What should collections be?

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What should collections be?

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Edited: Jun 27, 2008, 5:19pm

Countrylife asked me to start a new thread on this. I know there have been many discussions before (for example, here), but since collections actually seems to be more imminent now, and since ideas and discussions about this may have evolved since that thread was last active, it seemed like a good idea to start a new discussion. Members can use this thread to provide some thoughts on how they would like Collections to work, and that I hope Tim and co might participate and respond about what is feasible, what they are thinking about themselves, etc.
(Alternatively, if people would prefer to revive the old thread, that works too.)

What should Collections be?

For those who don't know the background, Collections is a planned new feature that would allow users to group their books in sub-sets.

It seems from recent discussions that Collections will include at least some "set" collections/subsets, such as "currently reading," "wishlist," etc. I don't know exactly which ones are planned.

Personally, I hope that collections includes both some "set" subsets like wishlist, currently reading, etc. and the ability to have user-defined subsets. E.g. I might want to catalog all my old children's books, but I want to somehow keep them separate from the rest of my catalog, esp. for purposes of calculating shared books, recommendations, etc. Others want to be able to create separate collections for different family members' books, within the same library.

I would also like collections to have:
1) the ability to set individual collections to private/public, rather than have to have the same privacy settings for the whole library
2) the ability to exclude certain collections from generating recommendations in my main recommendations list, and/or the ability to have separate recommendations lists for each collection.

Added 5:20pm:
Below, I've copied and pasted the list of "wants" from the previous thread from March/April. This list was compiled by rorrison, based on the responses in that thread. Note that this is all the suggestions together, but not everyone in the previous discussion agreed with all of them, or thought they were equally important. (I doubt, for instance, that Tim will be willing to add a top-level tab for collections; I'm guessing this would go in the subnav for the profile/homepage, or else as subnav of the catalog.)

1) A user should be able to define and name which collections he/she wants.
2) A book in a user's library should be able to be in more than one collection at a time.
2.1) It should be easy to change which collection/s a book is in. (E.g. wishlist to owned, unread to read)
3) It should be possible to view all books in the library, or just one collection
3.1) or any group of collections together (not top priority)
3.2) and define what the user sees as their default view
4) The user should be able to define the meaning of each collection, with regard to:
4.1) Inclusion in recommendations
4.2) Inclusion in "Random books from my library"
4.3) Inclusion in "Books you share with other users"
4.4) Inclusion in total count of library (y/n)
4.5) Public or private option
4.6) View in separate tab
5) "add to library" link and/or page allows to specify to which collection(s) you want to add a book

Jun 27, 2008, 4:33pm

PS - the first post of that older thread has a very good and very extensive list of all the ideas that members suggested before, so I'd suggest checking it out before posting here, and/or reproducing that list here to comment on, add to, etc.


Jun 27, 2008, 4:50pm

The main thing I want from collections is to be able to avoid having some "meta-collection" that consists of all the books in my various collections. I don't want My Library, My Wishlist, and My Everything; I only want My Library and My Wishlist.

This isn't to say that other people shouldn't be able to have a collection consisting of all their books, but I don't want anything to do with it. If we were forced to have such a thing, I wouldn't put my wishlist on LT.

My second priority is integration of Collections with the various currently-existing fields on LT. I'm not interested in adding books to a Recently Read collection in order to benefit from recently-read features; I already indicate which books I've read recently by using the date read field.

Edited: Jun 27, 2008, 5:20pm

(moved this message to end of message 1)

Jun 27, 2008, 6:00pm

3) It should be possible to view all books in the library, or just one collection
3.1) or any group of collections together (not top priority)
3.2) and define what the user sees as their default view

I'd add the following: it should be possible for the user to determine how their collections are presented. I think this should be an especially strong concern given the reaction some users had to the recommendations feature. If I have a collection called "Books I Love" and a collection called "Books I Hate", I don't want a visitor to my library to be able to view some amalgam of those two collections that's entirely unrepresentative of my own views of my library.

