We’ve been making significant changes to our weekly(ish) video cigar review show at Stogie’d. We’ve gotten better graphics, bought a real music package, gone HD and shortened the length of the episodes by cutting out parts of the review.
Now, though, it’s time to cross a line I’ve been thinking about stepping over for quite awhile now: Dropping the points system altogether from the reviews. While I have specific reasons why I’m dropping them, I’ll first let you know why this is happening now … well, starting next week, anyways.
In my travels through the various cigar blogs* last weekend, I stumbled across a link to an opinion piece at Huffington Post/AOL called “The 100-Point Scale is Dead, of Pity for Wine Hath it Died,” by David J. Duman. Several items in the article really crystallized my thinking on this subject, but the main one was this point:
I argue that the process is substantively meaningless rather than inherently flawed because, in application, the use of it provides no net benefit to any party other than he who awards the score and he who receives a “good or great” score, which is commonly held to be a score of 90 points or more. Such a system, while not inherently tautological, is always a step away from becoming a self-fulfilling loop.
Here, Duman is talking about wine, and the use of the scale by people like Robert Parker and publications like Wine Spectator. But I think his article can easily be applied to the cigar world as well.
While I’ve used a 0-5 scale, it doesn’t take much math skill to figure out a 100-point conversion from that scale, like the one Cigar Aficionado magazine uses — heck, I’ve done it on-camera myself for the two latest episodes. I can see his whole point about the “self-fulfilling” loop.
As I said earlier, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now. Duman’s article served to push me over the edge. though. Besides the reasons listed in his article, here’s why I’m doing it:
- I’m not a pro. I’m not sure what makes someone a cigar-tasting pro. I just know that I’m not that someone. Do I have opinions about cigars? Sure. Can I distinguish among flavors of a cigar? You betcha. Even with all of that, I’m just an amateur. And I’m cool with that. So I’ll continue to produce these videos, and I’ll keep on telling you what I think of them. I’m just not going to award points. Even that phrase sounds pompous to me, as I’m not a grandiose kind of guy.
- I still felt like I was assuming things about others. I had dropped the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” section of my videos — this area had been based on a combination of price and what I discovered in the ratings process — because I felt like I was making a determination of what people should be able to pay for a cigar. In reality, I didn’t have a clue about that. Even with the ratings numbers, I still felt like I was presuming what others thought about cigars by giving them points. Now, I’m just going to talk about what I’m tasting and discovering while I smoke the cigar in question.
- My episodes contain only initial impressions. Because of my costs (I pay for our own sticks and booze here at Stogie’d), I can only buy three to five cigars at a time. This means I’m likely not to have the opportunity to pre-smoke a particular cigar before going on-camera to review it. Awarding points to a hand-made product where sample errors might affect the product’s quality, especially when I’m only trying one of them, always rubbed me the wrong way.
- Pre- and post-production time. This one’s a truly selfish reason, but it was affecting my work; both here at Stogie’d and at my job. Having to produce all of the points graphics took a lot of time; not only in pre-producing them, but in the “rendering” process. By taking away the numeric ratings, I’ve really cut back my workload for these episodes going forward.
- Other production considerations. I’m also hoping the total runtime of the episodes comes down even more, by eliminating the ratings numbers. I’d like to get them under eight minutes. In addition, I’m having problems with large file sizes for these videos, especially after going to HD. Cutting out a lot of the file size-hogging graphics should help bring the file sizes to a more manageable level.
In addition, I’m implementing a formal review policy for all of my shows distributed through Stogie’d TV; you can read the details here.
If you’d like to read more about the original premise, here’s Duman’s original article (the HuffPost article was a trimmed version of this original piece), which also has him going back and forth with a top Wine Spectator editor about the system. Makes for fascinating reading.
*For the life of me, I can’t remember where I saw this particular article. That really bugs me, as I always give credit for these kinds of things. If someone knows which cigar blogger originally linked to this article, please let me know in the Comments section, and I’ll be sure to give credit where it is due. Thanks.