Wishlist notification debate

October 9, 2007

There has been a lot of debate about the new wishlist notification system and I wanted to post my thoughts.

Yes, I’ve read all the messages.

I’m not going to change the notification system back at this time.

My plan is to wait 6 months, and then re-evaluate and see if we’d be better served with a different strategy, and that wouldn’t necessarily be the old way, it could be something brand new.

The Internet is changing really, really quickly, and BookMooch is growing leaps and bounds.

With so many communication methods (web, email, RSS, IM, SMS) I expect that the whole topic of “fairness for contended resources” will have to be regularly revisited.

For example, one of the other ideas I’ve thought about is Disney’s FastPass

Each person would be able to “jump the queue” on one book.

Here is how it would work:
– you pick one book at a time that you are first in line for
– you can leave that line and go to another
– when you get that book, you “cash in” your fast pass

That way, everyone could pick the one book they want the most, and have the best chance of getting it.

Instead of a email notification, the book would be automatically “reserved” for them for 24h, and no-one else could mooch it for a day.

I don’t know whether
1) you automatically get another fastpass as soon as you use one up
2) or, you get a limited number of fastpasses, either an idea like “one per month” or “one for every 10 books you give away”

Anyhow, this idea is also a long, long way from being implemented on BookMooch, it’s just one of many alternative ideas I have about how this might work.

At some point, when non-email forms of checking the site for available books are quite popular, I’ll need to reconsider and look at other ways to deal with “fairness for contended resources” problem.

Right now, I’m thinking some sort of “on hold” or “reserved” system is where this will go, but I’m not going to give this much more thought for at least 6 months. There are too many other features to add to BookMooch right now.

40 Responses to “Wishlist notification debate”

  1. Heather said

    Thank you so much for addressing and understanding the debate about the new wishlist system… It puts me at ease simply to know that it isn’t a “this is how it’s going to be and I don’t care what anyone else says” type of thing, having you address it and explain things really helps me want to stay around here.

    I rather like the idea of FastPass… even tho it wouldn’t be implemented for awhile, if ever, it is a very interesting and potentially very good idea. As soon as I read it, a particular book came to mind that I would love to do that on, that I want way more then any other book on my wishlist.

    As much as I do not like the new wishlist system, waiting awhile and then re-evaluating and seeing what happens sounds very fair and understandable. Thank you very much for keeping us updated and weighing in with your thoughts.


  2. John C said

    I appreciate the change. I am one of the people who emailed you about the unfairness of the old system. I think your efforts to spread the wealth around will help the popularity of bookmooch tremendously. I can understand the frustration of those who have taken the time to make sure that they are on the cutting edge of technology. Thanks for thinking of those folks (like me) with two jobs and two kids!

  3. Elizabeth M. said

    Dear John,
    I think the change is good too–agree with John C. It gives those of us who are either busy w/family, work, etc., a chance and especially helps those of us who aren’t live “wired”–no, I don’t even have a cell phone! I recommend Bookmooch to many people, but, while intrigued, they are usually afraid it will be “too hard” to learn, navigate, or too complex. I am surprised how many people I know who use their computer only for e-mail. Anyway, let’s give it a try! Thanks for staying on top of things and for all the time you put in! It is appreciated!

  4. Laura said

    The Disney pass gave me an idea. Why not give the book owner an option who to send it to? For example, if one of their bookmooch friends has the book listed in their wishlist.

    Hmm, maybe not. That might cause favoritism and everyone will start befriending everyone else.

  5. Tammy said

    Thank you so much for trying out the new wishlist system. Like a lot of people on bookmooch, I have a family, a job, and I don’t even know how to use my cellphone that my kids insist that I own. Also liking the fastpass idea. Keep up all the good work!

  6. alina said

    My question at this point is: If I mooch a wishlisted book (let’s say for some reason I’m first in line and I do get to mooch the book) and the owner turns out not to have the book or doesn’t want to send it or just never signs in at bookmooch again, do I get back in line first? or last? Because it happened to me so many times already to mooch a book and never get it.

