Friday, July 7th, 2006

Firefox Extension: LibraryThingThing

LibraryThingThing is a complex three-API Greasemonkey mashup, querying the Holding Lookup Service along with LibraryThing’s thingISBN and OCLC’s xISBN service. It makes my head spin a bit. Three cheers for Richard. Too bad he works for Talis, or he might have won the Mashing Up the Library Contest.

LibraryThingThing can be found at:

This is an exceedingly cool mashup, and a very good demonstration of all the components. To my mind, it would be more useful if it did less, telling you only if the book was in your library. Do you agree? How should LibraryThing tie into libraries. As always, your thoughts are much appreciated.

We were, actually, planning on doing something like this, and even started the code. When we bring something live it will be a lot less technically elegant—good old server-side programming—but also not browser- and extension-dependent.

In other news, Chris just came by to grab the ginormous server box. Abby took a picture of it, but her camera uses some arcane memory stick format, and she forgot the cable is too modern for Tim. We have photographic proof of a new server—really!

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Friday, July 7th, 2006

Server update / Cape Elizabeth, goats, pigs do the LibraryThing

Neither Zabby’s Traveling Farm Animals nor this pot-bellied pig endorse LibraryThing.

Tomorrow from 9-1:00 at Cape Elizabeth, Maine’s Thomas Memorial Library there will ice cream, crafts, a tent, face painting, magic lessons, a professional balloon-twister, a “standup chameleon,” and animals from a traveling petting zoo—including this pot-bellied pig—AND if that were not enough, Abby and Tim giving out free LibraryThing accounts!

The Thomas Memorial Library Foundation is sponsoring our table at a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the library rennovation. And free accounts will be available at the circulation desk for the rest of the year. With some luck, we’ll pick up some local members. If you’re a local, but not a Cape Elizabethan, stay tuned; we have some other local-area plans in the works too.

Meanwhile, while we’re with the goats, Chris is busy working on racking and synching the new “monster” server. By Friday we should have three servers online, and four or five by the Friday after that.

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Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Big catalog update / welcome Christopher

Please extend a warm welcome to Christopher Holland, LibraryThing’s newest employee!

To kick things off Chrisopher has given the catalog major facelift and upgrade.You can now edit book information right on the screen, without using the “pencil” icon. Just double-click the cell and an edit box appears where the content was. The new interface also has a search box visible at all times. (I realized we needed then when, to my surprise, the search function turned out to be one of the top-hit pages.) Oh, and a new, soothing color.

Double-click to edit
Edit and save

The new control bar:

About Christopher. Christopher (LibraryThing conceptDawg) is a technology consultant by trade but studied fine art, graphic design, and digital media. He is also heavily involved in digital collections research in the area of the humanities, specifically in the field of archaeology. He is currently working on another project that is similar to LibraryThing, only it consists of archaeological data and objects from numerous museums and research projects. Christopher is also an avid painter and photographer and is a regular on the Technique forum at Flickr (username conceptDawg). His family is very book-oriented and his grandparents are collectors (soon to have their collection on LT).

Christopher can be reached at

Come give us your thoughts, on the comments here or on the Google Group.

To compare and contrast here’s a link to the old catalog. You’ll need to get back into the new catalog after that.

Note on editing.
The in-place editing works for all editable fields. Okay, that’s a tautology. Basically you can’t change the source library, entry date or LC Subject Headings. Deweys and LC Call Numbers, however, are fully editable, including the “green ones,” which represent LibraryThing’s “best guess,” based on work-level information. By editing green fields you move it from a guess to your own data.

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Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

July 4th Tag Cloud

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Friday, June 30th, 2006

Scheduled downtime: 12am EST

LibraryThing will be going down for some well-deserved rest at 12am EST. I expect the downtime to last between 30mins and 1 hour.

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Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

Slow Afternoon

The site is slow now – we know, and we’re working on it. We got an influx of users today, thanks to the Wall Street Journal article and a Boing Boing reference. Traffic is ridiculously high (almost 15 times normal) and we’re working on adding servers to compensate. Stay with us while we grow over the next few hours!

TIM UPDATE: Go away! Wait, that’s unfriendly. We love you. If you go away, we’ll love you even more when you come back–we’ll kill the fatted calf!

But seriously, things are calming down a bit, but it’s still running past capacity. Don’t despair. Server upgrades are coming. Unfortunately, I can’t just throw money at the problem. But I’m doing that anyway :)

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Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

The WSJ Online does the LibraryThing

A big feature release is coming soon. Until then, sorry for covering all these press mentions, but they’re starting to snowball, I hope.

The Wall Street Journal’s Online Edition just did a long, sympathetic article on LibraryThing, “Social Networking for Bookworms” by Aaron Rutkoff. It’s public-access for thirty days via that URL.

