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Combination/Separation problems solved

Recommend Site Improvements

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Edited: Jan 8, 2009, 12:32am Top

I won't claim all problems were solved, but we found two big ones:

1. Members have reported that editing a book trivially, or writing a review (which amounts to the same thing), "separated" the book. This problem has at least one known cause, just found. Some books with "special characters" in the title, author or ISBN were coming in from Amazon as "HTML entities" (for example &-amp-; for &). This is a suckers format. When you submitted, it used the correct form, ignoring the entities.

This was a bug introduced when we changed add books to an Ajax (non-frames) version. I should have guessed it might be happening. We had moved decisively away from entities very early on. I didn't think they would ever return. Blech.

Anyway, the problem may persist for past books under some circumstances. New books won't have the problem.

2. Separation left the database and memory cache in an inconsistent state. Members could separate out a book from a work and discover that, according to the system, they still had the original work.

Anyway, these two changes together may not solve all combination problems, but they certainly fixed a high percent of them. I've run reconciliation scripts on the data, and reset memory caches. So any problems from here on in happen in a new context. Let me know what you find.

Jan 8, 2009, 12:40am Top

Will this help with the recent problems concerning automatic combination of newly added books?

Jan 8, 2009, 12:43am Top

Can you describe more? You mean that books aren't combining into old books as reason would suggest they would? If the new book had an ampersand it might not have combined into an old one. The effect could go both ways, though.

More detail?

Jan 8, 2009, 12:49am Top

Lots of newly added books haven't been joining properly for a few weeks now. There are a couple Bug Collectors threads out there about it. I'm on my touch so I can't copy/paste, but it's just like you say. You could add a popular book and it would show up as a singleton.

Jan 8, 2009, 12:54am Top

So, there are two problems there:

1. When it only seems to happen. Wait five seconds and reload the add books page and you'll the book has a lot of company. This I know about and need to deal with. It's about database latency.

2. When a book really doesn't combine. That might be better now. I'm not sure.

Jan 8, 2009, 12:55am Top

Check thread 52608.

Jan 8, 2009, 12:58am Top

Yeah. Mostly speed. I'll try to tackle that next.

Jan 8, 2009, 1:03am Top

Haven't our new Amazonian overlords ponied up for shiny, new hardware yet? ;)

Edited: Jan 8, 2009, 1:07am Top

No money from Amazon. They acquired Abe's stake. Or rather, they acquired Abe; Abe still manages the investment, although Amazon manages them at some level. Anyway, no money went to either me* or the company.

However, we are on a hiring and server-buying spree recently. Hmmm.

*My friend Ben, who works as a VC in a different industry and who helped write the initial contract, is all broken up about the fact that we didn't get a change-of-control stipulation in there, such that if someone acquired Abe I'd be covered in money--or at least Nutella.

Jan 8, 2009, 1:37am Top


Jan 8, 2009, 1:45am Top

Oh dear. The mental images. Need to read some comfort book before sleep tonight. Maybe a little Louis L'Amour.

Edited: Jan 8, 2009, 3:48am Top

5> Long after the number has changed on the edit books page, the add books page has been showing 'no'. I haven't added books for a few days now, and most of them look OK, but I just recombined (author and book) for one of them,


and still see the 'no' on the add books page.

Jan 8, 2009, 6:20am Top


On 2. there still seem to be many, many failures. Been doing a lot of combining for new stuff added.

Jan 8, 2009, 6:39am Top

Hazelnuts - blech, nutella - ick.

Any word on how long the connection section will be turned off on the home
page ?

Jan 8, 2009, 6:46am Top

OK, decided to check to see if "adding new books" resulted in automatic combinations...

entered (using ISBN & LoC):

it is a singleton right now.

went to editions and found 25 more copies

went to author page & found 2 more singletons:

I'm not going to combine them, so you can see, but it looks as if the autocombine isn't working yet.

(my combining addiction is screaming at me to fix it!!!)

FYI: it is odd that when I bring up the page for my copy, there is a book cover... apparently that is related to the ISBN ... to a member cover!!

Jan 8, 2009, 8:35am Top

5> 12> That book is still showing no other members on the add books page.

