Earlier this evening, I disappeared into the LitKicks Laboratory (we have one, seriously) to test the website known as Storycode.com. The purpose of this site, as far as I can tell (I didn’t feel like reading the FAQ) is to give readers personalized recommendations based on their ratings of books they’ve read. Simple enough, yes?
Well, okay. Yes. But also no. Let me explain my reasoning to you by outlining my testing method:
Step 1: Arrival — When I first got to Storycode.com, I was a little preoccupied, because the American Idol finale was going to be starting in a few minutes (shut up, it’s awesome). Even so, I had work to do in the name of science. Or literature. Or literary science. Or something. So, I created an account and looked at the screen which listed some books to review (or, excuse me, code). This leads me to…
Step 2: Coding — I picked A Clockwork Orange because even though I read it about eight years ago, the title was familiar, and I didn’t have time to deliberate because American Idol, people! Seriously.
So I set about coding the story. You’d think coding a story would be something intense that involved charts and graphs and blood tests, or something, but I was pretty disappointed to find that all I had to do was rate the story on a sliding scale according to questions about plot and characters. Whatever.
Step 3: Recommendations — After I finished coding A Clockwork Orange, I was taken to a page with a lot of books listed on it, such as House of Leaves and American Psycho. Interesting. I decided I would code the one by Bret Easton Ellis, since I hated that book. Then I had to go watch American Idol, after which I came back and clicked around the site some more, trying to figure out why exactly it was in any way necessary to anything ever.
Step 4: Perplexity — (Is “perplexity” even a word? Of course it is, and I totally knew that.) The thing is, I was beginning to wonder why this site was in any way better than having a friend who reads books and talks about them or, um, going to the library and browsing the shelves (I hear people do that sort of thing). It was at this point that I finally decided to read the FAQ.
Basically, the site stores all this coding information so that users will always have a list of books to read. (Great. My list of books to read is already so long that if all I did was read all the time for the rest of my life, I still wouldn’t get through the whole thing before I died.) It’s kind of like the way Amazon.com gives you recommendations while you’re browsing, except without seeming like it’s just blatantly trying to sell you stuff you’re not even looking for under the pretense of being nice enough to give you the Super Saver Shipping. I think I may have just digressed a little bit there, but anyway, I came to see that the site could be for some people useful and (dare I say) fun.
Because really, anyplace that recommends a book called A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian to me when I click on a link for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is interesting, to say the least.
Step 5: Verdict — My personal method for picking reading material has always been haphazard and random, and I very rarely ever read things because someone recommends them to me, choosing instead to read things for reasons that are so illogical and pointless that I couldn’t even begin to decipher them. Be that as it may, I think the site has an interesting concept and could very well introduce people to reading material they’d never think of picking up if they were just wandering the aisles of their local bookstores.
I’d say that’s a good thing.
But enough about me. How do you pick what you read?