50WS: Likes vs. Ratings

This week I made a pretty noticeable change to 50WS: I removed the ability to rate stories and replaced it with “Like” buttons. Why? Well, here’s my thought process on the subject.

Over the past few months, there was a clear trend on 50WS towards low star ratings. The best stories used to get 4.5 averages, but now most stories were sitting at 2.5 to 3.0,  with a few occasionally approaching 3.8 or 3.9. There were cases where a story that was doing quite well suddenly received a large number of low votes, driving its average way down for no apparent reason. So not only was there a lot of unexplained negativity, but there seemed to be some abuse of the system, too.

This got me thinking.

With star ratings, readers had three ways to express their opinions about a story. They could rate it, they could leave a comment, or they could share it using the Share buttons. Of the three, rating was the easiest and least personal, commenting was the most personal, and sharing was the most one-directional: you usually only share a story if you really like it.

I asked myself: what would we lose if we got rid of star ratings? Well, directional feedback on stories (saying it’s “good” vs. saying it’s “bad”) might take more effort, meaning some feedback would disappear. We would also lose a way of “comparing” stories to see which one the readers liked more.

How valuable are these things, and what differences does a Like button introduce?

Directional feedback can be useful. It’s good for a reader to be able to say when they liked a story, and it can be helpful to the author to get feedback on elements of a story that didn’t work so well. The positive side can be captured by a “Like” button, although we can’t distinguish between a 4 and a 5 anymore. As for the negative feedback, it’s much more useful to get an explanatory comment than a throwaway 1-star or 2-star rating: a comment benefits the author more.

As for comparing stories, I don’t publish any stories I personally consider 1-star or 2-star, and I don’t often look back at a story and feel it was a 3-star. I already filter out the less effective stories when I review the submissions. So all the stories on the site meet a certain standard. A poor star rating from the readers doesn’t really mean the story is bad, because I don’t believe I publish bad stories. As I said previously, we are losing the ability to compare 4s and 5s, but the best stories tend to earn positive comments, too, and those are a better measure of resonating with readers than a high rating is. We also have the Top Stories program to reward the really good stories (though I choose the winners myself, so ratings/likes don’t really determine that).

In the balance of things, I felt that moving to Likes instead of ratings had a lot more pros than cons. We now have a better measure of “popularity” and a system that’s less susceptible to abuse (it still allows for “positive abuse” if someone Likes a story several times from different IP addresses, but there isn’t as much harm in that as low-rating a story multiple times). Our positive feedback is maintained, and our negative feedback is improved.

I haven’t deleted the old star ratings from the site yet, and I will probably archive them for future reference, just in case, but I’m pretty happy with this change.

I’m willing to hear feedback from 50WS readers, though, so if you haven’t already chimed in on the announcement post on the site, let me know what you think.

I Thought it Was a Date

“Hold on. You think this is a date!?”

“Well… Isn’t it?” The evidence had seemed pretty clear to me up until about 10 seconds ago.

She huffed. “What gave you that impression?”

“I don’t know, it just kind of seemed like one. There were… signs.”

“You’re impossible.” She stood, snatched up her purse, and stormed off.

I sank into my chair and bemoaned my misfortune. Where had I gone wrong?

Reaching across the table, I took one of the offending objects and held it up to the approaching waiter. “What would you say this is?” I asked.

“That?” The waiter lifted an eyebrow quizzically. “That, sir, is an exceptionally large raisin.”

And that was how I parted ways with my fourth and final fruit tutor.

The Once and Future King – Tier 3

I just added The Once and Future King to my Best Novels List, slotting it into Tier 3  – Especially Excellent. (Technically it’s a 5-book series, but I listed it as one item anyways.)

I loved Merlin’s humourous, playful philosophy; Arthur’s sincerity and determination; Lancelot’s courage and tragedy.

The book is especially effective when it’s read with the awareness that it was written in the middle of World War II, what with King Arthur’s efforts to do away with “might is right” and Merlin’s work to explore the meaning of war.

I actually “read” the book as an audiobook through Audible, and the reader was excellent. I highly recommend it.

Funny Things About My Kids – Victor’s Distractability

It’s both cute and annoying how distractable Victor is. If I’m in the same room while he’s nursing, he looks up every 15 seconds or so to check on me and see what I’m doing. He waits to get eye contact from me and then breaks into a smile.

I don’t remember Calvin doing that while he was nursing at all, so I find it very cute from Victor, but Larissa doesn’t seem to appreciate the disruptions all that much…

The Fourth Time I Was on TV

Last week I was invited by a friend to join him at a Canucks vs. Oilers game here in Edmonton. He’d been given some tickets by his work, and they were supposedly “pretty good” seats. Of course I was excited to accept.

So we arrived at the game on Wednesday just as the puck dropped, and wandered down to our seats… Which turned out to be in the third row, right on the goal line. Seats don’t get much better than that! My friend’s company owns some awesome season tickets.

The game itself was a lot of fun, and the Canucks ended up winning 5-4, with a disallowed Oilers goal right at the end of the game to draw out the excitement.

Since I was wearing a Canucks jersey and my friend was in an Oilers jersey, I figured we’d be a good bet to show up in a crowd shot at some point during the game. Sure enough, I wound up on-screen shaking my head after an Oilers goal.

It was a lot of fun all around!

(FYI, out of the other three times I’ve been on TV, that I can remember, two more were hockey-related, and one was… nunchuk-related, actually. But that’s another story!)