  7. April said

    I appreciate that the community supports trying new things for a period of time. And, personally, I like the new system,(especially because I FINALLY got to mooch a book). I also like the FastPass idea, but not as much.

  8. Samantha said

    I like the new notification system, but I was ok with the old one, as well. I’m glad you set the time limit to 4 hours, because I have had trouble with other sites where they make you wait longer (48 hours I think for PBS). It sucked for me because I would list a book there, and because people had been waiting for so long they must have forgotten, as the first 3 people wouldn’t take the book. Six days later, I got frustrated, took it down, put it up on bookmooch and within a few minutes had someone to send it to.

  9. Lois said

    Sadly, I have had to say no to a moocher (once, but I’ve been here less than a month) because someone from overseas had inquired about it first. I require that those outside my country ask me first and while they are asking, the book apparently is still listed and available to be mooched. That could be quite disappointing for some.

    And thank you for explaining how the mooch system works – it does sound more fair now than before. The previous system sounds like the email was a starting pistol at a horse race or a jump ball at a basketball game…

  10. Mary Ann said

    I like the re-vamping of the wishlist a great deal! I was actually able to snag two books I wanted rather quickly. It has been terribly frustrating for me to read the email on my cellphone then by the time I get to my computer, the book I really really wanted is gone. Just the other day someone listed several graphic novels I have been lusting for and within 30 mins they were all gone. I’m in no way working up to a huge complaint, because I’m beyond thrilled with bookmooch and how it all works… I would like a little parity though. The FastPass idea seems intriguing. But, like most new ideas will be met with resistance.

  11. I’m glad the system was changed. The old system also seemed unfair to me — and I was one of those people who is online a lot, and recently won a number of book credits in the lottery. Despite that, most of the wishlist notices have passed me by. I was amazed recently when I received notice of one of my wishlist books being available, and won it….that’s never happened before, no matter how quickly I’ve tried to act. I can only think that I was a beneficiary of the new system. While I understand those who have waited a long time and would like it to be seniority-based, or who have invested time in developing strategies to win at wish list, this system will be more attractive to a wider number of BookMoochers, including, yes, “newbies”. And many of those folks may have books we want, so we want them to be happy members of the community, ja?

    Anyway, I really appreciate BookMooch, both for the books I’ve received, and as a way to get out books I cannot use, and I’m sorry to hear that anyone who dislikes aspects of the system is “flaming” the creator rather than politely disagreeing.

  12. Mark Williams said

    In the recent debate, some, perhaps, were not aware of just how long this discussion has been going on in the public forum, not to mention behind the scenes.

    John has proven his responsiveness to our community consensus time and again, and this change is very much such a response to a consensus expressed throughout the life of Bookmmoch.

    In particular, it is an attempt to address the lack of available wishlisted books to international members, and the stream of false wishlist notifications (both due to user error, and also to the book being taken so quickly), which were both a cause of regular complaints.

    There are at least three ways to run the wishlist system. Bookmooch used one of these methods up until this point, and will now be trying another method for the next six months, after a period of review, there may be further changes.

    No matter the system, there will likely remain a sizable portion of the community which favors one of of the alternate ways of operating the wishlist. This is simply not an issues where an overwhelming consensus is ever likely to form.

    I like the idea of FastPass quite a lot as I think most of us have a few ‘must haves’ which matter the most to us. And it works just swimmingly at Disneyland 🙂

  13. Elle said

    I like the trying it out for six months route. I was against this change but I have to admit that after reading everyone’s comments I realized why I couldn’t understand what they were frustrated with — the books I mooch are definitely not the most popular books on BookMooch. A lot of them are rather obscure so I have less of a problem getting them. Plus I don’t rely solely on my wishlist. I browse through people’s inventories, do regular searches, and so on so I have a lot fewer problems getting my hands on books.

    — Elle

  14. Cathryn said

    I am pleased with the new system. I didn’t write you a hate mail about the old system, I just accepted that it was just “that” way….

