My God, it’s full of stars!
Yesterday, while perusing Amazon’s selection of Tom Robbins books, Evil fell into a reflective mood. Which he hates. Manofaction, he is. Not one given to pondering the ineffabilities of life.
But there it was. Or rather, there they were: the customer reviews. The stars. And this phenomenon of how we of the Information Age are learning to filter mass reviews into some kind of messy aggregate.
Take Mr. Robbins . . . around 80% of reviewers bless any given book with the full Eisenhower complement of five stars. Whereas the other 20% give it a single damning star. To the five-star people, it’s always “Another great one from Robbins!” Whereas the one-star people are split between “I’ve never read anything by Robbins, but I hated this book” and “I’ve loved everything else by Robbins, but [for whatever reason] this one was TERRIBLE.” Even with the one-star folks, the number of zealots giving everything he touches five stars makes the “average” rating of a Tom Robbins book at least in the four-point-five range.
Why is this important? Well, let’s glimpse into the future, when Kill A Man With Your Bare Hands: An On-the-Go Guide To Achieving Nietzschian Supermanhood is #1 on the Amazon bestseller lists. When the Evil checks his reviews, what will he be hoping to see?
Evil thinks he’d prefer that chasm of indifference between the five-star zealots and the one-star haters. Right? Love vs. Hate! Reverence vs. Revilement! That’s gotta be far better than a bell curve of two-, three-, and four-star reviews that say to the world, “Meh.”
Thus, Evil wonders, friends: how do you feel when you click on a product and find that, though no one really hates it, no one particularly loves it, either? How do you judge the projected quality of a potential purchase—given not just its average rating, but also the gulf between “INSTANT CLASSIC!!!!” and “WORST THING EVER!!!!” reviews?