4 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
Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Collected Essays) - Henry David Thoreau Hydra

The review below was deleted by Goodreads, along with two others. I received the following message:
Re: [#104307] Deleted Reviews
To Me
Oct 11 at 8:41 PM
Hello Manny,

Your reviews of the following books were recently flagged by Goodreads members as potentially off-topic:

That's Not What I Meant!
Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Collected Essays)
The Hydra

As the reviews are not about the books in question, they have been removed from the site. You can find the text of the reviews attached for your personal records.

Please note that if you continue to post content like this, your account may come under review for removal.

The Goodreads Team
In accordance with the hydra principle, I am now reposting it. Maybe Goodreads will indeed retaliate by removing my account. If so, it's been nice knowing you all!

Along with thousands of other people here, I am appalled by the recent changes on Goodreads. They prompted me to look at the Terms of Use, something I hadn't done for a long time. I was even more appalled to find that they are so restrictive that I am breaking them all the time. Look in particular at this passage from Article 2:
You agree not to post User Content that: (i) may create a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to you, to any other person, or to any animal; (ii) may create a risk of any other loss or damage to any person or property; (iii) seeks to harm or exploit children by exposing them to inappropriate content, asking for personally identifiable details or otherwise; (iv) may constitute or contribute to a crime or tort; (v) contains any information or content that we deem to be unlawful, harmful, abusive, racially or ethnically offensive, defamatory, infringing, invasive of personal privacy or publicity rights, harassing, humiliating to other people (publicly or otherwise), libelous, threatening, profane, or otherwise objectionable; (vi) contains any information or content that is illegal (including, without limitation, the disclosure of insider information under securities law or of another party's trade secrets); or (vii) contains any information or content that you do not have a right to make available under any law or under contractual or fiduciary relationships; or (viii) contains any information or content that you know is not correct and current.
The clauses I am most surprised by are (v) and (viii). I do not even see how it is possible to follow (v): how can I agree not to post content which "we" (who, exactly?) may deem "profane or otherwise objectionable", when these are entirely subjective criteria? I obviously don't know what some unnamed people in the Goodreads administration may deem objectionable. Clause (viii) is nearly as bad, and means that I am technically in default of the Terms of Use any time I post something that isn't a straight factual review.

Of course, Goodreads isn't deleting everything that contravenes these absurd rules. But the fact is that if they want to delet something I've written I'll be in a poor position to complain, given that I've clearly been breaking them. I dislike the fact that I've been turned into a criminal who is only allowed to carry on using the service because of the administrators' tolerance and forebearance.

Given that the rules are utterly stupid, it seems to me that the most constructive thing I can do is to follow them. Until they are changed, my policy will thus be to flag anyone who appears to be ignoring Article 2, in particular clauses (v) and (viii). I have for example flagged Paul for his brilliant but non-factual review of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle:


I have similarly flagged Ian for his creative but implausible review of Mein Kampf:


And I have taken particular pleasure in flagging Mark's brief review of An Uncommon Whore (now deleted), which was not just factually incorrect but also insulting:


If you want to start playing this game and aren't sure who to flag, you're more than welcome to start with me. As already noted, I am a serial offender. For example, I freely admit that all of the following reviews contain "information or content that I knew was not correct and current":

My review of Fifty Shades of Grey: there is no such thing as the "Goodreads Center for Bodice-Ripping, Bondage and Twilight Studies".

My review of Quicksilver: I have not been visited by a time-traveler from the 25th century.

My review of The Martian Way: I have never constructed an anti-gravity machine from spare parts bought at a CERN garage sale and used it to fly to Jupiter.

My review of Emmanuelle: Bertrand Russell did not write a book called Principia Sexualis and try to sell the movie rights.

I'm just scraping the surface; there's plenty more.

Happy Flagging!