I have been following Margaret and David for some years now so I know the difference between a 3 star movie rating and a 3 ½ star movie rating. Generally though, ratings on web sites can seem fairly spurious unless the audience has some critical mass.
I just watched a video on TED (which I would heartily recommend) and rated it. I expected to indicate my rating by interacting with 5 blank stars. Instead I was presented with a list of words to select from, after which I saw a tag cloud rating. This is such a lovely twist on ratings, and a smart use of tag clouds. Watch the video and check out the ratings mechanism. The rules are that “you can choose 3 words, or vote for the same word 3 times“. Voting for the same word 3 times gives the user a chance to get their opinion across emphatically; and limiting the choice to 3 words keeps the rating meaningful.
I have never noticed this feature before, but it was part of the 2007 site launch (TED was designed by Method who have a short case study on the project). Funnily enough, while writing this post I went to take a screen shot of YouTube’s rating system only to find that they have changed how they do things. YouTube have forsaken the 5 star rating metaphor for a simple Like/Dislike mechanism.
Techcrunch wrote a short piece on the ratings subject after YouTube opened up the dialogue with its users about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the 5 star rating system, in its September 22, 2009 post Five Stars Dominate Ratings. YouTube’s Product Manager Shiva Rajaraman explained the predominant trend was for users to prescribe either a 1 star or 5 star rating. Clearly this has lead to the design decision to offer 2 choices. There is a good discussion (19 March 2010) about the YouTube rating redesign on IXDA.