Resolved: LibraryThing should have a "collections" feature.

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Resolved: LibraryThing should have a "collections" feature.

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Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 1:47pm

Here is the debate, promised here: Should LibraryThing have a "collections" feature?

My opinion is "no."

I think tags are the answer—that no preset list of collections would make everyone happy, and that user-defined collections would become a "second tag system," but with less flexibility.

I feel that adding a "wish list" is important—that there is a real existential distinction between things you've had contact with in some significant way, and things you want.

For the rest, I think "collections" entail a "leap backward" into the metaphors of "file folders" and "shelves" of the physical world. A "collections" feature would spawn collections like "history," "erotic fiction" and so forth--classifications for which tags are a better, more flexible solution. Whether forced or not, collections *feel* like non-overlapping buckets. We all know that we can put document aliases in as many folders as posible, but how many of us do it? Photos in folders is our desktop, or iPhoto, which allows photos to live in multiple folders, but hardly encourages it. Photos with tags is Flickr. Flickr is the future.

In short—and being polemical—a full-blown collections feature undermines the thing that makes LibraryThing special. LibraryThing has 20 million tags—ten times what Amazon has been able to assemble and far more than any other system, from our competitors' (some of whom use mere "shelves") to academic tagging projects, like PennTags. All this data is creating an amazing world of meaning—a "jaw-dropping" world, to quote a recent review of a talk I did on tags at the American Library Association.

Just what a revolution this is is laid out in books like David Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous. I've also got an LC talk coming on line soon.

Down with collections: We must defend the revolution!

I shall now yield the floor. I must say, I do remain willing to consider options. The trick is, we *tried* a mix of tagging and collections. It felt forced. I'm not sure how else to do it.

PS: Warning. I *love* this topic. I think it's hugely interesting. If you post here, I may end up quoting you when I give my next talk.

Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 1:51pm

I agree on this one, tags are the way to go. I'm not sure how a "collection" would be any different.

Jul 4, 2007, 1:59pm

Photos with tags is Flickr. Flickr is the future.

Even Flickr has collections (sets).

Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 2:06pm

Here's what I hoped for from collections, and why I think they're still necessary -- if done for the right reason.

The feature that I wanted, that seemed like it might be answered by collections, is a distinction between books that are "in my library", "books that I have read", and "books that I would like to read". All are interesting, but in different ways. The first example for me was the Harry Potter books. My son owns them, and I have read all of them. I do not own them, and I object (in a mild manner) to them showing up as being "in my library". However, before I listed them they were constantly appearing in the list of suggestions for books I would like. They're in my library now, and I have tagged them "borrowed" so *I know* that they aren't my books, but *LibraryThing doesn't know*.

The problem with tags is that they add no meaning to the data. They're great for searching, grouping, identifying, but they have no meaning and there is no way to give them meaning.

Why do we have "date read" fields? Author fields? Title fields, for that matter? All of these could be implemented with tags, except that they add meaning (e.g. author pages with pictures and links, works with ISBNs and everything else).

Collections are an opportunity to add meaning to a special category of tags. If they don't add meaning, then yes, they are just tags.

What you need to determine, before adding collections as just another way of labelling books, is what meaning people want collections to have.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:08pm

I agree that tags are the way to go.

I also agree that "wishlist" is an exception and conceptually quite separate (as well as being the most frequently requested new feature, of course!)

Personally I think that the only other category that would make sense is owned/not-owned, because it would be useful for statistical purposes (I list all the books I read, and tag the ones I don't own with "borrowed"; but in the site statistics they're always counted as books I own).

And already it overlaps with "wishlist" (which I am currently handling with the tag "want")

However, I think that the "owned" category could be handled with a checkbox. And of course, whether implemented as a checkbox or a category, plenty of users would ignore it and so the statistics would remain skewed, though somewhat less. A checkbox would be simpler than a category, as well as bypass the issue of overlap; and in fact it could be set to default to Yes for books in the "library" collection and to No for books in the "wishlist" collection.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:09pm

>Even Flickr has collections (sets).

Nice point.

Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 2:12pm

>Even Flickr has collections (sets).

Nice point.


Well put. Can you explore what the meaning would *do* more. You're right that tags put the meaning "in you" not "in the software." So where should the software know, and how?

By the way, I'm not against "bundles" of tags. (Indeed, that's one reason why the tags feature is moving to the catalog page—so we can add functionality around it.)

Jul 4, 2007, 2:11pm

Indeed, checkboxes for owned/not owned/wishlisted were what I first requested when I was bothered by my Harry Potter problem. For collections to serve this purpose, individual users would need to be able to specify whether collections were owned or not owned, or perhaps have tick boxes for "Appear in library", "Use for suggestions", or whatever other meanings may be assigned to collections.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:12pm

Owned/not owned would do away with my want of collections (besides a wish list). I just hate tainting the data with books I want but don't have/haven't had/haven't read.

Flickr sets are limited to a certain number for nonpaying users.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:13pm

Tim, I understand what you are saying about collections vs tags. But what about series?

We seem to have a lot of catalog issues related to works that come in multiples. One that is fairly easy to keep organized is The Story of Civilization. Most users enter them as individual volumes. The volumes are numbered, and the topics follow a sequential timeline.

Other series, like Lord of the Rings trilogy, are more difficult. (getting some very odd touchstones here) Some users have a set, with all volumes in a slipcover, and have listed one work. Others have the individual volumes. I would say that the user who has read 3 volumes in a slipcase has had pretty much the same experience as the user who has read the 3 individual volumes, but there is no way to connect them without making a godawful mess.

A series function that would work for LOTR would also accommodate those who have graphic novels or anything else that comes in multiples.

A separate issue for LOTR is that you have to tamper with the title if you want them to appear in order in your catalog. A collection or series option would not help there.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:13pm

Another vote in the "just use tags" camp. I find it a simpler solution than a complex tags/collections hybrid would be.

One of the only arguments I have heard in favor of the wishlist or collections is that it will make the librarything data more accurate: the number of books owned will be the number of books owned, not the number owned and wished for and borrowed, etc. I don't think it would end up working out this way. Many users will continue to use the systems they have already created for themselves. many will continue to use librarything without using tags OR collections. There's no way to enforce the usage of these separate categories, so I don't feel that's a very good argument for their implementation.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:14pm

>Flickr sets are limited to a certain number for nonpaying users.

Ooh, a new revenue stream ;)

I worry that checkboxes will make people feel obligated. Right now, we leave the "meaning" up to you. People discuss their library contents on their profiles, eg., "This is all the books I've read. Books tagged 'lost' are lost, 'library' were taken out from the library", etc. I don't think we can cram that sort of deep semantics into a "system."

Jul 4, 2007, 2:16pm

>10 oregonobsessionz:
I'm stepping in here. We can, if you want, start a thread about series (go ahead!), but PLEASE let's not introduce this here. Threads have a way of going off on a tangent, and this is one thread I want to keep focused. Okay?

Jul 4, 2007, 2:20pm

Wishlist and Not-owned are two things that we really need in my opinion. The things we own are in our standard library/catalog. And in the not-owned section you can tag them as *borrowed, * from book club * from library as you please.

Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 2:27pm

But that leaves the rest in an "owned" category, and I at least don't want that. I don't want that distinction. I'm not cataloging objects, I'm cataloging my intellectual life. I lost a bunch of books and I have a bunch so moldy they're in a sealed plastic bag (I should throw them out). They both in my head's library. Why must I imply that I have current title to them, one way or the other?

Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 2:31pm

My gut reaction is that Tim is right on this one and that tags are the way to go. For collections to be worth the cost they would have to provide some functionality or semantic distinction that tags can't duplicate.

The majority of functionality that I would want out of collections can be achieved through tags. For instance, I would view collections and a way to denote a concrete separation of books. For instance,as a student my textbooks make up a large portion of my growing library. It would be nice to be able to get separate suggestions based on my textbooks or based on the rest of my books. This could be accomplished if the Suggestion feature allowed me to generate suggestions based on a single tag.

Another use that I often desire out of collection could be cleared up with better searching tools. I want to be able to search for books only within a certain tag, even if my search terms apply to 100 other books in my library.

Also, there is the often mentioned issue of books that I have read but do not own. However, as with wish lists, I don't know if this single-use case merits developing some large collection system. As others have suggested, "owned" and "read" booleans could take care of these issues, as well as improve LT statistics, but I only catalog books I own, so I don't really care so much about the "owned" distinction.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:37pm

You know how date started, date ended and so forth are under an "advanced options" tab at the bottom of the edit-books screen. How many collections-proponents could be split off if "not owned" were added as a boolean there. (On the other hand, I think I want the "wish list" boolean up high, and they should go together.)

You'd be able to search for them somehow in the advanced search. But there wouldn't be any easy way to flip between owned and not-owned as a collection.

Any takers?

Jul 4, 2007, 2:40pm

I'd also rather just stick with tagging -- mixing them with a fixed category/collection structure just seems to lead to a lot more confusion, and I'd predict a whole lot more of the "so what category am I supposed to use?" conversation that periodically crops up with tags.

On read-not-owned, to me it's really the same as the wishlist: things I don't feel are properly part of my library as I'm comfortable using it, but that I'd still like to claim/recognize/comment on in some way. It's sort of the Not-My-Library (and yet not all the millions of books I just don't care about) to complement My Library. (wrt checkboxes, I'll disagree with Tim -- rather than feeling obligatory, I suspect that they'd be so widely ignored as to be meaningless.)

My Library vs. My Spouse's Library, or My Upstairs Library vs. My Downstairs Library, or My Kinky Library vs. My Library That I'm Okay With My Employer Seeing, on the other hand, all look to me like issues about how each person chooses to conceive of their library, and so shouldn't be limited by the system.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:42pm

One thing that hasn't been brought up yet as far as the usefullness of colections is the matter of families.

I have my own books, my husband has his, and our children have theirs. Sure, we could use seperate accounts for each, but it would be nice to keep them all linked in one account, seperated into different collections. We could also use tags, but that's a bit sloppier than a collections option. Not only that, but I would love to stop getting recs based on books that aren't mine (that I have no interest in).

I understand that there are drawbacks to collections, but there's enough usefulness there to a least warrant further consideration.

In addition to wishlist and read/unowned fields, maybe a family account could be considered.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:42pm

One reason so many of us want a collections feature is that we want our catalogue to be owned only, but we also want to keep track of the 'I've read this' and the 'I want this' lists in the same overall place without creating a new account (as a number of users have done).

Jul 4, 2007, 2:46pm

In #19, 9days said what I came back to post. I have 3 accounts right now. Mine, son's, and wish list. Logging in and out to play around with them is a pain. Mashing them all into one account screws up the recommendations. I would love some kind of family account options.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:51pm

>21 DaynaRT:

This is probably not the solution you're looking for, but to manage my two accounts easily, I use Mozilla Firefox to access one and Internet Explorer to access the other. That way, I never have to sign out of either of them, just open a different browser window.

Jul 4, 2007, 2:53pm

Thanks, collsers. That's pretty practical, something I've never been good at. :)

Jul 4, 2007, 3:01pm

I think managing books between different members of a family could be accomplished using tags, especially if we could get suggestions based only on a subset of tags and if the current ability to view books under a tag was expanded.

Some sites like amazon have a browsing feature that allows you to browse a sort of "dynamic hierarchy" (my own made up term). For instance, cameras are often categorized according to price, megapixel, and say manufacturer. Well, I can browse first by price then by megapixel and then manufacturer; or I can browse first by manufacturer and then price. It would be fun to do this with tags. So if I could view all books with the tag "sister's books" and then see a list of tags that are on the books listed in "sister's books" and view just those as well.

Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 3:03pm

I agree that a separate "wish list" feature is important, and I like the way it looked in the preview of the new UI. I also agree that tags can handle most other things.

