Archive for July, 2007

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Harry Potter book piles

Just a reminder, you’ve still got a few hours to post your photos for the Harry Potter book pile contest

The submissions so far (plus some more listed in the comments of this blog post).

Labels: book pile, contest, harry potter

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

LibraryThing pizza bash Saturday in Cambridge

So, it looks like Saturday is going to involve lightning, so the barbeque has morphed into a pizza party.

But we’re not getting just ordinary pizza! We’ll be ordering from Emma’s Pizza in Cambridge, MA, which is some seriously gourmet stuff (menu).* And we’ll have plenty of chips and hummus too.**

Everyone is invited. Bring a friend. If you can RSVP, great. If not, that’s fine. We’re probably going to need to order the pizza beforehand. We’re going to double the RSVP list. If you like, you can bring something .

When: Saturday, July 28th, 4pm to whenever.

Where: 15 Gurney Street, Cambridge MA (Google map). It’s about 15 minutes walking from the Square. You can also take the 72 (Huron) bus, and ask for the Fayerweather stop.

Parking: The City of Cambridge has declared Saturday LibraryThing day***. You can park anywhere on Gurney Street and between Gurney and Huron on Fayerweather.

Can’t wait to see everyone!

*When Emma’s was at the foot of Gurney Street, when I was young, it was decidedly less upscale. There were no tables—just a counter nobody used—and the ambiance was comprised of Emma berating her meek husband Greg in angry, staccato Armenian all day long. When the current owners bought it they moved it to Kendall Square, avoided marital conflict, added tables and the goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts today’s Cambridge requires. Somehow they managed to preserve what was good about it. It’s an amazing pizza.
**Alas, Tim’s trademark sigara börek will not fit with the rest of the meal.

Labels: 1

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

ReadItSwapIt becomes 10th swap site

A tenth book-swapping site has chosen to integrate with LibraryThing, ReadItSwapIt.

ReadItSwapIt is a UK site, and boasts some 125,000 titles available right now. Here’s the page on LibraryThing showing copies of a book on ReadItSwapIt. They’ve got a bang-up buzz page. It’s a credit-free system. This is a bold move, but not unattractive. As they explain it:

“Swapping on ReadItSwapIt is like swapping with friends. If you like each other’s books, you swap. If you don’t, either of you can reject the swap.

Many swap sites operate a credit system. That means, instead of swapping books, these sites allow you to swap credits. Any time anyone wants a book of yours, they give you a credit and you post the book out to them. You can then use this credit later to get a book sent to you by someone else.

This sounds great on the surface. But in practice, the problem with this system is that whenever anyone requests any of the books you have registered, you have to post out that book immediately. It doesn’t matter how inconvenient it might be for you to get to the post office that week. And what if you go on holiday? You have to let the site know. You have no control over the amount of swaps you make. You could end up acquiring loads of credits but not be able to find any books you like on the site. So you’re left with a load of worthless credits, no books and a big postage bill.”

That rings true to my experience. I posted a book to a swap site, and then dithered when I got the email. My wife decided she wanted to read it too. I ended up buying the book on Amazon and having it expressed to the swap person, just to save face. People like me need a more forgiving system.

I’m also impressed by their commitment to accessibility It’s way more than LibraryThing does.

Labels: swap

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Harry Potter and the Period of Quiet

The LibraryThing groups feature turns one tomorrow, followed shortly by Talk. I thought it would be fun to share the news-messages statistics for the Harry Potter Group, Hogwarts Express.

Check out the little boom for the movie (released July 11) and the crazy boom-bust-boom around when the book itself was released. For 24 hours, LibraryThing Harry Potter fans were reading, dammit.

I can report from experience that the rest of the world is still reading it. I went down to New York on business yesterday (and got caught in LaGuardia overnight, but that’s another story). The plane was like Harry Potter study hall.

REMINDER: We’re giving away prizes to 50 Harry Potter reviewers.

Labels: groups, harry potter, statistics

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007


Tagmash: alcohol, history gets over the fact that almost nobody tags things history of alcohol

Short version: I’ve just gone live with a new feature called “tagmash,” pages for the intersections of tags. This is a fairly obvious thing to do, but it isn’t trivial in context. In getting past words or short phrases, tagmash closes some of the gap between tagging and professional subject classifications.

For example, there is no good tag for “France during WWII.” Most people just don’t tag that verbosely. Tagmash allows for a page combining the two: France, wwii. If you want to skip the novels, you can do france, wwii, -fiction. The results are remarkably good.

