Archive for the ‘new features’ Category

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Cataloging improvement III: Better “Sort character” support

Short version: We’ve added more tools for specifying how titles should sort.

Background: LibraryThing has been sorting “The Road” under “R” not “T”, and allowing members to change where the sorting “starts” since 2007. Mostly, the system gets it right in the first place, especially if you use library data, whose records contain information on “non-filing characters” (within the 245 field, second indicator, of course). If it doesn’t, super-knowledeable members use the “pipe trick,” changing a title like Die Fleledermaus to Die ||Fledermaus, to mark the start of sorting explicitly.

Bringing Sort Characters into the Open. To improve understanding and use of the feature, and to help troubleshoot when LibraryThing choses poorly, we’ve decided to expose the “sort character” (a.k.a. “non-filing characters,” “sort offset,” etc.).*

You can now add the field to one of your “Your Books” views:


Edit and manual entry now get a tiny drop-down menu (on the right), so you can see and change the sort character number. (We aimed for inconspicuous enough not to frighten newbies, but not entirely hidden.)


We’ve also improved the “pipe trick” by making the pipes invisible under normal circumstances. For example, here’s a book in “Your Books.”


And here it is, with pipes, when you double-click to edit.


In practice, pipes always disable and/or override the sort-chracter number.

Come talk about this feature on talk.

* I asked for help naming the feature. The geeky-cutest was definitely Chris Holland’s “alphabit.”

Labels: new feature, new features, small libraries, Uncategorized

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Cataloging improvement II: Date selectors

Yesterday I added calendar “date selectors” to many of the places you can enter dates into LibraryThing. The selectors are optional—you can always just type instead. But they may come in handy.

Click here.

And get a date selector.

Along with this, and along with the recent export improvements, a number of important long-running date bugs have been closed. We look forward to help identifying and squashing what remains.

Come discuss on Talk.

Technical note: We used jQuery UI’s datepicker.

Labels: new feature, new features, small libraries

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Cataloging improvement I: Better export

filtering options

The New Export Filtering Options

We’ve just released a new and improved export feature. Check it out here.

Major improvements include:

  • Export filtering. So you can export only books added since a certain date, books with a certain tag. You can also use the new search syntax to control your export even more precisely.
  • More fields. The new tab-delimited and JSON fields now include 41 exported fields, up from 16 or 29 in the old export formats. Essentially all book data should now be included in the export.
  • Richer fields. Flat files, such as tab-delimited text, have a problem with “multidimensional data,” such as secondary authors and their roles. The new format attempts to represent this data more completely, separating sub-values with pipe (|) characters.
  • JSON format. Export is now available in JSON format, a lightweight data format much used by programmers.
  • Better MARC options. We’ve improve the MARC options, for members interested in exporting to a library-industry system.
  • Not being partially broken. Always a good feature!

Try it out. Go ahead and try out the new export.

Discuss. Come discuss the new export features on Talk.

Thanks. Export was re-engineered by Chris, Ammar* and me (Tim). It is based on the improvements Mike made to “Your Books” searching, and indeed the JSON format is effectively the format that the search system now indexes. (This will prove useful for troubleshooting problems with members.)

Screen shots

main options
marc options

UPDATE: We’ve added an explicit Excel format.

* Who is Ammar? Stick around, we’ll tell you soon.

Labels: new feature, new features, small libraries

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Better “Your Books” searching

Back in September, we debuted the beta version of a new “Your Books” search system, based on Elasticsearch. The new Your Books search has now replaced the old, and it’s live on the site for all members.

The new system brings with it a number of improvements, including:

  • It’s much faster.
  • No more “reindexing” process—you’ll never see that green “loading” bar when searching your books again.
  • It handles accents and other “special” characters much better; you can search for “resume” or “résumé”, etc.
  • The search syntax is much expanded (see below), allowing for explicit AND, OR and NOT searches, as well as term “nesting.”
  • Searches are echoed back with fields and operators specially marked, so you can see if the system understood the search as intended.
  • Hyphens are normalized, meaning a search for “science-fiction” will return the same results as “science fiction”.
  • The system allows for “stemming,” so a search for “automobiles” or “singing” would also return results for “automobile” and “sings”. You can see which fields are stemmed and which are not here on the wiki page.


