Memories: The Relative Score
In high school, I built this app called Scholica with my friend Dante. It was a simple way to access all the information you needed as a student at our school — class schedules, grades, course materials — born out out of frustration about all of the outdated web portals that existed at the time and that didn’t work at all on our still relatively new iPhones.
Over time it grew out to a platform, and we had relatively free reign to build whatever we wanted into it, as it was a product we had built ourselves, and our school was just one (and for the longest time the only) customer.
One evening, I was fixing some things in the ‘grades’ module of the app. It showed a nice graph with your average scores per subject, and made it easy to see what subjects you were passing or failing.
Off the back of discussing our grades with some classmates earlier in the day, I realised the platform had access to the grades of all the students in the school, and I decided it would be fun to see if I could calculate how a student’s grades stacked up to the grades of everyone else in the school. I was mostly just interested to see where I would sit in the curve — never having been an amazing student, as I spent way too much time building my apps, but passing most of my classes relatively easily.
Within an hour or so, I had built this new section on the grades screen that showed what I chose to call the ‘Relative Score’ — a percentile rank of your average grades in comparison to all the other students. I decided to add a little ‘I’ icon with a tooltip explaining how it worked and that this comparison was mostly there as an experiment, as it didn’t really make sense to compare your grades with those of students in different years or at different levels.
My own Relative Score was 60-something percent, and I was pretty happy with that. I checked the Relative Score of one of my classmates who I knew probably had the best grades in the school, and his indeed was 99%. With that information, I went to bed and forgot about it for the time being.
The next morning, whilst walking through the hallways of the school, I heard some students in front of me discussing their relative scores with each other. They seemed to just accept this was a thing now, and didn’t seem to question the concept for even a moment! An eye-opening moment to realise that…