Warning: This is a really long post. It contains pretty much everything I’ve been thinking about regarding bookish sites and future plans over the past several weeks, compiled into one ginormous tome. :)
I’ve made a few comments to other people, but I haven’t yet written my own blog post. I still needed to test various things and make decisions, and I just haven’t had sufficient time to deal with it. There are still things I haven’t made my mind up about, but there are also some things I’m pretty sure about, so I decided it was time to get a post out there. Now maybe I can stop posting long comments on other people’s blogs since I’ve now presumably gotten everything off my chest that I could possibly ever want to say. ;)
This is the site I’m unexpectedly the most excited about right now. I’ve been echoing reviews there for three years but, because you can’t comment on people’s reviews, I didn’t see it as a social site. I originally intended to let my account sit dormant once I reached the maximum # of books (201) for a free account. There is a $25 lifetime membership fee to shelve unlimited books, but Grim recently put up a post letting people know of an easy way to get a free lifetime account now.
Here on BookLikes, we’re accustomed to having our primary communication take place via comments on our posts. On LibraryThing, most socialization happens in groups. I found a group called The Green Dragon where, along with some general discussions, members can create their own reading journal thread if they want to. Although the group is geared toward science fiction & fantasy, many people post about other books. Some people, in fact, post very little about SF&F in their threads. People also post random things about what’s going on in their lives, pictures, etc. Whatever they want. And people reply. Kinda like a blog, right? If you stretch your imagination a little bit? It’s just not as fancy, and you can’t give it pretty backgrounds and stuff, but I’m not an artistic person so this suits me just fine.
I set up a reading journal thread of my own, if anybody is a member and wants to follow it. They’re very friendly, chatty, and eager for fresh blood.
Here’s my reading journal thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/243153
And here’s my profile page: http://www.librarything.com/profile/YouKneeK
This was the first bookish site I joined and, although I have my complaints, I expect I’ll continue to use it. I often feel lost in the crowd on Goodreads but, in many ways, that crowd is its main advantage since they have more extensive crowd-sourced data. In particular, I find their book pages useful, and especially their series pages. I’ve gained a few friends here and there (not counting duplicates from BookLikes), and I receive occasional comments. I’m also a member of a SF&F group that’s reasonably friendly, although I don’t post much there. They have an awesome group bookshelf, though, which is a major source for many of the books I choose to read. It has a diverse selection of SF&F books that were chosen by members for group reads over the years.
My profile page is here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/25923230-youkneek
This is the one I’m completely undecided on. I was never very enthusiastic about this as a solution for me personally, because I just feel like a formal blog is more work than I really want to take on. I came to BL in spite of its blogging format, not because of it. But, since I ended up enjoying BL so much, I felt like I should at least give WP a fair try and make an educated assessment about whether or not it’s for me.
This past weekend I started playing with it a little bit. I didn’t do much. I posted a few reviews to figure out how I would want to format things, I played around with a lot of different settings to see what was available, and I followed Bookstooge so I could get an idea of how things work from a Reader perspective. He helped me get my confusion about comment notifications sorted out.
I think WP could definitely work for me if I decided to go that route, but I’m on so many other sites already and I have some degree of investment in all of them. I think I’d rather just work on building up my interaction on the sites I’m involved in already rather than trying to get involved on a completely new-to-me site.
So I guess, now that I've typed all this out, I've made up my mind. If BL doesn’t work out, or if I drop another site for some reason, then I may look more seriously into setting up a WP blog. But for now, I think I’m just going to leave it as a back burner idea. At least now I understand how it works instead of being completely clueless, so I'll be more prepared if I have to make decisions about using it in the future.
Many, Many Random Thoughts About BookLikes
Like others, I’m taking a “wait and see” approach with BookLikes. I’ll continue interacting here at the same level I have been. I still think BookLikes has an awesome format, and I’ve really enjoyed the interaction I’ve had here. Mentally speaking, however, I don’t really think of BL as my primary site anymore. Last week, I took all references to my BL account off of my profiles on other sites. I used to hope that random people checking out my profile would see those references and come follow me here instead of there, since I considered this my home site. Now I’m equally happy to be followed wherever people want to follow.
There are both reasons to be hopeful about the future of the site, and reasons to be skeptical.
On the hopeful side:
* Posting on their blog. Finally, after almost a year. Even when we received our periodic “don’t worry, everything is fine, we’re here to stay” posts, they never posted on their blog. They would reply to the conversations in the Bug Reports thread and ignore our requests for public blog posts.
* Less dismissive replies. Kate’s replies to the understandably frustrated comments on the BL blog have been apologetic, and less dismissive than previous staff communication has been.
