The rating game

Yesterday's post about Nate Silver's quest to find the best burrito in the U.S., and through that process gain insight on how much we should rely on crowdsourced reviews, brings up the subject of trust. Many of us consult online reviews before purchasing household goods or (more to the point of this blog) making recipes.

ratingsThe question remains: how much faith can you put into online reviews? At their worst, recipe reviews seem like sabotage. Someone will give a bad rating but make several (often ridiculous) substitutions: "Fresh salmon was too expensive so I used canned tuna. I also didn't have mayonnaise so I substituted whipped topping. And I used iceberg lettuce instead of spinach. The recipe was terrible." Or worse yet, the reviewer won't even make the recipe, but rates it anyway: "I hate asparagus! This recipe sounds horrible." Sometimes the reviews are at least entertaining. For example, reviews of the ice cube recipe at Food.com poke fun at the absurdity of both an ice cube recipe and the worst aspects of reviews: "I made a few adjustments...... used a pot instead of trays, boiled instead of freezing. Added salt, potatoes, carrots and beef to the water. It turned out more like soup instead of ice cubes. Next time I will make a few more adjustments to try and get this recipe to work for me."

At their best, however, recipe reviews are quite useful. Many reviewers will tweak the recipe for the better, using more or less of an ingredient, adding a complementary ingredient, or making a smart substitution. Others will follow this advice and provide feedback on the changes.  In this case, crowdsourcing can turn a good recipe into an excellent one. Likewise, a thorough review can point out an error, like an improper measurement. Sometimes these errors are significant, like tablespoons versus teaspoons for leavening agents.  A review highlighting this error will save someone time, expense, and the frustration of cleaning their oven.

It is in this vein that EYB encourages members to rate and make notes on recipes. The recipes on EYB are already vetted in the sense that only published cookbooks and the most highly recommended blogs are indexed on the site. Add to that ratings and reviews by dedicated members who belong to a community of cookbook lovers and you have (dare we say it) a recipe for success.

How often do you use the ratings and reviews on EYB and other sites?

 

6 Comments

  • ellabee  on  6/7/2014 at 5:55 PM

    The members' notes and reviews are one of the most helpful and useful parts of the site. I rarely if ever pay attention to the star ratings, especially because I've more than once accidentally "rated" something by being careless with the mousepad...

  • FuzzyChef  on  6/7/2014 at 11:40 PM

    I don't really care about the ratings on EYB (or elsewhere); I can easily determine for myself whether a recipe is a good idea or not, just from reading it. However, the comments are the valuable part; a "needs more salt" or a "actually takes 45 minutes" can save me a lot of trouble when I make it.

  • sir_ken_g  on  6/8/2014 at 9:05 AM

    I will read ratings but I pay attention to whether the writer is qualified. For example many are not qualified to properly judge Asian recipes - or restaurants.

  • veronicafrance  on  6/8/2014 at 11:19 AM

    I'd love to use the EYB recipe comments more, but there rarely are any on recipes I try. I think it's a shame more members don't post notes, because when they exist they are often useful. I do my bit by always adding a note to a recipe I've tried, even if it's only for my own benefit. My favourite online recipe site, marmiton.org (French) is hugely enhanced by the reviews. Recipes are user-contributed, and many of them have helpful reviews from people who've tried them pointing out errors, suggesting variations, or saying something doesn't work as specified and how to correct it. Or indeed that the recipe isn't worth the effort! The sheer volume of users means that crowdsourcing really works there. PS: why is this post in the "Antipasto" category??

  • Queezle_Sister  on  6/9/2014 at 10:19 AM

    Recipe reviews are important to me, and often can draw my attention to a great recipe that I overlooked. That said, my favorite recipe review site is www.cookbooker.com, though I am trying to duplicate my reviews here.

  • RMcEwen  on  6/11/2014 at 6:24 PM

    I tend to ignore ratings unless there are also comments/reviews, because I don't like to take simple ratings at face value. I think notes can be really useful, particularly if they point out possible subsititutions or things that went wrong.

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