Archive for the ‘new feature’ Category

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Introducing the Authors and Series views in Your books

Among the many things LibraryThing is—book recommendations, social networking and so forth—LibraryThing started out and and is a kick-ass tool for organizing your books. But we’re not resting on our laurels. There are things we can improve, and things we can add. This is one. Another one goes to the Beta group today.

This weekend I added a feature to see authors and series within the “Your library” tab, and as “first class things,” like books and tags, not just a field within books.

Access to the Authors and Series view can be found to the right of the Tags view. Click the little divot to show other views. (Yes, others are planned.)

Switching to Authors or Series view changes the bar:

Below that, the page changes to a list authors or series, with links to see them in your catalog or go to their stand-alone author or series pages.

The feature was introduced incrementally. There’s a Talk conversation that tracks that. Now that the feature is largely working and possibly complete, I’ve started another Talk conversation. Come let us me what you think.

Labels: authors, new feature, new features, series

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Search redesigned, improved

Casey and I have completed work on a cross-LibraryThing search system.

Key features:

  • Search is now available from every page.
  • It searches one type (like works or authors) at a time, but always gives you result-counts for all types on the left. Click on the type to pivot off it instead.
  • It’s blazingly fast (as vaneska wrote, “The speed of the search is just a little bit scary.”)
  • It includes a number of elements not formerly searchable (or searchable well), like member reviews and words in tags.
  • Tabs have been reorganized a bit. The search tab has been removed and the “More” tab moved left. The “Zeitgeist” tab has been removed. It will probably be available under “more,” from the home page and at the bottom of every page (like “about,” which was a tab once).

Find out more, and talk about it on Talk.

Labels: new feature, new features, search

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

In-Talk Bug Tracking

LibraryThing now has an In-Talk Bug Tracking system. Check it out.

The Story. For some time now LibraryThing members have been agitating for a bug tracking system, to augment the Bug Collectors group. I held back. Bug tracking is “work.” Members will do wonderful things for a site they love, but I didn’t want to ask them to become data-entry and QA professionals. Nor did I want to fool with such a system. I like conversations, not forms. And I think conversations work better. Very often what seems a bug is really something else—a needed feature, a poorly explained concept, etc.

But the need was still there. It was deuce-difficult to figure out what bugs had been reported, and what the status was. The confusion was bad for users, and it was definitely impeding our ability to identify, prioritize and fix bugs.

So, I’ve finally implemented a compromise idea—Bug Tracking within the existing Talk system.(1) The result should satisfy almost everyone. Bug-tracking is still conversational, and capable of opening up to larger discussions. But every bug is tracked and given a basic status. Nothing is “lost.”

How it works. It works like this:

  • Every post to Bug Collectors is entered into the bug-tracking system.
  • Bug-tracking posts get a green box, describing the state of the bug.
  • A Bug Tracking view shows bugs by status, category and assignment.
  • Members of Bug Collectors get “Bug Tracking” as a permanent option on their Talk tab.
  • Members and staff classify and change bug status, as appropriate.

Many thanks. I’d like to thank members for helping me think through the plan (here and here). And I’d like to thank them for the care and attention they’ve taken reporting bugs. It is not, of course, possible to describe everything that goes on at headquarters, but they are right that bug-fixing has not always gotten the attention it deserved. The new system won’t magically create time, or new employees, but it will speed the process, and remind us just what’s out there to solve. As usual, it’s an honor to work at a site with so many smart, dedicated and generous users.

Special thanks to these top Bug Collectors group contributors: jjwilson61, lorax, jjmcgaffey, infiniteletters, BarkingMatt, MarthaJeanne, readafew, AnnieMod, christiguc, fleela, staffordcastle, lilithcat, AnnaClaire, rsterling, AndrewB, FicusFan, r.orrison, _Zoe_. There are many others, of course, with literally hundreds of posts and reports to their name. Among these Brightcopy deserves a special mention, as a relatively recent user whose done more than most to report bugs—and push me along.

Come talk about it on Talk here.

1. I was unaware of it, but Ravelry apparently does something similar.

Labels: bugs, new feature, new features

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Introducing the “Melvil Decimal System”

I’ve just pushed a nifty feature for browsing the “Melvil Decimal System” (MDS).

