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The Amazon policy change, and how we're responding.

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1timspalding
Edited: Sep 17, 2009, 5:13pm Top

See the blog post: http://www.librarything.com/blog/2009/09/amazon-policy-change-and-how-were.php

Some starter questions:

1. We think this will end up giving Amazon what they want while actually increasing options for members. (It's a good thing that our previous Buy, Borrow, Swap feature wasn't the greatest.)

2. If you support leaving Amazon entirely, sketch out the future. A majority of the books on LibraryThing came from Amazon data, and almost all the covers came from Amazon too. Libraries and Bowker can give us much of the bibliographic coverage, but the covers are a problem. And when it comes to bibliographic coverage, 90% isn't good enough. Having to manually enter 1/10 books is a real pain.

3. What can we do to make the Get it Now page as good as possible?

2infiniteletters
Edited: Sep 17, 2009, 5:13pm Top

While I don't like that Bookmooch and Worldcat will be an extra click, I blame Amazon for the change.

Oh! Will the swap column still be available in our catalogs?

3timspalding
Sep 17, 2009, 5:15pm Top

The Terms prohibit linking to any other site, but they've told us we can link to libraries and swap sites on the main page. I'm not convinced we should, however. I'd rather put everything on a secondary page, and make it great, than have this hobbled set of links on the work page.

That, however, is a very debatable question—debate it!

4legallypuzzled
Sep 17, 2009, 5:15pm Top

If this has the result of finally fixing the Book Links page for Firefox, then yay Amazon! (said with tongue in cheek)

5lilithcat
Sep 17, 2009, 5:18pm Top

Phoey on them.

Will the various sections on the "Get it now" page be customizable, as the "Buy, borrow or swap" box is now?

6infiniteletters
Edited: Sep 17, 2009, 5:22pm Top

3: By catalogs, I'm meaning on the catalog page instead of the work page.

Just the minimum of # wanted / # available as that doesn't link to any site in particular.

I would still like to have library/swap links on the work page, although I realize it would be even more of a concession, in a way. The other problem with the swap sites is that the counts are often very out-of-date. I'm not sure that can be fixed easily.

And I do agree, it would be nice to have the Book Links page work better in FF. And if a revamp would fix that part...

I don't think it's practical to leave Amazon without having a good backup in place. Maybe B&N will open up their data?

8_Zoe_
Sep 17, 2009, 5:28pm Top

So, if the new page is based on Local, the first thing is to make sure Local works well. When I try to change my address, for example, it should work immediately immediately (I'm not sure whether this is a caching issue or whether it's flat-out broken, but either way it's bad).

I do think you should still have library and swap site links on the main page. No matter how good the new page is, I'd rather avoid the extra click and load if I can.

9timspalding
Sep 17, 2009, 5:31pm Top

So, if the new page is based on Local, the first thing is to make sure Local works well.

We agree. You're in the beta group, I think, so you know another reason we're working on local. It needs to work better all around. Thanks for pushing on it.

I do think you should still have library and swap site links on the main page

Okay, but when I do the stats—we tracked for a while—they just aren't that high. And the limited space meant limited options, features.

10_Zoe_
Sep 17, 2009, 5:36pm Top

And the limited space meant limited options, features.

What could be more limited than zero (i.e., eliminating the options completely)? And it's already there, so it wouldn't require any extra coding.

11vaneska
Sep 17, 2009, 5:37pm Top

It looks to me like you've been pretty clever about the whole thing.

Does WorldCat stay on the main page?

v

12timlentz
Sep 17, 2009, 5:46pm Top

Vaneska asks a great question. Also, since ABEBooks has an ownership stake in LibraryThing, and Amazon now owns ABEBooks, how does that play into this decision?

13timspalding
Sep 17, 2009, 5:48pm Top

What could be more limited than zero (i.e., eliminating the options completely)?

My mother always quotes Alice in Wonderland:

Alice: I can't have more tea, I haven't had any yet.
Hatter: You can always have more than nothing, but not less.

Does WorldCat stay on the main page?

Well, let's keep talking. I suppose I could do a pop-up to allow edition-specific links to WC.

14conceptDawg
Sep 17, 2009, 5:49pm Top

I think that you're really going to like the new page. It offers some really cool new features. I especially like the live pricing information.

The benefits of having Local will be magnified if you live in a city where there are lots of bookstores too.

The swap sites section has been simplified and improved by Mike. Much easier to use.

Overall, I think it's a nice new feature...even if we were forced into doing it. We made lemonade out of lemons.

15timspalding
Sep 17, 2009, 5:49pm Top

>12 timlentz:

Not much. We get no special exemption. (We can link to Amazon companies, like Joyo or, for example, Abe, but so, apparently, can anyone.) I'm irritated, of course, but also relieved. If we had a special exemption, well, people would hold us against us—and rightly so.

16timspalding
Sep 17, 2009, 5:50pm Top

>14 conceptDawg:

Did you notice I made the screen shot really small? Just large enough to pick some stuff out...

17rebeccanyc
Sep 17, 2009, 5:52pm Top

Maybe I didn't read everything carefully enough, but does Amazon REQUIRE that they be listed on the main work page, or only that nobody else be listed there? If they don't require that they be listed on the main page, I say put them on the secondary page with everybody else!

18vaneska
Sep 17, 2009, 5:53pm Top

13: I only asked because I didn't see it on that prototype new page. I don't have an axe to grind on the matter. I use it every now and then to look something up but it wouldn't be a big deal if it disappeared. It has become less useful since they instigated that fancy new layout that makes them look like Amazon and manages to give you what seems like less information.

v

19mbklein
Sep 17, 2009, 5:53pm Top

Tim,

I think it's a crappy policy on Amazon's part, and I think your response is extremely friendly to your users and affiliates while staying within the letter of Amazon's policy. So don't take the following as snarky or critical, mmmkay? Just making conversation.

Is this really a "policy change," or is it just that Amazon has /(decided|come up with a more efficient way)/ to enforce the policy as it has existed since at least 2007?

I hope you have a backup plan somewhere that you're working on, because your workaround -- giving Amazon what they demand, but making up for it by giving other sellers something better -- may actually provoke Amazon into becoming *more* restrictive.

20jlelliott
Sep 17, 2009, 5:58pm Top

-17 I agree!

21timspalding
Edited: Sep 17, 2009, 6:02pm Top

>17 rebeccanyc:

No, they require it. Nice try, though. Lawyerly thinking.

Is this really a "policy change," or is it just that Amazon has /(decided|come up with a more efficient way)/ to enforce the policy as it has existed since at least 2007?

That's a good question/point. The change tracking shows various changes; I can't remember what wiggles when. But no, the main thing is that they are deciding what stuff means. It used to be very wiggly, and the main source of rules was uninformed opinion. They never said just what it all meant, presumably because if you say, well, you've said.

Starting some months ago, they started calling around all the big API users, saying what they were going to start enforcing, all related to the fact that the API requests are now "signed"—meaning they can control them much more finely, and shut people down quickly.

Even so, there's still a lot of uncertainty.

I hope you have a backup plan somewhere...

Yes. It would be very painful, but I think we can manage it. We've spent a lot of time thinking through the issue.

22_Zoe_
Edited: Sep 17, 2009, 6:10pm Top

>17 rebeccanyc:, 20 I very strongly disagree. Sure, amazon is annoying, but it's still the only external link on the work page that I actually use, and I use it regularly. There's a lot of valuable information there. I like to look at LT before amazon, but if LT makes that too troublesome, I'll end up skipping LT entirely and going directly to amazon myself--and I'm a regular LT user; I'd imagine that it would be even worse for casual users.

Basically, LT shouldn't rely too much on its moral superiority when making decisions like this; the fact remains that amazon is very convenient, and convenience is important to a lot of people. If LT can give us its moral superiority and the convenience of amazon together, then that's great. But if we're forced to choose between the convenience of amazon and the moral superiority of LT, a lot of people are going to choose amazon. LT shouldn't force us to make that choice any more than necessary.


Irrelevant now.

23lorax
Sep 17, 2009, 6:19pm Top

A majority of the books on LibraryThing came from Amazon data

Well, if you hadn't had Amazon as the default from day one, maybe that wouldn't be the case.

I understand that you can't really ditch them now, much as I would like you to. But it's not as though your decisions didn't play a part in that situation.

when it comes to bibliographic coverage, 90% isn't good enough. Having to manually enter 1/10 books is a real pain.

I'm curious as to where you got that number. Do I correctly understand you to mean that 1 book in 10 is available nowhere else other than Amazon -- no library at all, nor Bowker? If true, that's certainly a point in Amazon's favor, but I find it surprising.

I'd also like you to reconsider removing the libraries from the main page. They're very useful for looking up data when the existing records don't have it (because they all came from Amazon, usually), and if Amazon's new terms don't forbid library links as well I think it's definitely worthwhile to keep them.

24lorax
Edited: Sep 17, 2009, 6:33pm Top

21>

(on having a "backup plan")

Yes. It would be very painful, but I think we can manage it. We've spent a lot of time thinking through the issue.

I'm very glad to hear that, though I'm curious as to how bad things would have to be for you to implement it -- not allowing people to add books other than from Amazon? Not allowing people to add books they didn't buy from Amazon?

Edited to add:

I'm the first to admit that my loathing of Amazon is outside the norm, and is the result of feeling personally betrayed by them many years ago when they changed their privacy policy (gee, suddenly changing a policy to make it much less friendly, doesn't that sound familiar), but nevertheless I think this attempt to wield their near-monopoly power is a terrible thing, and would even if it were a company that I wasn't quite so opposed to anyway.

25_Zoe_
Sep 17, 2009, 6:24pm Top

>23 lorax: How quickly do libraries add newly-released fiction?

26lorax
Sep 17, 2009, 6:29pm Top

25>

That probably depends on the library and the fiction. Probably not as far before release as Amazon, though, that's true.

27kathrynnd
Sep 17, 2009, 6:33pm Top

Some have the pre publication information for new books that are on order or awaiting cataloguing. Libraries need this information, otherwise they might order the same book twice.

28Collectorator
Sep 17, 2009, 6:35pm Top

I would so love it if Amazon was dumped entirely. I've been cruising LT for several months now with all images from Amazon turned off. I like it so much better that way. Who needs 'em?

Make a contest and give away scanners to the winners. Scanning images is not.that.hard! And scanners are cheap. Those of us who want images in our libraries should be happy to do the work to get them. (most of Amazon's images are blurry sucky things anyway.)

Like ebay, Amazon is just another roadhog on the internet superhighway. Let's pass 'em on the right and spray gravel.

29vaneska
Sep 17, 2009, 6:41pm Top

Tim

Do the new Amazon stipulations have any implications for the Add Books page? (I'm guessing not)

Overall, I understand that it makes sense to stick with Amazon for as long as that makes sense. However in parallel I think it also makes sense to make it easier for LT members to use the alternatives, ie a) making Amazon gradually less obviously the default 'go to' for everything b) ensuring that access to the alternative sources is well maintained (eg: Italian deastore is an excellent source that pretty much never works; I've never had a 13-digit ISBN work on Talis Union and wonder if that is their fault or some kind of fault in the TU-LT connection; Moscow Library Network searches have very limited functionality).

v

30lorax
Sep 17, 2009, 6:47pm Top

A more minor and specific note:

I see that the sample screenshot has "Get it Local". This is nice, but it seems like my primary use of the "Buy, Borrow, or Swap" will no longer be possible at all -- looking up bibliographic data at the LoC or via Worldcat. Please please please, even if you aren't amenable to leaving these on the main page, let us get to them from the secondary page, without needing to set our location to Washington, DC!

31Katya0133
Sep 17, 2009, 6:53pm Top

>27 kathrynnd:. "Some have the pre publication information for new books that are on order or awaiting cataloguing. Libraries need this information, otherwise they might order the same book twice."

The libraries I've worked in suppressed the order records so they wouldn't show up in the public catalog, which might mean they're not Z29.50-able.

32kathrynnd
Edited: Sep 17, 2009, 7:37pm Top

Try searching the LOC as a source in add books for The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, (which is supposed to be released in the US Sept 22nd). I entered the Canadian edition to my wishlist months ago using the Canadian National Catalogue as a source.

ETA: Using the Seattle Public Library as a source you have a choice of not only the US edition of the book, but the audiobook and the large print edition as well. Now perhaps the Seattle Public Library is using Amazon as a source for this, I don't know.

33conceptDawg
Sep 17, 2009, 7:30pm Top

30: lorax:
The screenshot is just showing the middle column of the work page. The left and right columns will still be there and some of the stuff will stay the same. So the buy/borrow/swap box will probably be renamed and reorganized but Worldcat, etc. might stay there if there is a need for them.

34lorax
Sep 17, 2009, 7:50pm Top

32>

Try searching the LOC as a source in add books for The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, (which is supposed to be released in the US Sept 22nd).

Works fine for me, what's your point?

(Also, I didn't claim every library had every book; I questioned the claim that there were 10% of books that couldn't be found in any library, or any bookstore other than Amazon.)

35Dragonfly
Sep 17, 2009, 7:51pm Top

RE 30:/33: WorldCat is the first place I look for info on a book, so please keep it very handy.

36kathrynnd
Sep 17, 2009, 8:03pm Top

34>

Sorry Lorax, I was responding to Katya0133 in msg. 31, my point being that we are not limited to using Amazon for pre release wishlists nor for newly published fiction. I rarely have to use Amazon now for entering books and wonder myself about the 10% claim.

37keristars
Sep 17, 2009, 8:14pm Top

Isn't the 10% claim a reference to (somewhat, subjectively) superficial data like book cover images? Or am I misunderstanding when I interpret the statement to mean "10% of the data would have to be manually entered because it's not readily available outside of Amazon"?

Because, honestly, I'd say that it's more like Amazon that would only have 90% of books, and that's being generous, with the rest being manual-entry if onlyAmazon were used (which is how I first read Tim's post, and was completely confused, and now I wonder what I was doing to read it backwards like that).

38lorax
Sep 17, 2009, 8:58pm Top

37>

No, you were right the first time.

Tim was saying that, if LT abandoned Amazon altogether, 10% of books would need to be manually entered.

39Katya0133
Edited: Sep 17, 2009, 9:10pm Top

>36 kathrynnd:

Ahh, good point. National cataloging agencies like the LoC and LAC will put that data in early, because they're the ones doing the CIP in the first place.

40Carnophile
Sep 17, 2009, 9:22pm Top

Yuck, Amazon.

41caffron
Sep 17, 2009, 9:40pm Top

1. I think LT has done very well with the second-page compromise. If the other page is super-snazzy, though, and click-through for Amazon drops significantly, there may be future changes to API terms.

2. Not to be unduly alarmist, but there's another uncertainty in the picture here. Although OCLC's records policy change was justly blocked, there might arise a "compromise" in the next round that may please OCLC and satiate libraries but not be good for LT. Librarians as a group haven't exactly demonstrated a strong spine when negotiating with publishers, and they have even more at stake with OCLC. The movement to keep OCLC in check started very slowly and might not have worked had it not been for prominent LT press. (I'm learning now how very many crappy records are in OCLC, but that's another post.) Any massive change of systems should probably at least have a contingency plan in place for that potential mess. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't looked at Books in Print for a while, so I don't know how much data Bowker has to offer; certainly the basic bibliographic fields, but at what price to LT as partner?

