Measuring Excellence

Our goal at Slant is to be the first and last stop in product research. When you’re not sure which of several options is the best for your needs, we want to have the answer for you — preferably before you even ask. The latest refinements to our ranking systems represent a major step toward that goal — big enough, in fact, that we’re finally comfortable allowing those systems to label certain products “The Best” for a particular use case, without further qualification.

The most visible part of these changes is a new badge system for highly-ranked options. The most common badge you’ll see across Slant is “Excellent” — this indicates a product which is not only well-ranked relative to the competition, but also has a highly positive user recommendation history regardless of other options. “Excellent” options have strong features to offer, and are always worth taking a look at.

In some topics, you’ll find an even stronger badge: “The Best.” To earn this badge, an option must already pass the “Excellent” test, i.e. be generally great. But on top of that, it must have significantly better recommendation history than its nearest competitor. There may be “Excellent” options in the same list — they’re still great too, and might have one killer feature that sets them apart for a specific use. But from here on out, we’re basically staking our reputation on this promise: If we say it’s “The Best,” we’re certain you won’t be disappointed!

Users who frequent our gaming topics will see another badge: “Must Play.” With games, you’re usually not picking one to the exclusion of the rest. “Must Play” is an absolute statement, independent of the competition.

Under the hood, we’ve made numerous changes to ensure accurate rankings. We’ve introduced several metrics of account trust and maturity, both to combat deliberate spam and to adjust for the statistical anomalies caused by enthusiasts posting a “vote for us” link. We’ve made sure that “downvoting all the competition” is an ineffective strategy, and adjusted for the tendency of one popular product to be a downvote magnet for fans of all its competitors. We’ve improved our decay algorithm — a ranking penalty for products that haven’t seen any recommendations in a while — and we’ve implemented a concept of “raising the bar” whereby a truly exceptional option can disqualify alternatives from “Excellent” status.

There’s one downside to all of these adjustments: the simple 👍/👎 counts no longer tell an accurate story. Those are still sticking around, but we’re also working on new ways to concisely convey (and visualize!) our ranking scores and the considerations behind them. And we’ve got a lot of other big improvements coming soon… but those are topics for another day.

Until then, stay awesome!