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Ten ways... (commentary and discussion)

Recommend Site Improvements

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Mar 24, 2008, 2:13am Top

This is the commentary and discussion thread for the "Ten Ways to Make LibraryThing Better" thread (http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=32873).

Mar 24, 2008, 7:50am Top

Allow direct logical manipulation of chosen libraries. So for example, if I have "1,000 Types of Cheese" and "How to Dance the Rumba" in my library and someone else has "1,000 Types of Cheese" and "Surgery for Dummies" in their library, I can do things like:

mine AND theirs - "1,000 Types of Cheese"
mine OR theirs = "1,000 Types of Cheese", "How to Dance the Rumba", "Surgery for Dummies"

Mar 24, 2008, 10:48am Top

I hope you don't follow the suggestion of removing groups that have been inactive for a year. It would make browsing the main groups page easier if you displayed inactive and active groups on separate pages, but I don't think inactive groups should be removed completely.

Mar 24, 2008, 10:57am Top

>3 _Zoe_:

Yep, that would do nicely as an alternative.

I'd just like to plead for another ten suggestions? There are so many good ones that other people have added, that I wish I'd read through the others first before adding mine. If that's not possible, then I'd like to put my weight behind yhoitink's list, because that looks great.

Mar 24, 2008, 10:59am Top

I agree! 10 isn't nearly enough.

Mar 24, 2008, 11:52am Top

4: But I don't like his suggestion to make it easier to combine tags, especially tags that are translations of each other. Ahh!!

Mar 24, 2008, 11:55am Top

I made my list of 10 things, posted, THEN read the rest. I forgot about 20-30 things all over the board. Boy the choices I'd have to make if I read them first.

Mar 24, 2008, 3:58pm Top

I made my list first too... then read everyone else's, and started getting greedy :) Good grief, mine ended up being very long (and not all possible, but eh, I can dream).

Mar 24, 2008, 11:22pm Top

I just skimmed the thread before making my list, but I countered the "making it easier to combine tags" by asking for an option to NOT accept combinations of tags.... Yeah, those two tags are the same in 99.9% of people's minds, but not in my mind! *sorry, venting*

This is a wonderful idea.... but yes, I started feeling greedy too. My mind was like "but but but, ALL my ideas are important! Pick all of mine!" lol

Mar 24, 2008, 11:55pm Top

Heather19, if the tags are not the same to you then you should separate them and keep separating them if they get recombined. Tags should only be combined if they ar 100% not the same ever, and if you think they are different, then that isn't true.

Mar 25, 2008, 2:56am Top

>10 jjwilson61:

That's a bit extreme. Nothing can be that identical. I think it's perfectly defensible to combine "wwii," and "world war two," even a few people use the former to denote "Walrus Wally is Interestng."

Edited: Mar 25, 2008, 8:28am Top

Now we've got to have Collections so that I can hide my stash of Walrus Wally.

Actually I'd also really like (call it wish 9 3/4) to put my time-zone in my profile so that all Talk posts reflect the time they were posted relative to me.

You can also officially call me flabbergasted, Wally Walrus is a real book!


Edited: Mar 25, 2008, 10:23am Top

Tim is becoming an authority on books for toddlers...

Mar 25, 2008, 10:27am Top

Does anyone know what the "author disambiugation" notes mean? That's all that they say & I've seen it twice.

I'm not running some special version of LT where there's a disambiguation notice on every author page, am I?

Mar 25, 2008, 10:40am Top

I assumed they meant actual separation between authors of the same name. The disambiguation notices were supposed to be a sort of step in that direction but were not meant to be final.

Mar 25, 2008, 10:59am Top


Absolutely. For example the author page for Keith Roberts (sorry no touchstone try Keith Roberts) has a disambiguation notice that this is at least three people. It would be ideal to have three separate author pages.

Mar 25, 2008, 3:57pm Top

Just to point out, this will need to be left open until after the weekend, because I am sure that there are people who only post at the weekend and - at least in the UK - there will be people away on holiday this week because it is Easter.

