Archive for the ‘new feature’ Category

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Twitter your books to LibraryThing

We’ve added integration with Twitter, the popular SMS/microblogging site. Basically, it’s an easy way to add a book to your LibraryThing while standing in a bookstore, library or friend’s house.

Go to the new Edit your profile: Sites page to add your username. Once you follow LThing, you can direct message at any time to add a book to your library.

Example:
D LThing [ISBN or Title] #tag1, #tag2, etc.

Add my wife’s novel, Every Visible Thing with the tag “wishlist”:
D LThing 0066212898 #wishlist

Add Huckleberry Finn:
D LThing Huckleberry Finn

Search always goes off Amazon for now. It picks the first edition if you don't specify.

Coming soon: We'll be integrating deeper soon, so you can let your Twitter friends know when you add or review books on LibraryThing.

Follow us: The LThing account will only be used to send out Twitter/LibraryThing messages. If you want to follow what I'm doing my Twitter account is LibraryThingTim.

Labels: new feature, new features, twitter

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Brains! Brains!

New Feature. I just released a minor feature, a new meme “Dead or Alive?” which breaks down your LibraryThing authors by whether they’re dead, alive or unknown. Check out mine or go to your profile and select “Memes” to find yours.

The information is based on the various authors’ birth and death dates in Common Knowledge. It works pretty much as you suspect. People with death dates are dead. People with birth dates only are alive, unless they’d be over 100. The rest are unknown. The system tracks when you use it, so I can add some statistics on whether your authors are more or less dead than others’ authors.

UPDATE: For clarity, you can change authors by going to their author page and editing in a birth or death date. For now, organizations are identified by being of the gender “n/a.”

New Books. I need no segue to mention two books I recently discovered. The first is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from Chronicle Books, due out in April. According to the description:

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen’s classic novel to new legions of fans.”

It’s an amusing idea. Taking on classics from a different vantage point has been done many times—think Wide Sargasso Sea, whose heroine is the “madwoman in the attic” of Jane Eyre. Others have have done prequels and sequels to famous works; at a low-point of my youth I read the entirety of Heathcliff—The return to Wuthering Heights. But has anyone taken the full text of a classic and inserted scenes of an entirely different character? The possibilities are endless. It’s the tragic story of star-crossed lovers set against the backdrop of 16th-century Verona—and an alien invasion! (Working title: Romeo and Juliet and Aliens).*

Another good titles is Jailbait Zombie by Mario Acevedo, picked up by Sonya at the recent American Library Association meeting in Denver. According to Sonya’s friend, another zombie-lover (but not literally), Zombie Jailbait “isn’t as good as the author’s Undead Kama Sutra,” an assessment that brings into high relief the problem with comparatives.


* I’m looking for other good titles. There is, of course, the moving story of two parents locked in a tragic custody battle over their young son—and stalked by a killer from another planet (Kramer versus Kramer versus Predator), but the movie is better known than the book.

UPDATE: A commentor points out All the World’s a Grave by John Reed, piecing together Shakespearian lines into a new play. The granddaddy is Pingres of Halicarnassus’ lost reworking of the Iliad, inserting a pentameter of his own creation between Homer’s hexameters (here). Those aren’t quite what I’m talking about.

Hat-tip to Lux Mentis for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Labels: humor, new feature, new features, zombies

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Who has a book?

I’ve added a small section to work pages. The “Members” section shows who of your friends, interesting libraries and other connections have the work.

It also surveys the Legacy Libraries, a member project to catalog the libraries of famous dead people. So you can find out if Hemingway and Marie Antoinette owned, say, the Lusiads (Yes, they did). I think it gives this project—now growing quite impressive—a deserved boost

Discuss here.

Labels: connection news, new feature

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

New Feature: Find Friends

We’ve added a feature that makes it easy to connect to people you know.

These include people who may be using the site already, but you don’t know their user name, and people you want to invite to the site. It can use contacts from your current email system, or manual entry.

Check out Find Friends, from your profile or here.

An excess of caution. Automatic email systems like this have come under much criticism, including my own. After the nastiness that has hit other companies’ efforts, we’ve taken every precaution to avoid mess ups with our system.

The protections are quite extensive:

  1. Members can only be found if they want to. We added the checkbox for that a few weeks ago. All older members were set to “false,” unless they already had their email publically shown on their profile.
  2. No emails or other data are stored by us.
  3. Emails are only sent once, and can’t be resent by you either.*
  4. When your list of contacts comes back NONE are pre-checked. (The sites that helpfully pre-check 1,000 names are really flirting with disaster.)
  5. We have removed any option to check all contacts, so you can’t even do it by mistake. But we kept the option to un-check all contacts. If you do that by mistake, okay.
  6. Instead of misleading you about what will happen in one direction, we slightly mislead you in the other. That is, the button marked “invite selected contacts” (above) does not actually go ahead and send the emails. Rather it shows you the invite list one last time and asks you to reconfirm the list.

