Was traveling all day yesterday and only now am catching up (I still have a lot of dashboard and GR stuff to check on) - so I only just now saw the Salon piece. From the details in Miller's article it's obvious that she's been paying attention and did her research. And I mentally said "yay Ceridwen" at all of her quotes. (I'm a fangrl for her use of data and graphs. I've always admired quantitative research, probably because I tried very hard to be a stats nerd in grad school and found it can be an endless type of work. Apparently I'm a more qualitative-research type.)
Most of you have already seen this, so I've left the quotes behind the page break. Bolded parts aren't in the original - I was pleased to see those points being made. The following is only a part of the entire article.
WEDNESDAY, OCT 23, 2013
How Amazon and Goodreads could lose their best readers"]">How Amazon and Goodreads could lose their best readers
When Amazon bought Goodreads it got a community of passionate readers, not all of whom want to follow the new rules
by Laura Miller
"....This group — let’s call them the protesters — voiced their displeasure in the comments thread attached to Erickson’s original announcement. The thread eventually exploded to more than 5,000 posts, and after stepping in a few times to clarify the policy and promise that moderators would no longer delete reviews without first notifying the reviewers, Goodreads has been absent from the discussion. Exasperated, the protesters began to post criticism of the new policy in reviews of books on censorship, and in some cases posted reviews making ridiculous attacks on authors (such as accusing the late children’s author Tove Jansson of engaging in orgies with moomintrolls), in order to test the limits of the moderation policy.
...Then, in Goodreads’ second major misstep, the members who wrote the protest reviews were notified that their reviews would be deleted for being “off-topic.” This high-handed intervention, predictably enough, only fanned the flames. The protesters began to flag reviews of books by such authors as Jonah Lehrer (who was found to have fabricated quotes) and David Irving (a notorious Holocaust denier), pointing out that the reviews referred to scandalous “author behavior.” They flagged other creative uses of the review format — autobiographical, impressionistic or merely whimsical — as “off topic.” As Ceridwen explained it to me, “The off-topic review is what made Goodreads what it is, in terms of active community: a fractious, personal, combative, and engaged readership engaged in as much goofing and larking as they were in serious literary criticism, whatever that’s supposed to mean. We are not academics or professionals, but citizen readers on a social networking site.”
...This latest pang in Goodreads’ growing pains is more than just an instance of poor social network management. It raises broader issues about literary culture and conversations, how they happen and who owns and controls them. The vast majority of the content on Goodreads is generated by the site’s users. As Alf Aldavan, another protester, explained it to me, longtime Goodreads members “don’t feel like users or customers. They feel like contributors, because they are: library data and reviews content are their work, as well as the actual data GR sells. In a community of people contributing work/content for free, contributors have expectations of respect for that work. Top contributors’ reviews were removed and there were threats to close their account.” His statement is borne out in a 2012 Forbes article on the 25 top Goodreads reviewers; at least two of them have abandoned the site, while four others have been threatened with the deletion of their accounts.
...When Aldavan observes that these members don’t feel like customers, he makes an important point, and one that underlines the murkiness of Goodreads’ identity and purpose. You could say that the users are not the customers but the product. In buying the company, Amazon purchased both its reviews — which can be directly accessed by Kindle Paperwhite owners — but also their data, a vast collection of information on what people read and like.
...As for disaffected Goodreads members, they’re learning a hard lesson often overlooked by the boosters of digital utopianism: Sooner or later people need to get paid, and sooner or later you get what you pay for. Goodreads’ staff may be small, but they can’t run the site for nothing, and attempts to monetize it could not be postponed indefinitely. Many of the disillusioned reviewers feel burned and cautious about investing their efforts and content in a newer site like Booklikes, which may eventually face the same dilemma. Goodreads itself, if it does not resolve the tension between its moneymaking activities and the interests, desires and faith of its reader-members, risks spoiling the only real resource it has."
I don't know that I personally feel disillusioned or that this was a learning experience - I still think that as a user of a site I have the expectation that they won't delete my content without warning, and if they have changes to policy it's normal to assume that as a user I'd get a heads up about it.
What I'm annoyed with most is the failure to communicate - in ways that other businesses have communicated with me in the past. I don't have very revolutionary expectations, in that area at least.