LibraryThing: How to succeed in an Amazon/Goodreads world (Part II)
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I feel like I should get an Goodreads refugee T shirt.....
I've grown attached to this color. Besides, it's more like poached salmon. Just add a few capers and all will be well.
The color looks fabulous on screens that are calibrated exactly like mine. All other screens it doesn't work with. :)
I am now finding my library is full of blank lines along with most of my books. Import problems, I suspect, as I don't see blanks in my export file. Ah well, it's a grand opportunity to learn how to use the catalogue!
After 5 years here at LT, I know I'm still not using as much of LT as I could. It seems to have soooo much if you want to make use of it. It can make it seem a little overwhelming and busy at first. I try to have as little to do with Amazon as possible. They seem to be the Walmart of the internet and I hate that "we have the most so we can undercut anyone" mentality.
For the person from the other thread that wanted to know about book formats - I created my own collection for my ebooks and just have them listed to more than one collection. I think when you come to a new site for the first time, it's always a little overwhelming. I hope folks from GR will give us a chance to make them feel welcome as many people did when I joined. I've gotten a lot of great help here - there's always someone who knows the answer.
Yes, yes it is.
I entered the majority of my library (about 8600 volumes now) BY HAND because at the time a friend gave me the $25 lifetime membership (one of the best gifts ever), I couldn't afford a scanner or Cue Cat. I also love searching through the web until I can get a perfect match for the cover of the used book I bought in, say, 1985.....heh.
Amazon will own Goodreads, which means they will own all the information on Goodreads and can use it as they like. It also means they can use Goodreads as a marketing tool to support not only nonbook sales, but to push Kindle and Amazon published authors. And many people are simply opposed to Amazon's business practices and have no faith that Amazon will not, in the course of time, make deep changes to Goodreads. Goodreads has a much more liberal review policy than Amazon, maintains that users own and control their own reviews (which Amazon does not), and Goodreads has taken great effort to be independent of a retail arm so as to build a reputation for mostly unbiased reviews. Many GR members were there because of that independence. The distaste for Amazon and concern for what Amazon will do once it owns and can control Goodreads is causing many GR people to come here, because LT's owner has stated that LT is and will remain retailer independent, with user owned/controlled reviews and a unbiased, free opinions.
Does that help?
I've always found people to be very welcoming and polite here in discussions, but I think a big drawback is that there are no notification emails. I don't know whether this is something LT is planning or even wants, but when I have to keep going back to the Talk page and checking to see if someone's replied to me (at least that's the fastest way I've found to do it) I typically just forget the conversation is still going on (I'm really absentminded). I personally find the format of the discussions clunky -- there's no way to separate different topics out into folders or threads -- and hard to navigate. The discussions are definitely _here,_ it just takes more digging and work to find them. It takes digging to find good discussions on GoodReads too. I do get frustrated at looking for active discussions here only to find lots of dormant groups, but those seem to be separated out a bit better than the last time I searched.
I think the culture shock that is going to hit the GoodReads refugees is there's no Facebook-like friends feed here. On GR, everything comes through the feed -- status updates, comments, discussions, and so on, or people have email notifications in various formats (digest, single, individual comments, &c &c). On LT, unless you have the Talk page open all the time, it seems more like you have to go around to various discussions (I'm not saying one is better than the other, just pointing out what I see as the difference). I personally had a love-hate relationship with the GR feed, and wouldn't want to see something like it here, but it would be nice if there was an easier way to keep track of/be reminded of discussions.
You've got at least one companion now. I'm about as non-OCD as they come.
What Murphy-Jacobs said in #15 as well as the fact that about this time last year, Goodreads librarians spent a ton of time rescuing book entries because Goodreads was removing from its database all of the information that had been sourced from Amazon. (Amazon was demanding that its information not be used in conjunction with links to its competitors. I think the librarians were given less than two weeks notice that the change was going to happen.) Now to turn around and sell the company to "the enemy" around a year later? Feels like a huge slap in the face to many.
