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Suggestions & Questions > Improvement of place settings and characters?

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message 1: by Robin (last edited Sep 30, 2012 08:20AM) (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 599 comments I really think the concept of adding setting places and characters in the book details has lots of potential as a useful tool but could be greatly improved.

For starters, there is no way to search by setting or character - you can open up a list of books with a specific character or setting but only by finding a book with it already added and clicking on it. So if I want to read a book on Marie Antoinette, I can pick one off this list: http://www.goodreads.com/characters/1... - but how do I find that list to begin with? I can't just plug the name into a search field, I have to first find a book that features her and then click her name under the book details. It's just unnecessarily extra steps that a simple search field could resolve.

The same goes for place settings too. But they are even more awkward because there is no nesting or sub categories. For example, say I add "Philadelphia, Pennsylvania" as a setting to a book... if I want it to also show under just "Pennsylvania", I have to add that separately instead of the system knowing that Philadelphia is in Pennsylvania. Equally, some people will just add "Phildelphia" and therefore anything with a "Philadelphia, Pennsylvania" tag won't be grouped together. This makes it awkward if you want to view all books set in Philadelphia - you have to look at more than one tag.

What I'd like to see when adding a location, is drop down menus to first select country, then state (if US), then county, then city. This way, you are selecting pre-existing locations, not just plugging anything in that you want - which could be completely random and not really a location to begin with. There is a good example of this drop down menu system in use at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg....

Browsing would then work something like genres and sub-genres... if you want to see all books set in Pennsylvania, it will show all books with settings within Pennsylvania, not just books tagged specifically with "Pennsylvania" but also books in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, etc. But if you want to narrow it down further to the county or city, you can do that too. At the moment, browsing is only possible by manually scrolling through this giant list of disorganized places: http://www.goodreads.com/places?page=1

Does that makes sense? Are there already plans to improve these?

GR is such an awesome site and I do my bit to help add info as a librarian but I find particularly adding place settings to be awkward and disorganized.


message 2: by Emelie (new)

Emelie | 162 comments Great ideas! I agree.


message 3: by Carina (new)

Carina | 244 comments I think that would be a really interesting feature - I personally would not use the locations one but I think the person/character one could be really useful.


message 4: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) | 737 comments I've wished for this, too.


message 5: by Petra X (new)

Petra X (PetraX) | 5937 comments I personally have no interest in such a feature, but even if there was major interest in it, I just don't know how you would get the data.

Only a very small minority of GR actually review books or are librarians so they are really the only people going to enter the data. Speaking as someone who occasionally reviews books, I wouldn't bother adding the info - I don't even look at the metadata part of the review form and there isn't anywhere else I can think it would go. Speaking also as an occasional librarian, I might be editing books for all sorts of reasons and at that point I might add the details but since a lot of edits, deduping, combining books or authors etc. don't require knowledge of the book, I wouldn't be able to.


message 6: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 599 comments Petra X wrote: "I personally have no interest in such a feature, but even if there was major interest in it, I just don't know how you would get the data.
"


I don't understand what you mean - I am not expecting or asking for more data, just a better system of entering it.

"Only a very small minority of GR actually review books or are librarians so they are really the only people going to enter the data."

But after the split with Amazon, isn't that true for everything on GR, even the book pages themselves? Of course everything on GR is subject to the correct data being entered, I am not expecting all books to suddenly have the place settings entered, nor do I expect all librarians to participate... I'd just like to see a better system of entering and searching them so those who do use it can make better use of it.


Elizabeth (Alaska) I agree, Robin. I don't know about the better system for entering it - as part of the book data, I think it falls under the purview of librarians. Members request page count, pub dates, etc., and there is no reason they can't also ask for setting/character info to be added. But they won't be asking for it if they don't see that it is easily accessible. Since the database contains this information, all that is necessary (she says simplistically) is to add a menu item on the Explore menu.


message 8: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl I agree with the original poster. I often add characters and settings to books and if the system were set up better I absolutely would use it more. I have started threads about this myself. Settings need to be nested (if that's the right term?) so that someone searching for books set in England doesn't also have to try to look around for every city, town, or shire. This type of book data/metadata is useful and interesting to me, whereas the majority of the metadata on the metadata tab is useless.


message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael | 79 comments Petra X wrote: "I personally have no interest in such a feature, but even if there was major interest in it, I just don't know how you would get the data.

