Archive for September, 2005

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

Tags: speeding up and slimming down

I’m changing how tags work to speed things up a little before the new server arrives.

Selecting tags had become a chore. The list of other people using the tag was taking 1-2 seconds to load. The new one usually takes less than .001 seconds. Tonight and tomorrow I’ll be speeding other tag-based functions up similarly.

To achieve these effects I made a decision: From now on each tag cannot exceed thirty characters in length. This is enough for most purposes, even “used modern history textbooks,” but not for “things that are almost but not quite dictionaries” (a real tag!). Most processes now already use the “short'” version; the long versions will remain visible and editable until next Sunday. Then the axe falls! Actually, since most of the long tags are really comments or reviews, I will move them to the users’ comments field.

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Saturday, September 17th, 2005

Change tags implemented

I’ve implemented a Del.icio.us-like “change tags” feature, available under the tags tab (also improved) and in the catalog under “power options.” You can also delete tags and change one tag to many. The latter is useful for disambiguation, ie., change “un” to “u.n.” and “united nations.”

A “mass edit” feature will come tomorrow, allowing you to add tags or make other changes by ticking off books from a basic but complete list.

QUESTION:

Currently the tags are unsorted. If you enter “zebras, apples” it stays that way, and you can sort by it, making the first tag a sort of “primary tag.”

Making it always alphabetical would be easier and in some way more elegant. What is the norm? What do people want?

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Friday, September 16th, 2005

85,000 books!

85,000 books. I’m haven’t checked how many uniques that is (which is also somewhat definitional), but 1% of them are by J. K. Rowling…

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Friday, September 16th, 2005

New server coming

LibraryThing was featured on Lifehacker and Metafilter, among others. My server is melting and service is a little slow. I’ll have a much faster one up tonight or tomorrow.

My email box is also filling with suggestions. For new-comers, here are some improvements I’m working on:

  • User-defined fields
  • British Library searches, then other library searches
  • “Power” editing, including applying tags to multiple books in one sweep
  • Bar-code/UPC/EAN numbers
  • RSS feeds
  • iPod export (so you can check if you have something)

At present I’m whispering soothing words to the server. Once that’s finished I’ll shift my attention back to features. Keep sending suggestions, comments and criticisms. The site has come a long way since it opened less than two weeks ago, and user suggestions have been absolutely essential.

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Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Reviews and power users

I’ve added a “power user” button into the catalog (next to “search library”). I’m going to hang a lot on it later—I want to keep the interface simple for new users, but give people with hundreds of books new options.

At present it just adds two things: the delete icon , which people have been clamoring for, an a icon, which tells you if you’ve reviewed something ( just tells you it’s reviewed). When you’re in power-user mode you can also sort by whether or not you’ve reviewed it. It sorts your reviews first, then books reviewed by others, then unreviewed books.

Now my question: Clearly I need a page listing what books a given user has reviewed and another listing recently-reviewed books, books with the most reviews, etc. But how much stress should reviews have? How interested are people in it? Should I, for example, have a “Reviews” tab like the “Tags” tab? Would this convey the impression that LibraryThing was all about reviewing and discussing? I want to keep some focus. This site is not a universal book portal. It’s a book-cataloging service with some diverting social extensions.

Opinions pro and con solicited.

PS: Next up—”Power tagging.” Vroosh!

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Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Book reviews added

I originally designed the “comments” field to hold information like “slight scratching; given to me by Bunny.” But people started putting reviews in, some many reviews. Others, such as dhamell wanted a place to stick URLs to a blog review.

So, in addition to “comments” there is now a field for “reviews.” These reviews can be seen on the catalog pages, but there’s a more efficient way.

Before the change books were designated either or , indicating whether other people owned it or not. These are now replaced by and if the book is reviewed by at least one person. Click the button to see both the “social information” (who has it) and the reviews. I should probably also have a special icon indicating when you’ve reviewed it (ie., a hot pink bubble?). Icons make me happy.

There’s one complication. Before I distinguished between comments and reviews LibraryThing users added over 3,000 comments. I briefly considered trying to separate them myself. Instead, in a day or so there will be a page where you can select the comments that are reviews and move them over.

Let me know what you think. I’m all ears.

PS: We’re over 60,000. From now on I’ll only announce multiples of 25,000.

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Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

45,000 books

We’ve hit 45,000 books—well more than 5,000/day now. This is remarkable in that “Add Books” was broken for an hour. It’s fixed now, and I’m moving on to pressing bugs and expansions.

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Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

Tags now autocomplete, gmail-style

By popular request, I have tentatively installed “autocompleting” tags on the Add Books screen (click “autocomplete tags.”) Autocompleting means that when you type part of a tag, LibraryThing will suggest the rest of it based on previous tags. Some browsers try to do this, but field-by-field not tag-by-tag. Play around with it; it’s nifty. (It uses the amazing WICK.)

If people like it, I’ll install it on the card edit page. I’ll also make it use recent tags without using “update.” But I myself find it a little distracting. Should it continue to be merely an option?

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Monday, September 12th, 2005

LibraryThing in the Guardian!

LibraryThing was written up by Andrew Brown in the Guardian‘s daily email digest “The Wrap.” The Wrap is subscription only, but apparently reaches some 40,000 people, and not a few have since stopped by.

The article is long and, as stated, not free, but I can share the opening paragraph:

“Almost every day someone comes up with a use for the internet that
makes you wonder why no one has thought of it before. Once a year,
maybe, one of these good ideas gets built. Last week, one of these
simple, brilliant ideas got built, and it’s good news for anyone who
owns the books they read.”

Brown’s weblog notes Bibliophil and Reader2, who also had similar ideas (and Bibliophil had it first). Brown’s opinion that Bibliophil has “rotted” is a bit strong—the webmaster wrote to me that he’s in the process of a major upgrade.

Brown is optimistic about the business possibilities. I think he’s wrong: the internet produces much more value than it captures. But I intend to make some money (2-4 memberships/day?) and that money will pay for the new server I’m getting this week, and some of the time. At the current rate, LibraryThing is adding 150,000 books/mo. That kind of database isn’t free.

Comments suggest that $10 isn’t a big barrier for people. I may raise this a little in the future, or switch to a yearly rate, but “free or cheap” will always be the deal, and, of course, current paid members are locked in for life.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on features. The “Add Books” page changed a little. If the LC has just one match it no longer automatically adds it to your library, but shows you the cover and lets you try Amazon. There are a few other such tweaks.

Keep the suggestions coming. I have a backlog, but expect to work continuously on this for some weeks to come.

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Sunday, September 11th, 2005

30,000 books

We’ve hit 30,000 books! That’s 5,000/day for four days in a row.

New features slowed today as made technical changes to ensure LibraryThing can handle many times that number. (But you’ll notice profiles now have watchlists and a user search function.) But don’t worry, a major upgrade (hint: more libraries) is just around the corner.

Keep sending me suggestions. If I don’t respond right away, it’s probably because I’m acting on it.

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