19 August 2009

3 Stars Make No Sense To Me, Mean, Median or Mode

I've previous explained why I use a superior base-10 scoring system for reviewing things and how it doesn't translate as simply as halving it to get the equivalent stars. Following on from a conversation I had the other day I just want to elaborate on why the five star approach is such as flawed system. With only five stars, the “average” score is surely the arithmetic mean which is (1+2+3+4+5 = 15 / n = 3) three. Yet ask any person who uses this scoring system and three stars is “good”. Maybe they have used a different system for making two stars “average”... I looked closely at various reviews and worked out the median value (the middle one) and surprisingly that is three stars. Lastly I counted up how many there are of each star to get the mode (the most common one) and shockingly that is three stars again! By any measure, mean, median, mode or logic, three stars is “average”. The makes four stars “good” and five stars “very good” leaving no space for “exceptional”. Mirroring that two stars is “poor” and one star is “very poor”. The irony of this is that whilst most people claim three stars is a “good” review, in reality they are being too generous and a average mark is far more accurate which would be … three stars! After much searching I've found some honest reviewers that give 3 stars and mean average or okay. Take Neil McEwan reviewing Des Clarke for The Scotsman, ending with "this isn't the best or most original show you'll see this year but it's perfectly adequate" - 3 stars. Notoriously tough Steve Bennett ends his review of Sammy J's 1999 with "So while you’re almost guaranteed to go away cheerful, you won’t actually have laughed all that much" - 3 stars. I rest my case m'lord. So don't be fooled by any review – three stars is just okay, four is good.

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