* Timelier replies (maybe). From what I’ve seen, staff has been replying in a timelier manner. (Even replying at all is an improvement at this point!) While the site was down, I saw some people complaining and/or asking for updates on the Facebook page, and replies usually showed up within a couple hours or so.
* They must not want to kill the site. This was something I had seriously been wondering about for the past few months. I thought they were just going to let it stagnate until everybody gave up and left, then shut it down. At least the fact that they tried to come in and talk to us once they realized so many people were leaving shows they haven’t given up on the site.
On the skeptical side:
* Lack of proactive communication. Based on this post from Scarlet’s Web and some of its comments, BookLikes didn’t figure out on their own that members were upset and that maybe they should come talk to us. Their post came after some members managed to get Kate’s attention through other channels and asked her to post. Also, during the site downtime, they didn’t communicate on the other channels (such as Facebook) until after people complained or asked for info. Somehow they just still don’t seem to grasp the idea that members don’t like to be left in the dark. Even if they can’t tell us “the site will be up in an hour”, just a periodic post letting us know they’re working on it would help alleviate some of people’s frustrations. If they still can’t grasp the most basic concepts of communication on a social site, how can they possibly turn things around? This kind of thing might have been sufficient, if annoying, in the old days, when people were positive about the site. It is nowhere near sufficient now that people have so many frustrations and doubts.
* Questionable attention to the site. Related to the above… they had to be told members were leaving?! Maybe they were already aware, I don't know, but communication didn’t start until after other people told them. Even if they couldn’t be bothered to scan their feed now and then, site usage statistics would surely have been a dead giveaway.
* Vague communication. BL hasn’t told us anything about their long-term intentions for the site. They said they’re “running and broadcasting here and on social channels”. They also said (in a comment) they’re “working to fix the technical problems that have a major impact on the site performance and the bloggers' experiences.” So they’re communicating again, they’re broadcasting posts on other social sites such as Facebook again, and they’re trying to solve the biggest technical issues. This really isn’t new. They were still broadcasting on other social sites long after they started ignoring us. Every now and then, staff came on and talked to us and claimed they would keep communicating. They also resolved (eventually) whatever biggest technical issues were frustrating users at the time, such as the notification bugs. I want to know what, if anything, is going to be different in the near future.
Of course solving the biggest technical issues should be their number one priority right now, but then what? Do they only aim to regain the status quo we were living with earlier this year, with minimal communication but a workable site? Is that sufficient anymore, now that many of us have begun investing our energies elsewhere? They haven’t said they plan to fix all our problems after they fix the major ones. They haven’t said they plan to give us new features. They haven’t said they plan to get out there and advertise and actively work toward attracting more members. Of course, they haven’t said otherwise, either. Maybe they do plan to do all of those things. If so, they need to tell us. I’m not asking for a detailed business plan, I just want to know what I can be excited about in regard to BL’s future.
We don’t even know much about what kind of staff they have on board. All we know is that Kate is communicating with us, and at least one technical resource is working on technical issues. That resource could just be a consultant for all we know. Do they have staff who can manage servers, maintain databases, and write code? Is anybody handling marketing? If they don’t have that kind of staff yet, do they plan to hire people eventually? This month? This year? Only if the site starts making them more money?
I just feel like there's an awful lot of unknown-ness surrounding BookLikes right now.
Random Thoughts on Following Other People on Random Sites
One thing in particular I’m still trying to find the time to do is go through the list of people I’m following here on BL, see who has left entirely or made a new place their primary site, and see if I could or should follow them on a different site where we’re both members. It’s been hard to take time to do this when I’ve still been trying to get myself sorted out, but I’ve also been worried that everybody will be gone before I get the chance to deal with it. I’m on vacation starting Friday, so I’ll probably find the time in a week or so.
I’m still not crazy about the idea of following people on multiple sites, assuming it’s mostly the same content being posted. It just makes the feeds more unmanageable. In particular, I’ve caught myself skimming through my feeds too quickly on both Goodreads and BookLikes because I want to get past the duplicate content, and sometimes I catch myself scrolling past new content from the people I’m not following in both places.
But there's also some value in following people on multiple sites right now, to avoid losing contact while everything is in flux and people are still sorting out where they really want to be for the long haul. Still, following people in multiple places really isn’t something I want to do over the long term. After several months, once things seem more settled, I’ll probably compile a list of who I’m following at more than one place and cut out duplicates. Once I get to that point, I’ll likely reach out to individuals to see which place they prefer to be followed at, and let them know what I'm doing so they can do the same with me if they choose.
The End of the Tome
Ok, that was a lot of rambling and ranting and raving. But, on the bright side, I couldn’t *possibly* have anything else to say after all this, right?! I need to get to sleep shortly, and I’m not sure how much spare time I’ll have in the morning before work, so I apologize in advance if I’m slow to reply to any comments. I promise I will eventually!