Goodreads made that switch voluntarily, to position itself.
Do you have something like that around here (I thought I saw something, but at this point it is all a bit of a blur)? If not, that might be one item from GR that would be worth having here.
And I do keep the Talk page open and update it when I have a chance to check it.
Just by the way, I would HATE to have a feed that told me everything that was going on and I would even more HATE getting notification e-mails! If LT ever goes in this direction, there's got to be a way to opt out.
Whatever their reasoning was, I think there are many who wouldn't have felt quite as betrayed by the sell as they did if last year's events hadn't occurred.
Don't forget the Giant Ugly Green Button, which was nightmarish at the time but a cakewalk compared to this.
Well, the giant gifs in reviews going by on the feed that were sometimes stills from porn movies made me cranky, definitely.
Amazon does not care about people; they care about dollar signs. People in the GR community put in a lot of time and effort, volunteering, only to have it sold off and now it will be commercialized.
Amazon is known for censorship. First, they routinely meddle in reviews, trying to restrict writers from reviewing other writers in their genre, or just at their whim. They also block or censor books at their will if they are considered "offensive"... their policy on this reads as if were written by a third grader. "What we deem offensive is about what you would expect." Meaning they can block an author's content (and take the author's royalties) for no reason at all.
Both of said policies are inconsistently applied. In some cases, legitimate reviews are removed, although other bogus ones are allowed to remain, EVEN THOUGH THE REVIEWER ADMITS THEY DIDN'T EVEN READ THE BOOK. Also, I'm an author of erotic literature (admittedly, some of my work has darker themes) and I had a book blocked with a blackmail theme.... but they had no problem with an even darker book which involved a woman being electro-tortured.
I think I speak for most writers when I say that Amazon is a necessary evil.
There you can see some of the best current reviews by others. They are voted HOT by members who have read them. Maybe that would help?
1) Join or watch the group. As each topic comes up, decide whether you want to read it. If not hit the (x) and it won't show in your list any more. (This is how I deal with Off Topic.)
2) Don't join the group. Now and again go over to the group page and hit the (*) for any topic you want to have show in your list. (This is how I deal with my challenge group.)
I think it offers review, rating, and added options. I just do review/added - one to see what my connections think of books, and the other to see what new books are garnering interest.
Similarly here, I delete topics under "Talk" which I don't care about following and I avoid joining groups which clutter up my talk forums with too many topics that don't interest me.
This is what I love about Librarything. We both get what we want.
Ah, finally I understand why I like it here ;-)
Alice says: How do you know I'm mad?
Then the Cheshire cat says: You must be. Or you wouldn't have come here.
Which is so appropriate I had to fall over.
"The same goes for many other players. With Amazon in the drivers' seat, you can bet that B&N, Kobo and Indies are going to drop and be dropped by Goodreads like a hot potato. If any non-Amazon "buy" buttons remain, they're going to be buried deep. And B&N is hardly going to encourage people to use Goodreads now that every item of data Goodreads get goes to build Amazon and the Kindle features Goodreads is promising."
It's disappointing that every book Main Page here on Library Thing has a direct link to Amazon and only Amazon. To find titles from other retailers you have to go to a secondary page. That's fairly buried deep too isn't it?
Here's the blog post explaining the way the quick links are set up - and why only Amazon is on the first page:
If you click the edit pencil a work page "quick links" section you will find the following explanation:
"Note on bookseller links
As part of its Terms of Service, Amazon prohibits competitor links on a book's "primary" page. As LibraryThing derives some of its bibliographic data from Amazon, we have to follow their rules.
To comply with this provision, bookseller links, including your "Quick Links," will only appear on secondary pages, such as "Get this book," "Local Book Search" and "All sources."
For more on this policy see this blog post."
There seem to be 2 main sides to this, though not unrelated: 1) attracting new members to LT, esp. Goodreads refugees, and 2) developing new relationships with publishers, indies, etc. to counter the Amazon hegemony.
I don't have many suggestions for #2, but what I would prioritize for #1 are the following.