But I do think that there should be a "not-owned" checkbox. It doesn't matter whether everyone wants to use it or not; a significant number of people do want a "more official" way of designating books in their library that they don't actually own. People who didn't want to use it wouldn't be obligated to. If we had a way to mark unowned books in our libraries, as well as a wishlist, I would be satisfied and wouldn't want further sub-collections.

I do want super-collections, though. I want to be able to link my account to my mother's and my father's and my sister's and have the option of viewing all the books together. edit: I don't want one big family account because at least two of us post regularly using our separate accounts.

Jul 4, 2007, 3:02pm


For some people, having multiple browsers open at once would slow their computer to a crawl. For those people, and others, a family account or collections feature would still be more practical.

Jul 4, 2007, 3:05pm

the problem with do everything with tags for me is the limited nature of siort by tag. There is only a sort by the first tag, while I would wish to sort by subject tags, cover artist tags, location tags, and all the other things we end up using tags for.

That may be slightly off topic as collection tags would be more often used for seaching rather than sorting.

I am happy using 2 accounts (both paid for) one for the books I own and one for my other collections (tagged). Currently these are ordered and wishlist but more may follow.

Jul 4, 2007, 3:05pm

>I am happy using 2 accounts (both paid for) ...

And yet ANOTHER revenue stream! :)

Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 3:53pm

I want collections for the ownership vs read vs want distinctions.

Owned vs notowned is essential for me so I know what I want to buy, or to buy another copy.

Tags have the following problems:
*They aren't sortable, which would be fixed by the mention of "bundles" of tags
*Recommendations/Users with Your books are based on individual books or individual libraries. I'd like to have recommendations/users with your books based on certain tag sets (or against certain tag sets).

Collections would also be nice to show "top ten lists for..." or series for whatever category, like Amazon's lists where I've gained way too many book recs. Sure, comments/reviews make this possible for individual books, but the interface is very different and it doesn't work for highlighting books in multiple lists.

I want the ability to take certain tags out of the tag cloud, as they're location categories, and have them display above or some other view. Collections might work for this.

The family account problem above could also be solved by collections.

ETA: Collections could also solve the private/public part, although I'd prefer to be able to select something on the book itself.

Jul 4, 2007, 3:12pm


a private family group could be a solution. The search group members' libraries however seems to be search only mine.

Jul 4, 2007, 3:21pm

ringman: According to people who had a private group, the search worked, then stopped around the downtime. It's in past threads.

Jul 4, 2007, 3:22pm

I agree with Tim, tags are the way to go except for the wishlist issue. Tags allow you to personalize as you need/want and that makes LT great.....However, I am tired of posts from some LTers who want pure data that only includes books physically in your library and complain about those of us who catalog many things we have read but may not currently own. I loved Tim's post #15 and agree wholeheartedly.

Accurate Data is an admirable goal and there are vocal LTers that clearly want to be able to see it. Setting up a few collections could solve this issue. I do believe the fewer the better however.

Jul 4, 2007, 3:23pm

>30 ringman: A group doesn't have nearly the same functionality as a full catalogue display.

Jul 4, 2007, 3:28pm

I don't care about collections per se, but I consider some way of indicating "not owned" beyond tagging essential. I want to be able to rate or review or otherwise indicate I've read something (and don't need it recommended to me) without acting like it's really part of my library. I have to say I am truly surprised that a wishlist feature is finally about to be implemented, but this is still not happening and possibly never going to happen.

30>When groups were first created, I thought I would be able to use them for family purposes too - this was one of the "advertised" uses. But it doesn't let me do lots of things I would want to, like view the whole group's library or get recommendations based on the whole group's library.

Jul 4, 2007, 3:31pm

On groups for families: The search needs to get fixed. There IS a way to view the groups library, so clearly I haven't made that easy. And as far as recommendations go, that's something I've never really contemplated. It's a good idea.

Jul 4, 2007, 4:02pm

>30 ringman: My accounts are already in a group together, but that still doesn't allow for manipulating the data....only for looky but no touchy.

Jul 4, 2007, 4:55pm

I’m trying to think of how I would use a collection feature. The thing that comes immediately to mind is my husband’s books. Right now they are all tagged with his name, but because they show up as one massive library with equal weight to each book, I get a lot of recommendations I have no use for. There is no way to lighten them (in consideration) or to eliminate them (from consideration) so recommendations for me are hit or miss and I rarely use it.

A good use might also be to segregate those books we want to trade or use to participate in Book Crossing, etc. Sure, we own them, but they have a special status of those that we can stand to let go. Should those kinds of books influence our recommendations? Not sure, up to the user, but I certainly wouldn’t want that to count for me. All books are equal in the present catalog system.

I realize how enamored most people are with tags, but to be honest, I rarely consult them. They are classification tools, certainly, but I don’t want them to also count for the status of a book considering how that status is only one dimensional. Each book has the same weight and value as any other book which clearly isn’t how people think of their collections. To LT a ratty old paperback has the same significance as a first edition of Hemingway, or a signed work. That isn’t right. Collections would help alleviate some of that confusion by creating a segregation of the user wants it. If not, ignore the feature.

Another thing that comes to mind is the thing Tim seems concerned with, but not concerned with at the same time and that’s accuracy of data. He says something like ‘what does it matter if I have a copy on the shelf, if it’s moldy and in a plastic bag or just something I read in high school?’. I disagree. If a large percentage of the data is based on vaporware, then trending, analysis and other types of number crunching are flawed and therefore fairly worthless. The latest blog post goes on about being bigger than the Harvard Library. I doubt it. Harvard doesn’t count books its thousands of students once read in the 5th grade.

That’s how I view my library; could you walk into my house and read it? If not, it doesn’t belong in the library. Loaned books excepted because we expect to get them back one day, just like a public lending library. Given the enormous volume of ‘phantom’ books around here (wishlist, read not owned, borrowed, etc), how can any of the numbers be accurate at all? At one point didn’t I hear rumblings that some of the largest libraries consisted of mostly wishlist type items and that got people irritated? I can’t think that kind of data is useful for any real analysis of what people buy and keep. Or how big LT users’ books are compared to real libraries.

A collection feature would help those users who want to keep a history of their reading habits, not just what they physically still possess, without skewing the data. I think breaking it along ‘want to own’ and ‘have read’ status would be acceptable to most people, leaving the Library to be only what you could walk into their house and read.
Wow…I think this is my longest post. : )

Jul 4, 2007, 5:27pm

For what it's worth, all the various permutations of "wish list" and "unowned" don't crack 100,000. That's part of the problem. The lack of markers for these statuses' inhibits (some) people from putting these books in.

Ultimately, I don't think total numbers are very interesting statistics. It's okay if they're off by a few percent. For other measures, like recommendations, which are based on some pretty deep statistics, I'm convinced that "wish list" is different from the rest, but that whether I lost a book or still have it has no affect on what recommendations I receive. For me, at least, it's about my head, not my shelf.

Jul 4, 2007, 5:33pm

For me, at least, it's about my head, not my shelf.

That's fine for you, but I think the goal should be to let everyone decide for themselves what it's about. For some people, it is about what's on their shelf (a book that they keep is more important to them than a book they get rid of), and that's an equally legitimate viewpoint. I think adding a "not owned" checkbox, with the option to exclude those books from suggestions, would keep both sides happy. You wouldn't have to use it if you didn't want to, but those who did want to could.

Jul 4, 2007, 5:37pm

No, I think that's a possible compromise. (Let's not get into *where* this goes.) I just anticipate that it will leave a lot of people out in the cold, asking for "got from a library" and so forth, not to mention collections like "husband", "in truro," etc.

Jul 4, 2007, 5:50pm

whether I lost a book or still have it has no affect on what recommendations I receive

But that can be very different for other people. For instance, if I read a book but didn't keep it or buy it, that means I didn't like it. I don't want recommendations based on it. For others, it doesn't matter at all. I think that's why the distinction is important.

Those who don't want recs based on what they don't own can use a seperate collection, and those who don't care don't need to use it.

Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 6:26pm

I still like the idea of tag meta-data to give some machine readable equivalent to the semantics that everyone lays out in their profile. That is, specifically, to inform various functions here, such as recommendations, talk about your books, books you have in common, books visible to others, books that count towards who has the biggest, etc. As well, I guess, as a one-line description that others could see.

This can be done equivalently from the other end by giving each of those functions a filter, to be written in tag predicate language. But that seems somehow less explicit. Likewise, much of what collections might do could be done by defining named tag predicates to appear in a drop-down list at the top of your catalog.

I also need something to correspond to Palm categories, but that's hardly a major design force.

Jul 4, 2007, 5:59pm


"About the head, not the shelf"; I like that. Yes, make Wish lists a separate collection. But (there is always a but) the problem with tagging everything but wishlists is twofold.

First, as mentioned above, we need nested sorts. I want to search within (say) my postmodern philosophy tag for for any book with "Deconstruction" as a subject.

all:Deconstruction tag:Postmodern Philosophy

Then I want to find all books whose subject is "Deconstruction" but which are _not_ in my Postmodern Philosophy Tag.

all:Deconstruction tag:-Postmodern Philosophy

Do both these consistently work? If they do then the problem of sort, in my library, is (I think) solved. But what if I want to search Hayek in your brothers Library?

How do I search

all: Hayek tag: libertarianism
and then
all: Hayek tag: - libertarianism
in his Library?

Why would I want to do this? Because the second results (probably) give me books that are critical of Hayek.

Second, I want to be able to get recommendations (suggestions) via specific Tags. So, I want to be able to go to LT Suggestions and get separate suggestions for each of my Tags. Is that possible?

The suggestion thing is a big deal for me. What am I missing?

Also, it would be kewl to be able to download the Library by Tags too. Why? Because I go freeware wherever possible and my freeware Spreadsheet is not happy with the size of my library. It believes my library is too big; I know it is too small. My Library downloadable by Tags would make spreadsheet very happy.

Owned, not owned, is not a big deal for me so a boolean switch would be fine.


Jul 4, 2007, 6:01pm

For recommendations, I would like to be able to distinguish between books I borrowed from the library and read, and books that I bought and gave away (which usually happens because I didn't like them, e.g. Always Feel a Friend).

A checkbox per book that said "Ignore for recommendations" would meet that need. Buried in the advanced settings so it doesn't bother people who don't care is fine.

Another checkbox that said "Not owned" which prevented the book from showing up on my blog widget and in "books you share with..." lists would be my other wish in this discussion, and again it could be buried so people who don't care wouldn't see it. For my purposes, the wishlist functionality would be covered by a combination of the "Not owned" flag and wishlist tag. (If I read the book from the library I'd remove the wishlist tag but leave the Not owned flag, if I bought it I'd remove both. -- And yes, if I want the book I want the system to assume that I would be interested in similar books.)

I've also seen in other threads a request for a per-book Private flag, which presumably would prevent anyone from seeing that book in any view of the user's library, though I don't think I have any books that I'd apply that to.

Collections, if implemented, would need to have a way of specifying how the user wanted each collection treated, in each of these three ways. A "Borrowed" collection would likely have "Not owned" ticked and but "Ignore for recommendations" unticked. "Given Away" would have both ticked. A "Private" collection would obviously have the "Private" checkbox ticked.

The key for me, though, is having at least those two options ("Not Owned" and "Ignore for Recommendations"). Tags won't work, because tags don't mean anything to the database. Whether per-book checkboxes or collections doesn't matter.

(Adding those options to tags would also work, but I would say that since they're irrelevant to the vast majority of tags it would be better to come up with a new field that allowed those options: collections.)

Jul 4, 2007, 6:15pm

I just anticipate that it will leave a lot of people out in the cold, asking for "got from a library" and so forth, not to mention collections like "husband", "in truro," etc.

