Among the parts of the vast and far-flung  Metaphorosis empire is a host of book reviews - about 400 to date.  Initially intended as its own website, I folded it into the magazine  site for simplicity (and content, when we were just starting out). Now  that the magazine is pretty well established, I'm in the process of  folding the reviews right back out, though there will still be menu links back and forth. This post is about how I started writing reviews, and the underlying infrastructure.


Back in the old days, I had a  friend who worked for a CD review magazine. This was when we still had CDs, and we still had paper magazines. She sent me  CDs and tried to get me to write some reviews, but I never felt it was  my metier. Writing some reviews for the best rock band ever (that's  Deep Purple, in case you weren't sure) confirmed that view. It was much harder than it seemed. Still, many years  later, I joined Goodreads at the instigation of another friend. I went  through and rated all my books, but felt curiously unsatisfied with the  result. Since Goodreads is about reviews, I thought I'd try my hand at  writing some. As expected, it turns out I'm not a natural review writer.  But it is something one can learn, and I enjoyed doing it, so I kept at  it.

The result is those 400+ reviews - most of the  books I've read since I started the practice sometime in 2012. Writing  the reviews takes time, but with enough experience, it's not very hard. What's tedious is the  process of uploading them to the website. If it's to be done at all  properly - e.g., so that Google will recognize the posts as reviews - it  needs careful structuring, scripting, etc. Eventually, I created a  spreadsheet that automated a good deal of it, including producing  versions for WordPress, GoodReads, and Calibre, and generating the JSON  script that Google draws on. It's still tedious, though.

For  about half a year (off and on), I've been working on a replacement  website that should allow one-time entry in WordPress, with cut and  paste to GoodReads and Calibre. After trying various free and commercial  review management plugins, I finally gave up and installed the Pods  plugin, which, for my purposes, provides a framework within which I can  easily lay out and manipulate database entries so that reviews look the  way I want them to. It's a work in progress, and far from perfect, but  it's getting there. Most of the 'coding' (a real programmer would laugh  at my efforts) is done, as is data import, and some of the data cleaning.

The long and the short of it is that the review site (reviews.metaphorosis.com)  is active, if still limited in how the reviews are organized. Over the coming months, I'll be working on fixes to those issues, so that category pages, etc. work the way I want them to. In the interim, reviews will be linked from social media, Goodreads, and should be available by search as well.