Monday, February 15th, 2010

Dead horses to ponies…

Borrowing a joke from Brightcopy, I’ve turned some dead-horses into ponies, bringing some long-requested features to life, and even improving on them.

Books You Share Preferences. Some members have long campaigned for sorting the profile-page “Books You Share” box by author, not title. But I held off—that’s not the right choice for everyone. Instead I’ve added a preference for it, with a number of different sorting options.

Critically, I set the default to sorting by popularity from low to high, something nobody had ever requested. I thought members might pounce on me for it, but quite a few have said it was an unexpectedly good choice. It brings out the unusual books you share. And those are often the most interesting.

I also added a preference to change how many shared books are displayed.

See this topic for more about the feature.

Tag Combination. After a 16-month hiatus, new tag combinations and separations are back!

The idea is simple. LibraryThing allows members to combine tags that are highly similar in meaning and application. Classic examples are tags like “World War II” and “wwii” or “ww2.” We discourage combining terms that don’t entirely overlap, either in meaning or in usage. (If you’re interested in the ideas behind tagging, check out my What’s the Big Deal About Tagging? talk on YouTube.)

Tag combination only affects “global pages”; user tags are never changed.

So far as I know, we’re the only website to experiment with this idea, something noted in Gene Smith’s Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web. Tag-combination combines a new idea—tagging—with an older idea—what librarians call “authority control.”

This time, however, we’ve given it a twist—democratic authority control. Any member can propose a combination or separation, but the matter is put up to a vote—with a supermajority needed for any action. We hope it will slow down the process and make it more deliberate.

It’ll also save our servers from having to recalculate tags. With more than 60 million tags, and “science fiction” now at three million uses, instant, any-user combinations were really putting a strain on our system.

See more about it, and some examples here.

Labels: new features, tagging


  1. Kyriu says:

    nice! 🙂

  2. Eliza K. says:

    Both great features! Another very useful application for the first one would be in 'Search' and 'Tagmash': if you search for books on a particular topic – say, parenting – without a specific author in mind, naturally you want the most highly rated or most popular books about the topic. So, it would be very useful to be able to sort the search results by popularity, average rating, author etc, as it's very time-consuming having to open every search result in a different tab so you can see the average rating/popularity of the book. This would also be useful with author searches, as with an unknown author you might want to check out his/her more highly-rated books first. In short, love the changes – especially the first one – and it would be great to have the option so sort search results in the same way as 'books you share'.

  3. Zoe says:

    So, any progress on Lists? 😉

  4. lorax says:

    Speaking of ponies, how about real author disambiguation? Though that may be beyond the realm even of ponies and into "unicorns".

    Seriously, thanks for both of these.

  5. Chèli says:

    Could we get a link posted for the tag combination links?

    I know there was a thread but I can't find it.

  6. Craig Hodges says:

    Lead on LibraryThing!
    Nothing like listening to your members and combining innovation with action. Heartening to see I've joined a progressive network.

  7. Anonymous says: had combining of tags for quite some time

  8. Tim says:

    Hey, really? Can you get me more info about it? The idea that LT invented tag combination has even made it into books. If it's not true, we should set the record straight. Either way, I assume it was independent, so I'd be eager to hear how it came about, and how it's gone over there!

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