Archive for the ‘1’ Category

Friday, May 25th, 2007

See all a work’s tags

LibraryThing members have added well over 18 million tags. Of course, they aren’t equally distributed. Popular books now sport thousands or even tens of thousands of tags. Work pages have a small tag cloud for each book, but it only shows the most popular thirty or so.

So I added a link to show all tags for a work. It shows the whole “long tail.” It’s very long indeed. It’s stunning.

Here’s Freakonomics with the standard tag cloud:

Click “show all tags” and you get around five pages of tags. Here’s a piece of that:

If you want to see the actual numbers, you can click the “show numbers” link.

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Monday, May 14th, 2007

LibraryThing for Libraries in Danbury

“You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!”

Over in Thingology I’ve announced the first library to use LibraryThing for Libraries—The Danbury Library in Danbury Connecticut. Works, recommendations, tags—they’ve got it all.

I’ve said I wouldn’t do as much cross-posting, now that we have a combined blog feed (see over on the right). But I thought I’d mention it here, and explain a bit about what it means for LibraryThing.

First, as members of LibraryThing, you should feel proud that your data—anonymous and aggregate, as the Terms of Use say—is helping library patrons to find books. Your passions—the books on your shelves—beat statistical “paths” through books that others can follow. Your tags–the way you think about your stuff–will help people find subjects not covered by traditional subject classification.

For those concerned about development time, I want to emphasize that LibraryThing for Libraries is good for LibraryThing. On the most basic level, it’s going to help our bottom line. That means more programmers making features and fixing bugs. Conceivably, it could mean cheaper accounts.

It also deepens our relationship with libraries, and returns a favor. LibraryThing was built on library data, and we’ve been graciously invited into the library conversation. We are charging for LibraryThing for Libraries, but our prices are in an entirely different league from what libraries are accustomed to pay for their online catalog software. And as these catalogs add “social” features, LibraryThing for Libraries will exert powerful downward pressure on prices. Ultimately, the industry needs a newcomer to take a huge slice of a smaller market. We’re not going to be that company, but we can push the trend along.

LibraryThing for Libraries has also taught us a lot about library catalogs. These are some thorny, mysterious systems! Until now, we’ve relied exclusively on the simplicity of Z39.50 connections, which most libraries don’t have. But we can do more. With out new-found experience, we can start connecting to the remaining 95%. If nothing else, this should help our language reach.

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Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

A very short introduction

At long last, the often requested quickstart guide—A very short introduction to LibraryThing.

It’s intended as a quick overview of LibraryThing’s features, to help new members get started, all the way from signing up to creating a blog widget. It’s hard to come up with the balance of enough information to help without overwhelming, so I’m looking for your feedback. What should be added, changed, deleted, clarified…?

Discussion in this talk post.

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Monday, May 7th, 2007

Going to Book Expo America in New York

Book Expo America, ABA’s annual book industry trade convention is in New York City this year, and I (Abby) am going to be there. I’ll be speaking on Thursday, May 31st (from 1-2pm—mark your calendars!) on a panel called “Using Social Networking to Build Author Brands.”

We just found out that the our competitor, Shelfari, is also going to be at BEA this year, and is apparently using some of their Amazon funding to co-sponsor an event. Hey! Well, not only does LibraryThing appear to have sixty-five times as many book lovers as them, but we think we have a lot more to offer authors, booksellers and publishers and we’re going to prove it.*

Authors. It was at last year’s BEA that we launched the LT Author program. After Tim and I spent a day walking around trying to describe LT in a nutshell**, we realized we had been telling people, “it’s like MySpace, but for booklovers.” Well, MySpace is all about bands and musicians promoting their music. Wouldn’t LibraryThing be a good place for authors to do the same? What better place to promote your new book than a website full of avid bibliophiles?

And so was born the LT Author button, a shiny yellow badge that connects an author’s “author page” with their profile page. So far LibraryThing has snagged 395 authors. (See the complete list.)

Best of all, they’re not just authors who clicked a box. To be part of the program, you have to have a LibraryThing account and put in at least 50 books. What is your favorite author reading? Find out.

