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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Allan’s Advice #2 – The Rating System

Hey guys hoped you liked my last post maybe it will become a classic itself someday. This is the second entry in the Allan’s Advice column and I think that this is a good topic to piggy back off the classic conundrum. The last part of the post I talked about what makes a classic is all based upon perspective. I am probably eventually going to write a post about perspectives because I feel like it is such a vital part in almost everything that we do. For now, I’ll go in depth about a particular topic that is the rating system and how it is used to influence decisions about what we think is good or not.

The inspiration for this topic came from when I was trying to buy a new set of headphones on Amazon. My mom is dead set on making me research almost everything I want to buy especially on the internet so I had to look around and she wanted me to pay careful attention to the reviews by others. I was reading through them and she saw this one terrible review and then it was almost as if she wrote off the possibility of ever purchasing the headphones because of that one bad review. I thought that was ridiculous and then began to wonder if the fate of other people’s future purchases hinges on the possibility of one or a couple bad reviews. For this reason I decided to write this advice post.

The thing that I don’t like about the rating system, and unfortunately it’s an unavoidable problem, but it is completely biased and is used to influence others to think the same way. It is in a way a form of propaganda to shift views to a certain way or thinking. It is basically like my advice because it is completely biased based upon my values and what I believe in. You must take it with a grain of salt because it isn’t founded from your own personal values as nothing can completely do unless it comes from you. To avoid confusion you should relate to the ones that align most with yours and not be too influenced by others. This also isn’t full proof because by looking at only similar views you don’t get a full spectrum of views and possibly be inclined to only look you way which is not only ignorant but it is bad habit to not play devil’s advocate every once in a while.

When deciding about buying something or seeing a movie or whatever it is that gets reviewed or rated, I think you should turn to your instincts for final judgment. I often find myself disagreeing with the reviews of a critic who gets paid to rate products. Maybe I am oblivious to the art of bestowing judgment upon things but in most cases I don’t concur with their reviews. The reason is because they live a different life. I am going to probably refer to this in the perspective note but the real reason that you would rate things differently compared to them is because they have grown up and lived with different experiences. If you grew up with a family that likes actions movies then you will be more inclined and biased to give those types of movies a better rating then say a horror flick. These experiences shaped their perspectives that might not necessarily line up with your own so their view on how good something is only applies to them. Systems like rating and reviews are opinionated so what works for them might not work for you.

There is also an element of luck and randomness that can affect the review system. When dealing with reviews the critic is supposed to look at basically every aspect of it that is worth rating and then share their opinions with you. By doing so, there are so many variables involved that could easily sway an opinion a certain way unfairly. If you are a critic and you are testing out a camera and there’s a glitch that erases all your pictures, then you probably won’t give it a good review. That glitch was just a fluke that is one of the many factors that can impact a judgment for a review but doesn’t effectively represent the product as a whole.

Reviews aren’t always a bad thing however. As with many scientific studies that involve people, they broaden their use cases and test groups in order to minimize the chance of things like random error and flukes. You should apply this technique when looking at buying a new product or going to see a movie or whatever it is that reviews could influence your decisions. By broadening your spectrum, you are allowing yourself a more accurate overall viewpoint before deciding not to buy something. The thing to take away from this is that before you decide not to buy something off Amazon because of a couple bad reviews, don’t be dissuaded because so many variables could have affected their decisions, like a fluke or biased opinion, and some might not apply to you.

-Allan Nicholas

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