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My friend's pub, The Royal Oak, was a finalist in the "traditional pub" category of the Derbyshire Food Awards for the second year running. As proud publicans they asked me to make this more obvious on their website. So I stuck a couple of rosettes at the top of it, as you can see below:


Take a look at the source code if you're curious how I did it. Basically it makes use of three "tricks": negative margins, floats and transparent PNGs. It was easier to do than I thought it might be.

While doing that I was reminded of a TV show the other night called the "Curse of the Trip Advisor" in which B&B and restaurant owners were reduced to tears over the 1 star, business-closing reviews they were getting from disgruntled customers on tripadvisor.co.uk.

Now, it being telly, I took most of it with a pinch of salt. Who knows what the real story was in each case? But, while watching it, I thought I'd take a look and see what people had to say on Trip Advisor about places I'd been to and liked.

The first reviews I looked at were those for the Royal Oak. Rightly so it has a near-perfect overall rating, but I couldn't help noticing the 3 single-star ratings of "Terrible". On reading them I could see a picture forming of the person writing them. There's a certain type of person that takes glee in complaining and Trip Advisor seems full of them.

I know the staff at the pub and know the general ethos with which they run it; that they'll do anything they possibly can to keep the customer happy. The trouble is that some customers will never be happy. No matter what.

While some of the complaints sound plausible and worthy of a mention none of them are so bad that a single star rating of Terrible is called for. Maybe 3 or 2 stars, but 1? Come on, surely they're reserved for the Fawlty Towers of the world (Waldorf Salad anybodoy?)!

In all 3 cases the Royal Oak's manager replied with a stock business reply of "Sorry to hear that you... we will be..." etc etc. I can only imagine what it would read if he'd been honest.

My Own Experience

It all brings me round to my own experience of 1 star ratings. In my case for a little app I made for Android, called Signature Saver. It's something I give away for free and don't even bother putting ads on it. Nothing in it for me at all - I just did it as an experiment.

The app has had +5,000 downloads, which is way more than I'd imagined it would get. So far it has 15 ratings and an average of 4.4/5 which is nice.


However, there's always the one isn't there. Some anonymous idiot gave it a 1 star review because it doesn't work with a stylus pen.

What's most annoying about this is that it does work with stylus pens! Why on earth wouldn't it? I've tried it myself and know for a fact it can work with pens.

What would any reasonable person have done in their situation? Perhaps they would have used the "Contact the Developer" email link to let me know - asking if they were doing something wrong and perhaps telling me what device and Android version they have. At a push maybe they'd just delete it and forget all about it, after all it cost them nothing. Or maybe they could just give it a 3 star rating of "Ok, but would be nice if I could use a stylus on my Nexus".

Some people just don't tick that way though, which is kind of sad.

What makes it worse is that's there's no way of replying. In this case their review may well put off other users looking for an app they can use a stylus pen with.

As it goes I'm not that bothered at all about the review, as the app is of little importance to me. I just find it all a bit sad that people feel the need to complain about things there's no need to complain about. Hey, I like to complain, but only when I feel it's justified.


  1. Obligatory XKCD posting. http://xkcd.com/937/

    It's kind of relevant, and also why I loath and detest star ratings. They do not convey a realistic relation to the product/service without the ability to engage in discourse.

      • avatar
      • Tom
      • Tue 8 Nov 2011 05:35 AM

      Absolutely, for hotel reviews based xkcd, see also http://xkcd.com/958/

    1. Extreme case there ;-) but I see what you mean. Although I can't say I hate star ratings. In fact I think they're quite useful if you know how to read and analyse them. I'd rather they existed than not.

  2. I see something similar with reviews on Amazon. Someone rates a product "1," and there you find that the product arrived damaged, late, or something else along those lines. So, they rate the product a "1." As if that was the author/manufacturers problem.

      • avatar
      • Aaron Hardin
      • Tue 8 Nov 2011 07:57 AM

      I agree.

      I purchased a book about TSQL on Amazon that had one or two single star ratings. I remember one comment in particular that made me ignore the negative because you could tell he wasn't where he needed to be for the book.

      I guess that's one good thing about ebay's rating, you have a list of questions to help identify different areas of the transaction to rate.

  3. In the case of the android market, I've seen developers put rebuttals in the app description. That way, they get their say before anyone even reads the reviews. So, you can edit it to say at the end, "Yes, this app works with a stylus. I've tested it."

    1. Might append it to read:

      "Note: there is an unresolved bug I am aware of that affects feeble-minded dweebs. We can only pray for a solution."