We are confident these steps together make LibraryThing’s invite feature the most conscientious of its kind.


*To know whether you’ve emailed someone already we do store a “hash” of the email, a mathematical derivative of it that can’t be used to reconstruct the original.

Labels: email, invitations, new feature

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Recommendations, part 2

I’ve added a few improvements to the new member recommendations:

  • You can now dismiss individual recommendations and never see them again.
  • I’ve added a checkbox to make member book recommendations reciprocal–so both books recommend each other.
  • The Recommendations Zeitgeist page is more complete.

Labels: new feature

Monday, May 26th, 2008

LibraryThing recommendations!



LibraryThing Recommendations—called “the best feature on the site” by one user—are back and much better than before.

You can find recommendations at the top of your profile page. Or check out mine.

The new recommendations include:

  • A large number of primary recommendations for ever member—usually 1,000—based on a single comprehensive algorithm.
  • Individual recommendation lists for each member’s tags.
  • Filtering of recommendations by popular LibraryThing tags.
  • Individual lists of other members’ recommendations (member recommendations were added two weeks ago)
  • Up to 500 so-bad-they’re-good recommendations, building off the LibraryThing Unsuggester, and called “Your Unsuggester.”* We hope “What I shouldn’t read” has some meme legs.
  • A “why” feature for each recommendation, laying out what the recommendation was based on.
  • A pony.**

I let the recommendations themselves out early—see the original talk post, with over 140 messages!—and members had mostly positive reactions. Those who don’t like them can perhaps be molified by the greater number and ways to filter and angle the recommendations.

Recommendations now change daily—faster if you are below 200 books and keep adding them. The system keeps track of all recommendations and when you received them. In the near future I plan to provide personalized recommendation emails based on new recommendations.

I’ve created a new Talk thread to discuss the changes, and suggest changes. My thanks to those who participated in the initial thread, influencing development in a number of important ways.


*If Thomas Jefferson is in Hell, I am confident the Devil is torturing him with books from Jefferson’s Unsuggester List—heavy on the chick- and tween-lit!
*With apologies to Last.fm.

Labels: new feature, recommendations

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Works, editions, ISBNs and cocktails


We got your Harry Potter and the Angus an Orchloch right here!

Short verson.I’ve just completed a major change in the “substructure” of LibraryThing’s data, the “works system” that links different editions together. The system is better and will allow more betterness down the road. It was the reason we were down most of last night. We regret that, but think the change will prove worth it.

Long version—What are “Works?” LibraryThing’s work system brings users together around the books they’ve read, not the peculiarities of publisher, format or even language. Works are created and tended by members, who “combine” editions together into works. Anyone can do it, but the die-hards created a large and active group—Combiners!—to trade tips, debate philosophy, muster effort—and complain about the system!

Combiners is a remarkable community, and one that has gone without a nod from me for some time. I hope these changes encourage them, and the prospect of future improvements built on surer footing.


The Combiners! know the stakes, as their group logo tells us.

Since the beginning I’ve promoted the idea of the “cocktail party” test.* This test answers whether two books belong to the same work by asking whether their readers would, in casual conversation, own up to reading the same book or not. So, for example, in such a context it wouldn’t matter if you had read a book in its hardcover or paperback edition, or listened to it on CD. If the cute girl with the backless dress mentions she’s fond of the Unbearable Lightness of Being, the edition is immaterial (but see this link). I also suspect that title differences occasioned by marketing considerations—eg., Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (UK) vs. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (US)—wouldn’t matter. Nor should language itself matter; few would turn a cold shoulder to a Finnish Tolkien fan merely because he read Tolkien in Finnish.**

What’s Changed? The core concept used to be that a work consisted of a discrete set of title-author pairs. We chose title-author to emphasize the loose, verbal nature of the cocktail party test, and because ISBNs are much less perfect than many believe.*** These title-author pairs we called “editions.”

Unfortunately, there are a small number of works that can’t be identified based on title and author alone. This happens particularly in science fiction and graphic novels. (Apparently the Fantasy Hall of Fame currently entombs two distinct works—same title, same authors but different contents and publisher. Someone should be punished for that.) My bête noire are Cliff’s Notes filed in with the works they “interpret.” No appletini for you “Great Expectations”!

The system still automatically assigns new editions based on author and title. But I’ve added ISBNs to the mix, so members can combine and separate editions looking at and according to their ISBNs.

Other changes:

  • Title-author-ISBN bundles are now distiguished by the smallest details, so you can separate “Hard Times” from “Hard times” from “Hard times” with a period at the end. It has vastly increased the number of editions in the system. (There are now more than 1,200 editions of the Hobbit!) This is was mostly a technical decision.
  • The original system produced a few “hash collisions,” utterly different books thrown in together unhappily. This has been a long-running defect—and complaint. The new system will allow their separation, although existing ones will need to be separated.
  • The Combination and Debris (renamed “Editions”) pages should be faster. Some will start—and stall!—on a message about updating edition information. Once the editions have been calculated, the page will be faster.

