Archive for the ‘fun’ Category

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Free accounts through Sunday

In the wake of Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads, we’ve had some blow-back on the fact that LibraryThing charges for a membership to add more than 200 books. In fact, when you go to pay, it’s pay-what-you-want. The money helps pay for the site, and keeps us advertisement-free for members. Also, we believe customers should be customers, with the loyalty and rights of customers, not the thing we sell to our real customers.

However, some people don’t like it. And we want everyone. So, as a test and a welcome, we’re giving out free year’s accounts to everyone who signs up through the end of Sunday. We’ve also upgraded everyone who signed up since 4pm yesterday.

Here’s what the profile comment looks like. You should get it pretty quickly:


Photo by flickr member chamisa flower.

Labels: amazon, fun, gifts

Monday, March 4th, 2013

The 2nd annual LibraryThing Edible Books contest!

We had so much fun with last year’s virtual Edible Books Contest, we’ve decided to make it an annual event!

How to participate:

1. Create an “edible book.” We’re defining this broadly, so entries can include dishes:

  • referencing a book’s title or characters (puns are entirely welcome)
  • inspired by a book’s plot
  • in the shape of an actual book (or eBook, or scroll, etc.)
  • takeoffs on the LibraryThing logo

2. Take some photos of what you made. The photo at right is the grand-prize winner from last year’s contest. See more of the winners here or all of the entries in the gallery.

3. Upload the photo to your LT member gallery. Sign in, then go here and click the “Add another picture” link to add the image.

4. When adding the image, tag it “EdibleBooks2013″. This will add your image to the contest gallery, and counts as your entry into the contest. If your photo doesn’t have the tag, we won’t know that you’ve entered. You’ll be able to see all the entries here.

5. Tell us about it in the “Title/description” box.

Deadline: Add your photos by 4 p.m. EST on Thursday, April 4.

What we’ll do:

Based on all the images in the “EdibleBooks2013″ photo gallery, LibraryThing staff will choose the following winners:

Grand Prize (1)

  • A $50 gift certificate to Longfellow Books
  • An LT t-shirt (size/color of your choice)
  • An LT library stamp
  • A CueCat
  • An LT sticker
  • Three lifetime gift memberships
  • Great honor

Runners Up (2)

  • Your choice of one LT t-shirt, stamp, or CueCat
  • Two lifetime gift memberships

We may also pick a few Honorable Mentions—final number will depend on the number of entries received—and they’ll receive a lifetime gift membership.

Have fun!

Fine Print: You can enter as many times as you like, but you can only win one prize. Your dish must be made of edible ingredients (no hats, lost-wax sculptures, performance art), and by entering the contest you certify that it is your own creation. Entries submitted to previous LibraryThing Edible Books contests will not be considered. All decisions as to winners will be made by LibraryThing staff, and our decisions are final. LibraryThing staff and family can enter, but can only be honored as prize-less runners-up. Any images you load stay yours, or you can release them under a copyleft license, but we get a standard “non-exclusive, perpetual” right to use them.

Questions? Feel free to post questions/discussion/etc. here.

Labels: contest, contests, fun

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Add events to LibraryThing Local, Give books to needy readers!

Short version:


Long version:

For every bookstore and library event added to LibraryThing Local from now until January 1 April 4, 2013, LibraryThing will donate up to 15 cents to put books in the hands of the needy.

Adding events is easier than ever. To add events go to LibraryThing Local and choose “Add event” there or under a specific venue (bookstore or library).

In addition to manually entering events, programmers can also use our new Add Events API (also see blog post) to add events by the hundreds. Go ahead, cost us millions.

Price list.

$0.15   Manually-added event with author and work touchstones
$0.05   Manually-added event with no touchstones
$0.04   Automatically-added event with working author and work touchstones
$0.02   Automatically-added event without touchstones

We’re only going to count events added to real-world bookstores and libraries, and the events must be future events, not past ones. Events can be in any country.

What happens after January 1 April 4? We don’t know. If it’s a success, we’ll probably keep doing this.

