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Why not get rid of letter grades?


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ikillchicken
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Joined: 12 Feb 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:03 am Reply with quote
So I was looking at all the anger over the recent Fate/Zero review and it made me wonder: Why does ANN do letter grades for reviews?

It seems like letter grades cause nothing but trouble. I mean, how often do you see people who've skimmed through the actual review, read the letter grade and flipped out? How often do you see people get mad because "you give this a C but you gave [some other show] a B!? Evil or Very Mad" More importantly, what do they even actually add? From what I've seen, the prevailing sentiment among reviewers seems to be that they don't even matter; that they're just largely tacked on at the end. And hey, that makes sense. If a review is well written (and ANN's reviews are very well written) you hardly need it them to boil it down to a grade to understand what they think. Also, it was pointed out in the thread just how much it varies what letter grades actually mean depending on where you live. (Apparently up to 80% = C in much of the US. Here, C= 67% max Confused).

So yeah. I just figure, why even bother? Why not just drop letter grades all together? It seems like they're pointless and getting rid of them would create way less confusion, way less rage, and encourage people to actually read the whole review.
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dtm42



Joined: 05 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:52 am Reply with quote
I think Zac once said that people - as in, readers - demand them, therefore ANN uses them. Maybe it wasn't him, but it was definitely an ANN reviewer or staffer.

Even Roger Ebert quantifies his reviews (he gives scores between one and four inclusive), although his reviews are usually shorter than ANN reviews. Everyone - and I mean that in the general sense, not literally - quantifies their opinion by giving a rating or a letter grade or whatever. Whether they're reviewing movies or games or even restaurants, at the beginning or at the end they'll give out some sort of figure which is supposed to neatly indicate all of their thoughts and views on the subject into one tidy package.

I sympathise with you ikillchicken, so don't think I'm against the idea in principle. But, if the majority of readers really do want reviews to contain grades, then that is unfortunately what we're going to get.

And to be fair, a Death Note or Fate/Zero level outrage happens pretty rarely. Though when it does happen . . . . . .
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PetrifiedJello



Joined: 11 Mar 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 8:44 am Reply with quote
ikillchicken wrote:
Why does ANN do letter grades for reviews?

I would think the better question would be: Why do anime fans care so much about them?

One thing's for sure: I prefer they stay. I just love watching people's panties get twisted because someone's opinion is different to the point another gets pissed off about it.

I actually enjoy much of the comments as I do the review itself, provided I can get through it.
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asimpson2006



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 8:49 am Reply with quote
PetrifiedJello wrote:
ikillchicken wrote:
Why does ANN do letter grades for reviews?

I would think the better question would be: Why do anime fans care so much about them?

One thing's for sure: I prefer they stay. I just love watching people's panties get twisted because someone's opinion is different to the point another gets pissed off about it.

I actually enjoy much of the comments as I do the review itself, provided I can get through it.


I have to agree with PJ on this one. While I write reviews on the side for anime blog in which we use numbers but instead of everything being broken down by section it is just one number grade for the whole thing.

Though I do like the letter grades better than the number grades since I think it is much easier to be more precise with the letter grading than the number grading.
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Blood-
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 9:33 am Reply with quote
I like some kind of quantifiable measure and letter grades are just as good as anything else, I guess, with the exception that there seems to be a bit of confusion, for example, over what a grade of C+ actually means. I suppose numerical grades might be a little clearer - i.e. I don't think anybody would confuse what 2.5 out of 5 means.
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Surrender Artist
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:07 am Reply with quote
I'm not very fond of the letter grades and I wouldn't mind if ANN were to revert to not using them. Sometimes it seems that the only virtue of letter grades is that they can be a way of estimating how annoying the discussion thread will be.

Aside from the inanity of numerous bitter posts haranguing a writer for what he did with five letters while often paying not even lip service to the twelve or fifteen hundred words that they accompany, I think that the system provides dubious precision. Is there really a reliable, reasonable difference between a B and a B+, or a B+ and A-? There might be in some ideal world, but I can't imagine that even one writer, much a staff of writers, could translate their subjective opinions into abstract representations that consistently.

Whenever I see anyone promoting or asking for more precision in scores, I can't grasp why because I see that precision as meaningless and the whole exercise as putting the summation of the review ahead of the review itself. I think that if there are to be scores at all, Shelf Life has it right with its simple three-grade system. A letter hardly gives any information as to the quality of something; it contains no detail, no substance and no sense of the author's tastes. Perhaps ANN should convert to a scale with fewer, more general ratings.

If ANN were to dispense with letter grades, I'd be happy, but I could imagine some of the audience losing interest. So there, review grades might drive page-views after all, just not the way that the accusation usually assumes.


Last edited by Surrender Artist on Fri Nov 11, 2011 12:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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The King of Harts



Joined: 05 May 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:19 am Reply with quote
Instead of letter grades, why not use the 1-11 scale in the Encyclopedia? I've never liked letters or stars, but something about a numerical value and one word description (Good, Excellent, Awful) appeals to me, and the 1-11 ties into the Encyclopedia, so it may be easier to get a feel for a show.
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ikillchicken
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:59 am Reply with quote
dtm42 wrote:
I sympathise with you ikillchicken, so don't think I'm against the idea in principle. But, if the majority of readers really do want reviews to contain grades, then that is unfortunately what we're going to get.


Yeah, that may be true. And, in fairness, it's not like they create a problem for me. Anyone who doesn't care about grades can just as well ignore them. So yeah, you can make the argument that you might as well have them for the sake of people who do want them.

