Archive for December, 2005

Friday, December 16th, 2005

Four improvements

Searching someone else’s library. You can once again search someone else’s library or tags from their catalog. You can do this with your own too. The search itself is still sub-optimal (eg., not indexing 3-letter words). That’s next up.

See more now the default. Some users discovered that if you clicked “see more” you’d get more information and buttons within your catalog, including the number of users per book and a delete button. But most never users never played with it, and missed out. I decided to remove the button and turn the feature on all the time. I think it’s better. It’s simpler and seeing at a glance how many user have one of your books is just plain fun. As for the delete, that’ll cut an hour off my weekly email load…

To make an omlette, you have to break some eggs. I got rid of the your review icon, which indicated when you had reviewed a book. It added clutter without much funtionality. To check what books you’ve reviewed, go to the profile and see your reviews page.

Widget now shows random books for tags. A user asked for it, and I like to please. You can now make a widget that shows a random book, but only within a given tag.

Related tags improved. I changed how related tags are computed and ordered. The old way surfaced too many popular tags, like fiction and read at the expense of less common but more juicy ones. Take the tag vampires. The old system kicked off with the unhelpful fiction and fantasy tags, and includes others like romance and read high up. The new way exposes the pale white neck of tagging: vampire, horror, anita blake and buffy. Check out the difference between the old and new science tag.

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Thursday, December 15th, 2005

LibraryThing contest (not mine)

I love the way the blogosphere goes in strange directions. So, the LibraryThing book pile contest ended. The top-winner (there were six in all), lucytartan, won two lifetime memberships. As she just posted, she’s decided she’s going to hold her own contest to give them away, one at each one of the group-blogs she writes for. Quoting her:

At The Valve the contest is “tell us your best library anecdote.”
At Larvatus Prodeo, the contest is “tell us about your favourite book.”

So there’s a plug for her blogs. I swear, I didn’t know any of this until she told me.

Lucytartan got hers for artful photography, but I’m open to giving free memberships if other popular blogs want to run contests. Send me an email with your idea. I could use the exposure and the site gets more valuable with every book added. (No it’s not going to become completely free; I got needs, needs!)

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Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Book pile contest results

The LibraryThing book pile contest is now officially over. Users submitted a lot of great photos—128 in all. You can see them all at the Flickr tag “librarything” (

It was very hard to choose, or even to figure out how to choose. So I decided to double the number of winners. I’m sorry I can’t double it again; there were so many good shots.

I favored head-on photos of discrete piles, as I said I would. This excluded some great photos of books on shelves, books in nightmarish piles (Constance Wiebrands) and of LibraryThing members’ libraries (Geoff Coupe), however much I want those built-in bookcases. Partial photos (Chamisa Flower) and photos from strange angles were discriminated against; books with clear, legible titles were favored.

Babies and animals were in woefully short supply. I love Dovegreyreader’s cat-and-pile shot. But the image doesn’t fit in the frame and its hard to see the books. Also, I’m a dog person. CrazyMaisy gets credit for her cat bookend, looking back on Sibley’s Birds and The Art of Raising a Puppy. Intentional?

The original deal was one winner who gets two free memberships, and two runners-up who get one each. That was back when all memberships were lifetime ones. I decided to keep to that, and add three one-year memberships for “honorable mention.”

The winner: lucytartan
Lucy did an eye-popping pile, arranged by color and helpfully snipped out of its background. This idea is not new—a crazy bookstore tried organizing their whole collection that way—but it was nicely done. Extra points for Nabokov, Orwell and Aristotle.

Runner-up: Micketymoc
Micketymoc did a number of cool shots, all in focus and very helpfully snipped from their background. This fish-eye one hit the sweet spot. Indeed, if I have a complaint, it’s that it’s too professional. If I used it, people might think LibraryThing was a serious business, one that hired photographers. I’d lose my indy cred!

Runner-up: kencf
Kenneth’s ordinary book piles violate my aspect-ratio preferences. I can forgive that. But pull back a bit and you can see what the piles are sitting on. Was the the bathroom really the only white space in Kenneth’s place? Ought one to put The Origin of Christology on top of a toilet? (Kenneth replied that books in the bathroom worked for Luther; the Catholic in me has a rejoinder to that!)

Honorable mention: AuntDodi
Here’s a good, sharp mish-mash. Tales from the Clit and Yertle the Turtle? If you didn’t know what a clit was, they could be the same genre!

Honorable mention: Hanz
Capping a pile of Christian books with a Bible manages to inject a message into the very order of the pile, and the angle reinforces the message. One of the cool things about LibraryThing is how different political and religious groups use it without “bumping into each other” too much. Tales from Clit does not often meet Calvin’s Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life. This is probably for the best. But what would Calvin have thought of Yertle?

Honorable mention: Rachael (Chamisa Flower)
There were two excellent gastronomic piles. Chamisa flower won over Selkie30 for being easier to see the titles and without the shadow. But I was please to hear of the existence of the Star Trek Cookbook. I also like Chamisa Flower’s writing-themed pile.

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Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

Gift memberships now available

LibraryThing now offers gift memberships!

Lifetime memberships ($25)
Yearly memberships ($10)

Gift memberships make excellent stocking-stuffers, “top presents” and “balancers.” (I always have a few gifts I can shift between family members when I weigh the piles on Christmas Eve.) Wouldn’t they make a nice present for everyone in your office, library or academic department? Yes, they would, and prisons too!

I particularly recommend them for friends and family with so many books you can’t risk getting them something they already have. Once they catalog their collection, you’ll never have that problem again. When does a present give so much back? Never, I tell you.

Gift memberships means I can finally close the “book pile contest.” Drumroll please…

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Wednesday, December 14th, 2005

Playing hooky in Ireland

Well, I’m back from traveling. For most of it my wife and I were vacationing in Ireland. Then I did some business traveling. Our plan in Ireland was to take it easy. In the afternoons, my wife would would write and I would work on LibraryThing by wifi. Riiiight. In Dublin, that sometimes worked—I treaded water on emails. But in Connemara? See photo below for my startling discovery: the density of wifi and of rocks and sheep are inversely related.

Well, I’m back, rested and ready. Things are gonna speed up again. Thanks for keeping the faith while I was gone.

PS: 81 comments on the last post?!

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