Irate on Untappd

 

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I recently posted a poll on Twitter asking whether it is fair that breweries can rate their own beers on Untappd. The response was huge. So big, in fact, that I decided to combine my own thoughts with those of others on the matter.

If you aren’t familiar with Untappd, it is essentially a web and mobile-based beer rating application. Nearly all breweries are using it nowadays and many bars are making the most of the recently added features that can quickly update their beer lists and broadcast them to the world. Unlike RateBeer (which also has an app), Untappd has rapidly become the beer drinker’s choice on which to rate alcoholic beverages. I think this is due to the intelligible and relatively user friendly interface of the app. For me, RateBeer seems to be the place where it is almost assumed that someone will write more than 140 characters about a beer, while characterising the technical details of its foaming ivory head or its peach-like aroma. A lot of people on Untappd tend to use it as a bookmark of sorts: to keep track of the beers they have drunk, whereas RateBeer, as the name suggests, places more emphasis on the rating of the beer.

Initially I decided to post this poll to gather general public opinion along with that of brewery affiliates. This quickly evolved in to the ethics of it all. Bars, bottle shops and people in general can’t collect every bottle in the UK, let alone the world (they aren’t Pokémon, after all); it’s impossible to taste every beer from every brewery, so to use some form of internet based rating app would surely separate the most wanted, well-received beers from the not-so-wanted, right? However, with people rating their own beers, or those of affiliated breweries, the temptation to rate them as ‘5 out of 5’ would surely arise. The call of the social media marketing opportunity. This would inevitably aide certain beers and help raise them to the top of the ‘pops’, so to speak. Make the brewery look good and the beer look even better. From my perspective, this creates a fake, undeserved hype.

When the poll went live, at least 20% of 176 voters disagreed with my thoughts on the matter.

Whichever option Purity Alex voted for is somewhat irrelevant (if indeed they did vote in the poll), as you can’t see the individual responses, however Twitter comments such as these added extra perspective on what people believe. Purity Alex has a very valid point. Untappd is a free tool that anyone can use. There are no restrictions on rating certain breweries or beers. My only gripe with the example given is that you can only vote for yourself once in an election. Untappd will allow you to rate beers multiple times, whether you have links to that brewery or not. Whether people do this to their own beers remains unseen, however the ability to create multiple Untappd accounts can facilitate, as Two Towers have alluded to:

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There are many brewers that are honest and critical of their own work, who benefit from rating their own beers on Untappd. Following the progression of a beer through its time in the bottle/ keg is one example of how using a beer rating site can help to progress and improve a beer. How many times have you forgotten how a beer tasted, only to be surprised or shocked the second time around? You are, however, only judging based on your own taste buds; surely over time you will be slightly biased to your own product. A point Sean made:

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After 3 days of polling it became clear what the majority thought. Be it brewers or beer drinkers, most people felt that rating your own beers on Untappd isn’t the way to do things. A massive 67% – around 119 people. There seem to be many reasons why people thought this way:

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Boak and Bailey decided not to be too cynical about the whole episode but introduced me to the term ‘astroturfing’. Which equates to ‘the deceptive practice of presenting an orchestrated marketing or public relations campaign in the guise of unsolicited comments from members of the public.’ (Google can put it better than I can). At what point will rating beers on Untappd become a ‘deceptive practice’? Is it after the second rated check in, or the first rating without declaring that you work for the brewery in question?

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Maybe the way forward is to be open and honest in all of this; by this I mean declaring that you are linked to the brewery in the comments section. Maybe not even rate the beer at all. This is one of the benefits of Untappd: you already have the option to do this. A lot of people who aren’t linked to breweries already do because they just use it as a way to remember what they have had. Either way, you are then not only being open to yourself, but also to everyone that buys the beer you have a link to. Alas, like most internet social platforms, you can use it however you want; business is cut throat sometimes. People will still use it however they see fit, even to further their goals, but all that effort could surely be invested in making and continually improving the beer, rather than concentrating on making your scores better on a social media platform. Maybe, just maybe, your scores will then go up on their own.

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Irate on Untappd

11 thoughts on “Irate on Untappd

  1. I know of at least one brewery that ordered its employee’s to rate one of its beers 5 stars and then rate ‘rival’ brewers’ beer of the same style at 0.5 of a star.

    After much deliberation I think I’m of the opinion that brewery employees are 100% entitled to use untappd and check in whatever they’re drinking. But should leave the rating button alone if its a beer the brewery they work for produces.

    Of course there are thousands of brewers rating their beers on untappd already – and who are we to stop them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting. To take it a step further. What if you have money invested into a brewery. Surely there is going to be some biased also. You want the brewery to do well. Look how many people have invested into brewdog. Do those people rate brewdog beers higher because they now have money into the company or do they rate higher because they enjoy the beer thus investing… I think you are completely right. Breweries and people who take these things seriously still will. Those who dont, wont. People at the end of it all want good beer. Hopefully untappd doesnt effect that.

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      1. You could take it even further and say “what if you are emotionally invested in a brewery” eg an unabashed fan. It would give you reason to rate a beer you didn’t like as much higher than it deserves just because you love the brewery. That probably happens a few hundred/thousand times again.

