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Posted
06 July 2006

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Personal Or Something

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4 Comments

That Elusive Last Star

I'm sure the distribution of ratings in my iTunes music library says something about me.

I've spent some time thinking about how to assign ratings and even writing scripts to report on my progress. And what progress have I to report?

Of 2720 rated songs in my library, exactly 15 are deemed worthy of a perfect 5 stars.

This seems way too stingy, especially when I glance at some other peoples ratings. If not stingy then at least pessimistic.

I mean, look at Amazon or any other site which employs the near-ubiquitous five-star ranking system. Better still, conduct a social research experiment where you look for patterns in the way that people assign ratings to things online. My guess is that 5 stars are pretty common.

Random-blogger-I-stumbled-across Matt Thommes seems to agree and says that this might be attributable to the commonly-used design where each star has an equal visual weight, thus biasing the 5 star rating. He might be onto something.

But it's nice to know that I'm not a complete freak of nature. On a recent O'Reilly Distributing The Future podcast, a professional photographer explained how he rated his photos. The short version is that he doesn't use 5 stars at all. Nope, according to him, the magical fifth star is reserved for future expansion!

Wow. I'd never thought about that. All those people with 5 stars and nowhere to go from there. What if they need that extra push over the cliff? Where's the iTunes that goes to 6 stars? Where?

4 Comments

Posted by
Chris
2006-07-05 23:37:51 -0500
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I will join with you in initiating requests to Apple asking for a rating system that goes up to six, and a volume control that goes to eleven.

To me, the rating I give a song is mostly defined by the way iTunes treats them. iTunes has a few features for increasing the relative frequency of play based on rating. IMO If the rating system were "pure" it would be divorced from the play frequency modifier. There are songs that I rate very highly that I don't want to hear very often.

I expect that most savvy iTunes users power-game the rating system for optimized listening frequency rather than respect it as a record of assessed quality.

When I want to rock-out... err... Pop-out I play "My Top Rated" playlist. Much of my iTunes manicure activity during my shuffled-album listening across my whole collection is when I decide to prop up the rating a song that's "in favour" to four or five stars so that it gets into the top rated list. When I listen to the top rated list, I'm subconsciously listening for tired old songs to drop - which I do by I dropping them down to three stars.

Oh the fickleness of Pop.


Posted by
Aristotle Pagaltzis
2006-07-05 23:37:51 -0500
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There are songs that I rate very highly that I don’t want to hear very often.

Do you need that rating to achieve some purpose other than having rated them, though?


Posted by
Chris
2006-07-05 23:37:51 -0500
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Do you need that rating to achieve some purpose other than having rated them, though?

If I understand your question correctly -- The initial reason I had for indulging myself with the iTunes' rating system was vanity. Now I use it primarily for influencing play probability.

When you share your iTunes music collection, other people on the network can see how you've rated your music and criticise you. I'm a fragile, lonely, and shy person who secretly yearns for opportunities to laugh in the face of people who say that Mylo's Need You Tonight is better than Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy and is therefore incorrectly rated in my music collection.

Ratings are a social function or a useful administration hobby for vain people of a particular type, which I may or may not resemble.

My complaint is that iTunes overloads the rating system as a play frequency probablity fudge, when I would like a different option for putting tracks on high rotation.


Posted by
Chris
2006-07-05 23:37:51 -0500
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Alastair just pointed out that I'm delusional. More delusional than usual. The outcome of this paper is that unless I'm using Party Shuffle (and I usually don't) the rating system has no effect on play probability.