Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Welsh site 79% done!

LibraryThing in Welsh is 79% done, largely but not entirely owing to Dogfael. Outstanding! Check it out at cym.librarything.com. If the domain ever gets approved, we’ll try to get www.librarything.cym.

Now, what can we do to make it better for Welsh speakers? Any libraries to add? Most libraries don’t have open Z39.50 connections, but I can run down a list if people give me one.

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Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

GBV, a Major German consortium added

A helpful Thingamabrarian*, pointed me to connection details for the Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverbund (GBV), the “Common Library Network of the German States,” a massive consortium of libraries all over Germany.** I’ve added it, and it seems to work well. (I also fixed some Polish and Bulgarian character-set issues, for it and other libraries.)

According to the German Wikipedia entry, washed through Google Translate

“The [GBV] is also over 50 million title data records the largest data base for listing in Germany.”

I am hoping you will agree this wonderful news is for Germany users in LibraryThing!

*Whom, if she wants her LT name mentioned, should let me know.
**The states are: Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thüringen and–not, I think, a state–the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage.

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Monday, October 23rd, 2006

LibraryThing does CueCats! (we’re even selling them)

LibraryThing makes entering your books easy, but it still takes time. A barcode scanner can be a big help. So, we’ve bought one hundred CueCat scanners (Wikipedia | more photos), and are offering them for fifteen bucks, including shipping anywhere in the United States. That’s about as good as they get on eBay. And your purchase helps the site.

So, go ahead and buy a CueCat.

Other details:

  1. We’re selling “unmodified” USB CueCats. Unmodified CueCats produce somewhat scrambled data, but we’ve put the translation right into LibraryThing’s system. This turns .C3nZC3nZC3n2D3D3DNr7DxnY.CNf7.CNbWDhfWCNvWCNnZChzZC3nZC3nZC3j0 into 7231631002. See links on Wikipedia for directions on “declawing” your CueCat for use elsewhere.
  2. LibraryThing now reads Borders product codes (eg., the code above), converting them to ISBNs (see announcement).
  3. Barcode scanning has been made easier. We’ve added a “Skip confirmation” checkbox, that allows you to scan a shelf of books without touching your mouse or keyboard. (Having done it both ways, I can tell you that CueCat works a lot better than webcam scanning.)
  4. I’ve made a CueCat help and support group.

Note: Yes, technically they’re supposed to be called “:CueCats.” I find the colon an offense against the English Language, and the company that made them went out of business, so I’m gonna leave it off.

Note: Prices and shipping rates are subject to change.

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Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

LibraryThing does Borders product codes

Short version: I’ve added an option to parse “BINCs,” the product code Borders (and Waldenbooks?) paste over the ISBN on the back cover.

If you use a barcode scanner to enter your books into LibraryThing, or even if you don’t, you periodically run into a Borders barcode, pasted over the book’s original ISBN barcode. It can be extremely aggravating.

LibraryThing now has an option to read these stickers. You can either scan them with a barcode reader or type the printed BINC, shown here:

To do this, either (1) turn on this option in Add books:

Or (2) put “binc” into the search box, in front of the number (eg., “binc 5106509″). Note that if you check the checkbox, you can ONLY enter BINCs. Everything else will fail.

For LibraryThing to parse BINCs, it needs to run a quick search on Borders’ website, and fetch the ISBN. Technically this is “screen scraping,” which some webmasters will try to block. Since users of this feature are by definition Borders customers, I’m doubt they’ll raise any objections. I’m writing them this morning to tell them about it. To sweeten it, I’ve added Borders to the list of merchants and libraries on work pages. Their website can’t hold a candle to Amazon on ecommerce features—and, indeed, they use Amazon as their main online presence—but it has a nifty function to check whether your local Borders has it in stock, and reserve it if they do.

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Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

CueCats in the Wild

Inquisitive CueCat trips our remote camera

CueCat at rest

CueCat toys with its prey

CueCats preparing to migrate

CueCats blocked and drooled on

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Friday, October 20th, 2006

Arrr… SwapThing

LibraryThing welcomes its sixth swap site, SwapThing.com. As with the others, SwapThing has agreed to share holding data with LibraryThing. See it in action here

SwapThing describes itself as follows:

“SwapThing enables the trade and barter of any combination of items and services between consumers and small businesses, using cash to offset unequal exchanges. SwapThing offers free registration and listing, with transaction fees of $1.00 for each exchange of goods, no matter how many items are in the swap, and of $10.00 for the exchange of services. Unlike competitors, SwapThing is barter-based as opposed auction-based, allowing completely private, one-on-one negotiations. The SwapThing search engine matches items offered to items wanted, a unique system of direct exchange between users, and a rating system to build trustworthiness.”

