Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's the use of social ratings?

Welcome to 2010! Bad Religion may have been a couple of billion people off predicting 10bn in 2010, but we'll let that one slide.

One of the other things that is upon us in 2010 is the long tail of social media ratings and measurements. My previous post started a list of ways online communities and websites are now managing a measuring reputation and community involvement. Now what I am finding is that, like many ideas on the Web, the long tail of obscure and sometimes half-baked ideas is stretching the usefulness and relevance of community input variables.

I mention this because today Jeremiah Owyang pointed towards the KickApps mood widget (right) on the NBC New York news site. You can now rate how an article on the news site makes you feel. Based on a pre-defined set of moods you can help define how the city of New York is 'feeling'.

This made me recall the Yelp review widget where you can say whether a restaurant review was useful, funny or cool (below). These 'mood' or semantic ratings seem a little odd to me. There are two reasons for this feeling. One, as a reader or community member I do not see value being created by defining articles by semantic terms unrelated for the most part to the actual article. In Yelp's case, would I choose to go to a restaurant because a reviewer the reviewed the restaurant is considered funny? Or will I post more restaurant reviews because people think my reviews are cool? I dunno.

As for the moods on NBC New York, do I get value out of the fact that readers are thrilled about an article on Marijuana and bored about an article on politics? As a rating it does not make one thing more valuable than another because the variables are nominal. Possibly I might want to search for 'thrilling' articles, I probably wouldn't search 'boring' articles.

Which brings me to point two, browse-ability and search-ability. Presumably these ratings/variables have been created to be useful for website/community users. But if you cannot filter any of the variables then how can they be useful? A good rating or social measure in a community should both provide value to the content creator (people think this is great!) and value to the rater (that article is great! I'll rate it 5 stars so more people can see it). Update: Thanks to reader JZ, they've pointed me to the NBC Mood Board where you can filter based on mood.

Both Yelp and NBC/KickApps have gone half way with their semantic ratings, and there is nothing wrong choosing nominal variables to try to define a mood or a feeling, but thats only the half of it. The other half is the usefulness half, ask, "how will other people find this useful?"

Ratings, reputations, rewards, and now feelings, are all ways communities are trying to promote the value community members receive from the community, but for these things to catch on the members need positive and tangible results from their interactions that can further deepen their connection with the community.


JZ said...

Hey, you may have missed that you can filter by mood type and intensity on the Mood Board on the NBC Local sites here:


Also, the header rotates with a featured piece of content by mood with every page refresh. It's addictive to click on these!

Alex of Melbourne said...

Thanks for the heads-up JZ! Just been checking out the mood board, interesting idea. Although I did just seen the heading "Locals are thrilled about a puppy falls of a roof" :-O Will keep an eye on the mood board to see how it develops.

JZ said...

Yeah, not sure about the puppy! BTW, value for the user is also making it easy to share their feelings on timely content - or simply what they are reading - by pushing to Facebook or Twitter, i.e., sharing their mood rating with their friends on the social web - which NBC/KickApps make easy.