Archive for the ‘common knowledge’ Category

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Common Knowledge at 5 million!

Earlier in March, LibraryThing Common Knowledge hit five million edits (and flew right on by: another 53,000 have already been added since then!).

The five-millionth CK fact was … drum roll please … the term “American Revolution” added in the “Important events” field on Barbara Tuchman’s book The First Salute by member berry25. Hey berry25, want an LT t-shirt or a CueCat?

Common Knowledge? What’s that?

Common Knowledge, a part of LibraryThing since 2007, is our vast fielded wiki system of bookish data, capturing everything from characters (Frodo Baggins, C-3PO) to series and awards information to related movies, dedications, author information, and much, much more. See the wiki page for a full rundown.

Some of these pages are ridiculously, awesomely complex: check out the Star Wars series page, for example (872 works, with something like 70 sub-series!). To get a sense of the depth and breadth of everything included in Common Knowledge, check out the clouds page.

Who’s added all this info?

CK would not be the amazing resource that it is without the hard work of the many LibraryThing members responsible for those 5 million+ edits. (Back in 2007 Tim predicted it would prove “insanely addictive”, and that seems to have been spot-on). More than 1,000 LTers have contributed at least 600 edits, and some of the totals are extremely impressive. Here are the top five all-time CK contributors:

Can I contribute?

Please do! It’s super easy to add Common Knowledge data – you’ll see the fields at the bottom of every work or author page on LibraryThing. And if you have questions, thoughts, or suggestions, chime in over at the Common Knowledge, WikiThing, HelpThing group.

Here’s to you all, and here’s to five million more Common Knowledge contributions!

Labels: common knowledge, milestones

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Legacy Libraries 2.0: lists, clouds, and more!

Thanks to some fantastic work by Chris Holland (conceptdawg) we’ve just launched a brand new homepage for the Legacy Libraries project, chock full of interesting features and data:

It includes the ability to search the contents of Legacy Libraries (LLs) as a whole or by selected subsets; you can also browse LLs by category (like Authors or Signers of the Declaration of Independence), and see a whole series of clouds about the libraries.

For each category of Legacy Library, like Authors, we’ve added new status markers (complete, in progress, proposed, unitemized), and you can sort each list by status, name, date, or library size.

We’ve also integrated data about the Legacy Libraries into a slightly modified version of Common Knowledge, so each library, regardless of completion status, now has an LLCK profile (here’s John Adams’) containing data about the person and their library (largely for cloud-creation purposes, among other things). Feel free to augment this data, but please do read the help page first, since there are some differences between this and the way other CK edits are done. Any questions, just let me know (, or jbd1 on LT).

This LLCK data allows us to do some really interesting things, like display proposed and unitemized libraries well for the first time (example) and also keep better track of project status. We also, at long last, have a way to highlight the many members of LT who’ve worked so hard on these projects over the (nearly) four years we’ve been cataloging Legacy Libraries (see the contributors cloud at the bottom of the page).

You’ll also notice some integration of these new features on profile and author pages, and Chris has whipped up a handy “Featured Legacy Libraries” module for your homepage (by default at the bottom of the right column).

For more on this, see the Talk thread, and as always, let me know if you have data on a library we should add or further information about any one already on our radar. Submissions of library data are always welcomed and appreciated!

Labels: common knowledge, legacies, legacy libraries

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Separate pages for divided authors!

I’ve introduced separate pages for divided authors. It’s very rough so far. Read about it on Talk.

Labels: common knowledge

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Related Movies in Common Knowledge

Chris has added a feature for related movies in Common Knowledge. Here’s an example, from Romeo and Juliet.

The edit box “autocompletes” with suggestions by polling the IMDB API. Here’s an example from Room with a View.

Come talk about it. We’re still hashing out the best way to do it.

Labels: common knowledge, movies

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Better statistics, other improvements

I spent the weekend cooking up code, not sausages:

1. Series statistics. By popular demand, the member Series Statistics page can now show your series books you have in context of the complete series. (See talk post.)

2. Awards, characters and places. I’ve added similar statistics pages for three other “Common Knowledge” categories—Awards, Characters, Places. (See talk post.)

I also added series, awards, characters and places stats in your profile* and the “Your Zeitgeist” box on your home page (see talk post.)

3. More Green Checkmarks. Green check-marks, the mark that shows when you have a work, have spread further. They are now appearing on work-page recommendations, recommendation pages and in other members’ catalogs. (See talk post.)

4. Power Edit gets better Previously, you could only Power Edit a page at a time (ie., no more than 100 books at a time). I added a feature to allow you to power-edit all the books in a given result set. So, you can do all your books, all the books that match a particular search, etc.

