Archive for November, 2007

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Norway, Sweden and New Zealand!

We’ve gone and released eleven Norwegian, Swedish and New Zealand libraries.

Norway gets its first libraries, six in number, as does New Zealand, five. Sweden now has five, up from three. Of course, Norway and Sweden have their own, translated LibraryThings, no.LibraryThing.com and se.LibraryThing.com.

The libraries include The Royal Library of Sweden (LIBRIS), the Oslo Public Library (Deichmanske Bibliotek), the University of Auckland and the National Library of New Zealand. The new batch comes on top of twenty-five Danish and twenty-eight new Australian libraries, raising the new total to 132. Momentum is building. We’ll release Finland next week, but just wait until we release new libraries from the USA, Canada and the Spanish-speaking world!

Getting people outside the US to join LibraryThing is all about making it easy for them to enter their books; this should make it a lot easier for Norwegians, Swedes and Kiwis to join the fun.

New features, Monday. We had planned to release some major improvments to book editing and cataloging quality today but at 5:30am last night Chris and I called it a night, frustrated with some Internet Explorer bugs. (Chris is still asleep. I got up at 9. Which one of us has a child, I wonder?) The screen-capture was taken at 3:30 from our video chat. Don’t you wish you worked for LibraryThing?

Anyway, I don’t like to release really major features late in the week. And we can improve things. So we’re going to pile on some more goodness and release everything Sunday night/Monday morning.

Downtime. We’re going to go down for much of Saturday morning, changing the database in important ways.

Labels: new libraries, new zealand, norway, sweden

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Twenty-five Danish libraries added

If you’re Danish and have books, we can help.

We’ve gone from one to twenty-five Danish libraries available as cataloging sources. They are available on the Danish-language LibraryThing, dk.librarything.com, and the English site.

Denmark is a small country, so it should be low on our agenda, down with the “Wisconsin push.”* But it’s a country of unusually passionate readers. Our Dutch experiment proved that catering to small, literate countries works.** Five million Danish readers? Come on in!

Libraries. Denmark is also a country of libraries and, as I learned when asked to speak before librarians in Aarhus (Århus), Danish libraries are way ahead when it comes to innovative uses of technology. Among other things, Danish libraries reach out. They certainly have more open Z39.50 connections—the connections LibraryThing needs—than anywhere else.

Before this we drew from only one library, Det kongelige Bibliotek (The Royal Library). Our data import had character-set problems and, owing to some creative changes to the MARC standard—called DANMARC, I kid you not—author-name problems too. We’ve now added twenty-four other public, university and government libraries, from Aalborg Universitets Bibliotek to the Vejen Bibliotek.

Free accounts. Read this far? Have a Danish email address? Well, I’m going to give out free accounts to the first twenty-five Danish members who write to me from a Danish (dk) email address. You need to have made an account and entered at least fifty books. Send email to tim@librarything.com.

Help us out. So far, the Danish Zeitgeist and groups have not been very active. There aren’t many Danish author photos either. No doubt many Danes are counted as members of the English-language site. But let’s if we can’t get this to take off!

Other news. Multiple authors and roles are being released tomorrow if it kills us!


*I mean no disrespect for Wisconsin, of course. Denmark and Wisconsin are not only the same in population; they are the yin and yang of quality cheese.
**This goes against conventional “social networking” wisdom. MySpace, Facebook and the like are only now getting seriously into non-US markets, and none have a Dutch or Danish version. In theory, going after small markets is like lighting solitary candles in the sand when what you really need is roaring bonfire. But small networks can also more densely packed, allowing for faster spread, and the Netherlands and Denmark have exceedingly open and engaged societies, ideal for both social networking and literary ferment.

Photo credit: Danish flag photo by Flikr user Jacob Bøtter, of Copenhagen, used under a CC-Attribution license.

Labels: danish libraries, denmark, new libraries

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Which of your authors are on LibraryThing?

I’d added a feature to show you which of your authors—the authors of the books in your library—are also LibraryThing members. We call them LibraryThing Authors.

The impetus was an unfortunate event. Two LibraryThing Authors went hog-wild “friending” members. Some members were annoyed, and I stepped into create an upper limit of requests and comments per day (it’s 70). But it did raise the fact that there was no adequate way for LibraryThing authors to connect with their readers.

LibraryThing Authors? If you don’t know, LibraryThing Authors are authors who are members of LibraryThing and have put some or all of their personal books onto the site.

Wouldn’t it be great to see what your favorite authors were reading? Well, that’s the idea, and, so far, it’s been quite a draw. We have 667 authors so far. We hope this makes it even more attractive for all concerned.

Labels: authors, LT author, new feature

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

28 Australian libraries / The Book Show

UPDATED UPDATE: ABC’s The Book Show aired the interview. It was fun to do. And today (Dec. 5 over there) we got a—admittedly syndicated—mention in Australia’s national newspaper The Australian. Go Australia!


We’ve jumped from 2 to 28 Australian libraries. This should make it a lot easier for Australians to add books to LibraryThing.