  4. How would you rate this article:

    * O O O O

    1 star: There is no star rating system on this post! Plus it did not resolve my personal avarice towards star rating systems. And it wasn't posted in Klingon.

    • avatar
    • Ferdy
    • Tue 8 Nov 2011 12:29 PM

    Recognize the troll reviews very much. I often check a dutch site called kieskeurig.nl (literally translated as "picky") which is excellent for product and price comparison and has a lot of reviews for almost every product one can imagine.

    Each time when I think I have picked the right product, there is always 3 or so people out of 50 that completely bash the product. I want to ignore them but I can't. It affects my carefully build up positive association with the product yet to be bought.

    I think it is largely due to them being anonymous. In fact, don't be surprised if these trolls in real life are actually quite reasonable people.

    1. Reasonable people... or repressed fascists who failed to be elected to public office... we have a lot of those state side.

      Show the rest of this thread

    • avatar
    • CodeDude
    • Tue 8 Nov 2011 12:44 PM

    This website suxors! Can't use stylus !

  5. Gerry Carter, a while ago I read your comment and laughed like mad!!!!

    but have since been to http://www.glenfiddich.com/lda/?h=www.glenfiddich.com&u= (several times!!!) and can't recall what I was laughing at, (but i remain your No1 fan!!!!)

    Jake you are pissed of by the 1* rating by ???

    I started work in 7th Jan 1957 all my life I have tried to give100% but I know lots of times I failed,sometimes badly, we are all human.also there are some who I consider to be suffering from want I term 'solar anus syndrome',

    if you take all these things into consideration your friend Dom and his staff are bound to have 'off' days there are always in life 'nerds' (like Olga's husband?). As my friend Teresa says "these's things happen' but in the real world it's all down to word of mouth.

    If people like Dom's pub they will tell their friends and Dom will do well,

    or?if they feel negative they will tell their pals and Dom will go out of business.

    perhaps you might do a survey on 'what Whisky do you consider reduces your abilaty to do a decent 'blog' while at the same time does not offend the taste? you site does not have a word check thing for people like me who can't spell

    1. How many visits to the whiskey bottle did you make there dad?

      Show the rest of this thread

  6. Interesting read, Jake. In April I played around with Android development and figured I could create a simple agenda like widget that reads data from a Domino server mail database and show it a homescreen. It took me about one day and a half to get it to work the way I wanted (there was nothing too complex in it). So I figured I would through it onto the market, but I wanted to see if there was a market for Domino centric applications in the paid apps area, that's way I came up with the price of 0.79 €.

    I thought considering that I used a day and a half in development (rounding up to about 1,500 € of development work value I could have put into something else) until now 300 people decided to purchase the product, which leaves the company I work for and allowed me to conduct this experiment with 165 € of return in investment. I don't event start to think about phone call and e-mail support I've given to people to whom it was actually important enough to get the widget to work in case there were difficulties. Those who didn't usually are the ones who rate the product, thus leaving it with a two star rating in the market (I have got 10 ratings).

    One of them even wrote that he/she got no answer from the developer when he/she asked for support. I tried to find out the contact data needed to satisfy even this customer, unfortunately, between the username in the comment section and the payment data I was not able to pinpoint the person who reported the problem in the comments section of the product.

    To me Android development is still something very interesting, but would I publish an app on the market again? Probably not, I'd rather distribute the APK some other way (reducing my reach to the conventional area we're active in). People rating with stars and giving comments I cannot interact with might be too much of a threat on the image of the company I work for, simply speaking.

    1. Gosh, I swear my english usually is better. One shouldn't post at 8.30 in the morning on Sundays >_<

      Show the rest of this thread

  7. Stop anonymous commenting on the web.

    One of the great things about codestore is that we nearly all use our real names...We all know who everyone is. We criticise with the knowledge that we are accountable for our posting. This is a proper community.

    Sick to death of bullying on Facebook, anonymous bitching and sniping etc etc all over the internet. Codestore is now the only site I ever (rarely) post on.

    Anonymous commenting is the scourge of the digital age IMHO.

  8. Here are some thoughts on rating systems from John Ciancutti, VP of Engineering at Netflix http://www.quora.com/Is-there-a-better-alternative-to-the-5-star-rating-system .

  9. Just got an idea, we could add rating of ratings.

    So if you like a rating you could rate it high. That way we can also kick back on the negative oppinions. Of course it could be like a thread in a forum with possibility to rate all levels of ratings ;-)

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Written by Jake Howlett on Tue 8 Nov 2011

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CodeStore is all about web development. Concentrating on Lotus Domino, ASP.NET, Flex, SharePoint and all things internet.

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