Friday, April 10th, 2009

LibraryThing podcast 2: Unstructured yapping

At some point, I want to get a LibraryThing podcast going. I did one formal episode already, an interview with librarian Jason Griffey, a cool librarian, about a year ago.

What I’d really like to do is something like Uncontrolled Vocabulary, Greg Schwartz’s weekly, freewheeling phone-in conversation, now on indefinite hiatus, or the Stack Overflow podcast, a similar shoot-the-breeze between star-programmers Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood.

Until that day, here’s a 50-minute kaffeeklatsch between LibraryThing employees, recorded back during out “week of code.” It was originally filmed, but, well, I’m vain.

Here’s the direct link to the MP3:

In the conversation (around the room clockwise): Tim Spalding, Mike Bannister, Casey Durfee, Sonya Green, Chris Catalfo, Luke Stevens, Chris Holland. Alas, Abby was in Boston, John in Hobart and Giovanni in, I think, Thailand.


  • The Kindle
  • Comic books
  • Academic publishing
  • Archaeology
  • Newspapers
  • O’Reilly books
  • Marginalia
  • Female archaelogists who wear plants
  • Why Chris Holland is above CSS books
  • Internet Explorer 6
  • Bad collections forecasting

Enjoy! And tell us what idiots we are on Talk.

Labels: podcasts

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Widget statistics and work page customization

Widget Statistics: The new LibraryThing widgets now have their own statistics page, so you can see how often your widgets are visited.

Check out your Widget Statistics or Luke’s account, with some data.

The graph has an exceedingly nifty feature that makes the lines the same color as the background of the widget or, failing that, the main font color. This makes it easy to see which is which and is the kind of nice little detail Luke enjoys putting in.

Discuss it here:

Reminder: There is a best widget contest going on.

Work page customization. Work pages are now customizable, with each section collapsible, and rearrangeable with a nifty drag-and-drop action, remembered between sessions. The feature is quite powerful—a lot cooler than I’d have thought possible.

Discuss it here:

Collections progress. Follow our collections progress here.

Labels: new features

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

April Early Reviewer Books

The April batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 43 books this month, and a total of 1,129 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Friday, April 24th at 6PM EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France and Germany. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Little, Brown and Company Crossway MSI Press
St. Martin’s Griffin Howard Books Hampton Roads Publishing Company
WaterBrook Press Hachette Book Group Algonquin Books
Picador Other Press Doubleday Books
The Permanent Press Beacon Press HarperCollins
Between the Lines Bethany House Chosen Books
Vanderbilt University Press Orca Book Publishers Litwin Books
St. Martin’s Press North Atlantic Books McClelland & Stewart
HighBridge Broadway Books Riverhead Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

LibraryThing Best Widget Contest

The new widgets came with a bunch of pre-defined styles—of varying quality. But they also have sharing built in, so members can come up with better ones, and let people know about them.

So, why not a contest?

  • Submit your widgets to this Talk thread (
  • Widgets can be of any type—as simple, complex, staid or way-out as you like. You can use your own CSS or JavaScript, but you certainly don’t have to.
  • You can submit up to five widgets, but post only one message. Edit if you need to.
  • If you want, share where you put the widget, or where you plan to.
  • Go ahead and name your widgets, comment on what you were trying to do.
  • Post the “Share with other LibraryThing members” link (e.g., this). Posting the script won’t work.

The Reward.

Let’s see what you can do!

UPDATE: Luke added a feature to the “share with other LT member” that shows it with *their* books first. You can change it to work with yours instead. This only applies to URLs made now, so edit old ones?



Labels: contests, widgets

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

LibraryThing April Fools Joke is delayed

I’m sure you all enjoyed GMail Autopilot and learning you were Obama’s fourth cousin. But we at LibraryThing regret that our annual April Fools joke was delayed this year.

Luke “don’t bump my awesome widgets” Stevens, Chris “collections-or-die” Holland, Mike “Facebook-or-die” Bannister and I have decided that other priorities in high demand—so high it’s turning into Haiku—prevented us from spending the day tricking LibraryThing out with an OCLC logo, making all recommendations be for zombie books and suchnot.

