Archive for October, 2005

Monday, October 17th, 2005

One RSS feed made. So what RSS do you want?

So, I’ve added one RSS feed—recent books from your or someone else’s library. You’ll find the feed in users’ profile pages, marked with the familiar icon. The feed shows the last twenty books entered, linking to the book’s catalog page. The “description” field includes the user’s review (if there is one), their tags and the books publication data.

I made one feed to test the waters, and to provoke comment. So, what else do you want? I suggest:

  • A feed of someone’s recent reviews
  • A feed of someone’s recent books, but restricted to a given tag
  • A feed of others’ review of books owned by someone (so you can track reviews of books in your library)

What else makes sense? Also let me know if you want the format changed, for example to include different data in the “description” or restrict it to ten books.

Another suggestion: I’d rather have a single page with feed buttons and maybe a way to create just the feed you want. I’d rather not be strewing orange buttons all over. Am I a fuddy-duddy?

PS: Forum is coming.

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Monday, October 17th, 2005

Half a million books!

LibraryThing users officially cataloged over a half-million books. I would be stunned if my capacity for that emotion hadn’t been destroyed at 100,000 books. One million books by Christmas or bust!

I’m still waiting for the mainstream U.S. media to notice LibraryThing. If you agree, blog us. And tell your friends and neighbors, particularly if your neighbor is David Pogue, Walter Mossberg, Xeni Jardin or Hiawatha Bray. What’s up with tech reporters and kick-ass names anyway?

In other news:

  • I returned from a tech conference in Boston, so I’m on LibraryThing 24/7 again. There were a few days there when no new features were added; can’t have that!
  • The forum at BookCrossing has discovered LibraryThing. If any blog readers are also Book-Crossers, I’d love to hear how you think LT and BC can work together.
  • The book pile contest is still open, mostly because the prizes are all free memberships and I haven’t built that feature yet… Flickr‘s got most of them posted. Great stuff.
  • LT needs a forum. I think I may do one of my Mothboards. They’re linear; I really hate threaded discussions. And I want something that doesn’t look like the inside of a spaceship. On the other hand, a simple board would preclude people having open-ended discussions about books (as opposed to LibraryThing). But aren’t there enough places for that?
  • Strange LT Meme: Phantom Scribbler wrote “Do any other Library Thing users feel lonely when you see that you’re the only one who owns a favorite book?” and suggested people blog about their “onlies.” So far, only No Fancy Name has taken the bait.

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Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Universal Import files—and now web pages!

Universal Import is now truly universal. It accepts both files and web pages. I’ve successfully tested it with:

  • Delicious Library, Readerware, Book Collector
  • Amazon (Wishlists, Listmania, past orders), Barnes and Noble, Booksense
  • Bibliophil (export or URL), BookCrossing, Reader2, Listal, What Should I Read Next
  • Home-brewed text files
  • Mumbling ISBNs near your computer, rotary telephone or toaster

See the post below for more on how it works. Again, it won’t fetch your comments, the date you bought something or track down books without ISBNs, but it should do most of what you want most of the time. If you have problems, be specific about them. Go ahead and send me files and URLs.

Let me know if you end up drawing books from a site I haven’t mentioned. I’m keen to add it to the list.

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Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Universal Import added

I’ve added a “Universal Import” feature. After wrangling with a dozen or so different formats, I chucked the nonsense and made a single Swiss-army-knife import. Universal Import works on:

  • Desktop applications like Delicious Library, Readerware, Book Collector, etc.
  • Online services that offer exports (eg., Bibliophil)
  • Home-cooked text-files, spreadsheets and databases

For each one, it grabs the ISBNs and looks them up against the libraries you specify. The upside is the data is fresh, top-quality and drawn from wherever you want—from Amazon to libraries in Turkey. The downside is that it only grabs the ISBNs. It doesn’t try to wrangle all the other stuff.

This was not done lightly. Individual filters take a long time to build and require all sorts of compromises. LibraryThing users clamoring for imports are distributed among a half-dozen applications and various home solutions. So, instead of making 5% of my users 100% happy, I decided to make 100% of my users 95% happy.

I hope you like it.

Coming tomorrow: Imports from web sites like Amazon and AllConsuming!

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Sunday, October 9th, 2005

Picture upload

I’ve added the ability to upload profile pictures, not just link to one somewhere else. Go to your profile and click “Edit your profile” to do this.

If this works reasonably well, I’ll also let people upload book covers. This will be restricted to paid users to avoid porn spam. (Also added to the terms.)

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Sunday, October 9th, 2005

Return of the divet / 400,000

Alert LibraryThing-ers will notice the return of the divet ( ) when adding books from libraries. Click it and get a lot more information about the book: ISBN, publication and physical description info, and sometimes even summaries and tables of contents. It’s a small change, but actually a sign of the skeleton poking through—the database and parsing changes necessary for adding Italian libraries and bulk imports from Delicious Library and other desktop applications. (My efforts to get the desktop book cataloging people to discuss synching—or really to even talk to me—have failed. It’s time for import filters.

Contest update: So far, only one person‘s sent in a book-pile photo (a good combo). Anyone else? I figured someone would want a free membership!

