Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rate this rating.

Every college teacher knows about RateMyProfessors, more commonly known in the field as Revenge On My Professors or Ravage My Peers, where anyone — ideally, students, but often other professors, including sworn enemies and even the professors being rated themselves — can post anything they feel like saying, without fear of retribution or identification. New faculty tend to get freaked out about bad RMP "ratings," while those who've been in the game a while simply ignore it, and a few who want their students to see them as ultra-hip get screen names like "drtommy" and join the RMP discussion forums, where they can extoll the site's necessity and virtues. One even tried to throw RMP into reverse gear with Rate Your Students... but that turned into a pretty good blog about academic life instead.

Students are led to believe that the site offers valid guidance in scheduling courses, not realizing that a professor with 38 negative comments may have taught 15,000 students so far, yielding a feedback ratio of two hundredths of one percent, or that a "popular" professor adorned with smiley faces and chili peppers (for "hotness") has been rated only a dozen times... by herself. In reality, RMP is an unrivaled disaster of worthless and hopelessly uncontrolled data, which makes it a perfect addition to Viacom's stable of MTV Networks holdings. It's not information, it's entertainment — The Real World: College.

After selling to Viacom and MTVN, the people behind RateMyProfessors (and its sister site for the K-12 set, RateMyTeachers) have branched out to create The Ratingz Network, bringing us "ratingz" sites for restaurants, mechanics, hair salons, veterinarians, and many other essential elements of daily life. They all look like RMP (but you can't give a chili pepper to your dog's veterinarian), with the same yellow-smiley-good/green-smiley-bad quick visual reference system for the post-literacy set. Like RMP, The Ratingz Network tries to make itself look respectable, citing an affiliation with something called the Rating and Review Professional Association. Following links, you find that the RRPA has only eight members, three of which have nearly identical-looking web sites, and one, RateMDs, being a clone of RateMyProfessors and a subsidiary of The RatingzNetwork itself. (We love doing Internet detective work!)

In fact, WB staff were shocked to find one of their personal medicos, a former Spartan and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility who rocks a waist-length ponytail, saddled with a green-faced sad smiley at the RateMDs site. But then we realized that although our guy is part of a practice with six doctors and several hundred patients, only four people had posted reviews for him. Three complained, with identical details, about having to wait too long to be seen during an appointment. Hmm.

With all of this incestuous interconnection of ratings sites, WB proposes the creation of a new meta-rating service called RateTheRaters, where every Internet-based source of ratings — from RMP-scope subsidiaries of megacorporations all the way down to that guy with no life who insists on rating every rating at YouTube, Amazon, Travelocity, and the iTunes Store — would be rated on a "Probable Bullshit" scale, from one (some actual controls built in to the rating system) to ten (an anonymous, profanity-laced free-for-all). And of course, we'd allow for our RTR site, as well as each of its ratings, to be rated. It's only right.


CommanderOne said...

You may be interested to know that the Ratingz network now does not really have any hold or relation to RMT ( or RMP ( any longer, they have since gone separate ways and are now operated by very different people.

78rpm said...

Right, that's why we noted "After selling to Viacom and MTVN, the people behind RateMyProfessors (and its sister site for the K-12 set, RateMyTeachers) have branched out to create The Ratingz Network...." But that wording could be potentially misread there, so thanks for clarifying. :)

CommanderOne said...


Not a problem, thanks for that :) Good luck with your article.