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Not enough stars

If you put in the work to develop a new route; bolting it, cleaning it, breaking off the loose rock; you probably don’t want to give it just one or two stars.

Sure the rock quality could be better, and the hardest section isn’t very fun, but it has some redeeming qualities.

Not 4 out of 4 stars, we save that for the crème de la crème…

… but not 1 or 2, we save that for the routes we shouldn’t have bolted in the first place.

3 out of 4 stars then. Not one the best routes, but certainly worth doing.

The problem with this system is its inability to distinguish between the ok routes and the really good routes: they are all lumped together at 3 out of 4 stars. And if we care about the experience of the user (the whole point of the star system in the first place), it matters.

If a first time visitor tries a 3-star route and has a less-than-great experience, how likely are they to hike up the hill to another 3-star route that is actually really good? Will they ever come back to the crag? Or try any other route put up by the same developer?

The goal is to provide information to the user to maximize their chances of finding the experience they are looking for. But we don’t have enough stars to choose from.

6-out-of-10 stars vs. 8-out-of-10 stars paints a much better picture: both routes are worth doing, but the gap between them is clear.

A 10-star system. An interesting idea.

…or, we could simply be ruthless with the 4 stars we have.

An alternative 4-start system:

0 stars – shouldn’t have been bolted, don’t waste your time.

1 star – it’s a route, and the more adventurous rock aficionados will find something to enjoy.

2 stars – worth doing, but not a priority if you’re limited on time: some of the holds might break.

3 stars – this is a really great route, and the rock is excellent: one of the crème.

4 stars – an absolute classic, the crème de la crème: if you have to pick one, pick this.

When we give people the information that matches their experience, we build trust. On the other hand, if we compromise that trust by promoting a mediocre route, we may never get it back.