Where Will The Money Go? We need to find a good place for the money to go, and ask for help finding one—or creating our own project from the ground up. Some projects that inspired us include:

  1. Buy India a Library, which, builds and staffs a library in a poor part of India (see my friend Andromeda Yelton’s YouTube video about it, another friend, Justin Hoenke is also involved).
  2. One Library at a Time, responsible for creating two libraries in Panama and starting another in Ghana.
  3. Libraries Without Borders

There must be many more. I’m also interested in South Sudan, where LibraryThing member johnthefireman works.

Come discuss where we should spend the money on Talk here.

Why we’re doing this. LibraryThing Local has been a success, but mostly as a way for members to mark and broadcast their favorite bookstores and libraries.

LibraryThing Local Events originally included some automatically-added events, especially a full event feed from Booksense/IndieBound, but IndieBound eventually decided to stop providing event feeds to sites like LibraryThing after booksellers complained that their events were being, yes, listed on the web. (Really.) Meanwhile, automatic feeds from some other sources foundered on the lack of a good way for members to filter out low-interest events, such as daily storytimes.

All-in-all, events have suffered. The fewer events showed up, the less attractive the events system seemed. LibraryThing members continue to curate and improve the system constantly (with over 4.6 million edits to Common Knowledge, 3.4 million work combinations and separations, etc.), but events have lagged behind.

Meanwhile, LibraryThing has become a profitable company (clap, clap, clap). We’re not wildly profitable, and are spending most of our money on hiring new people, but I feel it’s important to give something back the moment we can do so. Staff and members have long wanted to help build a library in a poor country, or for a disadvantaged population. As someone said, “what you can do, you should do.” We can do this.

But if we’re going to do it, why not get members involved–improving the site for all and “buying into” the charitable project?

The Fine Print. Events added to LibraryThing Local, whether manually or using the Add Events API must be connected to a unique LibraryThing account and conform to the the LibraryThing Terms of Service. The addition of spurious, spam or any other non-events is not permitted, will not count and may result in the suspension of your LibraryThing account. If event quality suffers, we may have to adjust what qualifies. What events qualify is up to our sole and final discretion.

LibraryThing shall determine how the money will be spent, when and where. We are setting an initial, optional limit of $1,000 per member and $5,000 overall, just in case someone figures out how to add 500,000 events we didn’t know existed.

We reserve the right to modify the fine print at any time, and to cancel the program as well.

We are giving ourselves legal leeway here. We want no basis for getting sued. But if we scrooge this up, you are encouraged to excoriate us for it everywhere you can.

Come discuss the feature in general here.


Image of coins courtesy Flickr user freefotouk (Ian Britton).

Labels: events, fun, gifts, librarything local

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

LibraryThing is Seven: Summon the AllThing!

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!

Labels: allthing, birthday, fun

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Edible Book Contest winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered our first virtual Edible Books Contest! We were delighted at the number and range of entries, and I think we’ll plan to do it again next year! Check out all of the entries in the gallery.

Without further ado, your winners …

The grand prize goes to TheCriticalTimes for this edible version of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, made of sponge cake and edible paper, complete with fondant Kraken.

Along with the honor and fame, TheCriticalTimes wins an LT t-shirt, stamp, and sticker, plus a CueCat and three lifetime gift memberships to LibraryThing!

We picked two runners-up: both will win their choice of an LT t-shirt, stamp, or CueCat, plus two lifetime gift memberships. The runners-up are Unexpected, for “The Luggage,” from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series (chocolate cake with marzipan and “lots of little pink icing feet”) and mellu for this take on Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman, made of marzipan (with a real carrot nose!).

We also chose a couple of Honorable Mention winners; each will receive a lifetime gift membership. These are infomagnet for War and Pizza, and exlibrislady for the delicious-sounding (and looking!) Gregor and the Apple (“a crunchy peanut butter mousse covered in a hard chocolate shell on caramel feet. The plate is garnished with raspberry coulis and a single apple crisp. It must be eaten in a grey, bleak building while the rain falls dispassionately outside”).

I’ll be contacting the winners to claim their prizes.

Congratulations to our winners, thanks again to all the entrants, and watch for an announcement next spring for our second Edible Books contest!

Labels: contest, contests, fun

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Reminder: Edible Books Contest!

