Now the truth can be told. I love Clay Shirky.
First, Shirky gave the talk Ontology is Overrated which, despite some quibbles, was the intellectual justification of LibraryThing. At least until David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous came along.
Now comes Shirky on love, at Supernova 2007:
In a way, it’s another sort of justification. LibraryThing is about love too. It’s not just the love on the buzz page. Nor the cookies and candy we get in the mail.* It’s the members, loving books and loving each other.**
Like the Ise shrine***, LibraryThing is also rebuilt every night. It’s not the software–although that can assist and focus things. It’s the social. As a lover says: Without you, we’d be nothing!
We just finished a round of social changes, designed to make LibraryThing more social—the so-called Project Ocelot. This week we’vee also been hard at work on putting LibraryThing on Facebook.
In all this, we are determined not to lose our core strength–book data. Features like our new Connection News aren’t about members in a vacuum, but how members are interacting with their books. And some of the most interesting book data is social book data. It is, for example, amazing but not surprising that our works-combination system—driven by users—is on a par with the mammoth OCLC’s xISBN service. xISBN is a very clever algorithm, but love is the ultimate algorithm.
In the next week or so there’s is going to see a major announcement about social book data—one that LibraryThing has long knew about, but which was driven by a far larger, cooler entity. It should terrify the big players. We plan to embrace it, lovingly.
*Recently it was Australian Tim Tams.
**That’s also why our central rules is against making personal attacks.
***For a great discussion of the Ise shrine, and other “impermanent permanents” see Alexander Stille‘s The Future of the Past. Great book.
PS: If anyone knows Shirky, tell him to give me a ring so I can send some Tim Tams his way. I’ve been sending him love letters for two years. I even hired one of his students. No response. Clay, where’s the love?