Along with our new Your Books search, we’ve revamped the search syntax, which now allows for searches that include operators like AND, NOT, and OR, as well as field-specific searching. You can now search all of Your Books for things like:

  • history AND NOT art (all books with “history” and not “art” somewhere in the data)
  • tag:history AND NOT art (all books tagged with “history,” and not tagged with “art”)
  • hist* (all books with words beginning with “hist” somewhere in the data)
  • (history AND (greek OR roman)) (all books with “history” and either “greek” or “roman” somewhere in the data)
  • review:“” (books with no review)

For a full rundown of the advanced syntax now at your disposal in Your Books search, see the wiki page. There, you’ll find lists of all operators you can use, fields you can search directly, etc.

You’ll notice that, once you’re done with a search, the same ‘X’ the upper-left of Your Books will clear and remove your search. Next to that ‘X’, you can now see the full details of your search, written out as it was interpreted. So, a search for tag:history AND NOT art should display Search: tag: history AND tag: NOT art.

If you’d rather not type out the names of fields you’d like to search, the drop-down menu next to “Search” is still available. The default is, as always, “All fields.”

What else is new?

We’ve also extended our new and improved search abilities to searching the books of your fellow group-members, your connections, and Legacy Libraries. Wondering who in our Legacy Libraries shares your love of The Hobbit, who else in the 75 Books Challenge is a Frankenstein fan, or who among your LibraryThing Connections has a copy of Ivanhoe you can borrow? You can find all three of these on one page, here, where you can switch between them using the tabs at the top of the page.

As mentioned above, new search is now live on the site and has fully replaced the old. Your Books search should be working much more smoothly and efficiently now, so let us know what you think! If you’re having any trouble, feel free to post your questions in this Talk topic.

We’d like to thank all the members who’ve been testing the system, but especially the clever and indefatigable bnielsen.

Labels: new feature, new features, search, small libraries

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

October catalog improvements

The last few days have seen three small improvements to “Your Books.”

1. Dewey Wording I’ve added a column for “Dewey Wording,” bringing the textual descriptions of your Dewey numbers (a.k.a. DDC, MDS) numbers into the catalog, if you want them. To get it, Edit your styles or click the “cog” (i.e., ) on the style control (i.e., Screenshot 2014-10-23 10.27.13) within your catalog.

Screenshot 2014-10-23 10.11.09

All the wordings are clickable, and like clicking a DDC number, they take you into the (awesome, but not often known-about) DDC mode.

Screenshot 2014-10-23 09.13.05

2. Faster LCC/Dewey Sorting. Sorting your catalog in Library of Congress Classification (LCC) or Dewey (DDC) is now faster for large libraries. Here’s a speed breakdown.

3. More sorts. You can now sort by three new fields: Private comments, LCCN and OCLC Number.

See also the Talk post about these changes.

Labels: classification, new feature, new features, small libraries, Uncategorized

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

New Feature: Comments Revamp

Today we’re unveiling a major upgrade in how LibraryThing handles comments.

» You can skip all this talk and just see your comments page now.

The old system—in place since the dawn of LibraryThing (back when MySpace was on top and Facebook was just for Harvard Students)—was simple: everyone had a “comments” section on their profile. But it had drawbacks:

  • Real conversation was nigh-impossible. Messages “lived” in two separate places, with Person A writing on Person B’s profile, and person B replying on person A’s profile. Context was non-existent.
  • Everything was a comment—real comments, notes to people looking at your profile, system notifications, Early Reviewer notifications, etc.
  • Administration was a pain. There was no pagination, making some profiles unwieldy and slow. Members “archived” messages to get them off their profiles.

