Archive for the ‘new feature’ Category

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Add a dynamic signature line to your email

Wouldn’t it be neat to tell the people you email with what you’re reading now? I saw this on emails from friends over at AbeBooks, and thought it would be cool to have it done dynamically, and from LibraryThing data.

Email clients don’t allow scripts or for example RSS feeds, so I created a way to do it, based on images that many (but not all) email clients allow you to include in your signature.

Here’s what I’m talking about, with the signature line called out in yellow:

To play with the feature, click here. (You have to be logged in.)

Some notes:

  • This feature will get a lot more useful when we have a proper “currently reading” collection feature (coming soon). You pretty much have to use tags now.
  • No complaining about “fluff” features, please. Chris Gann first made this feature almost a year ago. I dusted it off and hacked together a user interface. It didn’t distract us from making your favorite feature.
  • We need your help! We’re going to need to come up with directions for adding this to different email clients. Some just won’t allow it. I’ve started a thread for discussing this.

Labels: email, new feature, new features

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Tag-based recommendations

I’ve added a simple drop-down menu on members’ LibrarySuggester page, allowing you to see recommendations based on the books that fall under just one tag.

It’s not the everything—an ideal solution would have includes, excludes, percentage-interests, and so forth.—but it’s still pretty cool. Certain topics I’m interested in—as here Alexander the Great—get swamped by more numerous interests.

I’m also excited by the effort to put Thomas Jefferson’s library into LibraryThing. See the Thingology Blog.

Labels: new feature, new features

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

More small catalog improvements

I’m redoing the catalog extensively so that wish lists and “collections” aren’t tacked on Rube Goldberg-style. Most of the improvements are on the “back end.” But two are on the front, and have been eagerly anticipated for some time:

1. Subsorting. As most (but apparently not all*) members know, you can click a column in your library, such as “Title” or “Author,” to sort by it. But how do you sort by two columns? Well, you couldn’t, but not you can. We adopted the common but hardly universal convention of subsorting by the last sort. So, if you want to sort by author, and title within author, click “title” to sort by title, and then “author” to sort by author and subsort by title.

2. Suggested display styles. You can now set a “Suggested display style for visitors to your library.” Visitors then get this as an option to use this when they look at your library.

“Suggested displays” was introduced last week, on Talk. Users have come up with very good recommendations for improving it. I indend to take them up on some of them.

Labels: new feature, new features

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Tagmash!

Tagmash: alcohol, history gets over the fact that almost nobody tags things history of alcohol

Short version: I’ve just gone live with a new feature called “tagmash,” pages for the intersections of tags. This is a fairly obvious thing to do, but it isn’t trivial in context. In getting past words or short phrases, tagmash closes some of the gap between tagging and professional subject classifications.

For example, there is no good tag for “France during WWII.” Most people just don’t tag that verbosely. Tagmash allows for a page combining the two: France, wwii. If you want to skip the novels, you can do france, wwii, -fiction. The results are remarkably good.

Tagmash pages are created when a user asks for the combination, but unlike a “search” they persist, and show up elsewhere. For example, the tagmash for France, Germany shows France, wwii as a partial overlap, alongside others. Related tagmashes now also show up on select tag and library subject pages, as a third system for browsing the limitless world of books.

Booooring? Go ahead and play a bit:

That’s the short version. But stop here and you’ll never know what Zombie Listmania is!

(full post over at Thingology, “Tagmash: Book tagging grows up”)

Labels: new feature, new features, tagging, tagmash

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Project Ocelot: Social changes

New look; new connections controls.

This announces a series of major “social” improvements, previously dubbed “Project Ocelot.”* Most have already been released, but were never blogged.

They were talked about, however—and how! The first batch were released to the Recommended Site Improvements group on July 11, where they garnered 187 messages. Two pre-release topics, here and here, racked up another 228 messages. And there were spin-off topics too.

