3 is the new 4

All my dreams have now come true, my prayers have been answered, the good lord took pity on me and granted me this one desire – to see my books achieve the absolute average rating on Goodreads. Three point Oh!

Some time ago I built a web-site that automatically assigns random ratings to random “things” it scrapes off the internet, including businesses, products, places, people, concepts and ideas. What happened is math – the law of averages. Almost everything circles the three point oh drain given a large enough sample size. I’m not saying the exact same thing happened here with Goodreads, but it does seem that there is a law of averages that applies in certain cases – when random people randomly read random books and rate them it should be no surprise that the extreme reactions balance each other out.

I’m also not implying that there are an equal number of die-hard Trump and Bernie supporters and the end result is likely to be Hillary. Or am I?

Anyway, my theory on Goodreads is that single-issue candidates – er, I mean authors who write to specific genre standards – are likely to have higher or lower average ratings based on how well their books meet the expectations of the specific genre readers they target. The people who like to read 17th Century Highland Scottish Romance novels are not a random representation of the general reading public. They’re rating of your version of such a novel will be highly reflective of the perceived quality of that work within that scope. Within micro-genres it is not at all unusual to find average ratings trending either  to the 4’s or the 2’s.

Politicians know this very well, and play to a targeted audience. You’ll often find Bernie on college campuses, Trump at NASCAR rallies and Hillary in African-American churches.

My books don’t meet the expectations of the readers all that well. This is clear. Most of their average ratings are between 2.9 and 3.2, and the aggregate had been hovering just below 3.0 for years. I wondered if it would ever reach that perfect middle. It may only last a day, so I’m celebrating while I can.

Thanks to all the raters, even the haters. A see-saw is a useless toy when only one side is occupied.

goodreads_3.0

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BeRated is not Peeple

For one thing, we haven’t raised millions of dollars! Peeple is a new service where people rate other people. BeRated is superficially similar, although on BeRated you can rate anything whatsoever, including people. Differences include:

On BeRated, everyone is anonymous

On BeRated, there are no comments allowed, simply ratings

On BeRated, you are not the product. Your data is not collected, stored or sold. BeRated does not know who you are and does not care

Already there are concerns about bullying, especially on Peeple, where identities are confirmed, and comments are allowed. BeRated is 100% total bullshit (it may even say so on the front page) so there’s no need to feel bullied. People who give other people low ratings are assholes. Simple as that.

but it’s like I always say, nowadays you can still be ahead of your time, but only by a matter of minutes

Be Rated! Beta version live now, testers and feedback wanted

Ever wish there was an utterly pointless website where you could see 1-5 star ratings of everything and everyone in the whole wide world. No comments, no snark, no attitude, no accounts, no passwords, no personal data being gobbled up for resale by heartless, gutless hipsters!

Just pure 100% all-natural ratings of stuff

All kinds of stuff

Please check it out:

http://be-rated.appspot.com

We’d love to hear what you think of it. It’s supposed to be brain-dead simple, no frills, but it’s software so there are bound to be bugs and we want to fix them!

Thanking you in advance

The System

How to Be Rated

I recently wrote a couple of stories based on a dream I had, in which my younger brother had invented a system of perpetually rating everyone and everything in the world. The stories were a couple of variations on the theme, and it was my intention to write either more stories or a longer novella based on the idea. Instead, I have gone ahead and programmed the novel.

I have built the System.

I will soon unleash it on the unsuspecting world, where I strongly suspect it will languish in the same obscurity as its author. Correction, it will THRIVE in the same obscurity!

The app is called “Be Rated” and it will allow anyone, anywhere, at any time, to rate anyone or anything in the world. In the dream (and stories) the system rated from zero to one hundred, but in the app, mirroring the real world, the System uses the familiar 5 star ratings, complete with little gold stars to choose from.

The System will overcome some of the biggest peeves I personally have:

  1. You can rate the same things over and over again. The System will display historical data along with the averages (both personal and universal). In the real world now, you can only rate something once, but what it if you liked it one day and hated it the next? There is no room for that in the current universe. The System solves this problem.
  2. You can find all the ratings for all the things in one place – The System. No longer do you have to go to Amazon or Yelp or Google or Goodreads or ITunes or SoundCloud etc to find ratings of various things. All things are rated all the time in the same one place.
  3. It’s so easy, anyone can do it, and best of all, there is no required Sign In, no Accounts, no Passwords, no Personal Data of any kind (required, that is. You will be able to sign in with third party accounts if you want to be able to view your own personal rating history).
  4. It should drive the whole world even more fucking crazy than it already is, because for the first time, People will be rated as well as Products, Businesses, and Places. That’s right. And not only People (meaning You – You will be rated!) but anything at all. Concepts can be rated. That’s right. You can give “Free Will” two stars if you want because really, is Free Will all it’s cracked up to be? Personally, I’ve been somewhat disappointed.
  5. If you think people are obsessing over their smart phones now, just wait until they are addicted to checking the ratings of their own personhood.
  6. There used to be no God but God, but soon there will be two: God, and the System
  7. Your welcome very much

(The stories are here: The System, Out of My System)

One-Star Roundup

Dash it all but I’m dreadfully proud of my one-star reviews! (yes I’ve been watching the BBC production of Parade’s End today). This month in One-Star Roundup brings us a number of excellent examples of one-star readers, which is to say, people who should not have read the book but did and couldn’t help themselves but a) finish the darn thing and b) bother to rate it online (both of which must be some sort of compulsion. Personally I never feel compelled to a) continue reading a book I don’t like OR b) bother to rate it online.