The new system is designed to fix all these problems, and add some features:

  • Comments now have a dedicated page, available from your profile and on every page.
  • You can now see “Conversations” with other members–a view of all the comments you’ve sent back and forth. The member names that show up immediately below “Conversations” on the left-hand menu are your most recent conversations.
  • The left of the comments page shows recent conversations. Clicking “See all…” shows a rather complete overview of all the conversations you’ve had on LibraryThing, sorted by recentness or “most” (which conversations have the most comments). You can also see conversations by the first letter of a member’s name.
  • Replies “live” where they’re posted. Replying to a comment left on your “Wall” will both notify the other member of your reply, and also keep the two (or three, etc.) messages together, in context.
  • Your comments are split into your “Wall,” system notifications and social notifications. We’re going to be doing more with notifications, now that we can separate them from your “real” messages.
  • Early Reviewers notifications are separated out too, if you’re an Early Reviewer.
  • To round out the categories, there are also links to “Archived” and “All.”
  • Everything is paginated, so the pages are small and you aren’t scrolling forever.
  • Comments now allow Touchstones to works and authors, so you can type “[The Once and Future King]” or “[[Mark Twain]]” and it will turn them into links to that work or author.

Your “Comment Wall” still lives at the bottom of your profile. You can also get to your comments page from anywhere on LibraryThing by clicking the number in the upper-right corner next to your member name. When you have a new comment, that number will have a yellow background. You can also reach your comments page by going to

In addition to separating out actual comments from system and Early Reviewers notifications, which each have their own , we’ve also added some header icons to these messages, so, if you’re looking at “All,” you’ll know right away what kind of comment you’ve got.

Below is a look at the “See all” page, which, in this case, gives you an idea of just how many conversations I have going. You can sort by most comments in a conversation, most recently updated conversation, or alphabetically by member name.

Click to enlarge

We’ve already got a lively discussion going on Talk: New Comments System.

Come tell us what you think!

Labels: new feature, new features

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Rate Recommendations

I’ve added a new feature for members to help improve the quality of LibraryThing’s automatic recommendations. It mirrors something we did for author recommendations. This time it’s for works, addressing those times when you see a bum recommendation, or spot a book that’s too low on the list.

You can find the new “Rate Recommendations” feature in the “LibraryThing Recommendations” section of work pages. Click on “Rate Recommendations” and you get the expanded “rating” view.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 11.04.23 PM

Rating is divided into ten boxes.(1) All things being equal, giving something six or more sends the recommendation up, and giving something five or less sends it down. We’re going to see how it develops before finalizing the algorithm, which will remain intentionally obscure.(2)

In addition to appearing on work pages, I’ve also made a page for members to rapidly peruse their works’ recommendations, and chime in on them, without going work page by work page. It keeps track of how many works’ recommendations you rated, among other statistics.

You can find your page here:

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 11.08.59 PM

Here’s the Talk post about it. Come tell us what you think!

(1) It’s the same system as five stars, with half stars. Indeed, that was the original system for the author recommendation rating. But we decided it was too much like rating the book.
(2) At present, we’ve giving it a lot of power. This will probably be reduced. Either way, there’ll be factors other than the mere presence of a rating at work.

Labels: new feature, new features, recommendations

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

LibraryThing adds SSL


LibraryThing has added SSL encryption to all pages that ask for private data.

That means the data you submit for signing in—signing up, changing your password, changing your email, etc.—is securely encrypted between you and LibraryThing. Depending on your browser, this will show up as a “lock” symbol, or just a change in the LibraryThing URL from http:// to https://.

Is LibraryThing going all-SSL?

We have decided on this as a first step, with the intention of going to all-SSL, or all-SSL for signed-in members only, as soon as practicable.

Going all-SSL is going to require considerable work, sifting through all the non-http URLs to avoid “mixed content” messages. Although these vary in their obtrusiveness browser-by-browser, going all-SSL without extensive testing is likely to lead to a lot more in confusion that it solves in potential problems.