See the talk post.

5. Message Flagging. I’ve improved message-flagging in Talk, so that members can reverse their flagging, as well as counter-flag a message, if they think it was wrongly flagged. (See talk post.)

I also proposed making the Wikipedia policy “Assume good faith?” an official LibraryThing policy, triggering a lively debate about community norms, just what spam is and so forth. See the talk post.

*Originally high, but I moved it down when members hollered.

Labels: common knowledge, new features, statistics

Monday, February 9th, 2009

One million facts

“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!” — first paragraph of DickensHard Times

Three cheers for LibraryThing’s dilligent members. Our Common Knowledge system has hit 1,000,000 member contributions.

Common Knowledge is an innovative “fielded wiki” for book information—collaborative, piecemeal “cataloging” of information about books and authors. We created it back in October 2007—Chris did most of the coding—and it has exceeded our expectations.

The focus is on things not found anywhere else—not cataloged by librarians or publishers. The system’s biggest strength is probably is series coverage, 26,890 and counting. More comprehensive than paid series data, it is also often of higher quality. There is surely no library in the world that accounts for the Star Wars series (plural) better than what LibraryThing members have assembled! Common Knowledge also tracks some 8,860 awards, from the Wolfson History Prize to Nestlé Smarties Book Prize.

Fun, if not quite as full, are lists of 78 books with Lincoln in them, and 23 with Emma Goldman and Puck. Almost 1,700 books take place in New York, 90 in Mars and 49 in Hell. Some 626 authors went to Harvard, three were gas station attendants and four were burried in Uppsala Cathedral. No doubt, there are more of all, but the data is starting to really pile up—a confirmation that Social Cataloging is no joke.

Wherever Common Knowledge goes, it will not be locked up. All Common Knowledge data is free for reuse outside the site, with a handy API as well.

Picking up. The one-millionth entry came early. Edits picked up dramatically when, ten days ago, I introduced a Dead or Alive? page for every member, allowing you to find out how your authors break down on the living/dead scale. They went through the roof when I introduced a similar Male or Female? page. CK also attracted some interest from the initial release of distinct authors—a method for distinguishing between distinct, homonymous authors. (It was a busy weekend.)

The one-millionth Common Knowledge entry was added at 6:47pm (EST) by ladybug1983, who assigned the contemporary romance Taking the Heat as the third book in the series O’Neil Family.

Hey LadyBug, want a t-shirt?

Labels: common knowledge, social cataloging

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Common Knowledge: Names, Relationships and Events

Chris and I have introduced four new Common Knowledge fields, for authors and works.

Author Names. LibraryThing’s author system is personally libertarian and globally democratic. You can change your own author names to your heart’s delight. On the global level author names are combined and separated by members, with the most common name ending up on top.

That system has two main problems. First, Library has no good method for separatin out homonymous authors. (It’s a big problem; it’s on our list.) And most-common logic has its limitations, particularly in picking the best name for an author and in laying out what the many variants mean.

To improve things we’ve added a number of optional name fields. “Canonical name” was already there, as a foolproof way to set the “most common” form. To this we’ve added “Legal name” and “Other names.”

“Legal Name” is provided for users who want to record the most accurate, most fiddly form of a name, eg., “George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron.” It can hold multiple names, to capture given names, and so forth.* “Other names” is for pen names, aliases, stage names, etc.

Two examples should illustrate the differences nicely:

Canonical Name: Twain, Mark
Legal Name: Clemens, Samuel Langhorne
Other Names: Snodgrass, Quintus Curtius
Canonical Name: Rice, Anne
Legal Name: Rice, Howard Allan Frances O’Brien
O’Brien, Howard Allen (given)
Other Names: Rampling, Anne
Roquelaure, A. N.

Relationships. We’ve also added a “Relationships” field, intended to capture when an author’s spouse, son or other relative is also an author (eg., Martin Amis). So far at least, it’s only intended to capture author-to-author relations, creating author-page links. LibraryThing can’t be a all-out genealogy site!*

The result can be rather fun. Starting from Isabel Fonseca, author of Attachment you can now go to well-known British novelist Martin Amis, to his well-known father Kingsley Amis, to his second wife, the British novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, to her first huband Peter Scott, a popular naturalist whose father was Robert Falcon Scott (Scott of the Antarctic) and godfather Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie, great grandfather of Kevin Bacon (not true).

Events. We’ve also added an “Important Events” field to works. “Important Events” now follows “Persons” and “Important Places.” It was designed for events like the Great Fire of London, World War II or the 2000 Election.

