Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Top ten suggestions

Member lilypadma suggested we hire more people. But finding new good people is hard, so we opted for cloning.**

Just over a week ago* we asked members to come up with their recommendations on “Ten Ways to Make LibraryThing Better.” We promised to pick twenty-five winners, including ten winning answers and fifteen random picks.

Members heard the call, writing 259 answers for a total of 45,000 words–slightly longer than Henry James’s Turn of the Screw. Last week Sonya, Abby, Casey and I got together to work on LibraryThing for Libraries. We took a break on Wednesday to (drink and) read through the answers. We couldn’t pick just ten winners, so I’ve expanded it to 17–32 winners total. We could have easily done 50 more.

The Prizes. Winners get to chose between (1) A CueCat barcode scanner; (2) A LibraryThing t-shirt; (3) First dibs on a LibraryThing Early Reviewers book.

Winners should let Abby (abby@librarything.com) know what you want. If you want the Early Reviewer book, you’re also going to need to change your Early Reviewers picks to select just one book. We’re going to give you an “ER mojo” of a million, so whatever you pick, you’ll get.

The Winners. Random Winners: rfb, maryanntherese, jocainster, Imprinted, circeus, jabogaer, rastaphrog, claudiuo, jjmcgaffey, arnzen, trojanpotato, surly, phoenixfire, sigridsmith

sophies_choice (7): “Let us mark which books are our favourite.” I’m divided whether to make this work like author and venue favorites, or to make it a “collection.”

PhoenixTerran (31): “Update debris and author pages immediately after combining/separating has occurred” A big leap is going to happen here very soon, with the introduction of a more stable “editions” layer. I’m actually doing edition-level calculations in the background today, with an eye to inaugurating the system on a limited basis tonight.

Philtill (160): We all loved Philtill’s ten suggestions, which amount to “Make LibraryThing more like Tickle.” There are dangers to personality tests and statistical correlatons, of course. But we love to play with data, and “tell me about myself” is one of the main reasons people use LibraryThing anyway. So, expect us to take these ideas seriously.

jocainster (28): “Add a link to the book’s main page in the ‘Recently Added’ section.” Abby had to be restrained after reading this one.

parelle (44): Parelle wrote two related suggestions–LT bookmarks and a parnership with Moo Cards. dreamlikecheese focused in on sending cards to libraries and bookshops. This is one area we’re definitely going to look into.

sabreuse (152). “I was at a conference last week where I picked up several new books, but didn’t have internet access all day. And I realized that I want to be able to add books by SMS, the same way I can send photos directly to flickr or add events to my google calendar by text message, both of which I do all the time. I’d love to be able to add new ISBNs to my library while I’m out shopping, or traveling, or tied up away from a computer.”

nperrin (17): “Some ingenious way to link books to books about them. If I’m looking at a novel, I want to know how to find the best criticism of that novel or author.”

usquam (109): “Work with publishers to get better integration of their catalogues into LibraryThing. They should have covers, contents, editions, etc – as per the new ‘series’ area, it would be interesting to see what we have from a particular publisher, and then have them show other editions or titles we might like or are missing.”

susiebright (155): “I loved Secret Santa; it was the hightlight of my Xmas gift giving because it was so entirely unexpected. I think you should offer a ‘Birthday Surprise’ gift program of the same kind. You pick a ‘birthday kid’s name’ out of the hat, and send them a book based on what you glean from their library!'” We’re thinking that BirthdayThing could be hard to arrange, but doing a mid-year (June 25?) Secret Santa sounds fun. This time, members are doing the ordering!

yhoitink (9): “Add the European Library as a source.” Casey is squarely behind this one.

amysisson (87): “a virtual ‘badge’ or ‘ribbon’ (like LT author) for on the profile pages of people who’ve contributed over a certain level(s) of info, such as CK or combining” I’d love to do something like this. I’m attracted to the Barnstar model.

papyri (95): “Provenance, ex-libris (previous owner(s)) info listing (can be done like multiple authors). Possibly including dates and locations. Privacy option for this would be nice.” Sophies_Choice also suggested this be integrated with LT Local. Good stuff.

ssd7 (111) “Cross Source Searching. So, I would like to get my data from the LoC. But I would also like to just punch in an ISBN. These two desires are not always compatible since searching on ISBN’s often yields nothing from the LoC. When a search returns no results why not use the LT database or Amazon to find the title and then research for the user? Or at the very least let me set up a ‘priority’ listing of the sources so that if LoC yields nothing, it will automagically search Amazon.” ssd7 (111) also suggested “Open source the code.” This continues to interest us. No promises.

hegelian (16): “OpenID might be a smarter way to login for some people.”