The King of Harts wrote:
Instead of letter grades, why not use the 1-11 scale in the Encyclopedia? I've never liked letters or stars, but something about a numerical value and one word description (Good, Excellent, Awful) appeals to me, and the 1-11 ties into the Encyclopedia, so it may be easier to get a feel for a show.


Yeah, my original point was more that they should consider getting rid of ratings all together but I quite like this idea too. At least something verbal would have a little more meaning.

Or, as a compromise, what about a bit of a hybrid? Don't actually follow and actual numerical scale but just give an extremely short (like a few words at most) summary at the end. ie. "Solid if also forgettable entertainment", "deeply flawed but excellent regardless", etc. (a bit like the positives and negatives but much more general). That way people still get a nice, super concise overall judgement at the end but it's not one of actual numerical value.


BTW, this probably goes without saying but I'm obviously not expecting Zac or whoever to pop up and declare "Gee, you're right. No more ratings!". I'm sure you guys put a lot of thought into how to do things and have your reasons and I'm sure you also don't radically alter things at the drop of a hat. I just wanted to toss this out there and get some discussion going so maybe in the future ANN will give more thought to such changes at an appropriate time.
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Tempest
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 12:39 pm Reply with quote
The King of Harts wrote:
Instead of letter grades, why not use the 1-11 scale in the Encyclopedia? I've never liked letters or stars, but something about a numerical value and one word description (Good, Excellent, Awful) appeals to me, and the 1-11 ties into the Encyclopedia, so it may be easier to get a feel for a show.


The one thing that bothers me about the grading on ANN is that we don't have a consistent system across the site between the encyc and the reviews. I really don't care what system we use (letters, stars, numbers or descriptors), but I wish it was consistent.

It's worth noting though, I'm not sure if the encyc's system wouldn't translate well to reviews where we grade individual aspects of the show. For those grades, I think a letter or number works best.

Anyways, honestly, the matter is extremely subjective. If we had a different system, as many people would complain about that as complain about the current system. There is ZERO consensus on which is the best system. Every year or so I read a different document explaining why one system or another is "objectively better." Thing is, each time it's a different system.
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Dessa
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 3:07 pm Reply with quote
Whatever system gets used, I think a guide needs to be there. Even if it's not translating to school grades, having a guide that says "A = Excellent, B = Above Average, C = Average, etc" and explaining what each step means would be good.

Something I just thought of, too, which may add to the complications, is that you have "B-list" rankings and "B movies". In the US, at least, there's far too many things that use a letter-ranking scale, and so many of them are different, that it's hard to know what each means.

To use those two examples and Fate/Zero...

If a "B movie" is a cheesy, low-budget film, and a "C movie" is below that, Fate/Zero was basically graded as a piece of crap.

If a "A-list" item is something super-popular and the "most bankable" and a "B-list" item is something popular "at the moment", with "C-list" being the bottom and for something simply "recognizable", Fate/Zero is something that people would go "Oh, hey, I recognize that... what was it called again?"

I don't think, given the review and comments, that either of those are appropriate to say that the grade denotes.

I think the two things right now that are needed are an agreed upon rating system (letters, scores, whatever), a standardized way to score*, and a guide (at least linked at the top of the Reviews page, preferably in every review) so that people can see what the scores mean.


*Yes, scores are based on personal reviews, but make sure that if one reviewer considers "C" to be average, than other reviewers aren't using "B" as average. Whatever the system/scale is, make sure that everyone's following it.
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Zac
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:27 pm Reply with quote
Dessa wrote:

Something I just thought of, too, which may add to the complications, is that you have "B-list" rankings and "B movies". In the US, at least, there's far too many things that use a letter-ranking scale, and so many of them are different, that it's hard to know what each means.

To use those two examples and Fate/Zero...

If a "B movie" is a cheesy, low-budget film, and a "C movie" is below that, Fate/Zero was basically graded as a piece of crap.

If a "A-list" item is something super-popular and the "most bankable" and a "B-list" item is something popular "at the moment", with "C-list" being the bottom and for something simply "recognizable", Fate/Zero is something that people would go "Oh, hey, I recognize that... what was it called again?"


The terms "A-list" and "B-list" have nothing to do with our review scores at all. Those terms are used to describe the level of someone's celebrity or sometimes the prestige of a project/franchise, but 90 percent of the time it's the former.

The term "B-movie" has nothing to do with our review scores either (nor have I ever seen anyone model their review scores around the term; that would be really weird). B-movie does commonly refer to low-budget shlocky films, but that doesn't mean when someone gives a film a "B" that makes it a "B movie". Your logic is a little tortured here, man.

Our grades are based on basic American grades. We'll be adding a simple chart somewhere on the site soon (it used to be floating around somewhere, but we can't seem to find where it went).
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penguintruth



Joined: 08 Dec 2004
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:56 pm Reply with quote
I think the real problem is the people who go right to the grade(s) without ever really reading the words of the review. It isn't enough for their favorite anime or manga to be liked, it has to get a high letter grade, so they disregard the carefully written review.
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dtm42



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:02 pm Reply with quote
Penguintruth, while I would agree that does happen, it wasn't the reason behind the Death Note and Fate/Zero controversies.
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Haterater



Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Posts: 991

PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2011 2:03 am Reply with quote
I find the letter grades easy to follow and prefer them over a 1-10 type model. 1 to 5 is okay, but doing a 1 to 10 could lead people in the mind sight of 7-10 and ignoring the rest, leading right back to the letter grades, but in a different and confusing manner.
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Dan42
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 4:55 pm Reply with quote
I find it ironic (or gratifying?) that people are now saying that we need descriptions because the meaning of letter grades is too unclear. That was the reason I went with descriptions instead of numbers or letters for the ratings in MyAnime; the meaning is built right into the rating at the moment you choose it.
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