    Paperback Swap uses the seniority program, when you wishlist a book, you can see how many people there are ahead of you…

    I could NEVER get a “hot” wishlist book on BookMooch…until I gave my husband the information to access it…granted, thanks to him my wishlist is HUGE but he scored the latest Harry Potter for me by ‘quick on the draw.’

    I do think this idea is much better…and I wouldn’t want us to go to the seniority program…PBS has it merits and BookMooch has it’s own…one of my favorites is being able to list books for points rather than having to buy points or having to wait for books to be requested AND recieved…

    I love BookMooch. You are doing an incredible job. The whiners and complainers are always looking for something to whine and complain about, if they don’t have something to whine and complain, then they are going to whine and complain about that.

    This seems fair, I like giving a window of opportunity that is not unreasonable….

    One of the things I hate on PBS is that if I list a book on there, and it IS on someone’s wishlist…my book is on HOLD for that person for FIVE DAYS…now, little whineys….four hours is not unreasonable….FIVE DAYS is.

    This new way, if someone randomly is ahead of me on the list and they mooch…Heck, I won’t even know what I missed anyway…so who cares?

    Thanks, John, I think you are doing a great job…you make the world a much better place.

  15. Joanna Collie said

    Like Elle, the old system didn’t bother me, despite being an overseas mooch for a good 90% of the books listed. But I do understand that it is a problem for lots of other people.

    I don’t know how relevenat it is to this discussion, but one big gripe I have with the current system is the people who stick books on their wishlists and then don’t mooch when they come up. As moocher and moochee. It’d be nice if whatever system we change to has a way of weeding those out.

  16. Ingrid said

    Oh my goodness, I should think that we’re all just lucky to be here. Why should we have any “rights” at all, and who says anything is fair? This is Mr. Buckman’s whirligig and he should be completely entitled to run it anyway he pleases. I’m very happy with the old notification process and with the new notification process as well. If I really need a book so badly that I’m going to get angry about not getting it I should be heading off to the local bookstore to BUY it, not whining because I didn’t get it for FREE. MUAHH, smooches for everyone!

  17. Sally C said

    Just a thought for John on his “so many communication methods” comment above – I live in a very isolated part of Australia (part of the 2 percent of the population that our national telecommunications carrier acknowledges it isn’t servicing equitably) so mobile phone contact is not a good way to contact me. Same with VOIP and many internet procedures, on a satellite link. If I am thus disadvantaged in a developed country, it could be similar or a lot worse for BM members without technological advances. I am not saying don’t make use of them; just that these issues should be taken into consideration when considering “fairness for contended resources”.

    Fastpass sounds interesting – will watch with interest to see how this develops.

  18. Hope said

    Thank you for this new system. I didn’t have too much trouble with the old system. This new version also sounds reasonable, and I look forward to seeing what happens and if I see a notification! 🙂

    I like the idea of the Fastpass system, as it is one way of properly prioritising the wishlist. I try and keep mine short – but others, reasonably, have very long lists and inevitably they can’t mooch every book that appears simultaneously on it.

    Wishlists aren’t flagged or numbered by users about their order of preference, and I think that is just as well because that sort of thing changes regularly, and according to what becomes available. So, the Fastpass would help.

    Joanne mentions moochers not mooching wishlisted items. Two main reasons (other than the prioritisation issue that Fastpass would help to address) are lack of points at the time of the wishlist notice, and the book being only available in the giver’s country.

    1. I don’t know if it is possible, or desirable, or fair, for the wishlist shuffle to also take into account the number of points at the time, and potentially have it skip a user who couldn’t mooch it in their window of time.

    2. I think wishlist notices should still go out to international members when the giver is set to “only to my country” because the member could ask a Mooch Angel for help to get the book that way.

    3. I have tried to keep track of books which, at the time I search for them, are only available in one particular country that is not my own. However, I’m starting to find the various manual methods I’ve tried, are getting a bit unmanageable. So, in the spirit of kite flying I was wondering….

    Could there be a second kind of save for later list – another private list – for books that were (last time I looked) only available in some country other than my own i.e. a private Ask an Angel list. If, on second look when I decide to try ask for the book to be mooched it has become available in my own country – great – if not, then I can ask an angel? This way I don’t have it cluttering my wishlist, and givers being disappointed about my non-mooching.

