Beverage Ratings and Food or Wine Critics (short piece 18)


I had to write a blog post in defense of beverage ratings this week. Wall Street Journal loves to pick on the ratings and my argument is in that blog post of a few days ago. Today, I came across a very hard-to-read blog post by a local food critic. I wrote a post about it earlier and care not to go there but would like to use this as an example in relation to beverage ratings. WSJ and others argue we may be better off without the beverage ratings.

Take a look at an item that does get evaluated but uses no numerical rating system. For example, I read this food blog post today and it is painful to read it. I can and did write a comment about it but that has no numerical value. A person who looks at that post has to read every comment (sometimes hundreds of them) before getting a sense for reader reaction while if each comment allowed the person to also assign a numerical value of say 1 to 5 (as in 1 to 5 stars) to that blog post and another one for the blog overall, the reader could get a strong sense of what the post and the blog may be worth in many people’s minds. Another option is by going to a review web site such as Yelp and starting a review page for that blog SO IT CAN HAVE NUMERICAL RATINGS. The Yelp page can have 5000 reviews for Food Blog XX and will be of little use unless each reviewer is allowed to assign a numerical ratings also. Then the reviews are useful because an overall rating is possible. Will this really matter?

Yes. Of course. The big point and the reason I had to bring this up is food critics and writers enjoy a one-sided relationship. They eat, they write and that is that. The readers can write comments till they drop and have no effect because they are subjective and have to be read in whole before one can assign a relative numerical value in one’s mind. If the review box allowed numerical values, many of the best food writers would get terrible ratings. That would be a shock. Why? Because the present system does not use numbers to rate, and there is no way to EVALUATE them. If a numerical system is incorporated into the blog posts or people use a review site with numerical ratings, then the process of food writing becomes a two-way relationship. The writer writes and rates and the reader reads and rates HIS or HER work.

It works on the same principle as rating beverages such as wine. If no numerical rating system exists, nobody can evaluate the products side by side at a glance. Who has the time and qualification to read through many reviews and find the real value to shop? Nobody who is busy. Advertising will do the job and is that not what happens with food writers and restaurant critics. Anybody can tell you this critic sucks and he or she cannot write or is the biggest jerk in the world and is biased but has no effect because ADVERTISING by the publication has established this person as THE critic in a one-sided relationship. Numerical ratings are limited, flawed but work and do a good job in absence of better systems.

I think it is only fair that major publications allow a numerical rating for articles or blog posts (and the author overall). The reader has something to say in return for the publication of the post or article. That is called feedback but is hard to put a value into the person’s opinion and then average those opinion scores. Why not let the person who writes the feedback also provide a number for a numerical feedback. This system is not perfect but will help create a balanced world. A good food or wine writer can benefit greatly from such numerical system while a tyrant will not be able to hide behind the name of a publication, his or her job title or the advertising that created his or her image. How about that?

*This post belongs to this week’s edition of Wine by Cush Magazine blog and published early in World of Cush also.


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