Mar 25, 2008, 4:21pm Top

this will need to be left open until after the weekend

I don't think that's the case at all. People who go away on vacation may miss something; such is life. I'd rather see the contest closed and action taken on the suggestions while there's still momentum around the idea.

Mar 27, 2008, 3:25pm Top

Dawg, how do you and Tim decide what to work on next?
in response to jjwilson in the 10 Ways main list thread
We usually work on features like those in this list that are much requested except when we have business decisions (partnerships, etc.) that prompt us to work on other things first . This is one of those cases.

Usually we roll in improvements for all users even when we work on something for a specific purpose, as was the case with Local and will be the case with the invitation stuff. We do try to be open about what we are working on and why (see my daily changelog on WikiThing), but sometimes we have to keep quiet about things for a short time for strategic purposes.

Mar 27, 2008, 3:30pm Top

This is one of those cases.

What is? Is there something you're working on right now that is motivated in this way, which we're not aware of?

Mar 27, 2008, 3:39pm Top

He mentioned he was improving invitations (like keeping track of who you've invited) which prompted my question since I think invitations were on very few peoples lists. cD, by business reason do you mean that you will get more customers if invitations were better? Or are you doing it for someone?

Mar 27, 2008, 3:44pm Top

I don't want to get into exactly why I'm working on a specific thing, but I can tell you that it is for something external to LibraryThing. At any rate we'd like to improve the invitations process anyway because we feel like we can also provide better service to our current members in the process.

Apr 4, 2008, 1:21pm Top

I've seen suggestions from a few more people on the main topic thread in the past couple days, and it's obviously been over a week. I'm just wondering if the contest has closed, and if any discussions have begun about which suggestions might be selected. I realize there were a lot of posts, and TONS of ideas for LT staff to look at, so getting "results" and "winners" will take a while. (And there probably were a few requests for Common Knowledge info in our catalogs, which is now a reality. I thank you for that, I love having Original Pub Date in one of my views now!)

BUT, I also think you need to CLOSE that main talk thread to additional comments, or you'll get more suggestions from people hoping to win a prize and/or get their ideas implemented. Just my two cents.

Apr 5, 2008, 5:51am Top


Edited: Apr 5, 2008, 7:46am Top

>23 HeathMochaFrost:

I totally agree. The "Ten ways" thread excited a lot of people to provide a lot of good ideas. Sadly it looks like yet another LT "We're here for you" turn into "Sorry, too busy"

Edited to add....
Not to mention that my "State of the Thing" e-mail just arrived calling attention to the "Ten ways" discussion more than four days after it was supposed to have closed!

Apr 5, 2008, 11:14am Top

I think it's a good idea to leave it open if it allows more people to participate and brings in more good ideas to make LT better. If it was just recently announced in the "State of the Thing" email, a lot of people are probably hearing about it for the first time (and there have been several more comments in the past few days).

Apr 5, 2008, 11:17am Top

I think it's useful to get opinions from users who don't post regularly.

But I do think they should increase the number of prizes available to maintain the odds of winning at what they would have been if the contest had closed on time (about 1 in 5).

They should also start implementing specific suggestions from that thread right away, even if they don't want to stop soliciting new ideas.

Apr 5, 2008, 4:27pm Top

>27 _Zoe_:, _Zoe_, you said They should also start implementing specific suggestions from that thread right away.

I agree, but I would hope that the suggestions they focus on are the sort of clean-up, consistency, stability issues - getting touchstones to work all the time, going back and allowing the multiple-authors fields for books that were added before the feature was implemented, a good help section, etc. As much as I want collections NOW, I also want the site to focus on making existing functions work reliably before rolling any new ones out.

I think one thing that I realized from the suggestions thread is that the site needs to do a better job informing people of new features. I saw a number of suggestions for allowing certain features that already existed at the time the thread was set up - allowing users to customize which fields are displayed in their library view, allowing multiple read-dates for a single book, and a few others that I can't remember.

Apr 5, 2008, 5:40pm Top

As a note, in the blog comments on the original post Tim said this:

Heh. I forgot to mention that I was using Plutonian weeks.

