Archive for September, 2005

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

Barcodes added

I’ve added support for 13-digit UPC/EAN barcodes. Of course there’s never any reason to type a barcode—every book with a barcode I’ve seen prints the (shorter) ISBN above the barcode.
But I’ve received emails from people with barcode scanners that won’t make the transition, so this will be a help.

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Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

175,000 books / calling all PHP and MySQL programmers!

We’ve hit 175,000 books, with no slowdown in sight. The time has come for me to consider a book database of a quarter of a million, half a million, a million or more.

It’s time to ask for advice. Programming PHP/MySQL for thousands of records is just different from doing it for millions. (Even if the books don’t hit a million, the tag database will.) I’ve been reading everything I can on enterprise-scale database optimization, but I lack hands-on experience. There’s a million things I can do, but I don’t have a relative sense of their costs and benefits. It’s also hard to “test” solutions—just building the search index took an hour, during which time LibraryThing was completely unavailable.

So, I’m not too proud to ask! Praise, free accounts and gift accounts are available.

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Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Search added. Better or worse?

I’ve added a “true” search feature, or anyway a better one. Search is now available at all times, from a “search’ tab. You can search for books (pretty much all data is indexed), for just tags or for users.

For now it works well—searching is much faster—but I’m concerned it slows down adding records. Basically, every time it adds a book it needs to also update the index. As I’m currently indexing pretty much every field, this takes a little longer than I’d like it to. Let me know if you see the difference. And if you’re a MySQL guru, drop me a note and give me your take on all-RAM index and other options.

I’d like to add the standard bells and whistles (+/-/quotes, etc.), but I need to upgrade my database first. For now it just works work with what you give it.

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Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Similar libraries!!!

(Excuse the exclamation points. I need to express my glee somehow.)

Check out similar libraries feature. It tells you whose libraries are most like yours, but not by adding up the number of shared books. That method is distorted by common books and by large libraries. For example, you don’t share all that much when someone has Harry Potter—everyone has Harry Potter! It’s much better to be the only two people sharing “The Joy of Scottish Lacework.” Similarly, it doesn’t mean much that you share 10 books with oakesspalding—he’s got 2,100 of them.

I didn’t want to just toss up a number, so it computes it four ways. First, it adjusts for book obscurity. Second it adjusts for library size. Third it combines the factors. And fouth it gives you everyone who makes the other three lists—your library doppelgängers, if you will.

Let me know what you think. It works wonders in my case. Zette‘s library is huge and very similar. Oakesspalding‘s library is much the same (although the fact that we give each other books for Christmas distorts it). Languagehat shares many of my interests, like Greek and even Hittite. CaveatLector is the best find—he has only 106 books so I would have otherwise overlooked him, but the nine books he shares with me are all obscure treasures.

Let me know if it works for you, and which of the measures is the most accurate.

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Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Language support finished

LibraryThing now provides good support for the familiar—to many—non-English diacriticals such as é and ñ and gamely handles the exotic—to many—ones like č and å. The encoding is now “UTF-8″ so, in theory, is should be able to handle a much wider variety of scripts, but neither Amazon nor the Library of Congress transmit material in non-Latin scripts, so you’ll have to type it yourself for now.

LibraryThing is now ready to start adding foreign libraries, and that is high on my list of goals. I shall also see if I can get Amazon Japan working.

Everything should be good going forward. The trick was getting all the old material into shape. LibraryThing-ers had employed all manner of tricks to get diacriticals to work, and some of that editing was hard to detect and correct for. Again, French, Spanish and German books should be fine, but I’m not so sure about the Georgian books languagehat entered. (In this case, my Mac simply won’t show Georgian, so I couldn’t tell anyway.)

The other gap is material entered between 8pm and 1am. I shut down book editing and tried to process everything coming in, but at almost 1,000 books/hr, a delay of thirty seconds between processes may have left some books “half cooked.”

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Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Language support

I’m spending the day on alphabet-support issues—getting all those diacriticals to work. Doing this requires some database and programming changes, some of which need to go through various steps, so you may see all your diacriticals go bad one minute, then correct the next. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

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Monday, September 19th, 2005

Avast me hearties!

Shiver me timbers, LibraryThing hit the Yahoo “new and notable” page (http://dir.yahoo.com/). In 1995 this would have been HUGE. I’m not sure anyone checks it anymore, but maybe they do. It’s below and to the right of the main entry, “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

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Monday, September 19th, 2005

Library of Congress faster

I did something technical that should eliminate long waits for the Library of Congress “session” to begin. Basically everyone now shares the same “session.”

Let me know if problems increase or decrease.

UPDATE: Or if it explodes, as it did! I guess the LC limits requests by session id. Sorry about that and thanks for taking the hit.

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Monday, September 19th, 2005

PS: 117,000 books!

Aside from having thousands of copies of Harry Potter and no exhibitionists in the stacks, this is getting to be a decent sized community library!

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Monday, September 19th, 2005

New server, new look

The new server came and, after some rough hours, everything is running smoothly. Ongoing server and programming tweaks should win further gains. The site is unlikely to be much faster during off-peak hours, but I’m hoping not to have hourly crashes and twenty-second waits during peak times.

I’ve done something of a major overhaul of the design. If you’re on Firefox, Netscape or Safari you shouldn’t see much of a difference. Windows Internet Explorer users will suddenly see… what you’re supposed to see. Why didn’t anyone tell me it looked so terrible! Owing to the death of my Windows machine, I hadn’t done much cross-platform testing. Ouch! Those who weren’t turned off by strangely-large fonts and boxes extending 5% off the edge of the window, I salute you!

Comments encouraged. I’m frankly a bit snowed-under right now, so replies may take a few days. Enjoy!

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