As a result of this change, if you previously chose to browse LibraryThing using SSL, ignoring the warnings, you will no longer be able to do so. Rather, if you’re on one of the selected, user-data pages, it now forces you to use https. If you’re not on one of these pages, it forces you to use http.

At present, the solution covers and all its subdomains, like (Danish), (Brazilian Portuguese). It is not installed on separate domains, like (Germany) and (Holland). We will be weighing our options there, as SSL certificates are expensive.

Come discuss this on Talk, if you like.

Labels: new features, security, servers

Friday, January 10th, 2014

New Feature: Spoiler Alert!

To accompany the next few rounds of One LibraryThing, One Book, we’ve rolled out another nifty feature that’s been requested for quite some time now: a spoiler tag. Use it throughout OLOB discussion, and anywhere you deem necessary on LibraryThing.

How does it work?

All you have to do is enclose the spoiler-y text in a “spoiler” tag, like so:

“And the real murderer was actually <spoiler>you</spoiler> all along!”

Your result will look like this:

“And the real murderer was actually you all along!”

If you’re desperate to share what happened at the end of a good book, but don’t want to give too much away, just wrap the sensitive lines in a spoiler tag. You’ll avoid unintentionally ruining someone’s read-through (and if they do actually click on it, well, they’ve had fair warning).

Questions? Comments?

Let us know over on Talk.

Labels: features, new features

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Little Free Libraries, BookCrossing Zones and more in LibraryThing Local

Short Version:

LibraryThing members have banded together to add all known “Little Libraries,” including Little Free Libraries®, BookCrossing Zones™, the Dutch project “Minibieb” and others to LibraryThing Local, LibraryThing’s index and map of over 87,000 bookstores, libraries and other bookish places. Members have already added 749 of them. A slew of new features supports the project.

Check it out:

SqueakyChu‘s library, The Little Free Library of Twinbrook, in Rockville, MD

Long Version:

A long-time member, SqueakyChu, recently requested that we add Little Free Libraries (LFLs) to LibraryThing Local. Apparently the LFL people have been unable to keep up with all the new libraries, and have fallen months behind. Their own map is also limited compared to LibraryThing’s robust feature set. And having LFLs in LibraryThing Local would allow LibraryThing members to discover them, as well as users of our Readar iPhone app.

If you don’t know, Little Free Libraries is a grassroots movement sweeping the country and the world. “Stewards” build or buy them, set them up somewhere, often in their front yards, and fill them with books. Visitors take and leave books as they wish. BookCrossing, around since 2001(!), is a similar concept, encouraging and tracking the free exchange of books from reader to reader. Books can be released “into the wild” anywhere, but “BookCrossing Zones” (BCZs) are special spaces set up to facilitate this exchange.

We’ve discussed similar efforts before, and approached both organizations for a feed, without success. We’d love to work with either or both, and will (of course) share our data. But we’re not going to wait. We want people to know about these great projects, and all the other informal sharing libraries out there. So we jumped in. Before releasing it, we had our “Board for Extreme Thing Advances” group to work on it, and they added almost 700 venues, and worked out all the conventions we needed.

Little Free Libraries in Connecticut

New features

How do I add venues?

If you’re interested in adding Little Libraries, here are some resources:

Little Free Libraries

  • Members have set up a Wiki Page, recording what states and countries have already been entered, and which haven’t
  • Check out the discussion topic, where members hash out conventions and trade tips

BookCrossing Zones

We’re still figuring out how to find and add all official and unofficial zones. If you’re interested, join the conversation.

Other libraries

“Little Libraries” is for small collections of every type, not just book exchanges. The Dutch projects MiniBieb and Boekspots are closely analogous to Little Free Libraries, so they fit. But, as I’ve written before, cities and towns throughout the world are filled with such collections, from coffee shops to churches, from community centers to advocacy groups. At present we’re focusing on fully “public” venues, but the many types available to choose from means it can all go in, with suitable filters for what you want and what you don’t want.

Come Talk about this project.

Labels: librarything local, local books, member projects, new feature, new features