400,000. LibraryThing passed 400,000 books cataloged. At current pace we’ll hit 1/2 million when I’m in Cambridge, MA. I think that calls for a Scorpion Bowl at the Hong Kong Restaurant, don’t you?

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Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

Book-Pile Photo Contest

I’m getting very tired of my pile of books. It’s a bad pile, done in haste. But I’m seeing some fun “LibraryThing” photos on blogs and Flickr (my apologies for all the disarray LibraryThing is causing!). Wouldn’t it be fun to get more people’s library photos?

Therefore, I announce the first annual LibraryThing Book-Pile Photo Contest.

The rules:

  • Take a photo of a pile of books—something like the home page photo.
  • Some of the spines should face the camera so the titles can be read.
  • The books should be against a white or light background, so I can snip them out of the background easily in Photoshop.
  • Express your cleverness in the book-choice. Do not include yourself. I also think you should avoid football trophies, two-handed swords, etc, but go ahead and include dogs and cats. Don’t let the books fall on any babies.
  • By submitting the image you agree to allow LibraryThing to use it, as well as anyone else so long as they’re talking about LibraryThing or the contest.
  • Send original or otherwise large files to timspalding, or just post it on Flickr and send me the URL.

The judging: If I get a lot of good stuff, I will probably do some sort of voting thing on LibraryThing. That would be fun. If not, the winner is whoever I want.

The benefit: Winner gets two free memberships and eternal glory. Two runners-up get one free membership each. Yeah, pretty pathetic.

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Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

Reviews up a notch

Users like Wyvernfriend (299 reviews!) are finally getting their due. Although reviews remain—and will remain—secondary to cataloging, they are now a bit more “out there.”

Check your profile for a reviews page, listing the books you’ve reviewed (if any). That page also lists the books that others have reviewed but you haven’t. Over on the Zeitgeist page, I’m now listing the most prolific reviews and the most-reviewed books.

In other news, you’ll notice that clicking on another user no longer automatically sorts the books according to whether or not you share them. Instead, the catalog tells you how many books you share and gives you a special link to see them. The processing time (comparing all your books against all someone else’s books) was really slowing LibraryThing down. Indeed, you should find things a little faster overall.

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Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Library for poor Brazilians—how to help?

A kind user sent me this inspiring October 2 LA Times story, “This Illiterate Brazilian’s Home Speaks Volumes,” about a poor Brazilian who, basically, started a library in his house.

I’d love to find somewhere to point people so they can donate. I’m sure even small donations would go a long way. If nobody official is collecting—some library association perhaps?—I’ll set up a collection page here.

There’d be nice symmetry there. LibraryThing has seen a lot of Brazilians since being profiled in two papers there.

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Monday, October 3rd, 2005

LibraryThing now searches thirty-one libraries

It’s official: LibraryThing has expanded to thirty-one libraries in thirteen countries.

Not only Australians and Canadians now have major collections in their countries, but also Turks, Danes, Swedes and Dutch. US collections like Yale and the University of Chicago add more scholarly heft, and a user reported that the University of California system is excellent for paperback science fiction.

In addition to the libraries, LibraryThing also works with all the Amazons—now including Amazon Japan. All the national Amazons can also be accessed using the LibraryThing/Amazon bookmarklet, which allows you to add books to your LibraryThing library while browsing on Amazon.

European diacriticals now work well, albeit with some library-specific glitches (eg., the Australian National Library strips accents out and the Royal Danish Library sends the strangest character set). But internal searches still have some diacritical problems…

More libraries

LibraryThing will continue to add libraries. Unfortunately, not all libraries present open web interfaces. Here are global and UK lists of some of the libraries that may work. Some, like the BL, use a format I haven’t designed for yet. Feel free to suggest items off the list, or other open Z39.50 libraries you know about.

Other news

  • LibraryThing will hit 325,000 books in about an hour. No, I’m not staying up for it.
  • I’ve been trying to promote the site to the mainstream media. It seems unfair that it’s been profiled in two Brazilian papers, but I can’t get the Boston Globe to pick it up. Sheesh, I should start reading the Herald.
  • I’ve been looking at similar sites, and pleased to discover LibraryThing’s user growth rate matches the hot social software site 43Things (see here, reporting 12,000 users in two months; LT did 6,000 in one month). 43Things has a bunch of employees and is bankrolled by Amazon (originally in secret).
  • LibraryThing is not bankrolled by Amazon or anyone else, nor are we going to sell our data to them. (Amazingly, I never really announced that before. You are a trusting lot.)
  • In related news, I just finished the site’s first Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. In the end, I decided against the naked-photography clause. Your pictures will be returned.

What I’m working on

  • I’m taking a breather on new libraries. Maybe users will suggest some good ones. It’s hard to know what to add sometimes. I stopped when I realized that a particular Swedish word probably meant “veterinary.” Not a top priority.
  • I’d like to add more data back into the search view. (The “little divet” that used to come up when you use the Library of Congress.)
  • I should add RSS. I’ve been promising it for ages.
  • Ditto power editing/tagging.

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