Mike did succeed in injecting me onto every page of our development server, squeaking distortedly as a sort of drunk LibraryThing “clippy.” but it but it took too much bandwidth and was simply too horrible to inflict on all. Also, we don’t have a CEO. Also, Mike is fired.

So, we have decided to postpone our April Fools joke, reserving the right to fill your screen with unicorns (click “cornify”) or other such foolery at any point in the next twelve months!

Labels: april fools

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Widgets get a lot better

We’ve just brought live new, improved widgets, available from the make widget page.

Some highlights:

  • New “animated” style cycles through your covers in a oddly mesmerizing way.
  • Widgets are extensively customizable, so you can fit them to your blog without any special knowledge.
  • Power users can do more, with Javascript and CSS customization. Check out Chris’ blog for stylish use.*
  • The new widgets are shareable (an example) so members can show off and swap styles. (Yes, we’ll be having a widget-creation contest soon.)
  • Widget links don’t go off somewhere, but open up a slick lightbox “mini-book” page, with your information and (optional) links, to LibraryThing and elsewhere. You can, of course, fill in your Amazon Associates code, if you want to make money off your widget.
  • Widgets now include (optionally) tags, ratings and reviews. You can filter by reviews and tags too.
  • The code is good—based on our improved JSON Books API and designed not to slow down your page (they’re “lazy-loading”). Weirdly this can make the widget look slow. That’s because it’s not slowing down the rest of the page!
  • Internationalized from the ground up.
  • Orcas, baby!

Go ahead and make a widget.

Talk about it here, or on Talk.

Luke! Widgets were helmed by new employee Luke (member: LibraryThingLuke), who wrote most of the core code, all the styling options, the share system and so forth. Other LibraryThing people helped. Chris—hard at work on collections, we promise—chipped in some attractive styles. Mike wrote the crucial cover-animation code, something he’s been working on for our upcoming Facebook application. I made sure Luke got a list of changes every morning, including at least one thing I wanted the other way the day before.

Luke offered the following thumbnail bio:

“Luke Stevens lives in Portland, Me with his wife and three kids. He enjoys single malt scotch and silver-age comic books. He rides a motorcycle from the early 80’s that elicits laughter from his evil co-workers. Twitter: saintlukas; blog:”

*Chris swears by

Labels: new feature, new features, widgets

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

March Bonus Batch of Early Reviewer Books

This month we have a bonus batch of Early Reviewer books—13 different books and a grand total of 405 copies to give out.

Make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, *please* check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Friday, April 3rd at 6PM EST.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil and Spain. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country. Oh, and check out the Spanish language book!

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Faber and Faber St. Martin’s Griffin Broadway Books
MSI Press HarperCollins The Permanent Press
Hachette Book Group Ballantine Books Spiegel & Grau
Random House

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Review integrity, reviewer freedom and pay-for-review marketing

The rise of book-based social networking has spawned some bottom feeders. Top of my list are companies that charge hopeful authors for positive reviews, which are then owned by the company, edited by them and posted mechanically on multiple social networks and commercial sites over the web, on Twitter and so forth.

LibraryThing was hit by one such outfit, who charge $425 for reviews posted to us, as well as Google Books, Fetchbook and (A lower payment gets you on Amazon and some of our competitors.) This organization has posted 94 reviews—$39,950 in theory—and wouldn’t you know, all of them were five-star reviews!*

At the same time, we have nothing against publishers and authors getting their books out there. LibraryThing does that, and although we don’t change anyone anything, we don’t even have a problem with that. Nor we we have a problem with requiring people to review a book—it’s requiring or otherwise producing only favorable reviews that bothers us. We want members and visitors to feel confident that reviews on LibraryThing aren’t manipulation and spam. We want to be a community for readers, not a dumping ground for spam.

Fortunately, this is still a small problem. But it’s not one we’re going to allow. And I’d like to see if I can get other sites to agree.

So I’ve added the following to our Privacy Policy/Terms of Use:

Review integrity

LibraryThing allows members to participate in “book give-away” programs designed to give readers books and foster reviews. But we forbid reviews by or in the service of “pay-for-review” schemes.

The difference is a tricky one, so we have a number of requirements:

  • Reviewers must be free to write what they think. They may not be required or rewarded to write positive reviews—or punished for writing bad ones.
  • Reviewers must own and control their reviews, granting other parties only a non-exclusive license.
  • Reviewers must act on their own volition, cross-posting their review when and where they want. Companies that sell services based on how many sites get reviews are explicitly forbidden from using LibraryThing.
  • Reviewers must not be paid for their reviews, except in free books and similar non-monetary perks.