Jun 27, 2008, 6:37pm

Regarding #2 A book in a user's library should be able to be in more than one collection at a time.

To me a book only belongs in one collection. Otherwise, why wouldn't tags work?

I would probably only use a wishlist or add my mom's books in its own collection, which is why I don't see the need to have one book in multiple collections.

Edited: Jun 27, 2008, 6:45pm

What if someone wanted a collection for "not read" and another one for "owned", but didn't want to use those as tags (because s/he didn't want them hogging the top of most-used tags list, or because s/he wanted to use tags for topic rather than status, or some other reason)? Just playing devil's advocate here: I don't know how I'll use collections until it comes out, but it seems like it would be good to consider different ways of using it.

Jun 27, 2008, 7:34pm


That really depends on how they're handled.

My collections would most likely be just "wishlist", "borrowed", and "library" -- an ownership structure. But I might also want to create a parallel "read" structure, especially if we're allowed to say "use only collection X for recommendations". In that case, I'd want to be able to have wishlist books in "unread" as well.

Edited: Jun 27, 2008, 8:11pm

#1 (I doubt, for instance, that Tim will be willing to add a top-level tab for collections; I'm guessing this would go in the subnav for the profile/homepage, or else as subnav of the catalog.)
It appears that Tim has opined on this already in his Apr. 29th blog post: "Collections, which I think I'll call 'sets,' will turn the Tag view into 'Sets/Tags.' (Anyway, that's the plan!)" I imagine this has somewhat changed, since I haven't heard any more mention of 'Sets,' but it's always seemed pretty clear to me that Collections will be a way of organizing the catalog, not a tab in its own right.

#6, 7 I agree that I can't think of very many compelling reasons why the same book would need to be in different collections (unless, of course, you happen to be talking about different copies of the same work.) It sounds like what people 7 and 8 are referring to might be allowing collections within collections, rather than individual books being assigned to two (or more) collections. I don't know how much of a programming nightmare that might be, but I suppose the interface could allow "wishlist" to be a sub-collection of "unread."
Then again, I don't know if that be any more functional than simply allowing two collections, "wishlist" and "ownednotread," to be viewed simultaneously. Meaning that implementing 3.1 (and hopefully 3.2) removes most of the impetus for 2.0. I'd even suggest another (low priority) subpoint:

2.0) A book in a user's library should be able to be in more than one collection at a time.
2.1) It should be easy to change which collection/s a book is in. (E.g. wishlist to owned, unread to read)
3.0) It should be possible to view all books in the library, or just one collection (but see Zoe's post above)
3.1) or any group of collections together.
3.2) and define what the user sees as their default view
3.3) and create a listing of saved or favorite view-mashes, similar to tag-mashes, of collections the user chooses to refer to regularly.*

*These might include, for example, "wishlist+unread," or "fiction I own+fiction wishlist" and similarly for non-fiction, a view-mash of all of the collections assigned to the various children on a parent's account, etc.

Jun 27, 2008, 8:22pm

"what people 7 and 8 are referring to might be allowing collections within collections, rather than individual books being assigned to two (or more) collections." Not me, anyway: I'm talking about a book being able to be classified in 2 or more collections.

Think of it in terms of venn diagrams. Unread and read are two mutually exclusive categories. Owned and not owned are two mutually exclusive categories. However, owned can overlap with both read and unread, and so can not owned. What would be the point of having 2 "not read" sub-categories, one in my owned books and one in my not-owned books (if those were my categories)? Anyway, if collections are going to be at least partly user defined, it doesn't seem to me to make sense to make them mutually exclusive. What if I want a group for "favorites"? Or "currently reading", but where the books I'm currently reading include both books I own ("owned" category) and books in my "borrowed from library" category?

Jun 27, 2008, 8:39pm

Think of it in terms of venn diagrams

That's exactly how I imagine it. In my "vision", we could create any number of sets, name them whatever we like, and assign any book to any (or more) of them. We'd also be able to exclude or include any combination of sets for recommendations, total book counts, member connections, viewing by others etc.

