How Do You Rate?

 

If you’re like me — and I know I am — you probably frequent one or two sites that ask participants to rate something on a scale of 1-5. If you visit Netflix and Amazon.com at all you’ll certainly run across ratings. The one to five star rating seems to be the most accepted online system, rivaled only by binary systems such as thumbs up or down, like or dislike.

Or is it? In many ways, I see the binary system overcoming the supposedly more nuanced five star rating. It’s perhaps best demonstrated in an xkcd comic:

Okay, it's not quite binary, but you can see where I'm going with this. Stop being so picky about things already. Listen, if you stop complaining, I'll give you a cookie. Just message me for said cookie.

For whatever reason, we tend to regard anything less than super-amazing as not worth our time. I’ve frequently experienced this while reading on Goodreads.com. I’ve read books recommended by friends and family, and enjoyed them enough to give them three or four stars and …

The response generally comes down to, “What? Why didn’t you give it five stars? That was a great book!” To which I’ll agree on the quality of the book, but disagree that it merited five stars. “Didn’t you like it?” Yes, I liked it, but that doesn’t mean I would give it the highest available praise. These arguments generally win begrudging acceptance, but sometimes with a side glance, as the person in question wonders just what kind of freak I am.

[Side note: The Ricochetti have a group at Goodreads that you’re welcome to join. Sometimes we discuss or read books together. It’s just another great way to connect with each other.]

I like nuance. I also like having somewhere to go. If I give everything I remotely enjoy five stars, I feel as if I have little available latitude. What differentiates this five-star book from another five-star book that I know I enjoyed more? Without the nuance, I feel I’m left without a tool to tell someone, “I liked both these books, but I liked this book better than that one.”

But maybe that’s where we are in today’s society. In a world (read in movie trailer voice) where politics and social issues are placed in stark black and white contrast, where there’s little nuance in what one supports or is against, maybe it’s inevitable that ratings too are going to polarize. Perhaps our society is in a “love or hate” mindset. Either we’re all in or all out. If so, I give our society two stars — it reads too one-dimensionally.

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  1. user_131681 Member
    user_131681
    @JohnAPeabody

    I’ve been rating all tunes on my iPod. I only give 5 stars if it actually makes me smile with pleasure. That’s about one in 50.

    • #1
  2. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    The issue here is clear:  most people don’t take the time to rate something unless they really love it, or really hate it.  So you get mostly 4 or 5 stars and 1 stars.  To prove it I am now going to randomly select an app in the iTunes app store and I will venture to guess that it will have 80% of it’s ratings in one of those three.  Here goes…(just wait a moment)

    So here’s a game that has 100 reviews, the vast majority of which are 5 star.  Second are four star, and third, 1 star.  

    I a rating system should only have three options:  love it, it’s ok, hate it.  And that is what you have above.  It makes sense.  To me anyway.

    • #2
  3. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    I can be a little compulsive about these things, and worry that if I don’t use consistent criteria, Netflix’s suggestions will be meaningless. (As if it really matters!) So I make a point of developing more objective criteria for myself, e.g.:

    5 star: Will watch again

    4 star: Will recommend to others

    3 star: Enjoyed

    2 star: Didn’t enjoy

    1 star: The world is a worse place for having this movie in it

    But I don’t usually rate anything 1 or 2 stars, because I don’t waste my time watching things I don’t enjoy.

    Spin: I a rating system should only have three options: love it, it’s ok, hate it.

     I agree completely with this. The customer satisfaction surveys that require a rating on a 10-point scale drive me especially crazy!

    • #3
  4. KayBee Inactive
    KayBee
    @KayBee

    My son is participating in a club at middle school based on the tv show “The Amazing Race.”  The young man running the club asked participants to take a survey about the club.  My son really enjoys the club, and answered the questions accordingly.  But when it came to answering the 10-point scale of whether he was likely to recommend it to friends, he gave it a 5.  I couldn’t understand–I thought he really enjoyed it.  Why wouldn’t he tell others about it?  He said he just wasn’t sure if he would.  I’m still flummoxed.

