This isn’t about TV shows. That particular Ratings Game would take an entire blog unto itself to even begin to properly discuss. No, I’m talking about when people review things and rate them.
Does Size Matter?
Some people used a 5 point system. Usually 5 stars, but then they give out half star ratings, thus making it a 10 point system on a scale of 0.5 to 5. Then you get 10 point systems, and then they go and try to present averages between multiple reviewers and dish out things like 7.6 and 2.4, thus making them actually a 100 point system ranging from 0.1 to 10.0. Luckily, if a person starts with a 100 point system, they generally don’t do decimals (unless you are handing out grades and want to really rub it into the kid’s face that a 92 is an A and they got a 91.9, a B). Really though, most of these systems exist almost entirely to attempt to set expectations. If a movie review site uses a 5 star scale, 3 usually means “like”, 4 “really like” and 5 is “love”.
But I’m all about managing expectations, and large systems (even as large as 5) start to set them for me. A 5 star film isn’t going to be just good, it’s going to be great. A 1 star film isn’t just bad, it’s awful! And it happens with every scale.
And then you run into other people wanting to fiddle with your system. Tons of game sites rate on a 10 point or 100 point scale, but the vast majority of their scores will be in the 7-9/70-90 range. They save the top score for the absolute best games, and everything below 7/70 is complete trash, and even mediocre games get a “C”. I’m sorry, but on a scale of 1 to 10, 5 is the middle, the average, the “meets some minimum level of entertainment but I didn’t really enjoy it”. You wouldn’t know that from the way most sites work.
A Simpler System
For me, however, I prefer a binary system, a scale from 0 to 1. If I enjoyed something and would recommend it to other people it gets a 1. If I didn’t enjoy it and wouldn’t recommend it to other people it gets a 0. No fractions.
Of course, that’s just the score. Any long review would get into exactly why I liked it, and what sort of people I think would also like it. Or it would discuss why I think the thing failed for me, and perhaps try to understand what sort of people might enjoy this, because you have to assume if someone takes the time to make something they must intend for someone else out there to like it.
I’ve written about this before. In fact, twice before. At a glance, I need only one piece of information: did you like it. Then, based on that I can decide if I want to read your full review. More so, if I’ve read a bunch of your reviews in the past and I have a general sense of “if he likes it, then I like it” I may not even need to read every review. I can shorthand. If I’ve heard about a game and think I will like it and I see that a reviewer I generally agree with also liked it, I can pretty safely purchase it and avoid the possibility of getting spoilers in a review. On the other hand, if there is a game I’ve heard of and think I will like and that reviewer says he didn’t like it, now I definitely want to read his review because maybe there’s something I need to know.
Got it in 1
In the past, I’ve toyed with ratings systems on reviews here. I even invented a 13 point system just so that a 7 would be the middle/average score. And I’ve thrown out ratings systems, insisting that the review is the only thing that matters. In the future, I’m going to implement my more simple 0 & 1 system.
Now I just need to make some nifty graphics for my new rating system, and they need to be self-explanatory because I don’t want any passing creator see that I’ve given them a 1 and think I’m saying they suck.
On March 27th, 2009, I posted my first Movie Round-Up. I had posted movie reviews before, but I adopted the once a week format to give myself structure and to avoid having multiple movie review posts per week. I have enjoyed doing them, even more since I added the Photoshop amalgam poster a few months back, but as time went on and I attended less and less screenings, the posts turned into mostly reviews of trailers and hype.
While I think there is value in that sort of review, and I may start doing that in the future (and if so it would get a new name), for now this particular format is coming to an end. I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted, and I hope you stick around for whatever else I happen to write.
One of the things in life I’ve come to be fairly attached to is correctness. When I’m wrong, I love it when people inform me that I’m wrong, as long as I am actually wrong and they can tell me why I am wrong. I mean, just yelling “You’re wrong!” over and over without explanation doesn’t help anyone. But when I post my thoughts here, if I’ve made an error, if I’ve got bad data, I want to know. I tend to do the same with other people. Most times when I post a comment on another blog it’s either to say “I agree!” or to point out somewhere that I feel they’ve made an error. Sometimes, even when I point things out that I think are wrong, it can turn out that I’m wrong.
Tami Baribeau works in the gaming industry, specifically the social gaming arena. I read her blog because I want more insight to that world and she provides it (she’s not the only one I read, to get all my info from one source would be wrongheaded). She posted a list of 10 reasons why Facebook Game wall posts are not spam. Reading her list, I felt that three of her points were in error, based on my experience, and posted a reply. It turns out that two of my points were addressed with changes in Facebook policy I was unaware of and so were not errors. In one case, however, I was correct and Tami acknowledged that. This is the sort of stuff I love.
