Archive for October, 2006

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Six degrees of vampire smut

I’ve got some “big” news on hold, so I’ll throw out a game.

I keep planning to blog “Three degrees of Jane Austen,” on how almost LibraryThing shares a book with someone who shares a book with someone who owns something by Jane Austen. People share books much more than they share friends. So while it’s comforting that everyone in the world is six degrees away by acquaintance, they’re much closer by the shared mental universe of the book.

Today’s game is to try to get from one tag page to another, using the “related tags” box, using as few hops as possible.

Challenge number 1: Vampire smut to Spanish Civil War in 10 steps. I’ll bet someone can do a lot better.

vampire smut > mystery > historical > history > sociology > economics > capitalism > radicalism > anarchism > Spanish Civil War

Challenge number 2: Tarzan to Iceland
Challenge number 3: Mesoamerica to zombies

I made a group for LibraryThing challenges, with a post for this. Post your solutions on the blog or over there.

Note: You cannot use fiction, nonfiction, read, unread, paperback, hardback, arc, signed, favorite, loved, wishlist or their variants. RULES UPDATE: You can’t add tags, obviously!

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Friday, October 13th, 2006

What language/site do you want?

Did I mention that LibraryThing is now available in a host of languages? Did I mention that users did it all, and that I love you people to pieces and owe everyone a beer? Okay, I’ve mentioned this.

I’m starting to work the language-sites into the functionality. For starters, past users can decide to change their primary language from your profile (choose “edit profile”). This isn’t actually the site you use–you can use whatever site you want, obviously. Rather, you’re setting the language you usually use for reviews, tags, etc. I’m going to guess right now that you guys–a polyglot set–will want to list all the languages you can read. I’ll provide that next. But can we live with one primary language for reveiws and tags and such? If not, the primary language will determine your default language, and I’ll let you change it review-by-review. It you plan to switch languages in the middle of a review, you win, dammit.

What you say will be used so German users can opt to see just German reviews, French users French reviews, etc. Of course, you will ALWAYS be able to see the others too.

From now on, if you signed into a particular language site, your primary language was set to that by default. Germans are in the lead, incidentally. I suppose that was because I introduced the feature at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Which reminds me, I never blogged about that. I’ll probably say more, but in brief I was dog-sick, with a voice like Joe Cocker, and the panel was in German, which I don’t understand. It went something like this: “Blah blah blah web 2.0. Blah blah blah MySpace. Blah blah blah blah LibraryThing. Ho ho ho. Aber, what does the Growling Phlegm-Monster have to say?”

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Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Orhan Pamuk wins the Nobel

You’ve probably already seen it, but Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, author of My Name is Red and Snow, has won the Nobel Prize for Liturerature (official announcement). As something of a Turkophile*—albeit one who’s stuck half-way through Red—that’s great news.

I think this means three things:

  • The much-shortlisted Yaşar Kemal will die without a Nobel. He’s 83 and they’re not going to give it to two Turks in a short span of years.
  • Pamuk is now effectively immune from prosecution for “insulting Turkishness.” Much the same happened to Mahfouz, from being accused of apostasy for Children of Gebelawi and banned in much of the Arab world for supporting peace with Isreal, to being something of a national treasure, put to rest with a state funeral.
  • needs to pick up! At least nine languages are usable and even Welsh is 40% translated, but Turkish is languishing in the single-digits. Why not celebrate Pamuk’s Nobel by entering all your Turkish books and doing a little translating of the site? LibraryThing even has a Turkish library on tap!

*Lived in Bodrum and Alanya for about a year total. Speak bad kitchen-Turkish. Note, a serious Hellenophile as well. Just take a look at my books! I HATE that I have to say this, but, from experience, I do.

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Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Sixty libraries (15 added)

I’ve added 15 libraries:

US: Amherst/Hampshire/Mt. Holyoke/Smith, Bryn Mawr/Haverford/Swarthmore, Cornell University, Minerva (MAINE), UNC, Chapel Hill, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania and—last but not least—the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in case your books run to the ichthyological.
UK: University of Hull, University of Reading
Ireland: University College Cork
The Netherlands: Technische Universiteit Delft
Estonia: ELNET
Latvia: Library Information Network Consortium of Latvia

The news here is the return of a Dutch library (the University of Leuven died recently), and the first Estonian and Latvian libraries. Alas, no Lithuanian ones, although I’m guessing they have some Lithuanian holdings as well.

