Archive for the ‘tagmash’ Category
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Introduced back in 2007, tagmashes, allow you to investigate what books satisfy two or more tags. It’s a great way to find books of a clear type, but for which no single tag really works.
For example, no one has yet used the tag “vegetarian Indian cooking” and there’s no Library of Congress Subject Heading for it either. But combine three tags, like vegetarian, India and cooking into the tagmash vegetarian, India, cooking and you get over 50 good matches.
Simple two-tag combination can work wonders:
Some of my favorites are off-beat: all those books about knitting for your dog and—shiver—knitting with dog hair can be found at knitting, pets. erotic, zombies is 80% Laurell K. Hamilton. And who can say no to humor, pirates? (Did you know that this Saturday is Talk like a Pirate Day? You will.)
On the serious end, fairly complex topics also work:
- politics, -United States Politics books, demoting books with “United States” tags
- politics, –United States Politics books, removing every book tagged “United States”
An important feature of tagmash is that it’s not just a “search.” Once created, tagmash pages stay there, and it enters the “swirl of relatedness.” Somtimes a tag page will suggest the perfect tagmash. Other times, a tagmash will suggest an unconsidered subject.
It works something like tag mirrors. Instead of showing you how you tag things, it shows how others tag your stuff. Except instead of showing you Individual tags, it finds tagmashes.
The results is, I think, a good list of topics you’re interested in—topics more complex than a single tag can express. In my case, it surfaces topics like Macedonia, history, Greek, divination, Ottoman Empire, travel and erotic, poetry (!). Abby is apparently interested in adventure, surreal, English, death, love and—what a winner—evil, love.
You can find the feature from your profile statistics page. If you’re signed in, this link will take you to yours.
What do you think? Comment here or come over to the New Features Talk thread.
Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
UPDATE: I’m really enjoying the Talk discussion of this feature. Also, at this point it’s better to talk about the feature than to use it. Everyone using it at once has the server that handles it taxed rather seriously!
A major publisher recently asked us to show them a tag cloud of their books. It took a mental flip, but only a few lines of code to adapt this for individual use.
The result is Tag Mirror, available from your and everyone’s profile—here’s mine (and Abby‘s, Altay‘s, Giovanni‘s and Casey‘s*). If you’re signed in, here’s yours. (Please note: It takes serious processing power to analyze 22 million tags. Everyone is going to hit it at once, so be patient.)
Tag Mirror “holds a mirror” up to your books and to you. Instead of showing what you think about your books—what a regular tag cloud shows—it shows you what others think of them, in effect using LibraryThing’s twenty-two million tags to organize and surface interesting topics from within your own collection.** As with other tag clouds, size equals importance. When you click on a tag, you get a relevancy-ranked list of books tagged that way.
I can’t decide if it’s just the sort of cherry-on-top feature that makes LibraryThing unique or if it’s something genuinely new and interesting. I think it might be the latter. As Altay put it, it’s the sort of idea that seems obvious in retrospect.
I didn’t know I was interested in gender studies.
Here’s a for-example. I don’t use the tags gender studies, patristics or theory. They’re just not terms I use. To some extent, that reflects who I am. But I have a fair number of books that, to others, fall under those categories. It’s interesting to slice my books up in an alien way—to see them through other eyes. Maybe I’m more interested in gender studies than I thought.
More concretely, I do use the tag “alternate history,” but browsing my tag mirror page called up some alternate histories that I hadn’t tagged that way—useful stuff.***
Finally, Tag Mirror gives everyone a tag cloud, even those who don’t bother to tag anything. It seems almost unfair.
As our recent discussion of what tagging does to knowledge brought out so well, tagging is a complex mixture of private purpose and public good. I agree with those who say that we tag best when we tag for ourselves. But when everyone does that, a rich web of meaning is created.
I’ve done my best to push tagging in some new directions, trying subjects and tags together statistically, making book recommendations based on tag patterns, and with the tagmash feature. You can add Tag Mirror to that list. Little things. But they keep getting more interesting.
UPDATE: It’s 4:30am and, of course, I couldn’t finish blogging it before someone else started a thread about it (“Just noticed this on my profile”). Come talk about it.
*Casey has a surprising number of cookbooks! He’s coming up here in a few weeks—it’ll be the first time any of us have actually met him. We usually just order pizza. I think that plan’s changed.
**It doesn’t actually exclude your own tags. They still have an effect.
***It also brought up Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. People tag unexpectedly, if humorously.
Tuesday, July 24th, 2007
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:
- Tagmash: alcohol, history
- Tagmash: dogs, humor
- Tagmash: historical fiction, renaissance
- Tagmash: erotica, zombies
- Tagmash: french, philosophy, -existentialism, -postmodernism
That’s the short version. But stop here and you’ll never know what Zombie Listmania is!