On Ratings

Yesterday, I formulated on the folly of favourites.  Today, in a related quibble, I rant about the wrongs of ratings.  I actually began to write this as part of yesterday’s post but it started to turn into its own thing, which I guess is fine.

For any classification scheme rating something out of more than 5 options, it seems completely illogical to use the top band.

Why, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  Say I read ten books, and I rate the best of them a 10, and the worst of them a 1, and everything else in between accordingly.  Perfectly logical so far, right?  Well, then I read an eleventh book and I decide it’s better than any of the other ten.  Well what the hell am I supposed to do then?

Do I call it a 10, knock the current 10 down to a 9, and so on?  If I’m doing that, then I have to recalibrate my entire system every time I read a better book than the best book I’ve read so far.  Do I call it an 11?  That would be feasible if most ratings systems weren’t constrained by computer applications and things.  Do I call it a 10 and let it sit alongside the other 10, which I’ve now decided isn’t actually as good?  No.

So my only solution is to keep the top spot free, not for the best book I’ve ever read, which has changed over my lifetime and will hopefully continue to change, but for the mythical best book I will ever read (and in theory, the bottom spot for the worst book I will ever read – but I’m not so fussy about that).

Well, you might say, what about a sort of percentage system?  1 for anything you rate in the bottom 10%, 2 for anything from 10-20%, etc.  It has crossed my mind but frankly I don’t really have the capacity to get that specific with my ratings.  And that’s just for a 10-point system.  Anything above that would be utterly impossible.  Which brings me to my exception – 5-star systems.

It’s just not worth implementing the “keep the top spot free” process for a 5-star system.  Leaving the top spot for the best book ever and the bottom spot for the worst only leaves me with 3 ratings to play with, which is hardly a ratings system at all.  On the other hand, I probably can sort things into 5 bands of enjoyment/quality factor.  Just be aware that if I ever rate something 5 stars, that means I am making a judgement that this will probably turn out to be in the top 20% of books I will read – which, really, is a lot of books. But if I call it a 10/10, I’ve decided it’s the best book in the world ever.

Sorry, that was a bit rambling.  I promise I’ll get better at this writing thing eventually.


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