We Americans like to judge things. We vote for a new leader every fourth year. Pick favorite teams in baseball. And befriend only those deemed popular in middle school. So it was bound to happen. After years of judging each other, we took the game online, and ratings were born.
There’s binary – the Ebert model – a quick thumbs up/thumbs down. Ratings done by assigning points or stars. Or there’s the more complex. Like the Topix model where users can judge comments as “brilliant,” “nuts,” “clueless,” “racy,” and a whole host of other descriptions.
In our weekly design team planning meeting we decided we couldn’t build commenting structures without addressing ratings. But the tricky part is building a system that will not just be a copy of existing models, but rather, be uniquely targeted at each commenting structure we have built. This means we must have a separate model for the question and answer structure, short format and this week’s letters to the editor format.
Josh and I have made some progress on a rating system for the question and answer commenting structure we designed a few weeks ago.
We didn’t like the idea of rating questions, at least in the traditional sense. As we are told often throughout life, there are no bad questions and we don’t want to discourage question asking by judging people for their inquiries. We are, however, designing a rating system for questions where the most popular questions would be highlighted. After a question is asked users with the same question can click a box that says, “I have this question too!” This will give priority to the questions readers most want answered, and possibly motivate the reporter to further investigate the story until the answer is found.
For ratings on answers, we are combining the Topix model with traditional binary commenting. Users click either a thumbs up or thumbs down icon to vote an answer as good or bad. When users click the thumbs up icon, they are given a drop down menu of choices for how to positively rate the comment including “interesting,” “agree,” “helpful,” “insightful,” “informative,” etc. Conversely, when users click the thumbs down icon they are given a drop down menu of choices for how they can negatively rate the comment, including “disagree,” “offensive,” “off-topic,” “incorrect,” “rude,” etc.
This system is not entirely brand new, it’s not off the wall, but it just might work. It maintains the speed and ease of use of binary ratings, while providing a little more insight into the content of the comments so the user can decide which comments are worth their time.
While designs for that rating system move forward, Stuart and I are still busy at work designing a rating system for the letters to the editor model. We are struggling with a way to make ratings innovative and uniquely tied to this commenting structure, without adding too many bells and whistles.
What do you think? How would you want to rate letters to the editor? We’re all ears – ready to judge your suggestions and determine the winner.