Quick reminder: we’ll be accepting new entries for our Edible Books Contest until 4 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 10.

See the contest announcement for all the details on entries, rules, prize information, etc. Or check out the entries submitted so far in the photo gallery.

Labels: contest, contests, fun

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

LibraryThing “Edible Books Contest”!

We haven’t run a good, old-fashioned contest in a while, so it’s time! We’re going to try something new (to LibraryThing) for this one: it’s a virtual Edible Books Contest!

How to participate:

1. Create an “edible book.” We’re defining this broadly, so entries can include dishes:

  • referencing a book’s title or characters (puns are entirely welcome)
  • inspired by a book’s plot
  • in the shape of an actual book (or eBook, or scroll, etc.)
  • takeoffs on the LibraryThing logo

2. Take some photos of what you made. The photo at right is one of the entries from the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library’s Edible Books Festival (see more of their photos here).

3. Upload the photo to your LT member gallery. Sign in, then go here and click the “Add another picture” link to add the image.*

4. When adding the image, tag it “EdibleBooks2012″. This will add your image to the contest gallery, and counts as your entry into the contest. If your photo doesn’t have the tag, we won’t know that you’ve entered. You’ll be able to see all the entries here.

5. Tell us about it in the “Title/description” box.

Deadline: Add your photos by 4 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 10.

What we’ll do:

Based on all the images in the “EdibleBooks2012″ photo gallery, LibraryThing staff will choose the following winners:

Grand Prize (1)

  • An LT t-shirt (size/color of your choice)
  • An LT library stamp
  • A CueCat
  • An LT sticker
  • Three lifetime gift memberships
  • Great honor

Runners Up (2)

  • Your choice of one LT t-shirt, stamp, or CueCat
  • Two lifetime gift memberships

We may also pick a few Honorable Mentions—final number will depend on the number of entries received—and they’ll receive a lifetime gift membership.

Have fun!

Fine Print: You can enter as many times as you like, but you can only win one prize. Your dish must be made of edible ingredients (no hats, lost-wax sculptures, performance art), and by entering the contest you certify that it is your own creation. All decisions as to winners will be made by LibraryThing staff, and our decisions are final. LibraryThing staff and family can enter, but can only be honored as prize-less runners-up. Any images you load stay yours, or you can release them under a copyleft license, but we get a standard “non-exclusive, perpetual” right to use them.

Questions? Feel free to post questions/discussion/etc. here.


* We thought about having everyone send us their dishes for judging (and tasting). But we decided they might not hold up to mailing well, and that our waistlines probably couldn’t handle it!

Labels: contest, contests, fun

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Top ten suggestions


Member lilypadma suggested we hire more people. But finding new good people is hard, so we opted for cloning.**

Just over a week ago* we asked members to come up with their recommendations on “Ten Ways to Make LibraryThing Better.” We promised to pick twenty-five winners, including ten winning answers and fifteen random picks.

Members heard the call, writing 259 answers for a total of 45,000 words–slightly longer than Henry James’s Turn of the Screw. Last week Sonya, Abby, Casey and I got together to work on LibraryThing for Libraries. We took a break on Wednesday to (drink and) read through the answers. We couldn’t pick just ten winners, so I’ve expanded it to 17–32 winners total. We could have easily done 50 more.

The Prizes. Winners get to chose between (1) A CueCat barcode scanner; (2) A LibraryThing t-shirt; (3) First dibs on a LibraryThing Early Reviewers book.

Winners should let Abby (abby@librarything.com) know what you want. If you want the Early Reviewer book, you’re also going to need to change your Early Reviewers picks to select just one book. We’re going to give you an “ER mojo” of a million, so whatever you pick, you’ll get.

The Winners. Random Winners: rfb, maryanntherese, jocainster, Imprinted, circeus, jabogaer, rastaphrog, claudiuo, jjmcgaffey, arnzen, trojanpotato, surly, phoenixfire, sigridsmith

sophies_choice (7): “Let us mark which books are our favourite.” I’m divided whether to make this work like author and venue favorites, or to make it a “collection.”

PhoenixTerran (31): “Update debris and author pages immediately after combining/separating has occurred” A big leap is going to happen here very soon, with the introduction of a more stable “editions” layer. I’m actually doing edition-level calculations in the background today, with an eye to inaugurating the system on a limited basis tonight.

