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Rated: ASR · Bulletin · Reviewing · #2233674
An explanation of why I rate and review the way I do.

Earlier in my tenure here at WDC, I gave flattering ratings to avoid upsetting authors. My philosophy at the time was that every item started out at 5.0 stars (perfect) and I would take away stars or half-stars when things didn't work for me. I didn't want to come off as being overly critical, so the result was a whole lot of 5.0-star ratings, and a great many 4.5-star and 4.0-star ratings, even when I thought the content was just okay and/or in need of improvement. It was rare that I ever gave out a rating below 3.0 stars and both 3.0-star and 3.5-star ratings became symbols of substandard work. I even started to buy into the inflated ratings myself, wondering what was wrong with an item of mine that "only" received 3.0 or 3.5 stars.

This imbalanced use of "The Star Rating System is a disservice to both authors and the ratings system. We should use the entire range of rating options to give authors a better assessment of the quality of their individual works. If everything receives a generous 4.0-star to 5.0-star rating, it's much more difficult to differentiate between the content that's just fine and the content that's truly exceptional. I want to afford authors I review the courtesy of knowing when they've truly accomplished something great, so I am applying the following criteria to my ratings. I've included an academic "grading" model for additional reference.

5.0 Stars (*Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*)

A+ content. This content is truly exceptional: perfect execution, zero suggestions for improvement, and the content moved me or made me feel something in a significant way. Most importantly, the content clearly stands out as a paragon of that type of content. This is the content that I rave about, want to bestow Awardicons upon, and recommend others check out.

4.0 Stars (*Star**Star**Star**Star*) to 4.5 Stars (*Star**Star**Star**Star**HalfStar*)

A-level content. This content is excellent: almost no technical errors, suggestions for improvement are mostly nitpicks, and it exceeds expectations in one or more areas. This work is of high enough quality that I think it's worthy of placing in contests, being published substantially as it is, etc.

3.0 Stars (*Star**Star**Star*) to 3.5 Stars (*Star**Star**Star**HalfStar*)

B-level content. This content is perfectly acceptable: few technical errors, suggestions for improvement are minor, no major glaring issues, etc. The vast majority of items are, by definition, fairly average. Average does not mean bad. An average rating from me most often means that I found the item to be solid but not a standout.

2.0 Stars (*Star**Star*) to 2.5 Stars (*Star**Star**HalfStar*)

C-level content. This content needs significant work: numerous technical errors, suggestions for improvement include one or more areas of major concern that affect the overall quality of the content, etc. There may be some elements that work well, but they're overshadowed by the parts that don't work.

1.0 Stars (*Star*} to 1.5 Stars (*Star**HalfStar*)

D-level content. This content doesn't work for the most part: frequent technical errors, suggestions for improvement include critical problems that affect the overall quality of the content, etc. There are very few (if any) elements that work well, and will likely require a near-complete reworking.

In summary, please be assured than receiving a 3.0 or 3.5 rating from me does not mean that I didn't like the content, or that I thought it was somehow inherently flawed. On the contrary, it means that I found the content to be perfectly fine with no areas of major concern. And, consequently, this also means that in receiving a 4.0+ rating from me, you can be likewise assured that I found that content to be very good or downright exceptional.


I try to balance my reviews by commenting both on what worked and suggestions for improvement. I evaluate content as honestly and objectively as possible, while still being positive and supportive. I don't believe in reviewers pushing their own opinions, agenda, or preferences onto an author, and that all content should be assessed and discussed on its own merits.

Depending on my inclination at the time, my reviews will either be broken out into very specific categories, or presented as a general review with overall impressions. Regardless of the form of the review, I always use the following criteria for my reviews, regardless of whether any specific element is specifically mentioned in any given review:

Prose (Fiction): premise, story, characterization, dialogue, structure, technical elements, overall impression

Prose (Nonfiction): premise, purpose, structure, technical elements, overall impression

Poetry: premise, imagery, structure, technical elements, overall impression


All of my reviews express my personal opinions only and, as such, are merely offered as the perspective of one person. It's important to consider feedback from a variety of sources and, ultimately, it's the author's prerogative to decide which feedback to accept and implement, and which to ignore. Everything presented in my reviews is freely offered without any expectation of credit, compensation, or implementation. The author is entitled to, in their sole discretion, use or discard the contents of my reviews in part or in whole as they see fit.

The content I choose to review is done solely at my own discretion and without any implied consent to review subsequent revisions to the content, or additional content by the same author.
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