Friday, September 18th, 2009
At 5 pm on Friday we jumped the gun on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, sending the whole site into Pirate-talk. (We’ll turn back off tomorrow evening, but click “Turn OFF pirate-speak” to turn it off sooner.)
Arr, me hearties! was composed of volunteers from the Beta Group who spent the last week going string by string through LibraryThing’s interface, using the same code we use for our non-English sites. We ended up translating some 2,400 bits and pieces, about 44.2% of the site, making it only the 19th most-translated language, just above Albanian. (That sheds some light on how much effort has gone into the near-complete Portuguese, Dutch, French, Catalan and other translations!)
Top translators included readafew, rastaphrog, lorax, Carnophile, sqdancer, <ahttp://blog.librarything.com/main/wp-content/uploads/pirate/ href=”http://www.librarything.com/profile/conceptDawg”>conceptDawg and me.
For posterity’s sake, I took some screenshots:
*All LibraryThing employees were originally going to take photos of ourselves eating cake, in honor of LibraryThing’s fourth anniversary. (We’re in eight different cities, so we can’t just all eat cake together.) Anyway, Sonya had to miss the meeting where we cancelled this plan, and we forgot to tell her, so she dutifully sent her cake photo. Well, I hope she enjoyed the cake!
Friday, September 18th, 2009
As Tim blogged last night, we needed some help from members to link LibraryThing data on bookstores to IndieBound data. We connected 1,200 automatically, but that left 1,362 that had to be done manually—checking exact names, addresses, sometimes even creating a new “venue” on LibraryThing Local.
Tim posted the plea for help at about 5:30 pm last night. By 11 am this morning, it was entirely done. That’s right, in less than eighteen hours—most of which were in the middle of the night, in the US at least—LibraryThing members completed the task. That’s incredible. Insane. Fantastic.
As Tim tweeted, “IndieBound/LT demonstrates what I believe: Independent bookstores can win online if they engage the community. Love is powerful.” His sentiments were retweeted all over, and the IndieBound folks agreed. (See IndieBoundPaige, mattsupko, SarahABA on Twitter)
LibraryThing members are indeed an incredible community, and love indeed is powerful.* We’re going to add a new helper badge to recognize these folks. Thank you, thank you.
*Anyone who hasn’t seen Clay Shirky’s “The Internet Runs on Love” talk, should (blogged
Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Summary: We need your help connecting LibraryThing to IndieBound. Like peanut butter and chocolate, we taste great together. Help us out.
Why IndieBound? To make the new “Get it Now,” and the “Local” section, LibraryThing needs to update and improve our local data. We want to give members as many options as possible about where to get the book. And we’ve always supported independent bookstores.
We turned to IndieBound (formerly BookSense), the large and influential organization of independent bookstores in the US and Canada. After explaining ourselves, they gave us a feed of their store data—thank you IndieBound! But we need to connect their data to our data, the venues in LibraryThing Local. Store names and addresses are seldom exactly the same.
We were able to connect 1,200 automatically, but another 1,300 bookstores need connecting. In some cases, a new LibraryThing venue has to be created.
How can you help? We need your help. We’re programmers and librarians, and we don’t have the manpower to tackle a job like this. And, frankly, we think others can do it better than us.
We’ve made a “Help Put IndieBound on LibraryThing” page. It shows all the IndieBound data on the left, and LibraryThing data on the right. A simple interface helps you match up the data, and connect it. You can also improve the data—adding pictures, phone numbers and etc. Everything you do will raise the profile of independent booksellers on LibraryThing. Needless to say, IndieBound is getting a feed back. What LibraryThing knows can, we think, help them too.
Here’s a New Features’ talk thread to ask questions, ask for help and etc.
Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Summary: Amazon is requiring us remove links to other booksellers on work pages. We’re creating a new “Get it Now” page, with links to other booksellers, especially local bookstores and libraries, and a host of new features. Talk about it here.
The challenge. We’re days away from releasing a series of changes to our book pages, both forced and intentional. Amazon is requiring all websites, as a condition of getting any data from them, to have the primary page link to Amazon alone. Links to other booksellers are prohibited. Secondary pages—pages you go to from the primary page—can have non-Amazon links.
