Lots of food for thought in this thread…
To the OP topic: Let’s say the point scale is 0-5 with half-point increments for the sake of example. There could be a stipulation that if you choose to assign either a very low score (1.5 or less) or very high score (4.0 or more), you are expected to provide at least a couple sentences of explanation, but not if you are assigning a score somewhere in the middle of the pack. I get this idea from the way I have to do performance evaluations on my staff scientists. In order to award either the highest or lowest ratings, I’m required to provide justification. Just a thought-- obviously, everyone would prefer to have a detailed description of why someone scored their mix as they did. And as we all know, that’s not easy to do, especially when it’s mixes of the same song.
On the larger philosophical questions: I agree completely with those who have written here that it’s very easy to provide specific and constructive, albeit negative, input on someone’s mix without being a jerk about it. Of course, it’s most effective when the reviewer has the expertise to articulate what the perceived problems are in a way that the author can understand. Not all of us can do that consistently (certainly true for myself).
Another side of the coin is that there can be separation between largely technical concerns and largely artistic/subjective ones. For example, when someone comments on a mix of mine that there’s too much boxiness in my acoustic guitar sound and I should sweep the mids to find it and notch it down, that’s not a value judgment, that’s a technical observation. We can all think of abundant examples of this sort of thing. This sort of input that I’ve received from this group starting back at RR is far and away the single greatest influence on my improvement as a home hobby recordist.
On the flip side, comments about the arrangement or choice of instrument or whether there’s not enough variation and interest as the tune proceeds are much more subjective. If a listener simply doesn’t like the song, s/he will be much less amenable to working through whatever technical issues there may be to give less subjective impressions. In my experience, this is the area where things can go off the rails a bit, and lead to possibly hurt feelings. It’s a more difficult thing to comment on these aspects than on the purely technical ones in a way that remains constructive.
But as has also been said, at some point we as artists are going to say “well, OK, but this is still how I want the song to be structured/arranged etc.” and have to learn not to take it personally that others have different views, because there’s no pleasing everyone. Easier said than done! I readily admit that in my first year or two in this group I did get my feelings hurt a bit at some of the comments along those lines, but came to realize that they were mostly on the mark. As someone who still has so long a way to go, I’ve learned not to let that sort of thing get to me, unless someone truly is being an asshole about it, in which case I just dismiss it anyway.
In my own bashing of others’ tunes (of which I have really fallen off the wagon in recent months, owing to pressures from my so-called normal life), I try to separate the technical from the subjective as much as possible and make it very clear which is which. Seems to have worked for me, I don’t recall having pissed anyone off even when I’ve had some pretty substantial criticisms to make (but I could be wrong about that of course!).
For this reason, I personally would be fine with publicly identifying myself when scoring any song, because there’s nothing I would say to someone here anonymously that I wouldn’t say “to their face” so to speak. (An outgrowth of publishing science journal articles, I’m quite sure-- I’ve been torched by professionals!) But that may not be comfy for everyone.
And to finally close this wall of text, I do sympathize with the challenge of offering comments to support a score when it comes to a contest setting. After hearing a bunch of mixes of the same song, it’s only natural that one loses the best-intended goal of trying to help the contestant. I had the same experience when I was a beer judge in the homebrewing world. After hours of critical tasting, it’s just really hard to keep one’s senses sharp. We’re only human…