How Reviewers are Abusing the Goodreads System

The Trouble with Goodreads

I was visiting the Goodreads page for the recently announced A Beautiful Wedding novella, the follow-up to Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire, when I saw this in the Community Reviews section:

Well, this ticked me off enough to want to write my first rant!

Why have two different people given a one-star rating to various editions of the same book? Well, actually, the why is obvious – they want to drag the overall rating of the book down. The real question is, given all of the recent controversy surrounding Goodreads and their deletion of reviews that are more a critique of an author than of the book, how is it that Goodreads is policing that so “well”, but ignoring this much more obvious tactic? Because, to me, this seems like another, much nastier way of slamming an author.

Based on the shelves that Alisa has put this book on (never and puppies-and-kittens), it leads me to believe that she has not, and will never, read this book. So why then should she have the right to rate it? Not just rate it, but rate it THREE TIMES!

And as for Shelley (Goodreads is All About the $$$), I think she’s living in a fairyland of flowers and butterflies. Was she born yesterday? Of course Goodreads is all about the money. Why else would they spend their time building and maintaining such an awesome social network for us to enjoy? For the good of their health? For puppies and kittens? Does she think it’s free for them to operate those servers and maintain that web site? Does she think authors don’t want to sell books?

So yes, even though Goodreads “the company” may be all about the money, Goodreads “the user base” is all about the books. So why don’t you do your part to write insightful reviews, Shelley, instead of helping to undermine the Goodreads rating system as a whole?

How to Make Goodreads Better

Here are a couple of improvements that Goodreads could make to prevent this type of abuse:

  • Disallow reviewers from rating multiple editions of the same book. (Honestly, I’m not sure how these “reviewers” were able to do this in the first place. I wasn’t able to when I tried. If anyone knows, please enlighten me.)
  • A rating by itself, without any sort of explanation as to why someone rated it that way, is utterly useless. The What did you think? field should be mandatory when writing a review.

Even with the above improvements in place, it still wouldn’t have prevented Shelley and Alisa from rating a book that they had never read in the first place. I really can’t see any solution to that particular problem, but I think that implementing the above suggestions would be a step in the right direction.

As for Shelley and Alisa, they’ve pissed me off enough that I am going to report them and wait to see what, if anything, Goodreads does about them.

Goodreads, are you listening?

What do you think? Did these people abuse the Goodreads system? And what, if anything, should be done about it?

UPDATE: Someone on Google+ pointed out to me that some readers use the rating system to influence the book recommendations that Goodreads makes for them. If that’s the case, then it sounds like perhaps both the ratings and recommendations systems may need to be overhauled.