First step: stop the bleeding. Amazon can't remain the default for add books. Most of my own library was entered on this default, because I didn't know to do any differently (and in fairness there were a lot fewer sources in late 2005.) The worst part is that Amazon data brought with it ISBN errors, author errors/single names, etc. that will make it more difficult to match/update records with non-Amazon data. Combiners know all about this and are more patient than I in fixing it when they can.

Second step: gather information (just estimates) on how important covers really are. What % of LT members default to cover view for their libraries? How many members actually use widgets and how many hits do they get? Covers are nice for a lot of features, but how many are critical? (For series pages, covers are nice, but for widgets they're almost essential.) What percentage of works lacks covers now? I know that quite a few of mine were missing even from Amazon data; I scanned my first cover only a couple of months ago after I had to test the process to write the HelpThing page! We absolutely need to replace covers with our own data, but we also need to know the impact of the task ahead.

Third step: figure out how much cataloging/cover data we can get from other sources. Publishers, Open Library, Biblios, Talis... I'm betting you're steadily on that one already, but I think the above steps are actually more important.

Fourth step: assess the servers. Can they handle the traffic of a cover-scanning flash mob of unprecedented proportions? LT gives away member-scanned covers to libraries and others who ask...it's time to use open access as a motivational tool. Pick a week and market it to libraries, the press, and LT members, of course. Give members credit for cover images like other images get, and rev up on two fronts: individual competition and open-source community spirit.

Fifth step: add generic work capability (no specific ISBN/edition). Offer the option to add a generic work to satiate the people who would be using Amazon and many others that just want to "add this book" but don't care about edition. This generic work should be the "add using LT as source" option and should default to the most popular member-scanned cover. Does it decrease the richness of the data? Yeah. But it probably provides sufficient capabilities for a good chunk of the user base, which keeps them contributing knowledge of their collections and tags, which keeps both members and the LT for Libraries cash cow happy.

Of course all of this is MUCH easier said than done, which is why I am just a career-changing grad student and Tim and Co are entrepreneurs. :|

42EugeniaKim
Sep 17, 2009, 9:55pm Top

>38 lorax: Tim was saying that, if LT abandoned Amazon altogether, 10% of books would need to be manually entered.

Ten percent isn't bad. What if there was a sort of LT wiki database where authorized users, like librarians, folks with fat libraries, authors, added their own data and images? Your solution seems workable and folks seem to be okay with it, but having to create a workaround solely because of meanness and exclusivity on info seems, well, like a workaround. Would publishers be willing to provide the missing info freely, easily?

I heart LT. I will scan/photograph book covers for LT, as will others I bet.

43MerryMary
Sep 17, 2009, 10:01pm Top

I'm retired. I'll do whatever I can between grandchildren visits!!

44conceptDawg
Sep 17, 2009, 10:04pm Top

We are hard at work in some way or another on each of your points. I won't comment more than that because some of our plans are in the early stages and others we don't want to talk about until we are ready (how's that for vague?). Tim may want to talk about the plans but I don't feel comfortable doing so just yet.

45timspalding
Sep 17, 2009, 10:53pm Top

Well, if you hadn't had Amazon as the default from day one, maybe that wouldn't be the case.

To be accurate, actually we started with the LC, then with an LC/Amazon mashup—a clever, if bad, idea.

I'm curious as to where you got that number. Do I correctly understand you to mean that 1 book in 10 is available nowhere else other than Amazon -- no library at all, nor Bowker? If true, that's certainly a point in Amazon's favor, but I find it surprising.

I suspect if the criterion is nowhere else, the answer is much lower. But can't seach everywhere at the same time. We have to search a single source, or perhaps a small number of sources. We can hold onto records we find, and indeed, from that, build up a giant pile of metadata. (We have and it's going to be searchable soon.) But, still, having access to search interfaces isn't the same as being able to do a search across them all in a reasonable amount of time.

When it comes to Bowker, I'm still doing the numbers. Clearly they--or a competitor--is necessary to close the gap between libraries and Amazon. Without them, we'd be without most paperbacks. But their coverage is not as good as Amazons. And, frankly, we'd have to negotiate access. They are a paid service, and while they are an investor in LibraryThing, that doesn't mean we can just take all their data and go hog-wild with it.

I'd also like you to reconsider removing the libraries from the main page. They're very useful for looking up data when the existing records don't have it (because they all came from Amazon, usually), and if Amazon's new terms don't forbid library links as well I think it's definitely worthwhile to keep them.

Okay, I'm convinced. The question is now a UI one. I don't think we can talk about that right now, as we're not looking at the new UI together. I'll think about it.

>23 lorax: How quickly do libraries add newly-released fiction?

kathrynnd and Katya0133 are both right. We have access to some records. Notably, many will be very sketchy and incomplete--purchasing placeholders more than anything.

I've been cruising LT for several months now with all images from Amazon turned off. I like it so much better that way. Who needs 'em?

With respect, you're an outlier. Covers are an important part of the LT experience. I agree with you we could do a LOT with user-contributed covers. And we could get many from publishers--the top 10 publishers would cover 90% of books by popularity. But covers are important, and we'd lose something important.

Chris: So the buy/borrow/swap box will probably be renamed and reorganized but Worldcat, etc. might stay there if there is a need for them.

Conflicting visions. Let's talk.

superficial data like book cover images

See above.

Tim was saying that, if LT abandoned Amazon altogether, 10% of books would need to be manually entered.

Obviously it's a guess. I know that of current data, 93% is from Amazon. Much depends on aggregating what we have, something we aren't ready to release yet.

and click-through for Amazon drops significantly, there may be future changes to API terms.

Oh, I doubt they're watching our click-throughs carefully. It's really not a lot of money. For them, in my opinion, it's the principle of the thing. Lots of Amazon data users are doing nothing more interesting than selling stuff—Amazon's stuff and others'. I suppose they resent having a straight-up copy site showing Amazon data alongside B&N links. LibraryThing, a book site, but not a huge affiliate site, is marginal to that.

Although OCLC's records policy change was justly blocked, there might arise a "compromise" in the next round that may please OCLC and satiate libraries but not be good for LT.

It's a danger. But I think we've got it under control. I look forward to a law suit for using data from the Library of Congress. We'd win.

>41 caffron:

The rest of your message is the sort of preparation we've been doing, or at least talking through.

I'm retired. I'll do whatever I can between grandchildren visits!!

And grandchildren scan books like a charm!

Tim may want to talk about the plans but I don't feel comfortable doing so just yet.

Don't tell him about the parrot.

46staffordcastle
Sep 17, 2009, 11:16pm Top

Thanks for keeping WorldCat readily accessible - it would be very inconvenient to have it further away, as I use it rather a lot.

47conceptDawg
Sep 17, 2009, 11:43pm Top

Conflicting visions. Let's talk.
I don't think so. I think it was more about me trying to be vague and not promise anything in particular. heh. :)

48timspalding
Sep 18, 2009, 12:07am Top

Good, good... :)

49MarthaJeanne
Sep 18, 2009, 2:57am Top

I hope that Amazon will also only be on the secondary page.

50justjim
Sep 18, 2009, 3:01am Top

Then the Amazoomies would say that that one was the primary page and everything else would have to move one level. "It's turtles all the way down!"

51jjmcgaffey
Sep 18, 2009, 3:46am Top

I've been using Amazon as my main source, mostly because it's easy. They've now convinced me to go to the effort of finding good sources to replace them. So pllllbbbbbbtt Amazon!

The new page looks neat. I do use Worldcat and Link+, not as Add Books sources but for extra data (DDC numbers, in particular - and Link+ for if the book is available in a local library). But I'm perfectly willing to do the extra click to get to all that juicy data... (actually, if the new page really integrates Local and lets me see straight away whether there's a local copy, it would save me quite a few clicks!).

I've just (in the last few months) started a serious campaign to eliminate Amazon covers from my catalog. I do consider covers important, and want not only covers but the _right_ covers on my books - and high quality ones, too! I've been going through the Amazon and blank cover books and deciding whether I can use one of the given covers, whether I can scan it (and doing a few, every time I do cover work), or whether I need to find another source because I've gotten rid of the book. Not many of those, thank goodness. When I finished all the scanning, there will be quite a few (a thousand plus) more high-quality covers on LT. If everyone did that...

I'm delighted to hear about a store of metadata, and hope it will become available as a source. And I second caffron in asking for the generic edition - I'd much rather use that for a wishlist book than an actual edition. I know you've been working on (or at least thinking about) an edition layer, which would come in very handy for a lot of things. Would putting in a generic edition be a useful first step towards that, or would it just confuse things and make it harder to do editions properly? As a programmer, I can see that it could work either way, depending on what the structure is now and what you intend it to be when the feature's done.

52pst
Sep 18, 2009, 3:57am Top

> Amazon is requiring all websites, as a condition of getting any
> data from them, to have the primary page link to Amazon alone.

The linked conditions say: "Unsuitable applications include those that:

(a) do not have as their principal purpose advertising and marketing
the Amazon Site and driving sales of products and services on the Amazon Site;"

So is this the principal purpose here? I hope not. I have already refrained from using some LT features as I don't want to advertise Amazon with cover links.

Tim wrote that people supporting leaving Amazon entirely should sketch out the future. OK, I believe that the best future source of bibliographic information will be one that is user-driven and spread freely, like a wikipedia-like collection of bibliographic facts. My optimistic sketch of the future for LT is that LT will be the center of that. Many people here really make an effort of having correct bibliographic listings of their books, but all that work isn't propagated. If someone adds information about the illustrator of an edition of a book that I also own I don't get that information, etc. Instead everyone starts from scratch. Often this "scratch" is certainly rather good, because of the good work of librarians, but for some works not so good.

So now could those who support not leaving Amazon sketch out the future? What will the next step be?

53andyl
Sep 18, 2009, 4:07am Top

#23

On the 1/10 manually entered.

I would estimate for me, at the time of entering, that is an under-estimate.

The main classes of things I can't find in library sources -

1) SF Magazines
2) Most RPG books
3) A lot of paperback fiction - older British editions especially.
4) Books I buy in first edition within the first week or two of sale. The CIP record created by the publisher is used as a basis for the full catalogue record in the deposit libraries in due course. Of course some smaller publishers don't use CIP either.

54klarusu
Sep 18, 2009, 4:48am Top

Much as I really hate what Amazon's doing here and the principle behind it, I still find Amazon the quickest and easiest source for entering books. I don't see that it's a feasible option to just dump them. I think it will most likely make LT seem more of a niche site to new members, it could be off-putting to have to search around any more than the present search makes you for books. That said, they are quite obviously the devil.

I've only had time to skim the posts above so far, but am I in a minority in thinking this is a case where corporate evil has pushed LT to develop a better thing? I never used Buy, Borrow, Swap because I didn't find it that well-conceived but certainly from Tim's screenshot what's being developed seems so much better. One click away is no major issue if what you're getting is a much clearer page to navigate and find the books you want.

Can the link to this page be much more prominent on the primary page than Amazon's? In which case, make theirs teeny but there and doll this link up with flashing stars and a cape ...

55justjim
Sep 18, 2009, 4:55am Top

There you go Tim, a request for usage of the Blink tag. Kill* two birds with one stone.

*No birds were harmed during the production of this post.

56AnnieMod
Sep 18, 2009, 5:12am Top

>41 caffron: What % of LT members default to cover view for their libraries? How many members actually use widgets and how many hits do they get?

I do not do either but I care for the covers (having them in my list view) and I would not like to see them gone. And I suspect that I am not the only one.

As for the manual entries - the main part of my library does not have a source to be added from (the Bulgarian books). So when I am done with entering it, I will probably end up with half of my library entered manually (especially counting all magazines, chapbooks and comics as well). But I am finding most of the small publishers books only on Amazon so I will be sad seeing it gone.

57mckait
Sep 18, 2009, 5:30am Top

#54 I am with you klarasue, regarding Amazon. Although I dislike some of their policies, I love their customer service. IN a world where that no longer seems to exist, they have never let me down. I shop at Amazon. I too, think it is quick and easy for adding data, and have never been aware of mistakes.

On the otherhand, a page with several links and options sounds like a great idea to me. I often shop at other sites, including bookcloseouts, book depository and betterworld books.I don't see those on the possible new page.. so I imagine that I will just continue to get to them on my own. Not a big deal .

58vaneska
Sep 18, 2009, 5:47am Top

57: You do know that you can add bookcloseouts, book depository etc etc to your work page now by using the edit pencil in the buy/borrow/swap box? I can't imagine that Tim et al would be planning to do away with the ability to add such a wide variety of options as exist now - they just seem to be presenting things differently.

v

59Carnophile
Sep 18, 2009, 8:04am Top

>42 EugeniaKim: Would publishers be willing to provide the missing info freely, easily?

This seems like an interesting avenue to explore. It certainly would be in the publishers' interest to provide this info as from their point of view it's free advertising.

60Collectorator
Sep 18, 2009, 8:19am Top

Could we have links to publisher's sites in the publication data field? I wouldn't mind advertising them at all. :)

61Awfki
Sep 18, 2009, 8:23am Top

Is there a thread somewhere where LT users (not Mgt) can discuss the petition/boycott? I'd like to send Amazon a nasty letter but it would so much more effective if I can add the names of a few thousand of my closest friends.

62royalhistorian
Sep 18, 2009, 8:28am Top

Well, there are some ways LT could work on having Amazon-data as less as possible:

First, rework Works/books and give us editions. This will solve combining issues and will give the opportunity to correct bookdata. Also, let us add books from other LT catalogs.

When we have editions, covers can be assigned per edition. At this time, Amazon covers can be deleted (many user-uploaded covers). Not at once, but in parts.

This, in combination with the new work page, would LT make less depended on Amazon.

63PortiaLong
Sep 18, 2009, 8:35am Top

>57 mckait: ...and have never been aware of mistakes.

Is this that you have never been aware of mistakes in your orders or in the book entries?

My main reason for visiting Amazon now is to correct Amazon entries when their bad data is screwing up combining efforts here on LT. I submit a dozen or more of these "update product info" correction per week that come up in the Combiners! group etc. So pretty much all I see of Amazon directly are the mistakes. (The hundreds of books attributed to Enid Blyton at one point being the most egregious set in my experience on LT.)

(My secondary reason for visiting Amazon is to grab ISBNs for the books my spouse has wishlisted there to plug them into BookMooch with the handy BM tool for that. Once LT has fixed up the generic edition/ purple checks for wishlist books stuff I can move my/our wishlists here and keep everything "in house" - interesting to me is that I believe that BMs "related editions" is LT driven, so I am dependent on LT even while grabbing Amazon data on a different site.)

Proposed new secondary page looks great guys!

I don't feel very strongly about it one way or the other but would not object to Library/Data info links (LoC, WorldCat, etc.) staying on the main page and agree with keeping the Amazon link as inobtrusive as possible (Being on the main page will be convenient for me personally to click through to update product info on bad entries...)

