From the time we enter this world we are rated. Parents rate our progress as infants and when observations suggest the progress isn’t “normal” an investigation follows to determine the problem. Once identified solutions are sot to bring us up to “par“.
Then we begin to grow and enter the world of ranking or being rated in compared to others which influences our behavior. School grades, athletic performance, friend popularity, physical appearance, social abilities and associations, schools we attend, level of education etc. etc. the list goes on and on.
Then we enter our professional pursuits. Pay grades, employee evaluations, customer feedback, performance reviews, peer reviews, market growth, wall street analyst etc. etc. all thrive on some kind of ranking or rating system that assumes a power of motivation to do better.
Now we enter the era of virtual worlds, self publishing, social networking and what do we see? Attempts to be rated that influence our behavior to be more popular, more connected and to get the most “hits, comments, reviews and rating on our presence, our commentary” and the cycle perpetuates itself. Just ask yourself how many times do you check your traffic stats, ranking in communities, number of connections and the rate of comments to your post. Be honest.
Do Rankings and Rating Mean Anything?
The core element of the use of rankings is that people and organizations are compared to each other, and given some number that supposedly indicates whether they are better than, about the same, or less effective than their colleagues or competitors. That ranking, in employment issues, is often used to determine who will receive pay raises from a limited pool of money, for public markets whether a stock is good or not, or in the virtual world whose post stays on the front page, which site gets to the top of Google search engines and from this data the masses are influenced, or led, to related information.
The criteria for ranking can range from specific and objective to totally fuzzy and subjective. For example, Google search give listings of site by traffic most to least. Many “tricks of the trade” are used to get a site on the front page of Google but traffic ranking does not always equate to quality or relevance, just traffic rankings. Another example, Bloggers all desire for their blogs to reach people and generate traffic for multiple reasons i.e. ad revenue, traffic rankings, popularity, profiled as an expert etc etc. However, bloggers also have discovered “tricks of the trade” to drive traffic i.e. linkings, stumleupon advertising etc etc. Again, do these rankings indicate quality or relevance?
Throughout the social web people are learning to expand their influence, their rank and their ratings. In some “blogging communities” each post can be given a vote indicating either favorable or unfavorable or most read or most commented by the readers. Those post with both the most traffic or highest rating usually draw the most attention.
Bloggers generally seek to attract and engage their audience and measure their success by traffic and percent of comments made on post. The more traffic and the higher percentage of commentary gives bloggers a sense of fulfillment or a perception of being rated favorably.
Within the social networking arena some people strive to be “the most connected” in any one network while rarely establishing a relationship with all those they are connected to. In the world of brand media. print and broadcasting, the same phenomena applies. The shows, the print etc. with the most circulation or views is ranked the “best” and advertising rates rise with the increase of circulation or viewers. The race is for rankings and ratings and we wonder why we chase the same as individuals.
What is The Meaning of Rankings and Ratings?
Given the history of human behavior we’ve all become accustom to rankings and ratings and it appears as thought “virtual communities” are adopting the same as are the technology drivers behind the communities. The “virtual world” has created a transparency of feedback about anything and everything. Whether it be about a blunder of a major corporation or grammar and spelling errors on your blog post, everything is wide open for criticism. Criticism can be viewed both as a positive or negative in the feedback loop and the measure is one of relevancy.
Today’s simple ranking systems for blogs, profiles and all the related social media is sophomoric to say the least yet at times it can be entertaining. Example: I recent post on my blog received a scathing criticism from a reader relative to my grammar and spelling (which I admit is far from perfect). The reader left an anonymous message that was very critical.
The response from other readers was entertaining to say the least by pointing out the differences in perspective concerning focusing on grammar and spelling rather than content and intent of a post. This one reader obviously ranked by intellect and ability low while others ranked my thinking skills “high”. Crushed by the criticism I sot counseling, refrained from blogging and realized how much of a failure I was (just kidding) Instead I agreed with the criticism but wonder what was the point of the reader in being so critical about my grammar and spelling. I guess the point was their perspective, not mine. While I understand their perspective I don’t have to agree.
I don’t claim to be a professional writer rather just another person with an opinion. I use my education, experience and sense to write about the possibilities and potential of the social web. My post focus more on perspective rather than grammar and spelling. So criticize me for spelling and grammar or respond with your own perspective that the readers can agree, disagree or learn from. All three add value.
Other Things to Consider About Ratings & Rankings:
- While ranking may seem to provide an objective means of evaluating (since it can be used to assign numbers to people), the rankings themselves are only as good as the criteria used for ranking. They can be extremely deceptive, making it appear that there is an objective valid evaluation process going on when, in fact, there isn’t. All it represents is opinions and traffic.
- The value of one person RELATIVE TO PEERS, is irrelevant to the success of any objective. It matters not a bit whether a person is the best or the worst. What does matter is their absolute contribution to the goals of a collective objective. Ranking doesn’t improve objectives. It only classifies people and does not reflect the actual value of the communities exchange, learning and growth.
- As a form of feedback ranking is virtually useless. If our goal is to develop people, we need to provide specific concrete feedback. Informing someone that they ranked in the top (or bottom) twenty-five percent on something may send some sort of message, but tells the recipient virtually nothing about the context or value of their intended communications.
- Ranking can be devastating to the morale and trust of a community. Because it is difficult to rank objectively, people will almost always disagree with a ranking that places them anywhere but in the top percent in the community. People often perceive the process as unfair and arbitrary. Research has shown that the large majority of people believe they are above average in performance. Ranking guarantees disagreement.
- Finally there is the issue of comparisons. In today’s virtual world, even people with the same objectives in the same “community” may be doing very different task and contributing in very different ways. How is it possible to compare someone who functions as an informal community leader to someone who is technically talented but interpersonally unskilled? Both contribute in their own way. It really is like comparing apples and oranges.
Can We Change Our Thinking?
If some lunatic was to ask you to create a community full of dissent, back-biting, resource hoarding, secretiveness, lack of trust, etc., you probably would choose to use a ranking format to manage this chaos. You would also have a community that wouldn’t know who was contributing to the objectives in any absolute terms and a community that would have considerable difficulty providing developmental feedback to the community for the purposes of progressing towards an objective: progress in thinking and learning.
The present and past style of ranking and rating is a modern invention and represents “a prison created by the way in which people interact and think.” The present system includes competition between people, networks, communities and can be destructive to the development of an advanced virtual world that promotes learning and collaboration. Although economists have taught that competition will solve our problems, we now know that competition is destructive. A better approach is for everyone to work together. The solution to problems comes from cooperation, not competition. We need a transformation to a new style of relating that differs from our past mindsets.
One last thing, would you help my self esteem by rating this post? 🙂
What say you?