What is MDS? MDS is the Dewey Decimal System, Melvil Dewey’s innovative classification system, as it has been applied to books in LibraryThing members’ books. The wording comes from out-of-copyright sources.

The browse system is nifty. It was to some degree inspired by the elegant user interface to Tom Hickey’s OCLC DeweyBrowser. It is also interesting to see how the classification stacks up against LibraryThing tags. Here are some examples:

As usual, the system is not complete. It does not yet show you how your books stack up against the system. That is coming.

Why MDS? Although he invented his system in 1876, and has been dead for 79 years, Dewey lives on. The library conglomerate OCLC continues to produce new editions, which are copyrighted. And the terms “Dewey,” “Dewey Decimal,” “DDC” and so forth are registered trademarks of OCLC. In the past OCLC has been touchy about Dewey. They once sued the Library Hotel for putting books in rooms according to the rooms’ Dewey number. So we aren’t taking any chances.

Although OCLC updates the Dewey Decimal System, they cannot own the numbers themselves, which are assigned by librarians around the world. Nor can they own the system as it existed in 1922—for that edition is out of copyright.

Make it stop!

Help us out! Knowing the numbers is one thing, but the words bring them alive. Every number has a space for wording, both original (1922) and modern. Members are invited to help fill it out, at least for the top tiers. The original wording should come from Dewey’s 1922 edition, with one difference. Dewey was a spelling-reform nut, and all the later editions of his work are in his semi-phonetic spelling system. This spelling is unbearable, so convert it to standard spelling.

For the “modern” wording, you may modernize both terminology and sentiment. Dewey used “sociology” in the sense of “Social science” and his religion section refers to “Mohammedanism” and “Minor Christian sects.” Those can all be improved. But improvements should reflect only modernity, not the wording of in-copyright editions of the Dewey Decimal System.*

As with other Common Knowledge sections, MDS can also be translated. Indeed, one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while was a user translating the system into Swedish just a few minutes after launch. There is no current Swedish translation of the Dewey Decimal System.

Lastly, I got into this to help Fleela, Zoe and the other members of the Dewey Decimal Challenge group, “Read a book from every Dewey Decimal category.” Fun idea. You should try it.

What’s missing The feature is, as usual, intentionally half-done. Here are some contemplated features.

  • Connection to YOUR library
  • Links from your catalog, other pages
  • The Library of Congress System

Come talk about it on LibraryThing Talk.

* In many cases, OCLC’s changes haven’t trickled down to the libraries that use the system. DDC 288, formerly for Unitarianism**, is now blank. But both OCLC’s DeweyBrowser and LibraryThing’s MDS browser show books there—a Channing fest to be sure.
** That Unitarianism gets as much space as Catholicism, Judaism and Islam speaks to Dewey’s western Massachusetts world-view.

Dewey, Dewey Decimal, Dewey Decimal Classification, DDC and OCLC are registered trademarks of OCLC. Read more about OCLC and the DDC on their website. LibraryThing is not affiliated with OCLC, but we have the same hatter.

Labels: cataloging, classification, new feature, new features

Monday, August 16th, 2010

LibraryThing for Publishers: 21 new publishers

LibraryThing for Publishers, our new program to bring publishers into LibraryThing—and link out to them—has been growing rapidly, and we’ve added a number of new features for both publishers and members.

New Publishers. Since Monday we’ve added 21 new publishers, amounting to an 800% increase in books covered.

The largest new publisher is Penguin Australia, covering 650,000 member books. Their titles include books from Penguin USA, UK, India, New Zealand and DK (Dorling Kindersley) available through the Penguin Australia website. (Their wonderful profile image—an unofficial logo?—appear to the right.)

Others include (in copies order):

And eight more independents. A half-dozen substantial publishers are waiting in the wings, as we work out URLs and other details.

New Features. I introduced a new page for you to compare your books against LibraryThing Publishers.

Check out the blog post.

