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All About The Ratings

Blog | March 24, 2010 | Updated: June 27, 2012 | Posted by Basilisk

I receive a lot of email expressing concern about the rating system here at Ektoplazm. Most of this comes from label owners and artists who closely watch the ratings and find evidence of ‘sabotage’ when their initially high rating begins to drop. This is only natural; the first people to rate a release are often family, friends, and fans–many of whom might not even download the release before showing their support with a five star rating. Higher ratings increase exposure but they also raise expectations. As a result, releases with high ratings are often subject to ‘corrections’ as time goes on.

Some time ago I instituted a new policy wherein releases would not enter the Ektoplazm ‘best rated’ charts until a one month grace period had passed. The charts are supposed to represent some of the best music on the site (as rated by visitors like you) and the inclusion of new releases–with their rapidly fluctuating ratings–continually skewed the charts this way and that. Releases at the top of the charts are also more subject to corrections. As such, new releases were often being heavily down-voted, perhaps without reason, just because they were beating out old favourites. Now new releases enter the charts after a month of voting has already evened out the numbers somewhat–but there still exists a tendency for new releases to be more highly rated than older releases. The result is a routine correction slightly more than one month after posting when ratings typically slide a bit.

The rating system is such a simple thing yet it has generated more controversy than any other feature on Ektoplazm. I originally installed the rating system to capture the opinion of the silent majority–all those people that download music but don’t comment. Ratings also make it easy to scope out some of the more favoured releases at a glance. By design, rating is completely open and democratic. Anyone can rate. Unfortunately, this leaves the system open to abuse. Increasing security is an option–but at what cost? The whole point is to provide a quick and easy feedback route for the masses. Instituting membership for rating would be completely counterproductive to that goal.

I have been betting on the law of large numbers to even the playing field. So what if a few goons mess with the system? Most releases receive enough votes that it doesn’t really matter. This is true most of the time–scan the ratings and you won’t find anything that is too improbable or unlikely. It sort of goes without saying that there is nothing even remotely scientific about this system but I tend to find releases I favour near the top of the charts more often than not.

On the subject of sabotage: I have access to the raw numbers on the back end and can generally get a sense of who is rating what. This ability has enabled me to catch a few individuals engaged in behaviour that I personally find rather tactless. Here I refer to the practice of label owners and artists voting up their own releases (which is totally cool) and then voting down everything else to make their stuff look better. Typical scenario: I see five star ratings for a handful of releases associated with one artist or label and dozens of one star ratings for everything else in the same order as the releases appear on the best rated charts. Let me stress that this kind of thing makes me very disinterested in supporting the projects of these labels and artists in the future! It is rude and insulting and–most of all–completely unnecessary. Same goes for artists and labels repeatedly switching IPs to spam the ratings of their releases. Do this and you will be penalized.

Since these issues regularly come up I have devised a simple set of guidelines for label owners and artists with music on Ektoplazm:

  1. One person = one vote! Do not try and game the system. No scripts, no bots. You will be found out.
  2. Do NOT rate other releases poorly just to make yours look better!
  3. Try not to take the ratings so seriously. It isn’t the end of the world if you score 85% instead of 88%.
  4. You are welcome to encourage friends and fans to vote for your releases (and leave comments, of course). This is also your promotional platform, after all!
  5. It is no big deal if you end up with a poorly-rated release. Fans are fickle and there is a strong bias for and against certain styles of music around here…

I should probably stress that third point for everyone reading: try not to take the ratings so seriously! This is not a popularity contest. (See stupid graph above for a contrasting opinion.) The ratings on this site are designed to guide visitors to content they might like; they are not objective measures of musical value. Releases with high ratings are not necessarily better than releases with low ratings. Plenty of good releases are near the bottom of the chart and vice versa–although this is, of course, just my opinion. (Presently you will even find some releases I had some personal involvement in at the very bottom. I am not losing any sleep over it.) If anything, the number of votes is as good a gauge of audience interest as the actual rating!

Anyway, for such a simple matter this sure can get out of control! Hopefully I don’t need to return to this subject in the future. If anyone reading is still steamed up about a bad rating I suggest reading how to give and take constructive criticism and what record reviews really say about your music. Now go forth and rate fairly!

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8 Comments

  • Kristian (Elysium) says:

    +1

    Especially on the “try not to take the ratings so seriously”

  • 'voodler says:

    True cover for this post!

  • travis says:

    for what its worth, i dont pay attention to ratings, neither here or on youtube or anywhere else. i read the description, and if something sounds interesting i listen/watch it. if not, i move on. and if it turns out i dont like it, turn it off/delete it. no sweat!
    likewise i dont usually rate things because i find its a system that doesnt really provide useful information, for the reasons you discussed here and due to the simple fact that people have differing opinions and tastes..

  • rf says:

    That’s a shame.

    Why not hide the ratings then like the comments so that they would be at least a click away?

  • Perfundo says:

    Everybody has their own journeys, truths and perspectives. And whenever we tell eachother how much we should like or dislike something, we are seemingly forgetting this very simple fact. At the same time though, a large difference in taste is usually because of a small difference in perspective. And therein lies our need to tell eachother what’s “good” and “bad”; not that we want to appear better than one another, but that we actually want to relate to eachother…

    So then, how does one actually shift a perspective to make it better understand another one? Or in other words, how do we solve one of the greatest human dramas there is? Well, how about leaving words out for a start? If you’re dealing with something that can’t be put into words (music in this case), then the only way to truly experience it is without words. Secondly, how about leaving the ego out of it also? Without the ego, you and/or your friend(s) are more likely to reach the moment, and less likely to think of the standards of the day. And thirdly and finally, keep up the livin’, stay open, and listen to lots and lots of different music. Because the more music you listen to, and the more you live, the more music you will “understand” and enjoy. Trust me. ;)

  • SunStation says:

    For ratings i personally like more last.fm-like system with like/dislike ratings. You can count only “like” ratings to see what’s people really like and have no effect from negative votes.

  • TMX says:

    Well, i’m watching this site closely for 5 years now and i never did notice a rating system.
    +1 for the last.fm-like system with only registrated people rating, comment in hand, with each comment we post we stat whether we liked the release or not, we can sort out things like that

  • jaja says:

    its all about the taste : )