    • #4
  5. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    I refuse to answer those one-to five surveys.  They are meaningless.  Like/neutral/didn’t like are better.  I do agree that people tend to only write reviews if they love or hate something.  I’ve actually never written a review on Amazon, and I think for many lesser-known books, reviews are mainly written by friends, who have incentive to give 5 stars.  That said, when a friend identifies themselves as such and then gives less than 5, it is annoying because those reading the review assume that the person has given you the benefit of the doubt!

    • #5
  6. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Again, I like the nuance, but I am ready to believe I just won’t get my way on this in the near future. Love/hate is the dichotomy now. I suspect even the three-tiered scale is an anomaly of averages — if you have a bag of Ping-Pong balls labeled either 0 or 100 in equal amounts, their arithmetic mean is 50, even if there is no 50 in the bag. All the middle tier might suggest is “people go either way on this.”

    Thing is, on the amazon, iTunes, or Google play reviews I’ve done, I’ve rated things from 2-4 stars and hardly ever have I hit the extremes. Again, I like leave room. Why would 4 not be good enough? Again, I guess I’ll just have to get used to the implied binary system.

    I give my stubbornness against conformity towards popular methods in this three stars. Sometimes it’s very useful as it makes me skeptical towards the latest trends, but other times I’m just being ornery for no good reason other than I don’t care for popular opinion. I should really just sit back and relax right now.

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    When I was a young, obnoxious, pig of a loathesome male, I was quite disenchanted with the common decimal scale for adjudicating the sexual attractiveness of female humans, so I came up with a three-level which was adopted widely by my tribe of crapulent XY peers:

    1. Not Good
    2. Not Bad
    3. Not Fair
    • #7
  8. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Son of Spengler:
    I can be a little compulsive about these things, and worry that if I don’t use consistent criteria, Netflix’s suggestions will be meaningless. (As if it really matters!) So I make a point of developing more objective criteria for myself, e.g.:
    5 star: Will watch again
    4 star: Will recommend to others
    3 star: Enjoyed
    2 star: Didn’t enjoy
    1 star: The world is a worse place for having this movie in it

     Movies I have a very concrete system:

    5. I loved it so much, I want to watch it multiple times and own it on disk.

    4. Great movie, worth full price.

    3. Good movie, but see it at matinee time or at a discount theater.

    2. Just rent/stream it.

    1. Don’t even bother watching this. You’ll rue the day.

    • #8
  9. user_240173 Contributor
    user_240173
    @FrankSoto

    All human beings should switch to the 1-7 scale ™ that a friend and I created in high school for the purpose of rating…stuff that we frequently found the 1-10 scale failed to produce consistent ratings on.

    1-  9th level of Hell:  a level of awfulness that only exists in the real world for brief moments. This rating will likely never be used by you in your lifetime.

    2- Terrible:   Bad on numerous levels.  Few redeeming qualities

    3- Below Average:  Close to average, but contains more negative qualities then good.

    4- Average:  Nothing special or bad. Perhaps some good qualities that are cancelled by equally bad qualities.  Most things in life should be rated a 4.

    5- Above Average:  Close to average, but containing more positive qualities then negative.

    6- Excellent:  Great for multiple reasons.  Few negative qualities.

    7- Awe inspiring: A level of awesome that can only exist in the real world for brief moments in time.  You will likely never rate anything a 7 in your lifetime.

    • #9
  10. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    But seriously, here’s the simple rule for rating something online: If you want to increase the rating of an item, give it one star more than what it currently enjoys.  If you want to reduce the rating of an item, give it one star less than what it currently enjoys.

    So, if a movie has 3 stars, and you want it to go up in the rankings, you give it 4 stars, and if you want it to go down in the rankings, you give it 2 stars.

    I’ve found plenty of times where I’ll give a book or a movie a higher score than I think I would normally give if I was judging it on its own merits, because I don’t think the book or movie deserves to be knocked down a peg in the rankings.  

    I do this most often on Goodreads, since books there are ranked to two decimal places. If a book has 3.45 stars, and I thought it was “ok”, I’d still give it 4 stars because I don’t want to penalize it.

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    John Peabody:
    I’ve been rating all tunes on my iPod. I only give 5 stars if it actually makes me smile with pleasure. That’s about one in 50.