Not to lick the hand that feeds me, but Rutkoff did an excellent descriptive and analytical job, covering a lot of the site and getting past some of the entertaining canards—”it’s about who has the biggest library!” and “it’s about dating!”—to what’s really going on. The nod to the Long Tail was also nice—just what you’d expect from the WSJ.

I’m also learning to restrain my big mouth, avoid controversy and stay “on message.”* I do want to say, however, that the article plays up tags more than I’d want. In the interview as always I try not to claim too much for them. Yes, I’ll show out where tags can help over formal, professionally-determined classification, but I make of point of noting that tags don’t solve everything and, ideally, they support each other. This is, however, a subtle and not very interesting point. So it tends to get lost and, at least in some eyes, I end up looking like a tag-drunk Web 2.0 twit. That’s at least 1/3 wrong.

Oh, and Abby has a last name! As for the two nameless programmers, their identities will shortly be revealed.

*I did, however, swear unintentionally during the interview. The reporter was nice enough not to quote me or to refer to me as “Tim Spalding, an exceptionally foul-mouthed programmer and bibliophile, hostile to subject tags, librarians and apple pie, who runs a dating site.”

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Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Poets & Writers does the LibraryThing

The new issue of Poets & Writers has an article on LibraryThing, Strangers Meet in Virtual Libraries, by C. Max Magee (blog). It’s tackles the social side of LibraryThing nicely, drawing on an interview with Tim and with LT user Grunin. I like this part:

“Bibliophiles are easy to spot at cocktail parties. They are the ones lingering near the host’s bookshelves, their heads cocked at a forty-five-degree angle, scanning the collection of books and comparing it to their own.”

I know many LT users are also authors, so I’ll mention that the issue also includes the article The Writer’s Web Site, by Sue Bowness, advising writers on how to get a web site. It’s a good, basic introduction to some of the issues, but—speaking as an ex-SEO guru—the advice about Search Engine Optimization is off-base.

PS: This is Tim, reworking a post of Abby’s as she works on the tshirt issue.

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Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Morning downtime

UPDATE: 2:30pm. It’s back up again, albeit a little slow as it builds up a “cache.” No data was lost.

The main server went down last night around 5am. The situation is NOT serious. The slave server never went down, so there should be zero data loss. I also have backups of all the critical data from a few hours before the crash.

I’m waiting to do the restore because turning the slave into the master is something I’ve never done. LibraryThing’s database admin is going to do it, and he’s in California, dreaming untroubled dreams. I’ll wake him up in a half-hour or so.

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Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Our poor moose

We interrupt this features blog just as Abby and I were interrupted today—by an enormous moose. No kidding.

If you don’t know already, LibraryThing is located in Maine. But we’re on the East End of Portland, the most densely populated part of the state. I for one don’t ski, hike, kayak, snowshoe or climb mountains. Until now, my “Maine experience” has been limited to crab rolls and one day of blueberry picking. Abby, a resident of downtown Boston, is even less a Mainer, and since she works 16-hour days, she’s seen almost nothing of the state.

It went down like this. In the morning, Abby and I heard queer trumpeting noises; my money was on truck brakes. When my wife went out there were cop cars at both ends of our street and a crowd of cops and media about a block away. When I tried to investigate the commotion, I was sternly ordered to get back inside. I assumed a grisly accident or maybe a criminal, locked in his house and holding the police at bay with a gun. Ten minutes later I saw a cruiser moving slowly down the street, and went over to the window with Abby.

And there, across the street, in the neighbor’s driveway, was a huge bull moose.

Our spirits went up and down over the next hour or so. The moose was lying down, and we noticed something was wrong with its head. We figured out he had broken an antler. But he was alive, and although Maine game wardens appeared with an enormous–and not visibly pneumatic–gun, they just shot a dart into it. Alas, it turns out the dart was loaded with a fatal dose of tranquilizer, so over the next hour we watched the moose die. The game wardens were dignified about it, and the death wasn’t violent, but it was still terrible to watch. It was a magnficent creature. When a crane loaded his body onto a truck, his body was all splayed out. He was huge.

Once the moose was almost dead, we found out what happened (with video). It turns out it had made its way into the city and, together with another moose, put on an early morning show near Back Cove. Then, going up Munjoy Hill, it was hit by a tow-truck. According to the police it was “badly injured,” although I remain unconvinced. News footage shows a broken antler, but it looked like it was moving just fine. According to a local informant most moose who wander into the city end up getting put down one way or the other. Besides the danger to cars, moose not infrequently trample people, particularly those who think they’re safe to approach. Moose aren’t endangered or anything.

So that’s the LibraryThing moose story. Tomorrow Tim and Abby will be eaten by lobsters.

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