In related news, I’m appearing on Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s The Book Show, at 10am today (Nov. 22 in Australia), to talk about LibraryThing. The show is repeated at midnight. You can listen in from their shows page or with their podcast.

The Book Show. The Book Show is a DAILY show! I listened to a half-dozen of them to prepare. I enjoyed the one on the PR industry, with Bob Burton (Nov. 19), the one on marginialia (Oct. 19). They did LT Early Reviewer‘s author Amy Bloom on October 9.

Libraries. The libraries include state libraries from Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales and universities like Canberra, Tasmania, Sydney, Flinder’s University and Charles Darwin University. There are also some special collections, like the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian Graduate School of Management. And of course we still have the National Library of Australia and the Australian National University.

The new Australian libraries raises our total to 97. Over the coming weeks it’s going to go much higher. But we figured it would be fun to unleash them in groups. Also, the new libraries introduce a host of new challenges, including new standards, like UNIMARC, and non-Latin character sets, and we wanted to make sure we got everything right.

Casey will go into much greater detail about the new libraries soon. But you should also see a substantial increase in cataloging quality, particularly with character sets. At first, this will just be for newly-added books, but we’ll make an effort to improve older records too. We also have a new “author authors” and “roles” system. We were going to unveil it today, but a couple of minor bugs kept us from it. We’ll get that out tomorrow.

Wish me luck on the radio. From listening to old ones, I determined that the show is very much up my alley, but very relaxed. I’m not. Maybe I should have a whiskey or two before I go on.


The photo above come from the one to the left, this photo, by Johan Larson. It was the first commercially-usable and remixable Flickr result for “Australian flag.”

Unfortunately, LibraryThing’s Australian—Tasmanian!—systems guy, John Dalton (Felius), was unavailable for under-flag exuberance. The individual in question is almost certainly not excited about LibraryThing’s new libraries. But, if he has any interest, how about a free account?

Labels: australia, new feature, new libraries

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Boston Antiquarian Book Fair

Is anyone going to the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center tomorrow (Sunday)? Abby and I are going. If you see the two of us strolling around—with black (me) and canary (Abby) LibraryThing t-shirts—say hi.

We’re obviously not allowed to sell anything on a regular ticket, but we’ll bring a dozen of those CueCat barcode scanners to give out to Thingamabrarians, first-come, first-served.

While LibraryThing has done very well among book-nuts generally, it hasn’t necessarily caught on as strong in the high-end antiquarian market. I can think of one of two things we could do, like trying to estimate prices, and allowing members to upload multiple photos. Any ideas?

Here are some of the covers I’ve received recently:

Labels: antiquarian books, boston

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Yesterday’s downtime

We had a bad outage yesterday on the newly-installed web server. This followed two days of needle-like 5-10 minute outages. Needless to say, we’ve gone back to the old server.

It was a bad one—four-hours long and in the middle of the day. Worse, we didn’t have a “down” page up. This wasn’t for lack of trying; our server was completely non-responsive. When we got it back, we had a number of hours of “rolling outages” as the server caches refilled. Add a couple of logistical issues* and it was a nightmare. Although user comment has been kind—so kind that I fear that negative voices are going unheard!**—you have a right to expect more. This was a bad one, and we’re going to learn from it.

I do want to stress that no data was lost. This was all about the “web server” (the part that sends you the page) not the “database servers,” which have all the data. We have five live backups of your data now, and daily offsite backups too. We didn’t have working web server backups. We should.

Details. The last blog post includes a paragraph that is, in retrospect, a bit funny. (Not funny-ha-ha, mind you.)

“If you don’t notice anything, you can congratulate Felius [John], who just moved us to a new, dedicated web server.”

Well, the new server was the problem. And if you can’t congratulate him on that, you can congratulate him on getting things back up quickly once he was brought in. (Initially we thought we could do it without him, and it was the middle of the night in Australia.) He worked like a dog yesterday, and will be doing so today. Fortunately, we now have really excellent monitoring in place. The monitoring didn’t help us in the crisis—we were monitoring a dead man—but it will help John reconstruct what happened.

In the wake of this, he has two jobs: Figure out what happened and make sure it never happens again. In system issues, John is the “decider,” but we have a rough idea what needs to happen. First, we need webserver fail-over. Second, we need better tools for getting back on our feet. It makes no sense to have rolling blackouts for users when search-engines take up about half our traffic. After that John will work to the new webserver working, this time for good.

Casey, Chris and I are going to be doing our part to help on systems today. We can’t do what John does, but we can do something. We’re running on 8/12 memory cache. I don’t expect problems, but I can’t be sure.

Thanks for all your patience or, if you didn’t have any, for your righteous indignation! We need them both.

In other news: (whew!)


*I’m in Cambridge, MA so I couldn’t get into the server room to work on it, although I was about to drive up. Our “colo” guy, who should have been available, was unreachable too, something that’s never happened before—and a good reason not to host out of Portland, ME where there’s only one server guy at the colo. And our “remote reboot” wasn’t installed yet.
**This is an interesting reversal of something I saw with the Second-Life post, where negative voices drowned out positive. I don’t want to criticize members who cut us slack, but I think naysayers can also feel squelched.