I haven't seen anyone in this thread asking for a "got from a library" collection, so I don't think that's an issue. As for location, it seems like most people are fine with the idea of using tags, but just want some way to distinguish those tags from the rest (a "personal tags" field, or something like that).

Family cataloguing seems to be one of the big reasons people want collections, but I think that issue could be partially addressed just by adding a section to the FAQ about what to do if you want to catalogue the whole family's books (probably recommending using a private group, and explaining how to view the group catalogue, etc.). It would also be helpful if separate accounts could be linked in other ways (allowing a given list of users to view a private catalogue, or even allowing a given list of users to edit your catalogue).

Having the option to exclude certain tags from recommendations is also something that would reduce the demand for collections.

Jul 4, 2007, 6:41pm

*I'm not cataloging objects, I'm cataloging my intellectual life.*

If this is the case, why are there so many posts on the blog etc. comparing how large the LT 'library' is compared to other 'real life' libraries? Fact is, the figures are currently skewered. And while you will never be able to ensure 100% that people are doing 'the right thing' (whatever that is) there are ways to improve it.

Rather than collections could you do one of the following
- Have a collection/tick-box/feature that marks books as not physically in a collection (call it whatever people think is best) and then that could have tags for whatever people want - wishlist, library, book crossing, whatever. Therefore these books don't show up in the count, but people still have a way of recording what they read, their reviews and ratings for some, and have others tagged as wishlist for future reference, letting people know what to buy for birthdays etc. And this information could stay in the pool of data, for other people to access reviews, overall ratings etc.
- A separate wishlist feature (which keeps books out of the count) and a separate 'other' not counted (library, borrowed books etc.) I think that wouldn't be required if you could go with the former option, but I am not an IT guru.

I would LOVE a wishlist at the very least.

Jul 4, 2007, 6:46pm

I like the idea of having a box that can be checked into include or exclude books in suggestions. Another collection-free solution would be to set up the suggester page so users can specify by tag which books to include (ie "Give me suggestions based on which of my books are tagged: {insert drop down menu}). I have no idea how this would work practically, but the Suggester function seems to be one of the major reasons people want collections.

Edited: Jul 4, 2007, 6:50pm

Megami #46
Rather than collections could you do one of the following
- Have a collection/tick-box/feature that marks books as not physically in a collection (call it whatever people think is best) and then that could have tags for whatever people want - wishlist, library, book crossing, whatever. Therefore these books don't show up in the count, but people still have a way of recording what they read, their reviews and ratings for some, and have others tagged as wishlist for future reference, letting people know what to buy for birthdays etc. And this information could stay in the pool of data, for other people to access reviews, overall ratings etc.

I was going to say "Just give us the wishlist now and worry about the other stuff later", but having read Megami's idea I think it would be better than a wishlist. I like the flexibility of a "non-owned" books category that you could tag as you wish.

Jul 4, 2007, 7:33pm

I've been waiting for a Wishlist feature since the 3rd day after I signed up for LT. Hands down a wish list is the most obvious separation from the rest of the catalog. The next big break for many are the owned vs. unowned. For me I really want a way to separate Officially what I own from what I've only read (as far as making the data more accurate I would use it to make MY data more accurate).

I've looked at collections as a way to split the library into several large chunks. (I was not planning on putting fantasy in one collection and Mystery in another). I would put (eventually) my Comic books in a separate collection from my books owned, books read not owned, wishlist, and wifes books. (I'm still debating on buying a second account for my wife's books). The only other way I might split out books would be a collection for books owned/read that I don't want to be making suggestions for me.

Wishlist - Supposedly on the way.
Owned/Not Owned - a check box (defaulted to owned) would cure this.
Wife's collection - can buy another account.
Way to deal with books not wanted for suggestions or suggestions on a subset or sub-searching books in a set/tag - stronger tag functionality can fix most of the rest of these needs/problems.

One way I can see this would be having "official" tags from LT that will cause some predetermined functions. Slightly more difficult but more user friendly would be to let each user pick what tag they want to "do" the predetermined task/function. Allowing users to do more with the tags (which some of Tim's post suggest are coming) would also alleviate many problems, such as getting suggestions based on one or more tags in a library, or excluding 1 or more tags.

I've always liked the idea of collections, mostly because I viewed it as the simplest way to 'fix" most of my cataloging problems. Obviously there are other options and I would be more than happy to see them implemented instead.

Jul 4, 2007, 8:58pm

I think collections, as a feature, would be most useful for people who *collect* (secondary to people who have shared family accounts, which mine is also becoming) - I have books I've got because I like them or like to read them, and I've got books I bought because I'm collecting books of that type, and I've got books I've got because a family member collected them and they ended up in my house. Mostly, it would be very nice if there were ways to get statistical and social data for just the books in a collection, so my Star Trek books and my Stratemeyer Syndicate books and my 1970's paranormal paperbacks and Mom's vintage Zane Grey and Dad's Bible translations and the old SF my sister and I share don't overwhelm any chance of getting useful recs for me to read - and at the same time, it would be nice if I could find other libraries on LT that collect Zane Grey, and Bibles, and Stratemeyer, without the Star Trek and SF overwhelming my Shared Books list.

I currently keep my collection separate with tags, which is fine for working within the library (although it would be nice if there were a set way to seperate organizational tags that are about my library from subject tags that are about the books themselves - though I know I can do that with tag names, too). However they don't let me take advantage of the really *cool* things about LT - the sitewide statistics and social networking. If tag functionality was added so that I could generate that kind of data about individual tags, I would be a lot less determined for collections. Although it would also be nice if I could set up specific default viewing options for specific collections - for example, with vintage books, date and comments are very important; with Syndicate books, 'other authors' is; publication data is useful for old paperbacks.

However if I could do all that with tags, I don't see why I'd need a special 'unowned' category, either. And I'd only support a wishlist/unowned category (given gonzo master tagging functionality) if you could manipulate wishlist books in a notably different way than library books - for example, specifying whether you want a specific edition or just any copy of the work (one of the things that make Amazon wishlists annoying to me.)

Jul 4, 2007, 9:03pm

PS: Also, I'd want to be able to set certain tags as, by default, *not* being counted in my library - so that books tagged 'unowned' or 'moms' wouldn't go toward my total library count on the profile, and wouldn't be in the 'users with your books' on my profile page, and such.

Jul 4, 2007, 9:29pm

I like the idea of "automated tags," but I don't think users would pick it up unless they were "told." And that's generally the hardest and most annoying things to attempt. Users don't like being told how to use something.

Jul 4, 2007, 10:16pm

Is a gentle introduction possible without violating the "user owns the data" principle? For example, suppose every user started out with a handful of pre-defined special tags (which I'll give with @'s for clarity): @owned, wishlist, with the obvious definitions. Suppose further that the sticky default for Add books tags was @owned. Would users then discover that they could change both of those more easily?

(I'm never a good test subject. I read manuals.)

Jul 4, 2007, 11:04pm

Comment: I am a user who likes being told how to use something :-) I read FAQs, manuals etc because I like to find out as much as I can. I even scan the talk topics almost every day for info like that.

Question: If we have collections or wishlists or even fancier tags will I be able to see them when I use my cell phone to access my account?

Explanation: I still use my cell phone to find out if I own books when I am at book sales. Right now I am using the tags own or do not own to do this but I only recently started using them and I always try to put them at the beginning of the tag field. Now I have lots of books without those tags and if I do a power edit they won't show up at the front of the field and that makes them harder to see on the cell. I use lots of tags of all kinds...location, ownership, wishlist, subjects, series, read, checked out, loans. Tags are my friends!

I also have 3 paid accounts all my own (greedy of me isn't it?) 2 of which are yearly and dedicated to the books I own or want to own for personal reading, swapping etc and the lifetime account is composed of books I own, want to own and will lend. The people I lend books to would only get confused if they saw everything I ever had, have or want to have or even thought about (my "intellectual life"). It is confusing and time consuming and expensive switching accounts on mobile web and even on my PC. (I only use IE and Firefox...I guess I need another browser :-) It's a pretty cumbersome system but sort of necessary right now. Those two yearly accts are coming up for renewal soon. I am planning to roll one of the yearly into the other yearly and make it a lifetime so I guess I would have 2 collections instead of three.

There must be a better way?

>> MMcM: I was one who was supposed to try out your Palm app but the Palm I thought was good was a dud so I'm stuck with the cell until I buy one or hold out for the Treo...not likely)

Jul 5, 2007, 12:21am

Tim #15 I'm not cataloging objects, I'm cataloging my intellectual life.

I think a big issue here is people's understanding of library. It seems a lot of people DO see their library as books that they own. I agree with#46 Megami that the milestone comparisons to other physical libraries (Harvard is definitely cataloging objects...) and also the zeitgeist page support this understanding of library.

Interestingly, the Oxford English Dictionary supports Tim! ( c. transf. and fig.; esp. used to denote (a) a great mass of learning or knowledge; (b) the objects of a person's study, the sources on which he depends for instruction. In quot. 1523 = a catalogue, list.)

Anyway, I think there is more than just the dichotomy between wishlist and everything else.

Besides the problems that families have, it seems like we can boil everything down to four choices

Books that I have:

Read and own (physical library)
Read and don't own (the library of your intellect)
Haven't read and own (physical library)
Haven't read and don't own (wish list--assuming that we are discussing books that one has some interest in.)

However, you implement it--checkboxes or whatever--I don't think collections needs to be any more complicated than that, although I do fall into the camp that it would be useful to have something more formal than tags.

At the risk of getting the discussion off-topic, I still think there should be public and private tags, because no one cares that my whatever is in what box or shelf--just clutters up the tag listing for books.

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 12:31am

>I think a big issue here is people's understanding of library. It seems a lot of people DO see their library as books that they own. I agree with#46 Megami that the milestone comparisons to other physical libraries (Harvard is definitely cataloging objects...) and also the zeitgeist page support this understanding of library.

This I understand. Some people want X, some want Y. I just don't want to set up a system that forces people into Y.

I'm just doubtful that you can "bottle" the many ways we relate to a book.

From a library?
Lent? Unsure if I'm going to get it back.
Reference? (One of our competitors divides the world into read/unread and reference)
Read more than once?

Etc. ad infinitum.

Jul 5, 2007, 12:54am

I think the appeal of collections is separation of a few things, which affect statistics, visibility, and recommendations.

Private vs Public
Unread (no recommendations) vs Read
Owned (my copy) vs Unowned (Wishlist, review-only, etc)

I think much of the debate would be settled if we could have
*a way to see/exclude recommendations for a particular tag,
*a way to exclude certain tags (unowned/wishlist/review, etc) from library statistics
*a (working) way to search "family"/multiple libraries
*a way to set private books, private tags, and have private field(s)
*tag bundles, so there are fewer redundant supercategory tags, and for easier sorting.

Collections would be good for top ten lists or series reviews, but that's not requested much (at least not in this thread).

And if we're relying this much on tags, can you add a link to increase the length/height of the tags box on Add/Edit Books pages?

Jul 5, 2007, 12:55am

>15 timspalding:: You have put into words exactly what I wanted to say, but refrained from doing because I wasn't sure how. I don't feel like I "own" my books, they are a part of me, a part of my intellect and my life. I would not want to catagorize my books as "owned".

Also, I have many books that my mom and I share, and as for "own"ing, I have forgotten who actually bought it... maybe a small thing for some people, but a big enough thing to me for me to at least mention.

I kinda-sorta would like a wishlist catagory, but I debate how much I'd actually use it, so it's not a big thing for me.

>56 timspalding:: Good point. Not forcing people into Y, that is. But maybe just the option of Y? *shrugs*

All in all, I love the tags and I'm happy with using just that. If something changes, I'll adapt (I'm pretty good at that).