1) Add Books.
I saw yet another thread today with someone complaining about how complicated it is to add books. So those Add Books changes can't come soon enough, but they also need to be done in a way that is more intuitive for those people who don't currently find it intuitive. I use the Add Books page, as do many long-time LT members, and that works fine for me, but clearly many people don't find that method intuitive, and want an easy way of searching for the book *first* and then adding from there. And why not: LT has tons of book info, and when I want info on a book I search for it on LT; it makes sense that someone might also want to add books at that point.
2) Design and usability.
This goes beyond the salmon and cheap-Easter-egg-dye color scheme (which I admit I've never liked). When this discussion comes up people too often *oppose* design and smarts or design and data richness etc. That's a false dichotomy. Good design is not about making something look flashy or pretty. Good design is about usability: good design is about how the visual layout of the pages help people to quickly and easily find information. LT just does not do this very well at all. So many people are confused when they join. There is no easy way to find that many features even exist, nor to figure out where they are once you know, nor to figure out how to use them. HelpThing is great and I've contributed to it, but how many people even know it's there? The pages on LT in general are visually cluttered so that it's hard to do a quick eye-swoop, so to speak, to assess how the page works and what you can do on it. What you need to do is not just contract a visual designer but have a really hard think about how people currently navigate the site, how people want to use the site, all the features on the site, how to make them more accessible. I think you're already getting some good advice in this thread from former GR users and other new users who use the site in totally different ways than I would, and who have trouble figuring out how to do the things they want to do. There are many valid ways to use LT, but the current organization and design can make it very difficult to make good use of some of LT's most valuable features. Someone needs to give some thought to developing pages on "What you can do on LT?" and laying it out clearly. You shouldn't have to follow the new features thread, the blog, and all talk discussions to have a good idea of all the features here. They should be easy to find for a new user. Form and function need not be opposed: yes, I do think you need to redesign the site's visuals to make them less dated, but that doesn't mean making the site flashy: it means making it cleaner so that users can more easily find their way around.
3) Emphasize recommendations.
This has always been one of LT's strongest assets -- it was why I first joined -- and I never understood why recommendations got so buried. Make them front and center. (And again, not just *that* recommendations exist, but how they work, how members can use them, etc.)
4) Facebook and Twitter
I don't use either of these services, but lots of people do, and I frequently see threads saying that the integration isn't working properly. Go to the people where the people are, and make LT work for them in ways that mesh with the ways they're using the internet.
LT is way behind here, and again it's a question of going to the people where the people are. I want to be able to use LT in a mobile way, to check things when I'm out, to see if I already have them, to scan something and get LT book info. Every now and then I try to pull up LT my Android, but it really doesn't work conveniently. And yes, please, not just iPhone: not everyone has i-everything.
While I myself would find some of these changes useful, I'm thinking more of what you need to do to attract new members, and to keep up with how people do want to use such a site and will want to use such a site.
ETA: If you want to attract publishers, it should be MUCH easier to get to ER.
In Tim's initial post in the first version of this topic he said
While outright Amazon hatred is a minority feeling, it's a real one, and something LibraryThing can benefit from. We need to justify those feelings by making it clearer than ever that LibraryThing respects your data. (I think we need to discuss new terms that bind LibraryThing as much as they bind users.)
At the same time, it's well known that Amazon has an indirect but real stake in LibraryThing—they bought Abebooks, who were our first minority partner. People keep reporting that Amazon has 40%. That's simply not true—it fails to take account of our second funder, Bowker. (I remain the majority; I can't say how the rest divides up.) But this certainly muddies the message. For what it's worth, I want LibraryThing to make more money, and therefore my, Bowker and Amazon's stake to be worth more and more, but with Amazon now holding 100% ownership of BOTH our competitors (Goodreads and Shelfari), we can hardly do so without emphasizing what sets us apart.
I don't hate Amazon. I use Amazon. I buy socks and teabags and laundry soap and office supplies from Amazon. But to me books aren't socks or pens or file folders. They are something a great deal more important than a monetizable commodity to be hawked at the lowest possible price point by megacorporations.