_Zoe_ (24): “The ability to reset the unread marker at the message you’ve actually read up to.”

zcannon (25): “A widget that works on WordPress.”

TerrierGirl (34): “Could each book’s original copyright year be added to the my library, add to library screens? This would help interested potential readers place each book in time. Also, it would tell a reader when a particular book fell within that writer’s career.” I’ve wanted to do this for some time.

Notes on Method. We decided to leave off a small number of common topics, including collections, author disambiguation, HelpThing, tagging of groups, web links on book pages, more than seven columns, and a Facebook application. They are very much on our radar already. Seeing them over and over again had its effect, you can be sure.

We also left off suggestions for features completed since we asked the question, like better tags, and to avoid new features in favor of bug-fixing. It’s a delicate thing, and not one we’ve always gotten right, I’ll admit. I’ve been on a bug-fixing and performance kick recently.

*That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!
**The person you don’t know is Mike, a local Portland programmer working with us part-time for a few months. Note, I was supposed to be also sitting in the chair—reading Everything is Miscellaneous—but there was a tragic head/butt airspace issue.

Labels: employees, features, fun

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Newest member!

Welcome to Katherine Evelyn Holland, born May 7 (6 pounds 11 ounces, 18.5 inches*), to LibraryThing developer Chris (ConceptDawg) and his wife Ashley. Mother and daughter are doing great. Chris has a “permanent smile” on.

More photos on Flickr

*That’s 3033 grams, 46.9 centimeters. Who says we don’t do metric?

Labels: adorable, chris, LibraryThing babies

Friday, May 9th, 2008

BookSense Events!

We just added over six-hundred and fifty events to LibraryThing Local, LibraryThing’s portal for local bookstores, libraries and events.

The events come direct from our friends at BookSense, the nationwide organization of over 1,200 independent bookstores. They made their complete events calendar available to us, and we were only to happy to add all the events we didn’t already know about.

BookSense is the best; if you have a favorite local bookstore, chances are they’re a BookSense store.* BookSense also gets the best authors. Upcoming events include David Sedaris at Vroman’s in Pasadena and Salman Rushdie at Vroman’s and at Caucer’s in Santa Barbara. Of course, as happens with distributed data collection, not every BookSense store has their events in the feed. And some events had already been added by members. Be the total gain is some 660 upcoming events—a big leap. We’ll be updating from th BookSense feed periodically from now on, which should take some of the data-entry load off of dedicated LibraryThing members.

So, thanks to the people at BookSense for working with us on this, and happy event-attending to the rest of us.

PS: There’s a short article about this in the ABA’s Bookselling this Week by David Grogan.

*My favorites—Books, Etc., Longfellow Books and the Harvard Coop—are all BookSense stores. My wife spent much of her 20s working at another, Bookline Booksmith, together with her best friend, who went on to work at Booksense. So, I’ve wanted LibraryThing to do something BookSense since we started.

Labels: authors, booksense, librarything local, new feature, new features

Monday, May 5th, 2008

May Early Reviewer books

May’s batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 51 books this month, and a grand total 1,115 copies to give out.

Some of the big highlights include the new Neal Stephenson (Anathem) and The Given Day by Dennis Lehane! Or would you rather read The Inverted World by Christopher Priest? The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen? Is historical fiction more your thing? Try Hallam’s War by Elisabeth Payne Rosen”. In the mood for some Norman Mailer? Request a copy of Miami and the Siege of Chicago. On the nonfiction side, how about a little bit of everything, with The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 2

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, *please* check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, May 19th at 6pm EDT.

Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, and for the first time, Australia! We only have one Australian publisher (I’m sure those 15 books will be coveted), but we’re working on getting more for the future.

Thanks to all the publishers, new and old!

Algonquin Books Andrews McMeel Publishing Bantam
Berkley Canongate Books Clerisy Press
Cypress House Delacorte Press Faber and Faber
Farrar Straus Giroux Fremantle Press Harper
Hatherleigh Press Hyperion LJW Publishing
Loving Healing Press Menasha Ridge Press Mirrorstone
Modern History Press North Atlantic Books NYRB Classics
Other Press Picador St. Martin’s Griffin
Trumpeter Unbridled Books W.W. Norton
William Morrow Wizards of the Coast Zoland Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

Top bar better, cuter

I made some changes to the look and functionality of the “top bar” in Your Library. They include new “pads,” new icons, yellow and baby-blue colors and new tag functionality. Non-English users will also notice the labels can nw be translated–no more untranslateable “text as image.”




