Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


This isn't anything serious, but it's something that has been bugging me for a while now.

Who the heck rates stories and comics on Yahoo?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll down on any Yahoo news article or comic strip, and there is a rating system with which you can enter a rating of 1-5 of how much you would recommend the story/comic/whatever.

This has always confused me, because I don't know why anyone needs to rate articles. Does it impact the prominence of the article on Yahoo's frontpage? I don't think it does.

Are ratings supposed to be given from the perspective of how well the article is written or how important the content is? I guess if this designation of a number 1-5 is determined by how "recommendable" an article is, doesn't it depend on who you are inclined to recommend web articles to? I mean, if all your friends are Mets fans, would you rank an article about how the Yankees stink a 5.00? If you only recommend articles to people you hate, do you rank the most depressing stories the highest?

And who in their right mind logs in to Yahoo and tells them that privatization of social security accounts is worth a 2?

If an article about a GOP survey of people regarding the privatization of social security gets a 2.94 (~700 votes), an article about Bill Clinton's scar tissue removal gets a 2.26 (280 votes), does it mean that the privatization of social security is more interesting than Bill Clinton's scar tissue? If so, then Michael Jackson's trial, 3.66 (2.75 votes) beats them both. Of course, three people voted that the Dow closing down 24 points is worth a perfect 5.00, so apparently a day's worth of stock market changes is worth more than anything.

I've never understood the need for this kind of thing. I could condone it if it was for data collection, but it can't possibly be for data collection. Because you have to log in, and only a small percentage of people reading an article will log in to Yahoo to rate it. And there's no measure of accuracy with a rating system of 1-5 which compares articles not even remotely similar. I mean, today's news about Bill Clinton isn't even in the same ballpark as tomorrow's news about Bill Cosby. Heck, it aint even the same sport, to paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson.

I just figure that it's pointless, and fairly harmless, even though a cynic like me might find some perverse satisfaction in way lurid celebrity stories rank higher than everyday political affairs (although nothing tops lurid political affairs).

Where it really gets me though, are the comic ratings.

I like my funnies. Dartmouth's newspaper features a couple of crappy comics by undergraduates, Doonesbury and Garfield (or is it Dilbert?), which is not nearly enough. Besides, picking up the Dartmouth is like picking up a tabloid at the supermarket.

"Trustees Vote to Increase Tuition by 4.9%!!"

"Two-Headed Elvis Clone Weds Neptunian Goddess!!"

All the same to me. At least it is now, when the trustees won't be getting any more of my money.

So I assuage my need for comics with Yahoo's comics page, which carries pretty much every widely syndicated comic strip, and a bunch of independant webcomics (see sidebar)

But it pisses me off when I read today's Boondocks, one of my staples, and I see that under the day's comic, there is a little graphic that says "Avg Rating: 3.37".

I don't really care what other people think about Boondocks so I don't pay too much attention to the rating.

But when another comic, say, Cathy (CATHY!!), rates higher, part of me is distracted by it. (And I only checked Cathy because I wanted to see what people rated it)

The point is that I don't need to be told that some 200 odd people think the day's Cathy is funnier than the day's Boondocks. I just don't care. And before you say that I can just ignore it, I'll tell you. I can't.

I'm one of those people that remembers numbers. So if I browse Get Fuzzy, see that it has gotten a 4.32, and then go to Dilbert (a comic I now despise) and see the number 4.51, I remember it. The numbers stay in my mind somewhere, and it pisses me off. In my mind, I might have found Get Fuzzy funnier. And I wouldn't even have rated it on a scale of 1-5. I might not have rated it at all. But I know that sitting under those two comics are two numbers that seem to be telling me how good the comics are.

And I wonder if someone goes to say, Aaron McGruder, and tells "Hey, today's strip got a 3.32 on Yahoo." What if this actually happened, and some comic artist felt the need to rise to some unknown demographic of Yahoo's (pun intended)? I would hate that.

And I can't help but wonder what comic averages the highest (See? The stat head in me wants to know, even though I know the numbers are arbitrary). It's probably Marmaduke or something like that.


Blogger SqNtz_kaftan said...

Rating comics? That is an interesting issue. Too bad Gary Larson (The Far Side) would win!

1:09 AM  
Blogger Satchmo said...

Yeah, but see, I don't think you can rate comics. How do you do it? How funny they are? Yahoo's system implies that 1-5 depends on how "recommendable" they are. What's that mean?

While I agree that Larson, if still active, might consistently be the funniest sydicated comic artist, why should that matter?

While we're at it, why not leave an exit poll at each painting at MOMA? We can see if the Kandinsky rates higher than the Mondrian.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avg Rating: 2.94, 392 votes

12:31 PM  
Blogger Satchmo said...

While I'm slightly disappointed by the 2.94, it does come as a pleasant surprise that 392 people would vote about the recommendability of this blog.

1:07 PM  

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