Archive for the ‘new features’ Category

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Beta: “Read Alike” recommendations

I’ve pushed through a beta version of a new recommendation engine.

The “Read Alikes” recommendations supplement our existing automatic and member recommendations. “Read Alikes” are based directly on the members who have your books—the people who “read alike” you, or whatever.

So far, opinion is divided. Some members love it, and are getting great recommendations. Others report a parade of things they already know about. Is it quite consciously, however, a beta feature. It may be improved, or it may go away. Most likely, it will go away and be replaced by a better overall algorithm, with better tools for managing your recommendations.

Labels: new features, recommendations

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

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Favorite messages and marking last-read

I’ve added a simple feature to “favorite” message. You can also mark a last-read, for those times when Thingamabrarian eloquence prevents a topic from being read in a single sitting.

More here.

Labels: new features

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Pictures get a lot better

I’ve just released phase one of the new picture system—much better profile pictures:

The new system allows members to post multiple profile pictures, see pictures at large sizes, describe pictures, leave comments on them, and share them with other members. There’s also a tagging feature, so members can organize their pictures and swarm around common tags, like my library.

The new system was designed to be used across the site. I am particularly anxious to get it working on books—so members can show multiple images, and separate out covers, title pages, spine images and so forth.

Read and talk more about it here.

Labels: new features, pictures

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Connections lists and other profile-page upgrades

Mike has revamped LibraryThing’s “connections” feature, changing the UI somewhat and allowing members to specify new types of contacts, like “best friends,” “employees,” “librarian peeps,” etc. These categories show up everywhere connections do, such as work pages.

There were also significant changes under the surface, preparing us for better contact handling generally—both inside-LibraryThing contacts and reaching out to other social networks.

We’ve also added an area for “Groups you share.”

Members are divided over this addition. There’s a poll being held about it right now.

There were a host of smaller changes. Read more about it on Talk.

Labels: new features

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Colored check marks

I’ve change the green check marks to a palette of four colors, so you can distinguish at a glance books in your library, wish list, read-but-unowned list and other collections.

The check marks pop up on recommendations and statistics pages. So far, members have been particularly happy to see them on your Series Statistics page, which lists all the series in your library, and which books in the series you have in the various collections.

As should become immediately obvious, colors can’t do justice to all the complexity of collections. Not every collection gets a color, and we aren’t mixing up paint buckets when a book belongs to two collections. We may revisit this, allowing members to set colors for their collections, but it will depend on other priorities, and we’ll never be able to squeeze all the information in collections into colors alone. For what they are, however, we hope they’re useful.

See more information and discussion.

Labels: collections, new features

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

The Books of Wikipedia

UPDATE: I’m going to take another swipe at the data here. I’ve found too many places where it looks like citations aren’t registering. I’ll update when I can. Meanwhile, I’m moving the Secret Santa post to the top again. (Tim)

I’ve added a new “References” section to work pages, and within that a list of the Wikipedia articles that cite the work.

This feature comes from a complete parse of the English Wikipedia data dump, looking for citations and other references to books.

All told, the data covers 251,911 pages and includes 540,000 citations. They cover some 227,852 works. This is a marked improvement over 2007, when a similar effort found citations to LibraryThing works on only 90,136 pages. It’s not perfect. I don’t try to capture non-ISBN references in running text.* But it’s interesting.** Come talk about it here.

Here are the top 100 books:

