Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Language support

I’m spending the day on alphabet-support issues—getting all those diacriticals to work. Doing this requires some database and programming changes, some of which need to go through various steps, so you may see all your diacriticals go bad one minute, then correct the next. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

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Monday, September 19th, 2005

Avast me hearties!

Shiver me timbers, LibraryThing hit the Yahoo “new and notable” page (http://dir.yahoo.com/). In 1995 this would have been HUGE. I’m not sure anyone checks it anymore, but maybe they do. It’s below and to the right of the main entry, “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

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Monday, September 19th, 2005

Library of Congress faster

I did something technical that should eliminate long waits for the Library of Congress “session” to begin. Basically everyone now shares the same “session.”

Let me know if problems increase or decrease.

UPDATE: Or if it explodes, as it did! I guess the LC limits requests by session id. Sorry about that and thanks for taking the hit.

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Monday, September 19th, 2005

PS: 117,000 books!

Aside from having thousands of copies of Harry Potter and no exhibitionists in the stacks, this is getting to be a decent sized community library!

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Monday, September 19th, 2005

New server, new look

The new server came and, after some rough hours, everything is running smoothly. Ongoing server and programming tweaks should win further gains. The site is unlikely to be much faster during off-peak hours, but I’m hoping not to have hourly crashes and twenty-second waits during peak times.

I’ve done something of a major overhaul of the design. If you’re on Firefox, Netscape or Safari you shouldn’t see much of a difference. Windows Internet Explorer users will suddenly see… what you’re supposed to see. Why didn’t anyone tell me it looked so terrible! Owing to the death of my Windows machine, I hadn’t done much cross-platform testing. Ouch! Those who weren’t turned off by strangely-large fonts and boxes extending 5% off the edge of the window, I salute you!

Comments encouraged. I’m frankly a bit snowed-under right now, so replies may take a few days. Enjoy!

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Sunday, September 18th, 2005

Tags: speeding up and slimming down

I’m changing how tags work to speed things up a little before the new server arrives.

Selecting tags had become a chore. The list of other people using the tag was taking 1-2 seconds to load. The new one usually takes less than .001 seconds. Tonight and tomorrow I’ll be speeding other tag-based functions up similarly.

To achieve these effects I made a decision: From now on each tag cannot exceed thirty characters in length. This is enough for most purposes, even “used modern history textbooks,” but not for “things that are almost but not quite dictionaries” (a real tag!). Most processes now already use the “short'” version; the long versions will remain visible and editable until next Sunday. Then the axe falls! Actually, since most of the long tags are really comments or reviews, I will move them to the users’ comments field.

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Saturday, September 17th, 2005

Change tags implemented

I’ve implemented a Del.icio.us-like “change tags” feature, available under the tags tab (also improved) and in the catalog under “power options.” You can also delete tags and change one tag to many. The latter is useful for disambiguation, ie., change “un” to “u.n.” and “united nations.”

A “mass edit” feature will come tomorrow, allowing you to add tags or make other changes by ticking off books from a basic but complete list.

QUESTION:

Currently the tags are unsorted. If you enter “zebras, apples” it stays that way, and you can sort by it, making the first tag a sort of “primary tag.”

Making it always alphabetical would be easier and in some way more elegant. What is the norm? What do people want?

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Friday, September 16th, 2005

85,000 books!

85,000 books. I’m haven’t checked how many uniques that is (which is also somewhat definitional), but 1% of them are by J. K. Rowling…

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Friday, September 16th, 2005

New server coming

LibraryThing was featured on Lifehacker and Metafilter, among others. My server is melting and service is a little slow. I’ll have a much faster one up tonight or tomorrow.

My email box is also filling with suggestions. For new-comers, here are some improvements I’m working on:

  • User-defined fields
  • British Library searches, then other library searches
  • “Power” editing, including applying tags to multiple books in one sweep
  • Bar-code/UPC/EAN numbers
  • RSS feeds
  • iPod export (so you can check if you have something)

At present I’m whispering soothing words to the server. Once that’s finished I’ll shift my attention back to features. Keep sending suggestions, comments and criticisms. The site has come a long way since it opened less than two weeks ago, and user suggestions have been absolutely essential.

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Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Reviews and power users

I’ve added a “power user” button into the catalog (next to “search library”). I’m going to hang a lot on it later—I want to keep the interface simple for new users, but give people with hundreds of books new options.

At present it just adds two things: the delete icon , which people have been clamoring for, an a icon, which tells you if you’ve reviewed something ( just tells you it’s reviewed). When you’re in power-user mode you can also sort by whether or not you’ve reviewed it. It sorts your reviews first, then books reviewed by others, then unreviewed books.

Now my question: Clearly I need a page listing what books a given user has reviewed and another listing recently-reviewed books, books with the most reviews, etc. But how much stress should reviews have? How interested are people in it? Should I, for example, have a “Reviews” tab like the “Tags” tab? Would this convey the impression that LibraryThing was all about reviewing and discussing? I want to keep some focus. This site is not a universal book portal. It’s a book-cataloging service with some diverting social extensions.

Opinions pro and con solicited.

PS: Next up—”Power tagging.” Vroosh!

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