NOVEMBER 19, 2011
“Rating, Ranking & Reviewing: Everyone Is A Critic”
Internet Globalization Class
If the Web and online social networks have “democratized” many functions in society, one of them is rating, ranking and reviewing — of everything from consumer products, songs and movies to university professors and doctors. This function of qualitative assessment was formerly exclusive to “professional” critics such as journalists, or in the case of professors and doctors was conducted by professional peers and bureaucratic hierarchies. On the Web, however, everyone can be a critic.
What is is behind this phenomenon? Thanks to the Web, there are no more barriers for anyone who wants to rate, rank or review something or someone. There are now many websites devoted to rating, ranking and reviewing, such as Yelp and Trip Advisor. Other sites such as Amazon feature rating, ranking and reviewing features. Many people now trust these sites more than they do “professional” critics. Indeed, the democratization of rating, ranking and reviewing has had a major impact on the commercial success of products — and even the reputation of professors and doctors.
For a background article on the role of online social networks in this phenomenon, see this piece in Time magazine, When Everyone’s a Critic, and this article the Guardian with a similar title, “Everyone’s a Critic Now“.
Online rating and ranking has become so widespread that sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp are now indispensable tools for planning everything from a night out for a meal and movie to a holiday in an exotic location. As a Harvard study found, positive Yelp reviews definitely boost business for local restaurants. Yelp has been controversial, however, sometimes accused of charging businesses for playing up positive reviews and playing down negative reviews.
Controversy has dogged other rating and review sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon. TripAdvisor has been accused of featuring “fake” reviews. In the UK, the site has even been threatened with investigation over these practices. Amazon’s reviews have also been called in to question, according to an article, “What Shoppers Don’t Realize About Amazon’s Reviews“.
As noted above, university professors are now rated by students on RateMyProfessors.com, a site whose popularity does not always please the academic profession. RateMyProfessors.com is controversial due to rating criteria like physical attractiveness (“Chilli Pepper”) and easiness, but the site is nonetheless used by millions of students not only for entertainment but also to select their courses.
In another area, patients also rate and review doctors online — and not always to the liking of doctors themselves. Patient criticism can indeed result in controversy, as revealed in this article, A Physician Review Gone Wrong.