Guys, I just don’t know about Goodreads. For those of you not keeping up, there is a group of authors who said rather icky things either in their published work or otherwise and then some readers mentioned the ickiness in their book reviews and THEN the authors responded to said reviews in various inappropriate ways (up to and including figuring out and publishing the reviewers’s personal information online). Some readers started putting the books on personal Goodreads “shelves” that were titled in ways insulting to the authors, who howled. It should be noted that the authors in question are not many in number; most authors I know are responsible, professional, and often hilarious on social media and if they are reading their reviews they resist responding to them at all.
Goodreads responded by some very quick lets’s-hide-it-under-the-rug maneuvers. They threw together some new rules about how book reviews should be about the book, not the author, and said they would delete reviews that didn’t follow the rules, but then deleted only a handful of people’s reviews without giving them the opportunity to revise them. They also did this (per Elizabeth May’s twitter):
*visits one-star review on Goodreads* O___O OH. pic.twitter.com/ngTgL1BoMC
— Elizabeth May (@_ElizabethMay) September 21, 2013
This seems like a not awful idea.
I’ve seen a lot about how this is a sign of how Goodreads is turning more to an author/marketing bias rather than being for readers now that Amazon has bought them out, and while that commentary may have roots, it seems to me more like Goodreads trying to half-ass a solution to the inevitable problem wherever people gather semi-anonymously, and ultimately pleasing no one. I’ve moderated forums and it is a thankless task of drudgery and deflection of misplaced anger. I’m sure I made a few bad calls then and have no desire to pick up that sort of mantle ever again. It can truly suck. Ultimately, some one will say, usually with some level of validity, that they should not be prevented from sharing an opinion, no matter how much of a shitstorm they are creating on a regular basis. And they will be supported by other members. But if you don’t limit the shitstorm-creating interactions, the site becomes nothing but shit and the good, contributing members disappear and you’re left with the self-righteous trolls and newbies who can be counted on to say nothing more interesting than, “I like cheese. Do you like cheese? I think it’s good stuff.”
Where does this leave me, a semi-regular user of Goodreads? I sympathize with those that have decided to move on to the next site – LibraryThing seems popular – but my desire to embrace new social media platforms is very low. My Goodreads participation has also waned; its clunky categorization makes it useless for really organizing what I want to read, and really, if my close friends and I had more books in common that we could discuss, I wouldn’t be motivated to maintain a book blog. I expect I’ll see how it all falls out and either continue cross-posting to Goodreads when convenient or adopting a new site if one emerges from the pack.
You know, I didn’t really intend to rant about that for 500+ words. I didn’t even get to David Gilmour, who only really loves books by people who look just like him and whose books I will not be reading. Look, here’s some baby sloths:
Please return next week, when I’ll be in a much better mood and will just talk about books.