As with Important Places, it is useful to agree on terms. CK’s autocomplete function helps there. When in doubt, however, I’d go with the Wikipedia form for both fields.

*Porn names not allowed.
**I’m not so sure about “friend” relationships, although that’s currently allowed. I found it difficult enough to reach an end from Isabel Fonseca. With friends, I don’t think I could have ever stopped.

Labels: authors, common knowledge, new features

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Series, Awards, Characters, Places

Some time ago we added pages for series. We’ve now added pages for three other Common Knowledge fields: Awards, Important Places and People/Characters.

All four page types, together with the author pages, now also sport extensive cross-linking, so you can get from Stephen King to the Bram Stoker Awards to Hannibal Lecter to the Marquis de Sade to Cornwall to Guenevere. (Bonus points if you can get back!)

Here are some observations on the various page types:

Awards. Awards are important to a lot of readers. Personally I have no use for them, but they’re fun to browse through. And there are so many! Sure, we’ve all heard of the British Book Awards or the Hugo. But how about the Compton Crook Award, Macavity Award or Printz Award?

Places. Some of the most interesting places are the small ones. Paris is already too much, and even Philadelphia. But Antarctica is small enough to take in, and large enough to be interesting. So too Martha’s Vineyard and Petra, Jordan (one part Left Behind, one part Indiana Jones and another academic).

But we need more for Faerie, Hell and particularly Moldova. As for Nuevo Rico, where are the Nuevo Ricans!

Speaking of odd, The Playboy Mansion is currently occupied by Shel Silverstein. What?

Series. Series pages aren’t new. But I might as well drop that series are the most complete, best Common Knowledge data. It’s not just Harry Potter, Star Wars or His Dark Materials, but also New American Nation, Time-Life: Mysteries of the Unknown and Hellenistic Culture and Society.

People/Characters. A lot of fun can be had here, particularly with characters that cross between fiction and non-fiction, like Lincoln and Alexander the Great and Pope Alexander VI. You will, of course, find familiar faces like Jack Aubrey, Gandalf and Sherlock Holmes.

Fun can be had with minor characters. Take Reepicheep from the Chronicles of Narnia. Can you remember which books he appears in? (It’s Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle; if you found that easy, how about Jill Pole?)

The “related” boxes can show up scarce data. For example, right now God is showing up related to 69 individuals. Jesus is number one, but he’s followed by Bernice Summerfield, apparently a character in Doctor Who. (Incidentally, Jesus is somewhat split between Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, etc.)

Post here or discuss on Talk.

Tim is gone! Incidentally, I am now on an official “code holiday.” I have at least three days without any obligations whatsoever, and I intend to stay in, order pizza, stop answering the door, stop answering the phone, stop writing on Talk, and even—gasp!—stop answering email. I may even put one of those “vacation auto-reply” messages up. After three days, I hope I have something.

Labels: awards, common knowledge, new features, series

Monday, August 11th, 2008

First and last words

“Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians.”

Recognize that sentence? It is, of course, from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. How about?

“Now, what I want is, Facts.”

That’s from Dickens, Hard Times.

We just introduced new work-based Common Knowledge fields for “First words” and “Last words.” In the medium-to-long term, I’d love to work the data into a game—pick the sentence that goes with the work. If you’re not comparing computer manuals to novels, it can be hard.

Find out more here.

Labels: common knowledge, new features, quotes

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Free Web Services API to Common Knowledge

Introducing the LibraryThing Web Services API.

The API will eventually do many things.

For starters it includes all of the data in LibraryThing’s Common Knowledge project, our groundbreaking “fielded wiki” for interesting book information (see original blog post). It includes fields like series, important characters, important places, author dates, author burial places, agents, edits, etc. If you’re interested in building or enhancing book-data applications, this should be very interesting.

Common Knowledge is always in progress, but the results so far have been quite impressive. Members have made over 500,000 edits, and certain data types have become exceedingly useful and comprehensive. I’m particularly proud of our Series coverage (eg., Star Wars), better—we think—than any commercial series data. 

Oh, and it’s free! The data is made available under the highly permissive Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license.

Architecturally, the Web Services API is a straightforward REST XML-based API.  The back-end is modular, allowing us to easily expand the available methods in the future. It’s request and response styles were modeled closely on Flickr’s API—Chris is a big fan—so it should make it easier to find similar sample code. The documentation resembles theirs too.

Kudos to Chris for his work on this and let us know what you think (here).

Update: The other big announcement—another data release—won’t be happening today. Too much to do!

Labels: api, apis, common knowledge, web services