Goodreads Has Decided That There is No Friendzone for Authors and People

Goodreads Has Decided That There is No Friendzone for Authors and People Amazon Social Media Social reading Goodreads may have picked up tricks from their corporate parent since being bought by Amazon in 2012, but beta testing new features was apparently not one of them.

The social network added new relationship options on Friday. Ostensibly intended to better define how authors and the hoi polloi interact, the new options are causing more problems than they solved.

Update: GR posted an update on Monday with the news that they fixed most of the problems described in this post.

Where under the old setup you could be a friend or a fan of an author (or both), the new system offers "three ways you can choose to engage with author pages on Goodreads" : friend, follow, or favorite.

While I'm sure it sounds like follow is simply a new name for fan and that favorite is a brand new option, it's more complicated than that.  The relationships friend:fan and friend:follow:favorite don't match up cleanly.

To start with, the old system had members forming connections with authors, while under the new system members "engage with author pages" - and yes, that is the way GR framed the interactions.

Yes, authors are no longer members of Goodreads; they're now pages. In other words, Goodreads sees authors as things.

Goodreads apparently made this change so that they could set up profiles for authors not on GR. Looking at how they talk about it in the FAQ, I think they plan to use the unclaimed profiles for marketing purposes:

Why would I want to Follow an author who isn’t a member of Goodreads?
First, we’re working really hard to get every author to join the Author Program. When an author you’re Following joins, you’ll automatically start receiving their updates. Additionally, we want this to be the way you keep up with the latest from all the authors that matter to you, regardless of whether they are on Goodreads or not.

Why would I want to Follow a dead author? Isn’t that kind of morbid?
Well, it’s not likely that Mark Twain is going to claim his author profile and start writing pitch-perfect reviews of contemporary novels (though if he did, that would be pretty cool, right? OK, it’d also be a little creepy). The short answer here is that we want “Follow” to be a way for all our members to get updates about all of the authors that matter to them, living or dead, in the author program or not.

So Goodreads snuck in a marketing plan in with an update to the structure of their social network.

I think I could have swallowed it, or at least I wouldn't have noticed, had Goodreads not mucked up the change.

Numerous Goodreads members have responded to the announcement with complaints that the existing "friend" relationship has morphed into a mutant friend+follow engagement. Anyone who was a friend of an author is now both a friend and a follower of an author page.

That would not be an issue of not for the simple fact that unfollowing an author page also breaks the friend engagement with that page.

Apparently it escaped Goodreads' attention that a member might be a friend of an author because they like the person while at the same time not having any interest the books that person writes.

I don't know why GR missed it (other than that GR sees authors as things and not people), but that makes perfect sense to me. I know several people who write stuff which I would not read to save my life, but I would still regard most of them as friends*.

And to make matters worse, there are GR members who didn't even know that their friend was also an author until the changeover:

This is beyond frustrating. I don't want to "follow" dead people. I don't want to "follow" most of my author friends, many of whom I all of a sudden realize are authors. I would be okay with substituting the word "follow" for what used to be "fan," though I don't see what that improves.

And even authors aren't happy with the change:

I write erotic romance and erotica. When before I was able to "vanish" in the number of friends a friend had, without drawing attention to the kind of genres I write, now that is obviously over.

There are scholars, teachers and civil servants among my friends. Do you seriously mean to expose them openly like that? I understand everyone of them who deletes me from their list.

There are now some 400 responses to the announcement, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the people who like the change.

In any reasonable world, that would be enough to encourage Goodreads to revert to the old system.  Then again, in that reasonable world Goodreads would first have tested the new set up before inflicting it upon users.

As it stands, we're probably stuck with the munged together  system. Goodreads has promised to reconsider the change, but I don't have much hope that they'll fix the damage they caused.

Goodreads

Thanks, Glinda!

image by Appelez moi thibal

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

23 Comments

  1. Greg Stranberg23 March, 2015

    I expect my friend count to drop substantially here real quick.

    Reply
  2. […] des Systems. Der bereits entstandene Schaden wird sich dadurch aber wohl nicht wettmachen lassen, kommentiert The Digital Reader. Für die Goodreads-Nutzer bedeutet das auf jeden Fall noch extra Aufwand: “Das ist […]

    Reply
  3. Jesslyn H24 March, 2015

    Worst implementation EVER! Those that curse the day it was purchased from Amazon are shouting “I told you so!”.