Neil Gaiman’s author photo. Members have added over 15,000 pictures and photos of authors (see recently added ones), with alibrarian and leebot leading the pack. They deserve some kudos—it’s actually a pretty intensive process, often involving writing authors, publishers, or photographers for permission, so the sheer number of photos is all the more impressive. Plus, it makes for a nice gallery. :)

LibraryThing members have also added over 92,000 links to author pages—links to author home pages, blogs, publisher pages, Wikipedia pages, interviews, articles, fan sites. That’s a lot of links.

Booksellers. We’d love to add more bookstores to our “bookstores that integrate“—adding availability and pricing information on every work page. We’ve got only three so far, but we’ll be adding two major “chunks” of them in the next few months—to at least 100 total. It’s a great way for people to be able to see at a glance if a book is at their local bookstore.

Publishers. So far, we’re not doing anything for publishers! But there’s a big announcement coming soon. Be on the edge of your seats!

So what can we do to make LibraryThing big at BEA this year?

Our big idea so far is a par-tay. Of course, anyone and everyone can find some time to talk to me during BEA, but I’d like to have a big meet-up. Authors, publishers, booksellers, and hey—readers. Anyone in NYC who’s around is invited, not just the book-industry professions allowed to go to BEA (they have to restrict it, because there’s so much free merchandise on offer.)

I made a BEA 2007 group, post there with ideas of where we should meet (I’m thinking maybe a restaurant near the convention center?). New Yorkers, I call on you for suggestions!

We’re also thinking about bring a bunch of CueCats, and giving them out to authors, to entice them into becoming LT Authors… What else?

*[Written by Tim] Shelfari doesn’t release any statistics. But they do release the top 20 bookshelves. The 20th bookshelf on Shelfari has 1,360 books. LibraryThing has 1,378 members with that many. Hence 20/1,378 = 68.9 times as large. You will note that we do not abuse our other competitors–just Shelfari. Some of them are quite good! There’s a good thread going about them. We want people to check them out, and come back to tell us how to improve LibraryThing!
**”This is me in a nutshell: HELP! I’m in a nutshell!”

(photo by Rick Dikeman on Wikipedia, under GNU Free Documentation License)

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Monday, May 7th, 2007

Subjects get faster; the rest will follow

Everything on the web is better if it’s faster. Slow pages are a silent killer.

So we’re working to speed thing up. We’ve long done “situational” caching. But our growth is relentless—we’ll hit 200,000 registered members today—and we’ve had no good, generalized solution. We’ve recently been working on two solutions, for database and page-level caching. Together they should speed up certain cacheable pages, like works, authors and tags. The more resources we can free, the faster the uncacheable pages, like Talk, will become as well.

So far, only subject pages are being cached, eg.,

Subject pages were a big problem. The worst took a minute to load. When Google’s “spider” program went at them, with one request/second, the servers would sweat. Subject pages are now cached whenever someone hits a page, and stays so for at least week.

Subjects are a test. There are some kinks to work out. (For example, changing the non-English translations doesn’t immediately clear all affected pages.) Once we get where we want, we’ll roll it out page-caching wherever we can use it. Query caching will follow.

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Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Combined blog feed available

I used Yahoo Pipes to make a combined feed for this blog and our Thingology blog. It was easy to do, and the result is pretty useful. The three feeds are as follows:

I also edited the employee list on the right, to add Altay. He is the magic behind the LibraryThing for Libraries Javascript, but almost nobody’s seen that yet, so we’re waiting for his first user feature to give him a proper introduction.

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Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

Many more Wikipedia citations

You’ll notice many more Wikipedia links from work pages. The total has increased by about 200%, and the coverage by at least that.

This improves what I did in February. That worked by looking for ISBN patterns. Of course, not all books cited in Wikipedia have ISBNs. And even when there is one, many Wikipedia contributors omit it. (As far as I’m concerned, ISBNs look chintzy in a bibliography anyway.)