Based on my experiences with Amazon I don't believe they get that. I believe they will give it lip service if that what it takes to get my money, but they don't actually give a damn about the cultural importance of intellectual property. Or even understand why it matters. That's why I fled.
So if you want to set yourself apart, get it. Do what Tim said. Begin with respecting our data. Demonstrate as clearly as possible that you respect our data. And respect the data of all the authors, alive or dead. Then go beyond that. Show that you understand that the value of books and of conversations about books is not simply that there's money to be made off them.
Books aren't widgets. They are boxes full of ideas.
ETA: Note that when there's an open LTER batch, that module also shows the top-requested books so that you can click right through and request. It looks a bit different right now than it normally does since we're between batches at the moment.
I know that I am hammering on an issue that has been done to death, but I wanted to repeat it again just so that it is in this thread.
In my time I tried Shelfari and GoodReads and honestly neither of them were what I wanted. They seemed to be trying to reach a population with a different set of interests than me. What I wanted, and what LibraryThing provided perfectly, was a way to catalog my personal library and to be able to sort, tag, and find information easily. I wasn't interested in telling my friends what I was reading or creating auto Facebook posts.
How bad did I want LibraryThing to achieve its goals? Well alot. Interestingly enough I just happened to be in an odd position to know many people in our local and state library systems and I was constantly mentioning LT. To the point where I was asked at one point if I was getting a kickback LOL. Some of those folks have now gone on to work in other companies like SirsiDynix where they are also influencers.
However, what happened after some time is that I saw that my primary desired feature wasn't being addressed. I want an iPhone/iPad app that responds quickly and allows me to scan in my books and search by tags and sort and display lists. So over time I have given up being an evangelist for LT and pretty much stopped loading new books into the system. Now I just keep track of them in an excel spreadsheet and that I sync over to the phone.
I honestly think the biggest thing that LT could do to reinvigorate itself is to provide the iPhone app that its customers have long been begging for.
I still want to see you guys succeed, but this request has fallen on deaf ears for so long.
Here's a little something else to be tossed into the ever growing pile of tweaks and twitches and so forth. Drop Down Menus for common tasks, especially things like tags.
I'm compiling a paper list of my tags so that I can properly tag everything, but each time I go in I recall the ease of GR's drop down -- which was my own custom set -- and the simplicity of just clicking. Drop down/pop up menus like that was one of the more attractive things about GR (the UGB notwithstanding) in that it let me do things while being lazy -- that is, I could scroll through other people's books, spot one that interested me, clicky a little clicky button, check a tag, and have that book go into one of my "shelves" for later work (to remind myself to read it, to write a review on it, whatever). I found a huge number of books this way, and it made going through other people's libraries so much fun and so useful for building my own library.
There might be something like that here, but so far it seems adding books I find on other people's catalogues is click intensive and a bit confusing. I know there is a lot of individualism with the books -- you aren't picking from a pre-determined set of books to match up your own copy -- but sometimes I feel like I'm duplicating effort that others have done, or others will have to duplicate my work.
Anyway, I'm still pushing buttons and turning over rocks, so maybe it's all around here somewhere.
I love the way this looks, compared to GR, the way it's organised and for me it's got all the right focus/non-focus, the information I need and not the one I don't need!
My bookseller is Amazon - I use them any time I can* because they have the best stock, they are reliable and they are cheapest in most cases. But I need a site that does not belong to them for reviews, cataloging and general book chatter - and this is what LT is. If it is Amazon owned site, sooner or later they will come up with something like the Verified purchase they stuck on interviews awhile back and who knows what else. In LT my library says whatever I want it to say.
So the buttons to Amazon here are good for LT (well... for this user of LT) while LT remains independent.
*Except for some small presses where I will go directly to the publisher.
If you only have 10 or so categories, you might consider using collections instead of tags.
