This post by John Gruber touched off a lively debate on whether and how developers should prod users for ratings. The nag screens sure are obnoxious, but good ratings are pretty important in bringing your app to the surface in a very crowded App Store. Rather than enter the debate, I wonder why users have to explicitly rate apps at all, when they are implicitly rating them all the time? What if, instead of reviews, Apple were to score apps by a variety of criteria, awarding some number of (undisclosed) points, on a per-user basis, for:

And an app would lose points (or at least not score) for:

This is a half-baked thought, and you'd want to weight these somehow, but it seems to me like this would be a decent measure of ongoing value to the user. Certainly, when I consider my own phone, these criteria give a very accurate picture of current value to me. Sure, there will be users that don't organize their phones at all, but they would be pretty easy to discard (or deemphasize) from the dataset based on usage patterns, I'd think.

Apple could then incorporate this into App Store search weighting, along with category, search keyword, download trends, etc. Maybe they could also start spidering the web (if they don't already) looking at incoming links for an additional weighting factor (in addition to direct links to apps in the App Store they could look at links to developer websites associated with those apps (which they have on file)).

This won't solve the "rich get richer" problem (which does seems pretty baked into capitalism), but Apple could blunt the feedback loop a bit by:

So the rich will keep getting richer (as they should, in many cases) while still exposing some up-and-comers.

Finally, under a scheme like this developers aren't penalized for updating their apps (currently an update wipes out ratings).

(NOTE: This is mostly a repurposing of a previous post I made during a similar App Store dust-up awhile back.)