How I allocate stars to reviews

When I post reviews it fairly typical to be asked to allocate a score based on a 5-star range.  Sometimes this confuses me – what is the difference between a 4-star book and a 5-star one?  How bad would something have to be to register only 1 star?

So, I’ve given this some extensive thought and analysis – well, I scribbled on a bit of paper for 3.27 minutes – and came up with the following scoring method:

5 stars: Absolutely brilliant.  I will be an evangelist for this book/movie/music/restaurant (you get the idea!).  I think that everyone should have a copy of this book in their library.  I will probably bore you about this if we get in to any remotely related topic.

4 stars: Very good.  I will willingly recommend this to people that I think will be interested in it.  I’m glad that I procured it.

3 stars: Pretty useful.  Not setting the heather on fire, but OK.  I won’t go out of my way to recommend it, but I’ll talk about it if you ask me.

2 stars: Mmmm… not for me.  I didn’t enjoy it, it didn’t click with me, I don’t get it.  I’ll try to tell you why, but it might consume too much of my energy.

1 star: Complete rubbish.  I will try to convince you not to waste your time or money on this.  It has no redeeming features – apart from spelling the author’s name correctly, and that was probably a stroke of luck.

Does anyone have a more coherent (or balanced) approach?  How would you refine/ completely re-write my definitions?

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10 thoughts on “How I allocate stars to reviews

  1. I have always avoided a numerical system for reviews – its always seemed a bit forced, and open to misunderstanding. An AV salesman complained to me recently that the star-rating system in WhatHi-Fi often leads the public astray because the stars are awarded not for absolute quality/performance but in various categories.

    I do review a fair number of books, CDs, gigs, and films – and so adopting a star-review system, explained as you do here, could be quite useful.

    One missing element – how do you “star” a book which is an engaging, eloquent, exposition of a theme you find at least misguided – if not potentially dangerous? It could be brilliantly entertaining, and highly informative, and worth reading in order to engage with what other people think, but maybe something you would not want to be misrepresented as endorsing with a five-star review…

  2. Hideous
    There is an inevitable subjectivity to the whole process.
    I agree with ‘AV salesman’ and for soem reviews there may be a need to provide scores (or at least opinons) in different categories – e.g. value for money, technical performance, ease of use. But as a simpleton, I’m simply going for an overall score.

    Re your example, I wouldn’t go for 5-star, since I wouldn’t be trying to convince others to read it. Beyond that, I’d probably assess how dangerous it was. If it was seriously misguided, I’d go for a 1-star no matter how well-written. In between, well that’d be a judgment call!

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