Monday, December 22, 2014

Books of the year!

This month's book club pick?  Icebergs, by Rebecca Johns.  We decided good, but not great (and the promise of scandal left us expecting far more!).  See all our picks here!

Articles Club this month was also fascinating - a history of the NY Times Style section.  While the author was a bit verbose for smartypantsnesses sake, it was a great read!

Finally, as far as books go, I am still loving my goodreads account.  I have always been a voracious reader, and having a platform like this to keep track of what books I want to read is fantastic.  Even better, you can see what your friends are reading, what they want to read, and get recommendations from them directly.  You also rate and have the option to write a review for every book you read.  At the end of the year, they send you a link to "The Books You Read in 2014" - it's wonderful!  I am currently at 42, but with the plane flight home and back, I'm pretty sure I'll make it up to 44 this year. 

However.  That said, there are still some downsides:
(also known as: why being an engineer has made certain things in my life very frustrating)

--There isn't a way to say when you've re-read a book and include it in your tally and in the stats they compile

--Speaking of stats, what they have is cool...but they can do so much more!  They should hire a couple of smart millennial data analytics-types to expand this and make it even cooler, a la Okcupid's "Dataclysm"

--They connect into amazon's kindle site and many other book purchasing sites (which is great) - but their local library integration is terrible.  To be fair, they do connect to a local library for me, but it ends up at MIT's Worldcat site, which would mean trying to order a paperback book for pleasure reading through a system that costs MIT a lot of money.  Not going to happen.  What I'd love is for it to link directly into the online library ebook sections.  That would be phenomenal. 

--They show the rating of the book as an average of however people have reviewed it, but the problem is that isn't a prediction of what you will like.  Another way to say this: it isn't Netflix.  They don't have a predictive algorithm that says, "Oh, you'll love this book based on all of your other movie rankings."

On your homepage, they do have a link to a "Recommendations for You" page, but it makes recommendations based on if you added a book to your shelf, not if you've read it and liked it!  Maddening.  I want to know what books to read based on what books I've loved, not on what I've added!

--The pages for individual books show reviews that your friends have written first, followed by reviews from perfect strangers.  I have never found these to be helpful.  I'm glad they're there, because this functionality means that I can read reviews written by my friends, just as they can see what I write. 

But - again with the lack of a predictive algorithm...there's no way to sort the reviews in a way that will help you figure out what you want.  For example, if I want to know if I'd like a book...the best way to do that is to find someone that has rated books that I've read as a whole in a similar way, and put that review first.  Instead, you can only sort by what rating they give, or the time at which the review was written.  Not helpful.  This is why there are several books each year that I find monumentally terrible (this year's winner.  bleeding eyeballs, guys.  bleeding eyeballs.).  They're always the books that I read without a recommendation from a trusted friend.

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