The tag bar includes a new new features. “Down” and “Across” control whether the tags are sorted “down” (like an index) or “across” (like some other things). You can also control the size of the text and the space between tags, and the number of columns to show.

Come talk about the change and suggest more on Talk.

Labels: new feature, new features, tags

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

LibraryThing Love and the Unread Books Meme

Part I
A long-time LibraryThing member, davidabrams, just wrote a love story of sorts about LibraryThing on The Readerville Journal.

He writes,

Not a day goes by when I don’t log on and gaze with pride, love and reverence at my online catalog of books. …In short, it is the answer to the prayer I wasn’t even aware I was praying. If LibraryThing is cocaine, then I am a crack whore.

How can you argue with that?

The Readerville Forum have been having some problems lately (see the discussion on LibraryThing here), and we wish them good luck!

Part II
We’ve been meaning to blog this for a while, so here it is! This meme has been going around for a while now: Top 106 unread books on LibraryThing. People are going through the top 106 books tagged “unread” on LT, and then marking which ones they’ve read, which they read for school, which they started but didn’t finish, which are on their to read list, which they loathed, which they read more than once…

Personally, I think the fact that most of the top ones are big fat heavy tomes might have something to do with it!

Labels: meme, readerville

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

New feature: Tag view / edit your tags

I’ve added a new feature—a “Tag view” for “Your library”, alongside the List and Shelf views.

The Tag view replaces the Tags tab. Like the tab, it shows your tags alphabetically, or by frequency and allows you to jump to a tag in your catalog.

But the tag view also allows you to edit your tags, “gardening them” in a very satisfying way. You can rename tags, delete tags or add tags. For example, from the tag view you can add “history” and “greece” everywhere you use the tag “greek history.” Editing is done in a lightbox, and “ajaxes” the changes back onto the screen with the “yellow fade technique.”

The technical infrastructure here is going to key to the upcoming (really) collections feature. Collections, which I think I’ll call “sets,” will turn the Tag view into “Sets/Tags.” (Anyway, that’s the plan!)

Let me know what you think about the new feature here, or on Talk.

Labels: new feature, new features, tags

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Covers: Better, Bigger, Blanks, Defaults and Statistics

Casual visitors are often surprised to learn that LibraryThing members have contributed more than 800,000 covers, for use when Amazon doesn’t have the right cover. It’s time to make the most of this strength!

I’ve added a five new features related to how LibraryThing handles covers. I hope you like the changes!

  1. Choose member-created “blank” covers for every book.
  2. Choose your default cover.
  3. Better cover “guessing”
  4. Cover Statistics and links to different cover types.
  5. Member-contributed covers now available in all sizes.
  6. Member-contributed covers now available in maximum quality.

Choose member-created “blank” covers for every book. Way back in November, I asked for members to send in images of blank covers–real, doctored and built from scratch–for books that have no other cover (see post and follow-up). More than a dozen members sent covers, often very many and beautiful. These covers are now available from the “change cover” page of every book. They vary from ordinary to fanciful, general or tailored to look like a specific publisher’s books. They’re a blast. Go crazy.

It’s hard to understate the care that some members lavish on projects like this, exercising their creative side and helping other members out. Check out the image credits, available under the display and when you roll over the images.

Choose your default cover. The same member-covers are also available as default covers, the cover you get when you have no other cover. You can change your default cover from every book’s change-cover page, as well as from your Cover Statistics.

Better cover “guessing”. This feature caused some members consternation when it was released provisionally a few days ago. Suddenly members got a whole bunch of new covers, some of which they didn’t want, with no way to opt out. I’ve added powerful opt-out options, so it’s time to reintroduce the feature.

The feature takes advantage of LibraryThing’s 800,000 member-uplaoded covers. If you have books from more than a few years ago, like I do, a lot of your books don’t have Amazon covers. Before now, you could choose these covers manually, replacing our “blank” cover with your own or someone else’s uploaded cover.

Now were taking that data—the covers people choose for a given ISBN—to “guess” at the covers for coverless books. In general, members choose the right cover for their edition, especially when LibraryThing can look at many members’ decisions. In the case of my books, LibraryThing found 69 covers. Only one is dead-wrong, with two others being subtle variants of the cover I have. Of course, you can easily switch to a different cover, a blank cover or no cover.

