Archive for the ‘1’ Category

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.

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Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

ALA 2007: Tim and Abby’s Excellent Adventure

If you’re in Washington, DC going to the American Library Association conference, Abby and I hope to see you around. We don’t have a booth, but I’m on panels today and tomorrow:

*BIGWIG Social Software Showcase, 1:30-2:30 Saturday
*RUSA MARS: Harnessing the Hive: Social Networks in Libraries (10:30-12:00 Sunday), with Meredith Farkas and Matthew Bejune

And Abby and I are wandering the hall in our LibraryThing t-shirts (Tim: black; Abby: yellow), meeting people, crashing happy hours, etc.

PS: Come to “Participatory Networks: Libraries as Conversation” 10:30-12:00 (WCC Room 143B) today (Saturday). It’s almost blank in the program, but it’s a top and extremely interesting guy at Second Life—memo to self: put cards in wallet, not pants pocket.

UPDATE: I posted my “Hive” introduction on Thingology.

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Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Fifteen million books!

Going down, like the Titanic.

LibraryThing has hit fifteen million books.

Number 15,000,000 was a 1963 edition of The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton, added by dukedom_enough at 8:57am on June 15. For his luck, Dukedom earns a free gift membership.

Now begins the countdown to a major milestone: becoming the second largest “library” in the US, and with or soon after that, the second largest in the world, gulp.

LibraryThing is not of course a “real” library. You can’t take the books out, they do a lot more with them, and we have a lot more duplicates. We have only about 2.5 million distinct “titles.” But the comparison gives a sense of relative scale to the enterprise.*

Anyway, the tally is now as follows**:

  1. Library of Congress — 30,011,748
  2. Harvard University — 15,555,533
  3. Boston Public Library — 15,458,022
  4. LibraryThing — 15,081,543
  5. Yale University — 12,025,695

With luck, we’ll settle in behind the Library of Congress in 10-15 days. At 30 million, they’re going to take a while to beat.

When will we hit second in the world? Unfortunately, I can’t find a good list of world libraries by volumes. Everyone concedes that the Library of Congress is the largest library. The rest is foggy. Wikipedia has the British Library at 150 million items, and 22 million volumes. The Bibliothèque nationale and the Berlin State Library are at ten million volumes. (The German National Library is said to have 22 million items, but items aren’t volumes.) The stubby entry for the National Library of China speaks of it as:

“… the largest library of Asia and with a collection of over 22 million volumes (including individually counted periodicals, without these around 10 million), it is the fifth largest in the world.”

Which raises the question, does the ALA Factsheet also count periodical volumes separately?

Tim is dead. (Credit)

Surpassing the BPL in any way feels blasphemous; I love the place so much that comparing LibraryThing to the BPL—well, the lions should eat me for thinking it. But Harvard will be sweet. I lived most of my life in Cambridge, MA, but the bastards rejected me twice—undergrad and grad! So, in that spirit, and with Yalies protecting my back, let’s beat that little pile of books over at Widener.

*There are all sorts of problems with these numbers. In fact, libraries don’t really know how many books they have. LibraryThing has a small percentage of items that aren’t books, and a larger number that are “wished for” other otherwise ephemeral. At the same time, many of LibraryThing’s “books” are composed of multiple volumes. So, we’re in the neighborhood of 15 million anyway.

LibraryThing demonstrates something we always knew—that regular people have a lot of books—probably many times what all the world’s libraries hold. I’ve never seen the relative numbers discussed. It never mattered before, but now that regular people can put their catalogs online and engage in tasks, like tagging and work disambiguation, that bear on age-old issues of library science, it’s not entirely pointless to compare the two.

I want to underscore that, in making the comparison, we mean no disrespect to libraries. I think I’ve got some proof that LibraryThing has always been on libraries’ side. Our first hire, Abby, was a librarian. We have always favored library data, where our many recent competitors only care about Amazon’s data. We link to libraries extensively, something no competitor does. And we are grateful that our work has been of interest to the library world—Abby and I have become minor fixtures on the library speaking circuit.***

**Source: ALA Factsheet: The Nation’s Largest Libraries.

***My Library of Congress talk will be online soon, as will my recent keynote at the Innovative Users Group meeting in Sligo, Ireland.

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Friday, June 15th, 2007

Web 2.0 Award Winner

We won SEOmoz’s Web 2.0 Awards, in the Books category.

2007 Web 2.0 Awards Winner

Not to bite the hand that feeds us, but giving Reader2 honorable mention is very strange. Don’t get me wrong, Reader2 was a worthy opponent. Dmitry and I started the same week, almost two years ago. But Reader2 didn’t get that far, and it hasn’t been actively developed in at least a year. Since then more than two dozen sites have entered the market, many better than Reader2. Odd choice.

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Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

A new post to hang comments on

We’ve hit 259 comments on the last post. That’s a lot of words. I’m making a new one here to clear the baffles.

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Monday, June 11th, 2007

Site back, sorry for the outage.