UPDATE: It just struck me that a lot of the “libraries” LibraryThing searches are actually consortia. Maybe we should start saying “Searches 500 libraries around the world.” Kinda bogus, but “60 libraries” underplayings things a lot. Hmmm…

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Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

YouTube and LibraryThing: Doing the math

If YouTube is worth $1.65 billion, and has 34 million visitors per month, is LibraryThing, with 1.29 million visitors per month, worth $62 million?

No. Anyway, how a “visitor” got to be worth $50 is beyond me. I’m a big YouTube visitor, and all I’ve done is suck down free bandwidth watching funtwo play the Pachelbel Canon and that George Washington rap, not to mention watching John Stewart clips that are probably not authorized and therefore part of YouTube’s enormous legal downside.

See the Message from Chad and Steve. I can’t decide how I feel about that message—amused or icky.

UPDATE: The only video tagged “LibraryThing” on YouTube is Richard Wallis of Talis demonstrating the LibraryThingThing. Pretty nice explanation, actually.

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Monday, October 9th, 2006


I’m under the impression that the Danish sprøde, crispy, also means cool, or maybe cute. I know this–if I know this–from the song Super-sprøde, which (my beloved) Boston band Freezepop wrote for their Danish fans.* It is therefore my only word of Danish.

So, let me use this word to praise Ottox, who almost single-handedly translated LibraryThing into Danish, tranlating over 1,000 words, phrases and paragraphs, making him also the top translator overall. Thank you Ottox; you’re super-sprøde. I, and all future Danish LibraryThingers, thank you. You’re crispy as they come.

In other news, I’m back from the Frankfurt Book Fair, and working on the site again. I added host of languages—Bulgarian, Basque! (complete list)—and will be fleshing out some of the translation and “internationalization” features and, together with Abby, getting the word out to all the non-English language bloggers who’ve covered LibraryThing in the past.** With luck, LibraryThing can be as big a success in other languages as it’s been in English, and the “collective intelligence” of Bretons and Frisians will end up making the site better for Beantowners and Fogtowners as well.

UPDATE: I should similarly congratulate bookerij, who, while not SINGLEHANDEDLY translating Dutch, has done the lion’s share, as well as that of some other languages. Indeed, this morning, I awoke to discover Bookerij had 1081 edits, to Ottox’s 1080. That CAN’T be a coincidence!

UPDATE 2: The co-director of their recent video Parlez-vous Freezepop is a long-time, loyal LibraryThinger. Wow! Small world.

*Not a great song. I recommend “Duct Tape My Heart,” “Bike Thief,” “Science Genius Girl.” They combine an extremely cold form–not one I otherwise listen to–with warm, humane lyrics. Abby does not, I think, agree.
**Yes, author improvements are next.

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Thursday, October 5th, 2006

LibraryThing in your language

Update 1: is launched. No more subdomains for the Germans!

Update 2: Abby added Czech, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Finnish. Except for Czech–where we now tie into the Czech national library–the others lack their own library. Of course, major academic collections and the Library of Congress have considerable holdings in these languages.

Less than a week ago, I let a new feature sneak in. Members were invited to help translate LibraryThing into half-a-dozen languages (German, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Welsh, Catalan and Turkish)*. URLs for each of the language-sites were posted. Untranslated parts appeared in light yellow, with a link on each page to a simple translation form.

The whole thing has taken off beyond our wildest dreams. LibraryThing has a LOT of text. Even so, German reached 75% in a single day. To our surprise, even big paragraph-sized hunks went quickly. It probably didn’t hurt that we posted “top translator” statistics for each language; Thingamabrarians unite altruism and competitiveness to an astouding degree. It proves what I’ve come to believe. “Social software” is 50% social, and you people are simply amazing.

