Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Crowdsourcing Dr. Horrible, Jeff Atwood

Do you recognize this man?


Yes, it’s Dr. Horrible, star of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (played by Neil Patrick Harris, the former Doogie Howser). Dr. Horrible is quirky web-only super-hero musical comedy created by Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Abby, Sonya and I are fans.

Anyway, I was re-watching the video and noticed two copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on one of Dr. Horrible’s shelves. As a joke on our Legacy Libraries program, where members collaborate to catalog libraries by Jefferson*, Plath or Yeats, I suggested that members catalog Dr. Horrible’s other books.

So they, um, did. They didn’t start a catalog, but they figured them out even so. I was particularly impressed they were able to figure out the ones on the left, making a guess and then asking a member who had the book (Albert L. Lehninger’s Principles of Biochemistry) to check the spine. The guess was right.

Score one for crowdsourcing!

Jeff Atwood? Which brings me to the other Dr. Horrible, Jeff Atwood, programmer, podcaster and author of the influential blog Coding Horror.

Jeff published a great post, “Programmers Don’t Read Books — But You Should,” which included a shot of his “programming bookshelf.” They’re not just any books, but his enduring favorites. As he writes:

“The best programming books are timeless. They transcend choice of language, IDE, or platform. They do not explain how, but why. If you feel compelled to clean house on your bookshelf every five years, trust me on this, you’re buying the wrong programming books.”

With Jeff’s permission, I started him an account, and asked members to help catalog his books, using the photo he provided. Again, the were able to do it with ease.

Two ideas follow naturally from this:

  • I’d love to see LibraryThing members catalog people’s books from shelf-photos. As I wrote on the Atwood thread, I could see this being a paid service, with part of the proceeds going to charity.
  • Aren’t there sites where regular people take apart celebrity photos, identifying shoes and clothing so other people can copy them? Wouldn’t it be fun/ironic to do that for books, taking apart TV, movies and candids for the books in them? Of course, celebrities are not necessarily great readers, but people do occasionally read in movies, and some celebrities do too. For example, the word on the street is that Marilyn Monroe really was reading Ulysses.

Don’t worry. I’ve got a half-dozen bugs and important features to go through before toying with anything like this. 

Also, the freeze ray needs work.


*Not to be confused with Dr. Horrible villain Fake Jefferson.

Labels: dr. horrible, jeff atwood, legacy libraries

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