As usual around here, the conversation drove our work. It was a great fun to work through everything with everyone. In case there is any doubt, developing LibraryThing is a blast.**

Here’s a run-down of the changes:

1. Friends and Interesting Libraries. (On your profile.) LibraryThing now offers a number of different “connections” between members. Shared books are still primary, but we’ve added “Interesting Libraries,” “Friends” and “Private Watchlist.”*** Interesting libraries are a one-way thing, although the person you mark as interesting gets a heads-up notice. “Friends” is a mutual connection. “Private Watch Lists” are still private. You can edit your connections, and see who has you on their lists.

Previous “friend” proposals have caused some concern, so we took pains to overcome most objections. We made “interesting libraries” the first option, to keep focus on the books. Friends don’t show up unless both sides consent. And you can disable “friending” and block users. The term “friends” itself rubbed a few people the wrong way—I’ve only just gotten over it myself—but it’s success is clear. Since the changes went live 60% of connections ahve been “friend” connections.

2. Connection News. (On your profile.) You can now follow what your connections are doing on LibraryThing—the books they’re adding, the reviews they write, the books they rate. You can choose any of the new categories (eg., “Friends”) or the fifty users who share the most books with you. This is my favorite feature. It’s something LibraryThing was missing. I think it adds a lot.

Members who share my favorite authors.

3. Shared Favorites (Introduced today). (On all profiles.) Some time ago, we started allowing members to list their favorite authors. Well, now you can find out who shares them with you. Here, for example, is Abby’s list. Mine is too obscure still.

4. Rating Reviews (Introduced Wedensday). LibraryThing a supportive environment. We didn’t want the “vote wars” that Amazon books can have. So, we are allowing members to vote for good reviews with a thumbs-up. But there’s no thumbs-down.

We did add flags for Terms of Service abuse and for non-reviews. (Wherever reviews are found; the feature is being discussed here.)

5. “Also On” Connections. (On your profile.) This is the most technically interesting of the features. For some time, users have been able to record what other sites they belonged to, and their site handles there. “Also On” Connections parses your “Also Ons” to get your sites, and then checks public information from these sites to get your friends’ lists. These lists are then cross-checked against LibraryThing’s “Also On.”

Basically, it help you to fill in the gaps in your social network on LibraryThing. We made it when we ran a test and discovered that lots of users were friends on Flickr or BookMooch, but not on LibraryThing. Probably many didn’t even know their friend was on LibraryThing.

6. Invitations. (On your profile.) Altay made a nice, understated “Invitations” feature, that sends out invites to the people you select.

7. Search tweaks. (On search.) Search now allows “also on” searching.

Of course, we have more to do—a lot more, here, on the core cataloging features****, and with translation (one update there).

*Name discussed here.
**It’s odd, but LibraryThing involves its “users” in its development more than most open-source projects. Open source projects have more focus on developer-to-developer conversations. We almost never talk about technology, but always about features.
***There was a brief period when we had “public” and “private” contacts. All public contacts became “interesting libraries”.
****We should have some good announcements here soon.

Labels: new feature, new features, ocelot, reviews, social networking

Monday, June 4th, 2007

Favorite authors, public contacts, other tweaks

Favorite authors. You can now “favorite” an author, and peek at other member’s favorites. You favorite on author pages, and the results show up on your profile. This has been available for a couple of weeks, but I never announced it. I’ve also brought the feature to more of the site, including your author gallery, author cloud and the Author Zeitgeist (pictured to the right).

I think it adds a fun new dimension to the site, and one we should have had from the beginning. It’s a good example of “unlearning the lessons of Amazon.” Amazon is a great site, but it conditions everyone’s thinking about what a book site should be and do. Marking books makes a lot of sense on a commercial site, but marking authors could distract people from the products. LibraryThing is about distraction, not commerce.

Jane Austen and J. R. R. Tolkien are currently in a no-holds-barred fight for first place. Not a pretty sight.

Public contacts. LibraryThing’s original “watch list” was private. Members—with me at the head—found “friends” lists a little creepy, and too susceptible to—as BlueSalamander put it—”drama.” (Worth quoting: “The drama [on LiveJournal] by “friends lists” borders on the ludicrous.”)

