Google Productivity Pad: Not Everyone Deserves 5 Stars

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Not Everyone Deserves 5 Stars

These days along with wanting your money and time everybody also wants something else out of you: Stars. Whether its a song, a book, a hotel, an app, a podcast, or anything you bought on amazon, they all want you to rate them, and they all want 5/5 stars.

What they are really asking:
Essentially everyone is asking you to say they are perfect/necessary/the best in their class. I have often seen people actually ask consumers not to rate them even if they are going to give them 4 stars because it will lower their 4 1/2 star rating.

The problem with that is that they are probably actually a 4 star product, they are probably very nice but not perfect, or very useful but not necessary, or well designed but not the best in their class. They probably have that 1/2 a star extra because of some overzealous fans or, more likely, family members.

The truth is, it is ok to be 4 stars on a 5 star scale. That means you are above average, it means people are pleased with what you are doing, it means honest people are rating you. It is even ok to be 3 stars on a 5 point scale, that means you are fine, but you have room to step up your game.

Consumers don't get it either
Unfortunately the people rating products and services are often just as bad at this as the producers who are requesting ratings. They miss the point that the five star scale is used most places to give some variety to ratings.

It is suppose to be more accurate than the dichotomous thumbs up or down. Many people however look at it and think, "did I have good experience or a bad experience?" They go ahead and hand out 5 stars if the experience was good and 1 star if the experience was bad. They are missing the point of letting others know how their experiences really were.

The Goodreads Example
The book social network and review site, Goodreads, actually has guides associated with the stars. They go like this:

  • Did not like it: 1 Star
  • It was ok: 2 Stars
  • Liked it: 3 Stars
  • Really liked it: 4 Stars
  • It was Amazing: 5 Stars

My philosophy
I don't know about you, but I don't have a "did not like it" or "it was amazing" experience with every book I read. Most books I just like, so they get three stars.  We dilute the power of the 1 and 5 star ratings when we over use them. We have to remember that 5 stars is the absolute best so if you rate Twilight with 5 stars and then you read a real masterpiece like Oliver Twist, what do you have left to give? You now have no choice but to put a time tested classic of artful writing on the same level as the latest teenage fad.

My position is that I only rate books that truly deserve it with five stars. In order for me to feel that way the book has to pass one very crucial test: It has to be a book that I think every single person should read during their life.

The Problem it Causes
This does not just apply books, it applies to everything we rate. If you wrongly give out a five star rating, you are not only misinforming other consumers of the product, but you are also giving false feedback to the person producing the product you are rating. You are telling them that their product is a close to perfect as possible. Why should they improve? They are already at the top of the heap.

This results is mediocre products and services, there is nothing to strive for. It is the topic for another post, but this is the result from "participation ribbon" and "everybody is winner" mentalities. It is not healthy and it is not honest.

The Challenge

I challenge you, the next time you rate a product or service, to do it honestly. Don't throw your stars out as though they meant nothing. If a job is average, or normal, or you just "like it" than rate it like that. That is ok, and it is actually a lot better for everybody involved. Comment to let us know you took the challenge, and then keep us posted on how it went.

If you have some thoughts on this topic I would love to hear them. Either or leave a comment below.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

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