Of course, on the Internet, this sort of discourse is rare. Well, rare-ish. I see it quite often, but only because I stop reading blogs where the authors just want to spew and don’t care about being correct. But it means I do filter a lot of blogs out. The main reason, I think, for this is many people still believe that the Internet is separate from “Real Life”. Even when they are in a forum where their real identities are well known, they act as if their online persona is different from themselves. It leads to a lot of waving off errors under the belief that “this doesn’t really matter… it’s only the Internet, it’s not Real Life.” And most often it is that they don’t care about the details. If you still agree with their main thrust argument, why should the facts and figures matter?
If a politician were to give a speech and state “We need to bring our troops home from Iraq!” he would probably get a lot of support. It’s an idea that many people can get behind. If he were to follow that up with “We need to bring them home because thousands of our boys are dying every day! And thousands of woman and children are being cut down in the crossfire every day!” … well, both of those things are completely not correct. Yes, soldiers have died and are dying, and yes, civilians have been injured and killed because of the war there, but those numbers are just way way off. Thousands are not dying per day. For me, that politician would lose my support (unless his opponent was a raving loon who was insisting that we needed to leave Iraq now… so we could nuke it into oblivion). If I really wanted to support that politician, I’d write a letter, or even stand up right then and try to get a correction. Because worse than someone making an offhand error is someone fully believing that the error is true and correct. I’d want to know where that politician stood. Was it an honest mistake? or is it more than that?
Or maybe, just maybe, I’m wrong. If I am, I want to know. And I suppose that that is the main thrust of this post… owning mistakes. If I make one and it is pointed out to me, the very first thing I want to do is acknowledge that, and then either explain why this new information doesn’t change the point I am making or adjust my position based on the new data. But the acknowledgement is important to me. And it irks me when people don’t do that, when people just wave it off and don’t admit to having been mistaken.
Do you write? Do you listen to music while you do it?
I do. In fact, I’ve learned over the years that silence is the most distracting thing in the universe. Once it’s just me and my thoughts, my thoughts win. It’s like a category 5 storm of random things crashing around in my skull. But if I have sound playing in the background, the winds die down and I can focus on my work. But it has to be just music (perhaps with the occasional commercial), not video. When I hear things that I know also have a visual component, my eyes are drawn to the visual. I need to see what images go with the sounds I am hearing. As my eyes pull away from the page or laptop screen, writing stops.
But what music works best?
For me, the best writing music falls into three categories…
- Music that I know by heart.
This music works well because I don’t have to actually listen to it. I know every work, every note so well that my brain just latches on and follows along. I’ll subconsciously tap my feet or bob my head. Sometimes I’ll even begin typing to the rhythm of the songs.
- Music that I don’t know at all.
Because it isn’t music that I love, I’m able to just sort of block it. I know it’s there and it still achieves the goal of calming down my brain, but I don’t care enough to learn the lyrics or feel the beats. It’s just on.
- Classical music.
I’m sure there are studies out there that will show you that brainwaves become more calm and allow for more creativity while listening to classical. But for me it falls almost into category 2, only I do know quite a bit of it. It’s just that there are no lyrics to sing along with. At best, there might be some humming, but not often.
The worst music for me are song by bands I know, or ones I’ve heard before, I sort of like but don’t know well enough for them to be automatic. This is why applications like Pandora or Slacker or Last.fm just don’t work for me as writing tools on anything but the classical music stations. Too many times a song will pop up in the play list that drags me out of the zone and forced me to consciously listen, and the writing stops.
So, this month, as I make my way toward 50,000 words, I’ll, more often than not, be listening to classical music.
I’ve been playing Minecraft. It really is quite a fantastic little game. Once the Survival Multi-Player mode gets fixed it will be downright awesome.
Anyhow, as I’ve been playing, I’ve been thinking about how this sort of thing could be done as an MMO. I’d love to see fully destructible terrain in an MMO, but the issue really is one of containment. Players will inevitably rub each other the wrong way. So, consider this…
Take Minecraft. Add in the ability to mark a server as “official”, which means that it passes some CRC checking and other verification (to make sure it isn’t running any cheats or hacks) which it passes to a central server (run by Notch). Then, allow players, or more accurately server admins, build portals which can be connected to other servers (both servers involved have to create portals to complete the link, both verified by the central server). Thus creating a network of Minecraft worlds. Throw in some niceties like the ability to set an upper limit to the number of players connected, or even the ability to “white list” accounts allowed to build/destroy (everyone can look, only certain people can change).
Hmm… better yet, perhaps they should not allow this because I might waste entire days, even weeks, just wandering the network admiring people’s creations.
I’m really psyched about the upcoming release of Dead Rising 2 because Dead Rising was one of my favorite games. However, now I hear about Dead State. Check out this article on Rock, Paper, Shotgun and then come back. I’ll wait.
