Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On numbered ratings.

Specifically, on how I'm not going to do them anymore.

I've never had much faith in a score-based rating system. It's so ridiculously subjective what makes an album, or any piece of media whatsoever, a certain number rating out of 5 or 10 or (in ridiculous cases) 100, and so callously dismissive of the media itself, telling potential consumers whether they would like it or not with hard numbers rather than more organic discussion, that I never really felt comfortable with the idea.

But I started this as a music review blog, and when you review music, you add a score, right? That's just what you do. Well, no more. I'm breaking that paradigm. If my write-ups on the music featured here aren't enough to adequately put in your mind whether you'd like to pursue it further or put it on the shelf and keep moving, an arbitrary number isn't going to make things better.

What really brought me around to this realization was a long running debate I've been having with myself over what album, if any, I could give a perfect score. To give an album a perfect score, I reasoned, is to define the high-water mark for every single future post, and that scared me, because my opinions of how good an album is tend to be based more on a relative comparison with other music I have heard than some distinct impression in a vacuum.

Then I wrote about Lateralus, and gave it a 5, because I honestly can't find any flaws in it. The debate in my head was immediately silenced and replaced with the distinct impression that arbitrary scores are just not my style, and to be honest, I can't imagine anybody getting all that up in arms about it.

Well, thanks for reading this self-indulgent rant. Here's a track I listened to while writing this post to reward anyone who stuck through this.

28 comments:

  1. I totally agree, numbered ratings are tough. Like, they would only work (imo) if you asked everyone to play the same thing and you scored their ability to play it.

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  2. cool i like your blog m following ,

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  3. You should read the book about Probability, basically it makes statistics and survey look like a waste of time.

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  4. I personally like to see a numerical rating when I read a review of any product, but I can definitely understand your point. On any given day, I can go through my IMDB ratings and modify about half of them based on how I feel that day. Ratings will always be in flux based on where your head is at that moment in time.

    On the other hand, it is nice to get a sense of the worth of a product relative to other like products. This allows for quicker decision making than having to read multiple reviews of a product.

    Scores also serve as a filter. For example, I will often check out a game on metacritic before I purchase it. If the scores are in a decent range then I will find a couple of sites reviewing that game and find out the specific good and bad points that will lead to my final decision. The score didn't make my decision for me, but it allowed me to decide whether it was worth even using my time to research the game.

    In the end, I would probably do the same as you, though. While I enjoy grading movies on IMDB, I wouldn't want to make public statements concerning a absolute value of an album.

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  5. thats great, music really can not be measured by numbers at all. i look forward to your future posts sir
    good luck

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  6. Sounds exactly what Yahtzee said when asked why he didn't give numbers for videogame scores. They're just so arbitrary.

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  7. While they are subjective, you can keep them consistent for you, which means consistent for us. It might not be arbitrary after you have been doing reviews for awhile.
    If you rate something a 1, and I know how and why (from reading your blog) you have rated things in the past, chances are I will take that # in to consideration when making listening decisions.

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  8. i like that track. keep doing what you're doing.

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  9. Good idea. Lets see how it works out for ya.

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  10. it's hard. good luck with that!

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  11. Yeah I can understand that. How can you quantify music?

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  12. I understand, I have though about not number rating my stuff too, I might just give descriptions.
    Cool song, like the guitar!

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  13. that's cool that you removed the music scoring

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  14. Very true, nothing can ever be as perfect as something else

    to hell with ratings!

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  15. Just explain ratings and all is rights with the world.

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  16. I agree with what you're doing. I hate rating things like that, but sometimes you just need to slap a number or letter grade on it. Even when I give things perfect ratings I still feel like I'm doing something wrong. But as I said, I agree with your decision. Once again you show me why I like your judgments.

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  17. Bah, all blogs are self-indulgent rants. I like your reviews, and if you decide to do away with numbers, that's cool too.

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  18. Eh, I can understand the problem with the number rating system, but I find that as long as you explain the reason behind your number choosing, it works out okay.

    Whatever works best for you though!

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