I'm not a "spontaneous" tagger -- I can't even wrap my head around that idea. My tags are specific and, used in combination, tell me what I need to organize my books. For example, I have a set of tags that indicate the book's status in my library -- I've read it, I want to read it, I want to acquire it, I've abandoned it, I'm curious about it but don't know if I want to read it or not yet -- and then a set of tags for the year I read a book, and then a set for what broad category the book fits in for me, as well as a few "specialty" tags for books read or wanted for particular purposes (like a book club or a research project). I created them as I needed them and eliminated them when they were no longer of use. No one else needs to use my tags, as they are unique to me and convey little information to anyone else. I just want an easy, consistent way to use them without having to correct typos or refer to a printed list. I know some GR people had as many as 100 shelves which were accessible from a drop down list available only to them.
Right now I'm using the collections for library status and the tags for the other two sets, which works fine, but it's still cumbersome.
Again, I don't expect anything to change. I'm just bringing up aspects of GR that I considered positive and worthy of consideration.
>113 keristars: I do something similar. I have location: and author: (nationality) and series: and such tags. I like it having things grouped nicely like that.
Are you sure that didn't refer to it auto-populating it with site-wide tags rather than your own personal tags? I think that's what he said, and it makes a lot more sense that way.
Yes, I think the core issue is wanting people to use their own schemes of tagging, rather than copying other people's tags.
The most common objection to a drop-down for our own tags is that so many of us serious taggers have so many tags, it would be unwieldy. I'm not saying that's the definitive answer, but it is an issue.
Did you catalog the user's manual? ;)
I am not really interested in anyone else's tags -- my brain works in its own peculiar way, and I personally think works quite well (when it works, that is). I don't always grasp other peoples' organizational schemes and they don't always grasp mine. But, yes, yes indeed, a quick, easy and consistent way to add my tags without having to check a list or make something up until later would be handy.
I'm not totally sure which is being proposed. For your own tags, the problem is just coming up with a UI good enough. I'm worried about a checkbox-style UI because it will tend to constrain your tag set to whatever fits in the UI. An autocomplete would be better, but comma-based autocomplete is hard.
My priority proposal:
1 book adding easier and also from book catalog page
2 liberate APIs, even if you do your own mobile apps
3 lists, lists, lists
I would hate to see it covered up by a list of my own tags, because I have so many I would never find the ones I want in there. Not to mention how that could deal with the way I keep my tags ordered.
I personally think there's a lot more important things that need working on before something like this is even considered, so that doesn't bother me.
Right, but that only does it for one tag. What you want is autocomplete that plays well with commas—so you can autocomplete piece by piece without having a more complicated UI. For a one-term autocomplete, we have how CK works.
Click on "multiple values" under examples. It plays with commas quite well. Also check out the long list option under scrollable results.
It seems to me that this sort of web service approach, even with lightweight JSON, could create a lot of web traffic that needs to be accounted for in the network and server architecture.
I agree with the suggestions that the use case presented (let me know if I am using "post-apocalyptic" vs. "post apocalyptic") is not quite enough to say that the browser autocomplete is not sufficient. When editing "my book" details pages in Chrome, I find that my recent commonly-used clusters of tags will show up if I start with the same one.
Some of this can be addressed with power edit and/or the page that shows your tags in use.
The "LT in a Goodreads/Amazon world" question ties back into what does LT want to be:
- A book discovery site
- A book cataloging site
- A book discussion site
- A book locator service (for sale, lending, or swapping)
- A place where you talk about books with your "offline" friends
I'd guess the answer is all of the above, and it can be. But right now I don't know if LT's purpose is as clear (or clearly differentiated) than Goodreads.
Case in point: my wife wanted book recommendations, so I told her up about LT. She signed up. Then she asked me where on site to go for recommendations. I explained that she had to upload her existing collection, then look at what was recommended. She winced at the time required, so I suggested she just upload some favorite titles. Upon doing that, she looked through the recommendations, found a couple that seemed interesting, but then got lost on the title pages trying to find what each book was about. She came back to LT a month later but didn't see any new recommendations of interest, then never came back.