Sooo... am I picturing aeronautically-competent pigs here? :)

Jun 27, 2008, 9:51pm

Given that the collection Tim talks about most is Currently Reading, I don't see how he could require the various collections to be disjoint.

Jun 27, 2008, 11:16pm

I think my thoughts on the matter are influenced by the fact that I only catalog books that I own and like lorax (#8) would probably only use it in an ownership structure: mine, mom's, read from library, wishlist (I should be forbidden a wishlist). Tags can cover anything else for my uses. I do realize that other people are using LT in a different way.

>7 rsterling:
I have heard some people say they don't like tag "pollution" and can see how "not read" or "owned" might bother them.

> 10 & 11
Tags already work like those venn diagrams (if I understand that properly), though tags don't have the "special" abilities Lola rhapsodizes over. That sounds like a lot of work to maintain all those collection aspects.

I could probably be tempted to play with Lola's ideas once or twice. :)

Jun 28, 2008, 8:14am

Alternate history overlaps SF and Fantasy, made into a movie overlaps all genres etc

Jun 28, 2008, 8:52am

If I had a Wishlist it would have books that I have read but don't own as well as ones that I have not read, such as ones recommended to me, new books by favorite authors, etc. So the same book (or at least work) might be on more than one list.

Jun 28, 2008, 9:26am

>14 Musereader: But would you really use collections rather than tags for those things?

Edited: Jun 28, 2008, 1:45pm

The way I would use Collections would depend almost entirely on whether there was other functionality available, e.g., recommendations by collection, ability to mark one collection private and another public, a collection feeding a blog widget, a collection feeding a feed on my LT Profile and/or home page, etc. If there is no functionality, then I would probably only use wishlist and a few other collections based on ownership (wishlist, my books, DH's books, read but not owned).

However, if there is functionality (fingers crossed), then I could see using collections in an entirely different way - in my case, mainly for recommendations.

As for Currently Reading and Recently Read, I'm personally hoping for a check box functionality. Although - like Zoe - I use the date fields religiously, I also know that most people on LT do not and will probably not be persuaded to use them. Plus, I don't really see either of these as a "collection", per se. Currently Reading would only last for a few hours for some LTers, and Recently Read seems more like a list than a collection.

A simple check box in the catalog would make it easy for people to indicate a book's status, and then that status could be used to fuel widgets that can be used on the Profile and Home pages. And I would love to see a feed of Recently Read books in Connection News.

Jun 28, 2008, 12:33pm

At this point, I would use collections so that I could have a "wishlist" that is separate from my library. My library includes all the books I own (except the ones I've somehow neglected to catalog). The "wishlist" would not be a true wishlist, because it would include books I've heard about (on LT or elsewhere) and want to investigate further. Some I may end up buying, some I may end up not wanting to buy.

Based on this, the features that are most important to me are the ability to determine whether or not a collection will be included in ratings, lists of books in my library, etc.(see #4 in rsterling's initial post) and the ability to add books to a particular collection from an LT page(see his point 5). Without these abilities, I wouldn't make much use of a collection feature.

Having said this, I think it's likely that I'll find other uses for the feature once it's available.

Jun 28, 2008, 12:39pm

(17: "recommendations by collection" - I'd like this too, at least some ability to customize recs using collections.
FYI, you probably know already, but you can already generate new recommendation lists by specific tags, on the recommendations page.)

Jun 28, 2008, 1:27pm

18: What would you consider books that you have read and want to buy, but have not acquired yet, buylist maybe? They're not _quite_ the same as a wishlist, especially since I would want to include them in recommendations.

But I could also use the wishlist you're thinking of, since my Bookmooch one is long enough. :)

Jun 28, 2008, 1:33pm

#20, There are very few books that I've read and don't own, let alone want to buy. I'm afraid I have MANY more that I own and haven't read, so many that I haven't even tagged read/unread. I guess, if I were in your situation, I would want a collection that was "Books I've Read but Don't Own," and then I would tag some of them "want to buy."

