Update: I forgot! beer
Wednesday, March 15th, 2006
LibraryThing has topped two million books!
Press: Cover this!
I hoping that this milestone gets some press attention. LibraryThing is one heck of a cool story—28,000 users adding two million books, finding people with similar interests, getting recommendations, doing crazy new Wikipedia-like things with cataloging, etc. Something is really going on here.
I recently read a story on lala.com, one of the new pay-for-swapping services. According to the AP, Lala has has “250 members trading some 12,000 CDs”! (It also, apparently, has four founders, as well as employees.) You can imagine my consternation, heightened by a WSJ article on other swapping sites. Maybe I should start pretending LibraryThing is venture backed.
Incidentally, as soon as I can swing it technically, LibraryThing will be adding:
- A FREE loan/swap service. Let’s talk about how to do this on the discussion group.
- Cataloging of CDs, DVDs (at least). Don’t worry, books will remain the center.
Fun Size Facts
- According to the American Library Directory, LibraryThing is now larger than the public libraries of Atlanta, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Antonio. It tops state universities like Colorado State, Illinois State, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Maryland, and private universities like Fordham and William and Mary.
- According to the American Library Association, LibraryThing is 634,375 volumes away from being the 100th largest library in the United States.
- The American Library Directory lists 181 libraries larger than LibraryThing.
- The 2 millionth book makes LibraryThing far-and-away the largest of the 16(!) cataloging services that have sprung up since LibraryThing’s launch, the largest of which has 249,000 “items.”
- If laid end-to-end LibraryThing’s collection would extend from Boston, MA to Pennsylvania, PA. (Maybe.)
- LibraryThing is now larger than the Boston College Library (an even 2 mil. according to the American Library Directory). And Boston College was founded in 1863! Those people don’t read much, I guess. But as an alumnus of Georgetown—the original and better Jesuit university—I already knew that.
- OCLC, the world’s largest library consortium, has 1 billion records in its database. But the OCLC adds only 8,640 books/day, whereas LibraryThing adds 10,152 books/day. This means that LibraryThing will come out ahead in 3815.
- LibraryThing has more than twice as many books by J. K. Rowling as Thomas Jefferson gave to the Library of Congress after the British destroyed the first collection by fire. There’s a joke in here somewhere.
Friday, March 10th, 2006
Say hello to LibraryThing’s newest lifetime member, Liam Patrick Spalding, born 5:24am 3/9/06. Mother and baby are doing well.
Liam thanks everyone for your support. It bought him a swell nursery!
Liam is fortunate that both his parents work at home (web developer, writer). But give me a few days before any new features are added, eh? For now, Abby (firstname.lastname@example.org) is handling user emails—she’ll also be checking my email account. Austin (email@example.com) is handling server issues.
Labels: LibraryThing babies
Tuesday, March 7th, 2006
New server. After months of work and a few days of back and forth, LibraryThing is now officially on the “new new” server (the merely “new” server proving to be fast but also buggy). With luck this will be the last server change until LibraryThing is acquired by Walmart. (Oh, and LibraryThing data is now backed-up daily to two separate servers, one in California and one in New York.)
New libraries. I’ve added a few more libraries:
- Trinity College, Dublin — LibraryThing’s first Irish library
- Union Catalogue of Finnish University Libraries (LINDA) — LibraryThing’s first Finnish library
- Columbia (CLIO). Columbia, Barnard and the Union Theological Seminary — LibraryThing’s first seminary and a heft university library
- Washington Research Library Consortium (D.C.) — Eight DC-area libraries, including Georgetown, American and Gallaudet (website)
Want more? I picked this stuff up rather quickly, but I gather quite a few LibraryThing users do library catalog Z39.50 programming for a living, Want to lend a hand? I’m having a deuce of a time getting certain libraries to work (e.g., The Folger Shakespeare, and Oxford, which works fine for one phrase, but not for multiple). If there were enough interest, I could implement user-controlled library addition.
Wednesday, March 1st, 2006
LibraryThing welcomes a new member to the team: Abigail Blachly. Abby, a real librarian with a day job, will be helping me out part-time over the next few weeks, and, I hope, beyond. She will be handling some customer emails, and generally helping raise the library-science quotient of LibraryThing.
Abby is a graduate of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, with a dual MA/MS in Archives and History. She’s worked in several college and university archives, and currently works as a corporate archivist/cataloger. A couple years ago I worked with her at Houghton Mifflin, a publisher in Boston. She’s sharp!
I am in fact, a real librarian by day (though the title to this post seems more like it should be announcing “Abigail Blachly, International Spy” than a librarian), and I’m excited to be helping Tim. LibraryThing is on the cutting edge of cataloging, with its concepts of works, tagging, user-controlled cataloging… And who knew so many people would care about figuring out MARC fields? It’s incredible, and I can’t wait to get into it all.
Anyway, here I am, ready and willing to talk LibraryThing meets library science. I’ve never worked as a professional cataloger or technical services librarian, though, so go easy on me. But I am still a librarian, after all, so if I don’t know an answer, I’ll find it.