    Reply
  4. […] Goodreads Has Decided That There is No Friendzone for Authors and People ? Ink, Bits, & Pixels. (<-You can continue reading the full article […]

    Reply
  5. They have definitely upped their marketing attempts. In the old days, when I put a book in their giveaway program (must be a print book) people saw it and signed up to try to win. It also went on the list of “current” giveaways. Just recently, I did a giveaway–for anyone who has the book on their GR Want to Read pile, they now get an email notifying them of the giveaway. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it is a new thing. So far as I can tell, the giveaway notice does not to go to people who have already marked the book as read.

    I believe they are also looking at expanding the giveaways to include ebooks and not just print books.

    Reply
  6. […] That seems a bit idiotic. I mean, would it have killed them to beta test it with a segment of the community first? I don’t actually follow the entire explanation, for the simple reason that I don’t use GR for social interactions as much as as free database of books I’ve read. But if you’re an active GR member, it’s worth reading Nate’s post. (Source: The Digital Reader) […]

    Reply
  7. […] (Algonquin) Porter Anderson  Links:  Handling the 1-Star Extra Visibility Ad-ding Facebook Unfriended Authors Words or Money Resting on Laurels Stacked Odds Kobrary Question of the Week: If you became a […]

    Reply
  8. Robert McKay25 March, 2015

    It looks like they’ve said they’re correcting this. I don’t know if the fixes have been put into place yet.

    https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2260989-announcing-the-new-follow-author-button?page=11#comment_116581044

    Looks like they listened.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder25 March, 2015

      Thanks for the heads up. You’re right, they addressed most of the problems.

      Reply
  9. Rachel Smith25 March, 2015

    I was so upset with what they did that I sent them an email about it. I’m so glad it’s being put back to the way it ought to be.

    BUT. This never should have happened in the first place. Had they bothered to check with the users, instead of pulling a classic Facebook move, they would have known there would be rioting in the Goodreads streets.

    Reply
    1. They do have groups where they solicit opinions on various changes (I don’t know if they did on this one). The average GR user probably doesn’t even know it happened. I’m on there at least once a day and I’m an author–I didn’t notice anything had happened. I don’t keep track of friends/likes/follows/fans. Never noticed anything had changed. I follow or fan a few authors and I never noticed it changed there either. It wasn’t well thought out, but most people probably never knew anything changed (or was fixed).

      Reply
      1. Greg Stranberg25 March, 2015

        I get emails when the authors I follow put up a new blog post. Some people might be wondering why they get that update for certain people now, and I’d imagine this could cause some hiccups.

        Reply
    2. Deb Kinnard25 March, 2015

      This is because Suits, Rach. IMO they never check with folks who are actually using the site/tech/software. They just squee, “Oooh, this sounds like a great idea!” and do it, and then suffer the pushback once it’s done.

      Suits.

      Reply
  10. […] Here is an article that outline the changes. […]

    Reply
  11. […] Finge in Sachen Social Reading. Weshalb Amazon die Plattform 2012 gekauft hat. Jetzt wird an den Stellschrauben gedreht – sehr zur Unfreude von Autoren, die dort Mitglied sind. Denn es ist jetzt nicht mehr […]

    Reply
  12. […] caused numerous problems for its members when it enacted a new set of follower relationships last Friday, and the problems […]

    Reply
  13. M Seattle26 March, 2015

    Shouldn’t GR just do a name change – “Amazon’s Good Reads?” It would be more honest and realign users’ expectations about the type of service and support available and prepare us for all sorts of native marketing assaults—I mean opportunities.

    Reply
  14. […] Goodreads has decided that there is no friendzone for authors and people. Nate Hoffelder writes about the now more confusing world of GoodReads, fans, followers and a weird gum-up that may send people away from GoodReads. […]

    Reply
  15. […] Goodreads restructured their social network late last month I predicted that they would shortly use author pages for marketing purposes, and […]

    Reply
  16. […] * I’m not quite sure I understand this change in Goodreads policy. I’m a page now? […]

    Reply
  17. Sheogorath13 July, 2015

    Goodreads apparently made this change so that they could set up profiles for authors not on GR.
    OMG, all that’s running through my head right now is, “Facebook shadow accounts, DPA violation.” *facepalms*

    Reply
  18. […] have this grutch, about some issue SO arcane that I can’t even follow what the guy’s talking about. A […]

    Reply

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