64AnnieMod
Sep 18, 2009, 8:41am Top

:) well - if you go there only to correct things, you think that it is a real mess. When you are a regular user, you do not see so many problems.

It's like my visits in LT - if I am not in the Talks, I am most likely fixing something or searching something for fixing :) Does it make the work system of LT that bad - not really... it just need some help so it can become better :) But if I judge from what I am doing around it, I am only doing fixes so it should be really bad, right? :)

65hailelib
Sep 18, 2009, 8:53am Top

I've used manual add on about 3% of the books I've entered (about 5% in my personal account and about 1% in the organizational account I'm doing) but sometimes I get stubborn and keep trying ever more obscure sources. For the past year I've been selecting many fewer Amazon covers and I really love finding member added ones so thanks to everyone who regularly scans in covers!

66timspalding
Sep 18, 2009, 8:55am Top

First, I have to confess the worst thing about the Amazon business. We have to send them our first born:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/abbysara/3926575155/

When I finished all the scanning, there will be quite a few (a thousand plus) more high-quality covers on LT. If everyone did that...

We'd have 800,000,000 covers. I don't think there are that many.

Amazon: do not have as their principal purpose advertising and marketing the Amazon Site and driving sales of products and services on the Amazon Site;

Oh, there's lots of such killer provisions. We know we're okay for now. Amazon is not going to kill off 90% of its data users. Believe me, this stuff has been on our minds for some time now. Amazon has a lot of arbitrary power. We're hedged as best as we can be and, frankly, we think it's enough.

My optimistic sketch of the future for LT is that LT will be the center of that. Many people here really make an effort of having correct bibliographic listings of their books, but all that work isn't propagated. If someone adds information about the illustrator of an edition of a book that I also own I don't get that information, etc. Instead everyone starts from scratch. Often this "scratch" is certainly rather good, because of the good work of librarians, but for some works not so good.

We share this vision.

I would estimate for me, at the time of entering, that is an under-estimate.

Part of the problem is that the number would be higher for some people. Even if the average is 10% or even 2%, if some slice of users--people who like old Sci-Fi, for example--have to enter 25%, they won't do it. LibraryThing grows in part socially. If the Sci-Fi people aren't on LT, they won't come to LT, and we lose that whole community.

Can the link to this page be much more prominent on the primary page than Amazon's? In which case, make theirs teeny but there and doll this link up with flashing stars and a cape ...

We're going to make the Amazon link 9 point and titled "Don't click me" and the other link 48 point and surrounded by a blink tag. Not actually.

There you go Tim, a request for usage of the Blink tag. Kill* two birds with one stone.

For web developers of a certain generation, blink tag jokes are the jokes that just keep on giving. Like fart jokes for seven year olds.

This seems like an interesting avenue to explore. It certainly would be in the publishers' interest to provide this info as from their point of view it's free advertising.

Publishers are willing to provide their ONIX feeds. They all make them, and if we had every publisher's ONIX feed, we would have about what Bowker has--not quite Amazon. The problem is that Bowker exists for a reason. Publishers will give you it, but you have to ask them, one by one. Then their idiot tech guy gives you some faulty FTP. Or the file has some XML parsing error. Or etc. etc. Getting ONIX from the top 10 publishers is doable. Getting it from everybody is a company, and it's not ours.

67elenchus
Sep 18, 2009, 10:00am Top

I add my support for the secondary page, very much like the approach, and LT's general response to a bum deal. I personally like the idea of leaving Amazon by itself on the primary page and putting everything else on the secondary page, but acknowledge the other views above.

I've been following the Google saga re: scanning every published book known to mankind, and am curious if LT believe this effort (should it not be killed in the courts) would have a role in separating from Amazon. Eventually.

I also noted Tim's mention in the original notice that the secondary page will support edition-sensitive requests / searches. Woo!

68ltmike
Edited: Sep 18, 2009, 10:50am Top

I'd still love to see something like:

amazon
barnes & nobel
abe books

Note: the B&N and abe links are links to our secondary page.

Or maybe I'm just interested to know if we could get away with it. Feels very divisive and therefore pleasing.

-Mike

Ps. I know it would probably be quite annoying to not go to B&N when you click on a link that says B&N fairly disqualifying my idea as a good one (:

69timspalding
Sep 18, 2009, 12:09pm Top

>68 ltmike: Yeah. I think we can't do that. We could, I think, say "10,000 other bookstores!!!!!!"

70staffordcastle
Sep 18, 2009, 12:20pm Top

>56 AnnieMod: I do not do either but I care for the covers (having them in my list view) and I would not like to see them gone. And I suspect that I am not the only one.

Hear, hear. I love looking at my covers, and quite aside from the pleasure element, it's helpful in jogging my memory of what a book looks like before I go searching for it on the shelves.

>66 timspalding: We have to send them our first born:

LOL! Too cute.

71Nedrin
Sep 18, 2009, 12:24pm Top

The Amazon data (especially amazon.fr) are not always accurate. I have often corrected the description of my books I received from Amazon.From now on I think I won't use Amazon anymore.
Kind regards

72kristenn
Sep 18, 2009, 12:48pm Top

I'm very fond of my covers and I'm sure most are from Amazon. Although I've scanned quite a few over the years.

Short term, we wouldn't have to scan, right? We could just download the current Amazon cover (after confirming there isn't already a member-contributed match) to our desktop and then upload it. Pretty fast process per book. But I have a smaller library than most.

73ansate
Sep 18, 2009, 1:08pm Top

since I was feeling procrastinate-y anyway - I'm going through my library, and trying to change all amazon.com sourced books to a member uploaded cover. I'm tagging the ones that don't have one "amazon cover". I can't exactly scan them in myself since 95% are from the library.

The last few months (since I've seen all the issues there's been with amazon data) I haven't been using them as a source - but I autouploaded several hundred and added many more before that.

74fig2
Sep 18, 2009, 1:30pm Top

I always use Amazon covers, if possible, so I'd be unhappy to lose that option. As hard as it may be to believe, there are members out there who are stuck in the dark ages and don't have access to, or the know-how to operate, a scanner in order to upload our own covers. (Oh, the shame...)

The admittedly insignificant problem with using member-uploaded covers is that they don't show up when you click "see all your covers". While I realize we're not all clicking "see all your covers" several times a day, it IS slightly irritating to see most of your covers with a lot of default covers mixed in.

In light of the Amazon bru-ha-ha, after all things are correct and working and after the dust settles, is there a way to fix this?

Put this at the very bottom of your list of things to do, Tim.

75jjmcgaffey
Sep 18, 2009, 2:16pm Top

73> You know there's a way to see all your Amazon covers? Then you can check those for whether there's a member-uploaded cover available. Statistics/Memes-Book Covers-Amazon covers. I used that and put all my Amazon covers into a collection called Working On; when I've gotten them a proper cover, they get removed from that collection.

66> 800,000,000 covers
Well, if you count in flashes and different color titles and author names, plus varying levels of quality (120 to 1400 pixels high!)... I'm being varyingly picky, but if there's a member-uploaded cover that's correct in general, even if it's low quality, I'll pick it just to get rid of the Amazon one. And then tag the book _scan cover.

76lorax
Sep 18, 2009, 2:22pm Top

74>

You do realize that there's a third option besides "use Amazon covers, which can change or disappear at any time" and "scan in all your own covers", right? The "use covers that other Thingamabrarians have uploaded" option?

I don't think I've ever actually used the "see all your covers" link before -- it took me a while just to find it -- and I see your point. (It's horrible. Even when I've picked out a user-uploaded cover it shows the Amazon cover. Bleargh.) But it would surely be much easier to fix that to show the actual cover you're using than to remain tied to Amazon just for that feature!

77fig2
Sep 18, 2009, 2:28pm Top

76>

Yes, I do use the member-uploaded covers often. And, I'm exceedingly happy they are there to use, in light of my cover-uploading-challenge.

My only (tiny) gripe is that they don't show when you click "see all your covers". I'd happily change all my covers to member-uploads, if the would show everywhere.

78careytilden
Sep 18, 2009, 2:56pm Top

72> We could just download the current Amazon cover (after confirming there isn't already a member-contributed match) to our desktop and then upload it.

I haven't examined the amazon terms of use, but that would almost certainly be copyright violation. LT doesn't seem to store the amazon covers, they're linked to the amazon servers.

79timspalding
Sep 18, 2009, 2:59pm Top

Believe me, the all-covers page is not driving anything. We made it for a few member who wanted to use mosaic software—nothing more!

T

80timspalding
Sep 18, 2009, 3:01pm Top

I haven't examined the amazon terms of use, but that would almost certainly be copyright violation.

I am not a lawyer, but I suspect it wouldn't be a copyright violation, but an Amazon Terms of Service violation. They, we and everyone else shows covers under safe harbor provisions in copyright law. The actual copyright is held by the publisher, cover designer or whomever.

81SugarCreekRanch
Sep 18, 2009, 3:32pm Top

I like the way LT is responding to this issue.

The proposed secondary page looks GREAT.

I really like Amazon, and rely on their data a lot. I'm glad LT is not considering breaking up the relationship.

82lilithcat
Sep 18, 2009, 3:47pm Top

> 81

I suspect it wouldn't be a copyright violation, but an Amazon Terms of Service violation.

And, at least in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, a TOS violation is not a crime.

83VisibleGhost
Sep 18, 2009, 3:55pm Top

Some publishers can supply information from their current catalog. They're not nearly as good supplying information from their 1975 publishing. There are about 45,000 English language publishers. (BISG estimates) Thousands come and go each year. There is a current thread going which highlights a single publisher not keeping track of their publishing history. Easton Press. They can't (or won't) supply a master list of books they have published over the years. I would think there are many other publishers are in the same boat. Relying on publishers for data is going to be incomplete. Amazon & Google, with all their flaws, are building databases that have info collected into big piles. It's not perfect but it's there to be manipulated. Some of the manipulation won't happen for years but the collection of data continues.

LT entering into data collection is a good thing and a long-term project with no end date. For instance, LT could start a Easton Press work space, in CK? or a similar area, and let the members have at creating an Easton Press database. It would probably be as good as anything else out there over time. Multiply that by the amount of data begging to be collected and manipulated and LT could become a go-to source for a lot of biblio-information.

That being said, I'm not sure this is the time to abandon Amazon. They do have data that others don't have. And resources to acquire more. I tried to think like Amazon on this issue and I still don't quite understand their position on this enforcement. It seems a bit short-sighted.

84kathrynnd
Sep 18, 2009, 4:02pm Top

Tim: "We could, I think, say "10,000 other bookstores!!!!!!"

How about "10,000 other international bookstores!!!!" I removed barnes and noble and booksense from my Buy Borrow Swap list and added Chapters, I hope this link receives a prominently placed link on the new page. I never ever bought books online until I joined LT, now I like to toggle back and forth among the main players looking at pricing.

Speaking of book prices, could we have links to the three (English language) Amazons on the main page, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk? Would Amazon.com mind?

Will Amazon book descriptions still stay on the page?

85calm
Sep 18, 2009, 4:04pm Top

I like the look of the secondary page and the way that LT is dealing with the issue.

I am supporting my local second hand book shops for out of print books and the library for newer books - if you do not use the local resources they are more likely to disappear.So I do not use Amazon or any online bookseller except to research prices and availability. I still like having the links from LT.

What I do not like about this whole scenario is Amazon's attitude.

86Ferdinand_
Edited: Sep 18, 2009, 7:03pm Top

90 % of my books are published in Japan and many of these books are bigger than A4.

Dropping Amazon would cause *a lot* of work for me, since I would have to add most of my books and covers manually - currently LT offers only two sources for Japanese books: Amazon.co.jp and Waseda University.
Furthermore even scanning the many over sized books I own wouldn't be an option since I don't own an A3 scanner (A3 scanners are extremely expensive).

I guess that without Amazon (and its covers) LT would be much less attractive for private, non librarian, but nevertheless professional users like me.

87FicusFan
Sep 18, 2009, 4:46pm Top

I am sorry to hear about the problems Amazon is causing LT, including the extra work, and agree that they are being jackasses.

My opinions, which reflect how I use the site:

That said, they are still my book source of choice and will continue to be until something better comes along.

I don't care about all the green data, so I don't know if its right or wrong. I fix what needs it, when needed (of the data I care about). Its a small price to pay to avoid dealing with libraries and/or worldcat {shudder}.

I am not interested in recording who the 3rd cousin of the illustrator is, or most of the CK stuff (other than series). I just want to catalog a book with the data I need to find it, and replace it, if needed. I want it to look spiffy of course.

I don't want to force anyone to use Amazon, but I also don't want to be forced to give them up because people are in a snit about Amazon's stupidity. If it comes to LT being unable to function as LT then I understand that Amazon will have to go, but lets not rush it.

Its also not just data, but information, ratings, reviews, that Amazon has more of, and where I check first when looking for a book. They function for me like an extended (they have the oop books) Books-In-Print, since I am not going to pay for Bowkers.

Covers are not a luxury, or an option, but a requirement. I don't even use cover view, but I want them as part of my catalog, on my home page and profile. I have 2 books that are still without covers (other than the wandering, now you have it now you don't, that Amazon covers provide), and I still search the web for them periodically, and will till I find them.

I do try to use member-covers when I can, and I have scanned and uploaded some myself, when I can.

Some questions/observations about the proposed new screen:

I notice on the screen mock up, that the "Buy It On-Line" box doesn't seem to have an edit button. I hope that doesn't mean we can't add, delete and move around those sources (excepting Amazon of course) - because I have customized my current screen.

Don't really care about audio, ebooks, local stores ( I know them) or libraries, and the whole swap it section. Can I close them or turn them off ?

I have my book prices stored in my DB so that isn't needed, but I am very interested in any edition level abilities on LT.

I don't like that the other sources are not on the same screen as the book, though not sure what you can do and still meet Amazon's requirements.

When you say Amazon has to be alone, will Amazon.uk be there are well, or can be added for those who also use it, even though not in the UK?

Local:

I have to say that I find it mostly useless, because there is no ability to fine tune what you want. There is too much noise versus information. Maybe it works better in locations with few entries ?

I don't want anything to appear just because it is X number of miles near me. I want to get a wide variety of items from many different locations - because I favorited them. (Miles=0, Favorite=1).
So I now have miles at a really low number and then my homepage set to favorite, but that leaves out the favorites that are down in Massachusetts.

I would hate to be overwhelmed with more noise in the name of 'better local', unless there is the enhanced ability to fine tune/pick and choose as well.

88geneg
Sep 19, 2009, 2:18pm Top

Not having read all 87 of the previous posts, pardon me if I'm redundent.

Give amazon what they want temporarily. Undertake a project to examine the feasibility of dropping all business with Amazon. Force people to shop Amazon from another tab or page. Cut them out of LT like a cancer. If possible. Otherwise, fall in line. Say yessir Mr. Bezos, will that be all Mr. Bezos? I live to please you, Mr. Bezos. Suck it up and move on.

More lip service to competition from the oligarchs.

Who do you want running LT, Tim?