New ways to upload. Publishers have complained about the limitations of ISBN-based URLs, so we’re expanding the formats we accept, starting with a new “LibraryThing Simple Format.” Basically, we can now read any spreadsheet that contains both ISBNs and URLs. We’ll figure out the rest. This proved necessary in getting RAND’s titles into the system, and was helpful for Mercer UP as well.

I’ve written more about this format on Thingology.

Labels: LibraryThing for Publishers, new feature, new features

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

LibraryThing for Publishers!

We’ve just finished a new feature for publishers called “LibraryThing for Publishers. Like LibraryThing Local, Local Book Search, LibraryThing for Libraries and LibraryThing Authors, LibraryThing for Publishers is about linking arms with another important player in the book world, for everyone’s benefit.

Publishers: LibraryThing for Publishers is free and open to any legitimate publisher. It’s dead-simple to upload your titles.

UPDATE: Here’s the video about how to join.

What You Get. LibraryThing for Publishers gives publishers three key things:

  • A box on the work page of all their titles.
  • Publisher pages.
  • Hundreds of links from LibraryThing. LibraryThing has a high PageRank.*

Members get:

  • A new way to connect with the publishers they love
  • A way to browse publishers’ titles
  • As we move this forward publishers can help on the data end, with better, less restricted book data from the people who actually create the books.

Show me. We’ve launched with five publishers, covering eight imprints. We thank them for their willingness to try something new!

You can see the the new publisher pages, and publisher boxes on work pages in these examples.

Some details. LibraryThing for Publishers includes a few nifty features, including:

  • LibraryThing’s first “shelves” interface (see the earlier blog post). Shelves are doing a lot more on publisher pages than on tag pages.
  • Faceted tagging, where one set of books (a publishers’) is sliced and diced by a tag. For example, here are Orbit Books’ Urban Fantasy books, and here are Zondervan’s
    <href=””>Youth Ministry books.
  • Reviews by publisher (eg., Zondervan)
  • An enhanced members page, with mini-shelves for top members.

*LibraryThing has a Google PageRank of 8, on par with the Boston Globe, and higher than any of our competitors or any publisher we’ve found. Why publishers do so poorly in the link game is the topic for another post, but we aim to do what we can do help publishers out.

Labels: LibraryThing for Publishers, new feature, new features

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

A Shelves Toggle in LibraryThing

I’ve released a new “widget” or “toggle,” that showcases a list of book in either list or “shelf” mode. (It also has a “covers” mode, like a shelf without the shelf.)

Some examples: graphic novel, British literature, paranormal romance, french art, wwii.

The goal is to add some graphic appeal, but keep things “light” and integrated with the page. We didn’t want the box-shaped shelves employed by some other websites, and in LibraryThing for Libraries. The feature is also optional. It’s a toggle. (See below.)

Right now, I’ve put it only one place: tag pages. Once changes have settled down, I’ll extend it to other places you now see only a list of works–authors, series, awards, subjects, tagmashes, etc.

You can change pages, and from “shelf” to “titles” or “covers” by mousing over the book area to reveal a gray region on the right. (IE users will find the gray area always shown.) Whatever you pick for shelves/titles/covers will stick for subsequent views of the element on that page type. So if you don’t like this feature, you only have to see it once.

Other notes:

  • The covers are based on the most popular ISBNs for each work. They are recalculated daily.
  • Shelves show the “checkmarks” seen elsewhere in lists.
  • Tags go to 200 now, as before. in fact, I’ve extended them to go to 1,000 but it will take a few days for the old data to expire and new data to be generated.
  • I am not currently painting the title on non-cover covers. This is, I think, the only undone feature here.

Come talk about it here.

Labels: new feature, new features

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

CoverGuess: The game that helps people find books…

I just released an amusing diversion called CoverGuess.

Check it out here, and talk about it here.

What is CoverGuess?

CoverGuess is a sort of game. We give you covers, and you describe them in words. If you guess the same things as other players, you get points.

Why are you doing this?

The goal is to have fun, but also to build up a database of cover descriptions, to answer questions like “Do you have that book with bride on the bicycle?”

What’s the best way to do it?

Think about it how you’d describe the cover to someone—pick out the most significant elements. Does it have a car or a pair of shoes? Color terms are good, and so are terms like “blurry” or “sepia.” Above all, pick terms other players will be using.

