LibraryThing’s employees (from left): Chris Catalfo, Abby, Jeremy, Kate, Brian, Tim, Mike, Chris Holland
LibraryThing turned seven today.(1) Seven years! It’s been a blink of time in my life, but it’s a long time, and positively an eternity online. Where so many of our 2005 web 2.0 cohort died, sold out or burned out, LibraryThing somehow survived. We’re stable, profitable and growing, with over 1.5 million members using LibraryThing.com and the other language sites, and over 400 library systems around the world using our library services.
Chris and Abby win.
Jeremy and Tim lose.
Chief praise goes to our members, the best book people I’ve met online. When LibraryThing went up I wasn’t sure that more than a few hundred people would ever want it. I’m happy I was wrong! After the members, LibraryThing was created by its employees. We’ve had many fine employees before, but I feel (and Abby and Chris H. agree) that we’ve got the best team we’ve ever had right now—a harmonious and balanced mix of talented people. Our most recent project, BookPsychic, solidified my feeling that we had it right. We know we’ve got a lot to do. I look forward to working with them. (You can see the team above.)
To talk about the future, the LibraryThing staff (minus one) came to Portland last week for what we’ve been calling AllThing12—a week of strategic discussions, user-interface arguing, employee scheduling, and lots of eating and drinking.(2) Families and friends came at the end, so we branched off into barbecue and sandcastles.
Some of our pictures can be seen here, at the AllThing12 gallery.
A few main points emerged, especially about LibraryThing.com development:
- LibraryThing will live and prosper. It’s been rough at times, but we’re bullish on the future.
- Taking the time for BookPsychic and another near-complete feature for libraries was worth it. They are models for future development, and potentially explosive products.
- LibraryThing.com needs significant work, especially in fixing bugs and making good features better. Our design needs small but significant updates.
- Our plans for mobile did not work out—the path we were going down is dead. Finding a new path must be a priority.
- We crafted a new schedule whereby LibraryThing.com development is ramped up, with Tim recommitting his time and at least one of the other three programmers working with him at all times. Tim’s happy about this (so is Jeremy).
- We have the development schedule through February plotted out. The two stand-out projects for LibraryThing.com will be in revising how members search for and add books, and getting it together on mobile.
All told, it was a great meeting. We made some strategic decisions, hammered out parts of the interfaces and planned for the future. And we reconnected socially—a vital task for a company that’s almost entirely virtual. We drank and made off-color jokes. We heedlessly mixed business and family. And when our director of HR fell off her chair, we laughed our heads off and took pictures—and we still have our jobs!
1. Or maybe yesterday. It’s not entirely clear.
2. Our sysadmin, Brian, in Kansas, had classes and wasn’t able to join us—so we video Skyped him in. Next time!