    Thank you again for all the thought that has gone into the new system, and the BookMooch improvements over the last few months. 🙂

  19. Alan said

    I want to reiterate what Joanne said about users who put a library on their wishlists and don’t mooch avalable books. Someone needs to tell them about the save for later list.

    I have a large TBR pile and I give highest priority to books that are wishlisted. It is very frustrating to finish a book that you think someone wants and have them not mooch the book. Someone else could have gotten a book that they want instead.

    I don’t believe in policing this, but a friendly reminder from an administrator would be nice.

  20. Mary Jones said

    I trust John’s judgment in this, he has access to much more information than I do and he has never failed to make BookMooch better at each and every new adventure. I am content to see how things work out. Mary

  21. Dottie said

    I just think you’re brave to mention any ideas that you’re considering 6 months ahead of time! 🙂 You can never please all of the people all of the time;)
    Thanks for all of your efforts, John.

  22. Jenni said

    I personally love the new wishlist idea. Because now it gives everyone a chance to get a book they want. And the ones who want it changed back only want that because they like getting what they want. I’ve always hated the first come first served thing . Now that its changed Congrats John!! I’m delighted! And the fastpass thing is a good idea, just probably do it once a month cuz my only concern is people will abuse it if its more than that. Please keep the wishlist notification this way, i prefer it. thank you

  23. Furu said

    I’m a little hesitant to say anything that shows I disagree now, because there’s a sort of feeling going on here that people who were objecting to the new system were a bunch of flamers and sending hate mail….I just disagree, isn’t that okay? I felt it was important to make my opinion known, just so all sides are known. I still adore bookmooch, I wouldn’t have a history of 90+ books mooched and given if I didn’t! I really appreciate everyone who works on it, and that’s why I give my input now and then when I think a change is being made for the worse.
    So here I go again! Yeah, I was one of the ones who didn’t like the new shuffle wishlist notification. And at the risk of sounding even more disagreeable – I don’t really like the fastpass idea much either. Here’s why – mainly, the hold aspect. I mooch a lot of manga, and multiple volumes in a book series. So if a user puts, say, three volumes of a something I really like, before I had at least a slight chance of getting more than one volume of it if he or she offered them all at once – if I was fast enough. But with the system where the book is reserved for a day, if I were lucky, I may get one volume – and the others would automatically be reserved for other people. This is inconvenient for the giver too, because it’s usually easier to send multiple items in one package.

    Anyway, that’s my feedback, at least as much as I can give from hearing a little about the new idea. And please, please, everyone, don’t think that those of us who disagree are all obnoxious trolls who are ungrateful for John’s work. I can speak for myself at least for not being one of those. I just want what’s better for the community as a whole, and I happen to have a different idea of that than others.

  24. Gail said

    Hi John,
    I haven’t read all the previous emails but one thing I find frustrating is that I often get notified that a book on my wishlist is available but once logged on I find that the book is available in the US and the owner is not willing to post overseas (to me in Australia). I’m wondering if maybe the next time you make changes you may like to change the system so that nobody outside the country of origin gets notified if the owner is not willing to post overseas.
    Many thanks.

  25. Alanna said

    Hi John,

    First off thanks for all your dedication and work that has made Bookmooch the awesome place that it is!

    That being said – I am not a fan of the new wishlist system – but I respect your position and will wait to see how it all turns out six months from now.

    I wanted to take this chance to say that I am not keen on a fastpass system – I don’t really see how that could work here… certainly any popular book would have many people wanting to use their fastpass on it… so then what happens?

    an ordered queue for those books? Wouldn’t that just a miniature first come first serve system?

    or a mad dash to be the first to use your fast pass when a book came available – which would just be a more complicated version of the old system….

    I think one of the most attractive qualities of Bookmooch was its simplicity. Over-complicating things with all these systems within systems will really start to turn me off…

    just my opinion… I’m willing to stay and try everything on for size… but I have to say that I really really like a clean uncomplicated system.

