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Would a star rating system for Instructables be a useful feature? Answered

This recent Instructables UI update has got me thinking.

Star rankings provided by users are useful feedback options that are all over the web.

Instructables has been around for a long time and has had about a gajillion (citation needed) how-to's-posted over the years. There is a fair amount of redundancy in some of these projects (looking at you, Minecraft, pen guns, drawing tutorials, most of the airsoft category) and they vary WIDELY in quality from very in depth valuable content to stuff that barely qualifies as a how-to at all.

What if they could be ranked? The ranking score of each how-to would be a simple out-of-5-star rating. This rating could be used for a few things:

  • Sorting when searching. Obvious really, when you search for a how-to, there could be a little sorting option to sort by typical variables like time, views, and rating. This would help direct users to better content.
  • Allow mods/helpful people to figure out what how-tos are really not working. This would sort the mass of content into a more easily managed hierarchy.
  • With the new tips feature that allows people to give input on projects, this sorting would really highlight what projects really need some help, allowing users to help less successful users to improve their content.
  • This gives a direct amount of feedback for the user, sure, views help to show the amount of interest in a project, but interest does not equal overall quality. If a user posts something that is low quality (poorly written, misleading, bad pictures, unfinished, unedited, plagiarist, or just plain dangerous) and they can see that they get a bad rating, it is a good sign that they need to work on their content.
  • An automated service in the site could give people a head's up if their content is consistently rating low. You could get a message that says something like "Hey, we noticed that ________ instructable is performing poorly, here's some suggestions that could help it improve! (then link to the how-to-make-a-good-instructable-content) This keeps users focused on all of their content, not just recent stuff. Obviously there should be a switch that lets users turn these notifications on and off so if they don't care to use it, it's not forced on them.

There are problems with this, of course. Ranking users means that personal taste can influence the quality rating of a project, rather than the actual quality of the content. Someone who hates cats could go poorly rate all the cat-related content, regardless of it's overall quality. This means there needs to be a way to make sure that the star-rating system isn't abused too much to damage good content. There needs to be a barrier to entry. Some suggested barriers to entry for star rating privileges could be:

  • Pro membership automatically lets you rank content (pro never seemed that exclusive anyway, this could make it more desirable)
  • Having X number of instructables posted lets you rank content (3 I think would be a fair number)
  • Having X number of views/comments lets you rank content
  • Winning a contest lets you rank content
  • Having the star rating of your instructables be net positive would let you rank content (IE, the majority of all your content has an above 3 star rating)

These barriers or a combination of them would help ensure that only personally invested users would have access to the ranking system to ensure good data.

Thoughts? Would be awesome if a moderator or Instructables dev could chime in here.

Discussions

I guess I go back a year or two before you joined so maybe you missed out when instructables had the +1 system which essentially is the same as your star rating. I don't recall when it was eliminated though. It had all the same issues you mention and forum discussions on having a FB-like Dislke button here. To keep instructables on a more friendly and positive vibe, it counts on Favorites as the metric.

Yep. And I believe there was a weighted 1-5 rating scale before that. So they've tried various rating systems over time.

There was always a rational for each change, although I never paid much attention. ;-)

As I recall one of the problems with the rating system was in contests. It was possible to sort by ranking then so the higher the number the closer to the top of the sort list. The tendency for people was to look at only the top ranked ones and vote only for those. Some people figured out that getting all your friends to give you a high ranking gave you an advantage in contest voting even if the instructable was poor. Eliminating the rating system put all entries on an even playing field.
I must admit that I used to have a little fun with it. I used to look through the lowest ranked ones and give them 5 stars just to give them encouragement. Unless they were really bad.
Anyway, there was a lot of room for abuse of the ranking system so it was done away with.

I think the same kind of feeling formed my view on subscriber numbers. I only lend credence to real comments left on my ibles. It meant the person actually stopped to think for a moment and decided to engage in some sort of conversation. That gives me a sense of satisfaction. So if I want to reply that a project was cool or interesting, I will tell them why also.