Tagmash pages are created when a user asks for the combination, but unlike a “search” they persist, and show up elsewhere. For example, the tagmash for France, Germany shows France, wwii as a partial overlap, alongside others. Related tagmashes now also show up on select tag and library subject pages, as a third system for browsing the limitless world of books.

Booooring? Go ahead and play a bit:

That’s the short version. But stop here and you’ll never know what Zombie Listmania is!

(full post over at Thingology, “Tagmash: Book tagging grows up”)

Labels: new feature, new features, tagging, tagmash

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

What’s happening now?

I’ve added some spice to the home page—a section showing the books added recently. It updates every five seconds. The “last five minutes” section can go above 600. This one was taken during a slow patch.* But, hey—two Harry Potters!

It’s an experiment to see if being more up-front about the size and dynamism of the site will draw more users in. As one user ably described it, LibraryThing’s home page looks about the same now as it did twelve months ago. See more discussion of the experiment here. Whether it stays on the home page, we’re going to playing with features like this.

Tomorrow: Tags grow up.

*Saturday night is our nadir. And this weekend is for reading Harry Potter, not playing with LibraryThing. I note, for example that the Hogwarts Express group, one of our most active, has gone from near hysteria to eerie quiet!

Labels: features

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Harry Potter Review Contest: 50 winners

It’s almost 12:01 here. Any moment now, the first copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will come available, and LibraryThing members across the US will start reading. (Some other parts of the world have already begun.) I wouldn’t be surprised if the first reviews were posted by noon tomorrow. Sounds like a good excuse for a contest, right?

We already have a Harry Potter Book Pile photo contest (one entry shown on the right). Well, how about a review contest too? The deal:

  • Five reviewers get a $50 gift certificate to Amazon, Abebooks, Booksense or any independent bookseller.
  • Fifty get a free membership (for them or as a gift), a handy CueCat barcode scanner, for entering more of their books, and eternal glory.
  • We end it Monday, August 6.

LibraryThing is a gloriously supportive community. So we’re going to do it a little differently:

  • We’re going to use the new review-rating feature.

    Liam Weasley, with Scabbers

    As many know, this only allows “thumbs-up” ratings.

  • The five reviews with the most thumbs-ups will win the bigger prize.
  • The rest will be randomly picked from all members who both wrote a review and voted for others’ reviews.

That is, we’re rewarding participation and generosity most of all.

I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.* We’re going to have anti-abuse measures in place, and we think the top five will be clean.** The interest level will be very high. After all, the Harry Potter group on LibraryThing has seen some 11,532 messages.

Have fun tonight. Me? I’m watching over the littlest Weasley, while my wife and niece party with the wizards.

*If we get a lot of sock-puppet votes, we may make the top-five part of the contest only count votes from established members.
**But I won’t be reading the reviews myself. I am stuck in book five, recently restarted. Arg.

Labels: contest, harry potter, labelled for your delectation, ocelot, reviews

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Me, at the LC!

The Library of Congress just posted the video of my talk there. Link and description over at Thingology.

Labels: library of congress, talks

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Project Ocelot: Social changes

New look; new connections controls.

This announces a series of major “social” improvements, previously dubbed “Project Ocelot.”* Most have already been released, but were never blogged.

They were talked about, however—and how! The first batch were released to the Recommended Site Improvements group on July 11, where they garnered 187 messages. Two pre-release topics, here and here, racked up another 228 messages. And there were spin-off topics too.

As usual around here, the conversation drove our work. It was a great fun to work through everything with everyone. In case there is any doubt, developing LibraryThing is a blast.**

Here’s a run-down of the changes:

1. Friends and Interesting Libraries. (On your profile.) LibraryThing now offers a number of different “connections” between members. Shared books are still primary, but we’ve added “Interesting Libraries,” “Friends” and “Private Watchlist.”*** Interesting libraries are a one-way thing, although the person you mark as interesting gets a heads-up notice. “Friends” is a mutual connection. “Private Watch Lists” are still private. You can edit your connections, and see who has you on their lists.

Previous “friend” proposals have caused some concern, so we took pains to overcome most objections. We made “interesting libraries” the first option, to keep focus on the books. Friends don’t show up unless both sides consent. And you can disable “friending” and block users. The term “friends” itself rubbed a few people the wrong way—I’ve only just gotten over it myself—but it’s success is clear. Since the changes went live 60% of connections ahve been “friend” connections.

