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Guidelines for ratings and reviews on Theme Park Insider

Here are some tips from Theme Park Insider's editor to keep in mind when ratings the rides, shows, restaurants and hotels listed on the TPI website.

From Robert Niles
Posted March 22, 2008 at 8:37 PM
Here are some guidelines, from Theme Park Insider's editor, to keep in mind when you are rating rides, shows, restaurants and hotels listed on the website.

1. Rate only the locations where you've been within the last two years.
Don't rate a ride if you have not ridden it recently. Do not rate a show you haven't seen. Don't rate a restaurant if you have not eaten there. Don't rate hotels where you've not stayed. We want the Theme Park Insider ratings and reviews to reflect readers' experience, and not some impression of "reputation" or conventional wisdom.

2. Think about how one location should rate relative to the other locations where you've been.
Not every ride, show, restaurant or hotel is the same. So why give them the same rating? Don't be afraid to use lower ratings on some locations, in order to create "separation" between the ratings of great rides (for example) and the not-so-great. And rate locations relative to *all* the locations you've visited at all the theme parks you've attended. Give the best ones top ratings and the below-average ones below-average ratings.

3. Read the rating descriptions.
We do not use numbers on the rating forms here at Theme Park Insider. We use adjectives instead. That's because we want you to really think about your experience when rating a ride, restaurant, hotel or show, and not reflexively assign it some arbitrary number.

Here are some additional descriptions for each rating, along with a sample attraction that Theme Park Insider's editor thinks fits within that category:

  • Perfection - One of the standard-setting models for the entire industry. The very best ride at one of the very best parks. (The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man)
  • Outstanding - Nearly perfect, but with a few flaws or missed opportunities. (Splash Mountain - Would be perfect, except for that sometimes long gap between the drop and the musical finale. But a 'don't miss' ride, nevertheless.)
  • Commendable - Among the "must sees" at a park, but lacking some significant dimension that distinguishes better options. (Millennium Force - Excellent ride, but without the theming or narrative that other top thrill rides offer.)
  • Good - One you'd hate to miss on a park visit, but that wouldn't ruin the day if you did. (Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters)
  • Fair - One that is better than average but not worth going out of your way for by itself. (Mr. Toad's Wild Ride)
  • Average - Half the ones you've visited are better; half are worse. (Pets Ahoy!)
  • Mediocre - A notch below average, but worth doing after you've done all your favorites in the park. (Sun Wheel)
  • Weak - Below average, and not really worth doing more than once, even after you've done all your favorites in the park. (Eiffel Tower)
  • Lame - Not enjoyable, but not a frustrating or painful experience, either. (Jaguar)
  • Pathetic - Fundamental problems with design and/or operation that made this frustrating, painful or an otherwise negative experience. (Tuck & Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies)
  • Intolerable or Unsafe - Just that. (Use your personal judgment here.)

4. Consider your kids' POV on the young kids' rides.
Some rides, such as Disney's Dumbo and many of the attractions at Legoland, are designed for young children, including toddlers, preschoolers and early-elementary students. They're not really for visitors of all ages, just for young kids and their grown-up companions. Again, rule number 1 applies. Don't rate these unless you've been on them in the past two years. And if you do rate them, try to rate them from the child's perspective. How does this ride rate relative to other little kids' rides you've ridden with kids?

These kids' rides are typically shorter, much less intense and may have less theming than family and grown-up rides. (That's because they are for little kids.) So you should give young kids' rides a higher rating than you would "grown-up" rides of similar intensity. Compare young kids' riders against other rides for people of the same age group when rating.

Thank you for taking the times to rate and review on Theme Park Insider the locations you've visited recently. Your input helps make this site such a valuable trip-planning resource for more than two million readers every year.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From James Rao
Posted March 22, 2008 at 9:59 PM
Beautiful.

Somehow you need to make sure this posting is readily available, like your "Guidelines For Writers" link. Furthermore, the definitions of the ratings should somehow be incorporated into the flow when people input ratings. It is always good to give people a "gold standard" for their ratings.


From Robert Niles
Posted March 22, 2008 at 11:06 PM
It will be. I'm giving it a day or two before embedding it into the nav and welcome e-mail, though. Mainly 'cause I'm just spent from the tournament right now.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted March 22, 2008 at 11:42 PM
This is great, Robert.

I've always wanted an explanation link (a link on each attraction would be great, but not necessary).

From Matthew Baker
Posted March 23, 2008 at 5:42 AM
Poor: injecting personal bias into what should be neutral guidelines by means of personal suggestions, potentially creating contention where there should be none

Poor: unfairly categorizing rides that are both intended and suitable for persons of any age who take an interest in it as "kiddie" rides only intended for young children accompanied by their parents. Better to keep the definition of "kiddie ride" limited to those for which there truly exists a maximum age or height requirement with at most only parents/chaperones exempted

Not the ideal standard being exhibited on what is being considered a professional or at least semi-professional website. Unfortunate, in light of the potentially-valuable content this site provides, such as safety reports

From Larry Zimmerman
Posted March 23, 2008 at 8:10 AM
Great, Robert! Now, how about a wallet-sized card all the afficianados can carry with them...

