Archive for the ‘new features’ Category

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

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

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

Monday, July 19th, 2010

More “More”

I’ve pushed a major revamp of the More tab, which has expanded from one (confusing) page to eight better-organized ones.

The More tab is divided into convenient sections like Sites and Applications and Store. Helpers and Member Projects are just a start. Come talk about what’s missing here.

Labels: new features

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

What groups are your friends in?

Following up on last night’s feature, jjwilson61 recommended turning it around. So I’ve added a stats/memes page to show the groups your connections—friends, and other people—are in.

Here’s your page.

Come talk about it.

Labels: new features

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Announcing OverCat

We have added a new source to every member’s Add Books page: OverCat, LibraryThing’s new index of 32 million library records, assembled from libraries around the world, and the first step in a major upgrade of LibraryThing’s cataloging functions.

Sources. OverCat was assembled from over 700 sources. The core consists of full datasets from the Library of Congress, Washington State, Boston College, Oregon State, and Talis Base (a collection of UK libraries).* To this we’ve added records from the hundreds of thousands of books members have searched for and added from the 690 libraries LibraryThing connects to.

The end result is arguably the second-largest searchable database of library records in existence, after OCLC.**

How to use it. To use OverCat, go to your Add books page. OverCat has been added to everyone’s source list. (It can be removed but not yet reordered.)

High-quality results. To make it easier to find the edition you need, OverCat combines results into edition-level clusters, so you get one result per edition (rather than pages and pages of the same edition of the same book from different libraries).  By default, it will give you what it guesses the best available record is for that edition, but you can select from any one of the alternate records if you want to.

OverCat isn’t everything. The Library of Congress data dump is not current–although it’s been supplemented with user searches. Our relevancy ranking isn’t as good as Amazon’s. (We could use your feedback to make it better.) But most users will find it a useful source, and many will find it the best one.

The Big Issue. OverCat is available to LibraryThing members in the course of normal site activity—cataloging small collections of books.*** It will not be available for external access, including by libraries. It is not a back door to OCLC data.

This will come as a disappointment to many, including us. We have long argued for library-data openness and against OCLC’s bid to privatize and monopolize library data. But we also made it clear to the libraries we search that their data will not be made available outside of the context of personal cataloging without their permission. This will not change, now or in the future.

We would love to open OverCat up, to make it OpenLibrary as we originally hoped it would be it, or like Amazon Web Services, but with free, high quality data. We believe data openness is critical to the survival of libraries in our increasingly free and open world. But we depend upon open search portals, and will never open up a library’s data against its wishes. Some of these libraries may want to open up their data, but some clearly do not, and almost everyone is afraid of OCLC and its new data policy.*** Either way, we will abide by libraries’ wishes.

For the 690 libraries we search little has changed. We will still send member searches to your systems, but fewer—reducing your load—and the requests may not come at the time of searching. As before, found records will be stored on LibraryThing systems, but can now be used by more than one user and will appear in OverCat searches. Bulk or non-personal access will not be possible.

Thanks. OverCat has been a long-term project of Casey Durfee. The Board for Extreme Thing Advances helped us nail down bugs and decide on the name.

The future. LibraryThing’s greatest strength is its cataloging, but we don’t want to rest on that. There are a lot of improvements we can do now that we have a flexible, scaleable structure and repository for our data. OverCat is the first step here.

Come talk about your suggestions, and OverCat generally, on Talk here.


*Some OpenLibrary data was omitted for being mostly duplicative or of insufficient quality.

**For background on the OCLC issue, see here. We will also honor requests to remove libraries’ data from OverCat, excepting those libraries (like the LC), whose records are public by both law and public dumps.

There are larger collections. Harvard, for example, is said to have contributed 81 million records to OCLC, but most can’t have been book records, as the volume-count of Harvard is less than that of the Library of Congress, which we include.

We could make part of the data free, and part closed. But since the free data comes from OpenLibrary it would be duplicative of their efforts. We may explore this avenue in the future, as our primary complaint against OpenLibrary is the lack of exportable library-data formats.

***Exports of your library are included, obviously, but no larger dumps. “Personal” includes some small institutions, like church libraries, clubs and so forth.

Labels: cataloging, new features

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Swaptree integration

We’ve added integration with a thirteenth swap site, Swaptree.com. By available titles Swaptree is now one of the larger swap sites we integrate with—and the last large one I’m aware of!

Swaptree differs from some of the other sites in that you don’t accumulate points and trade them in. Instead, Swaptree helps you make item-for-item trades with other users. The site also lists DVDs, CDs and video games, and you can make cross-media trades (eg., a video game for a book).

I’m don’t know how it figures out what you get for everything, but it’s a nifty idea, and seems sensible in light of my blog post on top wanted and unwanted items at swap sites. When I entered the top-wanted The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it offered me choice of nearly 100,000 books—some quite attractive to me—along with some appealing DVDs and games. At the other end, it offered me nothing at all for the least-wanted Da Vinci Code. That certainly seems like a potential answer to one problem with swap sites.

You can specify which swap sites are calculated into on Edit profile > Sites/apps.

It might be interesting if, in the future, LibraryThing integrated more deeply, so that, when you went to a book on LibraryThing, it told you if you could get it based on your Swaptree “have” list.

Come talk about this.

Labels: new features, swap, swap site

Monday, May 24th, 2010

LibraryThing Facebook integration, phase 1

LibraryThing/Facebook integration

We’ve just introduced “phase one” of LibraryThing-Facebook integration. It’s been a ridiculously long time coming, but it’s here. The framework for the project is built and one feature has been implemented—review posting.

Posting Reviews. Phase one is posting reviews. Whenever you write or edit a review you can elect to post the review to Facebook, where it appears as on the right. It also links back to the review page on LibraryThing.

On your Edit profile: Sites/apps page you will find a handy checkbox to make the “Share to Facebook” default to “on” (unless you’ve already published the review, in which case you must explicitly make it republish it).

Sharing via Facebook adds the LibraryThing Books app., which is a Facebook app. for LibraryThing. Right now it does nothing except post your reviews as requested.

So, what else should it do? (Everything, okay, but what is most important?) Come talk about it here.

Credits. The programming this time around was done by Mike (LTMike). Members of the Board for Extreme Thing Advances provided valuable help.

Labels: facebook, new features

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Beta: “Read Alike” recommendations

I’ve pushed through a beta version of a new recommendation engine.

The “Read Alikes” recommendations supplement our existing automatic and member recommendations. “Read Alikes” are based directly on the members who have your books—the people who “read alike” you, or whatever.

So far, opinion is divided. Some members love it, and are getting great recommendations. Others report a parade of things they already know about. Is it quite consciously, however, a beta feature. It may be improved, or it may go away. Most likely, it will go away and be replaced by a better overall algorithm, with better tools for managing your recommendations.

Labels: new features, recommendations