How do points work?

You get one point for every matched term, for each other member who had it. So, if you say “car” and “dog” and two other members said “car” and one said “dog,” you get three points. Obviously, it’s better if you’re not the first member to tag the image, but the system randomizes that aspect. When you’re the first to tag an item, you get 0.25 points for your effort.

Aren’t you trying to use members’ free labor to make money?

Yes and no. All the data here is released under a Creative-Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License, and will be available in feed form. That means any non-profit entity, like a library, can use it without charge. We also commit to license it on the same terms to any bookstore with less than $10 million in sales. That leaves huge companies. If any want it, we’ll charge them!

Anything else?

It was partially inspired by Google’s ImageLabeler. Our anti-spam engine does something similar too.

The whole thing was perhaps summed up best in a tweet to me:

Labels: book covers, new feature, new features

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Twitter your reviews

We’ve added a feature to make it easy to Twitter (or Tweet) your reviews.

You’ll see the option—a tiny Twitter logo—on your reviews. When you click it, it takes you to Twitter and fills in the message box. You can, of course, edit it however you like.

You can spot most such tweets with this Twitter search.

This is our second Twitter-based feature. The other is an easy way to Twitter your books to LibraryThing, handy for making a note of a book when you’re in a bookstore or library. Like that, the Twitter your review feature is all about restraint and options. We’ve rejected the idea—popular among book and non-book sites—of automating that process, of making it easy to machine-gun all your friends and followers with trivial updates.

Are you on Twitter? Follow us. Most LibraryThing-related news comes from my account, LibraryThingTim. The LThing account is for incoming messages mostly. John, Chris and Luke are also on, discussing LibraryThing’s irrationally vague vacation policy.

Labels: book reviews, new feature, new features, reviews, twitter

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Reviews in many languages

I’ve added a bunch of features around the language that members write reviews in.

Reviews by language. The result is to make LibraryThing more attractive for non-English users—they now get reviews in their own language by default. A few languages, especially our Dutch, French and German sites, already have a decent number of reviews, and this should make it more fun for all non-English users to review books.

For the English-only members, the feature is mostly negative—it’s now easy to screen out the clutter of reviews in languages you don’t understand.

Most popular works have reviews in other languages. Something like the Da Vinci Code has reviews in thirteen languages, including twelve in Dutch, three in Swedish, two in Catalan and one in Greek! (“Un dels millors llibres que he llegit mai”, “Το λάτρεψα”—maybe it’s better in translation!)

Reviews uClassified: Most reviews have already been assigned to a language. Rather than use the default language in LibraryThing profiles, which turns out to be very, very weakly related to the language members write their reviews in, I took advantage of the excellent language classification service offered by uClassify ( uClassify runs a Bayesian filter on a piece of text and sends back a list of languages, and confidence scores.

It isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good. Only very high scores were accepted as definitive. Short reviews weren’t sent for the same. As a result, about 1/8 of LibraryThing’s 730,267 reviews remain as “not set.”

Feature changes. A bunch.

  • You can now edit your reviews language everywhere you can edit or enter a review.
  • Your library statistics page (link) now shows how many reviews you’ve written in every language. Mostly importantly this shows the number of reviews that haven’t been assigned to a language.
  • For reviews going forward your default language is set on your account page.
  • The catalog now has a “Reviews language” field and a special search for all your reviews in a given language (eg., reviews in English, language not set). These links are available from your stats page).
  • You can Power Edit review languages, and when you’re looking at all your reviews in a language, if it differs from your default language, you will get a link to make all unset reviews be in your default language. For example, here are all your unset reviews (link).

Statistics. The numbers turned out something like this.

English/Unset: 650,988
Dutch: 8,636
French: 4,666
German: 4,651
Spanish: 4,463
Italian: 2,876
Swedish: 2,329
Danish: 1,587
Norwegian: 1,231
Portuguese: 1,098
Finnish: 662
Catalan: 443

To be done, talked about. As usual, there’s more to do. So far, there’s no good list of recent or top reviews by language. Come to discuss it on Talk and suggest other improvements.

Labels: book reviews, catalan, french, german, greek, languages, new feature, new features