Ruined By Ranking

by Jay Deragon on 04/05/2011

How Do You Rank?Throughout the social web people are learning to expand their influence, their rank and their ratings. In the world of “blogging” 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, rank.

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

The present and past style of ranking and rating is 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.

How would you rank and rate these thoughts?

{ 1 comment }

Dan Robles April 7, 2011 at 7:22 am

Ranking is wrong because it is never right. #1, #2, #3 just does not reflect reality because some subjective generalization needs to be made in order for the ranking to be applied. Most real sciences use a bell curve to describe what actually happens in nature and are prescribed around a certain event and apply to that event only. Bell curves are a result of direct observation – as you say above, “What does matter is their absolute contribution to the goals of a collective objective”.

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