Dear Whiskybase community members and administrators,
Whisky ratings trouble me a great deal and as a general rule i do not subscribe to them. There is however one particular issue regarding ratings that has greatly troubled me of late that could lead to the abuse of Whiskybase as a whole. My concern is this:
What stops a person or persons significantly boosting the rating of a whisky on the database that they are selling at auction. Indeed, what stops a person setting up a WB account with the sole purpose to boost the ratings of bottles they own and are due to sell. Im sure many buyers use [and should use] WB as a guide to buying bottles, and the value of that bottle and our decision to buy is surely influenced in part by its WB rating and inclusion. Worryingly this matter isn't exclusive to auctions.
A case in point. I was interested in an auction lot recently and duly looked the bottle up on WB only to find one WB rating, a particularly high rating and one that didn’t seem to reflect the general scores of that whisky/year/bottler/other community views etc. I looked into this member to gauge his/her experience, knowledge etc and what they rate other bottles. I subsequently noticed that that member had also been the only person to rate rather highly, another bottle that was in the same auction. I can’t prove either way whether this is a coincidence or something more sinister, but it does raise the issue - what deters that seller from rating a whisky outrageously high for possible monetary gain? What stops a new member, a few friends, a group or a company establishing a superb rating of a largely unknown bottle and pushing its rating into the high 90’s, thus affecting its auction price or sale? But more importantly, what helps us WB members to become more generally aware?
Another case in point is a similar situation of a bottle in auction that had one stupendous rating of 97.5 on WB. When i looked at that members info/activity, i noticed that they had just joined the WB as their whole collection had just been added hours before. So i concluded this was an inexperienced member who hadn’t got a wide enough knowledge of whisky. If this was the case, i would disregard the rating. In fact this new member displayed a large and serious collection of bottles including some rare bottling many of which happened to be available on the most current online auction. So then my suspicions were raised once again.
It was that members recent 'activity' which got me thinking - date stamp all reviews, notes and ratings and not just the last 15, just like forum posts. That way at least you’ll be cautious when a bottle comes up at auction the same day/week as a miraculously high rating appears. It wont trip up the long term cunning trickster but it will deter the quick buck opportunist.
Now you may be thinking, why does any of this really matter? These suspicions and hunches are small issues that don’t concern the day to day activities of trustworthy members and whisky enthusiasts. The fact is Whiskybase is based on trust and we all need to be aware of the possibility of abuse if the integrity of Whiskybase is to be maintained. It only takes one bad apple so the saying goes so we need to be super vigilant in this digital age as much as at any time and scrutinise everything we see and read, if we are to protect the provenance of this community.
I would be interested to hear your views, thoughts and experiences on this topic and urge Whiskybase to include time stamps on our activities for our protection.