Update: Clearly, we’re down again. John’s working on figuring out why the problem reappeared and how to fix it. Watch for updates on the home page (Abby)

The site is back up, after having being down for a day and a night. An errant script knocked down the “read” database, and when the box crashed, some of the db files were corrupted. This meant the whole db had to be restored from the master db. In addition to the db itself, some of the log files were also affected. Turns our MySQL is a lot more finicky about how log files are handled than I’d ever known, or hoped to know. After a lot of digging around, everything is back the way it belongs, and all that was lost is a night of sleep–no data was lost.

I’d like to apologize profusely to everyone who was inconvenienced. We’ll put more safeguards into place to try to minimize such outages in the future, hopefully.

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Monday, June 11th, 2007


We’re really sorry about the downtime, folks. We’re working hard to get the site back up and running, but it’s taking longer than we’d like. We’ll keep you updated as soon as we know more.

In the meantime, here’s something to do while you wait! I want a new and entertaining bookpile to go on the down page. The rules of this impromptu bookpile contest:

1. Post your pictures to Flickr
2. Tag them “LTdown” (feel free to post the link to your photo in the blog comments here if it doesn’t show up right away)
3. Wait for us to pick a winner.

Update 5:11 pm Eastern: We lost the main “read slave.” No data was lost. (We have five copies at all times.) But are missing a critical machine, and have to rebuild it. John is working to rebuild the machine. I suspect it will not be up tonight.
More updates on the homepage

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Wednesday, June 6th, 2007


LibraryThing’s John McGrath has debuted a new site, TagsAhoy, with a wonderfully simple idea: searcing your tags across multiple sites.

Cross-site tag searching is nothing new; sites like Technorati do it all the time. But TagsAhoy searches your tags, not someone else’s. If you tag a lot, it will come in handy. And you’ll wonder why nobody thought of it before.

So far, TagsAhoy searches LibraryThing,, Flickr, Gmail, Squirl and Connotea. More will come, and John has promised tag clouds and other cool features. Pattered somewhat on the spare design of another of his sites, Wordie (“LibraryThing for words,” “Flickr without pictures,” etc.) TagsAhoy is super-simple to use.

We at least applaud the name. It’s clunky in the way “LibraryThing” is clunky. Or was. Now all the “-Thing” names are bought up and my sub-Lovecraftian joke is almost trendy. We confidently predict “-Ahoy” will be the next “-Thing”*, or even “”, “-r,” “-ster” and “-Space.”**

John recently moved to New Jersey and will be transitioning gradually off LibraryThing work over the next few months, as we look for a new PHP programmer with systems skills (job announcement to be posted soon). With TagsAhoy and whatever else his fertile mind creates, Abby, Altay and I wish him well.

*Research suggests is an expired domain. It sounds like a site for people who enjoy watching naked people on boats very very far away. There’s a market for everything.
**John suggests a site of just Web 2.0 suffixes, ThingAhoySter.

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Friday, May 25th, 2007

See all a work’s tags

LibraryThing members have added well over 18 million tags. Of course, they aren’t equally distributed. Popular books now sport thousands or even tens of thousands of tags. Work pages have a small tag cloud for each book, but it only shows the most popular thirty or so.

So I added a link to show all tags for a work. It shows the whole “long tail.” It’s very long indeed. It’s stunning.

Here’s Freakonomics with the standard tag cloud:

Click “show all tags” and you get around five pages of tags. Here’s a piece of that:

If you want to see the actual numbers, you can click the “show numbers” link.

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Monday, May 14th, 2007

LibraryThing for Libraries in Danbury

“You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!”

Over in Thingology I’ve announced the first library to use LibraryThing for Libraries—The Danbury Library in Danbury Connecticut. Works, recommendations, tags—they’ve got it all.

I’ve said I wouldn’t do as much cross-posting, now that we have a combined blog feed (see over on the right). But I thought I’d mention it here, and explain a bit about what it means for LibraryThing.

First, as members of LibraryThing, you should feel proud that your data—anonymous and aggregate, as the Terms of Use say—is helping library patrons to find books. Your passions—the books on your shelves—beat statistical “paths” through books that others can follow. Your tags–the way you think about your stuff–will help people find subjects not covered by traditional subject classification.

For those concerned about development time, I want to emphasize that LibraryThing for Libraries is good for LibraryThing. On the most basic level, it’s going to help our bottom line. That means more programmers making features and fixing bugs. Conceivably, it could mean cheaper accounts.

It also deepens our relationship with libraries, and returns a favor. LibraryThing was built on library data, and we’ve been graciously invited into the library conversation. We are charging for LibraryThing for Libraries, but our prices are in an entirely different league from what libraries are accustomed to pay for their online catalog software. And as these catalogs add “social” features, LibraryThing for Libraries will exert powerful downward pressure on prices. Ultimately, the industry needs a newcomer to take a huge slice of a smaller market. We’re not going to be that company, but we can push the trend along.

LibraryThing for Libraries has also taught us a lot about library catalogs. These are some thorny, mysterious systems! Until now, we’ve relied exclusively on the simplicity of Z39.50 connections, which most libraries don’t have. But we can do more. With out new-found experience, we can start connecting to the remaining 95%. If nothing else, this should help our language reach.

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