Just so there’s no doubt, “LibraryThing is not affiliated with SwapThing in any way, just great minds thinking alike. LibraryThing and SwapThing are trademarks of LibraryThing.com, LCC and SwapThing, Inc. respectively.”

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Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Three changes: Search talk, show covers, more space

Chris and I have added a feature to search Talk. It works as you would expect. The basic search does all topics in all groups, but you can choose only your groups, your starred topics, etc.

This will probably occasion additional requests—boolean operators, stemming, etc. That’s great, but we wanted to get something out there now. The lack of search didn’t matter so much in the first week or so, but Talk is getting to be quite a rich, complex area!

Chris rigged it up so that you can now adjust the number of covers shown in “Cover view” independent of how many you show in list mode. We have bigger plans for “Cover view,” but this was an easy change to make.

Some text boxes–the ones on the “edit” page, but I’m open to others–now sport “more space” links. Click them and the text box gets bigger. It’s ideal for those long review-types. You know who you are…

Issue update: Is anyone having problems loading the page? Someone with MSIE 7 said the program choked, apparently on Scriptaculous, a much-used JS library that I’ve employed here.

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Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

Arr… Lendmonkey

LendMonkey

LibraryThing has joined forces with a fifth swap site, the simple, playful and Lendmonkey. Lendmonkey trades movies, games, books and music—all for free. It has some nice features, like SMS notification of new trades.* Also check out profiles on eHub and Lifehacker.

Since announcing the program in September, LibraryThing has enlisted five book and all-media swap sites (the others are Bookins, Swapsimple, BookMooch, Whatsonmybookshelf). I expect to add two more in the next week. That will make a majority of sites and—I think—well more than a majority of books available for swapping online.

*I should ask them about that. SMS would be a nice addition to LibraryThing.

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Monday, October 16th, 2006

Six degrees of vampire smut

I’ve got some “big” news on hold, so I’ll throw out a game.

I keep planning to blog “Three degrees of Jane Austen,” on how almost LibraryThing shares a book with someone who shares a book with someone who owns something by Jane Austen. People share books much more than they share friends. So while it’s comforting that everyone in the world is six degrees away by acquaintance, they’re much closer by the shared mental universe of the book.

Today’s game is to try to get from one tag page to another, using the “related tags” box, using as few hops as possible.

Challenge number 1: Vampire smut to Spanish Civil War in 10 steps. I’ll bet someone can do a lot better.

vampire smut > mystery > historical > history > sociology > economics > capitalism > radicalism > anarchism > Spanish Civil War

Challenge number 2: Tarzan to Iceland
Challenge number 3: Mesoamerica to zombies

I made a group for LibraryThing challenges, with a post for this. Post your solutions on the blog or over there.

Note: You cannot use fiction, nonfiction, read, unread, paperback, hardback, arc, signed, favorite, loved, wishlist or their variants. RULES UPDATE: You can’t add tags, obviously!

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Friday, October 13th, 2006

What language/site do you want?

Did I mention that LibraryThing is now available in a host of languages? Did I mention that users did it all, and that I love you people to pieces and owe everyone a beer? Okay, I’ve mentioned this.

I’m starting to work the language-sites into the functionality. For starters, past users can decide to change their primary language from your profile (choose “edit profile”). This isn’t actually the site you use–you can use whatever site you want, obviously. Rather, you’re setting the language you usually use for reviews, tags, etc. I’m going to guess right now that you guys–a polyglot set–will want to list all the languages you can read. I’ll provide that next. But can we live with one primary language for reveiws and tags and such? If not, the primary language will determine your default language, and I’ll let you change it review-by-review. It you plan to switch languages in the middle of a review, you win, dammit.

What you say will be used so German users can opt to see just German reviews, French users French reviews, etc. Of course, you will ALWAYS be able to see the others too.

From now on, if you signed into a particular language site, your primary language was set to that by default. Germans are in the lead, incidentally. I suppose that was because I introduced the feature at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Which reminds me, I never blogged about that. I’ll probably say more, but in brief I was dog-sick, with a voice like Joe Cocker, and the panel was in German, which I don’t understand. It went something like this: “Blah blah blah web 2.0. Blah blah blah MySpace. Blah blah blah blah LibraryThing. Ho ho ho. Aber, what does the Growling Phlegm-Monster have to say?”

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