I’ve redone it, this time also looking for telltale title/author patterns, and running the matches against LibraryThing’s vast and usefully messy dataset. The logic is somewhat fuzzy and therefore imperfect. But I haven’t noticed any problems.

The number of citations expanded a lot.* Some entries exploded. Take Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions:

Notably, it caught casual references to books, not just structured ones. For example, the article on Science wars mentions Kuhn’s work in running prose, not in the bibliography or footnotes.

I haven’t updated our free Wikipedia citation feed. That maps articles to ISBNs, but the new data is work-based. If anyone wants to use the new data, let me know and I’ll tackle the problem. Cool as I think it would be, I haven’t seen any libraries adding Wikipedia links to their catalogs yet.

*The fact that its a new feed, and the somewhat fluid interactions between ISBN-based and work-based matching make it tricky to estimate, but it looks like a 200% increase.

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Friday, April 27th, 2007

Metacritic links added

I knocked out a quick feature connecting LibraryThing works pages to their corresponding page on Metacritic. Metacritic is like RottenTomatoes, giving brief excerpts from press reviews and boiling them down into a single number (the “Metascore”). Unlike RottenTamatoes, Metacritic covers more than movies. Here’s an example from Sam Harris’ The End of Faith.

Metacritic’s books coverage does not seem as strong as some other categories (560 ISBNs total), but I think it’s useful and interesting. Perhaps some day LibraryThing will collect review snippets itself, but for now Metacritic should be a useful link.

Metacritic was informed of what we were planning, but no money changed hands. Hey, who can turn down a free link?

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Saturday, April 21st, 2007

Tanned, rested and ready

I’m flying back from four talks in four days—Computers in Libraries (twice), the Library of Congress, and Digital Odyssey in Toronto.

The Library of Congress talk was videoed, and will be public in a couple weeks.* It was great fun to do. (Who could pass up the chance to discuss the tag vampire smut with some of the world’s top catalogers?) And as a long-time user and admirer of the Library of Congress, it was quite an honor. I pushed them hard on openning up their data, and the shortcomings of the LC subject system, but they were good natured about it. And my anti-OCLC feelings drew no fire. As one of them put it, only half-kidding, “They wouldn’t be anything without us.”**


Derik A. Badman’s cartoon of Roy Tennant (left) and me (right) giving talks. Actually, Roy’s example was about murdered midget gypsy prostitutes. Well that’s three conferences he won’t be invited to!

At CIL I got a lot of opportunity to show off LibraryThing for Libraries, our new push to put LibraryThing data into library catalogs. Response was positive, even fevered.*** Demos went well, showing book recommendations and tags in a large public library. (“Chick lit” and “cyberpunk” are great examples, but I have to size people up quickly to know which one to use.) There was a certain amount of disbelief about its coolest feature–no back-end integration and working with any system. But anti-system-vendor sentiment is so high that this was welcomed. The first round of libraries should be at least a dozen strong, with both academics and small and large publics.

The highlight of all three conferences was the chance to puts faces to names, often names of blogs. My Google Reader feed is suddenly full of people I know! (But if I start listing I’ll surely forget someone…) I had a couple good meals, one good argument, a great lunch conversation at the LC and, as a coda, a stroll around Toronto.

(later) I’m off the plane now and in D.C., staying with friends for a few days. There’s a lot left to do for LibraryThing for Libraries, but the big initial push is over, and we can throw time back into building new features for LibraryThing. A number of them will revolve around JavaScript. Altay, our new JS guru, will be rolling out some serious magic.

*Among other things they need to synch it up with the “slides.” But I do my talks live, driving around at breakneck speed. The staffer assigned to coordinate the synch looked positively frightened.
**I owe a blog post revising my post about OCLC and MIT. Apparently OCLC didn’t stop them, but MIT legal.
***I came back from one talk to find the booth table littered with business cards. I felt like an NBA star at a nightclub.

Conference coverage:

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Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

5¢/patron, $1/student

From now on if a public library or a college or university wants to buy memberships for everyone in a community, it’s 5¢/patron, $1/student.

(see Thingology)

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