        But then, that’s kinda the point of beer rating sites anyway. To support the fan.

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  2. I vote no in this. But, I think maybe it’s not so clear cut. If one was perfectly honest (“we’ve never made above a 3.75, must keep striving”, “this batch isn’t as good as last, must keep striving”) then I think by all means go for it.

    Of course, if you look at the whole ratings sytem on there, it doesn’t really mean very much. My 2.5 (a pass, good beer, would happily drink it again) is someone elses 4/5 and vice versa.

    I still reckon no, by and large

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  3. A very interesting and pleasingly written piece (shame someone else spelled palate wrong but there’s always (at least) one). I guess the question is: how much (commercial) worth is there in a high rating on Untappd? Ratebeer carries a commercial worth to brewers (blew my mind a bit to realise that but wevs) but Untappd? I would think that by its brief nature it would carry less weight than RB.

    Ems

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jollygoodbeer says:

      Speaking just for myself… I use both Untappd and Ratebeer as input to purchasing decisions. Untappd scores are getting a point where they can have some vague use. Like: <3.0: "crap, or misunderstood";3.5: “OK”… >4.0: “probably something awesome, of fanboy/girl juice”). I also find the in-passing short untappd comments, when present, to be more useful than the rambling blather on RateBeer when trying to get a description of a beer too.

      They’re just a part of the overall input mind you. Far stronger weight goes to my own experiences with a brewery and their beer, and the opinions of other folk I trust… but this extends to clocking untappd and RateBeer checkins from those folk. (Stalky stalky…)

      If I see a brewer rating their own beers highly in stars I just tend to think that’s a bit tacky. And, for the most part, those that do are “not my sort of folk” anyway…

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      1. jollygoodbeer says:

        (Stupid bloody markup turning my less-than-three into a love heart… < 3.0 in case that's not obvious.)

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      2. jollygoodbeer says:

        It’s been made a right hash of actually… HTML malarkey…

        less than 3.0 : crap, or misunderstood
        less than 3.5 : “hmmmmmmm….” 😐
        less than 4.0 : “OK” – i.e. probably quite decent
        greater than 4.0 : probably something awesome, of fanboy/girl juice

        My very very vague rule of thumb in interpreting untappd scores where there are a decent number of checkings (like 30+ or score is meaningless, and ideally more…. and I’ll scan specifically for scores for folk I know (of) and have some trust in.)

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  4. Interesting debate and I think it all comes down to how you use Untappd. I mainly use it to record what I’ve had and as a reminder of what I’ve liked and disliked but I do also try and be fair as it is public and if there’s something not to my taste, I’ll often leave the rating blank as I think it’s unfair otherwise, but others may use it in different ways. I do think brewers should disclose if they’re checking in something they’ve made and personally I’d rather they didn’t rate their own.

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  5. Unlike RateBeer, Untappd ratings are not guided by any criteria other than one’s own sense. If I don’t like a beer/style/spice I will give it a low rating because that’s what it’s worth to me, but I would also try to say why in the comments. My view on brewers rating their own beer is that they shouldn’t, but we are all free to use the App as we see fit. I would also expect they wouldn’t complain if they were caught out and publicly flogged for 5 star rating their own beer etc.

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  6. did you add a proviso to the poll that only people who use untappd could vote or not, because some of the folk youve had feedback from, I dont believe use untappd. Doesnt mean they cant have an opinion, but they may be misunderstanding how the ratings work & how people rate beers on the app

    Ive used untappd for going on 5 years now,and I dont have a problem with brewers rating beers on untappd, they drink beer like the rest of us, they often like drinking beer thats not theirs just as much as they like drinking beer their own, but even if they 5 starred every beer of theirs, unless they are a tiny micro brewer with only 10-50 checkins, frankly it wont impact the overall rating of the beer much because the overall score is an average and when lots of people are drinking it,the average will settle back to reality fairly quickly.

    and in anycase I never check the rating of a beer and I dont know anyone who uses untappd who does, I dont care what overall rating a beer has, I might check what friends whose tastes are similar to my own, or I know the kind of thing they like, but its ultimately what I think its like that counts to me, its like film ratings no-one only goes to see top rated films because they know what they like maybe different to what other people will like, our taste buds are no different in that respect, and that rating will change, its not set,

    Used to be the case the rating impacted all of that particular beers checkins, so you kind of left the rating alone as a one time rating even if the example you drank at the time might have been terrible, but they changed that few years back, so every checkin, even of the same beer, can have a unique rating. so sometimes Ill check in one of my favourite beers, and if its a poor quality example it will rate 2-3, if its acceptable its 3, if its really good its 4, only a handful of exceptional beers get 5 , if its undrinkable it gets less than 2, and I have rated some beers as 0.(and the reason I try not to half mark a 2.5 as acceptable is Untappd again started only introduced half marks a few years back so Ive got my system and I stick to it and last time I was bored and graphed the scoring data I had a nice bell curve so the system works 🙂 But I know others follow their own systems, people will rate beers 2.5 and add comments like its an amazing beer, others will check in mediocre beers as 4s.

    but that level of detail maybe only visible to supporters who can download the raw data extracts:)

    and fwiw the only time I use rate beer is to check beer details for a new beer thats missing on untappd.

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