Only a very small minority of GR actually review books or..."


I always add this data, if I know it (Boy Scout!).

I too agree with the OP that a searcheable and more organized list for both datasets would be really helpful.

As for the settings data, while drop down lists will solve many problems, there still needs to be a free text field for fictional settings.


message 10: by Lizz (new)

Lizz great ideas


message 11: by ❂ Jennifer (new)

❂ Jennifer  (jennevans) | 978 comments I like the OP's ideas too - with one caveat: the drop down lists won't work for a lot of books using fictional cities/towns. These aren't just SF/UF type books with an alternate universe. For example, a well-known traditional mystery author sets her books in San Celina, California - a town she totally made up. So, I'd add the suggestion of being able to enter an "other" for city/town.


message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (SarahJF1984) | 131 comments I would also like to add my support for this. I am currently cataloging my home library and so as I have each book in my hand as I enter into the GR database I always enter characters, setting, date etc (Girl Scout), I like to fill in all the boxes if possible. I can definitely see where this would be useful, you might want to search for books about a specific place you're going or period in time and at the moment it would take far too long to achieve this.


message 13: by Petra X (new)

Petra X (PetraX) | 5937 comments Well I'm in a minority of one then!

However I don't think that much of the character and location data is available in any form that 'a drop down list' or another 'menu item' can easily access. I think it will still need to be entered manually and I can't see that it ever would be on anything but a tiny minority of books.


message 14: by Stephen (last edited Sep 30, 2012 08:25PM) (new)

Stephen (Havan) | 735 comments Petra X wrote: "I don't think that much of the character and location data... would ever be on anything but a tiny minority of books. "

I pretty regularly add this data when I'm feeling like adding data to this database and I generally do enter location data on books as I read them. I'm guessing that most of the books with a large number of ratings do have location data when it's significant.

I would agree that a means of searching by this data would very helpful and would spur data enhancement by more librarians. I used the location data tonite to answer several recommendation requests. One person asked for a book that was set in NYC and another wanted Northern California. I was able to come up with at least one book that I knew was in that location in each case. Both had already been tagged with the location and I was then able to forward the requester a link to a list of books located in their desired local.

Since there are no wild card searches supported,I also generally add States as locales when only a city is present.


message 15: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 599 comments Petra X wrote: "Well I'm in a minority of one then!

However I don't think that much of the character and location data is available in any form that 'a drop down list' or another 'menu item' can easily access. I..."


As I mentioned, there are already systems in use with drop down menus for choosing "nested" locations (not characters) - GR might have to buy the system or design one themselves. I realize either of those options could be problematic but the system does exist and theoretically, there's no reason why it couldn't be utilized on GR too. Of course, librarians would still have to manually input the data by selecting from the drop down menus but I never suggested otherwise.

As for it being used on a tiny minority of books, while I do think it is currently underused, there are already thousands of books with place settings entered. So people are using it and I just think it might be used even more with some changes. I think adding characters is less common with fictional characters since they are generally specific to one book/series/author but since I read a lot on historical figures, both fiction and non-fiction, I find this is a popular feature among these genres.


message 16: by Darkpool (new)

Darkpool | 253 comments Perhaps if the location data was easier to find and more usefully organised I might be more inclined to go to the bother of entering it. Great suggestion.


message 17: by Liz M (new)

Liz M | 241 comments I would love to see improvements in this under-developed area of the site! My reading-challenge group quite often has location-based tasks and our default method of defining the location usually involves the birthplace/citizenship of the author, because researching the book's setting takes too much time.


message 18: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 3397 comments Darkpool wrote: "Perhaps if the location data was easier to find and more usefully organised I might be more inclined to go to the bother of entering it. Great suggestion."