2. Connection News. (On your profile.) You can now follow what your connections are doing on LibraryThing—the books they’re adding, the reviews they write, the books they rate. You can choose any of the new categories (eg., “Friends”) or the fifty users who share the most books with you. This is my favorite feature. It’s something LibraryThing was missing. I think it adds a lot.

Members who share my favorite authors.

3. Shared Favorites (Introduced today). (On all profiles.) Some time ago, we started allowing members to list their favorite authors. Well, now you can find out who shares them with you. Here, for example, is Abby’s list. Mine is too obscure still.

4. Rating Reviews (Introduced Wedensday). LibraryThing a supportive environment. We didn’t want the “vote wars” that Amazon books can have. So, we are allowing members to vote for good reviews with a thumbs-up. But there’s no thumbs-down.

We did add flags for Terms of Service abuse and for non-reviews. (Wherever reviews are found; the feature is being discussed here.)

5. “Also On” Connections. (On your profile.) This is the most technically interesting of the features. For some time, users have been able to record what other sites they belonged to, and their site handles there. “Also On” Connections parses your “Also Ons” to get your sites, and then checks public information from these sites to get your friends’ lists. These lists are then cross-checked against LibraryThing’s “Also On.”

Basically, it help you to fill in the gaps in your social network on LibraryThing. We made it when we ran a test and discovered that lots of users were friends on Flickr or BookMooch, but not on LibraryThing. Probably many didn’t even know their friend was on LibraryThing.

6. Invitations. (On your profile.) Altay made a nice, understated “Invitations” feature, that sends out invites to the people you select.

7. Search tweaks. (On search.) Search now allows “also on” searching.

Of course, we have more to do—a lot more, here, on the core cataloging features****, and with translation (one update there).

*Name discussed here.
**It’s odd, but LibraryThing involves its “users” in its development more than most open-source projects. Open source projects have more focus on developer-to-developer conversations. We almost never talk about technology, but always about features.
***There was a brief period when we had “public” and “private” contacts. All public contacts became “interesting libraries”.
****We should have some good announcements here soon.

Labels: new feature, new features, ocelot, reviews, social networking

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

LibraryThing party in Cambridge

As promised, we’re throwing a big cookout party, open to everyone. Bring your kids, your dogs, your books, and prepare yourself for Tim’s grilling prowess…

When: Saturday, July 28th, 4pm—whenever.

Where: 15 Gurney Street, Cambridge MA (Google map)*. It’s about 15 minutes walking from the Square. You can also take the 72 (Huron) bus, and ask for the Fayerweather stop.

RSVP! [Tim writes:] We’re throwing it at my parent’s house. My mother is beside herself with the idea that everyone with an internet connection will show up. She begs me to get some RSVPs. So, if you’re planning on coming, RSVP. But don’t let not RSVPing stop you.

We’ve applied for a don’t-ticket-us parking permit for the day, so you’ll be able to park on Gurney Street and a neighboring street.

Can’t wait to see everyone!

*Google has it wrong. The name of the street is Gurney. “Revere’s Corner” stems from a city of Cambridge sign for “Reeve’s Corner.” Cambridge and the neighboring communities do a lot of this—calling intersections “corners” and naming them after local worthies, mostly war dead (but not here). It’s a great thing to do, I suppose, but it sure messes up Google.

Labels: party

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Mugglefest in Portland

Last night my wife and I learned that Mugglefest, Portland, ME’s Harry Potter celebration—complete with a recreation of Diagon Alley and the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad pressed into service as the Hogwarts Express—was completely sold out. It was the end of the world.

This morning I showed up at the door of the organizers with my wife’s fourth novel in hand, LibraryThing’s NYT piece, and a memorized list of every local author, library or bookstore person we know. I hate begging, but my marriage was at stake!

Fortunately, they wouldn’t listen to my spiel, but they were willing to let me work my way into some tickets. So, for four hours today I made (very rickety) windows for the wand and the Turkish delight shop, and drove errands for the Minister of Magic, Kirsten Cappy. Tonight I’ll swing by with donuts. And tomorrow from 7am on I’m on parking duty. My marriage is safe. My 16 month-old will get to be the littlest Weasley.

