Are You Hot or Not?, Academic Style

Slate writes about RateMyProfessor.com, one of the several websites designed to capture student word-of-mouth about professors. As the article points out, one dominant theme emerges–students want professors who are hot. Fortunately, I’m not listed (yet) in RateMyProfessor.com, a status I’m not complaining about. I’ve never considered hotness my strong suit (although I do try to glam it up for class).

I think the idea of capturing word-of-mouth is generally a great idea (hence, my stint at Epinions). If done properly, these websites could help decision-makers make smart choices in the marketplace. Unfortunately, I think these professor rating sites are usually not very credible. One of the lessons I learned at Epinions is that voting/rating systems need stabilization–not every vote deserves to be treated equally. Specifically, there needs to be some filtration process that prevents the jokey, deranged or vindictive votes from distorting the tally. Otherwise, the gamesters/fraudsters ultimately take over the system, and the resulting data is junk. The Slate article provides some nice examples of the inevitable degradation of the RateMyProfessor database.

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