Top 100 Most-Frequenty Cited Books in the English Wikipedia
1. 2,122 Guinness World Records: British Hit Singles and Albums
2. 1,313 Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology (James, Andrew’s Disease of the Skin)
3. 1,231 Air Force Combat Units of World War II
4. 1,184 Jane’s encyclopedia of aviation
5. 839 British parliamentary election results, 1918-1949
6. 764 The Ship of the Line: The Development of the Battlefleet, 1650-1850 (The Ship of the line)
7. 603 Handbook of British Chronology (Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, Volume 2)
8. 603 Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1860-1905
9. 591 The science-fantasy publishers: A critical and bibliographic history
10. 560 Civil War High Commands
11. 539 Wrestling Title Histories
12. 514 A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (2 volumes)
13. 504 The Concise Oxford Chronology of English Literature
14. 464 The Dinosauria
15. 463 The DC Comics Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded Edition
16. 460 The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem
17. 452 The Canadian directory of Parliament, 1867-1967
18. 442 All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948
19. 419 Air Force combat wings : lineage and honors histories, 1947-1977
20. 415 The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy Through 1968; Volume 1: Who’s Who A-L
21. 414 The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
22. 406 Fields of Praise: Official History of the Welsh Rugby Union, 1881-1981
23. 403 Birmingham City
24. 398 The New Grove Dictionary of Opera : A-D
25. 377 Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments
26. 371 Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology In General Medicine (Two Vol. Set)
27. 362 NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book
28. 356 The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs & Prehistoric Animals: A Comprehensive Color Guide to Over 500 Specie
29. 348 The Pimlico Chronology of British History: From 250, 000 BC to the Present Day
30. 347 Michigan Place Names (Great Lakes Books)
31. 345 The Directory of Railway Stations: Details Every Public and Private Passenger Station, Halt, Platform and Stopping Place
32. 342 The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition
33. 341 Collins Guide to the Sea Fishes of New Zealand
34. 334 The Book of Sydney Suburbs
35. 331 The Men Who Made Gillingham Football Club
36. 331 Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants
37. 315 Oregon Geographic Names
38. 305 日本写真家事典―東京都写真美術館所蔵作家 (東京都写真美術館叢書)
39. 296 U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History
40. 294 Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns
41. 289 The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy Through 1968: A Bibliographic Survey of the Fields of Science Fiction, F
42. 281 Reed New Zealand Atlas
43. 277 Music in the Renaissance
44. 277 Ohio Atlas and Gazetteer (Atlas and Gazetteer)
45. 273 Enzyklopädie des deutschen Ligafußballs 7. Vereinslexikon
46. 271 The Text of the New Testament an Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual
47. 268 Blackpool (Complete Record)
48. 266 The PFA Premier & Football League players’ records, 1946-2005
49. 261 The Oxford Companion to Chess
50. 259 Dictionary of Minor Planet Names
51. 256 A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica (Comstock Book)
52. 251 Saints!: Complete Record of Southampton Football Club, 1885-1987
53. 247 Cassell’s Chronology of World History: Dates, Events and Ideas That Made History
54. 247 The Book of Golden Discs
55. 243 Squadrons of the Royal Air Force and Commonwealth, 1918-88
56. 236 Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944
57. 236 RAF Squadrons: A Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of All RAF Squadrons and Their Antecedents Since 191
58. 231 Australian Chart Book 1970-1992
59. 231 The Phoenix Book of International Rugby Records
60. 228 Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869-1945
61. 224 US Air Force Air Power Directory
62. 222 Handbook of Inorganic Chemicals
63. 221 Rough Guide to World Music Volume Two: Latin and North America, the Caribbean, Asia & the Pacific (Rough Guide Music Gui
64. 219 In the Nick of Time: Motion Picture Sound Serials
65. 215 A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago
66. 212 Encyclopedia of Fishes, Second Edition (Natural World)
67. 208 The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World
68. 205 The Kentucky Encyclopedia
69. 205 Arsenal Who’s Who
70. 205 Guia de Catalunya. Tots els pobles i totes les comarques
71. 204 Armor Battles of the Waffen SS, 1943-45 (Stackpole Military History Series)
72. 203 Sixty Years of Arkham House: A History and Bibliography
73. 203 Indie Hits: The Complete UK Independent Charts 1980-1989
74. 201 The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics
75. 201 The geographic atlas of New Zealand
76. 201 The International Rugby Championship 1883-1983
77. 200 The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae (Virgin Encyclopedias of Popular Music)
78. 199 Arkham House Books: A Collector’s Guide
79. 198 Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft
80. 196 Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1906-1921 (Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, Vol 2)
81. 195 The fighting ships of the Rising Sun: The drama of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1895-1945
82. 192 Economics: Principles in Action
83. 191 New RHS Dictionary of Gardening
84. 190 Fungal Families of the World (Cabi Publishing)
85. 189 The Vertigo Encyclopedia
86. 188 Dermatology: 2-Volume Set
87. 187 The National Register of Historic Places in Minnesota: A Guide (Minnesota)
88. 187 Minding the House: A Biographical Guide to Prince Edward Island MLAs, 1873-1993
89. 186 Domesday Book: A Complete Translation (Alecto Historical Editions)
90. 186 The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile (3 Vol Set)
91. 185 Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern : die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges
92. 184 The Mountains of England and Wales, Volume 1: Wales
93. 183 The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld
94. 183 The Oxford Dictionary of Opera
95. 179 Generals in Blue Lives of the Union Commanders: Lives of the Union Commanders
96. 178 The Arkham House Companion: Fifty Years of Arkham House : A Bibliographical History and Collector’s Price Guide to Arkha
97. 177 David and Charles Book of Castles
98. 175 Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music (Recent Releases)
99. 174 The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family
100. 171 Hot Dance/Disco 1974-2003
Source: LibraryThing.com