And I have a second (free) account that I use just for books I've read/liked from the library. If a wishlist doesn't happen for whatever reason, I'll most likely upgrade that to a paid account also and make it a full-fledged wishlist account.


Jul 5, 2007, 1:01am

#44 said, A checkbox per book that said "Ignore for recommendations" would meet that need. Buried in the advanced settings so it doesn't bother people who don't care is fine.
I too would like to see this feature. I can tag a book crap, utter crap or worse than crap and the LT recommendation system will still give me recs based on books I don't like. On Amazon and other places I can train my rec options but tags do nothing to clean up my recs. Recs is one of the main reasons I'm trying out LT. I don't need it for a place to enter only books I own although I know that is important for many people. I use it for read books be they begged, borrowed, bought or stolen (not really) so far and trade or donate a lot of my books so my physical library numbers go down sometimes instead of up.

Jul 5, 2007, 1:30am

56 Tim

Read/Unread/Reference actually makes a lot of sense to me (although I am certainly NOT suggesting it as a new way of catagorizing books here) - most of my reference books are ones that I would look up something specific, or use a few pages at a time, not something I would ever, ever read straight through.

Read and own (physical library)
Read and don't own (the library of your intellect)
Haven't read and own (physical library)
Haven't read and don't own (wish list--assuming that we are discussing books that one has some interest in.)

This also makes a lot of sense to me - I've started sort of wanting to catalog the books I've read but don't own, but only if they don't interfere with my physical library. It seems to me that any distinctions of lost/borrowed/lent/etc. can be made through tags.

However, 'wish list' is a term that bothers me. It seems to be the term that's going to be used, so ok, I will of course deal with it, but even so, I won't be using it as a list of books I want to own (which is what 'wish list' means to me). It will simply be a list of books I want to read, a TBR list.

Jul 5, 2007, 3:11am

I think the issues of Owned, Read, Wishlist, and Suggestions should be treated separately. There are far too many individual situations to consider even within my own library. There are books I've owned in the past, read, loaned out, didn't get back, and want to replace. I have my own moldy books which are in my possession but which I want to replace. There are books I've borrowed and read and want to purchase. There are books I've read and hated or own only because I was forced to buy them for school or because they were given to me as gifts and I don't want those calculated in suggestions.

Checkboxes I'd like to see:

1. Own
2. Read
3. Don't Use For Suggestions
4. Keep This Book Private

I don't like the idea of using official tags for these categories. Problems I see with using tags for other features like suggestions or privacy:

A) People who want to use them have to know about official tags and
B) Remember to use them and
C) Remember exactly how the tags are spelled and
D) Type them over and over for every applicable book without
E) Typos.

That's a tall order. Checkboxes would avoid all of these problems and can easily be ignored by people who aren't interested in them.

Anything (such as private tags, bundles, easier searching, extended character support in searching) to make managing tags more practical and efficient is good. I'm still hoping for a feature to remind me of all my tags and keep me from having to type them when I go to tag a book. A feature like that could be useful in getting people to use uniform tags for specific purposes, but I still prefer the idea of checkboxes to the use of official tags. I especially don't like the idea of official tags being automatically applied to my books.

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 4:19am

Definitely wanting a wishlist collection.

My preference is first to separate out my wishlist and 'looks interesting but want to check out more before buying' LT bookfinds. If they get schmooshed into one collection called wishlist, I'd live with it.
The key benefit for me is to separate them out of my actual LT list of books I own.

Currently I have a few bookstagged wishlist, a separate library&borrowed ID, and some to-check-out books as browser favourites only and NOT in LT...

Why do I personally wish to define my catalog as what I own?
A) So I stop buying duplicates/buy the actual books I don't own.
- if I call up my library while shopping, I want a quick search and see what I already have, & not have to remember to filter out by several tags tag on 'read but don't own'; 'wishlist', 'interested in'. ..
(NOTE: if the tags were changed to bundle or nest them, then this reason may be resolved)

B) Am I the only person who feels some security for insurance reasons by having LT?
ie, I have a nice catalog of what I own that I can verify by date to my insurance company in the event of a bad theft/fire etc. I don't even have to email a file to them; or have a working computer, as they can view themselves if I tell them to view my library.
If I keep books in there that I don't own - I then have to explain that it's notactually a true representation of what I have, which kind of ruins the benefit for me.

C) emotionally I like dealing in facts - (if that makes sense).
I just can't get comfortable seeing my online library and know that it's not the same as what's on my shelves. That's why I want the ability to separate the by collection.

For other people, this isn't an important consideration or mindset. In fact, it's the opposite of some who'd feel constrained if LT was 'only' what was on their shelves. :-)

Jul 5, 2007, 4:26am

The insurance point is a good one.

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 9:57am

I like many others have kept my library as only the books I physically own. I do this to keep an overview of what I still need to buy, etc.

I would really like a way to enter the books I've READ but given away, borrowed, whatever (and the whatever could easily be with tags) but keep them separate from the books I OWN.
-so just tags really don't work for me; what I want is a way to flip between owned and not-owned without it becoming a gigantic tag-cloud problem

I, like you, would like to keep track of my 'intellectual' library through reviews of what I've read, but I don't want to confuse my library (which is scattered across continents) even more by adding these books into my owned collection. I have no problem with other people keeping everything they read in their library, but for MY library, I feel like it defeats the purpose. And I really don't want to have another separate paid account for all the books I've read.

So at the moment I have an account on another cataloging site for all the books I've read. (also an enormous pain)
I'd rather be able to just use LT, and I was so excited when I heard about the possibility of Collections. But now it seems it's being dumped in favor of a Wishlist (which I have little interest in)...

I'm not really sure why having many possible 'Collections' tags is a problem. You could just have a wishlist as one and a set number of customizable ones available. What people do with them is really up to them, and having a few blank 'collections' options certainly isn't going to force anyone into the same mold...

Jul 5, 2007, 5:33am

I'm totally in favor of the collections idea, especially in regards to the wishlist. If the concept of not owned could also be incorporated, that would be gravy.

Question regarding the wishlist: Would we be able to bring up that wishlist using the mobile site function? I don't remember being able to sort by anything but title when using my treo.

Jul 5, 2007, 9:15am

>> 59

#44 said, A checkbox per book that said "Ignore for recommendations" would meet that need.

Fine for books being added after its implementation. But I don't want to have to go through 3,000+ books to check a box!

Jul 5, 2007, 9:29am

I think Official tags could be very useful. However, one way of getting around having specific tags designated by LT, have an edit page with a specific list of options where the tags can be designated per user for those tasks. Maybe instead of @owned (which really wouldn't be that big a deal) I want "My physical Library", or "My Mental Library" so I replace the @owned tag and I'm happy and still get the "official" benefits. This of course will be harder to implement than just designating specific tags by LT but that is always a trade off.

Options                   Default Tag

Ignore for Suggestions @Ignore
Read            Read
Owned            @ Owned

Jul 5, 2007, 9:29am

I like tags-as-collections because it would give me the ability to name my own categories, but still set them for recommendations, visibility, and statistics.

Checkboxes would have to be set individually on the Edit Books pages... a nightmare unless there was some quicker method.

lilithcat: you'd have to go through 3000+ books in some form with any sorting method (tags, checkboxes, "collections")

Jul 5, 2007, 9:32am

I'm still for the tagging system as opposed to collections. And when it comes to "read but not owned" books, I felt the need to create another paid account. I know this is not within everyone’s means, however, I didn't want to corrupt my data of which books I do own just to settle my compulsive need to track everything that has been feed into my grubby little mind. And since I already paid full price for my primary "owned" username back when, I don't feel bad paying the minimum "donation" for the second username. :-) And now all the data is nice and clean!

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 9:47am

Official tags sound dreadful (just think of the internationalization issues!), but all the talk of read, @ignore and so on makes me think -- what if, instead of a sanctioned list, you could have any tag with a given delimiter indicate the sort of outskirts-of-my-library status that a lot of this discussion seems to be converging on? So there's no need to define (and calculate, and never misspell) a personal dictionary or to predict the categories that might be useful to most people -- whether it's ~textbooks, ~wishlist, ~tbr, ~library book... all it would take is that indicator, and the book wouldn't be counted for my stats, used for suggestions, and so on.

(edit: makes me thing? I've been hanging around this place too long....)

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 9:56am

I gather that Wishlist books will not show as "shared"? That seems right. But while I'd like to separate out read-but-not-owned books, I DO want to see who else has shared the experience of reading them.

I agree about insurance purposes. That's one reason I want a catalog.

Jul 5, 2007, 9:59am

Katissima wrote in message 55:

"At the risk of getting the discussion off-topic, I still think there should be public and private tags, because no one cares that my whatever is in what box or shelf--just clutters up the tag listing for books."

I would like that idea, too. Simple systems are best. Private tags or whatever they are called would be enough for me. There would be two kinds of tags: the ones that describe the book or work and the ones that describe our relationship to the book or location of the book or any such thing.

Jul 5, 2007, 10:04am

My few thoughts:

I agree with Tim, tags is the way to go rather than collections. Provide a stronger filtering and sorting mechanism on the tags and people can view their "collections" any way they wish.

A read/unread checkbox would be helpful as would an owned/unowned checkbox. It wouldn't guarantee that people would use them accurately, but it would help improve the validity of the data.

For people who want to set up collections so they can filter out books from influencing recommendations, there are two options which could be used together or independently - a checkbox for excluding this book from the recommendations algorithm and/or use the user's ratings in the recommendations algorithm, if it is not already done this way.

Jul 5, 2007, 10:24am

From a library?
Lent? Unsure if I'm going to get it back.
Reference? (One of our competitors divides the world into read/unread and reference)
Read more than once?

I think this is sounding more complicated than it actually needs to be.

By creating some kind of 'unowned' collection, members can then go in and tag the real specifics (lost, lent, borrowed, etc.), instead of having to devise a more complicated tagging system (unowned:lost, unowned:lent, etc.). That would also seperate physical from intellectual libraries (which is obviously important to some people).

I suppose your desire to implement collections would depend on what's more important- actual useability, or just trying to beat other groups at certain things (Amazon at tags, libraries at holdings, etc.).

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 10:43am

#73: a checkbox for excluding this book from the recommendations algorithm

I sort of like this idea. My own library is a messy mixture of books that have randomly come my way. So, using my entire library as a guide for suggestions doesn't get me very far. This might be a solution.

But, there might be better solutions for this. It's outside the scope here, but an option to base suggestions on a selection of books, instead of the single book/whole library options now, might also solve this. Perhaps the input could be tag based (for example, I might try using the tag "Read").

Jul 5, 2007, 10:50am

>> 68

lilithcat: you'd have to go through 3000+ books in some form with any sorting method (tags, checkboxes, "collections")

Nope. I can just leave things the way they are. I have no interest in "wishlists", or "not owned" or any of that, so I'm unlikely to use "collectons." And my books are already tagged; I tag them as I enter them. So unless Tim decides to screw with my data as presently constituted (in which case, I would be royally pissed off), no worries.

Jul 5, 2007, 10:56am

I vote yes to collections. I would like 1.1) a way to "file" my books that I have read but do not own separately from 1.2) the "file" that I own and have read - and yes, I do try to use tags, but the social data would or could be different for those books read and not own and those books read and owned; 1.3) a third file for those books that I own but have not yet read - that is already messing up my social connections network; and 1.4) fourth, a "wish list" "file" (with some exceptions, I've tried to not include any book that I do not own, or that I have not read, so this would be a great addition; want wish list separate, do not want it used for the same "social network" data as for the books I've read); (a fifth possible "file" for those books that I have picked up from the library but returned unread - either because I didn't finish in time, or I decided to not read that author - would be helpful to find those books again, as I've found many good authors that I've gotten and returned to the library several times before I was able to read a book by them, and this is a different level of information than a wish list; and no my library does not keep a record I can check, oddly enough; I can live without "file folder" 1.5 - though I am not going to use tags for this type of situation); 2) would like some way to "file" series in a particular collection, beyond just tags, especially as some series have more than one author.

