7/25/12

Goodreads Steps in It

Much of the drama of the last year between authors and reviewers has centered around the Goodreads site. It has been likened to the Wild West or a walk through the bad part of town. There are rules, of a sort, but they are rarely enforced. To date, Goodreads has taken a hands-off approach to both authors commenting, harassing or spamming readers and to reviewers writing snarky reviews, putting misbehaving authors on do-not-buy shelves or otherwise not being nice.

That hands-off approach ended today when Goodreads admitted to hiding reviews and announced "new guidelines" for why they would be hidden.

In the thread started by Ridley titled, Why Has My Review Been Hidden, Community Manager Patrick explains in detail about new changes to a (supposedly) existing policy.

"Our philosophy is that your review is yours to write as you see fit and we're happy to have you express whatever opinions you like in those reviews. They'll always be shown on your profile and be on your shelves, but the book page is ours to curate, and that's something we've been doing since the start of Goodreads. We want to make sure that we're showing the most relevant and most useful reviews on that page. "

I don't know of other reviews being hidden before. It's possible. But call me skeptical given Goodreads' previous hands-off approach.

He also states
"We'll be posting our review guidelines, which clearly spell out what is likely to get a review hidden, in a couple of days."

Nice that they've been working on these guidelines but are enforcing them before making them public.

My favorite one is perhaps this one:

'One of the points in our guidelines will be "review the book and not the author."'

This one gets my goat probably more than anything else in his response. And the reason is because this is the "be professional" mantra of the poor authors complaining about bad reviews. It's straight out of their playbook and gives me a clear indication of where these new rules are headed. And it's not in the direction of open, sincere communication among readers.

If Goodreads wants to sanitize their book pages in order to monetize them, that's their business, obviously. But it seriously undermines my trust in the site. I want to see ALL of the comments about a book on the book page. Not those that Goodreads deems "relevant and useful." Without that openness, the site loses much of its value for me. 

I admit to being disappointed. Goodreads has started a practice that will only grow more cumbersome, more fraught with drama, more irritating as time goes on.

22 comments:

  1. This annoys me so much. What about the authors who have acted badly? This disappoints me so much!

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    Replies
    1. They claim they've been working on these changes for months, but I'm guessing this is a reaction to the GRBullies site and the huge amount of negative publicity that came with it. And, unfortunately, they've decided that the money that comes from authors and publishers is more important than the integrity of their site or their readers.

      They also claim that they will hide random squeeing reviews that don't address the book itself (ie The author is so sweet!) I'll believe that when I see it. I'm upset, too. Very, very upset.

      Delete
  2. That is ridiculous. I've been a member of GR since I started blogging in 2009, and the only reviews that have ever been hidden are ones the author marks for spoilers. Furthermore, GR's "hands off" approach has been almost criminal in the past--they allow authors to bully, threaten, and stalk readers, yet their response to that is to "curate" READERS' reviews? Their energy would be much better spent watching the authors who spam and bully the hell out of readers.

    I am very disappointed in GoodReads as well. Oh well, there's always LibraryThing...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The reviews aren't being deleted entirely, but if you aren't friends with someone whose review has been hidden, you aren't going to see it.

      I wish I were less cynical, but people and companies usually start as they mean to go on. Meaning this attempt to control the public face of GR by sanitizing the reviews seen is just the beginning. And if they are going to clean up the site, they darn well should have started with the author behavior that created the drama to begin with.

      Delete
  3. I still disagree with GR's premise that author behavior, etc., isn't relevant to a book review. If I'm spending money on a book, I absolutely want to make sure I'm not supporting an author whom I find offensive, vindictive, juvenile, etc.

    And I don't believe either that they'll hide the positive, non-review squeeing about an author. I'm getting closer and closer to pulling out of GR...it's clear who they're choosing to serve in this debate, and it's not the readers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In a follow up post, Patrick claimed that only reviews that contain NO mention of the book will be hidden. But I sincerely doubt that. All it would take is a vague sentence or two about the book followed by critique of the author to get around these rules. Where's the point?

      And yes, I can't see them hiding the positive stuff on the book page.

      Worst of all, as a first step in intervening, it takes the wrong side. I think many people would be less offended if GR had done something to rein in the out of control authors first.

      Delete
  4. One word for this as I see it - policing - as they see fit.

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    1. It is their site. They are welcome to police it as they choose. But without the free content provided by the users, it's going to lose value quickly.

      As soon as you start manipulating what people see, you undermine the trust in the site. And without trust, you'll lose those very users who supply that oh-so-valuable content.

