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The sound deserves at least an 8

22 APR
2011

When I read some variation of the title as a comment for one of my reviews, I automatically lose respect for the poster. This seemingly innocuous phrase is actually one of the most ignorant things that people commonly say, right down there with "I disagree completely. Horrible review."

But let's start at the beginning. A common misconception is that, say, a "7" has some real world meaning. This is not true. For some people's scales a 7 is great, while for others it's "average" or even bad. As such, for a person with one anime under his belt, it almost doesn't matter what he rates it. A "1" will mean he disliked it and a "10" will mean he liked it, but otherwise there is very little to be interpreted. Ultimately, all ratings are arbitrary.

And yet, we find ourselves assigning numbers to anime. In some ways this is absurd, as we find ourselves having discussions like these where there is no clear consensus on what a "7" actually means. The simple truth is, a single score by itself is meaningless - the score only gains value when compared to other scores. Because we are assigning numbers to something that is not quantifiable, EVERY scoring system is arbitrary.

Thus, the importance is not "accuracy" as some seem to believe because that is impossible anyway. Rather, the most important thing is to create an arbitrary system that gives people a clear view of your opinions.

That is why I try to have a normal-ish distribution for my scores - so that the anime I thought were especially horrible or especially good stand out from the rest. More specifically, if I think two anime are "ok," it matters much less whether I think one is better than the other, as they're both largely forgettable. However, if I actively like two anime, it matters very much if think one is "good" while the other is "great." It matters even more if I think one is "great" while the other is "amazing."

So do I believe that my enjoyment follows a normal distribution? No, not at all. Enjoyment does not actually follow any distribution. It is not quantifiable. If you ask someone how much they enjoyed their day, they can't spit out a number. They'll just say something general like "it was good." Remember, the important part is to differentiate which anime I enjoyed more than others.

That is part of the reason why "the sound deserves at least an 8" is so inane. For one, it implies that there is some "true" meaning to whatever an 8 means, when in fact its only objective meaning is that it is higher than 7 and lower than 9. For another, it ignores the *actually* meaningful part of the review: the text.

I try a great deal for my scores to be internally consistent (well, except sound. Who gives a fuck about sound?), because I want people to know that I enjoyed Monster more than I enjoyed Ouran High School Club. But that, in my view, is the extent of the usefulness of ratings. They are a relative measure, nothing more.

The next time you feel like commenting on a score, instead look at the points in the review and comment on those. The resulting discussion will be infinitely more meaningful. If you don't, I won't rate your comment higher than a 67 out of 141.

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comments

VivisQueen avatar VivisQueen
May 3, 2011

Oh damn, I have more to say.

I believe there is another objective-ish way of looking at ratings. More than 8 signifying that it's higher than a 7 and lower than a 9 is that it is above the middle point. We can agree, that 123 are below middle, 4567 are middle range, and 8910 are above middle. So if you give a show a rating of 3, we are talking below average, and if you give it a rating of 8, you are talking above average. (Yes, some people consider 8 to be 'average' but to even have a concept of normal distribution, I think my assertion would need to be the case generally.)

The point when I get pissed off is when people start quibbling, literally arguing over scraps. 'The sound deserved at least an 8' is less annoying when I gave the sound a 3, say, because I can see this person is disagreeing with me fundamentally on the value of the soundtrack. While it is one of the worst soundtracks I have heard, it turns out to be one of the best soundtracks they have heard. It might instigate discussion about the merits of the style, the diversity of music, its suitability, the lyrics maybe. We have an actual argument. A thousand times worse is someone making that same statement when I gave a rating of 7. Because then we are agreed that this is a better than average soundtrack, but now this person took all that time to argue over a one point difference. Because with that, we're talking minutae matters of taste that we would have a hard time justifying either way. This is not a useful comment nor will it stimulate interesting discussion.

VivisQueen avatar VivisQueen
May 3, 2011

My comments deserve at least a 93/141 or else gtfo.

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