Goodreads has a problem with extortion scams and review bombing

Originally published at: Goodreads has a problem with extortion scams and review bombing | Boing Boing

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This is a feature, not a bug. Amazon bought Goodreads years ago, and has done NOTHING with it except let this sort of behavior go on. They are happily letting it become irrelevant because it drives folks to Amazon reviews instead. That’s my opinion of course, but this is how big, wealthy, abusive corporations function. Buy competitors and kill them off or turn them into outlets for your brand. While Goodreads wasn’t necessarily a competitor, it DID become an important place to determine if you wanted to buy a book… and that cuts into Amazon’s bottom line.


my own experience with online shopping and reading product reviews has made me form the opinion that most of these reviews are worthless anyway. who are these people and why do i care what they think? at some point long ago maybe reading what others had to say may have had some value for informing you about a product’s performance. these days you have no idea if reviews are coming from “compensated sources” or people looking to vent, or reviewers with an agenda against a product or manufacturer. i would rather look to more reliable sources for product reviews, somewhere that there is a little bit of a track record for straightforward testing and information without bias. granted, it is not always possible. still, i am not likely to make a decision based on what Person X. from Anytown USA says about it. edit: to this specific topic of books, there are reliable reviewers to turn to.


I mostly agree with you, but mostly for items that need to be functional. I’m not going to trust random reviewers for hardware and (non-game) software. I want in-depth side-by-side comparisons of products.

Subjective items, for me, require a broader bet approach. People have agendas or certain points of view that don’t align with mine, and other times it’s just a matter of taste. There’s no getting around that from random reviewers or from pros who have a platform focusing on it. But the more reviews I read, the clearer the picture of the product and whether or not I might enjoy it. I love finding a line in a review where someone is complaining about something but I realize, “Hey, I’ll probably like that a lot.” That’s what I do for boardgames.

More to the point of Goodreads, there are other features that differentiate it from, say, Amazon’s reviews. The social networking feature is the one that stands out. I see what my friends are reading or have finished, then I can quickly add those titles to my list. Friends may give a better indication of how I might feel about things. Then there are also groups you can join. That’s a feature I haven’t taken advantage of yet.

Surprisingly, I haven’t encountered review bombing yet. Considering I’ve been reading more social justice books lately, I of course encounter some baseless one star reviews, but not a worrying (well, more worrying) number. What I guess this means is that I’m not reading enough new authors who would be vulnerable to this kind of attack.


The surprising thing is that if I go to my Goodreads list and sort by average reviews, it actually tracks pretty strongly with my own scores. Like, surprisingly well.

Even the biggest differences, of which there are few, are only a matter of degrees. I thought Song of Achilles was fine (3.5 stars) but not as good as Circe, GR readers love it and give it 4.2. I thought Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was shite (2), GR readers think it was ok (3.5, which is pretty poor).

This worries me a little. Am I so predictable? Do I just like popular stuff? Do I have the tastes… of the masses??

But actually I think it just means that, for the most part, Goodreads reviews are a good filter. I wouldn’t use them to decide what to read, I have no idea what the most popular books are in the site, but if I’ve already decided that a book looks good, or I’ve read someone else’s review that piques my interest, it’s a pretty good filter to decide what to avoid.


It should be a general rule by now that any website can be gamed by scammers. “Grift finds a way.”

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I had a similar problem with Goodreads where some troll I pissed off on Facebook decided to give all my books a one-star review with a couple of fake review thrown in for good measure. Even after providing clear-cut & actual PROOF to Goodreads that this was false testimony from a fake account, I was stonewalled with the ‘everybody on GR has the right to their opinion’ bullshit. Needless to say, I don’t have anything to do with their site any longer. However, the neg reviews are still up, will be so forever, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.


it’s funny because now if you write a bad book that people don’t like you post reviews on how its bad you as the reviewer are now targeted as a bad review bomber. it even Dumberr because you never hear this if a book has a lot of good reviews or good review bombs.

it’s funny because once i was on good reads and looked at reviews of a book i had already read and thoroughly enjoyed (forget which) and was surprised at the lukewarm comments. HUH! ok, nobody’s wrong here, but i was certainly glad i read the book before looking, and it didn’t change my own opinion.


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