      Delete
  5. Hey Amber, great post! I linked to it in my latest rant about GR. You are usually clearer and more concise that me. ;)

    If someone shows me a different platform for reader conversations and my buddies migrate over, I'm gone from GR.

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    1. Thanks, Sunita!

      I loved your post BTW! Very nice analysis of why Goodreads has the problems it does. And your suggestions are so much better than what the flunkies seem to have decided to do.

      I'm definitely only going to use GR for note-taking. As a place to sort good books from bad, this newest move just made it worthless to me.

      Delete
    2. I'm not a big user of Goodreads but I really dislike the idea of them deeming what Is and isn't useful in the art of reviews and discussion. It seems to defeat the purpose because I'd want to see everything. They ought to work on those badly behaving authors and go from there.

      Delete
    3. I would be up for that as well if there was a viable alternative to GR. Only reason I have not done Library Thing is they charge after a certain amount of records. It is disappointing that instead of going after the authors causing the problem (c'mon, we ALL know where the real problem lies), they take it out on the readers to appease said authors. But as others have pointed out, follow the money. Their business if they want to censor or police (it is their site), but it is a move that loses them credibility. It only takes a few minutes to ruin a reputation.

      Best, and keep on blogging.

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. I know :( Ah well. Plenty of other sites out there.

      Delete
  7. Yep, I'm moving then. I don't want to be censored.

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  8. As an author (and reader), I am disappointed that Goodreads is moving in this direction. We (authors) need to see ALL reviews, good or bad, because they make us better writers. If an author does not have thick skin, they should get out of the game now or not even bother to read ANY reviews. Authors won't please everyone all the time. It is just a fact of life and experienced authors know not to get caught up in the drama of negative reviews.

    However, I can't help but wonder if this is Goodreads way of bringing their policies more in-line with Amazon's Safari? Just some food for thought.

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    Replies
    1. Actually, Brenda, I disagree strongly. We authors don't *need* to see ANY reviews, because they are not written for us or with us in mind, and to imply that they exist to provide us with the sort of feedback we should be getting before a book is published is to imply that *readers* exist for to provide us with feedback.

      It's not about us.

      Reviews written for readers to share with other readers are none of our business. We shouldn't be peering over their shoulders.

      JMO, of course.

      Delete
    2. just an fyi it is Shelfari

      Delete
  9. Actually, I think a little censorship is fair. I say a little; I'll give an example.

    One of my works was shelved by the Pull To Publish Fan Fiction group, along with a review publically stating that there was "proof" it was P2P. Except that it wasn't, and the allegation was non-sensical and false. The label spread to my Amazon tags, it affected my reputation as an original author, and it may well have affected my sales. In short, I was being slandered.

    It wasn't as simple as kicking up a fuss because I didn't want to be branded as an "author behaving badly." For that reason, I didn't want to publically respond to the review. But I really struggled to get my book off that public group shelf. I took legal advice before I was finally removed, months after being put up there. GR themselves were absolutely useless (an author with a lot more to lose than me might well have sued, so I can kind of understand why GR would end up taking these measures).

    So it wasn't that I was being reviewed badly. It wasn't that I was being reviewed as a person, rather than the book. It was that GR hosted damaging allegations that were false, in the form of a "review." I could have sent a Cease & Desist to a blog or website hosting the same thing, but GR was far more complicated. In this arena, I have to say that I support certain reviews being "hidden." It sucks that measures like that are required, but it was a pretty awful experience to have as an author, and one that probably damaged my career. It's very sad that it comes to stuff like this.

    Do I think that simple negative reviews should be hidden? No, I do not.

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  10. Just as an FYI. That site that shall not be named (STGRB) has linked to this post in the comments of their latest entry.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for alerting me. I don't visit that site—I won't give them traffic.

      Delete
  11. Great post! :) You got out the best snippets!

    Btw, this whole drama 100% removes any purpose to the “follow” button. I personally do not wish to be friends with 98734956 people on gr, but it seems this is the only way we can see the “forbidden fruit” reviews and let others see ours. I think it is utter travesty that followers can not see the new hidden reviews and only friends can. This pretty effectively stop knowledge of “authors behaving badly” from being spread – thus being an author friendly rule almost exclusively.

    Also, did you all notice how it was not specified WHEN the review gets hidden? It was stated that it gets hidden after it is flagged - but we have no idea if it is hidden from that point on or only when a admin looks at the flags. If it gets hidden at once, then seeeeesh….we will all drowns in positive reviews!

    ~D

    ReplyDelete

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