Fuck It, We’re Doing Four Stars

What’s the best system to rate media or products? Grades from F to A? Stars from one to five? A simple thumbs up?

Online catalogs like Goodreads and Letterboxd stand behind their five star standards. Amazon and eBay give percent ratings out of 100. Netflix takes thumbs up and down and converts them to a percentage as well. But faced with adding ratings for books I’ve read to my own short reviews on Micro.blog, I’ve waffled.

At first, I just shifted over my out-of-five book ratings from Goodreads. But too many were the cowardly three stars. Did I like it or not? Even I didn’t know! And don’t get me started on how you can do half-stars, which essentially make them out of ten instead. Too many choices! I briefly courted with ratings out three. Bad/okay/good seemed like it should be enough for anyone. But I quickly saw how any odd numbered rating system has the same fatal flaw: it allows you to sit on the fence between good and bad, deflecting an actual decision.

And so, as you might have guessed from the title, I’ve landed on four-star ratings. Poor/okay/good/great, as it were. Or oof/eh/ooh/wow. Four stars forces a definitive decision, and leaves just enough room for nuance — unlike thumbs up/down. Three stars communicates a positive recommendation and four that it was stand-out, while two or one says that it can probably be skipped or was notably bad.

I should have realized that Matt Birchler had already landed on the correct format. ★★★★

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