As mentioned above, the new system was responsible for our extended downtime last night. Between a few mistakes and a database just shy of 27 million books, it took longer than we thought. I hope that the changes prove worthwhile in and of themselves.

Being much better designed, the new system should enable:

  • Edition-level pages
  • Edition-to-edition and work-to-work relationships
  • Member and book matching that takes editions into account
  • An end to the “dead languages” exception to the cocktail party test.
  • More opportunities for me to discuss the Pop-Up Kama Sutra at library conferences.

I’ve created a Talk thread for members who want to discuss the changes.


*Perhaps wishing I’d get invited to a few more cocktail parties! Speaking of which, are you going to Book Expo America 2008 in Los Angeles? We are.
**Whether you choose to avoid the Finnish Tolkien fan at cocktail parties is, of course, up to you.
***In fact, publishers recycle ISBNs, steal ISBNs, make up ISBNs, print wrong ISBNs, apply ISBNs to large sets of seemingly discrete items and otherwise abuse the system all the time. Most of the time they work in a bookstore context. They aren’t really fit for a project of LibraryThing’s size and scope.

Labels: frbr, library science, new feature, work pages, works

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Import upgrade

Mike—welcome Mike!*—has completed a major upgrade to the import system. The improvements are:

  • Better user interface.
  • Import now reads files from LibraryThing competitors, so you can move to us or synch your accounts.
  • Depending on the site, we pick up tags, reviews, ratings and comments. If you already have the books in your library, you avoiding adding the books again, but synch your user data.
  • The sites include Anobii, Shelfari and Goodreads. If you use someone else—there are more than 35 of them!—let us know. If the offer export—not all sites do—we can work it out.
  • If your file is formatted properly—formatted like the LibraryThing export or any of our competitors’—we now import non-ISBN books.

Import is still based on the idea that—when possible—LibraryThing re-fetches the bibliographic data. This adds another step, an “import queue.” But it also allows members to import full records, which no other site exports, and to get high-quality library data, if they want it.

Tell us what you think on Talk. It’s probably going to take a while to spell out what it does and doesn’t do and to update the old Adding and Importing FAQs.


*Mike (member: notmydadslibrary) is a new intern up here in Portland. This was a doozy of a first project!

Labels: import, new feature

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Member book recommendations

I’ve just added a small new feature, Member recommendations. You can check it out under “Recommendations” here or here.*

Basically, you can now add your own recommendations to LibraryThing’s six (!) algorithmic recommendations. If you want, you can also leave a short explanation of your choice.

I’m throwing this one out pretty raw.** It’s available from the primary page of a work, and from its recommendation page, and on a single Member Recommendations page.

To be done:

  • A way to see all the recommendations you’ve given
  • A way to see all the recommendations others have applied to your books
  • Recommendation flagging
  • Up/down voting on recommendations?

Come talk about the feature and where it could go on Talk here.


*I hope to link to some better examples soon, one members start adding them. I find fiction recommendations very hard, so most of my recommendations so far have been off ancient history, which makes the feature seem much less interesting than it is!
**I’ve had this on ice for a while, while dealing with tags and scaling issues. I don’t think I’m going to be making major changes until Chris comes back from paternity leave later this week or next.

Labels: new feature, recommendations

Friday, May 9th, 2008

BookSense Events!

We just added over six-hundred and fifty events to LibraryThing Local, LibraryThing’s portal for local bookstores, libraries and events.

The events come direct from our friends at BookSense, the nationwide organization of over 1,200 independent bookstores. They made their complete events calendar available to us, and we were only to happy to add all the events we didn’t already know about.

BookSense is the best; if you have a favorite local bookstore, chances are they’re a BookSense store.* BookSense also gets the best authors. Upcoming events include David Sedaris at Vroman’s in Pasadena and Salman Rushdie at Vroman’s and at Caucer’s in Santa Barbara. Of course, as happens with distributed data collection, not every BookSense store has their events in the feed. And some events had already been added by members. Be the total gain is some 660 upcoming events—a big leap. We’ll be updating from th BookSense feed periodically from now on, which should take some of the data-entry load off of dedicated LibraryThing members.

So, thanks to the people at BookSense for working with us on this, and happy event-attending to the rest of us.

PS: There’s a short article about this in the ABA’s Bookselling this Week by David Grogan.


*My favorites—Books, Etc., Longfellow Books and the Harvard Coop—are all BookSense stores. My wife spent much of her 20s working at another, Bookline Booksmith, together with her best friend, who went on to work at Booksense. So, I’ve wanted LibraryThing to do something BookSense since we started.

Labels: authors, booksense, librarything local, new feature