Cover Statistics and links to different cover types. I’ve added a page for Cover Statistics. It shows where all you covers come from, with a link to all the books in that category. It’s a great way to go through your blanks or confirm LibraryThing’s new “best guess” covers.

The Cover Statistics page also has a link to change your default cover. (In case you’re wondering, I’m working on a all-encompassing “preferences” page. One thing at a time.)

Member-contributed covers now available in all sizes. Until now, LibraryThing only displayed two sizes for member-contributed covers–tiny and medium. For the last eight months we’ve been saving large versions, but we didn’t use them. Storing all the sizes or making them on the fly scared us.

A new server and some technical changes have given us the opportunity to show covers at whateve size they’re needed. The result is a much more attractive and even Cover View, which scales from teeny to upsettingly large (see image).

Member-contributed covers now available in maximum quality. As said, we were not previously taking advantage of original images, but only two presized versions. Although early-on we didn’t store them—server space was just too dear—we have been storing original versions for about eight months. This amounts to some 300,000 out of 800,000 covers. (Of course, not all “originals” are actually large; some are thumbnails.)

The result is that some member-contributed covers can now be sized to elephantine dimensions within your catalog, and look great on work pages, which use medium-large images. Unfortunately, some covers look a bit “pixelated” at these large sizes. The examples below illustrate both effects:

A final word. I want to thank members who pushed me on this feature. Although the general change has been planned for some time, it received impetus from a “bug fix” that introduced many best-guess covers. Without an easy way to “opt-out” of guesses—without choosing another cover—a few members went bananas.

The were right to do so! It created a weird situation, one I realized the more when I spent an hour “gardening” my covers. Once again, it was a pleasure to work through the issue with members. I’ve very pleased with the feedback, and as I rolled out some of these features over the weekend.

Maybe some day I’ll write a book about working with and for you guys. But you’re doing the cover.

Labels: book covers, new feature, new features

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Bonus batch of Early Reviewer books from Random House

Random House has given us a bonus batch of Early Reviewer books this month!

There are six titles up, and a whopping total of 470 copies to give out. So go sign up (if you haven’t already), and then request your copy to read and review!

The list is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Wednesday, April 30th at 6pm, EDT. These books are only available to residents of the US and Canada.*

*In another country? Don’t despair. The May batch, which will be out very soon, includes books for residents of the US, Canada, and the UK and Australia!

Labels: early reviewers, LTER, random house

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Introducing Author Chat

We’re kicking off a new feature today, Author Chat.

Nick Trout, author of New York Times bestseller Tell Me Where It Hurts is going to be on LibraryThing for the next few weeks (from today, April 14th through April 30th). He’ll be talking about the book, and his work, and answering questions from you, the readers. Start coming up with questions!

If you were one of the lucky 24 to receive a free copy of the book in last month’s batch of Early Reviewer books, then you’ve got a head start!

If you didn’t get a free copy, then don’t fret. The book is out in bookstores and libraries, so go buy or borrow a copy now, and get reading.

Join the discussion in the Author Chat group. The direct link to the Nick Trout thread is here.

About the book

It’s 2:47 a.m. when Dr. Nick Trout takes the phone call that starts another hectic day at the Angell Animal Medical Center. Sage, a ten-year old German shepherd, will die without emergency surgery for a serious stomach condition. Over the next twenty-four hours Dr. Trout fights for Sage’s life, battles disease in the operating room, unravels tricky diagnoses, reassures frantic pet parents, and reflects on the humor, heartache, and inspiration in his life as an animal surgeon. And he wants to take you along for the ride…

From the front lines of modern medicine, Tell Me Where It Hurts is a fascinating insider portrait of a veterinarian, his furry patients, and the blend of old-fashioned instincts and cutting-edge technology that defines pet care in the twenty-first century. For anyone who’s ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at your veterinarian’s office, Tell Me Where It Hurts offers a vicarious journey through twenty-four intimate, eye-opening, heartrending hours at the premier Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.

Nick Trout is a staff surgeon at the Angell Animal Medical Center and lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

For more on the book, check out this YouTube video, or even read an excerpt on the Broadway Books website.

Future Author Chats
This isn’t a one-time feature. I’ve got several other authors lined up, and am looking for more! If you’re interested in participating, email abby@librarything.com

Labels: author chat, new feature