(Note: All links are missing from this, along with all pics. Booklikes froze after I had spent two and a half fucking hours on this. Although I was able to save the text file, the links were lost, the formatting was lost, and the pics (saved in my files) were no longer part of the file. Thanks for nothing, BookLikes.)
A murder of crows. A pride of lions.
A parallax of conundrums.
Having injured my foot at an art show this past Saturday, I decided not to spend all day yesterday limping around and instead proceeded with more of the archiving of my BookLikes blog posts. Reviews, progress updates, and generic comments and observations that I had not previously saved are now filling up yet another file on the computer. I need to do another back-up.
As I read through my own blogging history and tried to keep up with the various conversations regarding the current state of BookLikes, I tried to figure out my place in the landscape and which road of several available I wanted to take toward the next adventure.
Parallax -- the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions.
Like so many others, I came to BookLikes in search of an alternative after the Great Purge of September 2013. It took hours to upload my book catalogue from a csv file of my Goodreads account. Many books had no covers, or weren't listed on BookLikes at all. I put up with the glitches because BL was a work-in-progress, and I was okay with that, as long as there was continued progress.
Some of the trolls followed us, and that was discouraging. We all know how that went down. And for those who think this became a safe haven where we could freely vent our frustrations, let me assure you that is NOT true. Details are available, but will not be made public. The result was that I for one felt less safe here than I had hoped.
I never got the hang of the fancy blogging backgrounds and such, but it didn't bother me all that much. I was more interested in the ideas, the words, the books, the writing. The bells and whistles were nice, but they weren't me. After a while, however, I did begin to feel left out. It was like being back in high school where everyone had the latest fashions just like in Seventeen and I didn't.
What I wanted was the books, because books -- like dogs -- have never let me down.
As problems began to surface with BL, I turned more and more to my own catalogue of books, the books I owned and the books I'd read and the books I wanted to read. It's not a data base per se; it's a spreadsheet with basic information like author names, titles, publishers, etc., and the location for those books that I own.
Last January I took a break from BL, for a variety of reasons. I stopped back here once in a while to catch up on things, but I pretty much just stayed away for weeks at a time without even logging in. I didn't know about all the problems that were developing until after I came back in July. The site had slowed down. There were days when I couldn't get on at all. And the book data base still had problems.
In August, I got a real wake-up call in the form of a post by Murder by Death. I would link to her original, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. But because of the problems I myself had been having, I reblogged it for easier access. "Librarian edits in the time of the ice age. . . " let me know that BookLikes was in trouble. It wasn't just me.
And there were discussions about moving to other sites. I joined aNobii, found it annoying, for instance.
At that point, I began archiving my own BL posts. Before I had got very far with that project, the whole Halloween Bingo thing started, and the buddy reads for Ammie, Come Home and Jamaica Inn. For the first time in three years, since the debacle on GR, I felt as if the book community I had grown so fond of was starting to coalesce again. Through the Bingo game I found some fun new books and slogged through some I should have read a long time ago and encountered a few real duds. The task of analyzing the two buddy read books was an absolute joy; I love love love love love doing that sort of thing.
Through it all, there was that undercurrent of worry, though. Sometimes when I tried to add new covers, the jpg files were too big. I kept shrinking them and shrinking them and couldn't remember ever having to do that before. The site was still slow, very slow, and there were days when I simply couldn't get on. I noticed that the Facebook page hadn't been updated, and I remembered that it had been a very long time since I'd seen one of the Thursday updates.
All of this mitigated the enthusiasm engendered by the buddy and Bingo reads.
I shoved my concerns aside. I went through a bout of back spasms, and I had a big art show. My hopes of blacking out my Bingo card waned as other occupations stole time from reading. Then came the fiasco of the Setterfield book.
By the time I posted my rant, I was literally -- and I do mean literally -- crying with frustration. All I wanted to do was chart my progress reading a damn book, and I couldn't figure out how to do it. I tried all of the very few "help" features I could find, but the BL site was not being very helpful. I didn't know who to ask. I looked for a librarians' group similar to what was on GR and even on LM, but I couldn't find anything. The "help" button wasn't any help since I didn't even know what the problem was. Anger, frustration, pissed-offedness and everything else piled on top of previous issues and the general deterioration of the site prompted my outburst, and I left. I didn't even come back to the site to see the responses until several days later.
