As communities grow more and more on Lunch, one things that's becoming amusing is watching as Top Contributors begin to work their way up the community ranks. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't particularly see the community ranks as a bad thing. If anything they can be encouraging in the same way that rankings on websites sometimes can be. Let's not mince words here... people like to receive recognition. It's human nature. When we do good... we like to know we did good. It's why giving someone three thumbs may mean a lot to them... even if you don't comment. It's just one of those reinforcing things that let us know we're doing a good job. Or that at least someone thinks we're doing a good job. We enjoy this and there's no shame in admitting that you feel good being recognized for doing a good job. That's just how we as human beings are.
There are, of course, bad things to ranking as well. And we'll get to that later on. Let's talk about the positive stuff. Ranking, of course, is based in two ways. The first is how much you contribute to a particular community. The second is how many thumbs up you get. Particularly for writing a helpful review. You've no doubt seen those thumbies at the bottom of every review.
Here's how rankings can be a good thing. They give you an idea of how good of a job you're doing. Sometimes it's helpful because it gives you a sense of how well you're able to write or, at the very least, connect with people. As of writing this, I've got several high ranks in a few communities and under a few tags. For those who helped me get there... thanks a ton, you will not be forgotten. On the other hand, it can also serve as a motivating means to better your writing. This is a double-edged sword of course. Sometimes the reason you're not raking in a lot of helpful votes or what have you comes more from the fact that your review either gets buried or you're just not that well known from the outset. You're apt to garner more helpful votes and feedback if you start rating and commenting other peoples work. Typically when you do, many of those whom you supported will return the favor.
On the other hand, for some it just MIGHT be motivation to do better. Or to get more involved on the site. It can either be like a pay raise (for looking at it in a positive light) or as a dangling carrot to a horse on a tread mill (for a more negative light). Either way, sometimes it's motivating. And sometimes it's what you have to do to get people to want to do better and get involved. I'm actually quite serious. If you look at it from this point of view, someone who logs in and sees that he's rank 140 when he or she knows he or she is a better writer than the guy at rank 50... it just might help. That sounds terrible to say. In some respects it IS terrible, but it's motivating nonetheless. Other times it isn't even like that. Other times rising in the ranks only serves for the reviewer to reaffirm that they really CAN do it when they may or may not have been so sure that they could in the first place.
In the long run, of course, ranking doesn't mean much of anything. If you love to review... you do it. Regardless of what your ranking means. Ranking doesn't even mean whether or not you're actually good at it or not. This is where I get a little miffed by Lunch's "Top Contributor" system. It's not exactly about being "good" all the time. It's also about how fast you can pump out reviews. This has caused some members of any particular community to take the rankings a bit too seriously. Because why worry about the quality of your review to get high in the rankings when you could easily just write 400 or so quick reviews and get yourself up there? This is where the small problem with rankings comes in. When people take the rankings too seriously and get too competitive they forget that we're ALL contributors and we're ALL working to build the communities and the site as a whole.
When I write a review... I like to give it my all. I like to put in as much effort as I can possibly put into what it is I provide for my audience. As far as I'm concerned, it takes a lot of work and effort to write a good review. The quality of that particular review will always be voted on by you. So far I've written some pretty good things according to the community (The Art of Reviewing, Avatar, Toy Story 3) but I've also written reviews that I think are fine reviews that may only have one vote. Either effort is fine with me, but I'm not particularly comfortable with this idea that members who take the rankings too seriously decide to game the system by going the "Quantity equals quality," route.
It's hard to tell what has a bigger impact on your ranking. The number of reviews you write, or how many helpful votes you get. I've written less than 300 reviews but have garnered over 2600 helpful votes. That's a lot of work and a lot of contributions. But someone with fewer votes but twice as many reviews might rank higher. It's just hard to tell what you're being given more credit for... and how the system is balancing these two things.
There are two types of people in the world. Qualitative and Quantitative people. Qualitative people (such as myself) are much more concerned about the quality of your work. It's why I like Lunch's thumb system. Because you can give more or fewer thumbs based on how helpful the review was or not. Quantitative people typically tend to be more concerned with how MUCH you can do... not exactly how well. I don't dislike the Quantitative approach. I just don't like the idea that those who work hard on their reviews are overshadowed because someone just happened to be able to pump out MORE reviews. More doesn't always mean that the review is an awesome review. And yes, you WILL get votes. Of course, you will. It's pretty standard stuff. The more you review the more apt someone is to read it. You'll eventually garner votes because someone has to stumble on your writing eventually. That's how most of us became known around the site to begin with. Again, it says little about how well the review was written. So yes, you do have members who move up not because they did good... but because they were able to pump out more.
In some ways I can understand this approach. We are, after all, talking about contributing. Not "Who is the one who can get the most votes." It's not that sort of thing. And that's why I can deal with it. I just think that if you're going to rank contributions it's got to be about making an effort on those contributions rather than simply contributing. I could easily write 800 reviews... all of them four words long. I'm confident enough that doing something like that wouldn't fare well on the site (likewise, if it were just four words... they'd be better suited for quick tips) but you can sort of see the animosity I have toward this, "If you can pump out a ton of reviews you'll be rewarded for it."
There are problems with the Qualitative approach too, however. That being that what one person deems to be "remarkably" helpful or what one deems to be real thought provoking may not exactly be seen the same way by another member. On the other hand, the biggest problem with the Qualitative approach is also that, for the most part, people rate your review based on whether or not they agree with you more so than the helpfulness of that particular review. On Lunch it's not really all that bad. But I have had a moment or two where someone decided I deserved a thumbs down not because what I wrote was bad... but because what I wrote was something they didn't agree with. It happens. I still think that's better than pumping a billion reviews to game the system, but it's only to say that the voting aspect is less problematic than the, "If I write 450 reviews I'll rank in the top 5 for sure!"
I do enjoy the ranking system. Obviously rankings aren't that important. If only because they still don't say a lot about the quality of what you do. It's nice, however, because it gives you an idea of how well you're doing in some cases. Because that qualitative part does actually come out. If you've got 700 reviews and only 1300 votes for example... well, you might be high up because of how much you've produced, but someone with only 100 reviews and over 2000 votes will still rank higher, for the most part. As I said... the problem isn't actually that you can get higher through writing a billion reviews... it's actually more based on the fact that the balance is unknown. It actually is about both. I don't want to keep sounding like it isn't. I'm just unsure which is more important in the long run to your ranking. It can be a good motivating tool... it's just a wonder as to what respect you'll be motivated.
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About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes (Sean_Rhodes)
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Top Contributors in Communities on Lunch are the most helpful and active people within their Community. The Top Contributor rank is calculated by both the quality and quantity of a wide variety of activities on within the Community.
To view Top Contributors in a Community, locate the Top Conbributors box on the right side of the community home page. At the bottom, click on "see all" and on that page, Top Contributors can be sorted by all-time and this week.