Here’s the table above, in selectable form, in case you want to put it on your blog:


*The parse used ISBNs, OCLC and LCCN numbers and title/author combinations, in both running text (for ISBNs) and citations. In 2007, I used titles and authors in running text. But this produces some false positives and, basically, would have tied up a server for a week.
**I don’t want to start a fight, but I think the winners suggest alarming unevenness. They look like special cases—a bunch of devotees going citation-mad. While everyone knows Wikipedia is driven by passion, the theory is that large numbers and diverse viewpoints tamp down some of the excesses there. That said, I am going to take another crack at the data, hoping some of these effects diminish.

Labels: new features, references, wikipedia

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

HelpThing: Member-driven help

We’ve added a “Help” button to every page of LibraryThing. The button goes to “HelpThing,” a member-driven help system taking shape as we speak:

The idea is simple:

  • Every page on LibraryThing gets a HelpThing page
  • HelpThing is wiki-editable by any LibraryThing member
  • Members and staff collaborate to create a detailed, but accessible guide to LibraryThing

HelpThing started as a “stealth project” by LibraryThing programmer Chris (ConceptDawg). It took a while before I was convinced of the idea.

While I was ignoring the idea, however, members were busy realizing it, official sanction or no. Most of the content was written by LibraryThing member fyrefly98, with contributions from mvrdrk. A somewhat separate—but integrateable—guide to collections was produced by PortiaLong and Lquilter. These members, and the others who helped them, are simply awesome.

Well, now it’s your turn. From being a non-feature, then a Beta feature, it’s now available for everyone to edit. To bring some structure to it, and because, well, I’m still a little afraid of it, I started a HelpThing Style Guide, and fixed up a few pages.

Come and discuss the feature on the New Features post. Ongoing conversation can be had in the Common Knowledge and WikiThing group.

Three cheers for Chris and everyone who’s worked on it so far. Now let’s make it as helpful and compelling as we can!

Labels: HelpThing, new features

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Twitter your reviews

We’ve added a feature to make it easy to Twitter (or Tweet) your reviews.

You’ll see the option—a tiny Twitter logo—on your reviews. When you click it, it takes you to Twitter and fills in the message box. You can, of course, edit it however you like.

You can spot most such tweets with this Twitter search.

This is our second Twitter-based feature. The other is an easy way to Twitter your books to LibraryThing, handy for making a note of a book when you’re in a bookstore or library. Like that, the Twitter your review feature is all about restraint and options. We’ve rejected the idea—popular among book and non-book sites—of automating that process, of making it easy to machine-gun all your friends and followers with trivial updates.

Are you on Twitter? Follow us. Most LibraryThing-related news comes from my account, LibraryThingTim. The LThing account is for incoming messages mostly. John, Chris and Luke are also on, discussing LibraryThing’s irrationally vague vacation policy.

Labels: book reviews, new feature, new features, reviews, twitter

Monday, June 29th, 2009

More servers, less sleep

We just finished moving about a dozen of our original servers from our “colo” in Maine to one in Somerville, where another dozen were waiting. In the process, we’ve basically doubled our server power.

We’re still waiting to get all our metrics back up, and we have a few weeks of retasking servers (a lot will be wearing different hats), but, so far, the results have been very encouraging. We are faster today, and will be getting faster tomorrow. We have a lot more memory, disk space and system redundancy too—so keep adding books.

We’ve collected all our pictures on a Flickr tag Great LibraryThing Server Schlepp. Here are some of the better ones.

The move was a group affair. Abby, Sonya, Mike, Dan and I did all the physical work. Our Australian systems administrator directed us by video chat—and burned through his monthly bandwidth doing it. Abby and I did a trial run with one server on Wednesday. The rest pulled an all-nighter, except Sonya who arrived like a well-rested and showered cavalry at 7am. When we were done, Mike and I went back to my parents’ in Cambridge and slept like logs. Abby, who was taking care of a toddler, stayed up the whole day. Ouch—and kudos to her.

Labels: new features, servers