your relationship with him (are you just friends, or did you date him once?), and then next come a series of questions which are playful, but written in a way that will assign a numerical rating in categories like Appearance, Humor, and Ambition.

One of Lulu's touted features is the ability to use hashtags to categorize guys as being a #TeddyBear or a #VideoGamer, sorting them into "Best" traits and "Worst" traits. However, further investigation shows that the hashtags are pre-generated and non-clickable, which means that you can't sort out a guy who #OwnsCrocs, and can't find the ones who #WillSeeRomComs or whatever trait you find desirable.

For those who would claim that the app is promoting reverse-sexism, Lulu offers a guys-only website called LuluDude where guys can offer some rebuttal to the anonymous claims, upload better pictures of themselves, and generally make themselves look more attractive to Lulu users. However, men should be prepared to reveal to their Facebook friends and contacts that they care about their Lulu scores -- in order to access the site, they have to send an invite to 25 of their contacts first.

Concern over privacy issues aside, the problem with Lulu is that unlike a long and boozy brunch with your girlfriends, you're never really going to get the real dirt you'd need before you start dating someone because of the laws we have against libel in the US. As a tool, however, for finding out how many of your guy-friends are friends with the kinds of women who would want to know these sorts of things, Lulu has totally got you covered.