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Book Reputations

by shockme (Chaplain)
on Dec 31, 2001 at 00:38 UTC ( #135268=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I had a thought while reading gmax's recent suggestion. It would be nice if every Perl book had its own reputation within the PM community (or, as Zaxo so eloquently phrased it, "XP for books").

Currently, PM provides facilities for reviewing books. For example, you can quickly access splinky's review of The Perl Cookbook. Also, you can ++ or -- the review. But, when someone ++s this node, is (s)he commenting on his/her opinion of splinky's review or his/her opinion of the book itself? There's no real way of knowing, but based on most of the comments associated with several other reviews, it appears that many times people are voting on the review.

Additionally, unless you've voted, you cannot see the reputation of The Perl Cookbook. So, until you vote, you don't know the reputation. (And, again, does this number reflect the reputation of the book or the reputation of the book review?)

Finally, while it is possible to know what some think of a book by reading their comments associated with a book review, these comments reflect only the opinions of those who had the time to give their opinion. Many people in the community do not always have the time to contribute their opinion or, as gmax mentioned, do not feel qualified to author an opinion on a given book. However, they might certainly vote on a book. Voting requires no penmanship mastery and only a minimal time commitment.

My proposal is for each Perl book to have its own node where people can vote on the book. The reputation should be visable to all. Additionally, as with current nodes, people can enter comments as they wish. This would allow every Perl book to have its own reputation based upon the votes of the PMers. This would also allow everyone, at a glance, to determine the overall opinion of a book and, hopefully, plan their libraries accordingly.

Good, bad or indifferent, I'd like to hear what others think of this idea.

If things get any worse, I'll have to ask you to stop helping me.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Book Reputations
by jlongino (Parson) on Dec 31, 2001 at 04:25 UTC
    This raises a voting issue that has been raised many times before. In the case of regular Q/A nodes people have complained that they would like to know how many -- votes a given node receives. While I don't think that it is necessary in the case of Q/A nodes, I think it is crucial when rating a Book.

    I doubt that many books would end up with a negative rep, but it is important to see the number of total votes along with an approval percentage. This is slightly different than the way most booksellers rate them, but is probably all one really needs to know.

    Consider two books with 100 rep each, but one with 90% approval compared to one with only 60%. That should certainly give anyone second thoughts about buying the latter book.

    All things considered, an excellent idea.


Re: Book Reputations
by Chrisf (Friar) on Dec 31, 2001 at 04:16 UTC
    This sounds like a great idea to me, it should make it easier to get a feel for the popularity of a book while clearly separating the voters opinion of the review and their opinion of the actual book. I agree with you that each book having its own node and being able to reply to that would be a good format. However, I think there are also a couple details with this that should be are worth discussing:
    • Should voting on the books themselves use up any of your votes?
    • Would we want to see the rep of the book before voting? Or would this lead to people downvoting it not because they didn't like it, but because they don't think it's worthy of it's current rep.
      IMHO, reserving dedicated votes for books would reduce the sense of responsibility of the voting monk.
      The voting system in the Monastery is all about knowledge.
      I vote positively a node if I feel that it is giving me (or the community) something in terms of knowledge. Conversely, I vote negatively when I see that a node is giving me useless - or wrong - information. Even when I vote ++ for a "cool" node, not something that explains me how to use map or grep, I give my vote because that node is contributing to the spirit of the community.
      I would not mind using up some of my votes for books (I don't suppose I will be voting on books every day, after all!), if I feel that they are influencing (positively or negatively) my technical education.
      _ _ _ _ (_|| | |(_|>< _|
Re: Book Reputations
by mojotoad (Monsignor) on Dec 31, 2001 at 05:33 UTC
    Excellent idea, in principle.

    At risk of violating the KISS principle, I would suggest that in this case it might me useful to add another dimension to the vote.

    For a particular book, as opposed to a review of said book, allow voting along certain categories such as tutorial, reference, advanced, culture, etc. These votes need not be mutually exclusive, so that a particular book might embody or lack more than one quality.

    For books, anyway, such a cross section of voting would certainly be more informative to a prospective reader.


Re: Book Reputations
by jepri (Parson) on Dec 31, 2001 at 21:50 UTC
    I vote on book reviews here based on the review, not on the book. There are book reviews here which declare the books to be terrible, but have high ratings because they are well written.

    Your idea is a good idea, but I don't know about having a formal numeric system for rating books.

    Computer magazines rate games out of ten or 100, film critics give two thumbs up or five stars. But we all know that the only reason to pay attention to these numbers is if we know that our tastes are similar to the reviewers. In a community voting system, all it would tell you is how close your opinions are to the general community - a moving target that can change a couple of times per hour.

    So, pretty much regardless of the system used, you will still have to read the review to find out whether or not the book suites you. Since you are going to read the review anyway, why put the effort the effort into implementing a new ratings system?

    A good review will tell you most of what you would want to know before buying the book. That's practically the definition of a good review. And even if the reviewer is 'wrong', books have the benefit of being try-before-you-buy.

    While I am a bear of little brain who likes things simple, I dislike wrong things more. And I tend to think that a simple rating system gives the wrong idea more often than it helps.

    I didn't believe in evil until I dated it.

      While I can agree with most of what you say, I believe that a system based on what shockme suggests would provide useful information, especially when coupled with PM reviews.
      But we all know that the only reason to pay attention to these numbers is if we know that our tastes are similar to the reviewers.
      Well, that's the point. I would sooner get see a rating by members of the PM community than those listed at a Bookstore or website.

      I like to use all available resources when choosing a book, but sometimes I might not be particularly well versed on a given subject. Seeing several ratings may give provide the impetus to question why one book has a better approval rating than another. Answers to that question may or may not convince me to buy it. I certainly wouldn't stop reading reviews or asking other people (whose opinions I respect) what they think of a book. Anyone silly enough to buy a book based purely on a numeric rating is likely to make a poor decision anyway.

      Of course the system won't be perfect, but then I wouldn't really say that PM is perfect either, although it provides a wonderful resource.


Re: Book Reputations
by chaoticset (Chaplain) on Jan 01, 2002 at 22:44 UTC
    This is probably a stupid idea, but what about reviewing a book by choosing a word that best describes it? Then you'd see a little list of the words most commonly chosen for that book, probably just the top three or four.

    Now, that could be a system where you type the word (which could get messy in the long run) or where you have a complete list of options (say, thirty different ones...) and then each book could have a little list under it:

    The following words were most often chosen to describe this book:

    Neophytic 45.22%
    Excellent 27.74%
    Humorous 10.27%
    (link for see other words goes here)

    And you'd know it was a good, funny book for beginners. (Neophytic isn't a word, is it? Damn.)

    I'm probably off in left field on this one, but I figured it might look interesting.
    Actually, making a whole other voting system for books, where you get one vote per book but you get to choose whether each word in the list applies to it, resulting in a set of attributions to each book by each voter...but I digress.

    Also, discussion on has turned to the same topic recently.

    ***EDIT*** Fixed a word-order typo, added link to discussion

    You are what you think.

Re: Book Reputations
by innerfire (Novice) on Dec 31, 2001 at 01:35 UTC

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