Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Similar libraries!!!

(Excuse the exclamation points. I need to express my glee somehow.)

Check out similar libraries feature. It tells you whose libraries are most like yours, but not by adding up the number of shared books. That method is distorted by common books and by large libraries. For example, you don’t share all that much when someone has Harry Potter—everyone has Harry Potter! It’s much better to be the only two people sharing “The Joy of Scottish Lacework.” Similarly, it doesn’t mean much that you share 10 books with oakesspalding—he’s got 2,100 of them.

I didn’t want to just toss up a number, so it computes it four ways. First, it adjusts for book obscurity. Second it adjusts for library size. Third it combines the factors. And fouth it gives you everyone who makes the other three lists—your library doppelgängers, if you will.

Let me know what you think. It works wonders in my case. Zette‘s library is huge and very similar. Oakesspalding‘s library is much the same (although the fact that we give each other books for Christmas distorts it). Languagehat shares many of my interests, like Greek and even Hittite. CaveatLector is the best find—he has only 106 books so I would have otherwise overlooked him, but the nine books he shares with me are all obscure treasures.

Let me know if it works for you, and which of the measures is the most accurate.

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Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Language support finished

LibraryThing now provides good support for the familiar—to many—non-English diacriticals such as é and ñ and gamely handles the exotic—to many—ones like č and å. The encoding is now “UTF-8″ so, in theory, is should be able to handle a much wider variety of scripts, but neither Amazon nor the Library of Congress transmit material in non-Latin scripts, so you’ll have to type it yourself for now.

LibraryThing is now ready to start adding foreign libraries, and that is high on my list of goals. I shall also see if I can get Amazon Japan working.

Everything should be good going forward. The trick was getting all the old material into shape. LibraryThing-ers had employed all manner of tricks to get diacriticals to work, and some of that editing was hard to detect and correct for. Again, French, Spanish and German books should be fine, but I’m not so sure about the Georgian books languagehat entered. (In this case, my Mac simply won’t show Georgian, so I couldn’t tell anyway.)

The other gap is material entered between 8pm and 1am. I shut down book editing and tried to process everything coming in, but at almost 1,000 books/hr, a delay of thirty seconds between processes may have left some books “half cooked.”

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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 ( 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 “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.


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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