The journal of Paul M. Watson.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Star spangled ratings


How do you rate your personal music collection in applications such as iTunes, Windows Media Player and Winamp?

They all offer up the usual 5 star system with 5 being better than 1. None though actually specify that 1 is bad and 5 is brilliant. They just present the 5 stars and let you choose. 1 could just as well be middling and 5 rather good.

Last night I switched over to iTunes as my main media player and began the fun task of re-rating all my songs as they played. It struck me then that 5 stars as usually used does not offer much of a gradient for good music. In my previous media player I treated 1 star songs as unlistenable garbage and 5 as "play it again, Sam".

How then do you rate Thank You by Alanis, A Horse With No Name by America, Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles and Song 2 by Blur? They are all great tracks but, sorry Alanis, Thank You is no Song 2 which is no Eleanor Rigby which means Alanis gets a 3, Blur a 4 and The Beatles a 5. Except that Thank You deserves more than a 3 if it means "average" (1 being "poor" and 5 being "great").

I then had an interesting thought; I don't want 1 star songs in my library. A poor song gets deleted from my library. So the 1 star and 2 star feature becomes pretty useless as anything assigned either is invariably deleted. 3 starers barely survive by virtue of being "a cheesy but fun song."

So I decided that 1 star is "cheesy but fun", 2 stars is average, 3 stars is good, 4 stars is great and 5 stars is effing brilliant.

This lets me have a finer grain of control over my ratings all within the 5 star system. It does still feel strange selecting 3 star songs for a good listening playlist.

Of course it presents problems when this data gets out into the open of other systems where 1 is poor. But so far in 7 years of computing nobody has come up with a way for ratings to get spread around the internet through your desktop media player.

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