Compare my wife's experience to Netflix, where you thumb up or down a few movie titles, and then it recommends several titles to you right away. The more you rate or watch, the smarter the recommendations become. Very simple and very effective. LTFL's Book Psychic tool seems designed this way, and you can understand its appeal.
Or compare that to how her friends use Goodreads. Some use it to log what they read, some use it for the social connections to their Facebook friends, but most just want good book recommendations or to talk about books they've read/are reading. And they want it through their mobile phone, because they're on the go a lot.
Librarything could be that site and have much wider appeal, but I think it needs to define what it wants to be and then aggressively focus their resource allocation on that. Changing the site color scheme may help, but what will help more is streamlining the home screen and the book and author detail pages. And making the discussion page less unwieldy. And so will putting a friendly face on the recommendation engine that learns from your inputs and capitalizes on all the tags and CK data (a huge competitive advantage for LT).
This site has incredible data and a passionate user base (plus the monthly giveaways are great), but LT has not taken off like other social networks, including Goodreads. I know authors and publishers do participate--find out what barriers they have to diving in and investing more. Look at where and when new members fall off. Show the site to non-members, and stand over your shoulder as they navigate. That experience can be eye opening.
There's plenty of room in the market for two great sites, and LT has all the programming, data, and empowered users to make the leap. But it needs to answer first why it exists, then focus on delivering on that user experience.
I've got a CueCat, but especially on an old computer, it was a huge, slow pain to scan a book into a spreadsheet, save it, upload it, then have to edit each book to be the one I actually owned. With GR, the moment I finish a book, I can open the app, click to my current read list, check read, and the book is tagged as such. Admittedly, it's been a while since I entered a book in LT, but I don't recall it being that easy.
I am a part of NetGalley, and it's awfully nice to have the code for my review right there ready to copy into NG's feedback system (and I have a tag that reminds me I have to review a certain book, which is great for those books I read months before their pub date).
I'll try to give LT another chance, since I'm uneasy with the Amazon sale of GR, but until I can have that quick-mark-read in an app or barcode scanning I doubt I'll delete my GR account.
tl;dr: mobile app, please, iOS and android. Easy book add, either via app or mobile site. Easy tagging.
I see LT has recommendations but they appear to be naive as well. Just because I read a book doesn't mean I liked it. I want recommendations based on similar tastes, not similar libraries. It would be a boon if LT could be the first book site that nails recommendations the way sites such as netflix and criticker have been doing for movies for a decade. The algorithms used at criticker are well documented.
Am I mistaken? Are there criticker-style recommendations someplace here?
But does LT want to be a 'social network'? I escaped from GR because it was mainly that, if LT changes too, where do people go, those who just care about their books, cataloguing, tracking, organising, etc, with minimum 'social' or 'forced' social interaction?
I can't believe that throughout the world I'm part of a small minority that doesn't care about social networks - there has to be enough people to justify having sites for them.
(note - about the book forums in GR: more than half the discussion threads on books I've read seemed to focus on films/actors/actors for potential films/tv adaptations/want to see books into films... do we want that, really?)
This viewpoint has a lot of well documented algorithms and papers to back it up. So it's really not about being naive.
On the other hand, I wish it did somehow take ratings more into account. If I love space opera but I tell it I've hated four different novels by a specific author (who is otherwise highly popular), I don't want it suggesting anything else by that author.
Regarding apps and barcodes and related topics.
Adding books in LT is best done on the "Add Books" tab page. Select the data source (e.g. Library of Congress, OverCat, Amazon -- in about that order on successive searches), put the cursor in the text box, and then swipe the CueCat over the ISBN-13 barcode (begins with 978 and may be on the inside front cover of a mass-market paperback).
It is NOT a good idea to search for a book, find it in someone's library, and try to use the "Add Book" button from that page. The result is a title-only search from the selected data source and may not work well for you. It adds many steps to the process and you'll be frustrated.