Wednesday, March 1st, 2006
I feel like I’ve made it to college without knowing the capital of France. I admit it! I use computers. I run a website. I blog. But I have no idea what these blog-thingies are called. (I did know enough to get one.) Anyone?
Great. Brilliant buttons, or badges. Someone commented with a site that makes them for you. Hey, I did it the hard way!
Over there, I came up with a better one:
That was hard. The site doesn’t have a condensed font. Now, will someone explain to me, are Thingamabrarians all users, users of the Google group, or users who are also librarians?
Sunday, February 26th, 2006
Update: The server migration appears to have gone off without a hitch—anyway, LT’s had of the usual random, corrupting crashes since the changeover. I am a little behind on email, but will be—amazing to say—out of touch today.
The “Users with your books” box on user profiles shows how many books you—or any user—share with other LibraryThing users. Unfortunately, it counts all books equally—Harry Potter as much as something rare. And there was no dampening of big libraries, so everyone had the largest library, ellenandjim, near the top.
LibraryThing used to have a page that munged your “shared books” in various ways. The algorithm was, however, very inefficient, so I had to drop it somewhere around 1 million books. I’ve brought it back. It better than ever and it wont clog the server (another side-benefit of the new “works” system).
You can see the new feature by clicking the “weighted” link in the “Users with your books” box on your profile. It takes account of both book obscurity and library size. It really works for me, anyway, sifting to the top a number of users I’d never seen, but who share some of my favorite stuff. Try it out and tell me what you think.
PS: The 2:30am EST downtime is still on.
PPS: Feel free to chime in on this topic. My first task in the next week or so is to work on bugs and infelicities. After that, should I work on a “groups” system or a “forum”? A groups system would, among other things, allow a group of friends, a club or other association to easily search a bunch of libraries. There would also be group profiles and so forth. A “forum” feature would bring interactive, mutli-person discussion to LibraryThing. It would be very closely tied to the work, author and tag system, not just being “another place” to discuss books. (It would, of course, have a place to discuss bugs too.)
Sunday, February 26th, 2006
LibraryThing will go down at 2:30am EST / 11:30pm PST / 7:30 GMT for a major swap. The “big new server” I got some months ago has proved very fast, but also glitchy. My database guy thinks it was some interaction between the OS FreeBSD and MySQL. He’s made a Linux server—exact same hardward—that seems never to crash under similar stress. That sure would be swell. Everyone cross your fingers!
Oh, and don’t worry about your data. Obviously the change-over will be backed up six ways from seven.
Sunday, February 26th, 2006
LibraryThing just hit 1.8 million books and 2.5 million tags. Since we’re going to hit 2 million books soon, I’ll talk about the tags today.
As the tags accumulate, they are also generating a lot more value. Tags are mostly useful personally and statistically. Tags are often played up baselessly—as if a few scattered and general tags are of any use to anyone. For statistical purposes you need a LOT of tags, so frequency patterns can emerge and anomalous entries fade into the background. And tags are primarily interesting in concert, not by themselves. Because tags are non-heirarchical and often short, they lack the “context” of something like the Library of Congress subject headings. Other tags can provide that context.
That’s why the “tag similarity” algorithm takes many tags into account, favoring recommendations that match on more than one. Take the messy example of a mid-level book, T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. What the heck is that? Its all over the map—literature, WWI, Middle East, Ottoman Empire, Arabia, history, autobiography, memoir, etc. The recommendations try hitting many of these tags at once—books like Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace (WWI, Middle East, history, Ottoman Empire, etc.) and Robert Grave’s Goodbye to All That (literature, memoir, WWI). It’s not perfect—Edward Said’s memoir!—but it’s a hell of a lot better than any single tag could produce.
And, most importantly, every book and tag makes the statistics better.
Lastly, I wonder how LibraryThing’s 2.5 million compares. I’m sure Flickr and Delicious have many times that number. But what else is out there? Amazon has encouraged product tagging for about three months, and they have thousands of times the traffic. I wonder how well that’s going?
Saturday, February 25th, 2006
I wanted to take a second to highlight an interesting use of LibraryThing. LibraryThing user _Celeste_ collects editions of the Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” better known as “The Night Before Christmas.” Putting her collection online helps her—and the friends and family members who scout for her—keep track and avoid duplicates. In addition to putting her collection online, _Celeste_ has also added her own covers. (Needless to say, most of her copies are not available on Amazon.) Arrayed together, they are a pretty cool sight, and a monument to one collector’s dedication. It would be great if more collectors put their collections and covers on LibraryThing. Old covers have a low profile on the internet because nobody has much of a financial stake in them, and there isn’t anywhere central to “put” them. LibraryThing can be that place.
Check out The Night Before Christmas for most of the editions. Scroll WAAAY down to see her covers. Not all the editions have been combined into the master “work” (not should they), so also check out her dedicated tag and the books in her catalog. Great stuff.
The library came to my attention when Celeste reported problems with her 100 copies sending “shared book” stats through the roof. I’ve revisted how these are calculated. Profiles now list both the number of works and the number of books, if different. I’ve also brought back the “Shared books” box for all users’ profiles, not just yours.