78josquin First Message
Jul 5, 2007, 10:59am

I think viewing the recommendations algorithm on certain groups of books is important. Right now, my recommendations are pretty useless because they're littered with children's books. I'd kind of like to see what my recommendations look like without the children's books, but that's currently impossible without just removing them from my library, right?

Jul 5, 2007, 10:59am

I agree with 9days (message 74), I think the answer here is a combination of collections and tags. If you implement a very basic set of collections--owned v. read v. wishlist and private tags, people can go crazy with their own systems of borrowed...lost...etc. It seems that most of us agree on the difference between a book we own and a book we don't.

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 12:44pm

I'm happy with just the tags. I can see the usefulness of nested or hierarchical tags, but I don't know how much I would use them. To put my vote in perspective, I use Library Thing to record the books I read.

I agree with many users, however, that it would be nice to be able to leverage the power of tags against the social side of LT. One suggestion that I saw made a while ago was to allow users to assign a weight to individual tags. This weight would increase or decrease the importance of books with that tag in, say, determining recommendations.

For example, my top 20 fiction recommendations are Star Wars novels (based seemingly on the 1 Star Wars novel I've read). Now if I could give a low (or zero) weight to the tag "star wars", I can get recommendations I'd be more interested in. I could increase other weights and get recommendations for whatever topics, genres, etc. I'm interested in based on how I define them with tags. If I don't want that level of specificity, I can just create a tag, "ignore", give that zero weight and have those books not figured into the recommendation calculations - which is the same as the suggested "ignore for recommendations" check box.

I think a similar system could work for the users with similar libraries feature.

I thought it was a great idea but haven't seen it mentioned since the initial suggestion. I do see a few potential problems. How computationally intensive is it? We know the similar library feature is already a system drain. I don't know about recommendations. Secondly, some users have a lot of tags. What would the interface look like? How many tags can you weight for a given set?

For me, if I can filter the social stuff of LT by tags, I don't see an additional value to having a collections feature.

Jul 5, 2007, 11:03am

I doubt I'd use collections if they were there, or pre-set 'official' tags. Of course, I'm on the 'mental library' side of this. I include things I've read but don't own, I include both my husband's and my books (with not even a tag distinction between them, partly because there's too much overlap for that to be useful) and I definitely don't want there to be some requirement that I make any distinction that I care nothing at all about. The social stuff is nice enough, but that's not why I use the site... it's the flexibility and the fact that I can use it the way I want to.

That said, I might tag my husband's books if there was a way to filter recommendations by including/excluding books with certain tags.

Out of curiosity... why would a collection called 'owned' be different for insurance purposes than a tag called 'owned'?

Jul 5, 2007, 11:04am

re: 17: please also add a "own but not read" checkbox to the "owned" and "not owned" ones mentioned.

Another collection idea: for those that are private. Books we want to record owning but do not necessairly wish others to know we own. How do I tag a book "private" and expect others to not look at it and connect it to me? :)

Jul 5, 2007, 12:21pm

In message 15 Tim said, "I'm not cataloging objects, I'm cataloging my intellectual life." The most brilliant thing he has ever said. Everybody scroll back up there and read the post again.

Jul 5, 2007, 12:35pm

I agree with Tim about the collections. Tags do the job just fine.

And speaking of cataloging my intellectual life, what we really need is a "read but not owned" list.

"owned but not read" is less important, since tags can be used for that.

Jul 5, 2007, 12:43pm

83: I like the completist idea, but I'm working on the physical part first. I have what's got to be 1000s of books, and I prioritize condition, duplicates, and general weeding over listing past books.

For books I don't own, I do want to wishlist them to buy or read, but I don't want them counting in my recommendations unless I've actually read them.

Jul 5, 2007, 12:51pm

> I just hate tainting the data with books I want but don't have/haven't had/haven't read. (From Msg. 9)

The common interest in collections seems to be avoiding "tainting the data," although what that actually means is highly variable. The biggest difference seems to be between "inventory" and "networking" interests.

I'm on LT for the networking, but I'm not interested in shared ownership. What's interesting to me is shared interest, so whether someone owns, borrowed, used to own, or wants a book is of no consequence to me. I have zero interest in collections for those things.

What I do find annoying, though, comes from having really popular books — Rowling's, Tolkien's, and the like. They swamp the "Users with your books" and the "LibrarySuggester." My solution was to create another library, and the only things that go into it are books I share with a number of users that is smaller than the "mean book obscurity" number on my Fun Stats page. But that will eventually mean paying up for that second library.

So what might be nice is if each user got a few collections, say three, that they could switch books in & out of easily (using Search and Power Edit) for whatever reason, including collection-specific social data. If people wanted to keep them permanent they could; or people like me could move things in & out of the collections depending upon the interest of the moment. With easy moving in & out of a collections, people could use tags (Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister wishlist, Sister owns, &c., &c.) for easy retrieval and then generate the collection of interest when it is needed.

The thing that worries me about (static) collections is the potential for vast expansion: in a family library, you could have each person wanting to keep their own books separate, and then wanting their own wish-lists and borrowed-lists and what not. Not that it makes a personal difference, but I have the impression that this is mainly a database matter, and that on-line DB operations are vastly more complicated than even networked DB ops, so we could feature-wish ourselves out of anything at all really quickly. But for all I know on-demand generation of social data for flexible collections might be too unwieldy for the same reason.

What I wouldn't like in a collections feature is if social data were generated in a one-to-one-ish manner: that is, collection-to-collection; I'd be more interested in how other libraries relate to my collection.

So, to sum up: collections just as a way to keep things separate in a library, no interest. Collections that could be used for that purpose but would also have social-data utility distinct from one's entire library, I would dearly love. If collections were to happen, though, I'd want to be able to add & remove things in aggregates (like the way you can add tags in Power Edit).

I like the idea of being able to mark things as Private, too, although I don't think a collection is the best way to do it.

{And way off topic, but...reading Tim's posts leaves me craving Taco Bell "food," and I hate Taco Bell, so it's quite unsettling.}

Jul 5, 2007, 1:14pm

I don't understand the comments about how awkward it would be to use a checkbox. Obviously it would have to be implemented in a way that made it relatively easy to use; at the very least, I'd think it would be possible to display a column with the checkboxes in catalogue view.

Jul 5, 2007, 1:51pm

Checkboxes or collections or whatever is implemented should be done in such a way that if a user does nothing then everything works as it currently does. E.g. if there's a checkbox for owned / unowned, it should say "not owned" so that unless someone specifically checks it the system assumes as it does now that the book is owned. (Likewise a checkbox for "Ignore for suggestions" would keep the current behavior if the person didn't use it.)

Extending Power Edit mode to allow checking of the boxes would be very useful, if you've already used tags for some of these purposes. I would search for tag "Not mine" and use power edit to check the "Unowned" checkbox.

Jul 5, 2007, 2:51pm

I haven't made it through all the posts yet on this topic, but I just thought of a big difference between physical books in your library and read but not owned books, and even wish list books. That difference is that for the books in your library you have a particular edition, but for not owned books, most of the time any edition would do, so that list would probably be composed of works, not books (editions). Gotta go, I hope that makes sense.

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 3:16pm

84: The problem with including "owned but not read" in the same library as what I have read (regardless if I own it or not) is that it includes, obviously enough, a lot of material that has not been read. That messes up many of the features of LT, like recommendations/suggestions/unsuggestions, users with your books etc. I "have to include" them because those books are in my library . .. . and I do not want to end up buying that book again by accident. More important than a separate "read but not owned" list as there you have at least read the books, and the site data would more accurately connect your/recommend/etc. even if you did not like those books.

Why do I have those books if I haven't read them, and /or why would having them mess up my connections in LT? Because I buy a lot of very cheap used books and have a tendency to acquire several books by an author, or many books before I test that author. Had most of the Robert B. Parker books (Spencer, and the early stand-alone non-series books), for example, before I had read a single book (easy enough to do if 10 books = $1 spent; the whole Spencer series would be what, $3.40 or something like that?). Lydia Adamson would be another I have a ton of books by, and this time I still haven't read anything by Lydia (if I have that name correctly).

I have 3564 books in my LT library. Of those books, I have more than 1,532 "Have but not yet read" books (more than that, actually, as I haven't added everything). That means that of those 3564 books, I've read 2032 of them. I also have 3,164 books listed as being owned by me. Meaning that there are exactly 400 books I've read that I do not own. So that is 400 books I do not own but have read vs. 1532 books I own but have not read. In my personal case, the "Have but not yet read" or "own but not read" collection is more important addition than "read but do not own." Especially since I count books I've read as being part of my "collection" (in the Intellectual way Tim was using), and I can use tags to note those books that I do not own but have read. Yes I can use tags for the ones I own but have not read, but it gives false (misleading might be a better word here) connections to other people who have those books and have read them (while the connections are not as misleading that are created by just tagging the books I do not own but have read and not having a separate collection; except for connecting me to people that have the book but have not read it).

Ok, I need the collections just so I do not confuse myself :) I think I've confused myself here :)

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 5:54pm

It seems like we're just arguing/discussing back and forth about the same things.
"I want collections, or no, tags work fine."
"I want to catalog every book I read/owned ever vs I want my books in my own library."

Does anyone want collections for reasons besides read/unread, family searching, ownership, private/public, statistics, private/public? These reasons, in my opinion, would affect recommendations, shared relationships, book visibility, and statistics. Do/should they affect anything else?

Provided the reasons above can be covered, which method do you like better:
*checkboxes (how many?, what labels?, affecting which reason?, on which page?)
*system tags (how many?, what labels?, affecting which reason?)
*character prefix for tags (how many?, what labels?, affecting which reason?)
*ability to specify your tags for the above reasons (unread = no recommendations, library = not in statistics, etc)?

P.S. I note my bias towards tags with more features.
P.P.S. And I still think we should be able to get tag bundles (as Tim said earlier) and recommendations for specific tag categories in our own libraries, no matter how the collections debate ends.

ETA: searching to family searching

Jul 5, 2007, 4:39pm

One more reason for wanting collections is family use (unless by "ownership" you mean bother whether a book is owned or not and who in particular owns it).

Jul 5, 2007, 4:54pm

I prefer checkboxes for private/public, because it's not the kind of thing that I would want to see cluttering up my tags every time I looked at my library. In particular, I'd like a checkbox labelled "private".

I want both checkboxes and tags for recommendations. I think for excluding certain books from recommendations it would be cleanest to have a checkbox because again, I don't want clutter in my tags. I would label this checkbox "exclude from recommendations". But I think it should also be possible to generate recommendations based on a given tag or set of tags.

I never want to be required by the system to use certain tags, because that seems contrary to the whole concept of tags.

I want my wishlist to be entirely separate from my whole library, without even the option of viewing the two together. A wishlist would consist largely of books that I had absolutely no connection to; if I read a book and then wanted to purchase it I would list it twice, in my catalogue and in my wishlist.

Jul 5, 2007, 5:09pm

What if there was a little graphic next to the text of the tags in the clouds which when clicked on wood pop-up a list of options. With the various options much like the affinities option box.

Jul 5, 2007, 5:14pm

>"But that leaves the rest in an "owned" category, and I at least don't want that. I don't want that distinction. I'm not cataloging objects, I'm cataloging my intellectual life."

Just out of curiosity, would it be feasible to have a three-way choice? "owned", "not owned", "n/a"?

I understand about the "cataloguing of one's intellectual life" and I think it is very important that LT preserve this philosophy--it is what sets the site apart from any other book site on the net. But personally, I need a seperate wish-list or collection to accurately track my intellectual life. As a bookseller, I have a very visceral relationship with my books and I think I am constitutionally unable of including a book I don't actually own. The word "library" very strongly implies my physical books to me.