Jun 28, 2008, 1:46pm

A wishlist means different things to different people. Some have said they would use it for books they want to buy, others for books they want to get at the library, and still others as a resource for family and friends for gifts. There's no reason that you couldn't use yours as a buylist. I hope that when Tim implements collections he will allow us to specify for each collection whether to use it in recommendations, in total books, etc. etc.

Edited: Jun 28, 2008, 2:02pm

>19 rsterling: Yes, I use recommendations by tag fairly frequently. However, I'm hoping that collections will allow us to separate out some types of books so that I get better recommendations. For example, I would separate out my husband's books from my books so that I could get recommendations just on my books. Tags don't help with that. (Unless you could get recommendations based on excluding books with a specific tag, which would solve the problem, too.) The other argument is always wishlist books - they should not be used for recommendations as they have not been read. That's why I - like a lot of people - have a separate LT account for my wishlist.

Edited: Dec 4, 2008, 1:02pm

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Jun 28, 2008, 4:47pm

Personally, I'd like to use collections less for wishlists, to-read piles and things of that nature and more for categorizing my library the way I have it shelved in real life. I have, for instance, just about every Star Wars novel ever written. These are shelved on a difference bookcase in a different room than my general fiction collection, and I'd like to be able to have them in a separate "collection." I know I could -- and do -- use tags, but the collection thing seems a bit more substantial than that. I use tags to tag different topics or publishers, but I'd use collections to delineate how I actually have my library shelved. My comics would be in a different collection to my prose library, my Star Wars collection would be separate too. It seems a much more intuitive interface to me than tags.

Jun 30, 2008, 9:00am

I'd use collections for separating out my academic books and my books read as a child from my current collection. And the books in my brother's collection that i've read.

I also have a set of 100 classic childrens books which I've only put the ones i've read in but would like to put the rest in.

Jun 30, 2008, 9:44am

#23 "so that I could get recommendations just on my books. Tags don't help with that. (Unless you could get recommendations based on excluding books with a specific tag"

Tag your books with "My recs" or tag of your choice - easy way search for the tag-"husband" and then poweredit add tag "my recs". You can now get recommendations just based on your books.

Personally I feel all requested features (bar one very important point) can be achieved by tagging. But I accept that many people don't want to tag, and hence some collections feature will help these people. The exception is the sitewide statistics, total books owned etc.

#18 has most of my requirements.

Jun 30, 2008, 11:30am

>27 reading_fox: Good idea, I hadn't thought of doing it that way.

Honestly, though, I would prefer not to have lines and lines of tags so that I can find a way to do something like this. Right now I'm trying to use tags as a way to define my own collections, so adding tags like "my recs" just messes up the way I organize my library.

Personally, I would rather have collections for, well, collections of books, and tags for subjects and other "subsets" of collections. In the end, I don't like the "flatness" of tags - I want a little hierarchy in my library (with me as Queen of the Book Realm, of course ;-) ).

Jun 30, 2008, 12:14pm

28: There is a recent thread dedicated to the cause of hierarchical tags. A major issue for me, so the more people who chime in to support it, the better... :-)

Jun 30, 2008, 1:57pm

Actually, that thread is not just about hierarchical tags, although that's what some people wanted. Some of us who posted there the weren't asking for hierarchical tags, but for ways of displaying existing relationships between our tags; ways of displaying "related tags" only within our library (the way you currently get a list of "related tags" on tag pages for the whole of LT). That's not the same thing as hierarchical tags, and so the two are two separate requests. (Hierarchical tags mean that y is a subtag of X, and only X; displaying related tags means showing what tags you've also used for books you've tagged A, where those tags are not necessarily in a hierarchical relationship with A.)

Jun 30, 2008, 2:25pm

30: Picky... But you're right. In general, there seem to be various intertwined issues of library organization that don't neatly separate themselves into mutually exclusive threads. I've been out of the loop for awhile, happened to tune in when that thread was active, though I've casually noted other threads in the past that I didn't take the time to comment on. I am not certain that what I want is precisely hierarchical either, though this would be a significant improvement over an alphabetical list. Major chunks of my library are easily hierarchized, but I've got straddlers and strays also. I'm primarily interested in having control over the visual display of tags, regardless of the underlying structure, though a corresponding structure would be even better.