Everyone at LibraryThing disagrees with this decision. LibraryThing is not a social cataloging and social networking site for Amazon customers but for book lovers. Most of us are Amazon customers on Tuesday, and buy from a local bookstore or get from a library on Wednesday and Thursday! We recognize Amazon’s value, but we certainly value options.
Importanly, the decision is probably not even good for Amazon. Together with a new request-monitoring system, banning iPhone applications that use Amazon data, and much of their work on the Kindle, Amazon is retreating from its historic commitment to simplicity, flexibility and openness. They won through openness. Their data is all over the web, and with it millions of links to Amazon. They won’t benefit from a retreat here.
But agree or not, we have to follow their terms. We thought long and hard about giving up Amazon data entirely, converting to library data only, in concert with a commercial provider, like Bowker or Ingram, and with help from publishers and members. Unlike our competitors, who are exclusively based on Amazon and who don’t “catalog” so much as keep track of which Amazon items you have, that option is available to us. But we’d lose a lot, particularly book covers. Ultimately, we’ve decided the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.
The Response. Most of all, we think we’ve found a way to give Amazon what they require, and continue to provide members with options: We’re going cut back our primary-page links to Amazon alone, and give people the best, most diverse secondary pages we can make. We are allowed to link to other booksellers, like IndieBound and Barnes and Noble on secondary pages, and we’re going to do it far better than we ever have. We’re going to take something away, but also make something better—something that goes way past what we did before, in features and in diversity of options.
The upcoming “Get it Now” page will go far beyond our current “Buy, borrow, swap” links, with a live new and used price-comparison engine, as well as sections for ebooks, audiobooks and swap sites. The page will be edition-aware, and draw on feeds or live data (so the links work). Many members have wanted live pricing data for the books they already own and these features can be used for that purpose too. We’ll also be doing some stuff with libraries nobody else has, or can, do.
Key to the upcoming Get it Now page is a “Local” module, drawing on LibraryThing Local, showing all the libraries and bookstores near you. Where possible, this list will incorporate holdings data and links to buy—the sort of information you never get from a Google search on a book. If not, we’ll give you their telephone numbers and show you where they are on a map. We’ll make the page customizable, and let members add sources to it.
We think the new page will make a lot of members happy. For one thing, LibraryThing has never been about buying books, so having all these links on a separate page won’t be a great loss. And if the new format doesn’t make members happy, we’ll listen, and together we can plan to take LibraryThing on a truly independent course.
Post your comment here, or come talk about this on Site Talk.
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.
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
Then request away! The list of available books is here:
The deadline to request a copy is Friday, September 25th at 6PM EST.
Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, Germany, Denmark, European Union, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.
Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!
|Bloomberg Press||Weiser Books||The Permanent Press|
|Bell Bridge Books||Tilbury House||Kensington Publishing|
|B&H Publishing Group||New York Review Books||St. Martin’s Minotaur|
|Faith Words||Hachette Book Group||St. Martin’s Griffin|
|Orca Book Publishers||Random House||BelleBooks|
|Picador||Gefen Publishing House||Bleak House Books|
|HighBridge||University of Wisconsin Press||Barbour Books|
|Osprey Publishing||Beach Books||Doubleday Books|
|Kiwi Publishing||Henry Holt and Company||How To Books|
|HarperCollins||Brandeis University Press||University Press of New England|
|Bascom Hill Books|
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
Hiring good employees is tough. So we try to sweeten the pot a bit. Last fall we offered $1,000 worth of books to anyone who could find us a good employee. Luke, genius that he is, “found” himself.
Voila Luke, holding his gift cards to Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA. Ironically, by the time we got to cashing in his prize, Luke had moved on (a new company and a new state! Now he’s conveniently located near to the fantastic Porter Square Books and, of course, me.)
The bookstore wasn’t quite sure how to handle our request for a $1,000 gift card. Apparently they’d never done that before, and the system couldn’t handle it. So Luke wound up with five $200 gift cards. All the better for sharing.