Because I had received no email notifications of responses to my flounce, I figured everyone was equally pissed off at me and didn't care.
As it turned out, however, that wasn't entirely true.
When I heard about the major problems with the site, I tried to keep up a little better, but I was still bitter. Not at my fellow BookLikers, to whom I owed an apology for my flounce, but at BookLikes' management for letting the operation deteriorate. I still don't know what entirely lay behind it, and I still don't know what position BookLikes plays in a wider array of business ventures, but that doesn't make me any less disappointed.
With very few personal exceptions, I'm pretty much a WYSIWYG type person. It gets me in trouble quite frequently -- it's why I'm banned from GR -- but there's no changing it. I am what I am. And maybe that's what makes it all the more difficult for me to understand why someone would go to all the trouble to set up a site like BL and then let it fall apart. To me that's a sign that they just don't care. The operators of GR only cared about the money, which they pocketed on the sale to Amazon. (The same is true of the owners of the Etsy.com site, who pocketed the dough on their IPO and have let the site go to hell ever since.)
That's why I didn't understand the collapse of Leafmarks. That should have been a labor of love and something that would have been organized in a way to involve the users in the development, but it never seemed to get off the ground.
What I do understand is that most people, probably 99%, just want a site they can use in peace and harmony and not have to worry if everything is going to fall apart tomorrow. And most people, probably 99%, aren't interested in or have the time/resources to engage in the building and development and maintenance of any such site.
What I also understand, because I'm one of those people, is that there are folks who love to be in on the action, who love to get into the nitty gritty of maintaining the data base, helping with upgrades, dreaming of new features, helping new members, and so on. I wasn't a Librarian on GR, but I added a hell of a lot of books, because I surfed for the Kindle freebies almost every day. I was a Librarian on Leafmarks, and again I added a lot of books that weren't in the mainstream. I added hundreds of covers, too, because I had the books and I had the capability and I had the time.
I'm not a Librarian at BL, and I've never been able to find a comprehensive user's manual on how to do things. I even broke down yesterday and used the Help button to send a message regarding this.
I got an email reply from "Kate" this morning:
My first thought on reading that this morning was, "Why couldn't I find a FAQ page yesterday when I was looking for one?" So I looked again, and I still couldn't find it. Not from the dashboard and not from my blog file. I looked and I looked and I looked, and I got frustrated all over again, and then angry.
I finally found the FAQ button when I was writing this post. So, why isn't the FAQ page accessible from ALL PARTS OF THE SITE???
And why should it be up to the members of the site to provide the how-to information for other users? How is the new user to know this?
Do I stay and struggle with this, or do I go and struggle somewhere else?
As I was writing that, literally at that moment, Broken Tune was posting on her BL blog:
This site is MUCH more complex than either GR or LM, because of the integrated data base and blogging features, as was discussed once before, somewhere, regarding the difficulty of reproducing it. Maybe the operators just expect everyone to be super-savvy with that sort of thing. I don't know. And maybe when my generation of dinosaurs, the folks who remember vinyl LPs and mimeograph masters and carbon paper and rotary phones, finally dies out, user's manuals will be a thing of the past, too.
Until then, a comprehensive one would be really, really, REALLY NICE.
The conundrums change as my point of view changes. I think the data base here is woefully inadequate, but I don't even know how to help fixing it. The blogging is nice, but I don't know how to make mine look like the others, so I feel second-rate. I came here for the community, and it's fleeing.
This morning I logged on, after getting the email from Kate, and I read the comments, posted on Broken Tune's blog, expressing appreciation of my presence here. That made me cry some more. (I'm sounding like Grimlock, now! ;-) ) And that, too, reminded me that I came here for the community more than anything else.
I don't know where I'm going to go or what I'm going to do. I feel very much cast adrift right now. We've all explored all the other sites, and found them lacking. No one is interested in starting a new one. I have a presence on FB and Twitter, so I can be found one way or another.
If I thought BL were going to stabilize and grow -- and not sell out -- I might be more encouraged to stay and establish a significant presence again. But I don't have that confidence right now.
Maybe I never will.