Rating Stuff in Norway

Kara Davis, Former Viget

Article Category: #Design & Content

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Dice, according to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, are "small cubes of plastic, ivory, bone, or wood, marked on each side with one to six spots, usually used in pairs in games of chance or in gambling."

They also form the basis of online reviews in Norway. Some context:

"...the newspapers next morning, both locals and national seemed to give a careful "thumb's up," most of them landed the dice on four out of six eyes, I guess I was around that too?"
- from a Bob Dylan fan site

"JABULANI receives 5 and 6 on the dice from main newspaper"


I'd never encountered dice as a rating system before, but I have it straight from a good source that it is quite common in Norway, and I've found examples on several sites.




Now, while I might advocate a rating scale of 1 to 6 for sites with a Norwegian audience, I'm not going to suggest that everyone switch from stars to dice. And there are exceptions in Norway itself, of course. I do think it's interesting to consider the use of familiar items in rating scales, though. Thumbs up/thumbs down is pretty clear, and in using dice, everyone knows that you're rating on a scale of 1 to 6 (D&D folks excluded). Travel guides have set the standard that hotels and restaurants are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, and while that scale may not be implied in the same way, it's at least been used consistently enough that it's comfortable and obvious. At least you know what to expect from a 4-star hotel (for the most part), and you are duly impressed when one declares itself a 6 or 7-star hotel, even when you know that rating was pulled out of the ether.

Generally, I'm so used to seeing different rating scales that I don't really expect them to be the same from site-to-site. It only bothers me if there's no obvious key or visual cue on the page. So I guess I'm wondering whether an implied scale makes any difference to people as they evaluate a service or product. Does a familiar gesture or item make it easier, or less of a chore, to process product reviews? Or, if I'm just a visual person, is it still simpler for me to distinguish the number of stars lit up in a row than it is to count the dots on the side of a die? Also, does anyone know of any other countries or online communities that use dice or other objects somewhat consistently for this purpose? Bonus if anyone can tell me more about how the dice system evolved in Norway.

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