(I'll sort through all the answers this weekend.)


Apr 5, 2008, 6:47pm Top

That's what 44 days? So the contest ends in the middle of May?

Apr 8, 2008, 12:48pm Top

Have Tim & Co. given any indication as to how they will choose which, if any, of the suggestions to implement? I saw a few that my first reaction was "Yeah, that's a great idea" and a few that were closer to "Why would you want that?"

Apr 8, 2008, 1:14pm Top

And I saw a lot of ideas that are already available. I hope Tim et. al. are contacting individuals when their wishes are already granted and thinking about how they can make the existing features more visible.

Apr 9, 2008, 6:01am Top

Ditto on the there are lots of suggestions which are already implimented, so I think there really has to be some work done on improving access / documentation / site mapping or something.

I just wonder how much of LT there is that I don't know about ... as opposed to do know but don't choose to use.

Apr 9, 2008, 4:13pm Top

I got really depressed by all the posters who wanted hobbies, RL connections, "prettier" websites, etc., etc. *sigh* I don't know. It seems like we get a little spoiled. Brown and blue honestly don't bother me. I really don't mind having to click twice to review a book. If I want to discuss a hobby or music, I can find a group that can accomodate me, without adding more stuff to my profile. It seems like making LT more like other sites with games, hobbies, and let's-get-together-in-RL is diluting or destroying what makes LT special in the first place.

(I also don't understand the fascination with numbers and statistics, but then the left side of my brain is concave, so I try not to take any of that personally.)

Apr 9, 2008, 4:18pm Top

I actually agree with the people who suggest that the website needs to be prettied up a little. Not so much for people like me - I'm used to it, I can live with it, even though I don't especially like it - but to be more attractive to new users.

And it still looks like pink to me.

Apr 9, 2008, 4:40pm Top

It's kind of funny, I actually like all the pastels - it's sort of my "thing." Whenever I have to do graphs/charts, people know that I will spend a great deal of time muting the colors so that it looks more "comfortable" to look at - it's gotten to the point where co-workers know that the electric green of Excel will make me cringe. (Unfortunately, it's a required color for one of our product lines.)

There could be worse things to be OCD about, I suppose.


Apr 9, 2008, 5:07pm Top

I'm a minor league baseball fan. Minor leagues are famous for their kitschy promotions. I don't care one bit for the promotions, I'm there to see the game.

But I tolerate the bat races, mascot races, tire throws, cheap pennants, bad food, hokey-pokeys and cotten-eyed joes, because every fan than comes for those makes it more likely that my team will be here next year.

I'm here to catalog our books at home.

Anything that brings on the paying catalogs makes it more likely that my LT will be here next year.

So, go ahead, make it prettier, add bells and whistles.

Apr 10, 2008, 2:09am Top

I, like stephmo, like the color scheme... I'm not sure why, it's definitely different then any other website I frequent, but I think it's just really grown on me.

However, as long as everything doesn't suddenly become neon, I think I can live with any color changes anyone could come up with. I'm pretty easy about that.

34: I totally agree! I really, REALLY like that LT has always (at least, in my mind) been more about the cataloguing, and the social stuff is just icing on the cake. There are so many wonderful suggestions in that thread, suggestions that would make cataloguing better/easier/etc, and I really hope that those will take precidence (sp?) over social "pretties" and "fluffs".

Apr 10, 2008, 2:21am Top

I will third on the colour scheme, and on layout.

LT is a slightly unusual site, in that it is about reading. Seems to me it needs to do everything possible to make that easy. Softer colours don't hit the eye and make a 'stop' on the page - they allow the eye to flow along and around the page, which is what you need for reading.

Of course, the suggestions in the Zen Garden will allow users to be as glaring as they like.

Apr 10, 2008, 4:21am Top

I was one who asked for "Re-implement the way the HTML and CSS are generated."

This wasn't so much asking for a new look&feel (although I do think there are areas where that can be improved and made more consistent) but because I feel it will result in less load on LTs servers; increase ease of maintenance and help prevent silly mistakes when new stuff goes live; and provide a better platform for people to play with how the site looks for them (LT Zen Garden).