There is a user-created Greasemonkey script that will copy most of the fields from a detail page into the blank manual add form. This would allow you to copy a good listing that does not seem to be found in one of the data sources.
Mobile apps are frequently requested but in a community the size of LT, the income generated by a $1-$5 app does not come anywhere close to the costs of creating it. Hence, with a small programming staff that LT has (3 according to Tim's earlier post), developing apps for both iOS and Android would cause other programming to suffer from neglect. Tim's statements tell me that mobile development is not a priority with the current resources and work to be done.
There are user-created apps for both iOS and Android that will allow one to export their LT catalog and view a textual representation of their books on the mobile device (i.e. no book covers, generic or mine, are shown). I have found the one by Jouni for iOS to be a good way to quickly check to see if a book I have is cataloged. It is easier than using the full site or the seemingly abandoned LibraryThing.com/m site on the phone while on the road.
Jouni's app does have a barcode scanner. Its main purpose is to allow you to scan a stack of book barcodes and then send the list to yourself for loading in the bulk import tool.
Seeing the multistep process for adding a book, I don't think the experience on a phone with its slow networks and latency would be very satisfying. It is better to scan a stack of book barcodes and use bulk import. I've done this for groups of books. You can assign collections and tags for the imports and this can be effective.
LibraryThing takes a less "forward" stance on social networking. It's definitely a site where you can take it or leave it. Some use "friends" as much as on anywhere and participate on Talk all day long. Others review a few books and maybe mark a few users as "interesting" to them to talk to or just to browse their catalogs. And some pretend all the social stuff doesn't exist. We try not to force anyone to use LibraryThing the way we think they should.
Personally, I'm most interested in the social and the books being used TOGETHER. That is, I find it a lot more interesting to find people who share my books than to find people I know on Facebook because I went to high school with them. This is perhaps a cranky opinion, but it drives our priorities somewhat. So, for example, your profile shows who you share books with ABOVE your friends.
Most -- if not all -- of the recommendations I found on GR came not from an algorithm based on my own ratings or reviews or even my library, but from the people who populated my stream with their reviews and additions. I had a fairly diverse group of people who I either followed or had in my friends list, and I had culled through them to pick a selection for my stream. I discovered a LOT of books that way, including books that were completely unlike other books I'd read or thought about reading.
While I did play around with the automatically generated recommendations, that was mostly for fun and curiosity. It occasionally turned up something interesting, but not often enough to make it a useful tool. But it seemed I could barely scroll through my stream of friend activity without finding three or four books that looked interesting, of which one or two were interesting enough to add to my own lists -- and this was on a daily basis. Some days I found all too many interesting books. Occasionally a book didn't suit me or please me, but more often I liked it or at least wanted to discuss it. (Even a book I don't like is fun if I get a good conversation out of it)
I hope to cultivate that same sort of reliable group here.
(and just as an FYI, I rarely find my Netflix recommendations useful. I just comb through everything and populate my queue with what looks good, then worry about it when I'm in the mood to watch).
That's been my experience on LibraryThing. I'm not sure what a "stream" looks like in GR, but the "Connection News" on my LT home page does just what you've described with a high degree of reliability. The only LT feature that facilitated discovery to a comparable degree for me was "Tag Watch," which has unfortunately entered an interminable deep freeze.
(The lamented LT feature for social purposes that I liked as much as Tag Watch was the list of Users Currently Reading on a given Work page.)
Another is the 'What should you borrow?' feature on the profiles. Notice that someone's taste seems to be similar to yours and go to their profile. Under the list of books you share comes "What should you borrow?" It takes a while to load, but once there you see what the other person has that might fit you, and can check if they rated it or wrote a review or comments.
>151 paradoxosalpha: paradoxosalpha -- GR had a multi-part main page that was had a column of "live" data -- that is, it constantly updated with activity from the group of people I had selected to have appear and with the data parameters I'd set. Mine was set to show me books and reviews that my list of people had recently reviewed, added to their shelves (along with the shelf name), or rated, with the most recent at the top of the page pushing older stuff to the bottom (thus, a "stream"). I could click on links in each post to read the review, read more about the book, or make comments (or I could ignore it and get on with whatever else I wanted to do) While some people found it intrusive, it was possibly my favorite part of social GR and I often checked it a couple of times a day.
