Goodreads and algorithms, part trois

So far, the Goodreads recommendations based on my ‘to-read’ pile haven’t been that great, so I’ve done a few more experiments.

First, I removed from my ‘to-read’ list anything that didn’t strictly fall into the category of literary fiction or reasonably highbrow non-fiction, and I added to it six books, along a similar theme: Ulysses by James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake by Joyce too, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, The Trial by Kafka, A la recherche du temps perdu by Proust (the French version, no less), and The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky.

And not much changed. Mainly because it doesn’t update automatically – again I’m noticing a delay in the algorithm working. But I noticed something else when deleting things from the list. Goodreads automatically ranks the books you add to the list, in the order that you’ve added them. This makes complete sense – I expect many people choose their reading in a far less haphazard way than I do. And in any case, this explains why books about climate change were so prominent in the recommendations – This Changes Everything was first on my list.

Goodreads also allows you to edit the ranking, so I’ve moved the two James Joyce books I added to positions #1 and #2, and I’ve moved the climate change book to #20.

Again, nothing happened. The recommendations were still based on books that I had now removed from the list. I refreshed the page, logged in and out, and no change. So I went back, and added a 7th book: Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike, which is aimed at 10 year olds. And new recommendations appeared.

ALL of them are based on the items I added earlier (not the most recent addition) – you can see the first two are about Proust, and yet NONE of them are based on the James Joyce books I moved to top ranking on the list.