I think it’s worth writing a post to explain why I took the direction of user-generated ratings with the Green Stars Project. There’s a pretty good chance that you take advantage of user-generated content on a regular basis. Perhaps you were just looking up the difference between herons and cranes on Wikipedia, and then went for a random encyclopedic walk so long that you forgot what you were doing in the first place? Or maybe you’re trying to find a good place to eat to appease an uncomfortable group of new acquaintances at a conference? Or trying to sort out the 200 variables involved in making a new laptop purchase? Doing some hasty research on how to fix an overflowing toilet? Or just looking for some good old cat videos? User-generated content dominates the internet these days because it has become easy to contribute, easy to find, and most of all, it’s useful!
So why do we also need a user-generated Green Stars rating system? Briefly:
- It’s democratic! For these kinds of decisions the power should be in the hands of the people.
- It’s highly visible! The green star ratings will be next to the gold star ratings on the sites we already use.
- It’s current! Green stars ratings can be posted as soon as a product/service is available.
- It’s local! Coverage on review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google Maps can include local businesses of any kind (not just products).
- Small! Many of the most sustainable businesses are very small and not covered in existing ethical consumerism guides. It’s easy, however, to write a Green Stars review on any site.
- It can be specialized! People with specific educational background or knowledge can add specific insights. Also, people who work for the company, or have dealing with them, can speak up.
Crowdsourced ethical consumerism
Overall, crowdsourced (user-generated) content can be much more comprehensive than that of a single organization. It’s the best way of avoiding the bias that often comes with curated reviews from a single source. Users who are good investigators (or have specialized knowledge) can uncover and publicize corporate activities and impact that are not formally reported by the company. Individual users decide on which criteria are more important to them and then the average Green Stars rating will quantify how a cross section of society feels about the company. Thanks to Mira, aka the sociolinguini, for input on this 🙂
So, hopefully that explains why a key feature of the Green Stars Project is that it relies on user-generated content (that’s you and me, folks!). Like any rating system, the work of researching issues is shared – I might write a review of a water filter and you might review a B&B, a veggie box delivery service, or your local Thai restaurant. You don’t have to contribute if you don’t have the time, but you can still take advantage of the content at no cost.
Where are we?
You could say that we are currently in Phase 2 of the Green Stars Project.
Phase 1. I begin writing reviews of products and businesses in order to determine if I can contribute something meaningful. I can gauge the reception based on “useful” votes on my reviews. The response is encouraging.
Phase 2. I set up this GSP blog and attempt to encourage you all to write Green Stars reviews. The blog also provides some guidance on issues to consider.
Phase 3. A reasonable number of people are interested in the idea and begin writing green stars reviews. Visibility hopefully reaches a point where a retailer or review site is convinced that it’s worth formally introducing a Green Stars rating scale and graphic.
If you think this is worthwhile, consider writing a Green Stars review of something! Whether or not this project successfully moves into Phase 3 depends completely on YOU! If you write a review, please let me know. I run a regular competition as an incentive!