89Carnophile
Sep 19, 2009, 2:29pm Top

Okay, but if we're going to disengage from Amazon, let us do it politely. Sometimes in life you have to offend people, but you should avoid doing it when you don't have to.

90conceptDawg
Sep 19, 2009, 11:15pm Top

Just wanted to make it clear to everybody saying "Don't take Amazon off the page" that we're not going to do that. Amazon will still be available. In fact, we'll have even better information because you'll see the Amazon price right on that page instead of having to jump to Amazon to do it for every book. We'll be doing this same thing for various other bookstores too (Abe, Alibris, etc.).

One goal here is to make a much better tool for finding books that you want. From online sources to brick-and-mortar stores to libraries, we're doing as much as we can.

And we probably won't get it 100% correct in the first iteration either. It's definitely a work in progress; one that is on a bit of a time constraint given the Amazon demands.

Give us some constructive feedback and I think you'll be happy with the results. ;)

91rebeccanyc
Sep 20, 2009, 7:20am Top

That's a great idea to show the prices. As you probably know, The Book Depository in England and its new US subsidiary show both Book Depository prices and Amazon prices and allow you to click on "Buy it at Amazon" right from their own book page. Of course, usually the prices at Book Depository are cheaper, especially since they show Amazon prices with shipping (BD doesn't charge shipping), but sometimes it turns out that Amazon is cheaper.

92Ferdinand_
Edited: Sep 21, 2009, 5:56am Top

conceptDawg (90) wrote:
"In fact, we'll have even better information because you'll see the Amazon price right on that page instead of having to jump to Amazon to do it for every book. We'll be doing this same thing for various other bookstores too (Abe, Alibris, etc.)."

That are good news. And it could be that by forcing LT to redesign it's pages will be a Pyrrhic victory for Amazon. Since many years I am either buying books locally or at Amazon and I hadn't heard of dealers like Book Depository before. A short comparison of prices revealed that Book Depository can be much cheaper than Amazon.

My guess is, that by listing other dealers and the possibility to compare prices much more easily will not increase Amazon's business. ;-)

93conceptDawg
Sep 22, 2009, 1:16pm Top

I agree. I think (and many others agree) that this will hurt Amazon in the long run. It's certainly a questionable call.

94megacoupe
Sep 22, 2009, 3:13pm Top

Question: if I want to add the books in my Wishlist Collection to my BookMooch/PBS wishlists as efficiently as possible, would NOW be the time to do it? Before the "Buy, Borrow, Swap" thing goes away?

(It seems like it's a one-click affair now, but will be two-clicks away once the changes are implemented.)

95infiniteletters
Sep 22, 2009, 4:00pm Top

94: Yes.

96_Zoe_
Sep 24, 2009, 6:40pm Top

Ugh, I'm already mourning the loss of quick links. I don't want to choose an edition. I just want to read the amazon reviews because they're better than the ones on LT.

97timspalding
Sep 24, 2009, 6:42pm Top

>96 _Zoe_:

It's always nice to salt your complaints with insults... :)

Go talk about it on http://www.librarything.com/topic/73814

T

98_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 9:11am Top

Sorry. I've lately become very frustrated with the whole review system on LT. I think the extreme focus on reviews as catalogue data, with concern only for the reviewer at the expense of the reader, has pretty much crippled the review feature here. It's disappointing.

99fredbacon
Sep 25, 2009, 10:04am Top

I'm not sure that I understand your complaint. How is the book review system substantively different at LibraryThing compared to Amazon? Amazon has a larger user base, so books are more likely to garner thoughtful reviews. More users --> more reviews --> more high quality reviews. Are you frustrated by a structural problem, or are you criticizing the activity of users to promote their reviews?

100Katya0133
Sep 25, 2009, 10:34am Top

>99 fredbacon:.

I think Amazon's highly rated reviews tend to be more helpful. That may be due to a subtle difference in wording: At Amazon, you're asked if you found a review helpful, at LT, you simply give a thumbs up if you like a review, which may give more of a boost to funny or snarky reviews.

101timspalding
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 10:43am Top

Some members want down-voting and commenting on reviews. I find Amazon helpful for its quantity, but in my experience the people here are about 3x smarter, better-read and better able to express themselves.

I also think the Amazon idea is flawed in that it focuses reviewing on the "Should I buy it" question. That makes sense, given their focus. But I read the NYT book review section every week for fun. That is, I'm not really scouting out new buys—although I may pick up a book. Mostly I want to be entertained. Ditto when I read the reviews of books I have on LT. It's fun to read reviews of books you have read...

102_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 10:45am Top

Yeah, I think the helpful wording is very significant. I've seen several people on LT saying that they don't like to give thumbs-up to good reviews, only outstanding ones. But when I'm reading reviews, I want to find the ones that are helpful, and I don't care whether they're works of art or not.

Amazon also allows negative thumbs. There's the awareness that, if you're putting a review out there, you risk negative feedback--which I think encourages people to put a bit more thought into what they're writing. The same goes for comments: you're putting something up for the public to see, and if they disagree with your points, they can say so.

The review culture on LT is completely different. There's an attitude that people are reviewing for themselves, not offering up a review for other readers. Any possibility of negative interaction must be avoided, because it would make people stop writing reviews--which is based on the assumption that all reviews are good and quantity is everything; more low-quality reviews are better than fewer high-quality reviews.

103_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 10:49am Top

I also think the Amazon idea is flawed in that it focuses reviewing on the "Should I buy it" question. That makes sense, given their focus. But I read the NYT book review section every week for fun. That is, I'm not really scouting out new buys—although I may pick up a book. Mostly I want to be entertained. Ditto when I read the reviews of books I have on LT. It's fun to read reviews of books you have read...

I don't think the fact that you do something means that it's standard. Many people, including me, focus on the "should I read it" question. I'd even go so far as to say that that's sort of the point of reviews.

104timspalding
Sep 25, 2009, 10:57am Top

>103 _Zoe_:

I think many people read reviews for fun. It's why people enjoy the top reviews section--not because they're trying to decide buy/not-buy, but because reviews are fun.

105calm
Sep 25, 2009, 11:12am Top

I agree with Tim here. I read reviews for fun. Amazon's reviews are not what I am looking for. (It also seems to me a way to make money for Amazon.) LT has a very different feel and purpose. I like the difference and do not want copycat features from other sites.

106_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 11:20am Top

>104 timspalding: Yes, but the fact that many people do something doesn't mean that it's the most common or best approach. And it certainly doesn't mean that all other approaches are wrong or worthless.

107Carnophile
Sep 25, 2009, 11:23am Top

There's an attitude that people are reviewing for themselves, not offering up a review for other readers.

Why is your desire about my purposes in writing a review more important than my own purposes? This isn't ZoeThing.

108_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 11:36am Top

>107 Carnophile: I think you have it backwards. I'm prioritizing a group of people, the review readers. A "ZoeThing" review is the same as a "KatyaThing" review (choosing the name of someone else who recently said here that they find the amazon reviews more helpful). You're prioritizing an individual, yourself. So ZoeThing would be bad, but CarnophileThing is great, right?

109calm
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 11:45am Top

What is wrong with allowing the people who prefer the way reviews are on LT to keep this system. As Zoe says And it certainly doesn't mean that all other approaches are wrong or worthless. There is value in a variety of approaches!

There is a place to read Amazon style reviews - with comments and thumbs down - on Amazon.

110_Zoe_
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 11:55am Top

>109 calm: So that brings us back to my original point: all I wanted was a quick way to get from the LT pages to Amazon, without the extra step :)

Let me try a different argument: Tim, you said the non-edition feature was partially broken. Amazon is evil and deserving of a broken feature; all the other site links will be safe on a different page. So, can't we keep the editionless Amazon link?

ETA: to make up for the insult to LT's reviews, let me add that LT is great for tags and ratings.

111lorax
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 12:28pm Top

The review culture on LT is completely different. There's an attitude that people are reviewing for themselves, not offering up a review for other readers. Any possibility of negative interaction must be avoided, because it would make people stop writing reviews--which is based on the assumption that all reviews are good and quantity is everything; more low-quality reviews are better than fewer high-quality reviews.

I agree 95%. I'd say both reviewing cultures are present at LT -- I review for other people. If it was just for myself I'd put it in private comments. But the "reviews are for the reviewer, nobody is ever allowed to say that your "I liked it" review was unhelpful" attitude is also prevalent and I would say dominant, given the antipathy toward allowing "This review was not helpful" feedback.

Edited to add:

This has nothing to do with whether you're reading a review of a book you're interested in or one you've already read. In neither case is "I liked it" interesting, helpful, or useful.

112bluetyson
Sep 25, 2009, 12:58pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
106

Speaking of worthless, Zoe - you talk a lot about what you want from reviews, but are pretty worthless as a reviewer yourself, speaking of quantity as you mentioned earlier - 30 in several years?

You realise that may nark a few people, don't you? You want to be able to criticise them while contributing bugger-all yourself in this area.

Would you pay more for this feature? Or how about people that don't contribute much here in this area have to pay more for their accounts, so those that do get a discount?

I'll agree with you on the quick link thing at the moment, though. Rather painful so far, and a bit of a surprise.

113lorax
Sep 25, 2009, 1:07pm Top

112>

That's below the belt. Zoe's reviews are well-written and have content. I'd take 30 like that over 300 one-sentence blurbs any day. (This is not aimed at you. You're doing something different with reviews than Zoe is.)

I don't have very many reviews either, but that's partly because I only write reviews if I have something to add -- I'm not so arrogant as to think people will specifically seek out my opinion, so if I'm just going to add the hundredth review or just say something that's been said before, I'm not going to bother.

114_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 1:13pm Top

>112 bluetyson: I'm always shocked at how rude people are when it comes to this issue. "A small number" is not the same as "zero". Your comments that my review contributions are "worthless" and "bugger-all" are both nasty and false.

Not everyone reads hundreds of books in a year. Nor does everyone think it's necessary to write a review of every book they read, regardless of whether or not they have anything new or worthwhile to say.

Feel free to consider yourself a superior human being because you read very quickly. But keep those opinions to yourself, please and thanks.

115_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 1:14pm Top

>113 lorax: Thanks, lorax.

116bluetyson
Sep 25, 2009, 1:31pm Top

113

Which was most definitely partly the point and got exactly the reaction I hoped for. There will be large numbers of 'below the belt' remarks if you allow direct criticism of people. Mine was extremely mild on that scale. If something this weak provokes such a response from the target imagine how some people are going to feel when something actually nasty gets said.

You can say what you like lorax, you have to come up with something pretty special to upset me on the internet. :) (It would be 1000's of one-liners actually, and likewise 1000s rather longer).

There'll be people thin-skinned enough that might actually cry over something this innocuous, too, whereas in some of us it will only provoke mild amusement.

A great example of this side of the argument is Zoe's response, though.

117Carnophile
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 1:42pm Top

>108 _Zoe_:
So ZoeThing would be bad, but CarnophileThing is great, right?

See here's the difference: I'm not yelping about people who write reviews for different purposes from mine.

118jjwilson61
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 1:53pm Top

117> You're referring to this?

There's an attitude that people are reviewing for themselves, not offering up a review for other readers.

Zoe's making a comment about the atmosphere of the site and how that affects reviews, she isn't saying if it's a good or bad attitude in general, just that it leads to more less interesting reviews.

ETA: No fair, you changed your post before I submitted mine! (he says in mock anger).

I don't see that she's yelping at you for writing your reviews for a different purpose, but expressing frustration that there isn't a better way to find the reviews that match up better with her purpose.

119lorax
Sep 25, 2009, 1:53pm Top

116>

Different things. There's a difference between directly evaluating the quality of a review, and making a statement about the quality of a person's review contributions, in aggregate, based purely on quantity. I'd be very happy if I could both give and receive thumbs-down on reviews, and I fully expect that a few of my early reviews would get thumbs-down. But the fact that I only have 45 reviews doesn't mean those I do have are worthless.

It's clear that you were just trolling in #112, though, so I'm not sure why I'm bothering.

120_Zoe_
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 1:56pm Top

>116 bluetyson: The thing is, I'm not dissatisfied with this exchange. You made some below-the-belt comments, but I'm satisfied that I could point out the false premise behind them--your equation of 30 with 0--and that your post was flagged as a ToS violation. I'm not going to stop posting in Talk now.

Yes, people could use review comments to make direct attacks on the reviewer rather than the review ("You're worthless as a reviewer" rather than "this review is worthless"). LT already has measures in place to deal with personal attacks (as you also demonstrated). They don't negate the whole value of the feature--and in fact, if reviews are just intended as entertainment, I'd think that nasty exchanges would be a good thing.

I also think that if you said "this review is worthless" to a particular review, the response would be different. It's a much smaller issue, for one; questioning the value of a single review is not at all the same as questioning whether I deserve the right to discuss features on the site. (Or at least, the emotional response would be different--if you included obviously false and rude statements in your comment, I would similarly point out your error and tell you to go away, but I wouldn't care about it as much.)

121_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 1:57pm Top

122bluetyson
Sep 25, 2009, 2:18pm Top

116

With only 45, if someone decides they don't like you, they might thumbs down the lot, too, of course.

120

Nasty exchanges can certainly be entertaining - but as you just demonstrated it is pretty common for people to not have the outlook to handle it. I've had a remarks like that of a much more offensive nature directed at me here, without feeling the need to cry about it a few minutes later, for example

There's a gazillion places to go and have these sort of sessions with people if this is what you want to do, though.

You like Amazon's reviews - good for you. Of course some of them will be good - people are getting paid for them in some cases. They are also much more popular.

However, they are shot through with wretched political and religious screeds, astroturfing, and other such manipulations. Plus their ratings are very limited because you have to review a book to rate it, and to do that you have to have bought something....... which of course discourages non-yank participation.

123Carnophile
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 2:28pm Top

>118 jjwilson61:

Is there room for alternative interpretations here? I suppose there is. But when I look at her overall set of posts, including this from post 98:

I've lately become very frustrated with the whole review system on LT. I think the extreme focus on reviews as catalogue data, with concern only for the reviewer at the expense of the reader, has pretty much crippled the review feature here. It's disappointing.

I do get a sense that she doesn't approve of the way some people use their reviews.

By the way - not that Zoe needs my validation - but I think her conceptualization of the purpose of a review is entirely reasonable. But it's not the only one.
I tend to write reviews from one of two places: either my head, which probably generates the kind of review Zoe wants to see (cf. my review of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, e.g.) or from the heart, when I become swept away in some mad enthusiasm (pro or con) about a particular book (like my review of Working for Devil (con) or Singularity Sky (pro)). I believe there's something to be said for a reader writing from the emotional response the work engendered in him/her.

124FicusFan
Sep 25, 2009, 2:28pm Top

>122 bluetyson: - You don't have to buy anything, you just have to set up an account.

125lorax
Sep 25, 2009, 2:35pm Top

123>

I believe there's something to be said for a reader writing from the emotional response the work engendered in him/her.

Certainly. I don't want to speak for _Zoe_, but for me the difference between a review written solely for the reviewer and one written for others isn't about cool intellect vs. passion, but about content -- length is an important consideration, but so is context. Let's look at the reviews for one of the works you mentioned, Working for the Devil -- it's the only one of the three I haven't read, or even heard of before, so I'm coming to it cold.