This month’s award for “best self-restraint” goes to a Goodreads reviewer of Orange Car with Stripes (which, by the way, is still #1 on Amazon’s “Cults and Demonism” bestseller list, and #8 in Atheism, one ahead of its companion (and superior), Missy Tonight:

I had planned to write a lengthy review of this book, highlighting the reasons I felt it deserved only one star out of five. But I have scratched my plans for that review, because I couldn’t find anything nice to say. My planned review had rapidly become shrill and mean-spirited. The author doesn’t deserve to be the target of mockery. So, instead, let me simply say that I strongly advise anyone against reading this, and leave it at that.

I was curious about his other ratings , but the only thing of note was that he also gave one star to Pride and Prejudice

The opposite award goes to this judicious reader of Death Ray Butterfly, who reported:

This book is so bad that it doesn’t deserve to be called a book. More like somebody’s disjointed journal. The author couldn’t make two paragraphs blend together with a paint mixer. My six year-old grandson talks with more clarity than this guy can write. I feel my IQ has dropped at couple of points.

Need I say that Zombie Nights is one of my all-time leaders in one-star readers, but few have been as enjoyable as this one:

This was one of the stupidest books I have ever read…HELL it wasn’t even a book it was more like a really short story with some serous pointlessness. All the story is about is a guy that wakes up in a grave from where he was bared by a couple of goons that killed him. he wakes up as a Zombie and he roams around until he find his uncle that he hadn’t seen for years , so all though the story he is trying to find out what he is going to do and he ends up getting killed by a Zombie hunter really pointless.

(point of order, however. Zombie hunter? Really? Not as far as I know, and why the capital Z for Zombie? serously! bared!!)

The Part-Time People may be the most one-starred of all, but this one is the best I’ve seen of those:

This was an utterly, poorly written piece of work; better yet…you can’t even call it a story: It was merely the ramblings of a mad man!!! Nothing made sense in this piece!!!

Then there’s my personal favorite of all my books, Secret Sidewalk, which has only received a single one-star review, as far as I’ve been able to find, but at least it was priceless. Here it is, in its entirey:

Nope

All or Nothing, or, Why the Fine Lines?

As a childhood graduate of Wossamotta U., I was never a stickler for fine lines, but I found myself sucked into them through the vortex of the hyper-critical culture rampant on the internet. Everything that’s anything has to be categorized and rated. In comparison to what, I still don’t know. I guess we are supposed to granulate our inner sense of satisfaction and/or justice and woe unto those items (whatever they may be – vacuum cleaner bags, chamber orchestras, pole dancers, coffee beans) that fail to cause our bells to tinkle at the highest maximum tinkle-ability.

Where do you go once you reach the top, anyway? If one thing deserves a 10 (or a 5 depending on your scale), what could possibly ever compare? I see people holding out all the time, not willing to part with that highest of holies just in case something else might someday crop up that they’ll find even more fulfilling, even more replete with complete and utterly rewarding satisfaction.

Or else they compare the latest production of their hero with a previous production by same and find it not quite there. In that case, they will muster a rating even lower than a production by someone whose output they actually despise. Where are the comparative merits? Where is the personal responsibility? Who are these 47% of online critics who feel entitled to sniff at their product-creators and knock them down a peg or two if they merely feel like it?

In other words, when the hell did we all become like a snooty New York Times food critic?

I’ve been moving steadily towards a binary rating system on all the online sets. Up or down, five stars or zero stars. Yes or no. I’m not interested in pitching in to the popular delusion of the madness of crowd-sourcing. Mobs just aren’t my thing.

I will recommend something. Or I won’t. But I really don’t think my critical sensibilities are all that fine-grained that anyone should give a shit about the number of stars I bestow on any given product. Besides, it just hurts my brain. I liked it, or I didn’t. That’s good enough for me.

Reading and Expectations

One thing that the five-star ratings system can never capture is the relationship between your opinion of a book and your original expectations of it. Recently it’s become apparent to me that this is key. Whether a book exceeds your expectations or fails to live up to them determines in large part your overall judgment of it. This has nothing to do with the book itself (sui generis, as it were) but everything to do with you and your desires.

Cases in point. I’ve been trying to read the newest Cesar Aira translation (The Miracles Cures of Dr. Aira) and I just don’t like it, after having loved or at least very much liked all  the previous translations of his books. My expectations were high and are not being met.

With Jose Saramago, I expected very little, and my anticipations were far exceeded. The book revealed new things to me about fiction, about writing and narration, about storytelling in general. I had certainly not expected any of that!

Today I started reading China Mieville‘s “The City and the City” – after what I’d read about this author, from Goodreads friends as well as from Wikipedia and other sources, my expectations were high. Words like “intelligent”, “interesting” and “original” were consistently applied to him, as well as comparisons to Kafka and Orwell. Since I began reading it, I have had to adjust my expectations, lower and lower and lower. I really don’t like it. The writing is nothing special to me. The “fantastical” elements are kind of a bore. “Intelligent” seems to refer to his use of unusual words, like “machicolation”. Basically, this book so far strikes me as a highbrow imitation Raymond Chandler set in some parallel universe Hungary where there is great cellphone coverage but only dialup internet (come again?), and there’s a cop and a dead woman (naturally assumed to be a hooker, as all dead women are!) and a whole lot of hard-to-pronounce names.

I spent more than twenty bucks on this paperback, written by a recognized “favorite” and published by one of the handful of megacorporations that defined the publishing “industry” and the book is nowhere near as good as many of the FREE indie books I’ve found on Smashwords. Who is really devaluing the written word? How about those in monopoly control of the stuff they permit you to read?

Anyway, as I was saying, perhaps if I keep lowering my expectations enough, this book will eventually match them and I’ll be able to finish it. Or maybe not. I have no problem giving up on a book. There’s no shortage of the danged things.