    For my iTunes library, I use AutoRate, which rates songs based on play count, skip count, and play frequency. Macintosh only, sorry.

    • #11
  12. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Misthiocracy:
    But seriously, here’s the simple rule for rating something online: If you want to increase the rating of an item, give it one star more than what it currently enjoys. If you want to reduce the rating of an item, give it one star less than what it currently enjoys.

    I’ve found plenty of times where I’ll give a book or a movie a higher score than I think I would normally give if I was judging it on its own merits, because I don’t think the book or movie deserves to be knocked down a peg in the rankings.

    I rate your post a 3. It’s an interesting methodology if you are most interested in the aggregate rating. I find when I am looking at ratings, I’m most interested in the individual scores and reviews. In fact, I tend to look over individual scores because the aggregate rarely tells why a book/movie/hotel/restaurant has been rated such, only that the community as a whole has been averaged into that score.

    • #12
  13. user_435274 Thatcher
    user_435274
    @JohnHanson

    Since I have been a  long term believer in Sturgeon’s Revelation: 90% of everything is crud, when I rate things I tend to a tripole system as well:

    3:    Not crud

    2: Not sure if its crud

    1: Its crud

    • #13
  14. user_435274 Thatcher
    user_435274
    @JohnHanson

    Getting rid of duplicate that posted for no good reason, site crashed on my machine,  while it was posting, and when it came back, lo and behold, a duplicate

    • #14
  15. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    I have a few alternates on the 1 to 5 scale as well:

    pi = I go around and around on whether this item is any good or not.

    e = It’s not that great, but seems to get a little better the longer I examine it.

    i = I haven’t partaken of this, but I imagine it’s pretty awful.

    • #15
  16. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    John Hanson:
    Since I have been a long term believer in Sturgeon’s Revelation: 90% of everything is crud, when I rate things I tend to a tripole system as well:
    3: Not crud
    2: Not sure if its crud
    1: Its crud

     I give this analysis as 4 as it’s concise and makes me chuckle. I give your ratings in the following post a 2 as it’s just repetitive of the previous post.

    • #16
  17. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Interesting post. I would say either due 1-1o (which I like– I enjoy nuance in the rating scale) or do a straight “up or down” “buy this or don’t” The 1-5 doesn’t do it for me. 

    I think the problem with the scoring for a lot of reviews, at least when it comes to video games, is that the average review is so high– anything less than 8 will be considered bad. Even though for most websites with 1-10, “5” is average. Obviously, most games aren’t actually “8” quality. People on message boards eventually figured out that the difference between an 8 and 9 is the difference between a “thumbs up and a thumbs down” and the “8” was to please the game companies that were also the source of their ad revenue and (sometimes) their hotel stays while they reviewed the games. 

    I think the 1-10 scale would work really well if we would accept that 5 is average– not bad– average, and rate accordingly.

    • #17
  18. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    I have an easy solution — I don’t rate often.

    But when I do, I actually like the 5 options and don’t think it’s excessively nuanced.  Obviously there has to be something in the middle.  Then everything I like is automatically a 4, and everything I dislike is automatically a 2.

    A 5 or a 1 means it really stood out.  I don’t have to overthink it: it’s obvious. 

    I usually manage to avoid products that would deserve a 1 or even a 2, so the lowest rating I semi-commonly give is likely to be 3.

    • #18
  19. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Usually when reading the reviews on Amazon (or other sites), I ignore the “loved it” stuff and go straight to the “hated it”.  Then  I look at WHY they hated it, and whether it’s something that will bother me.  In some cases, they may hate it for a reason that would make me love it.  In  many cases, they rate it poorly for reasons that have nothing to do with the product, like getting a delayed shipment!

    If I’m still interested, then I check the average reviews, and then the 5 stars.  I find the five star reviews to usually be pretty useless, something along the lines of “This is the great – you’ll love it”.  Thanks.  That helps me a lot.

    • #19
  20. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    John Peabody:
    I’ve been rating all tunes on my iPod. I only give 5 stars if it actually makes me smile with pleasure. That’s about one in 50.

