Google Play Store rating/recommendation system is broken and how to fix it

The Google Play store has an app rating/recommendation system. When you are on the main screen of the store it will show you an app you have installed and ask you to rate it using a star rating (no need to type in a textual review) so that it can recommend you other applications.

I used to be eager to fill these in, hoping it would find some gem that would suit my tastes. Sadly, I now realize the mechanism is fundamentally broken.

Here are two recent experiences I’ve had with this feature:

In the first case I had installed two weather applications on my phone. I tried both and didn’t like them. For one of these I wrote a negative review. I removed both and installed a third one. After a couple of days Google asked me to rate this new app. I gave it a four star rating. Google Play then prompted me to try some more weather apps.

This scenario has me, the user, searching for a specific kind of application and settling on one I like. My search for such an application has ended in a satisfactory way. Signaling my satisfaction shouldn’t prompt Google Play to suggest more alternatives.

In another case, the Play Store asked me to rate the to-do list app I have been using for the past few months. Since I really like it I also give it a strong rating.

Again the Play Store suggested more to-do list apps to install. A to-do list app is really something you only need one of.

How to fix it

The solution for this problem is to look at the type of app or product that is being rated. Is it a game, a widget, a productivity app, a book, a magazine?

Each of these broad categories could then be assigned a value indicating whether a good rating from the user would preclude the recommendation of similar apps or promote it.

So if I give a good rating, say 4 or 5 stars, to a weather widget the recommendation system would not suggest me another app with the same functionality.

On the other hand, if I give a poor rating to such an app, I would want Google Play to suggest some highly rated and popular alternative. I took the time to install and try out a particular type of app and clearly I’m not satisfied by it. Chances are I’ll be interested to find a better one.

Similarly, if I give a good rating to a sci-fi book or action movie it should offer more of the same. Movies, books, magazines and certain types of apps should continue to work the way they do now.

The system could be further expended to classify different types of apps or products. Rather than bunch all non-gaming apps in the same category it could be further improved by using the existing sub categories and even making finer distinctions amongst these existing sub categories.

It should also drill down further by using collected user data.

Do users of this app install similar apps in the same sub category after rating positively or not? This information could be collected (it probably already is) and then used to calculate the value of whether to preclude or promote similar results on a positive review.

This modification would make the current system much more useable.

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