Labels: downtime

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Bonus batch of Free Early Reviewer books from Random House

Thanksgiving is a week away and in the spirit of giving, Random House is offering a bonus round of books for LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers.

They’re giving out four different books (425 copies in total) so it’s a big batch!

The list is here—go forth and request.

You have until noon EST on Wednesday the 21st (that’s the day before Thanksgiving) to request a copy. Enjoy!

Labels: early reviewers, random house

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

New server/Shelfari evidence

If you don’t notice anything, you can congratulate Felius, who just moved us to a new, dedicated web server. Believe it or not we’ve been running our web server and our main “write” database on the same machine. (Also, we put forks in toasters!) Anyway, the new server should help us out in a number of ways, and we have some very cool updates coming soon. Among other things, we’ll be increasing our library sources by many hundreds of libraries.

In other news, I just posted my evidence that one of our competitors, Shelfari, engaged in a campaign of “astroturfing”—posting blog comments pretending to be users. This follows my evidence that they’re grown by something close to spam, a deceitful invite interface. It is certainly true that I’ve got the bit between my teeth on this—I have been holding back on this stuff for months. When you get right down to it, the evidence is so damning I don’t care what people think of my motives. Anyway, I have been eager to praise other competitors for their sites (see both posts). Pick the best site, just don’t pick the one that cheats.

“Social cataloging” has become something like an industry, with over 40 sites in a dozen languages. I think our success was a major factor, but we know we didn’t start it.* When one bad actor—and the best-funded one!—behaves so poorly it reflects on all of us. Indeed, I finally decided to go public with my URLs after I told someone on a plane what I did and they asked if I was that site that was sending all those spammy invitations.

I’m proud of what I do. I think there’s something legitimately interesting underneath (see my Library of Congress talk). A bunch of music people with a million dollars from Amazon and no ethics is not going to spoil the party.

There. That felt better. So, I’ve got them off my chest. Time to hunker down and pump out some useful and important features—collections, better language parsing, better secondary-author functionality. As always, thank you for all the support.

*Bibliophil did, or perhaps 37Signals’ Singlefile.

Labels: server, shelfari, spam

Monday, November 12th, 2007

A Dutch swap site

I’ve just added a new swap site, Boekenruilen.nl, a new Dutch book swapping site. Here’s the swap page for Duncton Tales, available on Boekenruilen.nl.

Book-swapping is another of the “29 Things” many members don’t know about LibraryThing.

In short, there are a growing number of swap sites out there—sites where you can give and give books for a modest fee or even for postage alone. The largest site is BookMooch, but many members swear by other sites, and there are a growing number of country-specific sites. Boekenruilen.nl is the first Dutch site of its kind.

Some time ago, we decided NOT to get into the swapping game ourselves, but to integrate with sites. Almost all sites have met our modest requirements for integration. In this way every work on LibraryThing can have a “swap” page, showing what sites have a book and making it easy to give or get a book from a swap site. The page can be found in the “Buy, borrow or swap” box.

Examples: Atonement, The Kite Runner, Freakonomics.

Labels: 29things, boekenruilen.nl, swap

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Does your bookstore have it? (Calling BookSense stores!)

Introducing our new series: “29 Things You Didn’t Know you Could Do with LibraryThing” our attempt to introduce cheesy “style magazine” graphics and arbitrary numbers to the LibraryThing blog!*

Today’s topic is Bookstore Integration. Did you know that LibraryThing integrates with local bookstores? Basically, we’ll tell you if your local bookstore has a copy of a book in the store, and what it’s going for. It’s free for you and for the bookstore. It’s particularly easy for the bookstore to set up.

So far, we only have three bookstores in the system:

If you’re near any of these stores, you can add them to your work pages in two ways. Either go to your profile and select “edit profile,” or click the little pencil next to “Buy, borrow or swap” on a work page.

We need bookstores! We’d love to get more bookstores involved. In particular, any independent that uploads its inventory to BookSense can upload the same file to LibraryThing—no problem. If you aren’t a BookSense member, but can still export inventory data, let us know. Basically we need ISBN, price and quantity updated at least once per week.

At one point we explored some “high-level” discussion but, like so many “deals,” nothing came of it. Since the whole thing is basically free promotion for local bookstores, and a service to local customers, we hope that we can get more bookstores, and even bookstore chains involved without another conference call with a corporate marketing director!

As stated, this is a free servie. Like our Early Reviewers program—free buzz for publishers, free books for readers—we aim to do nothing more than make LibraryThing more useful and fun for everybody**. We succeed if LibraryThing gets better, which “aligns” our interests much better than if we negotiating complex deals.

Email tim@librarything.com for more info! Please note that this is a local bookstore offer. We’re not soliciting online bookstores to send their inventories. AbeBooks.com and BookFinder exists already!

*Why 29? Because it looked better than 27 or 28!
**This also applies to our recent movie-ticket give-away, although in exchange for the promotion New Line Cinema did agree to cast Abby as lead in a future production.

Labels: booksense, bookstore integration, bookstores