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book reviews forevermore

Goodreads refugee and wordpress blogger


“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

Carol's Deletion Experience

As a reviewer, my goals were very simple: to thoughtfully reflect my views on a book and my reading experience. When Goodreads customer service opened a thread in the feedback group titled Announcements: Important Note Regarding Reviews (https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...), I was seriously disturbed.

I've bought into the idea that the personal is political, and I incorporate it, when appropriate, into my reading and thus my reviews. Some authors are content to release their books into the world and let them develop a life of their own. Others leverage their social power into political power, using their artistic voice to make comments in the political arena. For the most part, I've only followed or heard from authors I've loved, so it was natural to me to focus on the positives. But as I grew more widely read and the barriers between authors and readers have melted down on Goodreads, I've come to realize there are authors I want to avoid as well, some because of their public persona, some because of boorish behavior in groups. I never set out to castigate most of them in public (there were a few, I admit), but I reserve that right to discuss it in my notes on reads or books.

Shortly after the announcement was posted, a group of 21 people had over a hundred reviews deleted (there's been an analysis. See Ceridwen's profile for links), along with bookshelves. No warning. Just an email notice. I found that unforgivable. Truly. Blatant censorship, outrageous removal of people's thoughts, words, self-expression, from a site that not only depended on it, but encouraged it. Bookpeople should all understand how awful censorship is, and what the loss of that expression implied. Added to it is the sense of betrayal, after Otis and various GR staff had reassured users that 'shelving was for personal use' and users could create shelving that worked for them.

After enough outrage, Kara from Customer Service had the audacity to claim that "there was no record of the deleted material," but Goodreads was very sorry, and wouldn't delete material again without warning, and would very definitely send copies to the user in the future (how generous!). Unsurprisingly, some IT person somewhere informed Kara that these servers usually have things called 'backups,' and they could, in fact, return copies of the deleted material.

Goodreads didn't just look like censoring assholes, they looked like incompetent ones.

From there, it became clear--in the very limited dialogue--that reviews and shelves that focused on NEGATIVE aspects of author behavior would be deleted if it didn't pertain to the book. As a further affront to thoughtful reviews, gif-filled fan-girl screaming reviews ("I can't wait until this is released! I'm like, OMG, dying!") remain completely acceptable.

No real clarification, no site-wide announcements. Most Goodreaders are still reviewing according to a policy they know nothing about.

Until that point, I had no reviews or shelves deleted, but shortly after, a trial "author-behavior-unacceptable" shelf deleted. My almost identically stacked "unicorns-and-rainbows" shelf remained. While in the thread it was clear that GR was removing mysteriously named shelves such as "icy-hex" (Kara: "we aren't allowed to discuss specifics"), apparently the thought-police had missed a cheerful "unicorns-and-rainbows."

Hi Carol,

We are contacting you in regard to the following shelf:


Due to some recent changes to our moderation policy, shelves that function as ad hominem attacks or off-topic comments that single out individual readers or authors will now be deleted entirely from the site.

We will give you 2 calendar days to decide what to do, whether that means backing up the information through our export feature for your personal records or editing the content to comply with our guidelines. If the shelf continues to violate our guidelines, it will be deleted per our policy after 2 days.

We would also ask that you refrain from posting content like this going forward. For more information about these changes, please see the Feedback Group FAQ.

Best regards,
The Goodreads Team

Why does shelving matter? Originally toted as a personal way one could organize books, GR and Amazon were seeking to monitize shelving by incorporating it into recommendation engines. Nasty shelving=no sale. Supposedly.

Thus my campaign began in earnest. I joined the flagged review project and wrote reviews based on author behavior. I also subscribed to Manny's Hydra project anticipating reviews would be deleted. This resulted in my second "customer service" email:

Hi Carol,

Your review of Non Censure was recently flagged by Goodreads members as potentially off-topic. As the review is not about the book, it has been removed from the site. You can find the text of the review attached for your personal records.

Additionally, your reviews of the following books were brought to our attention:

The Secret of Castle Cant
Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung
Logic: A Very Short Introduction
The Hydra

Please note that any reviews you post must contain your own original content (see our review guidelines). Any reviews that are simply copy-pasted duplicates of other reviews will be removed. Given this, the reviews in question have been deleted. We have attached copies for your personal records.

Please note that if you continue to violate our guidelines, your account may come under review for removal.

Best regards,
The Goodreads Team


Through a glitch in their own system (so many things to censor, so little time), they not only failed to send me a copy of those reviews, they failed to actually delete them from the site. I waited, confused. Could it be that Customer Service was finally going to try and live up to its name?

Sadly, no.

Three days later, another email:


Hi Carol,

It looks like you re-posted your reviews of the following books, despite our notification that the reviews violated our review guidelines:

Logic: A Short Introduction
Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung
Non Censure
The Hydra
The Secret of Castle Cant

As the reviews still violate guidelines, they have been deleted once again.

Additionally, your reviews of the following books were brought to our attention:

The Art of War
If I Did It
Civil Disobedience and Other Essays
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

As the reviews are not about the books in question, they have been removed from the site. Please also note that reviews that are simply copy-pasted duplicates of other reviews will be deleted. You can find the text of the reviews attached for your personal records.

Please consider this your final warning. If you continue to violate our guidelines or re-post content that breaks our rules, your account will come under review for removal.

The Goodreads Team

So. Incompetent AND assholes.