+1. After all, when we librarians enter the book data, the setting field sure does *look* like a searchable field. It's frustrating that it's not as useful as it could be.

And I would have loved to have this feature when I was participating in a geography Challenge to read books from diverse locations.

Yes there needs to be accommodation for fictional settings. And 'characters' could be similarly improved, because often we have a mystery in the Group "What's the Name of that Book??" for which a remembered detail is a character's name.

Listopia can be helpful, but that needs improvements too, to be as wonderful as it potentially can be.


message 19: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 196 comments Cheryl in CC NV wrote: "Darkpool wrote: "Perhaps if the location data was easier to find and more usefully organised I might be more inclined to go to the bother of entering it. Great suggestion."

+1."


+1 for me as well.

In response to the OP, when I think about it, I do try to condense common duplicates of settings, e.g. New York City and New York, New York. This does cut down some on the number of tags to search. Even that I don't do as much as I would like, as it all has to be done manually. A way to combine/merge settings would be great. (Including a search feature to search on keywords to find ones to merge.)

I also would like to have a way to get to book settings & characters, without having to track down a book that has already had it added. And I will also second that nesting/organization of place settings could use improvement.

The OP suggested drop downs to prevent duplication. I know in the past if you started typing a place name it gave you a "suggestion" of places already in the database that you could click on. I wish this feature would return/get fixed.

Lastly, characters. IIRC, non-librarians can only see the first five characters listed. There is no link or option to see "more". This greatly reduces the usefulness of the feature. In addition, it is very difficult to add a new character that has the same name as one already in the database. If I type in the name and hit save, it adds the first character from the suggestion list, rather than creating a new one. I can see how this would cut down on duplicates. However, in order to add a new character with the same name, I have to add a unique name, e.g. "Alice XYZ", then go back and edit the characters name to correct it.

I would really love to see all of this improved so that the potential of these features could be fully realized. I love the idea of these features very much, but have not been able to make much use of them thus far.


message 20: by Lobstergirl (last edited Oct 03, 2012 10:33PM) (new)

Lobstergirl You can search settings. Or at least, you can browse them. Here:

http://www.goodreads.com/places

I realize the original poster already mentioned this link but maybe some later posters didn't see it. (ETA: I see Brenda links too.)

Unfortunately there are 55 pages and you can't easily get to somewhere in the middle using the page links. I suggested a while back that GR go to the Amazon-style page links, like:

1-10 11-20 21-30 etc.


message 21: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (Havan) | 735 comments One suggestion that seems easy to implement...

How about attaching a pick list of existing values to the data entry box for places when librarians are entering them?

I can never remember whether New York City, NY or New York City New York is the preferred location and the data entry fields doesn't suggest anything when I start typing.


message 22: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 599 comments Yeah, that's a good idea too - that's the kind of stuff I'm talking about, just some way to keep things consistent so the tags aren't all over the place!


message 23: by Brenda (b) (new)

Brenda (b) (Brenda_b) | 210 comments Stephen wrote: "One suggestion that seems easy to implement...

How about attaching a pick list of existing values to the data entry box for places when librarians are entering them?

I can never remember whethe..."


As you typed the place name, there used to be a drop down list like the one when you're entering a character, but evidently the code for it got broken at some point and it's considered a low priority on the fix list.


message 24: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 599 comments Brenda (b) wrote: "As you typed the place name, there used to be a drop down list like the one when you're entering a character, but evidently the code for it got broken at some point and it's considered a low priority on the fix list. "

That's disappointing. Thanks for the info though.


Elizabeth (Alaska) The drop down list appears to be for country only.


message 26: by Brenda (b) (new)

Brenda (b) (Brenda_b) | 210 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "The drop down list appears to be for country only."

That's the one that's left, yes. Previously there was one for the "Place Name" field too.


message 27: by Tim (new)

Tim Clare | 3 comments I'm a fan of this idea as well and would like to expand to somehow cover date setting. I'm not sure if this is already possible on GR but I'd love to be able to find a book based on when and where it was set.