     I did that a couple years ago.  My goal was to get a skewed bell curve – Max 10% of songs rated 5-star, about 20% 4-star, with most being 3 star.  I think I have something like two 1-star songs in the entire library, that I just loathe [e.g. America – Muskrat Love] but don’t delete for purposes of keeping otherwise decent albums intact.

    • #20
  21. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    When I am buying a product, I rate the product based on how well it will meet the need I purchased it for. 4 Stars = Maximum Utility, 5 Stars = Elegance. Anything less than 4 is because of some defect.

    When I am rating a seller, I rate based on how well they fulfilled the agreement, with my only caveat being that they start with 5 stars and can only lose them for not fulfilling my expectations.

    For media consumption / recommendation I use the scale offered by CU Douglas in comment 8.

    • #21
  22. Proud Skeptic Inactive
    Proud Skeptic
    @ProudSkeptic

    Ricochet is being overrun with things like this…what is the worst movie…how do you rate things…one or two of these things from time to time is fine but it seems like it is becoming a steady 25% of the content.

    Are we running out of good stuff to talk about?

    • #22
  23. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Proud Skeptic:
    Ricochet is being overrun with things like this…what is the worst movie…how do you rate things…one or two of these things from time to time is fine but it seems like it is becoming a steady 25% of the content.

     Is it that much of a hardship to skip one out of four articles?

    • #23
  24. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Proud Skeptic:
    Ricochet is being overrun with things like this…what is the worst movie…how do you rate things…one or two of these things from time to time is fine but it seems like it is becoming a steady 25% of the content.
    Are we running out of good stuff to talk about?

     If you want to see posts on other topics, then post on other topics. 

    • #24
  25. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Proud Skeptic:
    Ricochet is being overrun with things like this…what is the worst movie…how do you rate things…one or two of these things from time to time is fine but it seems like it is becoming a steady 25% of the content.
    Are we running out of good stuff to talk about?

     By your post, it seems you’ve rated my post 1 star. I give your reply five stars as I appreciate good cynicism.

    In our defense, I will say that we have plenty to talk about, and sometimes even Ricochetti like to relax. We have political, cultural, and social discussions, debates, arguments, and occasional bar fights. Sometimes we just want to get to know a little more about our fellow posters across the wide web. This is just one way.

    • #25
  26. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    When I think about how I think about the five-star system, I think I think about it like this:

    1 – Utter krep

    2 – Bad, but not utter krep

    3 – Enough redeeming qualities that I can’t quite call it bad

    4 – Good

    5 – The best of the best and therefore a rare find

    • #26
  27. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Proud Skeptic:
    Are we running out of good stuff to talk about?

    I rate “stuff” a 2. 

    • #27
  28. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    DrewInWisconsin:

    Proud Skeptic: Are we running out of good stuff to talk about?

    I rate “stuff” a 2.

     I rate Getting into the Spirit of Things a 5. I’m feeling generous today.

    • #28
  29. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Instugator:
    When I am buying a product, I rate the product based on how well it will meet the need I purchased it for. 4 Stars = Maximum Utility, 5 Stars = Elegance. Anything less than 4 is because of some defect.
    When I am rating a seller, I rate based on how well they fulfilled the agreement, with my only caveat being that they start with 5 stars and can only lose them for not fulfilling my expectations.
    For media consumption / recommendation I use the scale offered by CU Douglas in comment 8.

    Oddly enough, my media consumption varies on the media. Books, for example, work entirely different for me simply because I want to own All the Books. As a result, a 5-star rating means different. Still, I find 4 means generally this book is entertaining, well-paced, and kept me turning the pages. 5 transcends that. A 5 goes above and beyond just a good page turner. There’s something about the book that keeps me coming back. As my education was more mathematical than literary, I am sometimes at a loss for defining what exactly that quality is.

    • #29
  30. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    So for books:

    1. This book was awful. I couldn’t finish it.
    2. This book was passable. I’m not sorry I read it, but it wasn’t all that great.
    3. This book was good. Decently written with few flaws, or well-written with a couple of glaring flaws that couldn’t be overlooked.
    4. I found this book excellent.
    5. This book spoke to me in ways other books do not. Sometimes I can tell why, other times not so much. In any case, I’d read the book again either just because I enjoy it or just for further edification.
    • #30
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