This review is one that I would consider "purely for the reviewer". That's not bad, it's just not something that either as someone considering whether to read the book or as someone who had read it and was looking for interesting commentary I would find met my needs. This one is an intermediate case -- it might appeal to people applying the same narrow set of criteria as the writer of the review, but for a general audience it's not terribly useful.

Yours, OTOH, would be quite useful.

126Helcura
Sep 25, 2009, 2:39pm Top

#123 - Lorax, your links are both going to the same work page, can you give us a review number to look for?

127Carnophile
Sep 25, 2009, 2:44pm Top

>125 lorax: If my mad enthusiasm is useful to other readers, then excellent!

128_Zoe_
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 4:07pm Top

With only 45, if someone decides they don't like you, they might thumbs down the lot, too, of course.

Which would be dealt with like any ToS violation. Someone might choose to post 45 spammy talk posts saying that they don't dislike you, too.

Nasty exchanges can certainly be entertaining - but as you just demonstrated it is pretty common for people to not have the outlook to handle it. I've had a remarks like that of a much more offensive nature directed at me here, without feeling the need to cry about it a few minutes later, for example

Sorry, could you clarify your point here? In particular, what do you mean when you say that I "don't have the outlook to handle it" or when you refer to "the need to cry about it a few minutes later"?

I'd also be interested in hearing opinions from the two people who flagged my response.

Plus their ratings are very limited because you have to review a book to rate it, and to do that you have to have bought something....... which of course discourages non-yank participation.

I'm not sure why this is relevant. LT has great ratings, and Amazon doesn't. So I look at LT for ratings, and not Amazon. That doesn't change the reviews.

I do get a sense that she doesn't approve of the way some people use their reviews.

No, I don't care about the way people use their reviews. What I care about is the way the work page deals with the reviews. For example, I don't think the fact that someone has written a review for themselves in their catalogue automatically means that that review is entitled to be displayed publicly on the work page while simultaneously being protected from any public criticism on the work page. But this issue isn't actually explored when review-related suggestions arise; it's often just taken as a given: the catalogue data are sacred, and therefore the public presentation of that data is also sacred. When someone writes a review, it can't be hidden from the work page (for example, if it contained spoilers), and it also can't be criticized (for example, by comments or negative thumbs). The reviewer takes precedence not only in their own catalogue, but in the public work pages as well.

129Thresher
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 2:47pm Top

>126 Helcura:
Helcura, I'm seeing two different reviews at the two different links. The second one is by gerleliz and the last one is by AllThingsUF's. Are you looking at the top of the screen?

130Helcura
Sep 25, 2009, 2:53pm Top

Yes, and both are coming up with AllThingsUF's. Must be my system. Thanks Thresher! :)

131lilithcat
Sep 25, 2009, 3:10pm Top

> 125

Those links are to the same reviews.

132Katya0133
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 4:05pm Top

>128 _Zoe_:. "No, I don't care about the way people use their reviews. What I care about is the way the work page deals with the reviews."

Right. I don't doubt for a second that Amazon has more "junk" reviews than LT, but that doesn't change the fact that in my opinion, the first few reviews I see on Amazon are almost always very helpful and informative, which isn't the case on LT (even when sorted by votes).

133lorax
Sep 25, 2009, 3:46pm Top

131>

No, they aren't. The links are different. The first is for AllThingsUF's review, and the second is for gerleliz's.

134jjwilson61
Sep 25, 2009, 3:57pm Top

122> Nasty exchanges can certainly be entertaining - but as you just demonstrated it is pretty common for people to not have the outlook to handle it. I've had a remarks like that of a much more offensive nature directed at me here, without feeling the need to cry about it a few minutes later, for example

This is pretty demeaning. Zoe doesn't have the outlook to handle it? I didn't see any tears in Zoe's response and the fact that she responded minutes later just proves that she was on-line at that time. How long does it take for you to compose a post? You are mischaracterizing Zoe's reaction in a feeble attempt to illustrate your point.

135_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 5:04pm Top

>134 jjwilson61: Thanks for the defense, jjwilson.

I'm curious about the two flags that had appeared on my first response to bluetyson, but are now gone. Did other users flag my post and then change their minds, or was this also part of bluetyson's "test" to see how I would react? I'd appreciate it if the flaggers could let me know, and I won't hold it against them (unless it turns out to have been bluetyson and one of his other accounts, in which case I might).

136jjwilson61
Sep 25, 2009, 5:15pm Top

I anti-flagged it so maybe others did as well.

137_Zoe_
Sep 25, 2009, 5:18pm Top

Oh, anti-flagging! I had forgotten about that. I'd still like to know the reason behind the initial flags, though; I can't remember the last time one of my posts was flagged and I want to make sure that I haven't completely lost sight of the community standards.

138fredbacon
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 7:13pm Top

Wow. You guys had a busy day. The thing is, Tim and Company can only make structural changes. They can't control how people use the site. It's like a coloring book. They can draw the lines, but they can't make you color between them.

So what structural changes might make things better or worse? Just thinking about how I interact with Amazon's site, I would suggest the following

Search/sort reviews by rating. They have that nice list which shows the number of 5 star ratings down to 1 star ratings. You click on the rating and get all of the reviews at that level. I like to know the distribution of ratings, and I like to check both the high and low ratings. If I haven't read a book, I like to know what kind of people like and dislike it. When I have read a book, I like to know why people agree or disagree with me.

Helpful vs. Unhelpful. It's a very different dichotomy than thumbs up vs. down. Tim doesn't want to implement a thumbs down button because he thinks it will lead to hurt feelings. (Or that is my interpretation of his objection.) He's probably right. Thumbs up vs. down is a much more personal statement about the author of the review than is helpful/unhelpful. There is no reason that you can't have a helpful/unhelpful and a thumbs up flag.

Amazon features to avoid:

Comments on reviews. A really bad idea. Comments on reviews serve no practical purpose other than to harass the author, compliment the author, or to request additional clarification. You can do all of that through their profile page already. The only times that I ever look at the comments on reviews at Amazon is when the reviewer says something with which I disagree, and I want to see other people tear him (or her) a new one. I don't think we want to go there.

Non-Amazon features to consider:

A feature which might be nice would be to have public versus private reviews. Perhaps all of those "This book sucks" reviews are really just private reviews not really intended for public consumption. We have Comments and Private Comments, why not Reviews and Private Reviews?

139lorax
Sep 25, 2009, 7:41pm Top

Thumbs up vs. down is a much more personal statement about the author of the review than is helpful/unhelpful.

It is? blink blink

Obviously you see it that way, and probably Tim does too, which goes a long way toward explaining it -- I see it purely as a reflection on the review, saying nothing about the reviewer. Until you said that it had never crossed my mind that people might perceive it as more personal than "helpful" and "not helpful" are.

140fredbacon
Edited: Sep 25, 2009, 8:27pm Top

The reason is because thumbs up and down are nonspecific comments. They can mean different things to different people. There is no way to know what someone disliked about the review. The helpful/unhelpful dichotomy is very specific. I don't think even someone writing "This book sucks" could honestly disagree that the review isn't helpful.

141timspalding
Sep 25, 2009, 9:47pm Top

My apologies for being gone all day, and not responding to this issue:

Members should be aware that criticizing ideas is permitted, as is criticizing expressions of ideas, but criticizing members personally is not. It's bad for the attacked, for the attacker and for the site. Thank you for you cooperation.

142Dandylioness79
Sep 25, 2009, 10:00pm Top

-> 140 That assumes that people actually use helpful and unhelpful buttons as intended. While its impossible to really know people's motives for using the voting buttons, I think it's reasonable to say that many Amazon voters use the buttons to say they agree/disagree or like/dislike. Look at reviews that have a minority opinion on a book. They often gather a lot of "unhelpful" votes even if they are well written and thoughtful.

That said, I'm not personally for or against this. I like things the way they are now. I wouldn't be upset if a "thumbs down" or comments feature was implemented. The only thing I would want would be some way for a user to opt out of comments, and a community flagging system to help curb trollish behavior.

143monarchi
Sep 25, 2009, 10:34pm Top

>138 fredbacon: There is no reason that you can't have a helpful/unhelpful and a thumbs up flag.

I think this is a very good point, and maybe a good way to accomodate both the desire of Zoe (et al) for a works page that displays reviews to answer the question 'should I read it?' (which is what I use the work page reviews for as well) and the perspective (expressed by Tim) that reviews are for reading for fun (which is what I use the 'hot reviews' widget for.)

There are well-written or funny reviews that don't help me decide whether or not to read the book. And there are reviews that help me evaluate the book that aren't particularly fun reading. And then there are those which fit neither criteria.

Could we not add a 'this was helpful' button in addition to the thumbs (I'm keeping to Tim&Co's stated preference for positive feedback) and have the option to sort by most helpful | favorite | date ? This would, imo, be a great improvement to the way reviews are presented, without fundamentally changing the way reviews are presented or the culture of interaction on LT. (Zoe, Tim, thoughts?)

144lilithcat
Sep 25, 2009, 11:52pm Top

> 138

Search/sort reviews by rating. They have that nice list which shows the number of 5 star ratings down to 1 star ratings.

That works on Amazon because they force you to rate a book that you review. Here, I never use the star rating system, and I'm not alone in that.

Helpful vs. Unhelpful. It's a very different dichotomy than thumbs up vs. down.

It should be, but, let's face it, on Amazon "unhelpful" often really means "I disagree with your opinion".

145bluetyson
Sep 26, 2009, 12:06am Top

124

That used to be the case, some time ago. Not any more. You have to have bought sometime to do review.

146bluetyson
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 12:37am Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
128

"Sorry, could you clarify your point here? In particular, what do you mean when you say that I "don't have the outlook to handle it" or when you refer to "the need to cry about it a few minutes later"?"

The outlook thing was meant in general. The crying part, too.

Obviously you are an example of that behaviour, though. Plus you also added a couple of mildly insulting remarks afterwards, yourself. Those are likely why people flagged what you said, I imagine. (It wasn't me, either - I don't remember ever flagging a talk post except for being spam - maybe something super crazily egregrious in the past, perhaps, that I have forgotten. Minor cases of supercilious arrogance certainly don't qualify as worth bothering with in that category, to me.).

Now, multiply this particular example where you were so easy to upset and provoke into whining by a lot. As Tim points out in 141 that is bad for LT. There are of course more vulnerable targets than you - new users, children, people writing in a second languages, etc...

147monarchi
Sep 26, 2009, 1:18am Top

146

bluetyson – if you insist on carrying out petty personal arguments, perhaps they could be moved to a forum where they don't interrupt other's conversations? private comments might be more appropriate. Thanks.

148bluetyson
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 2:04am Top

147

Speaking of arrogance... :)

You mistakenly believe this is personal. I have nothing against anyone personally. It wouldn't matter whether it was Zoe, you, or Dr Horrible as the case in question.

The induced example would have been a complete waste of time, privately.

Your response is indicative of the range of reactions to criticism that comments would engender. Lorax is surprised that people might use such a facility to indicate opinions of persons - you assume personal investment when there is none.

Zoe asked for a clarification, I gave it. Given I used her as an illustrative example I believe she deserves the courtesy of a reply to a pretty straightforward question.

Plus the implication that I might have been lame enough to flag her response I thought was worth addressing.

Apart from being impossible because I was asleep, I am certainly not going to use multiple accounts to flag someone's mild response, especially given it was an unsurprising expected reaction. (In fact if I had woken up and seen it flagged I would have been likely to unflag.)

149StormRaven
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 2:47am Top

I prefer LT's reviews to Amazon's.

Firstly, because Amazon has an incentive to be liberal with removing negative reviews that people or publishers complain about. They want to sell books. Negative reviews hurt sales. I have seen reviews on Amazon taken down after the publisher complained about them, apparently for the sole reason that they were negative. Even if Amazon were completely even-handed with this sort of thing, the moral hazard is there. As a result, I am never sure that the review array that I am reading is an actual representative sample of the full range of honest evaluations of the book.

I also think that reviews can and should serve many purposes other than "should you buy and/or read this book". I tend to put such an evaluation in my reviews, but that's not necessarily the primary purpose of them. And reading a whole bunch of variations on "buy this book its's great", or "avoid this book, it sucks" is simply boring. I want to see an array of reviews, and an array of different ideas of what a review should be, and I want to see actual examples of those ideas.

The LT system also rewards reviewers who do a good job by encouraging people to follow reviewers, and not simply relying upon a mechanic to suss out reviews with piles of thumbs up. There are some reviewers I read because I like their reviews, and I made a point to remember who they were and read their other ones too. With a mechanical system like Amazon's I would have had much less incentive to do that, and probably would have missed out on some really great reviews.

150bluetyson
Sep 26, 2009, 2:34am Top

149

That's certainly a good point. Extreme commercial bias and Amazon's censorship levels. They also censor for language and length, don't allow some links and references, delay postings for some days while they check things, etc.

Their negative voting helps to suppress dissenting opinion on popular material - and hence is perhaps better for sales as StormRaven suggests.

151mckait
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 6:58am Top

Tim, I appreciate that you are once again trying to be clear about what is going on with LT. I appreciate that you invite input. Too bad so many of these posts turn into battlegrounds because a single person seems to like it that way. I await the changes, and will adapt. I love LT and understand that you are trying to be fair to everyone within the constraints you have to deal with. If you are still reading this thread... Thank you.

ps

150

I am a member of Amazon vine program. If you were to read those forums, or certain of the reader forums on Amazon, you would have some understanding of how the thumbs down has very little to do with the review in many cases. It is a game, a popularity contest, a battleground in many ways.. like this thread.
It is an ineffective way to judge a review or a book. LT reviews are honest helpful. So are Amazon reviews as long as you ignore the pos and negs attached.

152Booksloth
Sep 26, 2009, 7:14am Top

Forgive my ignorance on the whole thing - I've only just spotted this page and haven't yet had time to trawl through all the posts. From what little I've learned so far, it looks as if LT is handling this really well but it's still the whole principle of the thing that puts my back up. i just don't like being dictated to and what Amazon is doing sounds downright immoral - businesses and people get to be great because of what they do, not because of continually putting down or trying to limit other businesses/people, and any attempt to do that just makes me want to go running off to the competitors. For that reason, though I will continue to use Amazon (because it's getting the books I want that matters most), I will certainly be moving them to the bottom of my list of people to try, well behind Waterstones, Play.com and smaller sellers.

And, for what little it's worth, I must put in a vote here against any kind of negative voting in the review section, except for ToS 'crimes'. Any review is just one person's opinion and it is entirely up to the reader whether they choose to treat a review as sacred. I would suggest it may be a little naiive to imagine reviews on a site like Amazon will be entirely subjective. As others have pointed out, they are in the business of selling books and the reviews they choose to publish are not far different from free advertising and surely you don't believe everything you see in the ads, do you?. As far as reviews on LT go, maybe it's because there are a lot of free accounts here (a great thing, don't get me wrong) but many people seem to forget that a lot of us do pay for our accounts and have a perfect right to use them in any way we wish. LT has always been primarily a cataloguing site and there are still a number of people who use is it just that way - they don't join in the conversations, write reviews etc, that is their prerogative. Likewise, any way a person chooses to review the books in their collection is also a matter for them to decide - it is up to the reader to decide whether or not to buy a book on the recommendation of another member or even whether or not to bother reading reviews by a particular person. If you don't like the way a person reviews that's fine, ignore them - just don't start trying to dictate that everyone else should do it the way you choose to do it.