But public lists have their uses. Sometimes you want people to know who your friends are, or whose libraries you find most interesting. And many people just don’t feel the way I do. After a protracted—and not necessarily final—public discussion of terms, I’ve settled on “Contacts” (public) and “Watch list” (private). I think it’s pretty clear in context.

So far, only a few people have public contacts. By default, all watch list entries stayed private. You can flip them to private on your profile.

I’ve tried to keep the drama low. “Contacts” is purposefully vague, and there is no automatic way to see who has added you on your “contacts” list. I wanted to make it possible to give someone’s library a nod, without igniting a full-scale popularity contest. And you can be damn sure I’m not going to start automatically adding me or other LT people to everyone’s “contacts” list when they sign up. (I’ve been thinking that my wife, Lisa Carey, might be added to everyone’s favorite author list, however.)

Other features. I’ve finalized a couple of other small features and feature tweaks:

  • Author and book Zeitgeists are now updating more frequently. It’s all section-by-section, but everything should turn over roughly once per day.
  • The Author Zeitgeist now has a “show more” link for all the categories. Go nuts.
  • Talk topics have been partially de-Javascripted, for people who like to use tab browsing. Basically, if you click on the topic itself, it works. If you rely on clicking anywhere in the row, it’s still using Javascript and tabbed-browsing unfriendly.
  • Recently-tagged books now refresh more frequently. A security problem was also solved.
  • Users with your books takes up less space on the screen. A full list—in twice the list—is available if you click “more.”

Labels: authors, contacts, features, new feature, new features, watch list

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

New Feature Tip-Toe: “Early Reviewers”

We’re introducing something new, called LibraryThing Early Reviewers. It’s coming out officially on Tuesday, but assiduous blog readers get to start early.

The text at the top of the page sums it up:

“Random House has given us some advance copies of books soon to be published. We’re sharing these with you to read and review. You get free books, and share your opinions with a wide audience. LibraryThing makes everyone happy and keeps everything free and fair.”

So far, like much of what we do around here, this is something of a test. Kudos to Random House for being up to that.

Random has signed up for two batches of book. The first batch includes:

Eventually, Early Reviewers will be open to other publishers.

Members should understand what this is, and what it isn’t. We’re going to talk about LibraryThing Early Reviewers, but won’t be pushing Random House’s or anyone else’s books at you. Similarly, getting a free advanced readers copy comes with NO obligation. Under no circumstances will a bad review change your chance of getting another.

If more people want the books than we have copies, we’ll have to ration them. The basic algorithm is randomness, but other factors come into play. We’re going to try to spread the wealth around. And if you complete a review—good or bad!—you’re more likely to get another. Finally, LibraryThing’s matching algorithm will try to match up books with readers, based on the rest of your LibraryThing catalog. For publishers, that’s the interesting part; we’re anxious to see how it turns out.

I’ve set up a Early Reviewers group, to talk about Early Reviewers and Early Reviewer books. Let us know what you think!

Labels: early reviewers, features, new feature, new features, random house

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Stars in reviews

Here’s a low-hanging fruit. We finally put the review’s star rating in the reviews. I think I’ll call it a “mashup.”

From The Da Vinci Code:

Labels: new feature, new features, reviews

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

OttoBib links added

I’ve added links to OttoBib, a super-simple citation generator created by Jonathan Otto, an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.

The feature is available on the work info page (card catalog page) for any specific book—yours or someone else’s. Here’s an example. At present, it only works for books, not for general works. (After all, a work may have 1,000 ISBNs under it.) We hope to extend this in the near future. The results aren’t saved in any way, so if you’re doing a bibliography, you’ll have to do some cut-and-paste work.

We’re linking to OttoBib because we think it was nicely done. But, down the road, LibraryThing may need a stronger solution—one that works with non-ISBN books and which saves and juggles citations, rather than just creating them. We have some ideas along these lines, but your suggestions are always apprecated.

Labels: academic, citations, new feature, new features, ottobib