Which is why I have yet to list the many ARCs and galleys that I own, have read, and are certainly part of my intellectual life as a bookseller. Because they aren't "real books" I don't list them. But I would be happy to list them as a wishlist, since I only keep the ARCs I eventually want to own are real books.

Jul 5, 2007, 10:30pm

I'd want the collections feature so I could bring my kids libraries back under one umbrella and not have to switch accounts to access them. If there were some way to link family accounts, that could work too.

I would like some way to specify that a book is owned or not and I believe that distinction is basic and I just don't follow Tom's reasoning that if this is allowed then things like whether the book was borrowed, or lost, or loaned would have to be allowed as well.

One big reason to allow people to specify that a book is not owned is that the reviews and ratings are skewed because people who didn't like a book are less likely to include it in their catalog and books not in your catalog cannot be rated or reviewed.

Tags won't work because even if you could limit the similar library to your "owned" tag, there is no way to limit it the whatever tag each other library has used to mean owned.

There was also a request for a new feature to be able to store books that people find in other people's libraries that they find interesting a want to save a reference to, but they don't want to put it on a wish list.

Edited: Jul 5, 2007, 10:38pm

96 jjwilson

There was also a request for a new feature to be able to store books that people find in other people's libraries that they find interesting a want to save a reference to, but they don't want to put it on a wish list.

Unless there is a specific separate feature, this is what I will be using the wishlist function for. Which doesn't help the people who would like both features, I guess.

Jul 5, 2007, 11:08pm

96: "Tags won't work because even if you could limit the similar library to your "owned" tag, there is no way to limit it the whatever tag each other library has used to mean owned."

There is no way currently, true, but that doesn't mean that one couldn't be added.

Jul 5, 2007, 11:17pm

this is what I will be using the wishlist function for

Me too.

Jul 5, 2007, 11:36pm

I'd also like to know what bundled tags are. Several people have stated that it will solve some of the problems brought up in this thread, but as all we know about the feature is it's rather vague name, I don't see how they can be so sure.

Jul 6, 2007, 1:29am

91:Provided the reasons above can be covered, which method do you like better:
*checkboxes (how many?, what labels?, affecting which reason?, on which page?)
*system tags (how many?, what labels?, affecting which reason?)
*character prefix for tags (how many?, what labels?, affecting which reason?)
*ability to specify your tags for the above reasons (unread = no recommendations, library = not in statistics, etc)?

I am again going to vote for the simple 'two buckets' system - you check books as either owned or un-owned and them tag them as you wish. As one who doesn't use suggestions, I know this doesn't fix that problem ... maybe you also have a checkbox of public/private OR use/not-use and then the 'use' books are used in recommendations and other users have my books etc.

As for families - well, if you only want recommendations for the books of one family member, you use the use check box. If you want recommendations for multiple family members, I guess that is where you stump up for multiple memberships.

Now - can someone explain why something so simple (to me) would not work?

Jul 6, 2007, 4:06am

Again, I agree with Megami (#101), her (his?) suggestion is simple and would work perfectly for me.

As for the suggestions, although I have the same problem as the poster with the Star Wars novel (in my case it's RPG rulebooks) I feel that since there are plenty of other ways to use LibraryThing to find books I want to read, fixing suggestions shouldn't be a priority. But one simple way of fixing it would be to enable people to see more than 100 suggestions, if they wanted. You would still see a lot of Star Wars novels, of course, but you could mentally ignore them. That would work for me.

Jul 6, 2007, 5:44am

Although binary fields would suffice for library/wishlist or owned/not-owned, I wouldn't want suggestions or connections to other libraries to be based on a checkbox. Unlike Megami/Akiyama, I feel that once I've entered my entire library (about 6000 books or so), the usefulness of LT will suffer greatly if I cannot:

1) generate suggestions based on subsets of my library, and
2) identify libraries that have an affinity to given subset(s) of my library

I've long felt that the best way to accomplish this would be via tags--better yet, combinations of tags.

For me, the ideal solution would be if LT could remember the filter used to populate the catalog window (entire library, selected tag, search results, shared books, etc.) and then allow suggestions and/or connections* to be generated based on that filter. A member could then search their library using complex combinations of tags and get suggestions or identify similar libraries based on those tag combinations. This method would be flexible, extendible and fully user-defined.

*For this, I'm assuming that "Users with your books" is accessible via a link to a Connections page (this has been discussed several times elsewhere).

Jul 6, 2007, 8:06am

I agree with a lot of what Megami's saying, but I still don't think it solves the family issue. Within my family we do have 4 separate LT accounts for each person, but that then doesn't let us see the collective library, and my books aren't all that accurate about what I like, because most of the books I read in the past were my older sister's, and we have tried not to put one book in two libraries. If instead we each put in the books we consider ours we might have some single books listed 4 times over, and then we would never be able to have overall accurate data about how many books we together have, and when viewing the catalogues we would see many fake duplicates. So I think we still need a separate solution aside from checkboxes (which seems ok for everything else) to deal with families. This is what I had hoped Collections would do.

Edited: Jul 6, 2007, 1:02pm

Kira: How would collections fix your situation, without overlapping books even more?

Tim: Once we get tag bundles, will there be an easy way to see what subtags are used globally?

Jul 6, 2007, 1:45pm

103> While tags work best for selecting a subsection of your library to use to find a similar library it doesn't work so well for the other persons library you are trying to be matched to. Do you want the wishlist of the other person to be counted in their library for this purpose? What about unowned books?

Edited: Jul 6, 2007, 4:58pm

Collections would involve overlapping books, but I had hoped they would make the overlap clear, and able to be taken out from total calculations of books owned as a family. For instance, my sister and I both have a copy of Little Women of our own, so currently we both have one in each of our libraries. But there are one or two books we only have one copy of that we have in both libraries anyways, like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. All of which is fine as far as it goes, but it gets messy and the data isn't clear, and owned/unowned checkboxes don't go far enough to cover partially owned books that are shared among more than one member. (Although I do favour those checkboxes! They just don't fix the family problem...)

The best fix I can imagine though would really be a way to link books, like when you visit someone else's catalog, being able to click: "Add this book to your library" or another button, "We share this book". Add the book would put a copy in your library like it currently does, and Share this book would jointly link the one copy so it shows up in both libraries. (Of course, I guess the first person whose library was being looked in would have to confirm it otherwise you could have random people trying to share your books). Then you could look at your library combined with the library of anyone you share a book with to see the cumulative library. But that sounds a lot more complicated and probably with flaws I'm overlooking, so collections would have been an easier fix.

108megacoupe First Message
Jul 6, 2007, 5:25pm

I'm a new user to LibraryThing (just signed up yesterday) and I still haven't decided if I'm going to stick around. I've signed up at several other places as well (bibliophil, gurulib, shelfari, goodreads, etc) and I have to say, I really like being able to separate books that I've read from books that I want.

I agree with Tim Spalding in that the books I'm placing in my online library represent what I have in my head, not what I own physically, so I don't particularly care for an "owned" feature. However, it seems to me that it is an important distinction to have, especially when receiving recommendations from the site's engine and being linked to similar users.

There are 5 features I'm looking for in a "booklist" website:

1. Ease in categorization (books I've read, books I want to read, etc)
2. Large searchable database of books
3. Receiving recommendations/being able to view booklists of users that are similar to me
4. Large community
5. Unlimited books on my lists

While LibraryThing appears to do very well for numbers 2-4, 1 and 5 don't meet my expectations and might be enough to sway me to find a different site to use. However, at least number 1 seems to be a feature that can easily be fixed.

Jul 6, 2007, 5:54pm

Kira: How would the first part work, having books "owned by a family"?

Jul 6, 2007, 5:58pm

megacoupe, you should try categorizing using tags. Obviously from this thread you can see that people aren't entirely satisfied with that approach, but it's still pretty functional.

Also, LT does meet requirement #5, unless you want to change it to read "is free".

Jul 6, 2007, 6:16pm

109> I'm not entirely sure, because collections is such a vague term I could imagine a couple of different things. I guess the problem is I don't really know exactly how I want it to happen, I just think something should be able to be done... Having a way to divide out different collections would be good though because then if nothing else you could have easy totals for each person's collection, and then these could all be added together for the total family number. Now that explanation sounds an awful lot like just having 4 separate accounts, but the trick to it is that one would want to be able to list all of their personal books, but then also cross-list the books owned as a family in another collection or something similar. For instance, the reference books in the house could go under one collection entitled Family Reference and then even if we put those on all accounts, we could tell they were the same because they were under the same collection. Hmm I'm not sure if this explanation is really making sense anymore. It's a lot easier to talk about ideas than actually pin them down... maybe someone else has a brilliant suggestion for the family problem...

Jul 6, 2007, 6:36pm

Kira: I think the basic gist is that you want to be able to share some books between different accounts, and have categories for those shared books.

Given Tim's discussion elsewhere of "Friends" being mutual, that could prevent random people from Sharing books.

So if you wanted to share one of your sister's books, you could go to it, have a button for "Share This Book".

And then there could be another page for "Managed Shared Books" that would let friends put books in various "collections" with selectable names. These "collections" could also be shared, so everyone in your family wouldn't have to put books in "Family Reference".

Jul 6, 2007, 6:41pm

Yup, that's pretty much what I want, described in about half the space it took me :)

Jul 6, 2007, 6:54pm

Kira: Yay! But give yourself some credit too, as I wouldn't have thought of that idea myself.

For nonKira families who share books, would this be useful?

Edited: Jul 8, 2007, 1:30am

>1 timspalding:. Ease in categorization (books I've read, books I want to read, etc)

Okay, but some of the sites you listed have a tag-less conception of categorization—"shelves" not "tags." True, they have some automatic presets—if you want those and if you don't, you're stuck with them—but shelves can never be as flexible as tags. (Some also use tags without spaces, which makes anything complex—slaveryinpremoderneurope—icky.)

>Also, LT does meet requirement #5, unless you want to change it to read "is free".

And "free" means with advertising all over.

>Obviously from this thread you can see that people aren't entirely satisfied with that approach

Okay, some people aren't satisfied with this approach. And, frankly, I don't see real consensus here. Solutions make people happy or don't according to what they want to do, and that varies.

Let me add some other factors you might want to consider:

1. Ability to catalog out-of-print books. If it's not in Amazon all the others—with the exception of GuruLib, which is otherwise marginal—are helpless.
2. Features. LibraryThing is an ocean of features. Take some time to explore. On most sites "tags" are a global search, not a page. On LibraryThing, "tag" pages are one of the most interesting parts. Non-Amazon suggestions. Subjects. Being able to actually *edit* your data. I should do one of those grids.

Jul 8, 2007, 4:49am

Please, no grids. They always leave me with the suspicion that a lesser product is trying to make itself look better by choosing for comparison only those categories in which it excels.

Jul 8, 2007, 5:00am

Responding to the first post here. To me tags are too low level. Sort of like a turing machine (or lego blocks). While one can express any algorithm (or build almost any structure), it gets tedious. There is value in having the expressive power of higher level languages (or subassemblies).

One can also think of a "collection" as just a different kind of tag (but now you have associated properties with tags: distinctness, color, location, etc.). If you let each user tag his own tags (e.g. tags A, B & C are distinct -- a book cannot have more than one of them, or tagging with D is a shorthand for tags D1, D2, D3, or associate an icon as a property of a tag, or even associate an arbitrary piece of code to a tag so whenever you attach/detach that tag to a book that code gets run) you have made tag usage even richer. At least to my way of thinking.

In my mind's eye I see a cloud of existing tags hovering around each book and I can either use/modify some existing tag or add my own. Further I view only some tags depending on their properties.

