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The Culture of E


Lots of Es could lead to a prize

Taking Es is clearly not good for  you

61 Ciao members have rated this review on average: very helpful See ratings
exceptional by (10%):
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  2. Angela150
  3. xxfoxyredxx
and 3 other members
very helpful by (90%):
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  2. Kukana
  3. bones78
and 54 other members

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The Culture of E

I’m sure most people will know by now that I have been on Ciao before. Some things never change and ratings still seem to be a hot topic or so it seems when I read another “about me” berating other members’ rating strategies for stuff like being too generous re long opinions, reciprocal ratings or revenge ratings and all of those kinda shenanigans. I guess it’s that pecking order or perceived pecking order of membership that inevitably develops over time and, of course, it appears more pronounced when you’ve been out of the loop as long as I have. The question I do ask myself (and this hasn’t changed that much over the last decade or so) is what gives people the right to question other people’s rating/commenting approach?

Rating basics and recent changes

So what’s the score with ratings, then? Well, the latest announcement on the Ciao site dated 10/6/10 says ratings now attract community points as below:

Exceptional: +9 (former: +6)
Very Helpful: +6 (no change)
Helpful: +3 (no change)
Somewhat Helpful: -3 (-6)
Not Helpful: -6 (-9)
Off Topic: -9 (-12)

There are guidelines on the site and they can be found at: http://www.ciao.co.uk/faq.php/Id/4/Idx/3%20/%20answer_3.Examples of suggestions on the “must do” list includes:
  • Rate honestly and fairly and stick to your own view
  • Add a comment where necessary to help the author understand your rating
  • Rate a review "exceptional" if it gives readers outstanding advice for making a good buying decision
  • Rate honestly and fairly and stick to your own view
  • Add a comment where necessary to help the author understand your rating

Examples of things to avoid include:
  • Do not rate a review before reading it carefully
  • Do not rate other reviews unfairly to "pay back" negative ratings of your own reviews
  • Do not participate in click circles
  • Do not attempt to manipulate the ranking of your own reviews

So what’s my view and what questions would I ask of the Ciao rating system?

To tell you the truth, in previous incarnations, I’ve not really taken rating that seriously. There are lots of reasons for that but the main one was that ratings are very personal to individuals and the arguments for being too dictatorial as to how to rate outweighed the arguments in favour of people doing their own thing. At the end of the day, if this is about peer review then the quality of a review posted should find its own level - all things being equal. So it’s about honesty, I guess.

Well, I’m still slightly uncomfortable with the power of “E”. There are now 6 ratings rather than 5 and E appears to be a way of members “nominating” other reviews, presumably as a way of putting them forward to be considered for a diamond or to win a competition. Ciao justifies this as rating as one giving readers outstanding advice when considering a buying decision. Within this definition, I still don’t see much difference between “Very Helpful” and "Outstanding" or am I simply being pedantic?

Then there’s the etiquette that seems to go with an E rating. It’s inevitable that experienced, long standing members will almost expect a high percentage of E ratings and that probably comes with experience and the establishment of a fan base/circle of friends/reputation as a writer. So when you get an E rating, should you drop into the rater’s guest book and thank them for it? If so, why wouldn’t you do that for a VH? If you do leave a thank you, will that be construed as a subtle hint that further E ratings for that writer are expected in the future?

Here’s where I get uncomfortable again. If the review is good enough then it should find its rightful overall rating so do the wheels really need greasing by dropping in and saying thank you? I’ve yet to do this myself as it just doesn’t feel right and yet I’m as pleased as anyone else when I get an E. So to anyone that has given me an E rating then hopefully you are reassured that I’m not being rude. Just…kinda demure.

I guess my other observation around this is the fact that guest books used to be pretty active with members picking up on interesting comments left about the review rather than, what seems to be the norm now, dropping into a member's guest book and there’s a rather dull string of “Thank you for my E rating. Doris xxxx” You do realise how redundant this makes navel gazing with the exception of a small number of writers who continue to have reasonably active guest books? Bless you, interesting people.

...And what *is* the coloured dot restriction on E ratings all about?...

Recent changes can be summarised as:

White dot allowed 1 exceptional rating in a day, green dot 3, blue 5, violet 6, red 7, orange 8, bronze 9, silver 10, gold 11, black 12.