The zen garden stuff is the least of the advantages that the change will bring.

On a different note I am surprised by the amount of basic functionality that is being mentioned. I have seen export to spreadsheet/CSV a number of times. That kind of indicates that either people aren't exploring the site very much (it is hardly hidden away) and maybe a better first time users guide in the wiki and that new accounts should get an automatic private comment on their profile sending them to that guide. I believe that most newcomers will ignore the WikiThing link as they don't know what it is.

Apr 10, 2008, 5:05am Top

I also like the look and feel of LibraryThing.

However, better (and easier to find) help for newcomers would be desirable. So many features that already exist have been requested!

Apr 10, 2008, 12:41pm Top

>40 andyl:, 41 Better help was one of the top one or two things on my list. I don't think WikiThing in its current form is a good solution. I'm a daily user, have been here close to a year, and I have to think about where the WikiThing link is located. A brand new user is not going to 1.) Scroll all the way to the bottom of a page and then 2.) Skip the section actually labeled "Help" to find WikiThing where the current help info sometimes lives.

I love LT, but I think just about everyone could have a better experience with better help.

Apr 10, 2008, 1:03pm Top


Which is why I suggested an auto-comment on their profile when they joined which sent them to WikiThing. That way it should be one of the very first things they see - unless they dive in and start cataloguing straight away.

Apr 10, 2008, 1:09pm Top

>43 andyl: That might solve the problems with the brand new users, but its clear that a lot of current LTers don't know about the features available based on the number of requests for things that are already possible. That's why I think Help or WikiThing or whatever format Tim wants to use needs to be moved to a much more prominent place and needs to be as user-friendly as possible. Is it going to solve every problem? No, but I think it will cut down on, for example, the repetitive requests for a wishlist, if someone could search help for a wishlist and see a quick paragraph saying the feature has been considered and for right now people can choose to use tags to mark wishlist items.

Apr 10, 2008, 3:56pm Top

There is a FAQ page on WikiThing, but perhaps a section on frequently made suggestions would be helpful... or a general "How do you ..."

Apr 10, 2008, 10:45pm Top

45: Thing is, most people don't even know about WikiThing. Sometimes I even forget it's there! There IS some useful stuff in there, but it's nearly useless if you don't even know that you need to go to WikiThing in the first place. A much more visible WikiThing link would be very helpful.

Edited: Apr 11, 2008, 2:28pm Top

I still think WikiThing should be a tab at the top. That tiny little link at the bottom is so easy to overlook - as Heather said, even people who know about it can forget! And I don't think I've _ever_ been to Help/FAQs...Huh, just tried it. I didn't even know that it went to a Wiki page.

Edited: Apr 11, 2008, 3:26pm Top

I don't even think it's a matter of placement.

How often does anyone use Help/FAQs nowadays? In reality, we're people that want things to be easy to find - the more you have to click through, the less likely you are to use a feature.

I think it's really a matter of making some of the items easier to figure out. I know I messaged an indivdual looking for ways to display more than 20 books on the screen - I'll use this as an example.

I don't think having it as an option at the bottom of the different styles is the friendliest. Yes, styles and view are the same (kind of), but it's after the 5 diffrent styles with drop-downs to change the columns. Just floating there above "Suggested Display Style for Vistors."

I feel like something that simple should be on the catalog front page (an icon or drop-down for Books to Display per Page). A click-through for style makes sense - you will want to think that one through. Number of books you want to display at once? That's a drop-down in my mind.

Rather than worry about help text, I think some of the more obvious "we already have that" ones should be addressed by simple design changes that make more sense.

ETA - Cleaned up a sentence.

Apr 11, 2008, 3:44pm Top

> 48

Yep. A lot could be accomplished by making minor interface changes.

I agree that the design should be so intuitive that the user never needs to access a Help page or menu. I know that when I have to resort to searching through Help, I am already a very frustrated user.

