The Algebra of Quality (Part 1)

I’m as fanatical about quality as anyone, but having published spoken-word events now for four years, I’ve developed a sort of algebraic view. The absolute need for quality is inversely proportional to the underlying value of that content. For example, if we had the only recording of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, I’m sure we’d publish it regardless of the quality. We would tolerate distortion, noise, etc., because the message is so compelling. But not every presentation is quite as powerful, and as the content trends towards the mundane, our tolerance for poor audio or video rapidly decreases.

Ultimately, it’s market driven: If the quality is inadequate, fewer people will listen. All we need to do is to provide (a) the marketplace where higher quality can compete, (b) the tools to allow quality to be measured by the community, and (c) a support system that allows stringers to improve the quality of their work by learning from one another.

I want to hear everyone’s ideas on this. My instinct is to implement something similar to the Loomia-based rating system we’re using on IT Conversations and Social Innovation Conversations. It’s essentially the same as is used by Amazon or Netflix: a five-star rating. One thought is to apply one rating to content and a second to the technical quality. The latter would be tied to the stringer who would then develop a reputation the same was as buyers and sellers have reputations on eBay.

[Republished from the forums.]

3 thoughts on “The Algebra of Quality (Part 1)

  1. As a regular listener, I have found the overall audio quality of the ITC programs to be quite good. The occasional technical glitch is always disclosed at the start of the program and your quality has improved with tighter editing over the last couple of years.

    I don’t listen to your programs for an audio experience; I listen because they provide good value. As long as they’re audible, I don’t really notice the audio quality.


  2. Great coincidence. I just blogged about a frustrating listening experience, and commenter Karin H from directed me here. I think a quality rating might be very useful as a learning tool for the podcaster. After being so critical in my own post, I suddenly feel sorry for someone who would get 1 or no stars on quality – but then who could stand to listen to them? As I find more and more exciting podcasts, it would be one way to stem the tide. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day. How many podcasts can you listen to? 🙂

    I think this would be especially important for those recording conferences and the like. Podcasts with one or two voices are generally OK, unless the one phone line is horribly poor. Once you are recording groups, especially with a Q&A or any kind of interaction, getting the message requires that you can hear what is being said!

    From another happy ITC listener.


  3. Bear in mind that one of the benefits of Internet broadcasting is that it doesn’t have to appeal to the lowest common denominator; in fact, it’s the opportunity to specialize that’s so valuable. So, the MLK example actually applies to a wide range of talks, presentations, and interviews.

    If the content is of interest to me then I’ll make the effort to listen to it, regardless of quality, as long as it’s reasonably discernible.

    The problem with invited ratings here is that the characteristic being rated has now been blurred – will we be asked to rate the content (in the opinion of a genuinely interested listener), or the quality of the recording/production (in the opinion of anyone else)?

    Suggestion (c) makes lots of sense to me. Great work on ITC!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s