Dave's Free Press: Reviews

being why I think things suck and/or rock


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Sun, 8 Jan 2012

New journals

My main journal has been mostly filling up with book reviews, which tends to hide all the other content, so I have decided to split things up a bit.

All my reviews and cooking posts will now appear in separate dedicated journals, and will shortly disappear from the default view of my main journal. However, they will still be available at the old URLs if you link to any particular post or keyword, including if you link to keyword-specific RSS feeds.

The new journals do, of course, have their own RSS feeds.

Posted at 19:30 by David Cantrell
keywords: cooking | meta
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Wed, 6 Jul 2011

Star ratings re-revisited

I did, very briefly, consider a completely different rating system for my reviews, instead of just awarding 0 to 5 shiny gold stars.

I considered rating books out of ten on several axes - for example, entertainment, literary merit, imagination, consistency. I would then combine them by treating those scores as the co-ordinates of a point in an N-dimensional space, the overall rating being the distance of that point from the origin, or equivalently, they are components of a velocity vector in an N-dimensional space. Let me give a couple of examples:

The Quantum Thief might score 8/10 for entertainment, 10/10 for literary merit, 9/10 for imagination, and 10/10 for consistency. The score, then, is sqrt(82+102+92+102) = 18.6. A perfect score on those axes would be sqrt(4*102) = 20. So to normalise to a score out of ten we divide by 2, giving 9.3/10. I actually gave it 5/5.

A Mighty Fortress, on the other hand, might get 5/10 for entertainment, 2/10 for literary merit, 2/10 for imagination, and 8/10 for consistency, for a score of 9.8, which normalises to 4.9/10. I actually gave it 2/5.

There are at least three obvious reasons why I didn't go with this.

  1. Maximum marks on one axis gets you half way to perfection with four axes, even closer with fewer. I don't want to give undue weight to good marks in any one axis. We could perhaps solve this by making it harder to attain maximum velocity in any direction the closer you get to the maximum. The physicists in the audience may now run away screaming;
  2. different type of book require different axes. eg fiction vs textbook vs biography;
  3. it over-complicates things, and is just a poor attempt to hide how subjective reviews are. Note that in the numbers above, I fudged the individual axis scores for both books so they'd mostly agree with the scores I actually gave :-)
Posted at 00:55 by David Cantrell
keywords: geeky | maths | meta
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Mon, 20 Jun 2011

Star ratings revisited

Just over a year ago I started awarding books and things that I reviewed shiny gold stars. I also retrospectively scattered stars on some of my older reviews.

I thought it would be a good idea to see how many of each I'm awarding, and so how well I'm sticking to my rating system. I'm expecting a normal distribution, with the mean somewhat above 3 stars to reflect the fact that I deliberately don't read shite, and that lots of what I read is because other people have raved about it. Well, the results are in ...


I think this is good. It's roughly what I'd expect given my reviewing criteria and the small number of options available. If I had a larger scale to work with - if, say, I was awarding marks out of 20 - I'd expect a smoother drop-off, and at both ends instead of just at the bottom end.

Posted at 12:26 by David Cantrell
keywords: geeky | meta
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Sat, 10 Apr 2010

Review star ratings

Because I know that some of you aren't clever enough to figger out from mere words whether I like something or not, I've started adding star ratings to my reviews of books, music, and films:

this is at the pinnacle of achievement, or if not quite there is still very good but also so significant that it deserves moar starz. 5 star reviews will be very rare.
anything getting 4/5 is pretty damned good. Lots of my favourites don't get this.
for me to recommend something, it will normally need to get at least 3 stars.
2 stars out of 5 isn't terrible, but it means that there are fairly serious weaknesses. A few 2 star reviews will still end up recommending that you buy, but not many.
1 star is pretty bad, but there's still some good in it, although that may be hard to find.
if you even consider buying this, you will be hunted down by ninjas and slaughtered like the dog that you obviously are.

Posted at 20:11 by David Cantrell
keywords: meta
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