It is not the actual "star rating" that is revealing on Amazon.  It is the text accompanying the rating.  Someone might give a book a "one-star" rating and in writing about the book say something like "exposes like this one on the high rate of theft in Columbia do a disservice to the country."
So, if you are planning to take a trip to Columbia, you would take that "One-star" rating as a good reason to buy the book so as to be aware of the dangers lurking for tourists.
Randolfe (Randy) Wicker
Videographer, Writer, Activist
Advisor: The Immortality Institute
Hoboken, NJ
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, November 27, 2005 8:22 AM
Subject: Re: [videoblogging] Re: Spirit can not be spoken for

Sunday, November 27, 2005, 4:04:28 AM, Randolfe Wicker wrote:
> Sorry to say that I disagree with you.  Star ratings are actually
> very important and should be allowed.  That is especially true when
> the star ratings are accompanied by text critiques.
> I trust the judgment of many over the opinions of the "anointed few".

To me the point is more fundamental. A "star system" or any other form
of single rating is at best _evaluative_ without being _informative_.
In most cases it's ao much worse as to be effectively useless of even

The problem is fundamentally this: the author of the rating has to
choose one single "axis" on which to rate a piece. But this axis is
probably not the one that any given reader wants to know. Worst of
all, most reviewers don't even make clear _what_ axis they assumed was
most significant.

Sunday, November 27, 2005, 8:09:32 AM, Eric Rice wrote:
> For example, what does Peter think is cool? I want to know. I want
> to look at his personal list of favorites, see how he ranks them. If
> I'm giving trust to Peter as a filter, then his rankings really
> really matter. To *me*.

So we have Eric looking for ratings on "coolness". (whatever that

Sunday, November 27, 2005, 3:16:11 AM, Randolfe Wicker wrote:
> I have been talking about the need for people to direct us to really
> important vlogs. Let me take a stab at doing this here. I hope you
> will indulge me and look at these two links.

Randolfe implies some sort of rating on "importance". (whatever that

In the past I've read messages on this list that seemed to prefer
rating on "quality", "brevity", "most personal", "most professional",
"best editing", "most local", "most entertaining" and as many other
hard-to-define things as you can think of.

Take a look at the "star" ratings on Amazon (for example) and see if
you can guess what aspect the authors of the ratings were considering.

Now look at how the ratings polarize. "Good" ratings vie with each
other to get better. Bad ones get worse. Few are left in the middle.

It's a natural process. Nobody has seen or read everything. So when
you encounter something you like, you give it a good rating. Then, a
bit later, you encounter something you like a bit better, or your
opinions change, so you give another item a higher rating. Then guess
what, a bit later you find something you like even more. So you have
to give that an even better rating.

Soon, you find yourself giving everything you like top marks. And the
same effect happens at the bottom end of the scale. There's always
something you will dislike more. But fewer of these ratings get
published, for fear of hurting people's feelings.

Don't get me wrong. I'm wholeheartedly in favour of reviews. The more
description and evaluation and the broader the range of reviewers and
opinions the better, especially when they is qualified

("I thought the camera work was very professional, but I found myself
skipping quickly through what seemed a dull message. If you are
looking for a short, punchy and exciting piece, look elsewhere")

But I feel quite strongly that attempting to assign a single universal
number to anything is deluding both yourself and potential readers.
Let them read the review and make their own mind up which aspects are
important to them. Don't con them into thinking that you both
understand what they want to know, and can grade it on their own

In short. I'm with Peter. Bring on the reviews, but leave the
fools-gold of ratings at home.

Frank Carver


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