July 26th, 2012

WTF: Goodreads

I don't hang out over there. Yet (probably because of Morning Coffee links on Nate Hoffelder's excellent blog, The Digital Reader), I keep running across truly horrifying stories about what's going on over there. This hasn't been going on long -- a few weeks, maybe.

I've been writing book reviews online since, oh, jeez ... 1990? Give or take a year? I think I just frightened myself. I wrote very occasional, not particularly organized reviews on an internet bb at the University of Washington. When I graduated, I went to DEC, and did NOT start hanging out in Notes, because I was not a VMS fan; I did, however, start hanging out on rec.arts.books and rec.arts.sf.written, where I posted, er, numerous reviews. I've posted a few reviews to on-and-off personal websites (now consistently "on" since, beats the hell out of me but definitely 2000), but I started this blog in 2004ish, and it has been the primary home for the book reviews ever since (the repro project meant a lot of those reviews are on the site).

Throughout this entire process, I've been getting feedback from authors, overwhelmingly a positive, feel good experience, even when I didn't necessarily like the books they had written. It is unlikely I'll ever have a single moment in my life quite as exciting as when I went to WesterCon and lined up to get a book signed and the author -- known for lurking long before I was participating -- said, "Oh, YOU'RE [my first name]". Honestly, more memorable than bungee jumping, particularly that first moment or two when I wasn't sure if this was a good oh-you're-that-person or a bad oh-you're-that-person (it was good).

Author feedback here has generally been in the form of brief comments and even authors who have not been happy about what I had to say about their babies have been excruciatingly polite about it. Apparently that's not the way things have been going on Goodreads.

http://vacuousminx.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/goodreads-has-a-structural-problem/

h/t Nate Hoffelder

From my perspective as a completely ignorant, non-user of goodreads, that sounds like a plausible explanation. Generally speaking, more moderation is needed until you have enough, and then a tiny bit more, to give people something to think about before they go demanding their own, idiosyncratic things.

Stalking the Past

I've been tracking down marriage/divorce information on several people in my tree (graph?) on ancestry.com -- specifically, I've been focusing on people who were married and/or divorced at least three times. The person I'm currently working on is still alive, so I'm trying to be careful how I describe him. I'll call him B.

I have a theory about how B. met his first wife, who I suspect was very young when they married. While they married in King County, I'm almost positive they met in Bellingham, where the rest of B.'s family was living after his mother married his second stepfather. Since B. was a young _man_ at the time, I wasn't entirely certain what he was doing. I _think_ I found his next younger brother in Bellingham High School, using his stepfather's last name. It's possible it was through the high school that B. met his first wife, who would have been between B. and B.'s younger brother in age.

I was about to start searching on B. using the stepfather's last name, on the chance something might turn up, but thought I should first do a general search again on ancestry to see what I might have missed on an earlier search or what might show up that was the result of the continual addition of new records. And lo! B. was working as a deckhand on boats going between Bellingham and Vancouver, BC. One of those records even lists his birthplace (a not-very-populous state), thus eliminating any possible ambiguity. It's one of those instances where an enterprising record keeper wrote in information not called for by the columns. They had mixed up the Race/Nationality columns and drawn an arrow to flip them, and for B., who is listed as "American" for nationality, and "Canadian" for race (but then flip them, per the arrow) has the state name (abbreviated) written overlapping the columns for "Physical Marks" and "Remarks".

I _love_ stuff like this.

ETA: I've now got three of these. By the third one, he's getting hired in Seattle, the "Canadian" part of his identity is entirely gone, replaced by "Dutch" for race and "U.S." for nationality. He's still the young guy on the boat and he's gained ten pounds and an inch in height. Oh, and he's a "Seamen" instead of Deck of D.Hand.