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Gnosis Project FAQ

Version 2.0

July 30, 2004

Part I: General

  1. What is the Gnosis Project? The Gnosis Project is a web site that contains ratings and reviews of a large number of musical recordings. A definition of the music we cover can be found here: Gnosis Project Music . Currently there are over 100 raters, 1500+ reviews, and over 76,000 albums in the database. The web site is http://gnosis2000.net.
  2. What is the purpose of the site? To provide a macroscopic view of the musical recordings on the site. The ratings and the associated statistics allow you to get a feel for what some people think are the best or most representative albums of these genres. Along with our reviews and other sources, such as word of mouth, you can use the Gnosis Project information to focus in on albums that you will probably like and/or want to purchase.
  3. Who created the concept? Mike McLatchey and Tom Hayes in an evening of brainstorming on April 9, 1999. Dirk Evans was the first recruit and has been the webmaster ever since. Tom and Dirk currently serve as project directors. These positions tend to rotate based on personal priorities.
  4. Who is involved? You can find a complete list of raters (with short biographies) here: The Gnosis Raters
  5. Who comprises current staff? The current administrative staff can be at The Staff page.
  6. What is the best way to use Gnosis? Gnosis can be used in many ways, and different people are likely to have different ways of using it. Gnosis presents quite a bit of raw data that is subject to interpretation. There is no "one" way.
  7. What is the best way for newcomers to use Gnosis? We recommend using the "View Top Rated Album" feature with no other search criteria. This will show the top ranked albums using our Significance statistic for a list of highly recommended albums. Along the way, compare your perceptions of some albums with those of some raters. After doing this a few times you'll probably develop an idea of which raters tend to agree with you the most. Then, you can use these individuals grades as indicators of albums that you might want to try.
  8. What is the best way for someone who has a good-sized collection to use Gnosis? We recommend researching the albums you know to determine which raters correlate best with your own tastes. Then take a look at these individuals ratings. Consider the ones at the top not in your collection!


Part II: Statistics and Grades

  1. What statistics does Gnosis offer? Gnosis provides a wide variety of statistics. For each album, we report the average (mean), standard deviation, median, and modified average. Albums are ranked according to the modified average (aka the Significance statistic), as well as by country/region and year also according to the modified average.
  2. What is the Significance statistic? This is a metric that allows us to directly compare albums with a different number of ratings. The modified average for a given album always is a number between the overall average of all albums and the average for that album. As the number of ratings for the album grows, the modified average moves towards the album average. The modified average grows quickly at first then tapers off as the number of raters grows past a certain number. The behavior that we are trying to capture here is that the difference between having 5 and 10 ratings should be greater than the difference between having 15 and 20 ratings. Note that the modified average prevents an album with a small number of ratings from jumping to the top or bottom of the album rankings.
  3. Which statistics should I use? Whichever ones suit you best. Many Gnosis visitors probably use the modified average the most, but the (raw) average is useful as well, because a high average means that an album has consistently high ratings. The standard deviation allows you to determine roughly how much the raters agree about a particular album. The smaller the standard deviation, the greater the agreement, and vice versa. The median is not heavily influenced by outliers and is appropriate to use when there are one or two ratings that are far from the rest of the ratings.
  4. Where did the 0-15 scale come from? Some of the Gnosis founders had been rating their albums for many years. A rating scheme that had become popular was the one-to-five star system, with plusses and minuses. This gives a total of 15 possible grades, leaving zero to mean "not graded" or "I havent heard it." This system corresponds to a school-like scheme where there are also five base grades (A, B, C, D, F) which can be modified with plusses and minuses.
  5. Why not just use a 1-10 scale? It allows for more granularity, especially at the higher levels. For example, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to distinguish between an 8 and a 9 on a traditional scale. We now can use 9, 10, 11 and 12 to aid with this dilemma. We feel the 15 point scale is one of the more distinguishing characterictics of the Gnosis Project and separates us from the competition. It's interesting to note that the Gnosis Rating System is now in the daily lexicon amongst music collectors.
  6. How should I interpret the grades on the 1-15 scale? This definition of the Ratings Scale is available from any page of search results.
  7. How should I interpret a grade of 0? A 0 grade indicates that the rater has reviewed the entry and has decided not to grade it, usually because the rater has not heard the album.
  8. How should I interpret a grade of "-"? This grade means "ungraded" and indicates one of two things: either the album has been recently entered into the database and the rater has not had a chance to make a decision on it yet, or the rater has heard the album but does not want to rate it. Reasons for the latter are varied, including not wanting to offend the artist, some form of association with the artist (e.g., the rater is the artist or has financial ties to the artist), the albums style being too far outside of the raters tastes, or that the rater hasnt had enough time to fully digest the album. Some raters will leave an album in the ungraded state until they have listened to it enough times to be comfortable with assigning a grade.
  9. Do all raters use these interpretations when they rate albums? Most probably do, but some do not. We don't want to be too strict when providing guidelines to raters because all people exhibit different personalities when they rate albums. So weve given a rough interpretation of each grade, and it is up to the individual raters to mesh this interpretation with their own. Keep this in mind when you use Gnosis. Occasionally youll find that one raters 10 is another raters 12 and vice versa.
  10. Are these grades objective or subjective? The principle behind the ranking is to show what raters actually think about the album, their true opinion. Factors should not include its historical importance or commercial viability for example. Just how much they like an album from the heart.
  11. Can raters change their grades? Yes. This is one of the great benefits of having a dynamic web site each participant may alter the grades as they wish. In fact, it's highly encouraged raters continually reevaluate. Rater's perceptions change over time and this will be reflected on the site. It is not uncommon for a raters initial grade to change by 2-3 points as he becomes more familiar with the material.
  12. Do the raters really have the time to grade thousands of albums fairly? Won't some albums be graded on just a single listen? Most raters are very active listeners and have been for many years. However it is inevitable that some grades will be given on first impressions or on a single listen. The fact that raters are encouraged not to give a grade over 11 on the first listen and that they can change their grades over time mitigates the impact of such grades.