Jan 8, 2009, 1:12pm Top

Okay, the reason why this is hard to trouble shoot is that users "do too much," obscuring the path for me.

So, the next time you add a very common book and it shows up as zero users, and reloading add books doesn't fix it, let me know. Let me know the book. Do not combine it or try in any way to get the system to work. I want to see the failure.


Jan 8, 2009, 1:28pm Top

UPS is due to deliver a big box of birthday books to me today. Perfect for testing this bug.

Jan 8, 2009, 1:30pm Top

>18 infiniteletters:

Okay NOBODY change those works, please.

Jan 8, 2009, 1:43pm Top

17> Or look at recently added libraries and their proportions of singletons (which haven't been attacked by combiners, if possible). Pity they almost certainly can't be compared against libraries added, say, a year ago. In terms of singletons, that is?

I'm slowly working my way through recently added libraries that are coming up in my Connections and have been shocked by the percentage of (non-)singletons I'm coming across. This does of course depend on the libary and the level of awareness of the person adding the books.

Here are a few examples from the one I'm bashing at right now, just grabbed from a single page (this is actually a library with more singles than most because of its multilingual nature):

The last library I looked at had classics with several thousands of copies on LT coming up as singles but I'm afraid I've erased the evidence.


Edited: Jan 8, 2009, 1:57pm Top


"which haven't been attacked by combiners"

I sort of resent having my hard work improving LT described as an "attack". I mean, I understand people want to debug this. But putting things where they belong is hardly an "attack".

Jan 8, 2009, 3:38pm Top

Jan 8, 2009, 3:43pm Top

Tim, your #1 is still happening to me. Minor edits (from the edit page) are orphaning books. I made some LoC# changes to two books I just added and after a refresh of my library view, they were singled out.

Unfortunately, I recombined them before I remembered that it shouldn't be happening anymore.

Jan 8, 2009, 3:49pm Top

I just made a rather major discovery of what's going on.

Basically, although the books were correctly logging the last, first form of the book, when passed to the editions layer, they were going in as first last. I am not sure how long, but, again, I think this is related to the redo that Chris did of the code. It's not his fault--this stuff is extremely complicated and, unfortunately, I'm still the custodian of it.

Anyway, the result is a certain amount of weirdness. We are going to go down tonight to fix it in bulk. It's going to solve some problems, but create some new ones too. I need to figure out how to deal with it.

Anyway, it's now working "correctly." But while books should combine more automatically, new books may not do so. I just added the new American Lion book about Andrew Jackson and it belly-flopped because the book was ONLY added in the wrong way--first last. So the last-first form left my copy an orphan. Easily fixed, but annoying.

Anyway, I'm on this.

Jan 8, 2009, 3:51pm Top

I have more books to add, should I leave orphans uncombined for you to look at?

Jan 8, 2009, 3:55pm Top

At this point, until I do some stuff, as much as I want your help, the situation is too complicated for users to contribute anything other than their frustration :)

Jan 8, 2009, 3:58pm Top

Poor LT staff :(

So, where are Collections already. ;)

Jan 8, 2009, 4:07pm Top

I just fixed the problem that has the copies of a book at first uncertain when you add it.

Jan 8, 2009, 4:08pm Top

I won't look at them. They may combine later on when we go down, or not. You can combine them if you want to make sure.

Jan 8, 2009, 4:12pm Top

Miller's Law.

Jan 8, 2009, 5:15pm Top

26: "Anyway, I'm on this"

It may not be cheering for you, Tim, but this is really excellent news. Thank you.


Jan 8, 2009, 5:21pm Top

So should I combine my books yet from 18?

Jan 8, 2009, 5:25pm Top

I have the problem when adding a book that I see in someonelse library using a green plus sign. I goes to add page with the wrong book name in search field, the author name is correct. Using other methods it works.


Jan 8, 2009, 5:54pm Top

And I'm sorry to say that I'm not going to be any help because I'm giving a paper at a conference tomorrow. If I was the cause, even unknowingly, I'm sorry for that.

Why won't the airport shuttle get here already?!

Jan 8, 2009, 7:17pm Top

Gettin' the hell out of Dodge?

