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Understanding star ratings

Adding star ratings for your photos and audio recordings is incredibly valuable. When you upload a photo or sound, you can give it a rating, and you can also rate any other media in eBird through the Media Search tool. These quality ratings allow easy sorting of photos or sounds by 'Best Quality', which is a nice and quick way to get some of the best images in any search. Learn how to rate photos here.

eBird and Macaulay Library tools make use of star ratings to help identify the best media.
  • Media Search lets you prioritize photos and sounds by 'Best Quality'
  • Illustrated Checklists, accessed via the Region Explorer and Hotspot Explorer, use the highest-rated image and sound for the region of choice
  • Macaulay Library specimen pages (for example, this one) display the star rating
  • Future developments will also use this functionality
The system that calculates 'Best Quality' is surprisingly complex, using Bayesian statistics to weigh ratings appropriately. We opted not to just do a simple average since we want to weigh consensus opinion appropriately. If one person submitted 100 photos and rates all of them as five stars, should those photos appear above photos which 100 people have rated and have an average of 4.6 stars? Probably not.

In order to appropriately weigh both the star rating and the number of people who have rated a given photo or audio recording, we use the algorithm described here (Warning! Complicated mathematical formulas within!).

Here are a few tips (with no math!) to better understand star ratings:
  • Learn the quick keys: these let you rate photos at lightning speed. Just type the number (1 through 5) when you click a photo to view it full-size.
  • Please rate all your photos. You can do as you upload new assets or even more easily by going to your profile page, clicking 'View all' next to 'Latest Photos' or 'Latest Audio' at the bottom of the page.
  • Ask your friends to rate your photos too. They can do that by visiting your profile page and clicking 'View all' as described above. Please ask them to be honest (i.e., don't ask them "please give all my photos five-star ratings!").
  • Rate photos from other eBirders when you look at them. Again, please give an honest rating, and don't give one stars to try to cancel out what seems like an overly high rating.
  • Remember that all photos are valuable! Even distant and poor images can conclusively document an important rarity. All images are used in Merlin Vision to help us better automate photo ID. And all photos count towards your personal stats on your Profile Page!
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