Sunday, January 20, 2008

Online Stars

For no particular reason, with no particular goal in mind, I've been thinking a little about star ratings (perhaps by writing something down here, I can free up those mental cycles for something I should actually be thinking about, like my research). Like in Netflix, you're supposed to rate a movie 1-5 stars. But I expect everybody has a different idea what those stars mean. For example, I've given very few movies 1 (though I do use 'not interested' for some movies I haven't seen). I interpret 2 as 'I wish I hadn't bothered sitting through that' (which I've hardly used), while 4 is 'I'd happily watch that again' and 5 is along the lines of 'I actively enjoyed that movie' or 'I'd consider owning that'. I left out 3, which is kinda my default if I don't really care. My point, though, is probably other people use different interpretations, maybe handing out more 5s or 1s, or fewer 3s. How do you interpret the netflix stars?

What's important, then, from a recommendation viewpoint, is not the actual rating, but the relative rating. If I give a movie a 3, that doesn't really mean anything by itself. It only means something in the context of all the other movies I've rated higher and lower. Movie ratings (and other such ratings) don't really form a poset; there is no absolute grading, only a relative grading. I'm sure if you are competing for the netflix prize, this isn't a new (or even worth-pointing-out) observation.

In my daily online experience, stars also come up in google reader (and occasionally in the web history or gmail). There they act only as a flag, a binary 'starred' versus 'unstarred'. And it's handy (especially with the 's' keyboard shortcut). What I'd like to see, especially in combination with the keyboard shortcuts experimental search option in google, is a 's' shortcut to star search results from google. Even without keyboard shortcuts on, just put the little star next to items so I could click to star/unstar them. This then gets saved in the web history bookmarks, just like if I'd gone in manually after the search and starred an item that I had clicked on. This is a lot easier than copying links into my google notebook, for example. I suppose I could check out the google notebook browser extension again, but I'm kinda not hugely keen on using browser extensions much. I'm not sure why.

Also, with the keyboard shortcuts experimental search feature in google, the 'O' shortcut opens the link in a new tab. But in my firefox, it doesn't open in the background (like it would if I middle-clicked). Is this the case for other people, or do I have something set up poorly? How do I change it?

While I'm at it, in an earlier post I mentioned how to easily use the keyboard shortcuts feature in google. I was just looking around today, and if you have a google account, there's an even easier way. At the experimental search labs page, just click 'Join this experiment'. I think I'm going to like this. At my office, I didn't configure my google keyword shortcut in firefox, so I don't have the keyboard shortcuts. But now, after I log in to google (which I'd do to check mail anyway), I'm expecting that I'll have those shortcuts. Hurray!

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