The recent redesign of information architecture site Boxes & Arrows puts heavy emphasis on reputation ratings. Online ratings are applied to all registered users on the site (authors and commenters) as well as site articles. I've almost always agreed with the article ratings on Boxes & Arrows, so it seems like a useful feature to me.
Ratings of people, however, is less straightforward. The rating system is heavily weighted towards content contributors, in effect making them "superusers" with scores or hundreds of reputation points. Whenever they post their opinions in comments, their status is obvious. Although rating points are meant to be a broad range, the system as implemented creates a clear binary divide among members.
Taking the ratings trend a step further is a new site, UX Zeitgeist. They attempt to rank books, user experience topics, and even people. Its publishers "believe our ranking system is wildly, brilliantly innovative and one of the most useful features of UX Zeitgeist." Perhaps it is, but they beg the question why is it useful to rank people at all.
UX rating sites bring to my mind the concept of A-list bloggers. Popularity equals wisdom and power in the blogosphere. But the problem is, you can't accurately judge the value of information in a single swift rating. An article useless for one person with one kind of goal, is priceless to the next person with different goals. A-list ratings create a winner-take-all information ecology that can obscure a long tail of personally relevant content. Instead, user experience experts ought to professionalize and promote the field with a system that less resembles the United States homeland security threat indicator.
Scratch the surface of UX Zeitgeist, and there's one immediate hole in the person rankings. Where's Jakob Nielsen? Perhaps he didn't reveal his favorite books -- participation that appears to be required for listing. If so, I think opting out of this attempted Who's Who of UX is laudable.