Philtill (160): We all loved Philtill’s ten suggestions, which amount to “Make LibraryThing more like Tickle.” There are dangers to personality tests and statistical correlatons, of course. But we love to play with data, and “tell me about myself” is one of the main reasons people use LibraryThing anyway. So, expect us to take these ideas seriously.

jocainster (28): “Add a link to the book’s main page in the ‘Recently Added’ section.” Abby had to be restrained after reading this one.

parelle (44): Parelle wrote two related suggestions–LT bookmarks and a parnership with Moo Cards. dreamlikecheese focused in on sending cards to libraries and bookshops. This is one area we’re definitely going to look into.

sabreuse (152). “I was at a conference last week where I picked up several new books, but didn’t have internet access all day. And I realized that I want to be able to add books by SMS, the same way I can send photos directly to flickr or add events to my google calendar by text message, both of which I do all the time. I’d love to be able to add new ISBNs to my library while I’m out shopping, or traveling, or tied up away from a computer.”

nperrin (17): “Some ingenious way to link books to books about them. If I’m looking at a novel, I want to know how to find the best criticism of that novel or author.”

usquam (109): “Work with publishers to get better integration of their catalogues into LibraryThing. They should have covers, contents, editions, etc – as per the new ‘series’ area, it would be interesting to see what we have from a particular publisher, and then have them show other editions or titles we might like or are missing.”

susiebright (155): “I loved Secret Santa; it was the hightlight of my Xmas gift giving because it was so entirely unexpected. I think you should offer a ‘Birthday Surprise’ gift program of the same kind. You pick a ‘birthday kid’s name’ out of the hat, and send them a book based on what you glean from their library!'” We’re thinking that BirthdayThing could be hard to arrange, but doing a mid-year (June 25?) Secret Santa sounds fun. This time, members are doing the ordering!

yhoitink (9): “Add the European Library as a source.” Casey is squarely behind this one.

amysisson (87): “a virtual ‘badge’ or ‘ribbon’ (like LT author) for on the profile pages of people who’ve contributed over a certain level(s) of info, such as CK or combining” I’d love to do something like this. I’m attracted to the Barnstar model.

papyri (95): “Provenance, ex-libris (previous owner(s)) info listing (can be done like multiple authors). Possibly including dates and locations. Privacy option for this would be nice.” Sophies_Choice also suggested this be integrated with LT Local. Good stuff.

ssd7 (111) “Cross Source Searching. So, I would like to get my data from the LoC. But I would also like to just punch in an ISBN. These two desires are not always compatible since searching on ISBN’s often yields nothing from the LoC. When a search returns no results why not use the LT database or Amazon to find the title and then research for the user? Or at the very least let me set up a ‘priority’ listing of the sources so that if LoC yields nothing, it will automagically search Amazon.” ssd7 (111) also suggested “Open source the code.” This continues to interest us. No promises.

hegelian (16): “OpenID might be a smarter way to login for some people.”

_Zoe_ (24): “The ability to reset the unread marker at the message you’ve actually read up to.”

zcannon (25): “A widget that works on WordPress.”

TerrierGirl (34): “Could each book’s original copyright year be added to the my library, add to library screens? This would help interested potential readers place each book in time. Also, it would tell a reader when a particular book fell within that writer’s career.” I’ve wanted to do this for some time.

Notes on Method. We decided to leave off a small number of common topics, including collections, author disambiguation, HelpThing, tagging of groups, web links on book pages, more than seven columns, and a Facebook application. They are very much on our radar already. Seeing them over and over again had its effect, you can be sure.

We also left off suggestions for features completed since we asked the question, like better tags, and to avoid new features in favor of bug-fixing. It’s a delicate thing, and not one we’ve always gotten right, I’ll admit. I’ve been on a bug-fixing and performance kick recently.


*That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!
**The person you don’t know is Mike, a local Portland programmer working with us part-time for a few months. Note, I was supposed to be also sitting in the chair—reading Everything is Miscellaneous—but there was a tragic head/butt airspace issue.

Labels: employees, features, fun