Associating some structure with a tag also opens up the possibility of manipulating them programmatically.

Just some food for thought!

Jul 8, 2007, 5:10am

What LT needs is somebody to compile a list of all the features along with their locations. I have been here a good while and I'm still discovering and rediscovering features as I browse. Part of me feels that another year or two of development will leave LibraryThing with so many features one will need a small book to learn them all. In fact, I believe this was Tim's plan all along. Once people sign up for LT, they will inevitably look at the Suggestions feature. Since they are on LibraryThing and since people on LibraryThing are likely to be interested in the LT Feature Book, Tim can then justify suggesting the LibraryThing Feature Book for everyone. This will obviously be a flawless advertising strategy, bringing in what my eleven-year-old cousin would call "bags of cash."

Edited: Jul 8, 2007, 5:54am

117> Interesting...

What if each member were allowed to define "collections" as boolean combinations of tags, with each combination assigned its own name? These collections could then be used to filter a member's catalog when calculating statistics, connections (with other libraries) and suggestions. Interesting. It has a certain elegance...

My dream solution would still involve the ability to calculate both connections (lists of users with your books, etc.) and suggestions based on any filter that can be used to populate the catalog view (whether viewing books shared with another library, clicking on your own or another member's tag, displaying search results, or whatever). If members could also populate catalog view using tag-based "collections," then this feature would be both powerful and simple to use.

I really don't think that this would be too hard to implement, although catalog view would simply have to somehow "remember" how it was populated. But oh, the power...

Sorry, folks, if I sound like a broken record on this issue. I can certainly understand the priority paralysis that Tim must overcome in trying to please the left (the social networkers), the right (the bibliographic purists) and the deep middle (the libraholics, bibliophiliacs and compulsive combiners who will browse for hours, never satisfied with the occasional nugget, searching always for the motherlode).

Edited: Jul 8, 2007, 7:29am

The photo sharing site Zooomr employs a feature called "SmartSets" which basically allows you to build up sets for your photos based on a variety of criteria including tags. The site then actively monitors your photos and places the relevant snapshots into each set on the fly based on the criteria you set.

I don't see why tags can't form some sort of collections feature here - I think one of the primary issues people want to address is distinguishing between wishlist items and items you own etc, and secondary is the actual ability to arrange their library into collections.

Jul 8, 2007, 8:36am

I'd definitely like something beyond the current tag system. At the moment I tag as numbers 1 to 9 for various permutations of ownership and whether I have read the book or not and whether I want to buy it etc and also some tags with @ in front for locations of the book, fiction or non fiction etc, but searching and sorting on these is not easy. My needs could perhaps be met by a second tag field (called something else for clarity) for things that are to do with my relationship to the book and not of great interest to others and an improved search function working on one or both 'tag fields', but I would quite like checkboxes for owned/not owned, include in suggestions or not, and possibly read/not read as these seem to be the most basic divisions and would cut down the number of tags to add.

I'll no doubt adapt my system to whatever is decided - I hope there will be some way to batch edit from the various tags people currently use into any new system. However, I hope some consensus can be reached soon, and Tim and co can get on with implementing it, as it's one of the features I've wanted ever since I joined LibraryThing.

Jul 8, 2007, 12:30pm

Just to join the fray, late again:

I've enjoyed Tags, and slowly learnt some of their power - far greater than I'd originally found.

BUT they still don't do everything.
There is no 'weighting' applied to them - as other have mentioned - for (Un)Suggestions, for statistics, for other users libraries, and shared interests.

IF collections can meet these needs that would be great. IF collections aren't preferred but Tag 'weighting' and better (private) group searching/ shared library can be used instead, that would be equally good.

Wishlist could be a tag of zero weighting so that the work refered to doens't count anywhere - Though this would mean hard coding the meaning of some specific tags?

123feaelin First Message
Jul 9, 2007, 10:50am

I'm brand spanking new, there is certainly room for me to learn features. But I'll weigh in anyway.

First, I think one of the difficulties here is that each person, family, or circle of friends see themselves (and thereby their account) in different roles. I won't try to list them all (I suspect the number of unique roles is equal to the membership...), but after reading all 122 replies, I've identified some basic ones:

1A) Someone who wants a database of all books 'on his/her radar', e.g. everything read, to be read, might have read, yearns to buy, etc. BUT has no interest in tracking where the book physically is.

1B) As 1A, but DOES want to know where the book is. Some mechanism for delineating status of the book, where it is,

2) Wants a database of THEIR books, that is their personal library of books. I nearly fall into this category, but not quite.

3) Sees themselves as the _librarian_ for the family collection. This means that their primary goal is that every book that is in their household/barn/garage/offsite storage facility, etc., irregardless of which family member owns it goes into single database.

(I'm in #3. I am married and have a daughter. My wife and I have long ago merged our collections. Since I care a great deal about ORDER, I maintain the library: alphabetize the fiction collection, organize the non-fiction into subjects, and keep track of (currently mentally) where each subject is. e.g. computer engineering behind my desk, comic strip collections in the 'downstairs bathroom', etc.))

I think as is, from what I've seen and read, LibraryThing works well for 1A, 2, and 3. But only if you are truly in only one of those. In my case, #3 is my top priority. But...being able to use the suggester, examine how the books *I* like compare to the books others lilke, are nice features. I'd like to play with those. But it won't work as is, because #3 is foremost, and while my wife and I overlap in our interests, there's some kind of crazy stuff I'd never touch as well. :)

Tags are an awesome tool. A very powerful tool. But they can't solve every problem. I've forced the tags to achieve some of my own needs (which means I'm slowly polluting the global tag space, I'm not sure how much impact as an individual I actually have, though) but I would definitely be assigning tags differently, if there were a few more features.

There have been several different suggestions, ranging from adding fields to changing the way tags work (and some open resistance to change, it appears). I have two suggestions I did NOT see, and I'll point out the ones I like as well:

1) Rather than forcing the 'groups' model to support family collections, I'd like to see an extension to an account that allows adding sub-accounts, similar to the way Netflix allows sub-accounts. With netflix, I have the master account, and I allocate rentals to sub-accounts (my daughter and wife) out of the pool. If it was done this way, I could manage everything (in my role as librarian), but I, my daughter, or my wife could log in and get recommendations, set their own ratings and reviews, and examine how their sub-set relates to the world.

I see groups as a sharing tool for friends, and forcing families into that same model seems clumsy to me.

2) For a time, I used an application called "opendb". It was designed to provide a mechanism for a group of friends to make lists of collections of books, dvds, audio cds, etc. and then 'loan' them to each other. (Which hints at another feature I'd like, but it'd be a distraction). One of the things that opendb did very well is that you could add your own fields, including specifying the data type of the field. You could specify it being a list box and what it'd be populated with, checkboxes, free-text, etc. As needed. This type of feature I think would allow users to collect data that other users care nothing about, or data that is only relevant to how their books are organized in their library. For example, first on my list of custom fields would be a "sort by" field.

I'm achieving my "sort by" via tags at this time, by placing the values to be sorted on first in tag field, and sorting by the tag column, that is, for a fiction title it'd go:

collection, author, (title or series, or superseries), (if series, then series # in form: #nnn, or superseries #), (if superseries, then series here), (if superseries, series # here).
For example, for eddings "Magician's Gambit": fiction, eddings david, belgariad-mallorean, #001, belgariad, #003

Followed by a series of tags that are my categorical tags, 'fantasy', 'high fantasy', etc.
Done this way at the beginning of the tag field, places them in the order that I would alphabetize them on the shelf. :)

I'm aware what a pain implementing 'add my own field' would'd be a fair bit of work to make it work properly, but may be worth the return in terms of power over your data.

3) Someone suggested that when looking at tag lists, or the tag cloud for your data set, that perhaps selecting a given tag would allow you to add attributes to the tag such as 'private', 'hidden', etc. I think this is an excellent idea (and may make my #2 unnecessary), since all my #001's for example could be marked 'private' (so they don't pollute the global space) and 'hidden' (since I don't actually care to see them, they're only used for sorting the list). I imagine other useful attributes could be added, such as 'no suggestions based on any book with this tag', 'don't count a book as being physically present if it has this tag', and so on. This has the appeal of using the existing system and extending its power to a new level, without any change to its current features.

I may like this feature the best. It puts power in the user's hands, without the user needing to know database terminology (e.g. data types and the like), uses an existing paradigm, and as far as I can tell, doesn't _break_ any existing paradigm.

4) Some new fields may yet be necessary, even if #2 or #3 was implemented. If one is going to make claims about the number books in the entire LibraryThing; then you need to be confident that the data you are reporting on is what you say it is. Someone mentioned earlier that they have 1500+ physical books entered into their account, and then 400+ books that they are entered into their data set, but they do not physically have. That's a significant difference...almost 25% of the data set is non-physical, if that was typical (unfortunately, without the same additional fields needed to make it accurate, there is no way to know if it is typical...), any claims made on the entire librarything's /physical/ collection would significantly higher than reality. I'd argue at a minimum, a field that says 'is this book _physically_ in your collection' is necessary to make such claims honest. :) I hope this doesn't sound like a criticism, I'm presuming for the most part the game of reporting statistics on the entire LibraryThing is a form of "fun" for the entire community; and as such doesn't need 100% accuracy...but I'm shamelessly picky about precision of numbers (a talent useful to my field)....

I digressed a bit there. I think there are definitely permanent fields that could be added, could be added in a way that doesn't break existing fields and tools (such as tags) and will extend the power of LibraryThing, and eventually (adoption would be slow) make statistical data more accurate.

5) I think folks manipulate wish-lists differently than they would other data. There's things you want to do that you may not want with other data, for example, provide /easy/ lists for family to buy books as gifts. This being in a completely separate space makes sense to me. However, for my part, I'm content to achieve this through Amazon's wishlists, so the feature is not a high priority of mine.

Ranked in order of priority (to me):

1) Sub-accounts
2) attributes for tags (I'm tempted to say 'tags for tags', but that might be silly)
3) User definable fields
4) some "official" fields to clear up ambiguities in terms of the data.
5) Wishlist mechanism.

I'm betting many will place attributes for tags #1, given their respective roles. :)

(Directly to the LibraryThing team): I hope my comments have been useful to you, but even if they haven't, always keep in mind that I (and probably others) never bother to complain about features in a product I don't like...not worth my time! So do take my complaints and suggestions as messages of "I really love what you've done here! Do you have time to teach it some new tricks I'd like to see?"

Feaelin Moilar

Edited: Jul 9, 2007, 12:20pm

>>56 timspalding: Some people want X, some want Y. I just don't want to set up a system that forces people into Y.

I agree with Heather19 (message 58), making some sort of Y an option would be beneficial for many people (but certainly not all) using LibraryThing. Optional is the keyword.

Aren't LibraryThing users forced into X (the current tag-based system) by not providing any other alternatives to solve "collection" (whatever the user's definition may be of that term) related issues?

One of the fascinating things, in my opinion, about LibraryThing is how creatively people have adapted to the current system and forced it to suit their needs. However, as has already been mentioned in this thread, it's not always pretty.

Jul 9, 2007, 12:37pm

I just want to say that number 123 was an excellent post. I hope the developers read it.

Jul 9, 2007, 12:38pm

1) attributes for tags (I'm tempted to say 'tags for tags', but that might be silly)
(1+ Multi-Author/Series/Subwork system)
(1++ Sorting and Subsorting)
(1+++ Option to view more columns, even with horizontal scrolling.)
2) Sub-accounts / wishlist
3) some "official" fields to clear up ambiguities in terms of the data. Series
4) User definable fields

Jul 9, 2007, 11:39pm

#123 > I've forced the tags to achieve some of my own needs (which means I'm slowly polluting the global tag space, I'm not sure how much impact as an individual I actually have, though)
Tags are near-infinite malleable. Tagging something XVK145AB112 might only mean something to one person in the world but it won't pollute the tag cloud unless abused. Using it 75 million times would mess up the tag cloud.