Clearly tipping power heavily in favour of established members who get to distribute the pixie dust a lot more than a scummy white dot, I simply don’t get this one at all. Why wouldn’t everyone have an equal number of E ratings to distribute, given that I’m not completely sure of the point of an E rating anyway?

So in the interests of research, I looked at the last diamond list and calculated the percentage of E ratings for 10 of the winners. Clearly, I have nothing better to do today...

.....amazingly, there is a heavy correlation between E ratings and diamond winning reviews. The overall percentage across the 10 was 71% of exceptional ratings so it does appear that Ciao is presently acknowledging peer review when, historically, the relationship between ratings, quality and rewards hasn’t been anywhere near so clear. Hmmmm.....so maybe I should start being overt in my thank you policy after all.


The site also carries some good guidelines about commenting @ http://www.ciao.co.uk/faq.php/Id/4/Idx/2.

Examples of suggested “must-dos” include:
  • Focus on facts mentioned in the review
  • Keep other readers in mind
  • If needed, give the author advice to further improve his/her review

Suggestions of things to avoid include:
  • Do not comment a review just for the sake of it
  • Do not use standard comments
  • Do not use the comment feature to insult or discredit the author

My view and posed questions

The lists above aren’t exhaustive so if you want chapter and verse then, by all means, use the links above. Not withstanding, the issues around comments seem far less contentious than those relating to rating. My own view is that I’ll choose to comment when I’ve got something reasonably relevant to say although some loose, bon homie is not altogether unwelcome and a bit of banter in comments never hurt anyone (apart from the red dot member who was hospitalised after reading a particularly poor gag about a Scottish beer recently). Short, sharp “great review” or “lovely review” etc seem to annoy some members but if it’s genuinely meant and the review's been read then maybe it’s not all that bad.

Conclusion and suggestions

What do I draw from all of this?
  • It does appear that the site acknowledges peer review more than it has done before so striving to achieve an E rating does appear to be a quest worth pursuing.
  • I’m still very unsure about leaving thank you messages for E ratings and here’s where I’d love to hear from members in this review comment thread
  • Comments continue to be rewarded and encouraged through points and the dot chase but these comments do lift the site from the virtual clutches of becoming an online library with a virtual assistant with an eternal finger to her mouth.

Oh well, there you have it. I could drone on loads more but it feels like I’ve outstayed my welcome and 2 postings in a day is overkill anyway for me. I'm over the 1000 word count to win a short review prize so all that's left is to hear from those hardy souls around on a Sunday evening...

Would be great to get some thoughts and if you are reading this as a relative newcomer to the site then I hope you find it useful in some way.

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Comments about this review »

bones78 15.08.2012 19:35

I don't think guestbook thanks is anything more than people being happy and polite in the begining, and then kinda just caught on so all newer members feel they have to follow suit if you get my meaning!! I hope you do as I'm not totally sure I do :p

orlando-revisiting 14.11.2010 12:23

I thnk the rating system is a nonsense. When I was a high pointed 'yellow' dot, and soon to be bronze, I got all manner of people fauning over my reviews. When I returned to a white dot, I barely got a read, let alone a VH, lol. I am not point obsessed, and really only write Ciao reviews because I like writing. That said, how often is something really Exceptional? I barely use the E unless I feel that someone has taken a long time to write their review, and researched it well. Photos alone don't do it for me - we can all upload. I also almost never give a negative point, so always a helpful or above, unless it has been plagiarised. Anyone who has taken the trouble to write a review, however short, should be rewarded. I always send thanks for an E - but as I dont' get many, it doesn't take me long, lol!!

pgn0 13.11.2010 10:20

Never mind an overt thank you policy, I am overtly pleased when I get an E, indubitably. Now why does Ciao take away the review after hitting "Exceptional", so I can't read it whilst I type in my mandatory comment for choosing to grace the article with an E? When I award a VH ot H, I can cycle up and down the review to pull salient points into my non-obligatory comment... So: I've taken to writing my comment first these days, then going back, re-scanning the article to get past the silly, but click-cartel obligatory, timer function before being able to rate, and then hitting the "Rate as exceptional". Well said, btw, and I don't expect a Thank You for having given my opinion, but some lively discussion or banter is always welcome.

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This review of How to rate and comment has been rated:

"exceptional" by (10%):

  1. pgn0
  2. Angela150
  3. xxfoxyredxx

and 3 other members

"very helpful" by (90%):

  1. euphie
  2. Kukana
  3. bones78

and 54 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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