Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

Performance / Two new features

1. Performance update. Performance has been spotty recently. Accelerating growth—Sunday saw 16,000 books cataloged!—has strained current resources. Improving speed and reliability is now my number one goal. Occasional slowness and even downtime will happen, but things are heading in the right direction.

I’m getting some part-time assistance. (But I’m still looking for a good LAMP hacker; email or send resumes!) So far I’ve re-jiggered settings and optimized requests. I am looking very carefully at the path up. I will probably be setting up a dedicated database machine and/or a dedicated “thinking” machine. I have a new book-suggestion algorithm that is to book suggestions what Deep Blue was to chess—extremely good and extremely processor-intensive. Bringing it live would crash the present site. It might also take over NORAD computers and threaten nuclear war until forced to learn the meaning of checkers.

I’ve temporarily disabled all-catalog searching while I work on database speed. These searches were taking up a large percentage of database power.

2. Two new features. Before I turned my attention to speed I did complete two new author suggestion features. Author pages now include a “Similarly tagged” box; tag pages sport include a “Related authors” box.

They are hit-or-miss. A decent example would Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa, author of the cookbook A Taste of Ancient Rome. With only a few tags the system managed to match her up the author of a Medieval cookbook and with Apicius, author of De re cocquinaria, the only extant example of a Roman cookbook. Apicius is in the unique position of being “similarly tagged” with both Marcus Tullius Cicero and Betty Crocker—both fusty and overrated? At the other end, take Nuala O’Faolain, author of Are You Somebody: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman. She is paired with Barack Obama. Both wrote memoirs, I guess. As more tags enter the system, this sort of single-tag effect should lessen. Here is the “similarly tagged” for David McCullough and the related authors for World War II.

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