Other than that nitpick, you brought out some interesting points.

Jul 11, 2007, 3:29am

>I just want to say that number 123 was an excellent post. I hope the developers read it.

I agree.

Jul 11, 2007, 3:35am

>128 timspalding:

You also hope the developers read it?

Jul 11, 2007, 3:41am


Jul 11, 2007, 3:53am

Being earnest: I also think it is an excellent post.

Jul 11, 2007, 2:33pm

After using LT for a few days now, I'm now convinced that I would shell out $25 if a collections feature was somehow implemented.

As it is now, I'm using to categorize the books I want to read (because the UI is so pretty and easy to use) and LT for the books I have read already. I don't dare add the books I want to read to LT because I don't want to screw up the "Suggestion" mechanism, ie, suggesting books to me based on books that I have not read yet (doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of the suggestion feature?). Of course, I may be completely wrong about how the suggestion feature works... (despite the countless hours I spend on the internet, I have not yet used "tags" anywhere online)

If it's not too much trouble, can someone point me to the "ocean of features" on LT? I'm not being sarcastic; I've found some features on my own and I'd love to browse through whatever other wonderful features LT can offer me.

Jul 11, 2007, 3:24pm

#132, Try and to start. These don't (yet) include the new social features Tim introduced today (see .

I've been here almost a year, and I love LT more all the time as new features are introduced.

Jul 11, 2007, 4:51pm

>132 megacoupe:
I'm quite happy to have suggestions take into account books on my wishlist, for two reasons: first, so that it doesn't suggest books that I've already decided that I want to read, and second because if I've decided that I want to read a book, I'm probably at least interested in similar books. (I may end up not liking the book that was on my wishlist, but liking a book suggested because of it.)

Jul 11, 2007, 5:40pm

Yes, but wouldn't it make more sense to simply tweak the suggestion engine to exclude books that are already on my wishlist? Since it's already on my "to read" list, there's no reason to suggest it again.

Because there's a chance I could hate a book on my wishlist, I'd rather the suggestion engine did not take my wishlist into account when making suggestions.

Jul 15, 2007, 1:43am

First, I am in favor of collections. I love the tags, but I think many of us are looking for a more elegant way to organize and/or view our books. The more books one owns, the more important this becomes. Many of us here at LT are very organized people-- else we wouldn't go through the effort to catalogue our books in the first place.

As others have pointed out, many photo organizing sites provide sub-grouping options. Even Amazon does this, although they've designated theirs "wishlist" and "shopping list", but really, they can be used for any kind of book grouping the user wants. They also let the user arrange books in lists. Even public libraries separate their book collections by rooms!

From the beginning, I have wanted sub-groupings for my books at LT. Every library here represents a different individual with different needs and I adore the way LT has worked to accommodate personalization. However, couldn't a user choose to add one or more user-defined sub-categories to his/her collection, for his/her own reasons? The sub-categories don't have to make sense for anyone else, much like the tags-- but they would be very useful to many individuals. If it's a matter of effort vs. payoff, I for one, am willing to pay extra for this feature, as I feel it would be invaluable to me.

I like the basic checkbox idea for *read and *owned. As with other LT features, no one would be required to use them.

I also like some of the proposed ideas about family account integration, but I feel that's a bit off-topic now.

Jul 16, 2007, 11:18am

I think that collections are a perceived solution to a few other ‘issues’ around the site.
1) I don’t want all my books affecting my recommendations. Sometimes I check a book out from the library and want to give it a review but don’t want it in my social info affecting my recommendations so I can’t review it. I may also want to buy a few books but don’t want them affecting recommendations.
2) I want to be able to sort my books I haven’t read by another tag (I want to look at books tagged want to read and theology but not Lutheran). In the same way I may want to see recommendations based on a certain tags or collections of books.

I’m not a computer expert but if there was a way to be able to offer connections and recommendation modifications based on tags I would be satisfied. If not I think I would want a collection option.

138flyingcamel First Message
Jul 23, 2007, 8:27pm

I strongly agree with 124 & 136. Just put "optional" next to new features and those content with the current situation can carry on the same as before, while others can frolic happily in a well-organized catalogue of checkboxes and sub-libraries.

Collections or some equivalent is the one feature I'd like more than anything else, and would get me to finally open my wallet. I'd split my library into Main and Children's, and then could actually find new books and people with similar interests instead of being linked to lists full of EB White and Eyewitness Books. I don't want to just remove my childhood books because:
-I own many of them still and want a record of my physical library
-those that I don't own are still in my "library of the mind," which I also want a record of
-sometimes I truly am looking for kids' book recs, which will happen more often as my friends start families
-because it's interesting to look at what people you know or whose taste you like read as kids

An "I own this" checkbox and unread/reading/read radio buttons would also be pretty great.

A bit OT: Tim, thanks for the list of competitors in the other thread! I tried all of them and each time ran screaming back to LT, so I think you've hit upon a brilliant marketing strategy.

Edited: Jul 24, 2007, 8:26am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Jul 24, 2007, 6:58am

Interesting discussion, yet I can’t see there being any agreement as to the way forward. For what it’s worth, here’s my opinion of the alternatives:

1. Tags – eminently but, unfortunately, infinitely flexible. I say “unfortunately” because it’s impossible to regulate what people use them for. Certainly they can be used to indicate everything from location in the house, family owner, wish list, to be read, to be purchased, subject matter, etc. However, someone with a smallish library might simply tag all their books as fiction or non-fiction. If they are the only person with an obscure but interesting book on astronomy (for example) I’m unlikely to find it. Additionally, some users may not bother using tags at all.

2. Sets – I’m using this terminology based on Flickr. Flickr uses tags but also the concept of Sets. Photos can be dragged and dropped into new sets and sets themselves can be dragged into larger sets. Applied to LibraryThing, within my overall account I could have a set of books owned by me, a set owned by my partner, and a set called wish-list. Within my set I could have sets relating to photography, monasticism, archaeology, etc. However, as has been pointed out, why then bother with tags. Note that because the photographs in Flickr are not physical entities, then the tags are, on the whole, descriptive rather than being put to the uses they are in LibraryThing.

3. Other fields – add extra fields such as a checkbox for wish-list, a text box for location, one for owner, etc. This list could possibly become endless based on competing reasons for using LibraryThing. Personally, I’m not interested in the Acquired, Started and Ended fields that are already there because I’m not likely to use them.

4. Alternatives – if there is a concern about the discrepancy between the number of books physically owned by users and those they would like to own/read then divide everyone’s account into a catalogue and a wish-list. On the book information screen in addition to the “add to catalogue” link there could be an “add to wish-list” option. Again this is probably an unwieldy approach if only from a development point of view.

Personally I think the way forward is to use options 1 and 3; retain the tags (to describe the book) but add a select number of additional fields (with the ability to power-edit) to enter the status of the book (location, wish-list, owner, etc).

Edited: Jul 24, 2007, 8:54am

> a text box for location


(or rather: sortable "use for whatever you want" field...)

Edited: Jul 25, 2007, 9:37pm

Here are some more thoughts on this feature. I apologize in advance if my comments sound dogmatic. The ability to work with categories within one's library are, for me, the single biggest feature that is missing in LT. Being a software developer myself, I tend to argue strongly in favor of what I take to be conceptually elegant solutions.

First of all, I think a distinction needs to be made between categorization that has a site-wide impact (e.g., wishlists) and local categorization that exists to allow members to work with subsets of individual libraries.

I would only introduce fixed, special-purpose fields/categories to represent information that has a site-wide impact. For example, wishlists--regardless of whether they are implemented using a simple checkbox in the current catalog or as lists of books that are kept separate from a user's catalog--would affect statistic calculations throughout LibraryThing. I'm assuming that, at a minimum, books on our wishlists would not be counted in personal, group or zeitgeist size calculations (there would probably also have to be special handling on author, work and social info pages, etc.). For distinctions that are going to have global meaning (like wishlists), there should be a fixed option that is the same for everybody. A simple checkbox would suffice here, I think.

For local categorization, on the other hand, flexibility is the name of the game. Not only does everyone have their own special interests, but they'd like to slice and dice those interests differently from other members. Even categorization based on something as simple as whether or not a book has been read could be desired differently by different members (books read this year, books read for school, books read for a reading group, etc.)

As Tim pointed out in his opening message, introducing collections/sets as a new entity following the metaphor of a shelf or folder would be a "leap backward" conceptually from the open heterology of free-tagging. I can imagine two ways, however, in which local collections could be handled that don't have this problem (not surprisingly, both approaches are tag-based). One way would be to not introduce any new entities to represent collections, but rather beef up the current features (catalog view, connections, suggestions, etc.), to work off of boolean combinations of tags (tag1 AND tag2, tag1 OR tag2, etc.).

Another approach would be to allow members to define "subsets" or "filters" for their design based on combinations of tags and then modify the current LT features to work with these subsets/filters. The main advantages of this approach over the first one is that 1) subset/filter definitions could be saved as part of your library and 2) other members could use your subset/filter definitions to view predefined subsets of your library. (I realize that the difference in terminology between "subsets"/"filters" and "collections"/"folders"/"shelves" is largely conceptual--the former terms simply do not imply the mutually exclusive categories that might be inferred for the latter.)

The big question for me, incidentally, is not how "collections" will be implemented, but rather how they will be used. In other words, what features of LT do members want to work with collections. For me, it would be extremely valuable if "members with your books" and "suggestions" could be generated for subsets of a library. As I have mentioned elsewhere, from a user's standpoint, the most elegant solution that I could imagine would to be to allow "members with your books" and "suggestions" to be calculated for any set of books viewed in catalog view. Since catalog view can already be populated in a variety of ways (including tag selection and search results), this implementation would provide an exciting variety of ways to leverage the knowledge within LT's database. Subsets (as boolean combinations of tags), if implemented, would simply build upon this core capability.

Since I don't know much about the LT infrastructure, I don't know if this approach is desirable/feasible or if I am wishing for the moon. When I think about the power it would give us (especially those of us with sizeable libraries), however, I can't help but keep wishing...

Jul 25, 2007, 12:39am

Those who would like to the collections problem solved using attributes on tags should read the following comment by Tim in the comments to his latest blog posting:

But I think you're thinking of either members marking their own tags or of allowing users to mark (or tag) tags as personal...

Anyway, suggestions on how to do it would be encouraged. But I don't think it can be user-by-user. That's a lot of work, and tags shouldn't be that.

Jul 25, 2007, 1:55am

> That's a lot of work

But those who'd want to use it wouldn't mind.

Jul 25, 2007, 2:46pm

>142 SilentInAWay: SilentInAWay: You've just voiced exactly what I want and why I want it. I've been typing posts and deleting them for weeks because I couldn't describe what I wanted and how it could work. But you did - Thank you!

Tags are great, but they are too "flat." I would love to have a more hierarchical way of organizing things in my own library, and SilentInaWay's solution would seem to do that.

Plus, the ability to get recommendations based on a subset of books would be wonderful. I don't use LT's suggestion feature now because it's just too goofy. If I could get recommendations based on a subset of my tags (i.e., fiction, 19th century), I would use it. This is one of the primary reasons I joined LT - to find books I'd like to read - and would someday like to be able to actually do it.

Jul 25, 2007, 3:00pm

145>a more hierarchical way of organizing things in my own library

Tim has discussed "tag bundles" without many details, but implied it would allow some type of hierarchy.

Jul 25, 2007, 3:01pm

>146 infiniteletters: Hierarchy would be good. Maybe I'm just not Web 2.0 enough, but I like a little hierarchy while organizing things.