“Overall” rating. Useless?

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

I’ve always struggled with the “overall” rating that is put on a product. Restaurant review sites use a star system for the overall experience, Amazon has a similar system for books, and we have the overall rating out of 10. How relevant and useful is this rating though?

Maintaining the accuracy and fairness of the ratings in the system is part of our mission, and we’re committed to upholding that. The recent rating quality update received a lot of criticism surrounding the erasing of “overall” ratings below 5/10, and it was justified criticism.

As I ponder the best way to maintain fair ratings, I keep wondering about the usefulness of this overall rating. Here are my thoughts so far, and I’d like your feedback on this.

1. “Overall” is different for everyone.

I see a lot of reviews where a rubber didn’t live up to the player’s expectations of it. Maybe the throw angle was too low, the sponge too hard, or loops just didn’t seem to work well. But for every dissatisfied reviewer that gave it a 4/10, there were several more players who loved it. So if we all have different playing styles that fit different types of equipment, what truly deserves a bad overall rating?

2. Universally bad characteristics.

Personally, I’d only rate a product low if it had characteristics that are bad for any player (for example:¬†quality issues).

Always bad

  • Does the rubber wear out quickly?
  • Does the topsheet peel off the sponge from regular play?
  • Did the shoes fall apart after a month?
  • Do balls jam in the robot frequently?

Not always bad

  • The rubber is too tacky for me (some people were meant for non-tacky rubbers)
  • The blade is too hard (it doesn’t fit your style)
  • My loops aren’t landing on the table (this one’s really vague, and may mean that the setup isn’t a good fit for your strokes, or a change in technique is required to use it effectively)

Certain characteristics are universally bad, and I believe only those should negatively impact a product’s rating.

3. Don’t rely too heavily on the overall rating.

After reading lots of reviews and ratings, I’ve concluded that, currently, the overall rating describes these factors:

  1. How well it fits the style of the “majority” of its users (popularity)
  2. Quality control issues

Note that “how good a racket is” isn’t part of this list. Because you can’t simplify a rubber to one score. You can rate its popularity or specific physical properties, but there’s no way to generalize that to “good” or “bad”.

In most cases, it’s #1 that is more heavily impacting this rating, not quality issues, and this makes it problematic for anyone relying heavily on the overall rating to get insight on the product.


So is the overall rating useless? Not quite, but its usefulness is limited.

If you’re looking for the next blade to buy, don’t just look at what gets a 9.5/10. Look for the specific characteristics you need (level of tackiness, speed, sponge hardness) and that will give you the best chance of finding your perfect setup. There’s no silver bullet that works for everyone.

Remember, equipment doesn’t magically make you play well. You need to find what fits you. It will take some trial and error, but get some advice from your peers (and especially a knowledgeable coach if you have one).

Should “Overall” rating be removed?

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2 Responses to ““Overall” rating. Useless?”

  1. Eduardo says:

    Personally, I see the “overall” rating as irrelevant. I never consider it. For me it would be more useful to know the style of the writer. That would give me an idea of “his” idea of how good or bad is the rubber for the different ratings according to his/her style. I think it should also include “novice”. That would leave a chance only for honest people. Example: Novice (not an expert) Defensive (win points using spin and consistency) All-around (will do anything to win a point) Offensive (wins points by overpowering the opponent)

  2. Bruce says:

    Yeah I have always wondered about user ratings, thanks for the insight!

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