Friday, November 30, 2012

Enough with the ratings already! -- a rant

It just dawned on me that it is preposterous to rate the "helpfulness" of other (unknown, probably inexpert) people's ratings of products. How do I know if a rating is "helpful" or not? I won't know if they're right until I read the book/watch the movie/whatever; and, having no idea who wrote the comments, of the value of their opinions, or whether their views are likely to line up with mine, I'm really unqualified to assess their merit. And I was noticing (on Netflix) that each comment was rated helpful by all users who bothered to rate it--e.g., "2 out of 2 members found this comment helpful"; "4 out of 4 members," etc. So, clearly, no one is rating comments "unhelpful"--or almost no one--because why would you? And probably you just say one is "helpful" if it confirms what you wanted to do anyway; on what other basis would you judge it?

Oh, and why do I care how many other members found a comment "helpful," by whatever standard of "helpfulness" they happened to be using?

Where will it all end, anyway? Will we start rating the helpfulness of the helpfulness ratings?

I do believe that we're approaching the ad absurdum limit of the Feedback Era.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The kind of person I am

Do you sometimes have realizations about your own absurdity, which then seem to cast an illuminating light (or something less redundant) upon a whole dimension of your personality?

I can't say that I have, because I just thought of that question as I was typing it and trying to tack some significance onto the little bit of trivia I'm about to give you. But, in the true spirit of Writing to Learn, perhaps I can find something out about myself through the relating of this detail.

Here it is. I am a person who will try to "eat more healthfully" by cutting out orange juice in the mornings, on the grounds that it contains a lot of sugar. (Let's note that my eating habits are, if not exemplary [desserts are frequent], pretty damn good--lots of vegetables, no meat, and nearly every meal is homecooked and balanced.)

TM tried to talk me out of this. For one thing, I like having orange juice in the mornings, so why deny myself? It's full of vitamins. And there are much more effective ways of cutting out sugar (like, for instance, NOT EATING ICE CREAM), but I wasn't interested in any of those.

So I tried to pin it on the expense. Because, you know, a $4 thing of orange juice every few days (TM likes his juice, too) is really killing our budget.

Eventually, I gave in. I drink the juice (a small glass, in deference to my bizarro asceticism) and like it.

But really, what is my deal? Why this arbitrary obstinacy? Is this some kind of purity thing? Virtuous People Deny Themselves Juice? But Not Ice Cream? Is it asceticism for the weak and self-indulgent? That's probably closest, actually. I make little rules to make things just so, but only in ways that either please me (e.g. all of my organizing and straightening foibles) or only inconvenience me just a little.

Sometimes, when I'm hanging Bonaventure's diapers out on the line, I'm tempted to organize them by color. It takes an effort of will to resist this time-wasting, but aesthetically pleasing, measure.

So: there. That's what we learn about me today. I invent arbitrary rules for myself and, if they're not too onerous, enforce them until someone convinces me that they're stupid.*

*Ooh, another example! I used to keep meticulous track of every cent that I spent, color-coding it by category. This was years ago. Finally, after many and valiant efforts, an ex convinced me to try not doing it. I gave it up one month and it was so liberating. Now I limit myself to a balanced checkbook, which I only balance like twice a month. Go me!