Using Reviews and Ratings Effectively

Friday, November 8th, 2013
By Arthur Lui

Thinking about ratings

When I first started the Table Tennis Database in 2008, I wanted to provide a platform that helps people to get really accurate and useful information so they could make an informed purchase. Reviews and ratings can be very helpful for this, but they have their limits, and there are many ways to misuse them. I wanted to provide a bit of a guide so you can get the most out of them. This information is also great for giving reviews and ratings that are helpful to others. Let’s begin.

(1) Ratings are not an exact science.

Numeric ratings cannot be believed to be 100% accurate. As the founder of a ratings website, I’d like to say that these ratings will give you a perfect picture of how a particular rubber or blade will perform, as well as bring world peace and end poverty. But ratings can’t do all that. If I had a group of scientists in a lab, doing controlled experiments, maybe we could reach that level of accuracy. So use these numbers as an estimation, not as scientific measurement. People will try their best to rate accurately, but in the end it’s subjective, so leave some wiggle room for error.

(2) Fewer ratings = less accuracy.

If an item is only rated by 1 or 2 people, it’s hard to trust the accuracy of the numbers because you’re putting a lot of faith in one or two people’s abilities to rate accurately and in their opinions. The laws of statistics dictate that the effect of these issues shrinks with more ratings. If you’re comparing two rubbers that each have 30+ ratings, you can believe the average ratings are more likely to be accurate as everyone’s differences average out.

(3) Compare individual trusted reviewers for comparisons.

A specific reviewer will be more consistent in his or her own ratings. Jane Twinklemeister might have reviewed the two blades you’re comparing. If so, you should probably look at her ratings, especially if she has rated a blade that you’ve tried yourself; then you can use that as a baseline to compare to.

(4) “Overall” isn’t the most useful metric.

Don’t simply look for the Overall rating to make your decision-making super easy. It’s a hazy stat. “Overall” generally refers to how satisfied a player is with this item, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Joe Farmblat’s 10/10 overall score means a lot for your specific case. Maybe Joe is an aggressive looper, and wanted a fast, flexy blade. Meanwhile, you might be an allround kind of player favoring control over speed. His 10/10 may be your 7/10. I’ve debated whether to remove the Overall rating completely, but decided that it still has some value, but this is definitely a measure that you should take lightly.

Fundamentally, I don’t really believe in anĀ Overall rating because every blade, whether slow, fast, stiff or flexible, is useful to a specific kind of player. There’s no “universal good blade” that everyone should use, nor a “bad one” that everyone should avoid, unless it falls apart easily or is made from the tears of puppies.

Conclusion

In the end, this site is meant to give another solid opinion to help you in your search for the perfect blade, rubber, table or shoes. It would be wise to treat it as an important part of your research, but not scientifically measured gospel. You still need to think critically as you compare options. If you do, I think you’ll make some good choices.

Do you have any more tips for using the site effectively?

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One Response to “Using Reviews and Ratings Effectively”

  1. Shiv Shankar says:

    It will be nice to still have a guideline for the ratings. For example myself being a beginner / Intermediate Player going to learning advanced techniques, An Allround blade suits me perfectly .. My ideal blade would be what gives me enough speed to my attack shots while not losing in control to any other allround blades. While I have felt what it is like to play with the offensive blades, My speed ratings on the higher end of such blades would not be so accurate (or everything too fast is what I would rate) while my control ratings for Allround blades would all be above 9 or 9.5. This would definitely differ for a defensive player as well as an attacking advanced player. Some kind of baseline would help the members rate the equipment a bit more accurately for example if you provide the baseline of a Allround classic Stiga blade at speed: 7.0 Control : 8.5 and some more all around blades that people are familiar with then I would go on to rate my Flyatt Carbon Nittaku blade at Speed: 8.5 Control: 8.1 where if I had to baseline it with an offensive blade I would rate my blade as Speed: 8.0 and Control 9.5. Please give this baselining guide for the ratings some thought.

    Love the site and very thankful for it.

    Best Regards,
    Shiv Shankar

    UN:F [1.7.3_972]
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