Monday, March 7, 2011

preemptive punishment

Apparently, there's an issue at Goodreads with Authors Behaving Badly. No surprise, since it's the internet and that's what happens. People don't always respond maturely to a given situation, no how many rules you tell them they have to agree to in order to interact on a site. Goodreads solution was to attach a warning to every author email (even those we exchange with people on our friends lists) and give a huge popup every time we look at one of our reviews.
I'd like to know what practical purpose this serves. I've been told that reviewers should feel "safe" leaving their opinion without thinking an author is going to respond. Well, that could happen anyway. They can read anything on the internet. They can respond to that person, on their blog or website, to their therapist. I don't understand the idea that readers can't be honest if they know the person who wrote the story might have an opinion they'd like to share. Isn't that the whole point of a social site, to interact with people? Is a reader's opinion so delicate, they can't take it if someone responds to or challenges something they've stated? I kind of like the idea that if someone leaves me a compliment I can thank them, or if they misstate something that happened in my story, I have the ability to leave a comment so potential readers don't get the wrong impression. What if they have a question about a story that caused them to give it a low rating? An answer from the person who wrote the story could easily resolve the situation. Starting a dialogue about a story is important and, before this past weekend, was encouraged by Goodreads as a way to engage readers. Now we're being left with the impression that we must always be on our best behavior or the site will spank us without mercy.

Well, thanks. I've always wanted to feel like my involvement is far less important than anyone else's. I get that the site is primarily geared towards readers sharing their love of books and recommending stories to others, but this new warning system is making it seem as if all authors are potential problem children, laying in wait so we can attack the next innocent soul who dares to have an opinion. We're readers as well. We're people who can be just as easily bruised by attacks thrown at us or our work. I think it's only fair that we be allowed to engage other users without the presumption that we're going to harrass them in some way. We should be able to defend ourselves and our work without the assumption that anything we say is liable to be an attack. Any new reader to the site would see these warnings and assume writers there were a real problem. According to what I've read, the ones who have caused problems are a small minority. So why are we all being treated like this for the sake of a handful of immature people?

I hope Goodreads gets this situation resolved soon. I can't imagine what a turnoff it's going to be to readers and authors alike who feel like their interaction is always going to be a stilted, sanitized conversation - lest someone hit that flag button for some imagined slight.

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