The Reblog-Feature -- Asset or Turn-Off? And what's it good for, anyway?

Reblogged from Themis-Athena's Garden of Books:

BookLikes bills itself as a sort of Tumblr for book lovers, so obviously the reblog feature is important to the site's creators -- and as a matter of fact, by signing up for the site, according to the Terms of Service we all have granted BookLikes the right to reblog (or make it possible for other users) to reblog any and all content that we post here.


And, in its most benign form, a reblog is simply a compliment to the original poster, and an action intending to "spread the word."


Yet, many members of the current BookLikes community are either émigrés from Goodreads -- where such a feature does not exist -- or have accounts on both sites, or here and on other sites that likewise operate without a reblog feature.  And almost from the first days and weeks after the mass transition of reviewers from Goodreads to BookLikes, questions and concerns were raised with regard to this feature, especially as applied to the issue of reblogging reviews (and other posts with personal / proprietary content):


Reblogging Reviews

Ostensibly A: Reblogging Reviews


BookLikes has, in the interim, re-engineered the feature and has, for example, removed the reblogger's ability to edit the reblogged post as such, and it has also removed reblogged reviews from the book pages.


However, the changes have by far not addressed all of the problems of the reblogging feature and, in fact, they have added others.  Many of us continue to be highly uncomfortable with the feature and want to see it either substantially curtailed or abolished altogether.  Hunger for Knowledge in particular has blogged about this repeatedly and has also mentioned it again and again in the "Feature Requests" and "Bug Reports" threads in the official BookLikes discussion group; some of her posts on this are these:


Reblogging Part 1

Reblogging Part 2

New Reblog Feature

Booklikes answer To The Reblog Issue

Blog Blackout


 -- and of course, most recently, The Reblog Feature - Part 2967 with Supernatural.


Others have pointed out the feature's deficiencies as well, e.g. Broken Tune only a few days ago in her post Re-blog bug - it's so annoying.


There is no knowing how many reviewers have already left this community behind because of their unhappiness with the feature, because most of them tend to just leave and not make a big fuss.  One reviewer who has stated his reasons is Leopard, who writes highly erudite reviews about literary classics (as well as occasionally contemporary literature), in many cases of non-Western provenance, which makes him a unique reviewer of the sort that a site like BookLikes should be cultivating, not driving away: So long Booklikes.


As the feature currently stands, the major unaddressed problems it carries are, in summary:


* Reblogging reviews and opinion pieces: By definition, this means reblogging posts with proprietary and personal content.  Many of us are opposed to this on principle -- it was also the issue that brought on Leopard's decision to stop posting reviews here -- and want a way to stop this from happening (such as a do not reblog button).


Currently, those who do not want their reviews reblogged only have three options open to them, all of which are diametrically opposed to the goals of this site (to further communication among book lovers) and, ironically, also to the purpose of the reblogging feature (i.e., to spread the word about interesting content):


(1) Stop posting on this site completely (as Leopard has chosen to do),

(2) Block members who, upon being requested to remove a reblog, do not do so, and / or

(3) Post reviews elsewhere and just create a small post here with a link to the review on the other site.


* Confusion as to the original author of a post:  This actually comes in several varieties:


(1) If a post is deleted by its original author, the reblog will automatically falsely appear as the original post.

(2) The "reblogged from" notation as currently in existence does not exactly jump out at you.  As a result, even a first reblog is often not recognized as such.

(3) The problem is compounded the more often a post is reblogged, because re-reblogs do not automatically trace the post back to its original, and most people do not do so manually.


If the reblog feature is to make sense at all -- and not drive even more people away than it possibly already has -- this, too, is something that urgently needs to be addressed.


* Invisibility of comments to the reblog: Comments to the reblog currently only show in dashboard mode, but in many cases not in blog mode -- i.e., they will be lost the second the post has floated too far down the dashboard to still be accessed there, and they will also be lost to any and all people who respond to the post individually in blog mode.  Not all of these will ever have seen the post in dashboard mode, e.g., if it was first reblogged by someone they do not follow, but then reblogged again by someone they do follow, and if they have at least retraced the post to its first reblog.  Even to those who at some point have seen the reblog in dashboard mode, the reblogger's comments may be lost, however, especially with the increased activity that we've been seeing recently as a result of the "find new blogs to follow" movement: It's simply impossible to remember who reblogged what with what additional remarks in the reblog.


Again, the problem is compounded if either the reblogger's main reasons for the reblog are actually stated in the comments, or -- as Broken Tune has pointed out in her above-mentioned post -- if the reblog is actually intended to highlight the reblogger's dissent with the reblogged post: instead, the reblog will falsely make it appear as if the reblogger agrees with the post's content.


BookLikes has said recently that they have set their engineers to work on this issue, but if I understand correctly, they will only be working on the standard blog templates provided by BL itself -- those of us who have modified the templates and created our own blog designs are still going to be left out in the cold (unless they are familiar enough with the specific aspects of IT and webdesign that you have to know in order to be able to implement the necessary changes).  To me, this attitude is inacceptable.  The reblog feature was introduced by BookLikes -- it is therefore solely their responsibility to design it in such a manner as to work on all blogs equally, regardless whether designed individually or employing a template.


* Edits to the original post are not reflected in the reblog:  If, after a post has been reblogged, the original post is edited or altered, those edits are not automatically also carried through to the reblog.  Thus, there is not even any guarantee that the reblog accurately even reflects the original post.  If, as sometimes happens, the reblog happens within seconds of the original post being posted, the cause of such inevitable discrepancies is built into both posts practically from the start.


* Decentralized conversation and comments: One of the chief modes of interaction here on BookLikes are the comments we add to other people's posts.  Currently neither the reblogs themselves nor the comments to them are traced back to the original post, which causes conversations about the same posts to be spread far and wide all across the site, which if nothing else makes it awkward and convoluted to follow.




We, as the members of the BookLikes community, have recently taken a huge step towards more and better interaction on this site, and towards including heretofore unfairly neglected bloggers.  It would be a shame if, at the same time, other members were driven away because of a feature that many of us find problematic and which, at the very least in its current form, is simply not working for them.


I've created a discussion thread dedicated to this topic in the "Find New Blogs to Follow" group: The Reblog Feature -- What to do about it?


(Re-)Designing the feature is BookLikes's job (as would be the decision to abandon it entirely),  But we can at least pool our brainstorming resources and make suggestions how to make it better.  We've been complaining about it loudly and long enough: Let's start getting creative!