Remember when Amazon bought Goodreads, and I opted to take the “wait and see” approach?
Yeah, well… it might be time to move on.
I won’t argue that there’s not some genuine nastiness – on both sides of the author/reviewer conflict – that needs to be handled. But this? Deleting content without warning? Deciding that something as vague as a “due-to-author” shelf is harmful enough to be deleted? And making this announcement on a Friday then disappearing for the weekend?
Not handling it. At least, not well.
In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t have anything deleted from my account, and I don’t think I will. But the whole situation rubs me the wrong way, a few things in particular.
First, I’m on the site all the time, and I only saw this because someone linked it on Twitter. You’d think this is the sort of thing that should be plastered across the top of the home page, like they’ve done with other announcements in the past. The fact that it’s not tells me that they didn’t want to give users a chance to respond before they started enforcing the new policy.
Second, the decision-making seems incredibly arbitrary in terms of what’s “bad enough” to get deleted. There doesn’t seem to be any benefit of the doubt working for the reviewer; if it can be interpreted as “inappropriate for the tone of the community” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), it’s gone. This is a huge step away from the community of readers that Goodreads used to be. Again, there are some truly inappropriate reviews and comment wars out there, and I’m not saying they should sit back and do nothing. But this is an overreaction. Not all discussion of author behavior is harassment, and readers should be able to decide if that kind of commentary is relevant to them or not.
Finally, the Monday morning apology… is it just me, or does this seem incredibly manipulative? Based on their own statements and the examples I saw of things that were deleted, there’s no way only 21 people were affected. Either they’re fudging the numbers, or they didn’t make all the deletes they “should” have… either way, they come out of it looking like they’re listening to our feedback and we’re the ones overreacting. But are we really supposed to believe they didn’t anticipate this reaction, that “jumping the gun” was honestly a mistake, and that it’s a happy accident that more reviews weren’t taken down before they saw the error of their ways?
Nothing about this situation smells right. But if you take the cynical view that it was all calculated ahead of time, suddenly the lack of a proper announcement and timing it over the weekend all makes perfect sense.
Was this all planned in advance, or just poor decisions in a situation that quickly got out of hand? I don’t know. Was it the influence of Amazon that brought us here? I don’t know. All I know is what I see, and I don’t like it.
Another thing I don’t know – if I’ll be staying with Goodreads after this.
I love the tools. I love the interface. I love connecting with other readers. I love having a supplement to the blog. But I just don’t know that it’s worth it anymore. It’s not even the censorship – if that’s what you want to call it – that’s pushing me away so much as it is the way they handled it… and the way I feel like I’m being handled.
(And whether you call it censorship or just making use of their terms of service, they sure picked a great time to spark that debate, didn’t they?)
Back in April, I looked into some of the alternatives out there, and while I didn’t much care for any of them, it’s time to take another look. I’m signed up with LibraryThing and BookLikes, so I’ll be exploring these more… and if anyone has played around with other sites, I’m open to suggestions.
The thing is, I just can’t see not having a place where I can track and share all my books while connecting with other readers. Having a blog is great, but it doesn’t quite serve the same function that Goodreads does. I guess the question is, if it turns out that I really don’t like LibraryThing, and I really don’t like BookLikes, and I can’t find any other site to fill that role… do I stay?
What are your thoughts on the latest Goodreads drama?