Jan 8, 2009, 7:59pm Top

>35 georgeslacombe:

Give me an example. That's troubling.

Jan 8, 2009, 8:00pm Top

>36 conceptDawg:

You're just showing off. :)

I hope you tell people about it.

Jan 8, 2009, 10:28pm Top

I don't know if this is the same problem or not, but I'm still running into the issue of haveing my already combined books from the original LOC add, separate themselves out to a singleton copy when I change the intial letter of words from lowercase to caps. (i.e. from "and" to "And"). ??

Jan 8, 2009, 11:13pm Top

I am in the middle of adding some new books. Every one so far (3) has been added as a single book, though there are many copies already on LT.

I am combining them as it looks like you are doing a mass fix later tonight.

Jan 8, 2009, 11:28pm Top

>41 FicusFan:

Right. Let's see how it shakes out.

Jan 8, 2009, 11:52pm Top

Now up to 7 new books. All but one Beedle Bard have added as singles, and all have others already on LT. Beedle for some reason added correctly.

Edited: Jan 9, 2009, 4:20am Top

All my new books were added before you went down for the fix. The last book I didn't get to combine before you shut the site down.

It was People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. It isn't a single, perhaps because of your fix, but it only has 3 owners.


Unfortunately, it is one of the more popular books and there are 1892 copies


The 2 should be combined. I didn't do it in case you wanted to look at it.

Jan 9, 2009, 6:06pm Top

My new books are still adding as singletons... not a huge deal, just thought someone should know.

Jan 9, 2009, 9:19pm Top

>43 FicusFan:

I recently combined an orphaned Tales of Beedle the Bard, so that may be why your addition seemed to add correctly ...

Jan 9, 2009, 9:26pm Top

Well, I just edited tags on two of my books (from the Edit page) and now suddenly I've got a singleton and a "you and no other":


Jan 10, 2009, 7:42am Top

>47 saltmanz:

I think I combined them again, please check and let me know if it's not okay in your view.

Jan 10, 2009, 7:48am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jan 12, 2009, 4:36am Top

Just cross posting here from another thread ...

I was adding reviews last night and 2 out of 3 reviews added resulted in separation of my copy from the main work - I had to combine the singletons back in afterwards...

Jan 12, 2009, 7:53am Top

Re. #50:

The same thing happened to me ... posting the review decombined the work. There were only two copies in the system (although, oddly, three entries), so it wasn't much of a hassle ... but something is obviously amiss in the wake of the new combination coding "upgrade".


Jan 12, 2009, 11:53am Top

I think it's an issue of legacy data, but I'm working on it. It's a fairly arduous data massage, so it will take a few days.

Jan 12, 2009, 1:24pm Top

Thanks for replying, not in a rush but just wanted to point out that it was still happening ....

Jan 18, 2009, 5:56pm Top

I just have to say, "Dammit!" I pulled up the Edit Book page for my copy of Crime and Punishment, added one tag and a "start date," saved it, and when it went back to my catalog, it had uncombined so now it's all by itself. Here's the link to my copy of the book, in case it's helpful:

In Tim's first message, he writes, "Anyway, the problem may persist for past books under some circumstances. New books won't have the problem." I originally added this book from Amazon, so it might fit the scenario Tim describes there. Is this an instance where it "may persist... under some circumstances"? If so, how long might it persist? It's really frustrating. :P Thanks.

Jan 18, 2009, 9:59pm Top

Yeah, it's still happening to me every day as well. I don't mind so much at this point, only when the author is very prolific and I have to edit something twice! :-)

Would be great if it was fixed though.

Jan 27, 2009, 2:48pm Top

I wrote a review yesterday, and that made my book uncombine.

Jan 30, 2009, 3:45pm Top

I added a cover artist to almost all of my Star Wars books, and LT uncombined 15 of them! This is obnoxious.

Jan 30, 2009, 4:32pm Top

Fix is coming soon. Tell John to make the servers update faster. Don't actually. He might hurt you.

Feb 4, 2009, 7:06am Top

Looking forward to it! If anything, the problems have only been getting worse. Most books I add add as being owned by 0. So first I have to get it to 1 -- me -- and then to combine it with others just to get it properly added to my library!

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