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So, Goodreads Have Finally Tightened Their Review Guidelines

20 Sep 2013
As I imagined most of you know by now, goodreads have decided to make a few changes to their review policy. As with any big announcement it has created quite a stir and much debate over whether these changes are a good thing or not. You can read the full announcement here - Important Note Regarding Reviews The most important things to note are -

Reviews not about the book will be completely deleted. So if you have written something along the lines of "I do not intend to read this book as the author spammed me / the author is a bully" or simply anything that is not about the book it will be deleted. Supposedly. My non-review about Life, Love and Lemons simply mentioning that sometimes characters have similar names and I don't find that to be an issue hasn't been removed. It will be interesting to see if all "non-reviews" are removed or simply those that are negative.

Shelves about author behaviour will be deleted, so if you have anything along the lines of  "author-is-a-spammer" or "rude-obnoxious-author" or "authors-behaving-badly" then expect it to magically disappear. Theoretically things like "super-nice-author" should also be deleted but this has yet to happen (to my knowledge anyway).

They are making it easier to flag content that you think is inappropriate and it is now also possible to flag friend requests that you believe to be spam.

They are also tightening the author guidelines. There are now specific sections discouraging authors from responding in any way to negative reviews and from spamming goodreads members Read it here. At this moment in time these do not seem to be as tight as the reviewer guidelines; I can't find anything about what goodreads plans to do with authors who respond to negative reviews. Goodreads also says that they plan to educate authors better about how goodreads works.

So, what do I think about these changes? Overall, I like them and I say this as someone who won't benefit from the changes and in fact it will reduce what I can do (luckily I am already pretty much doing what the new guidelines say). There are certainly issues but goodreads was starting to attract more trolls, bullies and spammers and something had to be done. You may have heard about the recent drama on goodreads that I am pretty sure is what inspired these changes. A brand new author named Lauren noticed that her not yet read novel had a 2 star review and she responded to the review asking why they had rated it 2 star as no one had read it yet, she also asked about it on a goodreads group which is when everything descended into chaos.

No one really knows the full story but Laurens book got added to some pretty negative shelves, she got insulted a lot, she was accused of being a bully and eventually she decided to cancel the release of her book. The entire situation would have been avoided if these new changes had already been implemented. First of all Lauren wouldn't have commented on the 2 star review or asked on the group as she would have already known that goodreads allows ratings based on interest (which I personally find silly). Secondly goodreads members wouldn't have been allowed to add her book to nasty shelves or insult her in non-reviews.

Also some people say Lauren verbally attacked some reviewers (I was following this as it happened and saw no evidence of that though one of her friends/fan/random goodreads member did insult some reviewers) which wouldn't have happened (if it did) if better flagging and stricter moderating of authors was enforced.

Whilst these new changes are annoying especially for those who use shelves to privately make a record of authors they wont support for various reasons or simply keep track of their thoughts; they will hopefully reduce bullying by both authors and reviewers.

I hope that goodreads sticks to their new guidelines for positive reviews and shelves as well as the negative ones otherwise that is such a double standard. I also think that they need to make sure authors are moderated just as much as reviewers. After all, goodreads is for readers to discuss and share their thoughts on books not for authors to promote promote promote.

Goodreads had to make a difficult decision fully knowing that not everyone would be happy and some people would most likely leave. I think that takes guts and demonstrates that they are serious about reducing bullying and spamming. It is also important to remember that goodreads has always said "Goodreads reserves the right to remove a review at any time for any reason. It is at our sole discretion and no one else's, that we decide when a review is against our guidelines.". Removing reviews that don't follow the guidelines is not a new thing. I simply wish that they would email when they remove reviews so that the person who wrote it a) knows and b) can change it to better follow the guidelines if they wish (you listening to this goodreads?!). I think they could easily send an automated email.

I also think that goodreads could do with clarifying a lot of the changes as quite a few people do appear to be confused. No wonder people have been having trouble with goodreads when they are not very clear about what is / isn't allowed. If all this was explained better people may be less angry.

If this really is the last straw for you with goodreads then I will miss you :) Shelfari is an alternative though I tried using it and we just didn't mesh. I also recently discovered a new site called BookLikes and though I don't think for me it will replace goodreads (at least not yet) it looks pretty good and though I have yet to fully explore everything it has to offer I have joined. I have heard the database of books on here is nowhere near as good as Goodreads but hopefully it will be good enough.

 For those of you who have lost reviews for minimal reason I truly feel for you (hell it may have happened to me!) and you are well within your rights to ask for an explanation. If they get nagged enough they may stop deleting without explanation or warning - we can but hope. Here's hoping the new goodreads guidelines do work and not just negatively effect all the goodreads users who don't troll, bully or spam. In a few months the results will prove if these changes are any good for the site and users. Until then I will cross my fingers.

7 comments:

  1. Great blog post, Laura. I too am glad they have tightened their policies. Thanks!

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  2. You're raising some interesting points, Laura. And I agree, the fights on Goodreads sometimes completely got out of hand, and there had to be done something. I do hope they will also delete the positive author-related shelves, to make it honest. I will advocate for people to be warned about their reviews being taken down, but overall I understand their decision.

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  3. Interesting and exhaustive explanation! Thanks for detailing your thoughts. I'm sad that so many bloggers seem to have been affected, especially those who weren't hurting anyone.

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  4. Great blog post! I agree with everything you said! However I do feel like they should delete positive author shelves to make it fair. Initially I thought I would like to know whether an author has been abusive towards reviewers, but as you pointed out, Goodreads is also clamping down on authors, so them being abusive in the first place shouldn't be a problem

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  5. I heard that they are emailing users telling them which review they have deleted. My friend got one anyhow so at least you'll know they won't just magically disappear >.< This doesn't affect me very much and honestly I think it was likely due to some possibly upcoming legal troubles if GR didn't do anything about all the complaints so they do what they can.

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  6. Have you read this blog post about the Lauren Howard? I think it will be helpful in clarifying what actually happened.

    Otherwise, thanks for the thoughtful post! I totally agree that there should not be double standards with deleting author related shelves and reviews (apparently Steph@cuddlebuggery's "cool-author" shelf was not deleted yet the others were).

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  7. I don't think this will affect me but I am happy GR is finally addressing this, but I do hope it's even to both authors and reviews, not just censorship.

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