This might seem an unreasonable expectation. But for an application like LT, I think the goal of transparent usability is not only reasonable, but ought to be a driving force behind site development. If it seems that users need a better Help system, that's a sign that the interface design is poor. And, a poor interface design is (very likely) a sign that the backend database design needs work! So, in the long run, it will help LT grow and scale quickly if more emphasis is placed on getting the user interface exactly right, from the beginning.

Apr 11, 2008, 4:31pm Top

>48 stephmo:, 49 I both agree and disagree. Certainly the interface on LT could be more intuitive, and I think Tim & Co have made steps in that area. That said, I think a better and more visible Help/FAQ section should still be a priority. As a new user of a site one of the first things I do is at least glance through the FAQs. I also try to refer there before posting questions on the Talk forums. I may be an oddball in that respect, but I suspect there are other oddballs out there who would refer to a FAQ if they could find it easily.

Apr 11, 2008, 4:57pm Top

>48 stephmo: I think you're right that having the number of books at the bottom of the edit display screen isn't ideal, but I think a better solution would be to move it to the top of edit display screen. It would be too much clutter on the catalogue front page, since it's not something that needs to be changed frequently.

Edited: Apr 11, 2008, 5:53pm Top


I guess I disagree about the philosophy of when to use a drop-down versus a click-through.

In my mind a drop-down, or something else changable from the catalog page, is for something you'll want to change FREQUENTLY. Display styles or sorts, for instance. Something you need to click through for is something you change LESS FREQUENTLY. I think the "number of books/page" is squarely in the latter category, personally.

Now, you can argue that people are less likely to stick with the default number of books/page than with the display styles, or that it's more likely to be changed by less-savvy users, both of which would argue for moving its placement WITHIN the page where it lives, but not really for cluttering up the front page with a "use once then don't touch" option.

I also guess I think that this being after all a site for people who READ a modicum of intelligence can be assumed.

Apr 11, 2008, 6:58pm Top

My example wasn't meant for serious debate - I have no idea where the best place for the display per page is at the moment.

I just know that it's in a rather unintuitive location. This is the same reason for about half of the things people asked for that already existed on LT - they exist, they're just hidden or in not-so-intuitive places.

I would be careful about tossing around phrases like "a modicum of intelligence can be assumed." Not knowing how to do or find something has little to do with intelligence. I would not imply architects do not hold a certain level of intelligence for not understanding the mating habits of the humpback whale. Nor is it about savvy-ness.

Remember, the majority of people posting here know where a lot of things are on the site. Once you know something, it's difficult imagining what it is to not know something. I can remember struggling when I first joined to figure out how to review a book on the site. I saw the built-in icons for social information, book information, editing and deleting the book - I wondered where the review button was...

Of course, now that I've learned edit=review, it's easy for me. But how many people knowing nothing about LT assume edit = review? Even remembering back, I assumed edit meant I could correct title and/or author information...

I'm not really offering up anything solid, just trying to get to the points offered in 49.

Apr 11, 2008, 7:48pm Top

I think, though, that a certain amount of confidence or daring or something is often required. There comes a point when you just have to say, "Okay, I'm going to click on that 'edit' button by the display styles and see what happens". I wonder whether the design could somehow appear a bit more experimentation-friendly.

Apr 11, 2008, 9:18pm Top

53> The problem is that there are only so many intuitive places to put something. Not everything can go on the front page of the catalog. Once a design reaches a certain level of complexity it isn't easy to find an intuitive place in the UI for everything.

Apr 14, 2008, 3:13am Top

Ok, So I have to be the annoying one to ask "Are we there yet?" :-) Ok, ok... Seriously though, have there been any decisions on new features to include? I know y'all are busy, but patience was never a virtue I was good with. I'm just excited to see what's going to happen around here next is all.
Thanks for everything! I love LibraryThing!
--Justin Roepel

Apr 15, 2008, 12:01pm Top

Larksong, there was no method to contact you other than posting here so I hope you're reading this thread.

Check out the PalmThing for LibraryThing group: http://www.librarything.com/groups/palmthingforlibraryt

I'm very happy with the program so far.

