One of the most common questions I get asked about this blog is why don’t I put ratings on software. It was no default decision – there are software blogs both with and without rating systems. Still readers seem to expect any kind of review to come with shining stars on top.
However I think software is too tricky for magic of tiny stars too work.
Photo by henribergius
What ratings accomplish
In general case rating helps:
- skim – common sense dictates that things with low ratings better be discarded and those with high ratings given most attention;
- scale – between absolutes of good and bad ratings help to compare different products and put them on relative scale.
How software is rated
Right from the start there is a lot of confusion about how exactly should software be rated. There is no clear scheme that can quantify quality of any given software product.
So inventing and enforcing of opinions starts with software being judged by many things:
- ware-ness. That holy fury usually unleashed on adware. Nothing with filthy ads can be worth high rating, right? Except that many brilliant apps are funded by some form of advertising and completely outshine their pure competition.
- number of functions. Little is bad. A lot is bloat. Anything in between is generic.
- perceived value. Utility for obscure task is treated much less valuable than something for daily use. Until you meet obscure task.
- subjective opinion. Like it – rate it good. Hate it – bash it away. Redefines unfair.
- horde wisdom. Let users vote and sum up hundred clueless opinions into single that has illusion of authority.
Why it fails miserably
Complete lack of universal parameters, that can be found in all software, sets rating up for failure:
- it doesn’t help to skim, because it is impossible to boil down good software to single number (and bad doesn’t even make it to reviews);
- it doesn’t help scale, because ratings are consistent (at best) only in scope of single site or author and excluding low-end software from loop shoots rest of sense scale could make.
In the initial planning of this blog I had considered ratings (together with many other things that didn’t make it).
My main argument against it was – why should I bother putting different numbers on it if I am only going to cover good software?
I hope you don’t come for count-stars-download-and-use. I hope you come because you find my choice of software interesting, fitting your taste and solving your problems.
And in what way could possibly some stars enrich that experience?..