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text 2013-11-06 05:24
Another book Goodreads should read
Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions - Dan Ariely

According to the author of Predictably Irrational, we live simultaneous in the world of social norms and the world of market norms. Social norms are the exchanges and requests we make as part of personal connections. Market norms are the dollar-defined exchanges of dollars, wages, rents, prices. Here's where it gets interesting:


"In the lasts few decades, companies have tried to market themselves as social companions--that is, they'd like us to think that they and we are family, or at least are friends that live on the same cul-de-sac. "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" is one familiar slogan...


Whoever started the movement to treat customers socially had a great idea. If customers and a company are family, then the company gets several benefits. Loyalty is paramount. Minor infractions--screwing up your bill and even imposing a modest hike in your insurance rates--are accommodated. Relationships of course have ups and downs, but overall they're a pretty good thing.


But here's what I find strange: although companies have poured billions of dollars into marketing and advertising to create social relationships--or at least an impression of social relationships--they don't seem to understand the nature of the social relationship, and in particular, it's risks.


For example, what happens when a customer's check bounces? If the relationship is based on market norms, the bank charges a fee and the customer shakes it off. Business is business... In a social relationship, however, a hefty late fee--rather than a friendly call from the manager or an automatic fee waver--is not only a relationship-killer; it's a stab in the back. Consumers will take personal offense. They'll leave the bank angry and spend hours complaining to their friends about this awful bank. After all, this was a relationship framed as a social exchange."


 No parallels to Goodreads here. Say, a site that framed itself in social terms and then acting surprised when people get pissed off that they start applying business decisions to their social relationships. No parallels at all.

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text 2013-10-23 16:06
What a Tool
A Museum of Early American Tools (Americana) - Eric Sloane

I wasn't going to post any of my protest reviews over here, but events at my job recently brought this review back to mind:




Early American tools were very practical but limited in functionality. They were employed for a specific job, and didn't have many applications beyond that task. They were not "smart tools" with laser lights and computer chips that gave feedback on their use and enabled a more effective process. Rarely were they self-contained, able to carry all multiple pieces needed to adapt and change to the job at hand. A hatchet, for instance, was one-size fits all. Perhaps the job called for a more delicate piece of maneuvering. Unfortunately with the hatchet, whole swathes were removed instead of delicate, precise removal of the canker.

There's also the philosophical concepts behind 'tool;' the ideas of both singular purpose and able to act only through direction of a wielder.

This limited application no doubt accounts for the modern use of the phrase "he's a tool." It implies someone who does a task without thinking, with obedience but minus the critical process. Much like early American tools, it's actually a limited functionality model that does not adapt or plan. While early tools had their place, their inability to innovate or initiate limits their long-term effectiveness.


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text 2013-10-20 08:06
Carol's Deletion Experience

As a reviewer, my goals were very simple: to thoughtfully reflect my views on a book and my reading experience. When Goodreads customer service opened a thread in the feedback group titled Announcements: Important Note Regarding Reviews (https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...), I was seriously disturbed.

I've bought into the idea that the personal is political, and I incorporate it, when appropriate, into my reading and thus my reviews. Some authors are content to release their books into the world and let them develop a life of their own. Others leverage their social power into political power, using their artistic voice to make comments in the political arena. For the most part, I've only followed or heard from authors I've loved, so it was natural to me to focus on the positives. But as I grew more widely read and the barriers between authors and readers have melted down on Goodreads, I've come to realize there are authors I want to avoid as well, some because of their public persona, some because of boorish behavior in groups. I never set out to castigate most of them in public (there were a few, I admit), but I reserve that right to discuss it in my notes on reads or books.

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url 2013-09-27 15:59
Not letting go quite yet


Commentary on the interaction of behavior and reviews.


For those who can't link (ie. Dan):


More on Goodreads and behavior



Book community Goodreads was bought by Amazon earlier this year, part of the impetus for my blog development. Nothing against Amazon as a retailer–I use their services and have a Kindle–but they have strict language restrictions for reviews, even if you are quoting from the text. I think I  contributed about four reviews there before I decided their process was too cumbersome and unsatisfying, partly because of the lack of community connection. What makes GR unique is the connection to groups of other readers–it is easy to get to know a particular reviewer, their reading habits and tastes. In addition, Amazon’s indie book reviews are sock-puppet heavy, so I rarely rely on Amazon as a site of information. Incidentally, I also find their graphics visually displeasing. At any rate, the purchase was inevitable, if only to establish Amazon as primary retailer for books and the general collection of market data.


I understand the reasoning, but part of the charm of GR is a very engaged, literate community that largely says whatever it wants, within reason, in their reviews about books and authors. GR has long had a “secret sauce” recipe for promoting certain reviews, but there is an independent ‘like’ system that operates as well. Goodreads recently set its community on edge with a new policy against discussing author behavior in reviews and the unwarned deletion of user reviews and shelving, in an effort that is widely viewed an attempt to promote product and censor reviewers in favor of authors.  The fact that reviews referring specifically to an author’s behavior in a negative manner were removed, and reviews discussing positive behavior remain only fuels the suspicion that the connection is about negative reviews and sales, not about a true review ideology.  Regardless of their stated or unstated meaning, the idea that behavior does not impact product is the ultimate in capitalist reasoning, and I can’t ethically keep my concerns quiet.


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url 2013-09-27 15:56
Goodreads' behavior makes a podcast

The Book Riot did a podcast last week that brings up the Goodreads controversy regarding author behavior. It's at the beginning, so don't be intimidated by the length of the cast. I was impressed by the thoughtfulness the host brought to the discussion--it sounds like one of them is active on Goodreads, so had a more accurate perspective of what has been happening.

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