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“Open” Worldcat and those frustrating reviews

Sarah Houghton had a highly readable, far less stream-of-consciousness summary of Michael Porter’s class, which she attended the day after I did. I note her comments re Open Worldcat:

“Michael showed us Open WorldCat, including the ‘Reviews’ tab for each item where people can add their own reviews. This feature isn’t being used much yet, but it’s available (which is more than we can say for most library catalogs). He also suggested that to search the full Open WorldCat holdings, you should do a Google site-specific search like AUTHOR/TITLE as a better way to look for Open WorldCat books than just adding “Find in a Library” or “Open WorldCat” to your keyword search.”

I said in class what I have said to luminaries at the Big O to the point where I’m a little surprised there’s no restraining order on me: THE REVIEWS AREN’T BEING USED FOR GOOD REASON.

All the Big O has to do is look at how Amazon and Netflix do it. But instead, on WorldCat:

1. Add a review–it drops into a bucket. I can’t even remember what I reviewed. Of course I want to go back and look at my own reviews–dude, where’s my web? Oh, I forgot: we’re the self-sacrificing librarians who will add reviews Just Because It’s The Right Thing To Do. Talk about playing into our own stereotype!

2. I can’t see how many reviews one person has done, let alone link to them as a group.

3. I can’t see who the “power reviewers” are. They aren’t labeled as such. I not only want to know who they are when I look at a post, I want to browse their reviews. You know, WorldCat Top 500 reviewer. Apparently you’ll need to start with a far lower bar, but still.

4. I can’t just give a book five stars and be done with it, the way IMDB and now Amazon allow you to do. In other words, I have to WRITE a review. Let me not have to over-invest. Set up editorial controls for this as well so it’s obvious if some disgruntled student is simply marking every book with one star, but let me quickly add my 2 cents.

4. Speaking of stars–show them. Not hidden on the review tab, either.

5. Feeds, hello, Big O, of all places with the resources to do this… come on!

6. There’s no way to request a change to a review, should you make a booboo.

The biggest challenge here is also the biggest opportunity: these reviews could get really popular, and help make WC (as Stu says its acronym goes–see, I even assume first-name familiarity with the people I stalk) the tipping point for a universal ILS. So the Big O should hire a Chief Reviewer, in charge of editorial oversight of the reviews, mentoring of the reviewers, and nagging the ponderous Big O to implement technological changes on a faster timetable. Goodness, you’d think their organization was run by librarians.

Oh, and can WC not look so librarianish plain-text drab? Book jackets, please!

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  1. Excellent comments–all of them! I think the reviews have potential, but they need to be used in a way that is beneficial and accessible to users as you say.

    Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  2. “Amen” to the points about what WorldCat needs to do. I have posted 40 or 50 reviews to Open WorldCat (I had them already written so all I had to do was a little pasting) in the hope that they will some day help. The day is slow approaching, as the big company seems to be slow rolling out the enhancements.

    As a shy “self-promoter” I too would like to know about reviewer rankings and be able to search by reviewer and see if anyone had ever read a review. I have never run across a review that anyone else has written. It is pretty skimpy at this time. There wasn’t even a review on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Amazon has 3224 user reviews of the book! So I pasted in mine.

    The reviews are available now on WorldCat through FirstSearch. You do get to see the book jacket there. Still, there is a long way to go. I do not know whether OCLC will get there in time to make a difference. Maybe the race will be over.

    Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 11:37 am | Permalink
  3. hmmm wrote:

    “Oh, and can WC not look so librarianish plain-text drab?”

    And your site definitely doesn’t fall into this category, eh? ;-}

    Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  4. kgs wrote:

    (This comment edited to reflect a better person.)

    The previous comment came from Remote Host–nuff said!

    Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  5. Watch your step, Karen, there’s a vortex right over there by your right foot…

    Oh nevermind, Lent is over. Let ‘em have it ;-)

    Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  6. Jon Gorman wrote:

    I haven’t had a chance to play with the WorldCat reviews, but I’m wondering if it’s easy to add links to other records. You already have the url mechanism (does it let you add anchor tags?). This would be nifty. You’d be able to say things like “similar to book x. If you are hoping for more of a beginner’s text you might want to look at book y.”

    Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  7. kgs wrote:

    Nah, I feel sunny and bright, at least as sunny and bright as anyone can feel after a 90-minute vendor phone call.

    Not falling into the vortex doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of righteous indignation at monolithic entities–particularly monolithic entities submitting anonymous comments. It just means I don’t dwell in the anger zone, I don’t take it personally, and I don’t make it my life!

    Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 4:29 pm | Permalink
  8. kgs wrote:

    You know what, Luke? On reflection, you’re absolutely right. All I needed to do to make my point and move on was show where that anonymous comment came from. The rest was just gratuitous ranting. I’ve modified that comment and will try modifying BEFORE I post in the future.

    Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

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