    As a total aside… I would be curious if the page view count decreases substantially with the implementation of new wishlist system. I know that every time I got a wishlist notification I would come and check it out and then usually surf around the site a little… since I haven’t been getting any notifications lately I have noticed that my visits have been much more infrequent… kinda sad I think… it’s definitely an out of sight – out of mind kind of effect for me.

    Thanks again for all your good work! Bookmooch has been a great resource for me.

  26. Zjanette said

    A like the new system. But I’m in Europe and always asleep when a book pops up on bookmooch. So this new system gives me a better change.
    If you want to change it after 6 months maybe you could think about giving moochers with the best mooch ratio a first choice?
    But I’m not complaining. Bookmooch is the best thing ever !

  27. Camilla Morton said

    I haven’t experienced the new situation yet but the old system had me tearing my hair out. Just about every time I would try to log on to mooch after notification the website would be down. I’ve given up hope of getting titles off my wishlist which doesn’t contain anything much popular except a few teen books.

  28. Nanci Warner said

    Excuse me, but isn’t this a service that is FREE for books that are FREE. This isn’t eBay, for heaven’s sake. If you miss a book, just wait till someone else uploads it, or carry your little laptop under your arm & check every 10 minutes–good grief!

  29. Liz said

    I agree with all the people that said that this gig is John’s and he should be able to do something without having thousands of complaints coming his way. I’m good with whatever he decides is for the best. Also, I would like to point out that this site is FREE and saving me a ton of money and bringing new friends my way. And, I have but 1 thing to say to that…
    Thaaaaaaaaaaaaank Yooooooooooooooooooou!!!!!!!!!!

  30. Violeta said

    my god, i HATED the old system. i’d be on bm for half the day, check out until the next day and then check in my email to find out that my wishlist came up but because it’s by a “first come, first served”, the book’s already gone. On pbs, everytime my wishlist came up, I ALWAYS got my books. 4 hrs is better than “be there first or be a rotten egg” but i really like a whole day as a civilized means for wishlisted items like pbs. There are things i don’t like on pbs either, but at least pbs’s wishlist is more civilized and has more courtesy to the wishlister. As far as the comments about buying the books online elsewhere, what’s the point (and i love all the members who i’ve mooched from and who’ve mooched from me) of a bookclub if you can’t get a few privileges, esp if you ship internationally? actually that’s a good one. those who ship internationally get extra points for the fast pass and get pushed ahead on the wishlist.

  31. SueB said

    I agree with Liz, I am extremely grateful for the Bookmooch facilities and those that share their books. I am happy if I win a book but philosophical if I don’t.They are free after all!

    It would be good if an indicator could be added to the books so International people would know who is willing to send overseas.
    And the search engine for the countries needs an alphabetical search added ( when searching my country ( Australia) I need to begin at the beginning each visit and as I am on dialup it is a long and frustrating process to get back to where I was the visit before.) but who am I to demand such things when I take it all with open arms?
    I add my thanks for the hard work and continuing efforts on our behalf and hope these comments will be taken as suggestions not demands.

  32. Alisoun said

    I like the new mooch system (because I finally got a book on my wishlist for the first time in ages!) and love the sound of the FastPass very much.

    My question relates to people that have inactive accounts that show books I would love to mooch and appear on my wish list but I will not mooch from them because they haven’t logged in for over 300 days (or similar). Are there plans to cleanse the database at some stage?

    Otherwise I am loving this site so much both giving and receiving.

    Thank you John for your very hard work!

  33. Trish said

    I like the new system, I liked the old system. I’ve been waiting to get a popular book for quite awhile; haven’t managed to get it yet but so what? This site is free! (Don’t look gift horses in the mouth–it’s ungrateful at best!). I’m delighted with the books I have received and I’m just as happy to have found good homes for books I no longer need or want on my shelves. I love Bookmooch and am incredibly grateful to John for all of the work (initial and ongoing) this site takes–Thank You John!

