November 18, 2005
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.
Posted by Eric at November 18, 2005 11:10 AM | Legal Education Industry
While these sorts of sites aren't terribly useful, they could be. I've heard students at all different schools complain that their professor evaluations aren't disclosed to students. I happen to think they should be public, mainly because they were public when I was in law school, and that was incredibly helpful; more generally, it is almost always better to have more, not less, information on products and services.
But if students want public evaluations and can't get them from their schools, why don't they bypass the schools and use these websites? Get the Student Beer (er, Bar) Association to email every student the RateMyProfessors link at the end of the semester, and try to encourage all students to participate. Then publicize the site to your students around course selection time. Even if you get only 50% participation, that'd be very useful information....
Posted by: Scott Moss at November 19, 2005 09:47 PM
I generally subscribe to the more-info-is-better camp, but additional data is useful only if it's credible. The problem is when content databases get overwhelmed by junk content, which is inevitable with poorly policed content collection schemes. Eric.
Posted by: Eric Goldman at November 20, 2005 06:19 PM