Thursday, September 26, 2013

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Over the past week, I've watched the train wreck which has unfolded concerning Goodreads' review and bookshelf policy changes. In case you haven't been privy to the drama, here's the announcement thread and the over 3000 comments it's generated since last Friday.

Most of the comments express a sincere hatred of the changes. Lots of flowery language too. I can almost hear the BLEEPs as I read them. Cries of "censorship" and "thought police" are everywhere. If you explore some of the other sites covering it, like STGRB and even some major news sites like the Washington Post,
it's hard to know who's really to blame for the whole blow-up. It's like a vicious troll vs. troll battle:

"Authors are the real trolls!"
 "Nuh-uh, it's reviewers who are the trolls!"
I mean, WTH, seriously? Is this what the publishing industry has become? I can only address this from my experience as a mother. Here's the deal: Goodreads started out as a first-time mom with some grand intentions. She developed a nice list of rules and guidelines for all her children to follow. Yet, like many mothers, she didn't follow through with the discipline. You see, kids will be kids and they will constantly test their boundaries. Unless mom is consistent with enforcing the rules and using tactful discipline, the kids will over-step one boundary after another. And if mom keeps caving to the kids unruly behavior, they'll keep overstepping until they become absolute spoiled brats.

That's what's happened to Goodreads. They had a reasonable set of guidelines that should have kept discussions civil and squashed drama before it escalated, but from the start, they didn't enforce the rules. Now, all of a sudden Mama Goodreads has had enough of the brats and is putting her foot down. And the kids are NOT happy at all.

Is it any wonder? The lesson I hope other book-centered websites will take away from this is: if your goal is to foster a welcoming, civil interaction of your users, then you HAVE to be a disciplinarian from the very start. Hire some good moderators. If someone breaks the rules, give them one warning, and if they ignore it, put them in time out. Let them come back after a while, but if they offend once more, then take away their toys (membership).

I hate that this big Goodreads hoopla has resorted to what looks like censorship, but since there are kids out there who refuse to be respectful and use their common sense, it's become a necessary evil. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Refuse to moderate your website, you're gonna get trolls. Plain and simple.


  1. It's a mixed bag. I've seen some examples of author-ly misbehaviour, but the reviewer trollsmanship is so bad that I was afraid to venture into those waters and was very hesitant to even list my book. I did finally, and through a carefully devised and executed plan of remaining completely unknown, have avoided the drama.

    All in all though, my overall response is "it's about D@## time."

  2. I personally have never had a problem with any trolling on Goodreads (although I have been trolled by email a couple of times), but even if I did it wouldn't bother me. I'm one of the people that believes that the internet is not always serious business - especially when it comes to trolls.

    That being said, I know some people can get upset by this kind of behaviour and it really sickens me when people use the "freedom of speech" excuse to spread their c*** - so unfortunately, rules like these need to be enforced from time to time so that people learn there are consequences to their actions.

    It's a grey area, but I think you made a great argument there Mysti and worded it in very thoughtful and mature way. :)


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