Goodreads changes reviewer policy, irks members

goodreadsGoodreads’ has drawn a line (a read line?) in the sand regarding reviewer policies.  The new policy includes deleting “content focused on author behavior” rather than on actually reviewing the book.

From the website:

Since our inception, Goodreads has lived by a few simple principles with our reviews. You can see our full policy in our review guidelines, but at a high level, we believe:

1. Reviews should be about the book. If you think a book is a masterpiece, tell people why. If you hated the book, say so. If it had potential but fell short, share your perspective.

2. Members are not permitted to harass or threaten other people. We have always dealt with this promptly when it has been brought to our attention.

We have done our best to uphold these tenets, and they aren’t changing. But we recently recognized that we can do a better job enforcing them, particularly in the small number of situations where tensions start to run high. We took a long, hard look at our guidelines and how we moderate Goodreads and identified some areas where we can be clearer and where we can improve. I wanted to share with you some of the changes we are now making:

**Make it easier for anyone who feels concerned about content on Goodreads to get help from Goodreads staff. We have now improved the visibility of our flag button, and have added the ability to flag inappropriate friend requests. Of course, people can also reach us through support@goodreads.com. If you see any inappropriate content or behavior on Goodreads, please use these options. We’re here to deal with this so that individual members don’t have to.

**Better education for authors about Goodreads and our review guidelines. It’s clear that some problems have come up because some authors who are new to Goodreads don’t know what’s appropriate on Goodreads and/or take matters into their own hands rather than flagging content that they feel is inappropriate. We’ve therefore revised our author guidelines to make them clearer. We’re also working on improving how we introduce new authors to Goodreads.

**Delete content focused on author behavior. We have had a policy of removing reviews that were created primarily to talk about author behavior from the community book page. Once removed, these reviews would remain on the member’s profile. Starting today, we will now delete these entirely from the site. We will also delete shelves and lists of books on Goodreads that are focused on author behavior. If you have questions about why a review was removed, send an email to support@goodreads.com. (And to answer the obvious question: of course, it’s appropriate to talk about an author within the context of a review as it relates to the book. If it’s an autobiography, then clearly you might end up talking about their lives. And often it’s relevant to understand an author’s background and how it influenced the story or the setting.)

We recognize that not everyone is going to agree with our approach. People have different – and often quite strongly held – viewpoints about what should and should not be allowed in a review. We’ve had suggestions that no GIFs should be allowed, reviews should be limited to 300 words only, reviews should only be allowed if you have read the book to the very last page, etc.

What we try to do is provide room for our members’ own personal approach within our overall principles rather than set rigid guidelines. We’ve found it has worked well for the community overall so far and is something that readers value.

By the way, to put things in context, every day we have more than 30,000 reviews written on Goodreads and, on average, only a handful are flagged as inappropriate. That means 99.99% of new reviews are happily within our guidelines. (Funnily enough, we get way more flags from people asking us to add a spoiler alert to a review than any other type of flagged review.)

We think we have something special here with the Goodreads community and we want to support and protect that. Thank you for being part of this. As always, we welcome your feedback on these changes and on how to make Goodreads a better place for readers and authors.

As an author, I think this is the right way to do things.  I’m sure it’s going to piss some people off (and – sure enough! – the shit storm has already begun!), but … well, write a review about the damned book, people!  It’s not “goodauthor.com.”

You can read the entire exciting exchange over at Goodreads HERE.

“As far as I’m concerned, I only owe you a good book – not good behavior.” – Shawn E. Bell