Part III: Administrative Issues

  1. How do I contact the Gnosis administrators? Please use the feedback form on our Contact Page.
  2. How often does the site get updated? Usually once per day, but occasionally when the directors go on vacation, there can be several-day breaks between updates.
  3. How often are albums added? Every single day.
  4. Can I add albums? Yes, anyone can suggest albums to be added to Gnosis. Go to http://gnosis2000.net/suggesttitles.shtml
  5. How are raters chosen? For the most part, they are volunteers. Our main criteria are that a Gnosis rater must have both breadth and depth. Breadth means the ability to rate a large amount of albums from a range of genres, and depth means that the rater must be able to go far beyond the surface (the most well-known albums) in some of these genres. However, we use these criteria as guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Also, we expect raters to be able to keep rating new albums that are added to Gnosis. Failure to do so may result in a rater being terminated from Gnosis.
  6. Why are you so picky about who becomes a rater? Aren't the opinions of all people who listen to music just as valuable? Yes, the opinions of all people are equally valuable. We're selective about adding new raters for several reasons: (1) We feel this is another feature that separates us positively from the others. For example, anyone can add their opinion to Amazon, but is it an informed opinion? It may or may not be, but you do not have context or background of the reviewer. At Gnosis, one can determine a rater's prejudices and likes with careful study. (2) We want Gnosis users to get the most "bang for their buck" in terms of useful information from the site. A rater that can only grade a few hundred albums adds less value than a rater who can grade a few thousand. (3) We're trying to avoid a "tragedy of the commons" of sorts in which albums that are well-known end up with the highest grades because of their availability (note that this problem can't totally be avoided, but we can mitigate its impact).
  7. I want to be a rater. What should I do? If you think that you fit the criteria, send a message to the Gnosis Directors via our Contact Page


Part IV: Miscellaneous

  1. Album X is my favorite album, but it isn't anywhere near the top of the Gnosis rankings. Why not? The Gnosis rankings only reflect the opinions and considerations of the Gnosis raters. If album X is not rated highly, that doesn't mean that it isn't good, nor should it be taken as a slight to fans of album X. The Gnosis rankings only reflect the rough consensus of a number of people, not the opinions of any particular individual.
  2. How do you determine the year for albums? Gnosis uses two methods for ordering albums by years. In the ratings list, the year used is generally the date of the recording, although release date is used if the recording date is within 3 years of the release date. If an album consists of recordings from multiple years, generally the year from whence the majority of material comes from is used. If that method cannot be used due to equal distribution, generally the latest recording date will be used. Many albums prove exceptions to the rules. For the most part, we just use the copyright year given in the liner notes, however if this differs over three years between recording and copyright date, we generally use the recording date. However, when ordering the scans on the review pages we generally order by release date, and will note all applicable dates in the caption. This is obviously not widespread, but will grow with additional reviews. So don't be surprised if you see years in our database that disagrees with other sources. Given our methods, if you think that we've gotten something wrong (and it is inevitable that we have), drop us a line. It is the intent of Gnosis to enable the system to include both recording and release date in the future.
  3. Does Gnosis include classical music? Technically, no. Classical is very difficult to fit into the Gnosis system because there are no original albums per se. Also, the quality of the music can vary dramatically based on the performance and interpretation of the piece. However, there is a fine line between classical, and certain types of new, experimental and minimalist schools (Riley, Reich, Glass, and many others). So you'll find some classical recordings here and there if you look hard enough.

Part V: The Future

  1. Does Gnosis accept donations? Yes, Gnosis does accept donations to help defray the costs of maintaining the site. Visit the Contribute to Gnosis Project page or contact the Gnosis Directors via our Contact Page for details.
  2. Why does it take so long to add features to the site? Currently, all of the programming is done by a small group of people, in their spare time. As a result, progress is slow.

  3. Stay tuned - much, much more will be added to the Gnosis Project!!!