Jun 30, 2008, 3:09pm

30 > I think there was a 3rd thing in there as well, being able to tag your tags, meta data on meta data.

which is not hierarchal more like collections of tags.

Character names
series names
series order number

or any other grouping useful to one.

Edited: Dec 4, 2008, 1:06pm

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Jun 30, 2008, 3:21pm

31: "picky" - you're probably right. I weighted in, though, because don't want to let the suggestion for a display of existing relationships between tags to get lost in the request for a structure of hierarchical tags, which I think would be more complicated to implement. I would suspect that the latter (creating hierarchical relationships) would would probably require database-structure changes, whereas the former (displaying existing relationships) might be possible to implement based on things that are already in place (e.g. duplicating the tag page, just creating a personal version.) I don't know exactly what would be involved in either case, and I don't see the two as mutually exclusive - I just don't want both suggestions to be dismissed simply because one of them might be more difficult, less feasible, or whatever.

Jun 30, 2008, 3:45pm

>29 qebo:-34 I've read the hierarchical tag argument with a lot of interest, but in the end I'm not quite sure that's what I'm looking for personally. But then an awful lot depends on what LT implements and how it works - I can probably make any system work.

Putting aside wishlist, husband's library, etc - if I just take my library, I could see collections looking like this:

Talbin's library
--> Fiction
--> Poetry
--> Criticism
--> Reference
--> etc.

Then I would be able to use tags like "19th century" or "colonialism" to describe and sort books in any/all collections - poetry, fiction, criticism, etc.

Edited: Jun 30, 2008, 3:48pm

34: And I don't want hierarchical (or custom organized) tags to get lost in the discussion about collections :-) I don't know that we've achieved the ability to have mutually exclusive threads -- this would imply that the various ideas have all been defined/described in detail. Collections as currently described don't _seem_ to do anything especially useful for me personally, so I haven't been paying avid attention to the ongoing discussions, but I'd guess that when the feature appears I'll experiment to see whether I can get my library more organized.

Jun 30, 2008, 4:10pm

35 I'm not entirely sure how I'll use collections until they're implemented, but at this point I was thinking of bins like these for myself. These are not mutually exclusive:

-wishlist (prefer private)
-currently reading
-owned/not owned (or, read but don't own)
-borrowed from library
-books from childhood
-at office / at home / at ...'s house
I might change my mind, or think of other things once it comes on board.
I'll probably continue to use some of my big tags such as literature, reference, etc. as tags, but I might want to create certain categories as collections, especially if the collection designation (whether a book is in a particular collection) can be made private: perhaps things like "gift," "to sell," or "research for dissertation," or whatever other categories I might want to track for my own use but don't necessarily need to share with others.

Jun 30, 2008, 4:14pm

35: I've thought of collections as indicating such qualities as possession (owned / borrowed / wishlist), owner (husband / wife / children), location (building / room / shelf / box), status (read / reading / unread) -- independent of topic and therefore of tags (though tags are currently being used for those other qualities, pending the arrival of collections). But, if collections offered set / subset functionality, I might well use them for organizing by topic, and at the very least cluster my books into major themes (computer, math, science, etc) to reduce the tag clutter.

Jun 30, 2008, 4:49pm

38: ahh, you've succinctly stated my own position. I would like tags to be about the *content* of the book, and collections to be about other criteria - mostly, those you listed (though I don't use the location one myself, as mine are separated by genre). As it is, I am distinguishing the non-content tags with the @ prefix, to make it clear they have special status.

Although I was also planning to have one "topic" collection: professional use. To distinguish from recreational, particularly for recommendations.

(I'd also be tempted by a "decorative" tag, for all those gorgeous leather-bound ones I never intend to read that I also don't want factored into recommendations).

Jun 30, 2008, 6:26pm

>37 rsterling:-39 Yes, yes - you all describe it well.

