A Short Critique of Protagonize ratings

Because I felt like flogging a dead horse.

Today I was uninspired, and decided to critique some parts of the site because I felt it might be a wise thing to do so. I shall be completely unoriginal about it and focus on the system of ratings. Its been beaten about so much, I sometimes feel sorry for it. But I shall save the defence for another post. Today I flog the dead horse.

I've been around this site for a while now and have watched the site change for better or for worse. Many of the older writers have faded away, to be replaced by new blood - some good, many bad.

The ratings system continues to be a quagmire that pulls down every piece of writing, sucking them down into an abyss of empty noise that tell us little about the writing but more about the quality of readers a piece can attract, either through luck or prior networking.

Inflated scores have resulted in a complete mess of any objective system of assessing a piece of writing. Add to this the paucity of ratings, and we got ourselves ratings and rankings, alongside leaderboards that say nothing of the quality of work.

Many of us scream that ratings do not matter to us - that comments matter more. Is it because we are now desensitized to ratings? Then what purpose do they serve here? Are they just ego-boosters that help us maintain the illusion that our work actually has some merit? Or is there something deeper to it?

Social norms that evolve in a community are prone to inertia. And the norms out here have developed over the last few generations of users. The system is responsible for this evolution. But let me not be just harsh. There are many norms around this site which have evolved for the better.

But as a wannabe writer, I sometimes feel that there is hardly any measure out here of my true writing skills. I joined this place to write. It was a nice place to write, and it still is. And that's what it is - nice. Nice is good when you go to a party. Nice is good when you buy yourself flowers. Nice is not good when you wish to improve yourself. And some parts of the site have become only about people feeding each other's ego. Mediocre pieces getting judged mediocrely by insufficient number of people.

A long time ago I had a conversation with darkliquid about how simple changes to the rating system might just lead to people's behaviour simple adapting to accommodate it, and that user behaviour will remain the same  - anti-negative, no matter what system we create. Creating systems to improve the visibility of pieces is the way to go ahead, in a heroic attempt to undo bandwagons and crowds. And I still stand by that line.

Inertia in norms is something every community struggles with. So maybe providing ways to increasing visibility of unknown stories is the way to go ahead, and the slowly providing incentives to improve the rating system - both in quantity and quality. Incentive are the only way community behaviour can change. No passionate plea will accomplish what simple incentive mechanisms can. And to make it possible, we might need a new system. Something that taps into our social needs to get a more objective system. It is difficult, but surely possible.

(The recommendation system on the website made no sense to me. And I'd rather not even bother to go down that lane. Bandwagon effects have never appealed to me)

And so I end this abruptly.

The End

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