5 December 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

So, a couple weeks ago, Publishers Weekly ran an article on Riffle, asking whether it could be “the Pinterest for Books.”

A social media tool powered by Odyl, Riffle takes its name from the word for thumbing through a book.1 And that’s exactly the sense of discovery that Odyl founder and CEO Neil Baptista would like to re-create online. He wants to go beyond the current Internet phase where anybody can write a review. “We’re going to focus on bringing the audience to the table and curating the information. There’s a ton of online expertise, and we want people to push their content through Riffle,” says Baptista, who plans to work with book bloggers, booksellers, authors, and others to create a “distilled single feed” for books. [. . .]

Initially, Riffle is planning to invite avid readers, who Baptista believe are more likely to look to experts for book recommendations than casual readers. The platform also relies on checklists that convert well in Facebook, such as the 50 books to read before you die or the books you hope your soulmate has read. “Our whole perspective is that content will get people attracted to this,” says Baptista, who is following the Pinterest and Instagram models. “We want to invite people in and be part of its development.” One piece of that could include selling through online retailers.

I do have to admit that the phrase “Pinterest for Books” makes me vomit in my mouth, but I also have a borderline-compulsive obsession with online book discovery and how these things function, so, when I was contacted by the Riffle staff to sign up and Pinterest Riffle people some works of World Literature, I did so immediately.

The first thing that I had to do was set up my profile, which is refreshingly sparse. Picture, short bio, link to Three Percent. You can see it by clicking here.

And while you’re there, you can explore the next level of Riffling. First off, you can choose to follow my Twitter feed (which is rather boring, since all I do on there is tweet my GoodReads stuff and offensive/funny comments about sporting events), or, if you’re a fellow Riffler, you can choose to follow me there. Which is what I really want you to do. That and click all over my lists.

The “lists” are the core of the Riffling Experience™. These are groupings of books that Rifflers put together to share with other people looking for a Riffling Good Read. So far I’ve made two: Books from the Iberian Peninsula and Some of My Favorite Open Letter Books.

And after making them, I shared them on Facebook, which is as simple to do as you’d expect in 2012, and as a result, at this exact moment, they’ve received 21 views (not bad?) and I have an “influence” score of 8!

This “influence” thing is interesting to me. First off, it’s basically just a “like” aggregation score. Eight people have “liked” my lists, WHICH IS UTTER BULLSHIT, since I think ALL 21 people who looked at my lists should’ve liked them.

But seriously, the thing this is kind of tapping into—although indirectly and in ways unaware—is our obsession with games and scoring. Follow me for a second: I would guess that around 20% of the posts I see on FB are status updates made solely to get “likes.” Shit, I do this myself sometimes. (“Look at me! LIKEMELIKEMELIKEME!”) Like a video game, “likes” and retweets function as the “score” signifying how well you’re doing at life. Or at least social networking.

When I see someone post something like an engagement or the birth of a new baby, and they only have a couple dozen “likes,” a small part of me dies on the inside. Which is sick and fucked because clearly FB is not a gauge of your importance or relevance or anything, but who doesn’t like seeing those little red circles in the upper right corner acting like little food pellets keeping us addicted to the whole FB game?

So yeah, I want a HUGE Influence score. I want to be The Most Influential of the “World Literature” Rifflers. (As long as it doesn’t require me to actually Riffle more than once a blue moon, cause I’ve got enough shit on my plate.)

What might be more interesting—theoretically—is if the “influence” wasn’t an actual number, but a percentage of people who “liked” your list. So if 8 of 21 people liked my lists, I would have a 38% influence score. WHICH BLOWS. But that would be a much more interesting way to judge the validity and usefulness of these lists. Under the current system, I could post 10,000 meaningless lists over the next 3 hours, and if one person was “influenced” by each one, I would be kicking some numerical ass. But if 500,000 people saw these, and the vast majority realized that I was just dicking around, that “influence” score would be 5%—a much more accurate way of determining the worthfulness of my lists. Just saying.

One last rant: The “questions” section of Riffle is AWFUL. This is one of the things that probably sounds good in a board meeting (“It’ll be like those questions on OKCupid! People love answering questions about themselves!”), but in practice is really kind of embarrassing. Here’s a sampling of questions you can answer to help build your Riffle profile (Riffle-file?):

What books remind you of the place(s) you grew up?

Name some books by your favorite author! (Exclamation point unnecessary, and please state in the form of a question, Riffle.)

What books have changed the course of your life?

Which books would you hope your soulmate has read? (A: Freedom. And the Bible. Natch.)

If you could only save a few books from a fire, which would they be?

I’m sure some people like these—I’m just a jaded cynical man. But really, I will never answer any of these. Ever. Never ever.

Anyway, at the moment you have to “request an invite,” unless you’re a Facebook friend of mine. (I think.) In which case, if you email me, I can send you an invite that (maybe) bypasses the request bit. So, go to it. RIFFLE AWAY.

1 OK, in my non-scientific polling, I think I’ve just identified a new Midwesternism. In Michigan, we always said that we were “rifling through a book” as you would rifle through a drawer to find matching socks. Even now, knowing that “riffle” is the appropriate term, I’m having a hard time saying, “hand me that 1Q84 I want to riffle through it” without feeling like a molester.

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