Ratings and story quality and why it’s mostly a pile of crap

Time for some “sit down and listen” real talk for a few minutes. Ever since I added the rating system and enhanced the whole thing, the situation about a stories quality not being reflected in the score just got a lot worse than before, which is mostly due to tons of people who read stuff on the site and just blindly rate everything 5 stars.

some of you would probably give 50 stars if possible

Let’s break down the arguments I will inevitably recieve personally.

  1. But I don’t rate 5 stars on everything!
    Yes… yes you do. If you give 5 stars to 20 stories and then rate a single one 3 stars, you are part of the problem.
  2. Rating is hard!
    Not really. You don’t even have to be registered to rate. A single click at the end of the story will do the trick.
  3. But ratings are subjective!
    Yes and no. If you eat at a restaurant, chances are there are some you like more and others you like less, even though the food is generally good. Would you give every single restaurant the highest rating? Does that pizza place on the corner deserve the same score as the BBQ place in the center of the city with free beer and naked waitresses serving Filet Mignon?
  4. Giving less than 5 stars is bad for the author and demotivating!
    While it can be demotivating to recieve, let’s say 10 single star ratings, giving 5 to everything makes the whole process utterly trivial and meaningless. If you give a more nuanced score, the writer will be able to check much better which stories did something good and which stories did something bad. In a sea of 5 star ratings, your vote is meaningless.

This small picture to the right is an excerpt of what my ratings database looks like, page per page… I salute that one guy who had the balls to give something else than 5 stars.

So what should you rate then?

3 stars is average. 3 stars is not a bad story. You might enjoy a 3 star read but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd. 4 stars is good. Hell if most of you people would give 4 star ratings instead of 5 stars all the time, the whole base situation would be a LOT better than it is right now.

5 stars is a -perfect- score. You have never seen something like it, the grammar is solid, the storytelling is impeccable, the worldbuilding draws you in, the characters are a joy to experience… and honestly not many stories deserve that rating.

All you do if you give 5 stars like a donkey that has a pavlovian reflex is to diminish all the good stories that deserve 5 stars.

At the same time, if you read something you don’t like, give it 1 or 2 stars, that is perfectly acceptable. It doesn’t mean you’re an ass. You are leaving valuable feedback for the author. More importantly you leave valuable feedback for other readers as well.

Our ratings are horrible.

And if you give 5 stars all the time, you are not helping. Take a step back and breathe and reevaluate.

Thanks for your time!

6 thoughts on “Ratings and story quality and why it’s mostly a pile of crap

  1. The problem with this is that not everybody wants to give a review that requires any thought as to how /much/ they liked it. Mostly, they just evaluate on whether they enjoyed the read or not. That’s why they just rate 5 stars, because its easy and it conveys “hey, this story made me happy and the flaws I may or may not have noticed are pretty trivial to me. I think it deserves 5 stars.

    Like sure, with the old rating system, it was only divided into “I like it” and “I don’t like it,” but honestly, that’s how most people evaluate the stories they read. They just don’t want to go “you know, I really liked this story, but it had a few minor grammar mistakes so I’m afraid I can’t give it a perfect score.” And this 5 star rating system basically proves that.

    1. I agree, I thought the old thumbs-up/thumbs-down system was better because it more accurately captured how readers feel about the stories they read – I know it does for me. I was afraid the ratings would devolve into the same bimodal distribution of fives-and-ones you find everywhere else and my fears have apparently come true.

  2. Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me at all. I expected it to happen sooner or later.

    For most of my time on the internet, whenever I’ve seen a 5-stars rate system, It has always been abused to death. With all its ratings composed of 1s, 3s and 5s. Why? Because it’s easier for most ppl. And the 3s aren’t even there because someone gave it something other than 1s or 5s, it’s there BECAUSE ppl only gave it 1s and 5s, and when you have more than a few of both, it becomes a 3s.

    This happens because most people have a, shall we say, a binary mindset; they either like or dislike something. They don’t really care about the details; they’re not gonna stop at the end of a story and fully deconstruct it to analyze each of its parts. In most cases, they wont even comment; they’ll just rate it and go away and maybe even leave a two-lines comment if you’re lucky (look at the rating of any gallery on E-Hentai and compare the number of ratings to the number of comments; there are usually 2K ratings for every 50 comments, and of those 50 comments, only 5-12 say anything meaningful). And that reader who leaves a complex and well-crafted critic after reading your work is usually rarer than hen’s teeth.

    So, in the end, I’m going to join the bandwagon of ”The old thumbs system was better”. Why? Because it was simpler, and because I don’t expect of others more than what I consider myself capable of doing.

    Whenever I read a story and I liked it, I usually gave it a thumbs up and left a small comment saying why I had liked it. And when I don’t like a story, I don’t even finish it; I just drop it and don’t even give it a bad rating. Why? Because ”like” is subjective; maybe me giving that story a thumbs down will made someone who would had liked it not even bother in checking it out. Honestly, I would rather read something that was rated 5 stars and be disappointed that take the risk of reading something with 1 star and find out it was good.

    And also, if the problem is how those ”meaningless 5s and 1s” make writers feel, there’s one thing that’s far worse than having all 5s or all 1s. It’s having NO RATINGS AT ALL; 0s. After all, getting a 5s means someone liked it, and getting a 1s means that, at least, someone looked at it but it wasn’t his cup of tea. But having 0s feels WAY WORSE; it feels like your stuff isn’t even worth checking.

    Just my two cents here.

  3. Well here’s a thought. Why not divorce ratings from registered users?
    The option being- a guest or a registered user could give a rating, but nothing else.
    Or only someone logged in can comment, but not give a rating.

    I’m suggesting that if someone truly likes what they see, they’ll give a comment reflecting their opinion.

    Now personally I’m of the opinion that since SnowDrakE standard’s are so strict to even allow a person to publish, then that someone has at least earned a minimum of 3 stars.

    And I look at the whole process in a different way. Every story published, including the ones that don’t make the cut- is the product of someone’s soul. Their baby if you would.

    And as such, folks are gonna be less inclined to continue in their creative process- if all folks are willing to give are razor sharp criticisms.
    Yeah, I’ve read a couple of stories here, I don’t care for. But, instead of pulling out a straight razor to cut it to ribbons (as I’ve seen done both here and on Discord), in the comments section, I refrain from commenting at all.
    A lack of commenting could indicate laziness, or disapproval.

    It’s easier to destroy than it is to create. For all we know, the next J.K. Rowling could be amongst us now. I for one do not wish to circumcise that talent before it has had a chance to bloom.
    Just a thought.

    1. I’ve been remiss. I will commence a comment with CONSTRUCTIVE feedback for every one of my ratings. If I catch flak for it, then so be it.

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