Archive for the ‘openness’ Category

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Important Policy Change

Effective immediately, LibraryThing will no longer be including lean finely textured beef (commonly referred to as “pink slime”) in any of our products. We have revised all page designs and source code so that this product is no longer required for smooth operation of the site.

Over the past several weeks many members have written to us expressing their concern about the use of boneless lean beef trimmings on LibraryThing. While the USDA and food industry experts agree that lean finely textured beef is perfectly safe, recent media reports have caused considerable consumer concern about this product. We have concluded that in response to member concerns, we must take steps to ensure that this product is not used anywhere on the site, and have worked diligently to make the necessary changes to That process is now complete.

We at LibraryThing would like to thank all those who took the time to express their concerns about this product.

UPDATE: It appears that small quantities of pink slime have continued to seep from the LibraryThing user interface. We blame a supplier, and will be working to remove any and all interface slime as soon as possible.

UPDATE: April Fools is over, so the slime-drip is gone. Click on the image below to see what it looked like:

Labels: openness

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Change us! It’s LibraryThing Zen Garden.

Introducing LibaryThing Zen Garden!

Have you heard of CSS Zen Garden? It’s a legendary website (and popular book) devoted to showing the “power of CSS.” Every page, from the home page to the the military “Zen Army” to the charming old-fashioned movie theater stage set, has the same content, but has been “styled” differently with CSS. For many web developers, the first time they saw CSS Zen Garden was like an effective Zen koan—instant enlightment!

Best of all, most of the designs were submitted by regular web developers, not the site’s developers.

Well, why not let LibraryThing members change the site? Members have been agitating for a design redo for some time now. We’ve posted files for people to play with. Well, why not let them play with the site in real-time? We have been fooling with some designs too. Why not show them off?

Well, step on over to the LibraryThing Zen Garden. You can:

  • Sample different styles.
  • Set your preferred style and browse around the site with it.
  • Create your own styles. Every design you make is available for others to look at.

As a demo, I set five styles under my name:

  • timspalding-1. This is a design Abby, Sonya and I played with one afternoon. Set this to your style and browse around. The subnav on the profile page is different. You’ll also notice the tabs are slightly curved on some browsers.
  • timspalding-2. LibraryThing member existanai sent a few dozen alternate logos. Here’s one. Note the CSS to hide the normal image and use a background image.
  • timspalding-3. Another existanai logo.
  • timspalding-4. Don’t like the logo—kill it!
  • timspalding-5. Screwing things up is funny! But I’ve done it, so it’s not funny anymore. Bonus points for having a browser that displays the BLINK tag.*

Show us what you can do? We want comments on the designs we create, but we really want to see what members want. You don’t need to make a complete design. If you can change a few characters, you can show us a new background color.

I’ve decided not to award any prizes or hold any votes. Design is a very personal thing, and I don’t want anyone feeling left out. All ideas are good, even if they only demonstrate the terribleness of a particular style. Needless to say, if we end up using ideas from your design, we’ll shower you with praise and free memberships.

I’ve made a group for people to talk about designs, swap bits of CSS and so forth. It’s called Redesign LibraryThing.

Incidentally, has anyone ever heard of a site doing this?

Some weeds:

  • I am not a CSS true believer. I use tables for positioning more than I ought. I use <b> when I should use <em>. I torture kittens for fun. Chris is better, but not without sin. This limits what you can do somewhat.
  • Ones with changed logos will not work in IE6. This is about PNG24 transparency, if that means anything to you.
  • The easiest way to work on a design is to modify one of ours. timspalding-1 has comments in it.
  • The CSS you write is added onto our—very complex—CSS. (The main files are this and this, but we wish it were always so simple.) Something like Firebug will come in handy when editing
  • Your default style will not carry throughout the site. Some pages, like catalog, require special tweaks. Other pages just don’t have the code that adds custom CSS.

*Update: Incidentally, I also anticipated that someone would replace the logo with that of a competitor. Ha ha. 🙂

Labels: new feature, new features, openness

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Take our files, raw.

Short. Here’s a page of our raw graphics files. If you find that fun, have some. If you make an interesting change, all the better.

Long. We believe in openness. But openness is a process. It’s not so much that openness is difficult or painful* it’s that openness is non-obvious. You don’t see each successive layer until you remove the one above it.

Since the site started, we’ve enjoyed kibitzing about how it should look. We’d talk about layout and design. We’d throw up an image and sit back for reactions. Occasionally a user would get inspired and post what they thought something should look like. We just concluded a great exchange about the new “Author” and “Legacy” badges. Members helped us refine the wording and the colors enormously.

Open, right? But wait! Why didn’t we post our raw images for members to play with, if they wanted? You can talk about a GIF, but that’s like asking people to have conversations about a prepared speech.

Frankly, until now, I never even thought of the idea. I’ve never heard of a company that did it. And although it happens on open source projects, it’s not universal. The Open Library project, for example, is a model of openness. You can download both code and data; but you won’t find any design files on the site.

So, why not? We don’t lose trademark or copyright by posting a raw Photoshop file, with layers and alternate versions, anymore than we lose them by posting GIFs and JPEGs. What is the potential downside? Just in case there’s any confusing, we’ve posted a notice about copyright and trademark, but also granted explicit permission to make changes and blog about them.

So, here’s a wiki page for us to post our raw graphics files, and users to view, edit and remix them. It’s a very selective list so far, mostly because I started with what was lying around my on my desktop.**

More, much deeper openness coming next week…

*Although maintaining the “What I did today?” page proved too much work, and it helps that I have very thick skin for most criticism.
**There’s a side-benefit to putting all the files up on the wiki. Last time I lost my hard drive I lost almost no work—it’s all up on the “cloud” these days—except for my Photoshop files.

Labels: love, member input, open data, openness