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Goodreads Says BookLikes is Spontaneously Deleting User Content

GGoodreadsoodreads may have been founded on the idea of people communicating but lately it seems the management has only been opening their mouth to change feet.


I’ve just learned that Goodreads has disabled their integration with BookLikes, a smaller online book community, over claims that BookLikes is responsible for spontaneous and erroneous deletions of users' content. Furthermore, I’ve also been informed that Goodreads has sent out emails to their members and publicly blamed BookLikes for the deletions.

Based on the response from some Goodreads users (and based on Goodreads' past conduct), I am not certain that Goodreads is telling the whole truth.

Dawid Piaskowski, the founder of BookLikes, broke the news a couple days ago on the BookLikes blog:

We’re very sorry to inform you that BookLikes -> Goodreads Synchronization is switched off. We’ve received mail from Goodreads Staff who are blaming BookLikes' sync for not working right.

We were really surprised about the situation, especially that we did not receive any mail about the problem of disappearing content in terms of synchronization. BookLikes Community can always count on our support and assist, we answer to each and every remark and we truly hope this issue will be solved really soon. If you noticed that something disturbing is happening to your books, please let us know. We’ll check that and sort things out.

Goodreads has also been telling their members that BookLikes is responsible for deleting content. They sent out this email on 8 October to their members:

We have been hearing from several of our members that they noticed some of their books and/or reviews were missing from Goodreads. When we investigated, we found that the deletions had been made by a third party service, BookLikes, through our API and that the Goodreads members concerned were unaware that this was happening.

You are receiving this email because you are a Goodreads member whose books or reviews on Goodreads have been deleted by this third party service through our API. If this happened without your understanding, our team can work to restore any reviews we can. This process could take several days. We will provide you with a list of the books and reviews restored to your account once this is completed. If you DO NOT want your books or reviews restored to your Goodreads account, please respond to this email letting us know by Thursday, October 10th. Otherwise, if we haven’t heard back from you, we will work on restoring your content.

This email sparked a discussion thread on Goodreads which is now 117 comments long. Several Goodreads users have already chimed in both on the BookLikes blog and on the Goodreads discussion thread. Many have reported receiving this email but most deny having lost content in a mysterious deletion.

In fact, there is exactly one, count it, one person who reported losing content.

So far as I can tell that email seems to have gone out to far more than just the people who might have been affected by this issue, and I have at least one report in the comment section of the BookLikes blog that disputes Goodreads' claims:

I responded to GR’s email this morning advising that – as the only deletions that seem to have occurred on my account are deletions I made myself – their email (which seems to have been sent to just about anyone) blaming BookLikes for any and all deletions was inappropriate and misleading.

Am I the only one who wonders why GR sent out an email to people who could not possibly have been affected?

Even if that doesn’t bother you, I am displeased by the way that GR blamed BL for everything. Assuming that this bug really did occur then the deletions would be at least partially the fault of GR. BookLikes could only have deleted the content by using the GoodReads API, which means that Goodreads handed them the tool. I tend to agree with Kaia when she reported that:

I ran GR’s latest nonsense–their claim that Booklikes is causing Goodreads content to be deleted–past him, and the verdict is that this is actually probably GR’s fault. More than likely is has to do with flaws in their API code that are more like security holes than features. Other sites should never be able to delete GR user content. The fact that it may have somehow happened indicates that the blame lies with Goodreads, and they’re trying to use Booklikes as a scapegoat.

I suppose that some might say that scapegoat is too strong of a term, but let me remind you that Goodreads could have warned their members of this bug without mentioning the third-party that was causing the issue.

Instead they choose to name one of their competitors as the culprit. What’s even more interesting is that BookLikes has been mentioned frequently in the past few weeks as a serious alternative to Goodreads.

Am I the only one who thinks that is not a coincidence?

For those who are just joining in (and don’t yet know the context and back history), BookLikes is a blog-focused book community. It came to everyone’s attention a short time back as a result of Goodreads' last faux pas.

About a month ago Goodreads announced a new content policy. According to their new rules, they no longer allowed reviews or bookshelves which focused on author behavior rather than the merits of a book.

While that policy is debatable, Goodreads proceeded to make the situation worse by immediately enforcing the policy with no grace period or warning. They deleted user views and bookshelves without giving the users a chance to download the content in question.

This caused an uproar in many places, including this blog.

That new policy also caused some small number of GR users to look for a new community, and as a result BookLikes has been getting a lot of hype.

I do have to wonder if Goodreads decided to use this bug to also smear their competitor in an attempt to cancel out the positive press that BookLikes has been getting.

While I would normally be cautious and treat this as a "he said she said" situation, I think in this case I have to agree with the Goodreads member who wrote: "Based on how GR has treated all of us, why would anyone believe what Kara and the Goodreads team have to say?"

What do you think?

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