We are going to be writing to other sites in our space, seeing if we can get anyone else to sign on with these rules, or ones like them.

Come discuss it on Talk.

*I’m going to avoid giving them publicity—all of which is “good.” They have been removed; they were already in violation of our personal and organizational-use rules.

Labels: review integrity, terms of service

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Authors: Free barcode scanner or tshirt for all!

I love authors. I love them so much I married one! LibraryThing has a whole host of special features to encourage authors to join, and make the most of the site.

So it comes as a surprise to hear LibraryThing called anti-author. (What we are, is against pay-for-review schemes, and authors who think LibraryThing is for posting advertisements and not engaging with anyone.)

So, we’re going to prove it. Until May 1, authors willing to join up, become LibraryThing authors and add some books, get a free CueCat barcode scanner, shipped for free. If you’d rather get a t-shirt, we’ll send one of those instead.

The rules:

  • This applies to new members, or members with less than fifty books added today.
  • Your LibraryThing author page has to show at least 10 members with one of your books.
  • You have to add fifty books to qualify for the scanner.
  • Or: If you have 100 members with one of your books or have had a book on LibraryThing Early Reviewers, we’ll send you the scanner before you catalog fifty books.

How to do it:

  1. Sign up for an account.
  2. Send an email to Abby at to become listed as an official LibraryThing author.
  3. When you meet the rules, send Abby your address and we’ll send you the CueCat and/or t-shirt.

More for authors on LibraryThing. There are a number of other ways authors can use LibraryThing:

  • If you’re interested in providing copies of your new books for LibraryThing members to review, check out Member Giveaways or have your publisher participate in Early Reviewers.
  • If you’d like to give your fans a chance to chat with you, sign up for an Author Chat.
  • If you have upcoming readings or events, you can add them to LibraryThing Local.

UPDATE: Let us catalog your library! If you are a really “big” author, a LibraryThing Flash Mob Cataloging mob will come to your house and catalog all your books for you! We won’t tell anyone where you live, bother the cat or steal the silverware. You get a high-quality catalog entered by librarians and book nerds. We get the fun of cataloging an interesting library. (Yes, we think this stuff is fun.)

We tried to get this offer to Jon Updike, after doing his church, but he died soon after. (Jeremy and the Legacy Library crew REALLY hopes his library is not broken up and unrecorded, like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr’s!) We’ve also offered to do Neil Gaiman’s, so far without success. I now extend our invitation to Steven King, a fellow Mainer, and indeed close neighbor to Katya, librarian and flash-mob cataloging’s “original cataloging” maven. Anyone got King’s email? (Rhetorical question.)

Labels: author chat, authors, cuecat, cuecats, early reviewers, LTER

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Flash-Mob Cataloging: NCSU took on the Joel Lane House Museum

Another library cataloged in a day, thanks to the Metadata & Cataloging Department at North Carolina State University Libraries. They descended upon the Joel Lane Museum House in Raleigh, NC (museum website, LibraryThing Local page) as their community service outing, to catalog the museum’s collection (here). Not only is the museum the oldest dwelling in Raleigh, but it’s also full of rare books and historical documents. The collection also has works on museum maintenance, gardening, antiques, colonial-period America, the history of North Carolina and Raleigh, and a book entitled “Southern Honor: ethics and behavior in the old South” – which was thusly tagged ‘dueling‘.

To one-up previous LibraryThing Flash Mobs, this particular mob also scanned some covers! As this escalates, what do you think will mobbers be doing – reading every book as they go?

Read more about the day’s adventures from the libloggerazzi:
Circ and Serve
Shovers and Makers
USF Library

While none of the LibraryThing staff were in attendance, we did send a care package of cuecats and teeshirts. There are some New England flash-mobs in the works, which we will personally help rock.

If you’re interested in forming a flash mob for a library near you, check out Tim’s blog post, the How To Flash-Mob with LibraryThing wiki and the Flash Mob Cataloging Talk group.

Labels: flash mob, flash-mob cataloging, NC, NCSU, party