Monday, November 14th, 2005

More on author pages / some dreaming

Here are some responses to the responses to the last post, with some dreaming at the end.

1. Fixes. I fixed the author numbering problem, the author link problem, the apostrophe problem, and some others. There can still be a difference between copy numbers because the author page doesn’t count duplicates.

2. New feature. I added an author rating feature, based on book ratings.

3. Secondary authors. Yes, it’s too bad that secondary authors are not in the current system. It’s a little wiggly, starting with the programming standpoint. There’s also some issues between “second authors” and “included authors.” I’m going to let this run for a while before thinking about it. More generally, I want LibraryThing to handle “contents” in a rich way—to allow it to see the stories within the story collections. Authors are part of that, but not the largest part.

4. Non-suggested authors. Yes, I’m going to add something for the Ratzinger/Benedict or Clement/Twain problem. I think I’m going to restrict it to paid users, in case someone decides to run through the system combining popes with humorists. I’d also like the UI to use an auto-complete, which will take a little work.

5. Author cloud. This was the necessary first step to a fixed author cloud. The author cloud was shut down for a reason—lots of complaints. Chief among these was that the cloud included “the same author twice.” Opening up author names in this way make it possible to fix that.

6. Book-combination. Clearly this is a trial-run for other user-driven features. There is a method to my madness!

In case you read this far, I will tip my hand a little—and dream a little. Some day soon I’ll post more on this topic, but here’s some initial thoughts.

In general, the more open the system the better it will satisfy users. At the same time openness can create real value. That irritated person who clicks a button to make their German and English Harry Potters show up under the same author is forging a piece of information that Amazon doesn’t know. (Actually, they may know THAT one, but you see my point.)

The potential is huge: LibraryThing could be for library catalogs what Wikipedia is for encyclopedias. That’s a little imprecise. By and large, LibraryThing users don’t enter their own data, but take it from Amazon and libraries. But the connections between the data—author aliases, book aliases, contents, subjects/tags, etc.—can all be user-driven. Even now, recommendations, related tags and so forth are user driven—they’re driven by user statistics.

I believe that over time LibraryThing users will generate significant cataloging value. Some of the value will be user-generated. Some of it will be statistical. Most of it will be probabilistic rather than binary. And in the end, LibraryThing will never be the best catalog in the world. But I think it can produce data and will make even THAT catalog better.

All that from the “competitive bastard child of bibliomaniacs and pro wrestlers“!

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