Friday, September 9th, 2005

20,000 books / comments

We’ve hit 20,000 books this evening, going from 10,00 in less than two days. Hooray.

You can now leave a comment on someone’s profile page (eg., “hey, I have lots of books on Maori art too!”). You can shut off comments on your profile page. By default I shut it off on everyone with a private library (about 20 of 680).

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Thursday, September 8th, 2005

Do you want comments?

Do people want the ability to leave comments? This is super easy to add. I’m picturing each profile has a section at the bottom that works like a guestbook. You can leave either a public or a private comment. The recipient can delete them. The sender can delete or edit his own. A user can turn off commenting, with all private libraries defaulted to comments-off.

I’m thinking it would be nice. But I don’t want to turn this thing into “Friendster for books” as someone (wrongly) dubbed it. I may add the ability to “bookmark” other people’s libraries, but the bookmarks will not be called “friends,” with the inevitable “you’re so-and-so’s friend but they’re not yours” dynamic. Besides, I hold to the traditional view that friends need to have been drunk together.

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Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

Amazon UK, Canada, France, Germany added

I’ve added support for,, and It took a while, but it works. (Don’t mention “character sets” to me today. I might start crying.) There’s a little menu on the Add books page.

I’ve also added the ability to search “the Amazons” first. Whether this makes sense depends upon the depth of the LC’s collections in a language and what you’re looking for. I have a feeling that non-US scholarly works are well-represented, but for something like French Manga it’s pointless to try. If you’re entering a lot of non-US books, let me know which you end up using.

Next up: Sleeping.

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Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

10,000 books

10,000 books reached at 6:23:17 EST.

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Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

Amazon and the Library of Congress: Together at last

Well, I think I’ve come up with the right solution, using Amazon and the LC together. It’s a little complicated, but the complexity is hidden from the user.

It works something like this. First it looks in the LC. If it can’t find it there—either because it’s not there or because the search didn’t follow LC rules—it goes to Amazon. If it finds it on Amazon, it makes one last heroic and generally successful effort to find it at the LC, this time using Amazon’s data in a LC lookup.

People who don’t care about LC data can structure their search as loosely as they want and will still end up with LC data most of the time. People who must have LC results can make sure they get them. If you have any doubt, the Add books screen tells you where the data came from for each book.

When there’s LC data, it tends to prefer it over Amazon data. This is because Amazon plays a bit loose with authors and titles. Authors are first-last sometimes, last-first others. Titles often include the name of the series the book belongs too. The LC is more careful. At the same time, it always uses Amazon date and publication info. This ensures that, although the LC may have an older edition, your info will match the book you clicked.

Inevitably the multiple sources hamper attempts to “match up” equivalent books. Right now it tends to match books up by LC control number (which can embrace two ISBNs) or by ISBN. In the future I’ll be doing a more sophisticated sameness test, involving titles, authors and other data. The same/different issue can never be solved fully, but I’ll try to strike a reasonable balance.

Confused? Don’t be. I think it works pretty well. Feel free to differ.

No response from Amazon yet. If they insist on freezing data and requiring constant refreshes, I will have to make some changes.

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Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

Social features (2); Amazon

I’ve added a few more requested social features:

  • Profiles now show users with overlapping libraries, so you can spot who has similar tastes.
  • When you look at someone else’s profile you can now see exactly what your “shared” books are.
  • When you browse someone’s library you can click on to add a book to your collection.

On the Amazon front I’m waiting for word whether LibraryThing can bend their terms of service.

The problem: Amazon’s terms seem to preclude users modifying data. If Amazon says a book is by C. S. Lewis, LibraryThing users ought to be able to change that to Clive Staples Lewis, but this seems forbidden. Amazon also requires that most data be “refreshed” every 24 hours, which would wipe out any changes anyway.

Refreshing has its own problem: you can only make one request a second. In less than a week LibraryThing has acquired 8,100 books(!). That’s a lot of back and forth with the Amazon servers, and once LibraryThing hits 86,401 there won’t be enough seconds in the day to refresh everything, let alone add new books.

LibraryThing’s “competitors” (about which more in a later post) all use Amazon and seem—correct me if I’m wrong—to allow changes. So maybe there’s an exception for sites like ours. Or maybe they just turn a blind eye.

If Amazon won’t do it, I’ll take the data from somewhere else. Booksense would be my first choice. Although they don’t have an API I can find, I could screen-scrape. Better, I could not only give users the info but also hook it up to their nearest independent bookseller.

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Monday, September 5th, 2005

Blog widgets

I’ve added “blog widgets.” Paste the widget into your blog and tell your visitors what you’re reading, who your favorite authors are, and what tags your using. You can even display random books from your collection (“LibraryThing Shuffle”?), or keep track of the whole community’s books.

Comments welcome. Next up: RSS feeds, Amazon integration and tag-completion.

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Sunday, September 4th, 2005

New Social Features

I’ve added some new social features, and the “infrastructure” for many more.

First, all books now show either or , meaning either that others have the same book or don’t. Click the icon to find out who else has it, what they’ve tagged it, and what are the author’s other books. For example, see Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Second, LibraryThing now sports an oh-so-trendy “tag cloud,” a graphic representation of tag frequency. I also made an “author cloud.” I find the latter particularly interesting. What’s going on with Agatha Christie? ssquier is a big fan—a really big fan.

Next up, more social features, including library-to-library matching (“whose library is most like mine?”) and the ability to, when browsing someone else’s library, add the book to your collection.

Comments, criticisms, concerns and bugs most welcome. Thanks to all for your suggestions so far.

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Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Feature priorities

Here are my current priorities:

  1. RSS feeds (with HTML version and a blog-widget)
  2. User-defined fields
  3. Add Dewey, author clicking
  4. Book-level view, showing who else has it and what they’re tagging it
  5. Improve some graphics

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Thursday, September 1st, 2005

Library feeds?

Thanks to Steven Cohen of LibraryStuff for blogging about LibraryThing (“Finally, a site with a name that is more generic than mine.”*) He suggests:

“I’d love a feed for someone’s catalog or specific tag. Let RSS technology take this tool to the next step.”

Interesting idea, and not too hard to program. It’s on my list. I’m thinking each library should have a feed. Should each library’s tags have feeds, or should the tag feeds cover all books? Hmmm..

*I originally planned to reify the “thing” graphically, either as my dog or as a Victorian monster illustration. Still pondering which…

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