  34. Brendt said

    First of all — John’s system, John’s rules. I’m just glad that BookMooch is out there.

    Having said that:

    1) I like the idea of the new method. Europeans missing out on books posted by Americans aren’t the only one with lag problems — it happens completely within the US, too.

    Apparently, all the west coasters post their stuff after my east coast bedtime, and another west coaster comes and snatches it up while I’m sleeping. I’ve only been a member for a bit over a year, and there’s one book on my wishlist that I’ve already missed out on 5 times! 😦

    So, this randomization thing should at least give me a chance. 😉

    2) Since there have been multiple negative comments about how PBS does it, I’ll chime in that I like it. If I wishlist a book over there, see that I’m #50 in line, and two weeks later, I’ve only jumped to #49, I know it’s gonna be a long time, so I might just give up on PBS and buy it at a store. If I buy a book on my BookMooch wishlist, it’ll be available on BookMooch the next day. DOH! 😉

    Not saying that BookMooch should switch to the system that PBS uses. Just wanted to say that not everyone hates that system.

    3) Whatever you do, DON’T adopt the method that Bookins uses. If there’s a wishlisted book available and you have enough points, you get it, no questions asked. So if there’s two books that you wanted that are available, the system just picks which one you get.

  35. Rabidpotatochip said

    One (perhaps) unintentional bonus of changing the wishlists is that the server shouldn’t have as many floods of a hundred people trying to mooch a book that was given away six hours ago.

    As for people who refuse to try the new system, I suggest the method we use at work: use it for two to three weeks, THEN complain. That way you’ve managed to get past the awkward (but natural) “change is scary/bad” stage, you’ve calmed down a bit and tried it out, and formed an opinion based on experience and evaluation rather than speculation.

  36. Cassandra said

    I’m not going to complain about how the wishlist works, since BM is a FREE service. There are advantages to both the old and the new way. For those that are frequently “wired” and loved all the wishlist emails, they can just keep checking their wishlist.

    Ironically, I’ve mooched several books since the new procedure rolled out. I haven’t received even 1 wishlist notification; I’ve just been checking my wishlist a time or two a day.

  37. opus17 said

    I would like to throw in my 2 cents worth here. I like the way the new wishlist notification works very well. Prior to the new implementation I was never able to mooch a book from my list and now I’ve been able to get two! So, from my perspective it works. I am sure after some time, statistics will tell the tale the best and John will be able to evaluate without emotion what works in the fairest way. Thanks for continuing to improve this fabulous community.

  38. Joby said

    I can’t say whether I like the new system or not. I’ve noticed I haven’t been getting notifications like I use to, yet when I view my wishlist, there were books to be mooched. Not keeping up on matters, I went hunting for info and now know the reason why. I like the delay because I myself have meant to add something to my wishlist and accidentally put in my inventory. Of course, moving the buttons so they weren’t one on top of the other probably could have solved this issue as well. But, I don’t know how easy that would have been.

    Honestly, I’m willing to wait the 6 months to see how it proceeds. Of course, it means I’ll have to check my wishlist more often. It sorta peeves me that I don’t get a chance at a book off the bat. I’m just as willing and eager as the next person. How do we know the random shuffle won’t skip over a person two or three times in a row? And, about the people in Europe…well, don’t we in the US lose out when they post a book as well? Aren’t we pretty much sleeping?

    But, how can one really complain when none of us are paying to use this system? Things could do a complete 180 and what could we say?

  39. folio said


    I’m not expert/experienced enough to comment intelligently on the relative merits of the systems, but have to say that, as an Australian user, I suddenly no longer hear from bookmooch … after happily giving and receiving for a few months now. It’s as if it has shut down on me…what’s the potential for the shuffle method to cut people out completely just by sheer randomness? Will see it goes during trial period…

  40. folio said

    PS And I can back up earlier comments that as a non-US user things don’t work exactly the same – yes there are books on my wishlist that are available that I haven’t mooched but it’s because they’re not available for international dispatch … the system lets you specify whether you prepared to send internationally … can it also mark you as mooching only locally – sending only appropriate mooch offers?

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