153bluetyson
Sep 26, 2009, 7:14am Top

151

Yeah, I have browsed the Amazon forums occasionally, so absolutely. Battleground between teams of people even it would appear.

Or the huge strings of negatives in a row that I suggested to lorax is a possibility of happening, and certainly happens on Amazon.

The staff here could certainly be doing more useful stuff than sorting out complaints about things like that.

154klarusu
Sep 26, 2009, 8:33am Top

I like the reviews here. I read for fun. I don't read many Amazon reviews because I don't find them particularly great reads and when I did read them in the past I found I rarely concurred with their opinion and I think of Amazon as purely a 'shopping' site so they weren't helpful to me. LT reviews, I read for pleasure once I've finished a book to see if other people agreed with my opinion or disagreed and I find them, on the whole, more engaging and well-thought out. Amazon reviews always struck me as a bit 'blurbish'. But then I don't read reviews before I buy books nor do I use them as a way of deciding which books to buy. (I'm aware that that's a generalisation ... I'm sure there are good and bad everywhere).

I review for myself here but post them as reviews on the off-chance others may be interested in my opinions in the same way I was theirs. If I'm recording random thoughts, as I do on short stories, then I put them in the comments field ... still visible to those that want to look but not really a coherent review so I don't clog the review field.

That said, each to his own and, whilst I don't agree with her, _Zoe_ has every right to prefer Amazon reviews ... although, way to go for snarking a thread way OT ;-) I like the 'I like it' thumb ... I don't want an 'It was helpful' thumb. There's a semantic difference that I like and nothing would ever be helpful to me, having already read the books. I like giving a hat-tip to people's writing I've enjoyed for whatever reason. I don't like the idea of a thumbs down ... it changes the ethos of the reviews area and forces it into the field of a commercial blurb area implying that these reviews should be aimed at others and in some way should be designed to help people select books rather than just be a field for you to review a book. I take the definition of 'review' to be "a critical report, especially one that is published in a newspaper or periodical, usually on a recent book, play, film, etc" where there is no suggestion that it has to be something to inform another of the value of purchasing a certain book but that it is purely an opinion on it.

155_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 8:39am Top

The outlook thing was meant in general. The crying part, too.

Obviously you are an example of that behaviour, though. Plus you also added a couple of mildly insulting remarks afterwards, yourself....

Now, multiply this particular example where you were so easy to upset and provoke into whining by a lot.


I think, as jjwilson suggested above, that you've misinterpreted my reaction to support your point. Responding to a personal attack isn't whining (though I admit it does break the cardinal rule of not feeding the trolls--but I think this circumstance is somewhat different because you're a regular user whose name is familiar to me, not just any old troll). Your personal attack was flagged away as abusive. My response received a couple of flags from some people, but on the whole, the community outlook was that it wasn't out of line, and no flags remain.

Basically, your original post was the problem, not my response, and your post was dealt with by the community. If you (or someone else) persisted in writing things like that, going after more vulnerable members of the community, the staff could take action--but I don't think this would happen so frequently that they would have to devote more time to it than they do now. There's room for personal attacks in Talk too, but it hasn't been a problem overall.

Too bad so many of these posts turn into battlegrounds because a single person seems to like it that way.

Would you care to be a bit more explicit here?

As for the point at hand: yes, I think it would be great to have a "helpful" option as well as a thumbs-up. It would provide more information to the readers of reviews, and more purely-positive feedback to the reviewers. It seems like a win-win to me.

156bluetyson
Sep 26, 2009, 9:00am Top

155

"but I don't think this would happen so frequently that they would have to devote more time to it than they do now"

Sorry, but that is not logical.

By immensely expanding the opportunities and happenings for this sort of behaviour it _has_ to.

Btw, on a related question, does it say in the TOS that you aren't allowed to go and do a thumbs up on every single review for someone? E.g. if I decide I like lorax overmuch and do it for everything said seussian writes?

Or the reverse, if your thumbs down option was instituted? (That can't be in there, as it doesn't exist?)

157StormRaven
Sep 26, 2009, 9:41am Top

155: I think a "helpful" option would be redundant and useless. If a review was helpful, give it a thumbs up.

158_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 10:31am Top

>156 bluetyson: Consider the vast opportunities for abuse in Talk. Do the LT staff currently have to spend a huge amount of their time dealing with it? More importantly, are the people who would abuse review comments different from the people who would abuse Talk? If it's the same group of people, then LT staff will have to deal with them eventually, regardless of where they demonstrate their unwillingness to abide by the ToS. Or are you saying that people who don't cause problems in Talk would abuse review comments to the point where staff intervention was required?

I like the 'I like it' thumb ... I don't want an 'It was helpful' thumb. There's a semantic difference that I like and nothing would ever be helpful to me, having already read the books.

But why would it hurt to have both options available?

I think a "helpful" option would be redundant and useless. If a review was helpful, give it a thumbs up.

People aren't suddenly going to start using thumbs differently just because others want them to.

159AnnieMod
Sep 26, 2009, 10:40am Top

>People aren't suddenly going to start using thumbs differently just because others want them to.

I am alway surprised when someone claims they know how people use one or another feature of the site which is involved with opinions. I am giving thumbs up to good and helpful reviews. Doubt that I am the only one.

>>But why would it hurt to have both options available?
It won't. But if it gets implemented before making the site usable to anyone not using the Latin alphabet and before fixing the mess called Canonical names, it will just show that a group of vocal users can win anything around here. The current system is not that bad... can we get the broken systems fixed before we start changing the working ones?

PS: Talk is self-regulatory because if you are interested in the group, you will probably see the problem and flag it. A review and a bad reaction to it will be seen only if someone open the book AND check the reviews.

160_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 10:51am Top

But if it gets implemented before making the site usable to anyone not using the Latin alphabet and before fixing the mess called Canonical names, it will just show that a group of vocal users can win anything around here.

Or it might just show that one thing is much, much easier than another. They already have all the code for thumbs; it would just be a matter of duplicating what already exists. There's a place both for quick and easy improvements and for difficult fixes.

Talk is self-regulatory because if you are interested in the group, you will probably see the problem and flag it. A review and a bad reaction to it will be seen only if someone open the book AND check the reviews.

So in the worst-case scenario, there could be a thread for reporting abusive comments. I'm sure there would be plenty of users willing to come and flag.

161klarusu
Sep 26, 2009, 10:55am Top

But why would it hurt to have both options available?
Because I think that there would be too many similar options that would appear redundant to anyone who wasn't 'in' on this debate.

This thread has been totally derailed. I reckon review/thumb debate should jump ship to it's own thread because it's really not on topic ...

162FicusFan
Sep 26, 2009, 11:08am Top

Returning to Topic:

What is the right side of the book page going to look like with the addition of the secondary page of 'Other' links ?

I would assume there will still be the Amazon links, and the link to the new secondary page, but that box is going to shrink. I would like to see the Rating Box moved up a bit, if possible. I like to look at that to see what people thought of the book (yes I know people may use it for other reasons - but I still look at it). Sometimes people will give a star rank, but not a review. If the covers box is large the ratings sometimes end up 'below the fold'.

163_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 11:08am Top

>161 klarusu: I think the main discussion was already done. Before I posted about the change to the link, there hadn't been a post for more than 48 hours. (Your initial wording made me smile, though: way to go for snarking a thread way OT)

But why would it hurt to have both options available?
Because I think that there would be too many similar options that would appear redundant to anyone who wasn't 'in' on this debate.


Although it may seem counter-intuitive, what if we could have even more options? A generic thumbs-up, and also choices for "I found this review helpful/funny/thoughtful/well-written/etc. I think this would prevent confusion about what distinction was being made, and would also provide more ways for the reader to find the sort of reviews they're interested in, while generating more positive feedback for the reviewer, and therefore encouraging more good reviews.

164_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 11:10am Top

I should add that Tim also directed me to a separate thread for the more on-topic discussion: http://www.librarything.com/topic/73814

165timspalding
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 2:04pm Top

Search/sort reviews by rating. They have that nice list which shows the number of 5 star ratings down to 1 star ratings.

That works on Amazon because they force you to rate a book that you review. Here, I never use the star rating system, and I'm not alone in that.


Except it doesn't work. Ratings are very poorly related to quality. Did you know, for example, that sales rank isn't correlated with number of five-start reviews? It's actually most strongly correlated to the number of *one star* reviews. Presumably that's because popular books burst their expected-reader buble, and get read by people who won't like them. Also popular books are a target in a way that unpopular ones aren't. Average ratings by people you don't know are, in short, a very bad way of looking at the quality of a book.

This thread has been totally derailed. I reckon review/thumb debate should jump ship to it's own thread because it's really not on topic ...

I agree. But it's had it's own thread—a number of them. Fundamentally, some people don't like the idea that you can't thumbs-down a review. We've discussed on other threads how to have more interaction between people reading a book—a dedicated thread, for example, and I'm interested—but, frankly, the thumbs down thing will not change so long as I have a say in it.

166Kira
Sep 26, 2009, 2:12pm Top

Random question, re 165:

You say, "sales rank isn't correlated with number of five-start reviews" and instead its "strongly correlated to the number of *one star* reviews", and leap from this to the fact that "Average ratings by people you don't know are, in short, a very bad way of looking at the quality of a book". Doesn't this sort of imply that you are judging which books are best by which are most popular (ie sell most), which seems like sort of a non-starter? If I thought popularity dictated which books were good then obviously ratings are unnecessary, I'd just look at book rankings. For books that don't leap outside their genre into the realm of mass popularity (which lets face it most books don't) it seems the average rating would tell you exactly what the average reader of that genre thought of it... which is what people want to know.

167timspalding
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 2:28pm Top

>166 Kira:

Good point. No, I don't believe they are correlated. But it shows how random these things can be. I don't really care what a bunch of people I don't know or respect thinks about books, or for that matter any other medium. That the Lord of the Flies and the Great Gatsby are four-star, not five-star, books seems to be likely to owe to the fact that it's required reading in high school, and people resent that.

Reviews, because you can get a taste for both the opinion and the person giving it, work better.

I think ratings work better when only people who've bought the book can rate. And they work best when you know who's rating them, either directly or in the case of a site like LibraryThing, the community has a certain coherence to it.

168_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 2:44pm Top

But it's had it's own thread—a number of them. Fundamentally, some people don't like the idea that you can't thumbs-down a review.

This is why there have been so many discussions: you think that it fundamentally boils down to one minor detail, and tend to ignore the better or less frequently mentioned ideas. After all this discussion, you still think it's just about a thumbs-down?

I don't care at all about thumbs-down per se.

I do think it's worthwhile, in the context of this thread, to consider the ways in which some users find Amazon better than LT. Especially if there are easy improvements that can be made.

169timspalding
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 2:57pm Top

I think it's worthwhile. I love thinking and talking about how social context online changes what content is produced online, and what it means to people.

For me, however, differences between Amazon and LT can go one of two ways. Either we should be more like them, or we should cherish and even increase our differences. If moving toward Amazon produces more reviews, but they are more like Amazon reviews—in content or framing—I think we actually lose. There already is an Amazon and it's awesome in many ways. Being Amazon minus 99.9% of the traffic is not a winning proposition. Rather, we hope to offer people something they don't get at Amazon.

That is, we could make our hamburgers more like McDonalds, which is certainly successful, or we could make hamburgers unlike McDonalds, hoping to snag people who sometimes want something different.

LT differs from Amazon in a number of ways:

1. The traffic is far smaller
2. The community has a certain degree of coherence. There is the idea—stronger here, weaker there—that members should encourage and respect each other.
3. The community is, on average, much better spoken, read, educated, etc.
4. We don't sell books, and we aren't focused on selling
5. The most important way people connect to LT's books are through their own books
6. We have many social features, and reviews are not their center, unlike Amazon.

I think these differences are, in part, advantages. They have lead to the way we deal with reviews on the software level and, with the non-software factors (society, traffic) to what LT's do on LibraryThing. I'm not at all convinced that changing from this to a more Amazon-like model brings us anything good.

I'd add that the non-software factors are probably stronger than software ones. That is, if we made our system as like Amazon's as possible, I suspect the result would be quite different. That's how it often goes in social systems.

170timspalding
Sep 26, 2009, 3:17pm Top

On problems with ratings systems, in particular YouTube's realization that it's ratings were basically useless, see this just-posted message on another thread:

http://www.librarything.com/topic/73901#1519472

171StormRaven
Sep 26, 2009, 3:20pm Top

158: But why would it hurt to have both options available?

What is unclear in "redundant"?

172caffron
Sep 26, 2009, 3:29pm Top

>169 timspalding:

Exactly! There are niche marketers and impersonal market-share giants. I don't want LT to become the Wal*Mart of book sites. Developing a great product with appeal to more than just "power users" is important for survival, but the richness of the LT community is not worth diluting to copy everybody else's way of doing things just to gain customers. If that makes me a snob, so be it.

173_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 3:32pm Top

>171 StormRaven: I think this is the funniest post I've seen all day. While complaining about redundancy, you exactly repeated message 161 (which, incidentally, I already responded to in 163).

Also, note that my statement that you quoted out of context was directed at someone saying that there were semantic differences between "helpful" and a thumbs-up.

Tim, thanks for the response; I'm just about to head out but I'll reply in more detail later. One quick thing:

5. The most important way people connect to LT's books are through their own books

I think you over-emphasize the book focus of LT. Most people connect through Talk. Look at the Hot Reviews and see how many of them are there because of the 75 Book Challenge group.

I also think you're dead wrong about ratings. You've never really addressed all the refutations of your arguments that people make all the time.

YouTube is useless for a lot of things. Does the fact that it's hard to find good conversations there mean that LT's Talk feature is garbage?

174StormRaven
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 3:41pm Top

173: Having both options, as I pointed out, would be useless and redundant. You seem to not understand that. It bears repeating.

175klarusu
Sep 26, 2009, 3:35pm Top

_Zoe_ in #163 (Your initial wording made me smile, though: way to go for snarking a thread way OT)

I aim to please :)

176timspalding
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 4:15pm Top

I think you over-emphasize the book focus of LT. Most people connect through Talk. Look at the Hot Reviews and see how many of them are there because of the 75 Book Challenge group.

I suspect that's because thumbs-ing is social, and it's also a winner-wins situation. Some hard numbers. I took all members with more than 500 books cataloged. These are, let us say, more than ten thousand and less than a hundred thousand people. Those ought to be really committed people, right? Of these:

77% have looked at at least one Talk message
53% have looked at more than five talk messages
37% have posted one talk message
18% have posted more than five talk messages

Meanwhile:

63% have rated something
43% have reviewed something

I think this shows something that's hard to see on Talk alone—LibraryThing has a large body of members who primarily use the cataloging features, and participate minimally if at all in the social features. Participation goes cataloging->opinion->lurking->conversation. This "ladder of use" is a common one on the web.

