This story had whizzed past me and I’m only just reading about it now, but it seems that over the past month or so there’s been an increasingly bitter war breaking out regarding the conduct of certain groups on Goodreads. The result is the launch of the Stop the Goodreads Bullies (STGRB) campaign, followed a short while later by the Stop the Stop the Goodreads Bullies (STSTGRB) campaign.
It’s a long and complicated saga, but the gist of it is that some authors fear that there are elements on Goodreads who gang up to attack certain writers. The STGRB campaign says that it distinguishes between genuine critical reviews and reviews that are simply attacks on the authors concerned. Here’s STGRB’s definition of a Goodreads bully, and here’s STSTGRB’s response. The mental gymnastics required to remain sane while reading all these points and counter-points by two groups with very similar names is, to be honest, almost beyond me.
The campaigns have certainly stirred debate. Here’s John Scalzi arguing that STGRB has gone too far, here’s Stacia Kane making a similar point, and here’s S.B. Sarah pretty much saying the same. Some are speculating that recent changes to Goodreads’ guidelines are in some way linked to the issue. It’s worth noting also that Goodreads recently changed their guidelines, although it’s not clear whether this is in any way related to recent events.
It certainly seems to be the case that some readers organise themselves into groups and occasionally target specific authors, not just on Goodreads but on a wide range of websites. There’s an online mentality that seems to make reasonable people sometimes act like jerks. On the other hand, should a mob be met by another mob? Gangs of angry readers, if they organise, can adds negative reviews and potentially harm an author’s career and sales. The real solution seems to be for sites to implement better review policies (as Goodreads seems to be doing) and for a better reviewing culture to develop, in which more people leave reviews (both positive and negative) and therefore the views of small groups aren’t magnified by the silence of others.