All these systems are rigged: Credit scores, SEO, fashion, readability

Are all our systems rigged?

Our current political rhetoric makes many claims from both sides that “the system is rigged.” Probably, but I believe that at least four other systems that govern us are definitely rigged: credit scores, fashion, SEO, and readability scores.

Credit scores are rigged

Credit scores control our financial lives, but the criteria for these scores seem arbitrary and unclear. Recently, I paid off my mortgage and took an immediate 40-point hit on my credit score. Eventually, my score started to rise again.

However, I’m sure that I could get my score up to near perfect if I binge-shopped, charged my frivolities, and paid my debt off slowly (plus interest). Clearly, credit scores are rigged to favor debtors rather than the debt-free.

SEO (search engine optimization) is rigged

It seems that the masters of our credit scores have teamed with the masters of SEO to create a Byzantine system that only a select few can understand or comply with. For example, I’m writing this post within my WordPress website, where I can watch my SEO change with just a few keystrokes. My SEO plug-in tells me: “The keyword density is 0.6%, which is great; the focus keyword was found 2 times.”

Geez! Instead of writing brilliant prose, I feel as though I’m playing tennis with a robot scorekeeper. Instead of focusing on clarity and cohesion and good grammar and perfect punctuation, I’m squeezing words in to satisfy the SEO goddess who now controls my writing. (Darn, I need to cut that sentence in half to satisfy her algorithms.) No. I refuse.

Fashion is rigged

We all know that fashion is rigged, right? Every year, collars get larger or smaller or nonexistent. Layers are in style—oh, wait, they’re out this year. Colors change subtly or dramatically from season to season. Makeup and shoe fashions shift with each season too. All fashion changes seem irrational to me.

If we were to play along with the fashion industry’s system, we’d have to replace more than half our wardrobe each year. That would require shopping sprees and credit card bills—so maybe our credit scores would go up again if we paid regularly? I never test that theory, which means I’m usually a fashion disaster.

So far, that makes three systems that I rebel against: credit scoring, SEO, and fashion. Cue the next rigged system!

Readability scores are rigged

Readability scores are computer-calculated formulas to determine reading ease, These scores have been with us since the 1880s. Great! Now we have maybe 10 to 12 different formulas or measures to consider. You could get a PhD in readability and still not be able to generate a good sentence! I call that rigged.

And to prove how rigged it all is, I just ran “Jabberwocky” through Microsoft® Word’s spell-check (Jabberwocky is a nonsense poem from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872). Here are the readability statistics:

Jabberwocky is rigged

Passive Sentences: 0%

Flesch Reading Ease: 90.2

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 1.7

It’s good, right? It earned a 90.2 score in reading ease (higher is better). A first-grader could read it! But it doesn’t make any sense, whether you’re a first grader or a PhD candidate.

Actually, I do think there may be a glimmer of sense for writers in the concept of readability—certainly more sense than I can glean from the irrationality of credit scores, fashion, or SEO. I’ll tell you in my next blog post why readability scores might be a bit rigged, but still good.

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