Recently the WordPress.org website changed the design of the star rating widget. It now shows the number of ratings per star level which shows us something interesting in user behaviour. I had already suspected that 1 star ratings are done by the type of user that does not actually rate the plugin. They knock the plugin, they want to give others the impression that the plugin has nothing great about it at all. There is no fairness or understanding, just the behavior of what could also be a troll. The change allowing us to see how many people rate even of the five levels of stars may have confirmed my theory and we can see it clearly when we look at the All In One SEO Pack plugin page http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/.
Before reading further. Imaging the image below without the 1 star level. What is left? I see a trend of a good plugin. Ignore the numbers and look at the bar chart. It is without a doubt the trend of a good software. If we hide the 5 star level only, it would look as if the plugin is faulty or not good for its purpose. I started wondering if some users want that to be the impression. They don’t care about a well thought out and intelligent rating. Considering all levels including 2 and 3. They just want to give the most negative impression possible and it often does not take much to trigger it. I know this is true and we can study internet user behavior like this in social networks, online games and support forums.
Do understanding professionals rate 1 star on a software that obviously has its uses? Possibly, but I doubt that is who make up even 50 of the 305 one star ratings in the image below…
Without doing any maths. We can see that around two-thirds of users rate the plugin 4-5 stars. The other third, is not spread over 3,2 and 1 star. About 75% of the other third have rated 1 star. We need to think about what this actually means. How many out of the 305 users shown in the image above, rated 1 star because they prefer another plugin? Is that a fair 1 star, simply because another plugin is better in some areas. How many of the 1 star raters are just trolls. Users with no patience, users who expect everything in life to run perfectly, even free software. The slightest issue and they want to go on the attack. I’ve dealt with these kind of internet users for a long time, so I always consider where the fit in and how they effect products/services.
I’m confident at least 100 of the 1 star ratings in the image are trolls. My definition of a troll being an internet user who is very quick to put their public negative mark on a product or service before seeking support or even considering that any issue experienced might be their fault. Possibly any fault experienced by a troll is a clash of plugins, theme or user error. However there is more to be considered. My conclusion comes from the simple fact that 2 and 3 star ratings are very low. It is my opinion users rate when they have strong feelings towards the software. If they don’t feel passionate or annoyed at the software, they do not rate at all in most cases but sometimes rate 2,3 or 4 stars. People who really like the plugin but found a fault or a shortcoming will also rate 4 star. Hence why 4 stars is still much higher than 2 and 3.
Trolls can’t even bring themselves to rate 2 stars. Else I think in the image above there would be at least another 50 ratings on level 2. Trolls don’t want to indicate to anyone that there is something good in the plugin that they might have use for. They want to rate the lowest, they would rate -10 if they could, to indicate that a software is totally useless, despite so many obviously disagreeing with them.
I’m not saying that rating a software at its lowest level makes a user a troll. I’m suggesting that a large portion of the lowest rating will be trolls. People who we really do not need opinions from.
Many plugins have premium editions. I for one think this is a good thing, providing authors don’t release useless free editions and they continue to improve the free edition. I also think that the authors should not abuse the free service on WordPress.org, especially if they charge for a premium edition. That might be asking for the lowest possible rating. Charging for a plugin and being an author who has bad behavior will annoy good customers, not trolls but paying users, maybe developers.
Do you think any user will rate higher than 2 stars when they feel ethics are being broken or money is involved? I don’t think so. I found a thread by someone suggesting that the author of the All In One Plugin is updating just to get the plugin noticed and the download counter higher. So even without money involved, there can be reasons for a rating to be submitted in response to service and author behavior, not just the software. You can view the thread here. How many 1 star ratings comes from a problem resulting in the service being provided when a user pays money? I think a lot.
We should ignore the 1 star rating as users. Obviously a certain type of user does not ignore 1 star, it matters to them else they would not bother trying to make their impression by rating a plugin 1 star. It could be paying users and so those interested in using the free edition really don’t need their impression of the plugin. They have seen the plugin from the point of view of someone paying for a service rather than using a free software.
As plugin authors we can’t really ignore the 1 star rating. However we should not be too worried about it. All of the most popular plugins have few 2 and 3 star ratings because some users are not out to rate software as a whole. They just want to vent their disappointment in the strongest way possible, especially a way that is not time consuming. I bet if it was not for the rating widget. Plugin forums would be filled out trolling threads, possibly even a lot more abuse. Most of it would result in misunderstanding and basic software issues that can be resolved quickly.
So maybe we need the star rating ability, but do we need to see how many rate 1 star? How many users are really turned away by it rather than make their own mind up and create their own opinion?