Meanwhile, tickets are selling for $150 on Ebay and someone on Craigslist is offering $500. It might not be in the spirit of the event, but I smell an excellent arbitrage opporunity…

Labels: harry potter

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

AbeBooks book review contest

Just passing along a link to a Summer Reading contest that is running. Write a book review, win $200 cash!

The contest (and rules – note, it closes August 31, 2007, at 9:59am PST).

(And remember our own Harry Potter bookpile contest!)

Labels: abebooks, contest

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Spamming ourselves: $1,000 for a Sysadmin/DBA

We’ve said it before. But it’s absurdly important. And it’s good for you too.

See the main blog post.

Labels: jobs

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

More Early Reviewers books from Random House

Our second batch of books for LibraryThing Early Reviewers is available. Like last time, Random House has given us some advance copies of books that are soon to be published. We’ll distribute them to LibraryThing members to read and review. Note: The current batch ends July 16 at noon Eastern time—this Monday

This batch of books includes:

Some notes:

  • The number of actual copies have SOARED. Random House gave us 420 copies this time, up from 95 last round. That’s thanks to you all; if they hadn’t liked how this was received, they would not have been so generous!
  • Canadian residents are now eligible to join in the fun.
  • There’s some non-fiction in the mix this time—I know that was a request before, so I hope this goes over well enough to get even more next time.
  • One of the offerings (Not that You Asked) is a sampler—not the full book. We aren’t sure about whether to include them, but we thought we’d give it a try. Notably, asking for and/or getting the sampler will in no way affect whether you get other books.

So, what do you have to do to get a book?

  1. Sign up for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
  2. Check out the list of available books and indicate which one(s) you’re interested in reading and reviewing. You can apply for as many books as you’d like, but you can only apply for each book once.
  3. Wait and see if you’ve won a book!

Read the complete Rules and Conditions. By the way, if you got a book last time, and didn’t review it, while it may hurt your chances a bit, it’s not instant death. We have a LOT of books to give out, and we don’t hold a grudge.

We’ve got an Early Reviewers discussion group going on as well.

Labels: early reviewers

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

Harry Potter book pile contest

You probably already know that the seventh and final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling will be released at 12:01 a.m. on July 21. (I love that so many bookstores have midnight parties).

Of course, we’re going to celebrate LibraryThing style, with a book pile contest.

So gather all your wizard and wizardry books (head to Diagon Alley for any supplies you’re missing), pile on the creativity, and take a photo.

The rules.
1. Take a photo of your books.
2. Post the photo to Flickr. You’ll need a Flickr account to do this (it’s easy and free).
3. Tag your photo on Flickr with “LibraryThingHarryPotter
4. If your photo doesn’t show up right away on Flickr’s tag page (a problem if you have a new account), then post a link in the comments of this blog post. We’ll make sure to find it.

The prizes
First prize—$50 to use on Amazon or
Second prize—Free lifetime membership on LibraryThing

The deadline
July 31, 2007 (so you’ll have plenty of time to actually read the book too.)

And once your photo is submitted, don’t worry, the fun isn’t over. There’s plenty of Harry Potter games, discussion, and speculation happening in the Groups.

Join the Hogwarts Express group to discuss all things Potter. Or check out the Watching Harry Potter 7 topic to weigh in on the following:

1. How long will it take to break 10000 copies on LT?
2. How long will it take to become number 1?
3. How many copies are going to be listed in LT the day BEFORE the book is released?

Enjoy! (And remember, if you’re sharing your copy, read fast so the second person doesn’t have to wait too long…)

Labels: book pile, contest, harry potter

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

Readers United, Swap Club / International tweaks

Everyone give a warm welcome to two new swap sites, Readers United, a UK site, and Swap Club, a New Zealand one.

All told, we now integrate with nine swap sites around the world. (We could had eleven, but one died and we nixed another after we discovered them listing books they didn’t really have available.) The continued appearance of swap sites, is a good sign for book swapping. Clearly the idea is here to stay!

Swap sites that aren’t yet integrated with LibraryThing should check out our directions.The more the merrier.

The swap sites are now also integrated with LibraryThing’s new “geolocation” feature. Basically, LibraryThing looks at your IP and/or domain (eg.,,, etc.), and reorders the swap sites accordingly.

We’re doing the same on the home page as well. Here’s how it looks if you enter the site from a French IP address:

Geolocation is an inexact science. We won’t want to overdo it. (“Wait, are you suuuure you don’t want to be on the French site?”) But we’re open to suggestions.