It is as if someone took a peak inside my brain and designed the game I’ve been looking for. Obviously, I love zombies. Not in the “I want to be a zombie” sort of way, but in an “I’m pretty sure I could survive a zombie uprising, and I also think it makes a great setting for stories” sort of way. Frankly, I just don’t get the people in the former group at all. But if every promise of Dead State comes true, they are talking about making a game with no defined goals, no boss to beat, no final cut scene that leads to the inevitable sequel. You run a local shelter during a disaster and you have to go about finding supplied and food and other people. Based on how you choose to do those things will determine if the people you run into will like you or not, creating your enemies and obstacles through your decisions.
With a release date of “Not in 2010″ we’ve got a long wait ahead of us…
The Karate Kid:
I’m not a big fan of remakes. That said, I don’t mind when someone takes an old story and changes it up a bit, because, you know, that’s sort of what all stories are since the dawn of time. Everything can be boiled down to “it’s a love story” or something similar, the important part is where the story goes, the details. The trailers look decent enough, and having recently watched the original I can say I’m glad someone is remaking this to get the themes of the film out there to a new audience, because honestly no kid today would enjoy watching the original. The hair alone! Oh, the humanity! I’ll probably see this on DVD because there is only one movie I will see this weekend and it is…
I’ve probably watched the trailer to this film a few dozen times. I’ve seen all the old shows, in fact I’ve watched all five seasons through Netflix Instant in the last year. I hum the theme song whenever I make a plan because “I love it when a plan comes together.” I was excited for Iron Man 2, but this is the film I’ve been dying to see. As long as the trailer is indicative of the whole, it looks like they’ve captured the spirit of the show extremely well. The action, the comedy, everything. So, yeah, I’ll be seeing this one this weekend.
Letters to God:
At heart, I’m a softy. This is the sort of movie that I enjoy watching (you know, to offset the horror and action stuff), but I get more out of it when I’m at home (you know, when I don’t have to worry about people seeing me cry). If you like these sorts of films, you might want to venture out and see it, or you can be like me and watch it at home when it comes out (and no one can hear you weeping).
I’m really on the fence about this movie. The idea of two adults getting away for a date night and having hi-jinks ensue seems awesome, but I’m not sold on the whole crime entanglement and super spy stuff that shows up in the trailer. Plus, you know, I like Steve Carell except when he does that robotic shouting of obvious things. ”Oh no! My pants have fallen! Look everyone! My pants have fallen!” as if the comedic scene is being described for any blind people who might be attending the film. But, Tina Fey, she’s awesome. I probably won’t end up paying full price to see this, and if I don’t see it this weekend I’m not likely to see it in the theater, but I’m sure I will enjoy it on DVD.
You can search all over the Internet and find out about the specifications and tons of opinions on it. Here are mine.
First, I think the name is silly. The people guessing that Apple was making a tablet came up with dozens of better names. Does no one at Apple have access to Google? It would have taken less than five seconds to search “iPad” and find the years old MadTV skit.
Next, I am not impressed. They showed nothing in their presentation that made me want to have one of these over a netbook. However, I see potential. To me, the ultimate success of this device will depend on two things:
- What applications get designed to fully use this device. The best idea I’ve seen floated so far is a “cash register” type application since one of these plus a couple of peripherals is cheaper than most computer registers.
- The next revision of the hardware. Apple is notorious for withholding features. They like to put just enough in a product to make people want it, but hold back enough features to be able to also make revision two, three, and four worth buying too. Expect the next version to have the front facing camera most people feel is missing, and more memory.
Lastly, I think they priced it almost perfectly. The only way it gets better is if AT&T subsidizes the price of the 3G version in exchange for a 2 year contract. Personally, I wouldn’t want the 3G, so it is priced right as it is.
To me, at the moment, the deal breaker is the keyboard. The virtual keyboard looks like it would only be comfortable using if I can manage to have the device at a 45 degree angle allowing me to type and see the screen. This means that I’d either have to be hunched over the device, or to be lounging on the couch with my feet propped up allowing my lap to hold it up at a usable angle. But that’s because the biggest feature of a portable computer for me is writing, and the iPad seems to be aimed more at people who are more interested in reading and watching. This could be saved if someone makes some sort of clip on keyboard and screen protector (i.e. – the keyboard folds up over the screen, kinda like the clam shell design of a laptop). But it would also have to more than double the weight of the device because you can’t have the screen be heavier than the keyboard in that sort of design.
Another missing element for me that I don’t think will ever make it into the Apple design is the ability to use a stylus. I like to do digital art (doodling more than anything) but I don’t like doing it with my finger. Perhaps, if the iPad sells well, Wacom will decide to make the Cintiq into a full blown art tablet.
Overall, as I said before, I see potential, I even see this as being a device that plenty of people could put to good use, but just not me. And that’s okay.