An open letter to everyone:
I haven't read this book, and this review is on a short clock anyway, so maybe hold it a minute before you delete this book as off-topic, Intern Jimmy? It'll be deleted soon enough, and I'll stop gumming up your review feeds and/or book pages, irritated Goodreads friends. I'm also going to be floating this mercilessly in the next week. I find it annoying when people float too much, but I want this to get out to as many people on my friends list before next Friday. Then the floatings will stop, I promise.
I decided last night that I'm going to delete my Goodreads account. There are a lot of factors for this, and not even the biggest one is my unhappiness about the recent terms of service changes involving "author behavior". I never had a review deleted for "author behavior" and I never had one deleted for being "off-topic", as much I tried. Apparently being wordy and confusing is enough to keep Intern Jimmy off your back. (Pro-tip, reviewers.) Obviously, I can personally live within the new guidelines. I'm not even making a principled stand about the guidelines and the way they have affected people I know and love (or even those that I don't love, but think they have the right to talk off-topically and critically.)
But this recent shitshow on Goodreads has been painful and stupid, and I predict there will be more pain and stupidity in the future. The "author behavior" nonsense was a signal to all of us that Goodreads is changing focus. Their primary revenue stream is becoming author packages, not affiliate marketing or the sales of ads. Put somewhat reductively, the focus is shifting from the needs of the readers to the needs of writers. While that is totally Goodreaeds's right as the owners of a platform that has always and ever been a business, this shift is going to bring more changes to the site, inevitably, inexorably.
I always said my line in the sand would be the instituting of downvoting (which I suspect is coming). The signal that things were changing was painful enough, and I don't want to wait for the message in my inbox that [some damn n00b asshole] finds my review "not helpful". I'm not your editor. I don't aim to be constructive to authors; that's not my job. If I wanted that, I would review on Amazon. I can handle haters directly telling me they think my review sux and I should read the book again, but I can't live with a button that does the same. And that button is coming, mark my words.
And speaking of Amazon, since the sale of Goodreads to Amazon, I've been worrying seriously about my data profile, the one that had been building for years through my use of this site. I'm not a technical person, but I live with someone who is in advertising. It is my understanding from his oft creepy explications of how data-collection works that how I review and what I say is just the tip of a huge iceberg of data collection that goes on under the hood. Every time I look at a book or page through the FirstReads listings, every time I talk to someone or like something, every interaction and friendship, all my private messages: those interactions have been logged by Goodreads for all of the five years I've been a member.
Goodreads has a pretty solid picture of my moods and tastes, my affinities and dislikes. This shadow data self absolutely can and has been used to market at me. I'm not even saying this is unusual or unethical; as the dudes at the paint store say, it is what it is. I was kind of okay with this when it was just dufus Otis and his crack team of people who can't code for shit. But with Amazon? Yeah, I'm less okay with that. My data profile has been sold. The integration between Goodreads and Amazon is incomplete right now, and the more I think on it, the more I want out before it is completed. Right now - and this understanding is again based on technical explanations that I can't replicate - if I delete my account, all that data is deleted directly from the Goodreads database. Someday, and soon, it won't be.
Because of the "author behavior" shitshow, Goodreads is already working on figuring how to retrieve deleted data. Admittedly, they are doing this to try to rectify their mistakes, and that's cool and I approve. But right now, if I delete my profile, the likelihood that they'll go back and reconstruct me in data is zero; I have no delusions of my importance to Goodreads. Give it a couple months, or a year, and when I delete my account, all my data will remain anyway, and the deletion would be futile to my aims. In this one case, the systematic incompetence of the Goodreads programmers is in my favor. I'm in a window before someone who knows anything at all about database programming steps in and makes account deletion more like you find on facebook, i.e. not a deletion at all. I'm getting out while the getting is good. It will not be good for much longer, I suspect.