Labels: swap

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

More books than Harvard

LibraryThing has passed Harvard University, the second-largest library in the United States. LibraryThing members have cataloged some 15,731,298 books, putting us 175,000 above Harvard’s count (as reported by the American Library Association).

There are, of course, many similarities between Harvard and LibraryThing. For example, neither institution was founded by a Harvard graduate. Also Harvard has a copy of the Gutenberg Bible. If members can be believed—and why not?—LibraryThing has one too. But there are also differences. Where Harvard has 53 books by J. K. Rowling; LibraryThing has 117,866!

Anyway, it’s a great excuse for a party—in Cambridge. We propose a big, open cookout for Saturday, July 28, possibly ending with Scorpion Bowls at the Hong Kong. Abby and I will plan and discuss it on the Bostonians Group.

It will be fun to drive down from Portland, ME. We’ve got a lot of Cambridge connections at LibraryThing. I grew up and spent much of my life there (over by Fresh Pond). Abby currently lives in Cambridgeport. And Altay graduated from Harvard. It certainly my favorite place; I’m positively itching to get back to the Harvard Bookstore!

We’d love to hang out with local LibraryThing-ers. Pencil us in?

PS: We also hit 20 million tags. Yipes!
PPS: No, we’re not comparing LibraryThing’s virtual “collection” to Harvard’s real one in any way except size—if you gathered all of LibraryThing members’ books together, and put them on shelves, they’ve fill about the same space (give or take).

We find these numbers a good way to get people to understand that LibraryThing isn’t somy tiny, geeky hobby project (“Catalog your books? Who would want to do that?). Anyway, if you’re tired of the milestone, we don’t have another one until 20 million books, which won’t be until the Fall.

Labels: cambridge, harvard, harvard university, librarything size, party, widener

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

“Also on” and Second Life

We’ve been working on some major improvements to our “also on” feature. In short, “also on” allows you to link your LibraryThing profile to your profile elsewhere, such as Facebook, AOL Instant Messenger, MySpace, LiveJournal, and now Second Life.

If you’ve never seen “also on,” check it out. Go to your profile and click “edit profile.” We’ve got almost 100 sites listed so far. We’re going to be some interesting things with a number of them, but Facebook and Second Life will get most of our attention.

We’ve just added Second Life to “also on.” They don’t have a URL for every member, but we have other plans there!

The Second Life push was inspired by meeting John Lester (SL: Pathfinder Linden) at ALA recently. (Basically, I hailed a guy in a Second Life t-shirt and he turned out to be the operations director of the Boston office of Linden Labs—what luck!) Also, member JPB (SL: Joel CiscoSystems), an amazing Second-Life programmer, has offered to do the “front end” work on Second Life/LibraryThing integration. The “back end” won’t be that hard.

First up will be some sort of program to detect when other LT-ers are near you. When you get near one, LibraryThing and Second Life team up to tell you, and mention a book you share in common.

But that’s just a first step. JPB has head-spinning plans, and we’re happy to help. Come talk about ideas on the Second Life group.

Labels: also on, facebook, second life

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Book pile winner

Sorry for the delay in posting this, I was trying to give the job posting as much time as possible on top. So go read it again. Forward to your friends and get $1,000 worth of books. Come work with us, we’re fun.

Now that that’s out of the way, onto business.

Once upon a time, LibraryThing had a bad couple of days. Bad for everything, it seems, except book piles. We got a *huge* response to our impromptu contest to find a new book pile to grace what we call “the down page”—what becomes the homepage when the site is down, for whatever reason.

The sheer number of entries was astounding. Clearly the lesson to be learned here is that you all have a lot of free time on your hands when you can’t be on LT. Logically, we should bring the site down everytime we do a book pile contest in the future. Right? 🙂

Without further ado, the winning pile, which will now live on our down page—here’s hoping we rarely see it!

The Paradox of LibraryThing by adamallen

A few other favorites, ranging from philosophy to dispair…

The poignant Wish You Were Here by Lilithcat
Oh so subtle
From Blue Screen to Death Notes…
Fix-it by Staffordcastle (let’s just hope that home plumbing never comes into it).
A Series of Unfortunate Events
And if there was ever doubt that a picture is worth a thousand words…

You can see the rest of the incredible photos here:, and a colorful selection of them in this blog post.

Make sure to check out past winners in the book pile archive. We’ll announce the next contest soon..

Labels: book pile