From James Rao
Posted March 23, 2008 at 11:14 AM
GUIDELINE: direction or advice as to a decision or course of action.

==> No one is being forced to vote a certain way. Guidelines are a tool to help users provide a more valuable service in the form of meaningful ratings.

RATING: A position assigned on a scale; a standing; a progressive classification, as of size, amount, importance, or rank.

==> When a rating system is used, a definition is also required, else the rating is meaningless. Mr. Niles has simply provided a definition for the rating system used on this website.

I see no harm in adding both definition and advice for the ratings on this site.

From Robert Niles
Posted March 23, 2008 at 6:30 PM
Dumbo, to me as an adult riding alone, is an exceedingly weak ride. It just goes around in a circle, and somewhat slowly at that. It's value derives purely from the fact that my kids, when two to four years old, adored it because it allowed them to fly "way up high" in the air in a fancy vehicle.

I think a rating that reflects Dumbo's value to me as an adult, alone, misses the point. Dumbo's rating ought to reflect its value to its primary audience, which is young children. So I would not dare rate it as weak, indeed I think it ought to be good, or better, by its value to the kids who ride it. (Again, I am citing Dumbo here as an example of a class of rides.) That's what I am trying to say with #4 above.

From Derek Potter
Posted March 23, 2008 at 7:31 PM
Reviews are always going to be left to the interpretation of the rider no matter what. Some see perfection in rides like Millennium Force because theming isn't necessary to make it a great ride (I personally will take it over most themed coasters I've ridden 9 out of 10 times) On the other hand, some just don't like coasters. Water rides are other people's cup of tea There will eternally be a debate on the necessity of theming and whether or not it increases the experience or covers up a mediocre one, and whether or not it is required to acheive "perfection". I would venture to say that many voting on the site won't be as well traveled or well versed on the subject of theme/amusement parks as others, but please do your best.

I'm all for posting the new guidelines. Ride the rides, shows, and attractions you have ridden, and put some real thought into your votes. No superfan voting. Of course all of this is done on the honors system, so here's to hoping that the reviewers stay honest. There are so many different flavors out there meant for different people, and I think that seeing a ride for what it is and what it was built to accomplish is something to consider. Mr Toad's Wild Ride wasn't really built to thrill people, so don't give it a 5 because it doesn't go a hundred miles an hour and doesn't get your adrenaline going, give it a 5 because it didn't tell the story effectively or didn't capture your imagination. On the other hand, don't give Goliath a 5 because it didn't "tell a story", give Goliath a 5 because it was uncomfortable, or not thrilling enough..etc etc. Just my two cents on reviewing.

Just a question...will the ratings be reset? I'm not sure I think they should be, but it's something to think about anyway.


From Rob P
Posted March 25, 2008 at 7:24 AM

Robert ....I hope that people aren't misinterpreting your review guidelines as anything other than that..........guidelines.

I think most of us get what your saying.

From Mostly Anonymous
Posted March 25, 2008 at 10:19 AM
It's so true that a ride you hate can suddenly become a big favorite once you become a parent.

Once upon a time, didn't a lot of the kiddie rides have a separate "for kids" rating? That probably did help people to rate the rides more fairly. But it can be very hard to decide what's a kiddie ride and what isn't. Depends on the kids!

Every ride-rating website has its strengths and weaknesses. This site has always had a bias towards thrill rides, and I think that's fine. There are plenty of other sites that stress the strengths of less thrilling rides.

From Robert Niles
Posted March 26, 2008 at 8:41 AM
"Bias toward thrill rides?"

I don't really see that. In fact, we take a lot of heat for an alleged hostility to thrill rides. (See the Best Ride Tournament comments.)

As for the separate kids ratings, yes, we did that at one time, but ended it when I rewrote the software that handles the rating tabulations. I'm messing around the some options to bring a form of that back, though.

From Mostly Anonymous
Posted March 26, 2008 at 5:08 PM
Perhaps the site's voters have moved away from supporting thrill rides, and I just haven't noticed the change yet. I haven't tried to analyze the ratings!

But I do know that this site had Islands of Adventure as the top park for a number of years. And although I do love it, that's a park where if you're pregnant or have a heart condition, you'll be spending a lot of time twiddling your thumbs.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted March 26, 2008 at 5:54 PM
Robert and MA are both right. The registered readers, for the most part, love theme parks. But within those theme parks, they like the thrill rides the most.

And "thrill rides", in my opinion, does not necessarily define fast or high rides. It defines an exciting attraction, like T2: 3D, or even Soarin'.

From Robert Niles
Posted May 14, 2011 at 10:16 AM
FYI, I cleared out some spam and off-topic stuff in this thread, since it is now linked from the bottom of all TPI pages.

This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.

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