Monday, April 19, 2010

Your Words Have Impact. Own Them.

Human beings come equipped with opinion. It is our evolutionarily-marvelous/god-given (you pick, this is not the current debate) complex cerebral cortex that allows us to combine logic and reason with feeling and reactive emotion to establish a stance on an issue. Being social creatures, we want to share these thoughts, these opinions, with others. This effectively taints their paradigm before they've had the chance to obtain the proper experience necessary to form a pure one of their own. This is not malicious, it is human nature, and is inherently important because devoid of this practice, we'd have less capacity to prioritize and establish a desire to experience the world and all it has to offer. We are a species of trial and error, deciding what to try through either research, experience, or recommendation, which is why the following anecdote bothered me so much.

I stumbled on an article at the Telegraph, titled Leading academics in bitter row over anonymous 'poison' book reviews today and thought it was important that I share it with you. Basically, some academics in Britain received bad reviews on their work via Amazon from a reviewer using the psuedonym Historian. After a one-star review, one of the authors, Professor Robert Service, decided to investigate to see if he could find out any more information about the reviewer. After some digging, he found another alias, Orlando-Birkbeck to be the culprit. Naturally, since Orlando Figes, a prof at Birkbeck college, is an academic rival, he was fingered as the cowardly anonymous reviewer.

In the email sent to several colleagues including Mr. Figes, Prof. Service stated, "Gorbachev banned anonimki from being used in the USSR as a way of tearing up someone's reputation. Now the grubby practice has sprouted up here. How to expunge the practice and expose the practitioners of malign electronic denunciation in countries of free expression is, I think, a matter for debate." Orlando Figes did not turn out to be the culprit, his wife did.

I think that Prof. Service has an extremely valid and wholly important point. Think back to the many inappropriate reviews you've found on Amazon. The ones that thrash a book because of its ebook price, or the ones that add a one-star review with a one-sentence, "I didn't like it." Even though you can flag these for removal, they still impact a book's star- rating. Though I feel that online anonymity is important for safety concerns, if you take it upon yourself to share your opinion, own it. Sign your name/distinct alias to it. Be willing to defend it, and afford people a means to disagree or contact you about it. If you're not passionate enough about your opinion to want to defend it, then do us all a favor and don't share it. Be responsible about where you post your review. Remember that even though you're not face-to-face with an author or publisher, your words have impact. You have a responsibility to provide a recourse for rebuttal. Be honest. Be true to yourself. Preserve this wonderful virtual space by being as real and accessible as possible; don't discredit it by littering it with anonymity.

8 comments:

NotNessie said...

Well said!

Paper Cut Reviewer said...

Very very true. Words do have impact and I'm very happy you mentioned this because an honest review is the best review. Stand up for your thoughts and always own it. Your awesome! Thanks for sharing:)

Miriam said...

Good subject really well put. I think if you're going to post something negative you should be prepared to sign it with your own name, as well as just give an honest review with your own thoughts. Really good point :)

Marianna said...

If I really dislike a book, which does not happen often, I always like to provide reasons why I personally did not like the book. I think it is unfair otherwise.

Library Lounge Lizard said...

I see this a lot. I HATE it when a reviewer on Amazon gives it a one-star rating and then has the nerve to say "not my cup of tea"!!!! Okay, if you admit you don't normally enjoy these types of books then why in the heck would you give it a bad rating? I compare it to not liking green beans and then giving them a one-star rating in the world of vegetables. Do you know how many people love green beans????!!!! I know that's a stretch :) but you know what I mean! That's why I don't really like "star" ratings, they are so relative based on the various DIFFERENT types of criteria that we all DIFFERENTLY judge books on.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Absolutely, I couldn't agree more. Great post!

Manda (Manda's Movements) said...

Another reason I hate seeing on Amazon for a 1 star review is "The book arrived damaged". Um, hello? This isn't about what it looks like, it's about the content. Take it up with Amazon if it didn't arrive perfect.

Jen G. said...

Well-written, thoughtful post. I agree completely. I tend to avoid confrontation at almost any cost, but if I dislike a book, I'm going to say so in my review. I'm also going to say exactly why. I get a lot of comments that say, "I'm sorry you didn't like this, but I think I would like this for the very reason you disliked it. Thanks for letting me know." And I'm great with that. Not everyone has the same taste I do.