PaperBackSwap Blog

DEAR R&R: Newsletter – February 2008

Dear R&R–Why do you keep making changes that no one asked for?  It’s just rude not to let us know in advance when you change something!  Don’t you care at all about what WE want? –Irate in Indiana

Dear Ira,

Yes, we absolutely care about what our members want.  That’s why a lot of the changes get made–they are in direct response to member feedback asking us for improvements to existing features.  Sometimes it may not be obvious how much would need to be changed, programming-wise, to incorporate what may seem to be a simple tweak to the site.  Pretty much everything on the site is interconnected, and often one change over here means a lot of changes over there, and over there, and over there.  We are grateful to our members who write in with suggestions: you all have really helped to improve the site!  We consider every suggestion, and those that we agree would be beneficial to the club we put on our To Do list, which is ranked in order of urgency.  Some items need to be done before others can be started on.  For each project, we hash out all the design features first, then work out the programming, and test it before we release it.  Right after a change “goes live” is the best time to tweak it–and we do, based on member comments in forums and in feedback.  We make a lot of little changes based on member comments in the first day or so after new programming is released.  So many times our members think of things we didn’t; constructive commentary about a new feature, especially if it seems to represent a consensus, often will result in a change.  Just saying “I hate it” won’t make the change go away, though.

We actually do try to make members aware of significant changes to the site.  We don’t send out an email for every single change: we are determined not to clutter up our members’ inboxes with emails.  For very major changes (like the change in Postal Rates by USPS in May 2007, and the site upgrade in the same month) we send out a club-wide email in advance to every single member; we also announce the change in the Newsletter, and update the Help Center.  Very significant changes to major features (for example, the Wish List) we announce in the Newsletter well in advance, to give plenty of notice before the change goes live.   For less significant changes (like the Buddy List and Bookshelf upgrades), we update the Help Center What’s New section, and also announce/explain in the Newsletter.  We can’t time the release of every single change to the site to coincide with the Newsletter–that’s just too restrictive a schedule, and not realistic.  Not everyone gets the Newsletter, and not everyone visits the Forums.  That’s why the Help Center What’s New section exists–it is accessible to every member with just three clicks, from anywhere on the site (click Help Center at the top of any page on the site > click Browse Help Docs > click What’s New! at the top of the list on the left).  For every change of any magnitude, we update the Help Center What’s New area, announce/explain in the Newsletter, and will often post a topic in the Discussion Forums (even though only a small portion of the club uses the Forums regularly).  In addition, the regular Help Center topics are continually updated to reflect smaller changes.

If you keep your eye on the What’s New topic in the Help Center, Ira, you won’t be taken by surprise!  And if you hate a change we make, we are really sorry.  We don’t do it to torture you, honestly.  We make changes only after much consideration and discussion, and nearly always directly in response to member demand.  We know that not all members will love all changes; that would be unrealistic to expect.  But each change is made with the membership in mind, to benefit the club as a whole.

Dear R&R–This Buddy thing is like junior high all over again.  My Buddy List is empty! I am too shy to ask someone to be a Buddy, and I feel like a loser.  I am having PTSD. –Shrinking Violet in Sheboygan

Dear Violet,

Don’t feel like a loser!  Some members haven’t gotten invitations because they lurk in the forums, and don’t post, so no one “knows” them to invite them.  And remember that others also may be feeling shy.  You don’t have to use the Buddy List at all, of course!  But if you want to, just try sending an invitation to a few people; you can send a PM telling them why if you like, but many folks have their Buddy Lists set to auto-accept all invitations.  You can ask members who have the same taste in books as you do, if you notice this while browsing bookshelves or the Forums; you can ask someone with whom you have had a good swap.  When marking a book received, you can say “thanks for the book–this was a really great swap!  If it’s okay I am going to invite you to be a Buddy so I can keep an eye on your bookshelf.”   There’s no reason they wouldn’t want to Buddy with you. A good buddy never harmed anyone, and they will probably be flattered.  You don’t have to know someone well to be Buddies–and you can set any or all of your information to private in your Privacy Controls so that your Buddy List doesn’t make you feel exposed.  And you won’t get “rejection” emails if an invitation isn’t accepted.

We are really sorry we brought back bad memories, Violet.   It may help to keep in mind that all members at PBS are required to be over 18, and that this is a friendly site.  Most members are terrifically kind and open to “meeting” others in the club.  We don’t think there’s anything to fear here.  And those who don’t have a lot of (or any) Buddies aren’t losers.  Not everyone uses the Buddy List.  We think it’s a great feature, but it’s not for everyone of course.  Don’t let it stress you out.

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