Part I: General
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Who is involved? You can find a complete
list of raters (with short biographies) here:
The Gnosis Raters
- Who comprises current staff? The current
administrative staff can be at
The Staff page.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Statistics and Grades
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
How should I interpret the grades on the 1-15
This definition of the
is available from any page of search results.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- How do I contact the Gnosis administrators?
Please use the feedback form on our
- 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.
- How often are albums added? Every single
- Can I add albums? Yes, anyone can suggest
albums to be added to Gnosis. Go to
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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.
- How do you determine the year for albums?
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.
- 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
Part V: The
- 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
- 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.
Stay tuned - much, much more will be added to the Gnosis Project!!!