Some of reasons for deleting my account are personal to me, and kinda none of your beeswax, but I will say this: I'm so looking forward to being some jerk who has a new account and a teeny friends list. One of the things I adored about Goodreads when I signed on was my impression that no one was listening, and I could just log my off-handed and ill-considered opinions right out into the void. I liked that no one was paying any attention to me but my mother and two friends from college. I've been in the top reviewer rank for years now, and it's weird and it's work having that kind of scrutiny. Obviously, I love the fact that I get a lot of comments and chatter when I post something, but I'm also sick of drawing haters because some of my reviews show up first on the book pages.
The integration of Goodreads with Amazon is going to draw in a ton of freaking n00bs - has already drawn a ton of freaking n00bs - and I'm sick of explaining how I think literary criticism works, how reviewing works, how this community has worked in the past. I've been getting an escalating number of just asinine comments, almost always from people who have had accounts for 15 minutes, telling me I should "read the book again" or I'm not "being constructive" or that I can't review a book I didn't finish. It's like the old days when aol dumped their users onto the wider Internet - God, remember that, old people? - and those of us who hadn't been mollycoddled by a corporation for forever rolled our collective eyes and trolled those assholes hard.
But I'm not up for it right now. You jerks can have it. Let someone else argue that star-ratings are personal. Let someone else explain that two stars means "it's ok" and that there is no objective metric. Let someone else argue the merits of the DNF review. The community is changing, and while on some level that's completely valid - communities always change; it's what they do - I, personally, am tired of playing ambassador to Goodreads. I can't do it anymore because I don't believe in this site anymore. I had a radio interview about a month ago where I said that this site had changed my life. It did. I will always cherish my time here. I found people who have just blown my mind, who have challenged me and changed me. I found my voice on Goodreads, and I am typing through the star bursts of tears thinking on my experience here. I seriously love you guys.
But wiping away the maudlin, I can already feel the pressure I've felt on this site lightening, just announcing I'm deleting my account. My plan is to sort out some stuff and make records of the things I care about in the next week, and actually hit the delete button on Friday next. And I'm using the review space for this announcement because this is the one I'm assured will go out in emails to friends and followers, unlike a status update or something posted in the writing section. Being one of the problems with Goodreads at the moment, as the review space is this robust connective piece in the community interactions, and there is nothing else like it. I could post this to Writing, and then no one would hear me at all. (Pro-tip, Goodreads: give the users a non-review space as connective as the review space, and a lot of the bs that goes on here could be avoided.)
This deletion is still going to hit me hard. My Grandma Dory died two days ago and I feel like I've lost a piece of myself. She was, and is, such a vital part of who I am, and I'm reeling from her loss. She was one of the people, one of the more pivotal people, who taught me how to read. Reading to her while she was dying was one of the most profound experience of my life, this reversed image of her sitting in a chair reading Hans Christian Andersen to me and my sister in our single beds with Holly Hobby sheets.
My sister and I sat and read her Leaves of Grass while she was dying, in a narrow bed with a quilt made by her own grandmother. She was so small, smaller than I have ever seen her, and then she was gone. You guys, my grandma died. I know that some day I'll be at peace with that, but parts of me wishes I won't ever be. My pain is a testimony. I don't want to forget or stop hurting. I want to curl around my pain because it's what I have of her right now. That I want to curl around this account and read to it before it goes is part of my grief. But then I'm going to have to let it go. I'm going to scatter the ashes as hard as I can.
When this account goes, I'm going to lose a piece of myself too. It feels like an amputation. But it's a change I need right now, a realignment of priority and self. It's going to till the ground for a new crop. I'm going to keep writing, and I'm going to keep reading. I'm going to spend less time on things that don't matter, or piss me off, or are stupid. There's been a lot of that on Goodreads recently. Parts of me are miserable and parts of me are excited, and all of it is new growth. It hurts, but it's a revelation. It's a change that I can live with. It's a change I need.
You all can find me at:Ghost me on Goodreads
http://soapboxing.net/ (my blog, with others)
Due to the limits on friend requests, I can't send one to everyone I'd like to. I haven't even sent one to my mother, because I keep forgetting. Please send me one to my new account. I'm not ignoring you if I don't send one. I thank every single godamn one of you for making my time here in this incarnation so important to me.