Claire Black: Star ratings ruining everything

Star ratings deserve a hearty 0 out of 5 for prejudicing people's everyday experiences
Star ratings deserve a hearty 0 out of 5 for prejudicing people's everyday experiences
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DO you want to know the only good thing about the new app, Peeple? The wacky spelling. I just love that kind of creative use of language. I jest, plainly I don’t. The name is utterly moronic. It’s only marginally less stupid than the concept itself.

If you push me to identify one positive thing about Peeple, the newly-created user review site that allows you to give the people (geddit) you know star ratings, it is that it has given me a reason to sing, “People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world…” I don’t stop there obviously.

This has, in turn, allowed me to think about Omar Sharif (what a beautiful man) and spend several hours on YouTube watching Barbra Streisand singing in concert with Barry Gibb and Donna Summer, which has led to clips of Saturday Night Fever and some frenzied dancing in my living room to the disco version of Mussorgsky’s Night On A Bare Mountain which remains one of my favourite dance tracks of all time.

Pretty good then. What am I complaining about? Let me tell you.

Star ratings are a scourge of modern life. They are robbing us of our ability to engage with experience without reducing it to an entirely arbitrary system of judgment. They have already spoiled everything from shopping to eating out to hotel stays (you know how I feel about TripAdvisor – let’s not go back there). Some years ago, when I had the energy to review Fringe shows (around 100 was my limit) I trotted into a pub one evening for a restorative beverage and bumped into someone I knew who worked at the National Theatre of Scotland. “Ah, it’s one star,” he shouted at me across the bar. He’d read some of the reviews I’d been writing, a fair few of them weren’t exactly raves.

I wasn’t proud. I felt like a bit of a rotter, actually. I was motivated only by trying to make sure punters weren’t going to waste a tenner on watching two Oxbridge types miming badly in the dark because the person who was supposed to put the lights on was too incompetent to manage it. (That is a true story. I am still scarred.)

But still, how many people did I put off seeing something they would have enjoyed? How many hopes did I dash? And who’s to say my one star is the same as your one star?

The app, created by a Canadian marketer, Julia Cordray, and her Californian co-founder, Nicole McCullough (who describe themselves as “empathetic, female entrepreneurs in the tech space” and their app as a “positivity app for positive people” making me concerned not only for their spelling but their ability to actually understand the words they use), promises to “revolutionise the way we’re seen in the world through our relationships”.

Yes, I can definitely imagine how my life would be “revolutionised” if I start assigning star ratings to everyone I know and – worse – they start assigning star ratings to me.

I’m thinking the divorce, the end of long-cherished friendships, the destruction of families.

You think I’m being melodramatic? I disagree. And all you need to start down this road to hell is a Facebook account and to have celebrated your 21st birthday. End of days.

Keep abreast of your health

IT’S Breast Cancer Awareness month. There are so many months of this and days of that and weeks of the other, can I be honest and say they’ve sort of become a multicoloured, be-ribboned, backdrop which largely passes me by. I’m not proud of this fact, but I think it’s what comes of too much information, too many campaigns, too many slogans – there’s a disconnect between what is being promoted and the impact it has on our lives. And in this case, it’s potentially life- threatening. A survey commissioned by Breast Cancer Now has revealed that 57 per cent of women could be putting themselves at risk by not checking their breasts at least once a month for signs and symptoms. Nearly 10 per cent of the 500 women asked said they had never checked their breasts. I don’t check my breasts regularly. I know I should – my mother-in-law has had breast cancer and one of my dearest friends too. So what gives? Why can’t I connect the fact that for the 4,600 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Scotland early diagnosis can make a huge difference to treatment and outcome? I don’t have a justification or even much of an explanation. I guess I’m just hoping that if you read this and you’re like me, you might (like me) decide to change your ways.

Read all about it – now!

NOW and then you come across something that is just good. And I need that, because often it feels like we are surrounded by all kinds of bad – violence, greed, stupidity, prejudice. And so well done, Waterstones and Oxfam and the publishers who are backing Buy Books for Syria. This campaign means that you and I can nip into our favourite branch of the bookshop, pick up a book by Hilary Mantel or Ali Smith or Tove Jansson (there are loads of others) and 100 per cent of the full retail price will be donated to Oxfam’s Syria crisis appeal. All of it. Every penny. The aim is to raise a million quid. Surely it can be done. What a lovely, laudable thing. «