5 Following

Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
The Art of War - Thomas Cleary, Sun Tzu The way things are going, I'm expecting to get my Goodreads account closed down next week. It would of course be a pleasant surprise if GR management decided to back off and reexamine the goals they're trying to achieve here; I don't actually understand what those goals are, and maybe they don't either. But realistically, I think the most likely thing is that I'll get closed down. They warned me that my account would come under review if I continued to post material criticizing GR policy; I did continue; now they pretty much have to follow through, otherwise they expose their threats as empty.

I really appreciate all the kind words I've received. I love this place, and I am extremely sad about what's happened to the Goodreads community. One obvious response is to draw a line and go find something else to do, but I am inclined to fight while that's possible. Several people said they'd miss seeing my reviews. Well: I've backed everything up using the Export function, and I have a full set stored in a 3 MB CSV file. If anyone wants it, just mail me at mannyrayner@yahoo.com. You are then welcome to repost some or all of the material as you see fit, in accordance with the Hydra principle. I believe it's even possible (I haven't tried this yet) to create a new account and import the whole set.

The thing that makes me feel that the situation isn't hopeless is that it's become almost impossible to delete information permanently. GR management can remove reviews and close down accounts, but it's easy to repost and reopen. It basically comes down to the question of how many of us are prepared to take a stand. If even 1% of the site's members are willing to fight, I'd say we're unstoppable. GR management can try various tricks, but if you have 200,000 people creatively modifying and changing and trying new lines of attack, there'll be nothing they can do. GR won't have enough staff to check everything manually. Automated deletion scripts are possible, but they'll cause so much collateral damage that everyone will leave; the site will become uninhabitable.

The issues are partly at the ethical level. Do Goodreads management have the moral right to do what they want with the site? Some people clearly feel the answer is yes: they built it, they can do whatever they like. Another way to look at it, though, is that Goodreads wouldn't be worth anything without the content that users have created for free, relying on promises that the site existed for the benefit of readers and would operate on policies of freedom and lack of censorship. You can make a case that GR management have sucked people in on false pretentions and have an obligation to honor their promises. In the end though, my feeling is that the real question is which side is strongest; who has the cleverest strategy and the toughest fighting spirit. Maybe we're seeing the start of the first social network war. If the grassroots users can win against a big, unscrupulous multinational like Amazon, that would send a really interesting signal to the world.