PS: Before someone claims the difference is bogus free accounts, created by an uploading bug, I'd note the percentage of 500+ accounts that didn't pay, is much less than 1%.

177Kira
Sep 26, 2009, 4:37pm Top

#176: But isn't that data by nature skewed to people who use it primarily to catalogue since they have more than 500 books entered...? It would clearly exclude the people who use it more for social activities and thus haven't entered over 500 books... I'm not saying LT isn't about cataloguing, but it seems like people could climb the ladder the other way too. Lurk, then talk, then actually go to the effort of cataloguing 500+ books. You see this with people who ask for recommendations on how to classify/tag/enter their books before doing so. They join in conversations about whether its best to catalogue books owned or books read, join in conversations about books they are interested in reading, then go catalogue later.

178timspalding
Sep 26, 2009, 4:45pm Top

Yes, I agree. I think people can go up the ladder both ways. I'll run a test on members who've posted more than 20 messages, and see what their cataloging is. (Not now.)

179Carnophile
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 5:35pm Top

>169 timspalding:
...differences between Amazon and LT can go one of two ways. Either we should be more like them, or we should cherish and even increase our differences... I'm not at all convinced that changing from this to a more Amazon-like model brings us anything good.

Understatement of the eon, dude. Of course LT should not become more like Amazon!

180timspalding
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 6:08pm Top

Well, it depends in what way, obviously. It can't be ignored that Amazon is the granddaddy of all social book sites. They made online reviews okay and work like hell. There's a lot to be learned from all successful social sites. And I'd like to be like them in, um, CEO wealth.

181guido47
Sep 26, 2009, 6:28pm Top

Dear Tim,
Although I am disinterested (correct use of that misused word) in this topic. It made me think re.
your post #176.

How about a group/topic where we can send in requests for statistics which we would like to know/see.

ie. various stats. about US. eg. Is the distribution of books held. a normal distribution, skewed perhaps?
Other parameters? I am sure that out of our 700K?
members there would be a few interesting requests/questions.

Guido.

182_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 6:56pm Top

Having both options, as I pointed out, would be useless and redundant. You seem to not understand that. It bears repeating.

You might find that the conversation would progress more effectively if you specifically addressed the response I had made the first time, rather than just repeating yourself.

Some hard numbers. I took all members with more than 500 books cataloged. These are, let us say, more than ten thousand and less than a hundred thousand people. Those ought to be really committed people, right?

I think this is a pretty skewed sample. I'd be more interested in the people who have more than 500 books catalogued and have actually done something on the site (signed in, added books, whatever you can measure) in at least, say, 11 of the 12 months in in the year. It's not that hard to enter a lot of books initially, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're active on the site.

Could you also add statistics for how many have rated/reviewed more than 5 things, and for how many have rated/reviewed/posted/read messages at least 25 times?

For me, however, differences between Amazon and LT can go one of two ways. Either we should be more like them, or we should cherish and even increase our differences.

I think there are some pretty basic ways where it juts doesn't help to try to be different. Amazon shows the author of a book. Should LT not show the author just to be different? In the same way, I think that highlighting helpful reviews is more a basic requirement than an extra feature that you don't want to imitate.

183StormRaven
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 7:03pm Top

182: What? Your response that people aren't going to start using thumbs differently? Why would they use a "helpful" button any differently? Why would you assume that they would use the "helpful" button the way YOU want them to? No one here seems to use any of the other options in a way pleasing to Zoe, why would they start with this feature? You aren't going to change the nature of community users radically in a way that satisfies your apparent preferences by adding a redundant button.

Further, exactly how is a "helpful" review substantially different from a "good" review? To tell the truth, any review I would tag with a thumbs up, I would also tag as "helpful", and vice versa. Like I said, it is a useless redundancy, and unlikely to accomplish what you want to begin with.

184_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 8:27pm Top

>183 StormRaven: Nope, try again. Shouting isn't a substitute for reading.

(Hint: I reference specific post numbers for a reason)

185timspalding
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 8:53pm Top

>182 _Zoe_:

Let's do people who've logged in each of the last three months? That's a good measure, right?

(I'm not being catty. I want to settle on something you'll accept because, well, number of books is in the database. The other stuff has to be calculated first, then run against various metrics, so it's not a simple process.)

In the same way, I think that highlighting helpful reviews is more a basic requirement than an extra feature that you don't want to imitate

Right. We do highlight the helpful reviews. We use the term "like." We don't talk about "helping" because unlike Amazon, we don't have a single end goal for our reviews. We're not trying to use them to "help" people to buy things, but to entertain them in many different ways, whether it's entertain them by helping them find a book that will entertain them or entertain them through the enjoyment of a satisfying review. What does helping to entertain mean? It means like.

186StormRaven
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 9:34pm Top

184: No one is shouting. No one is agreeing with you either. Maybe you've confused the two.

Multiple options are just as useless. What makes you think anyone is going to use them in a way that is pleasing to you? The difference between the way Amazon's features are used and LT's features are used boil down in large part to the community of users. People come here for something different than they get at Amazon. The users hare are a different bunch than the users there. You seem not to understand that. And by not understanding that, you continue to clamor for things that are uselessly redundant, not realizing how they possibly could be.

Changing the system here to be more like Amazon simply makes it a clone of something that already exists. Amazon is McDonalds. LT is also a mass market outlet, but a more upscale one that offers a different type of service. You wouldn't ask TGIFriday's to turn into Burger King.

And you still haven't answered how a thumbs up is substantially different from "helpful" (or even how "liked" doesn't encompass "thoughful", "well-written" and "funny" as well). I think that your reticience is because you simply don't know, or can't express the difference in a way that doesn't expose your claims as mere semantics.

187_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 9:23pm Top

>185 timspalding: If I were choosing only three months, and it's all the same from a technical perspective, I'd be more inclined to say something like August, May, and February--something that shows a slightly longer-term commitment to the site. I don't think people who have only been here for 3 months will necessarily have explored all the features and figured out what use they want to make of the site, especially if they've been busy cataloguing hundreds of books.

Then could we also look at the group of people who were active in whatever chosen months and have posted at least 500 Talk messages, regardless of number of books catalogued?

We don't talk about "helping" because unlike Amazon, we don't have a single end goal for our reviews.

This is why I thought it might be helpful to have different types of positive feedback for a review: this review is funny, this review is thoughtful, this review is well-written, etc. Then it would be easier for people to find reviews that fit what they were looking for, and there would be more positive feedback for reviewers.

188jlelliott
Sep 26, 2009, 9:32pm Top

Having heard this particular set of arguments over and over again, it sounds like someone needs to go out and found their own social book cataloging site, as they seem likely never to be contented with the running of this one.

It is undoubtedly true that some users find Amazon reviews better than those at LT. It is likewise true that many enjoy LT's review philosophy more. As there is already one Amazon which the former group can visit and enjoy at their leisure, I don't see the point of making a second one here.

189_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 9:34pm Top

No one is shouting. No one is agreeing with you either. Maybe you've confused the two.

Typing in caps is shouting.

And you still haven't answered how a thumbs up is substantially different from "like".

I haven't said that a thumbs-up is different from "like". I think you mean "helpful".

I'd be happy to use a word other than "helpful" if you can think of one that gets the point across. "Helps decide whether I want to read the book" is a bit awkward.

I think that your reticience is because you simply don't know, or can't express the difference in a way that doesn't expose your claims as mere semantics.

Actually, the reason is because you haven't put enough effort into the conversation to make it worth my time. Why would I bother writing a thoughtful response when you hadn't given any indication of reading what I had written previously?

What makes you think anyone is going to use them in a way that is pleasing to you?

The more specific a term is, the more likely it is to be interpreted in a more uniform way. Some people give thumbs-up to reviews that are entertaining for their humour. Not everyone shares the same interpretation of "funny", but you're still a lot more likely to find funny reviews by looking at ones that have been specifically marked as such than by looking at all the ones that people like for whatever reason.

190StormRaven
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 9:41pm Top

189: Thus far your entire argument is based on semantics. And your defense of that argument is that the person asking you to explain why it isn't is that the asker hasn't put enough effort to satisfy you that the question should be answered.

Congratulations, you just won rudest person on the internet for the day. You have roundly beaten bluetyson's earlier intentionally provocative post.

And this is yet another example of your "LT must be pleasing to me" attitude. Do you not see how incredibly selfish and self-centered your arguments are? People want something different out of LT than you do. They have decided this by using it in a way you find unpleasant. You think this must be stopped, and the site turned into a different site you like more. Why is your preference superior to theirs? Why do you think this site should be a clone of something you get already?

And once again, why do you think that people will use a "helpful" tag any differently that they use a thumbs up tag? I see no evidence that this would be the case. You have yet to supply any. People like reviews that are helpful, and don't like ones that aren't. Maybe people use the thumbs up for other reasons you don't like, but your being offended by that is your problem, not theirs.

At this point, I think you've used up your quota of my tolerance for childish arguments.

191monarchi
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 9:49pm Top

>185 timspalding:, 187: We don't talk about "helping" because unlike Amazon, we don't have a single end goal for our reviews.

Then it would be easier for people to find reviews that fit what they were looking for, and there would be more positive feedback for reviewers.


Exactly. One of the things this thread has brought to light is that people 'like' reviews for many different reasons, and that people read reviews for many different reasons.
Why not make it easier for everyone to find reviews that were 'liked' for reasons that match what they're looking for, instead of trying to guess what was meant by someone's thumbs-up?

Redundancy isn't the issue, since this thread has made clear that people really do look for different things in reviews (although maybe 'like' & 'helpful' is not the best-differentiated choice of words). Neither, IMO, is 'it would make us more like amazon' a viable claim. I think there would be much more difference between LT having a multi-variable and amazon having a single-variable sorting system than between any two existing single-variable systems. As Tim, StormRaven and others point out, right now people are using thumbs-up – or 'helpful' on amazon – to mean 'this fits whatever criteria I personally value.'

So ... Is it too hard to implement? Would it decrease the quality of data (I think it would actually improve it)? Does it clutter up the interface too much? I'm genuinely curious – and I'm happy to accept the answer, even if it ends up being 'we've decided purple checkmarks are more important right now.'

192StormRaven
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 9:59pm Top

191: Here's the thing - no matter what tag names you put out there, many people will always interpret them in a way different than you. Many people will always use them in a way you didn't think of.

The 5 star rating system sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? I've seen someone use it to mark how many times they read a particular book. One star = read once. Five stars = read five times. I don't know what they did if they read a book ten times. The point is even with the 5 star system, people use it in ways radically different from the way I use it. Even for people who use it the same way I do, they may have different metrics . . . my 3.5 star book may mean something very different from your 3.5 star book. I may be much more forgiving than you are, or much harsher. I don't know.

THe same is true of a collection of specific review ratings. What I find funny, you may find offensive, and vice versa. What you find well-written I may find tripe. Or we may have radically different ideas of what well-written means to begin with. In the end, the only way to use the ratings and reviews is to identify particular users whose opinions you trust, and look for their ratings. Otherwise you are charging blind and may not even know it, and multiple redundant categories would only serve to give you a false sense of security.

193EnriqueFreeque
Sep 26, 2009, 9:56pm Top

Great discussion.

Personally, I don't have time for Amazon. Wish I did. So I rely on LT. I read reviews for a variety of reasons, mostly to be entertained. Like StormRaven's idea, I follow reviewers whose opinions have proven over time to be thoughtful, informative, and fun. LT has an enormous quantity of such reviewers, and rarely a week goes by when I don't "discover" another reviewer to keep an eye on.

148...I am certainly not going to use multiple accounts to flag someone's mild response.

Here here! I couldn't agree more. I'd like to add that I'm not going to use multiple accounts to unflag someone's mild (or major) response also.

194bluetyson
Sep 26, 2009, 10:27pm Top

192

Stars = read count? There's a lateral thinking use I never would have thought of!

I guess if you read it 10 times, you add it twice, click all 5 stars both times?

195StormRaven
Edited: Sep 26, 2009, 10:31pm Top

194: Yeah, I never would have thought of it either. But it shows that in a social community with thousands of users, people will use the options for all kinds of things that you not only wouldn't use them for, but wouldn't even think of. Imagining that by adding a bunch of new clicky buttons with labels on them will cause people to use the site in a way you predict seems to me to be a case of extreme wishful thinking.

Tags are something that never cease to amaze me. Some of them seem too bizarre. I saw one user who tagged a number of her books as "warm". I asked, but she never told me what that meant.

196guido47
Sep 26, 2009, 11:27pm Top

Dear Group,

What the F*ck, I have just waded through many posts, by many peoples I (after 2 years of membership) respect.

Is this a "flame war"? I expect better from LT members.

Yours, Guido.

197_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 11:30pm Top

Thus far your entire argument is based on semantics.

Um, we're talking about the meaning of words. What do you expect the argument to be based on?

Congratulations, you just won rudest person on the internet for the day.

Because of course, demanding that someone respond to the same statement again and again when you haven't even addressed their earlier responses is the epitome of politeness.

Do you not see how incredibly selfish and self-centered your arguments are? People want something different out of LT than you do. They have decided this by using it in a way you find unpleasant. You think this must be stopped

Where did I say that anything must be stopped, or that people shouldn't continue using the site as they currently are? I'm suggesting that something be added, not that anything be taken away. You're the one who thinks that other approaches must be prevented.

And once again, why do you think that people will use a "helpful" tag any differently that they use a thumbs up tag? I see no evidence that this would be the case. You have yet to supply any.

I've seen several people in the past say that they only give thumbs-up to reviews that are "outstanding", because that's how they interpret the thumbs-up. I think "helpful" is a lot milder, so that people might be inclined to mark a review as helpful even if they didn't think it was worthy of the highest praise.

I also think that, given a larger slate of options, not everyone would automatically choose all of them just because they liked the review. This is partially why I suggested adding more than just helpful. If you like a review and are presented with 10 options to praise it, I think you're a lot less likely to blindly click all of them than you would be if you were presented with just two.

Maybe people use the thumbs up for other reasons you don't like, but your being offended by that is your problem, not theirs.

Remind me again where I said that I'm offended by people's use of the thumbs-up?

Here's the thing - no matter what tag names you put out there, many people will always interpret them in a way different than you. Many people will always use them in a way you didn't think of.

People don't have to interpret something in exactly the same way in order for it to have meaning.

In the end, the only way to use the ratings and reviews is to identify particular users whose opinions you trust, and look for their ratings.

So after all your talk about how different people do things differently, it comes down to the fact that your way is the only right one? I use the aggregate LT ratings all the time.

Otherwise you are charging blind and may not even know it, and multiple redundant categories would only serve to give you a false sense of security

What does this even mean? If I choose to sort reviews by "most well-written", and see reviews that I consider generally well-written, and come away satisfied, what's "false" about it?

Also, does your continued emphasis on "redundancy" no matter what words are suggested mean that you now consider "funny" and "well-written" to be the same thing?