Since then we’ve been making more pages translateable**. There’s been a lot of vigorous discussion on the general translation group, and on each language’s group. We introduced some new languages–Spanish, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian now, Portuguese soon), Swedish, Danish, Irish). When I get back from tonight–I’m at the Frankfurt Book Fair–I’ll bring a dozen or so more live (Czech, Latvian, Lithuanian, etc.).

Go ahead and see the current list, with percentages.

Translating is the first step in a more comprehensive “internationaliation” of the site. We’ve also made progress on this, including fixing many (but not all) character set problems for newly-retrieved books, and adding new libraries, including a number in Germany itself. Note that previously-entered books still mostly use HTML entities for character, not UTF8. This will be changed soon.

It’s been remarkable seeing it develop. Cheers to all who’ve been helping out!

That’s all I can write now. My German hotel is rooking me something terrible on the internet service, and I need to get down to the Fair. I’ll update this message later, with more details.

*The list was deliberately mixed. Welsh in particular was a nod to LibraryThing’s unexpectedly strong Welsh continent—including three Welsh blog profiles. I feel that small, threatened languages like Welsh can get a lot out of LibraryThing, insofar as social networking helps unite scattered speakers, and
**Including the list of 500 MARC-specification languages. The system considers all “snippets” equally important, so that hit the percentages hard.

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Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Banned bookpile winner

We didn’t want to knock our post about Squirl off the top, but we’ve got a lot to blog about. I’m a day late in announcing the winner of the banned bookpile contest, so without further ado…

The winner (who gets a year’s membership to LT) is ellen.w . Congrats!

As always, the entries were fabulous, and represented a lot of time, effort, and creativity. There were some great others, I really liked the ones organized around themes – children’s books, books banned for because of the occult and/or sex, books worth owning twice – and of course, the one with Nancy Pearl flying to the rescue!

Labels: book pile

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

A plug for Squirl

Portland, Maine is small and not very tech-focused. There are few web companies, but no “Web 2.0″ ones I was aware of of. So it came as something of a surprise to discover a VERY Web 2.0 company that even does cataloging, just like LibraryThing. What are the odds? helps you keep track of your “collections.” Got a trove of female action figures, PEZ dispensers, panda bear stamps, 45s, Star Wars-enalia, hobo nickels**, ticket stubs, or dead bugs? Put them up on Squirl and show the world. There’s even some social networking built in, and the developers are adding features daily. Now, if you want, you can put your books on Squirl. But this isn’t its strongest suit, and it’s certainly not the focus.

Last week co-founder John McGrath and I met for coffee and hit it off. He’s one talented guy. I really hope Squirl takes off. Alternately, I hope it tanks, he loses his job and he comes to work for LibraryThing. The two ideas are bickering on my shoulders. Anyway, John and I agreed to meet regularly and talk about and critique each others’ sites. I’m expecting a lot of good to come from that.

So, check it out and let us know what you think of it. I admire its aesthetic. LibraryThing could learn from, even if I wouldn’t want to go all-the-way Basecamp like they have. And we should add the ability to take pictures of your books separate from the cover shot. Book collectors would like that, I think.***

Squirl has been added to the “also on” list in your profile, if you want to link accounts, and John has gone ahead and enabled a similar feature over there. Maybe in the future we’re have enough overlap that we can say “People who collect Perrier bottles enjoy reading Proust.” Well, they do.

*It’s even built in Rails!
**Issued during Hobo Joe Junk Pan’s tenure as Secretary of the Treasury. (I don’t get this!)
***Actually, Squirl only allows one picture per item now. I’m betting they allow more soon. It was the main complaint in an otherwise very positive review. That guy also reviews LibraryThing (but did he see all the fields?). Anyway, doing “collectible” books better is a priority for us, and one that our partner,, can help us with a lot.

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Sunday, October 1st, 2006

One toe in translation

We’re not “announcing” internationalization yet, but you can hear about and start playing with the translation feature here.

Here are some URLs—THEY WILL CHANGE! (German) (French) (Dutch) (Catalan) (Norwegian) (Turkish) (Welsh)

This is obviously not the final list. At this point we’re testing it out, not officially rolling out langauges. For one thing, we have some functionality issues to work out.

PS: As expected, Welsh is actually going somewhere!

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