And I hope to use the collection/tag combination like timepiece in #39 - collection for genre and/or ownership status, tags for content.

Jul 1, 2008, 7:16pm

This is probably too much but - I have two parts to my collection of books, I have my pulp/golden era SF which I accumulated while I was in university by buying lots of 70's paperbacks which makes up most of my books, but I haven't read most of them. I then have more recent Fantasy books, most of which I read when I get them. But my 'people with your books' list is topped by all the people who have all the SF, and I want to find the people with the Fantasy so if you can find 'people with your books' for different collections, that would be good.

Jul 2, 2008, 4:34am

I’m the designated librarian for a group of friends who share a house, and I’d been wondering if it would be possible to develop a function for viewing ‘group libraries’: a library comprising of the combined books of all the members in any group. Collections might be even better.

The main things I would like to get out of collections are:

(i) Avoid ‘tag pollution’:
I’d like to use tags for things that are always true of a particular work - e.g. genre or themes - and collections to describe the context of a book in my catalogue - e.g. ownership or read/not read status. (I would like sub-collections too: book owners would be main collections, individual wish lists a subset)

(ii) Define a set of collections to represent ‘my (real) library’:
This would exclude collections such as ‘wishlist’ and ‘books I’ve read but don’t own’ (useful so I can write reviews and keep track of library reading). Random books and recommendations should only come from ‘my library’.

(iii) Get more relevant recommendations:
I’d like to be able to get recommendations from a particular collection, but I’d also like to be able to avoid recommendations for books with particular tags. This is maybe more complicated to do than it needs to be (sorry!), but I do feel strongly about (i).

(iv) It might also be interesting to see ‘MWYB’/ ‘CollectionsWYB’ for individual collections, but it’s not on my priority list.

In short, I would definitely use all functions mentioned at the top of the thread, except the public/private function.

Jul 2, 2008, 8:45am

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Jul 2, 2008, 10:33am

I would absolutely love the ability to view a group library. Searching isn't good enough since not all fields are searchable.

Jul 6, 2008, 10:56pm

Given my druthers I would use "Collections" to help me keep track of my physical collection - For instance, I would create a Collection "My Fiction Library" that would contain the books I currently have on my Fiction bookshelves. I would also use a "To Read" collection (but not "Currently Reading") and a "Do Not Own" collection (books I have borrowed).

While awaiting collections I would really appreciate a way to save (and name) a tag search of my library. For instance if I want to view the books on my fiction shelves (mentioned above) I have to search for:
fiction, -dno, -anthology, -inclusion, -Medical Humanities, (-wishlist when I make one)
I invariably forget one and have to go back and do it again. So if I could save that search and name it "My Fiction Library" - gasp! - now I have my "collection."

(I use LT as a de facto card catalogue - I keep a laptop in my library just for this reason, but I DO want to include books I have borrowed for the social/recommendations/etc aspect.)

Jul 6, 2008, 11:20pm

My main reason for using collections, instead of tags, would be the ability to exclude them from total library number, recommendations etc. Don't know whether this will be possible (will it?), it's just that thinking of how they could be different from tags, this seems an obvious characteristic.

Perhaps calling them "lists" instead of collections would be more accurate, as far as my idea of them goes...

Jul 22, 2008, 8:44pm

>43 countrylife: Given that the Search isn't comprehensive at the moment (and I do like to be able to browse somewhat randomly anyway) a single house account seems to be the better option for us at this time. I'm thinking about a small secondary account for my favourites, so that I can get personal recommendations from that instead.

>44 _Zoe_: It does seem to be an intuitive feature, doesn't it? I guess it would be difficult for very large groups, but smaller groups are more likely to find it useful, so maybe it could be an option for groups under a particular size. (Not sure how size would be decided: # of members, # of books, or something else, but I think it's worth considering)

Jul 23, 2008, 10:10am

You can get recommendations based on a subset of your books with a certain tag, so just tag your favorite books with a tag, perhaps favorite, and use that for your recommendations.