Imagining that by adding a bunch of new clicky buttons with labels on them will cause people to use the site in a way you predict seems to me to be a case of extreme wishful thinking.

It's extreme wishful thinking to believe that people will use "helpful" or "well-written" buttons to indicate the reviews that they find helpful or well-written? Do you think human behaviour is entirely random? Of course there are always outliers, but that doesn't mean that there are no patterns whatsoever.

198_Zoe_
Sep 26, 2009, 11:31pm Top

>196 guido47: No, I don't think it counts as a flame war when only one post has been flagged away.

199StormRaven
Edited: Sep 27, 2009, 12:00am Top

196: This isn't a flame war. The debate is too tepid for that.

Besides, you can't really have a flame war if one side's arguments mostly consist of stamping their feet and throwing a tantrum that other users aren't using the currently available options to their satisfaction.

200guido47
Sep 27, 2009, 12:06am Top

Hmm, If it walks like a duck...

201lorax
Sep 27, 2009, 12:12am Top

196>

This is tamer by far than any "flame war" I've ever seen. This is moderate disagreement. Anywhere other than LT, bluetyson's post would never have been flagged (and while I thought he was out of line, I didn't think it even came close to flaggability.)

202cpg
Sep 27, 2009, 12:36am Top


>201 lorax:

Why do you think calling someone a "worthless reviewer" isn't a personal attack? Is it not personal or is it not an attack?

203StormRaven
Sep 27, 2009, 12:43am Top

202: I think mostly because it was done to make a rhetorical point about adding a comments section to reviews.

204Jesse_wiedinmyer
Edited: Sep 27, 2009, 1:19am Top

Apropos of absolutely nothing that's been said in the past 200 posts, am I the only one that reads the thread title and thinks of The Onion's Statshot feature?

Something like -

The Amazon policy change, and how we're responding.

37% - Violently lashing out at any other posters dumb enough to get in our way.

23% - Sitting in shower, sobbing uncontrollably while clothing burns in waste-can.

18% - Wondering when the government will offer a "Cash for Clunkers" rebate for book cataloging websites.

14% - Beating children more frequently.

7% - Cracking open a nice cold, brew-ski.

.99999% - Cursing Jeff Bezos and all the ill he's wrought in the world.

.00001% - Putting on our headphones, turning up the volume, and playing "Threshold Apprehension" repeatedly, same as any other crisis. Does the trick every time.

205guido47
Sep 27, 2009, 3:01am Top

Umm? Who is Jeff Bezos?

206justjim
Edited: Sep 27, 2009, 3:25am Top

Head Honcho at Amazon.

207guido47
Sep 27, 2009, 3:58am Top

Thanks.

208justjim
Sep 27, 2009, 4:20am Top

Nose wet! Google and a multi-tab browser can be your friends.

209guido47
Sep 27, 2009, 4:27am Top

A Ha, not only are you an Aussie, you are a Victorian. Thought I recognised the accent!

210justjim
Sep 27, 2009, 4:45am Top

I am a citizen of the world. Well except for countries that might not let me in, countries I wouldn't dare to go back to, and the USA, which threw me out once! Couldn't even use my 'being thrown out of a pub' line.. "I've been thrown out of better places than this!", because I'd never been thrown out of a whole country before.

211guido47
Edited: Sep 27, 2009, 5:11am Top

I still think Groucho Marx, said it better.

"...any club that would have me as a member..."

Spelling.

212timspalding
Sep 27, 2009, 9:40am Top

In all seriousness, did I mention that I play "Threshold Apprehension" a lot (it's in the top three by frequency in iTunes, I'm sure)? I can't find where I did so. Did Mike, my Black Francis buddy, tell you?

213_Zoe_
Edited: Sep 30, 2009, 11:52am Top

>199 StormRaven: Edited to meet community standards. I'll phrase it as a question rather than a statement: Now that I've gone to the trouble of writing a lengthy response, are you going to address the actual points raised there, or was I right all along that it would be a waste of my time?

Incidentally, can you show me the part in the ToS where it says that personal attacks are acceptable as long as you're trying to prove a point?

214PortiaLong
Sep 27, 2009, 9:45am Top

OT

>210 justjim: - Now you have to write a book: "How JustJim Got Thrown Out of the US of A: The Amazing Tell All Book Inspired by an LT Talk Thread" (with credits to everyone here of course).

We'll find you a vanity publisher, you can give away copies of your books via Member Giveaway, AND get an LT Author badge!

215justjim
Edited: Sep 27, 2009, 10:09am Top

>214 PortiaLong: Oooh, can I give myself an autographed copy?

Not really a lot to tell: Australian sailor gets posted to Texas for an intel analysis course, meets, falls in love with and gets engaged to a long, tall Texan woman, goes back to Australia, does one more submarine voyage, loses her phone number in unusual circumstances in Hong Kong, retires from the RAN, moves to Texas only to find she's cheated on him. There's rodeos, a tornado, an old-style saddle-maker, a tense situation on the roof of a Border Patrol Agent's house. Just the normal stuff.

Hmmm, Dan Brown should be free about now, shouldn't he?

edited because Border Patrol Agents don't have roofs, but their houses do!

216MerryMary
Sep 27, 2009, 12:00pm Top

Sounds like something I'd buy.

I would like to hear more about the "unusual circumstances."

217justjim
Sep 27, 2009, 12:12pm Top

Ahh, but you'll have to wait for the book to come out for that.

218MerryMary
Sep 27, 2009, 12:15pm Top

Need a collaborator?

219justjim
Sep 27, 2009, 12:24pm Top

The {insert Greek letter} {insert esoteric noun}
by JustJim

{picture of Hong Kong skyline as seen through submarine periscope}

as told to MerryMary
------------------------------

Hey, it works for me!

220MerryMary
Sep 27, 2009, 12:28pm Top

Me too. I always wanted to meet a ghost. Now I could be one.

If you had said no, I was going to suggest co-conspirator.

Whatever it takes.

221mishymish
Sep 27, 2009, 12:55pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
guys sorry to post this but this website stinks visit www.bookcrossing.com so much so much so much better i am a website rater and i need tips on how to work this website

222MerryMary
Sep 27, 2009, 12:57pm Top

Did you take the tour on the home page?

Do you know the purpose of the site? You can't compare a book cataloging, book-loving site with a book selling/exchanging site. They are two different animals.

I hope you do your research before you rate websites.

223AnnieMod
Sep 27, 2009, 1:03pm Top

>221 mishymish: i need tips on how to work this website

Here comes #1 - it's a bad idea to offend a site and ask for help in the same sentence.

224lilithcat
Edited: Sep 27, 2009, 1:04pm Top

> 221

Comparing Bookcrossing.com to LibraryThing is comparing apples to oranges. They have entirely different purposes. (NOTE: I'm a member of both.)

Oh, and I notice that you haven't bothered to register or release any books at BC in the more than five years you've been a member there. Maybe if you'd use both sites you'd know more about them!

225LucindaLibri
Sep 27, 2009, 1:08pm Top

Also not able to read through all of these posts . . . especially as they seemed to get nasty and diverge from the issue.

I do have a question:
I can see from my stats/data page that about 100 out of my 700 books were cataloged using Amazon as the source. What I would like to do is replace all of them with another source. SO first I have to find those 100 books. Is there an easy way to search for or locate them? (I think for most other info on the stats page I can click on the item and that subset will be displayed, but not for the sources section.)

The next step would be to do the same with my cover images . . . but I don't see any indication of their source in my records . . .

Suggestions anyone?

226StormRaven
Edited: Sep 27, 2009, 1:09pm Top

221: Let's see. You figured out how to create a profile, how to add books to your library, how to use collections, how to post a review (sort of), how to join groups, how to post to a group, and how to offend the site's users.

What sort of guidance were you looking for over and above that?

And here's a hint: bookcrossing is a site built on a completely different idea from LT. I do not like bookcrossing because I don't want to give away my books into "the wild". If you like that, have fun with it. That's not my cup of tea, but I'm not tromping into bookcrossing to tell everyone that their site sucks.

227hailelib
Sep 27, 2009, 1:16pm Top

Re:225

In one of your catalog styles use source as a column. Then sort on source while in that style. That will group all your books that used Amazon as the source together.

228calm
Sep 27, 2009, 1:29pm Top

Re: 225

For covers go to statistics and memes choose book covers. Then click on Amazon sourced. (often source libraries are using Amazon covers)

229LucindaLibri
Sep 27, 2009, 2:14pm Top

Thanks hailelib,
That works nicely. Though now I see I used Amazon for things that won't be at LoC or the other more accurate and/or academic sources, so the alternate source might need to be manual entry . . . hmmm.

And thanks calm,
That does provide the info. Unfortunately it seems that my attempts to avoid Amazon by using LoC as my primary source didn't avoid Amazon covers . . . 450+ of them. They seem to be the default covers . . . arggghhh.

230sqdancer
Sep 27, 2009, 2:30pm Top

You only have two options for covers : Amazon (which are fetched from Amazon based on the ISBN in your catalogue) or member uploaded covers. (Note: if you choose an Amazon cover on the change cover page, the ISBN in your record will change to the one matching that cover in Amazon.)

I try to make a habit of going through my Amazon covers every so often and checking for member uploaded versions, since the Amazon covers can change if Amazon changes the cover associated with the ISBN.

231StormRaven
Sep 27, 2009, 2:37pm Top

It must be difficult for some people to rant without realizing that the people they are ranting to have simply blocked their accounts. Life must get lonely for them.

232_Zoe_
Sep 27, 2009, 2:44pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
>231 StormRaven: Well, that would explain your apparent inability to read.

Thanks for the idea, too.

233Jesse_wiedinmyer
Sep 27, 2009, 3:46pm Top

In all seriousness, did I mention that I play "Threshold Apprehension" a lot (it's in the top three by frequency in iTunes, I'm sure)? I can't find where I did so. Did Mike, my Black Francis buddy, tell you?

So now wouldn't be a good time to bring up the fencing scar?

234andyl
Sep 27, 2009, 4:36pm Top

The 5 star rating system sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? I've seen someone use it to mark how many times they read a particular book. One star = read once. Five stars = read five times. I don't know what they did if they read a book ten times.

They ought to learn binary then they can track up to 31 times.

235lorax
Sep 27, 2009, 8:52pm Top

225>

You can add "Source" as a column to one of your viewing styles, and then sort on it -- depending on which libraries you've used Amazon will probably be near the top. While I've severely edited my Amazon-sourced books (from before I knew better, mostly) I personally don't want to delete and re-add, because it would screw up my entry date information.

As for your cover images, if you go to the stats/covers page, you can click on "Amazon covers" to get just the subset of your library with Amazon-sourced covers. Periodically I'll go through and change a dozen or so to use user-uploaded instead.

236Katya0133
Sep 27, 2009, 9:37pm Top

>234 andyl:. "They ought to learn binary then they can track up to 31 times."

Only if they could turn individual stars on and off . . .

237andyl
Sep 28, 2009, 5:08pm Top

Oops yes I forgot about that - my only defence is that I don't use the ratings and it was pretty late when I posted.

238Booksloth
Sep 28, 2009, 5:15pm Top

#234, 236 etc Don't you mean they could track up to 11111 times?

239careytilden
Sep 29, 2009, 5:58pm Top

#238 If you could flip each star individually, it would be a 5 bit value. 2 to the 5th power is 32, so you could count from 0 to 31 (which is 32 unique values).

Or, if you prefer a more concrete approach, you can complete the pattern and count how many values you get:

00000
00001
00010
00011
00100
...

240keristars
Sep 29, 2009, 6:04pm Top

>239 careytilden:

Not to spoil it, I suspect #238 was a binary joke >.>

241AnnieMod
Sep 29, 2009, 6:06pm Top

>234 andyl:,239 - and if they learn some more logic, they can count even more - every position has 3 possible values, not 2 (the half-star).

242Carnophile
Sep 29, 2009, 7:16pm Top

Ah, trinary numbering. 3^5 = 243 possible ratings.

243infiniteletters
Sep 29, 2009, 7:50pm Top

What about duodecimal?

244MerryMary
Sep 29, 2009, 10:00pm Top

*foop*

My brain just imploded.

245justjim
Sep 29, 2009, 10:02pm Top

So that's the sound it makes... I've often wondered.

246saltmanz
Sep 29, 2009, 11:35pm Top

>243 infiniteletters:

Isn't the duodecimal system what they use at the library?

buh-dum-ching!

247justjim
Sep 29, 2009, 11:55pm Top

>246 saltmanz: saltmanz, you need this for such occasions.

248MerryMary
Sep 30, 2009, 9:33am Top

Love it. The heading "Do TruckerSpeed" did give me pause.

249justjim
Sep 30, 2009, 9:47am Top

Nah, just press the big red button. Whenever you're in doubt, look for a big red button and press it.

250MerryMary
Sep 30, 2009, 10:10am Top

Had to. Cannot pass up the big red buttons. Especially the ones that say "Do Not Push."

251justjim
Sep 30, 2009, 10:24am Top

Heck yes, they're the funnest ones!

(I figure that if you are able to use the appropriate there/their/they're, you can also use 'funnest')

252MerryMary
Sep 30, 2009, 10:27am Top

Breaking grammar rules on purpose for effect is quite different from breaking them because you can't be bothered to remember the difference!

Hmmmm. That sounds fairly curmudgeonly. *shrug* I'm old. I'm entitled.

253justjim
Sep 30, 2009, 10:27am Top

I don't know if anybody's noticed, but we may have a slight case of...

...a wandering thread.

254careytilden
Sep 30, 2009, 1:01pm Top

#240

Doh! It went right over my head, which is a little sad, since I then went on to "explain" how binary numbers work.

Oh well. The internet seems pretty well designed to give me infinite possibility for embarrassing myself.

255_Zoe_
Oct 4, 2009, 6:23pm Top

Tim, are you still planning to generate more social/cataloguing statistics?

256maspotts
Oct 21, 2009, 10:44am Top

Re. the pricing section: rather than a simple (min, max) I'd love to see some form of rudimentary distribution: perhaps just a mean and standard deviation, or better yet: a small horizontal boxplot showing median and quantiles + outliers. Applied to alibris (or abebooks, etc.) I would have a real sense, at a glance, of how valuable a given book is.

Mike

257conceptDawg
Nov 2, 2009, 11:18pm Top

256: That's a possibility (and one that I'd love to work on) but it won't be in the first release. We're trying to debut this new feature in the next couple of days.

258justjim
Nov 3, 2009, 12:02am Top

Couple of WHAT?!?

Sorry, I forgot that Tim had banned you from saying 'couple of weeks'.

259Katya0133
Nov 3, 2009, 8:08am Top

>Sorry, I forgot that Tim had banned you from saying 'couple of weeks'.

Maybe he can switch to "a fortnight."

260sonyagreen
Nov 3, 2009, 3:12pm Top

or 'couple of moons'.

261timspalding
Nov 5, 2009, 12:28am Top

Well, it's gonna be awesome... :)

262justjim
Nov 5, 2009, 2:34am Top

Awesome eh? That's what you said about collections and, erm, well, it is. OK, I'm convinced.

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