Apr 15, 2008, 7:04pm Top

Here's a suggestion:

Close the "week-long" 25-million-books contest that this thread is commenting on before we reach 26 million books. :)

Apr 16, 2008, 1:47pm Top

Hear, Hear!

I actually suggested we do this again, but I didn't mean that we should have the same contest go on perpetually.

Apr 16, 2008, 3:09pm Top

Yep - time to name some winners or people might think the contest was imaginary. (And now that the weather's finally nice, that LT tee shirt would make a great addition to my wardrobe!)

Apr 16, 2008, 3:22pm Top

>59 AnnaClaire: Agreed! Start another contest if you want (I know I have more suggestions that I couldn't fit in the first batch), but close the old one.

Apr 17, 2008, 3:10pm Top

Sorry this has dragged on. The last week has been a real blur for us. We've been dealing with major performance issues that have pushed all else from our minds, and I've been dealing with traveling too, including an overnight layover in La Guardia. Yesterday I slept.

So, apologies for the delay. If we were a bigger company we'd have the spare cycles to handle changes to our conditions, but we're not, so problems can have spillover effects.

Apr 17, 2008, 3:40pm Top

Just out of curiosity, will we be doing a top ten contest at another major milestone (50 million books, for example)?

Apr 17, 2008, 4:28pm Top

We're just hoping that we'll only need a top 3 contest by that point. :)

Apr 17, 2008, 4:33pm Top

I have a list of the ones I liked, having gotten through half the post. It's already over 50. It's going to require a lot of winnowing.

I think somebody wanted longer tags, however. We did that :)


Apr 17, 2008, 4:52pm Top

Can you post the list of the ones you liked, even if it's not complete yet? It would be helpful to see which things to hope for eventually and which ones are a definite no.

Apr 17, 2008, 5:15pm Top

I think by ones he liked he meant the posts not the suggestions, and that would be rather lengthy. Unless he justs lists the message numbers, I suppose.

Apr 17, 2008, 5:19pm Top

I think it would be a bit excessive to list every other post as one he liked, but maybe you're right. Still, I'd rather see message numbers than nothing.

Apr 17, 2008, 10:23pm Top

Well, how about a list in WikiThing of ideas? Then we users can link them back manually to the posts if we're interested (or add comments).

Apr 17, 2008, 11:40pm Top

No, suggestions...

I'll get to it soon. Sorry, but I'm still totally head-down on tags. (You'll notice the tag list on profiles is now updating, but I'm running into memory limitations too.)

Apr 18, 2008, 4:40pm Top

Dear Tim and all other LibraryThing staff,

I just wanted to stop and say thank you for all the hard work and everything you guys have given us. Much appreciated. I can't wait to see what you guys will come up with next.
--Justin Roepel

Apr 21, 2008, 4:32pm Top

I wrote my initial suggestions in an optimistic mood, and it's too late to revise them since you're already halfway through reading that thread, but if I could do it over, here's what I would suggest:

1. Make the site work.
2. Don't make changes with deep consequences on a whim when you're not committed to following through and dealing with the problems that arise (I'm thinking here of the multiple dates and editing problems).
3. Don't make changes unless you're at least somewhat committed to them; you just disappoint people when you take it back almost immediately.
4. Make touchstones work.
5. Pay attention to different ways in which people use the site and make sure the site works for all users. For example, some people write posts that contain a lot of touchstones and then want to edit them, especially for reading challenges. When editing a post, all of the touchstones should reload.
6. Make Talk search useable. It's not very helpful when we can only get 100 results and many of those results are from the same thread.
7. Follow through on things you start. It often feels like you invest a huge amount of time in something, but stop working on it just a day or two too early, before making it really useful. One example is Local: I never use it now, but I'd use it every time I went to a new city if only I could sort venues by the number of people who had favourited them. Another example is connection news: I hardly ever use it, but I would use it all the time if I could look at recently read books. This also relates to my point #5 about considering how different users might want to use the site differently.

Jun 1, 2008, 5:14pm Top

I am still waiting for "saved searches" of my library and the libraries of others...

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