L


message 28: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 3397 comments searching by date of the setting would be interesting, but I don't even know how I'd enter it...
"1981 to 1985" isn't the same as "the early eighties" or "1980s" for example... something to think about, though...


message 29: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Bump for nested settings.


message 30: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 174 comments Carina wrote: "I think that would be a really interesting feature - I personally would not use the locations one but I think the person/character one could be really useful."

I received feedback from quite a few readers that they were looking for fiction novels set in Amsterdam when they found my books.


message 31: by Sophie (new)

Sophie (notemily) | 651 comments Nested settings would be neat, but I think there still has to be an option to enter a setting manually, for fantasy books that take place in imaginary locations. "Tortall," "Middle-earth" etc.


message 32: by Diane (new)

Diane | 102 comments Robin wrote: "I really think the concept of adding setting places and characters in the book details has lots of potential as a useful tool but could be greatly improved.

For starters, there is no way to searc..."


I agree.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Martyn V. wrote: "I received feedback from quite a few readers that they were looking for fiction novels set in Amsterdam when they found my books.
"


And that would still work with nested settings.


message 34: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (ALB2012) | 223 comments I'd be interested in this. I think Amazon has something similar, although I can't now remember how you get to it.

I guess authors could add key words, or someone else who adds a book. It would take a lot of time to fill but, say I read a book set in London. I could add 'London' to the key word when I finished it.
Does that make sense?


Elizabeth (Alaska) A.L. wrote: "I'd be interested in this. I think Amazon has something similar, although I can't now remember how you get to it.

I guess authors could add key words, or someone else who adds a book. It would ta..."


There are already fields for characters and setting. London already exists, but is not a nested setting; rather, the suggestion is for London, England.


message 36: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Bump for this important topic. This thread was started in 2012 and no staff has commented.

There are many important suggestions here. Users would like more attention to be paid to location settings. Meghan, you were asking in another thread for specifics of how people would like a system to be designed - here's a good thread to start with.

One thing that would be very helpful is if more than one setting could be added at a time before clicking SAVE. Now, you can only add one setting at a time. And because nesting settings are not available, if you have a book set in Albany, you need to add two settings: Albany, New York, and New York so the book will show up on both lists.


message 37: by Meghan (new)

Meghan (meghankrogh) Thanks for bumping, Lobstergirl! This is helpful information for the question I asked in the other thread, yes.


Elizabeth (Alaska) For nesting place names, you could do well to look at Ancestry.com.


message 39: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Bump.


message 40: by Meghan (new)

Meghan (meghankrogh) We are still working on something regarding this feature, but it's not ready yet. Sorry for the long wait, but we want it to be good.


message 41: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Now I'm nervous.


message 42: by Meghan (new)

Meghan (meghankrogh) Well. We want the metadata features to work in a predictable and useful way, and we're not trying to release something half-baked. We have about a hundred other things we're working on, of course, but yes, we want to make metadata like settings and characters, etc., work in a way that is logical and helpful.

This will take a LOT of time. But we're working on it. I guess you can be nervous? But I'd rather see us take some time to make it work right than release something full of bugs.


message 43: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl I agree, take the time to make it fully functional and bug-free. I'm more nervous about the aesthetics. Will it look wackadoodle like the 2014 Challenge, with enormous toddlery buttons and fonts and seven shades of blue? Or will it look much like it does now, fully and seamlessly integrated with identical aesthetics to the rest of the book data?


message 44: by Meghan (new)

Meghan (meghankrogh) I expect it will resemble the rest of the book page. Our designers are talented, and, frankly, dear to me. I believe they'll make something worthwhile.


message 45: by Robin (new)

Robin (ukamerican) | 599 comments Hooray! I'm so glad to hear it's being worked on. I don't mind waiting - better late than never. Seems like since Amazon bought GR, there have been long overdue fixes and improvements happening (like the search engine and now this). I'm guessing a big company like Amazon had a lot more funding to throw at GR - in any case, I'm grateful for whatever has made the improvements possible. I look forward to it and thanks for letting us know.


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