I don't care much for the "Recent Recommendations" tool because I find that new releases cloud it up. People who like reading new release tend to read several at once, so those books get associated despite having nothing in common besides a 2013 (or 2012, or 2011) release date. I still look at "Recent Recommendations" from time to time, but "What should you borrow" is much better. It can be a goldmine when you find the right library!
And I have found way, way too many things to read from "Connection news." There are two people in particular with similar libraries to mine whose great new finds show up frequently on my "Connection news," all pre-release copies, leaving me waiting for months before my library gets copies...
The Millions published this today as their April Fool's gag:
I don't find the official LT recommendation feature very useful, because I have so far only catalogued about 1/5 of my total collection, and even fewer of the books I've read that I no longer own, and I find that since the recommendations are based on what I have catalogued, many of them are for the uncatalogued books I already own/have read. It is possible to click on 'No thanks' in order to dismiss a recommendation, but I'd rather have an option to say 'already own this' or 'already read it' as distinct from 'this kind of book does not interest me', since those are very different reasons for ignoring a recommendation. So I simply ignore the official recommendations but rely mainly on the interaction in my groups to give me loads of good suggestions.
I've started using the Book Catalogue app to scan everything, but their interface w/ LT is minimal. I would love to see LT work with them to get an automated import or sync feature working.
I read stuff for a lot of reasons other than thinking I will like it. By rating that material I'm giving more data about my tastes. I can't see how ignoring the rating could make the recommendations better, but it will definitely make them worse.
Take the example of Patrick Rothfuss. I liked Name of the Wind and hated its sequel. Wise Man's Fear is really popular and a rating-blind algorithm will associate me with the people who liked it, which is going to lead to useless recommendations. When it could instead find people who had the same reaction.
But you say people have gone over this before so I'm probably not saying anything new. I would love to have the data to implement the criticker algorithm on books and see how it fares. For science! Mmmm data. :-p
Tim can say he doesn't believe in ratings, and that's fine I guess. But as I see it: there is no point because it doesn't do anything. It's a self fulfilling thingy.
Edited b/c typing and cats do not go together.
With so many variables, it's virtually impossible to anticipate how a single rating would influence this. We need the computer to do the number crunching. The cumulative effect of many ratings seems to be very useful. There are plenty of users on criticker that I share 40 movies in common with, but the similarity scores are terrible.
I don't think rating-blind prediction could approach this accuracy. But it is an empirical question that can be tested. Netflix did it. Split the existing data set into two parts. Use the "known" set to predict ratings for books that people have actually rated in the "unknown" set. Compare how rating-blind and rating-aware algorithms perform in predicting the ratings. I would do it, but I don't have the data.
I've seen a lot of people on a lot of sites ask for it, and I've seen some sites try to give it to them, and I've never seen people terribly satisfied. Which is to say, maybe don't hunt the boojum.
Also, I don't actually know very many really bookish people who are suffering from a shortage of things to read. I know a lot of less serious readers who are looking for recommendations, but like most of my friends I could stack the books I am meaning to get to soon and climb about up to the moon.
So that gets to a question about who your target audience is. Which may be a big part of deciding what you want to be. Unless you want to be all things to all people, which I'm pretty sure you don't have the resources for.
Strangely, nobody mentioned it so far.
Basically by paying a membership fee we get to keep the site add free, once logged in, and has enabled the site owners to find third party investment, rather than being sold outright, like Shelfari and GR. It also means that members have a lot more control over where and how their information and reviews are used. $25 is a small price to pay.
For me it is simply perfect!!! Everything in it is perfect!
I hope it will not change, or that it will change only accordingly to the same spirit, that is the highest respect for books and people.
While Google is free, the demise of Google Reader shows how free services are valued by a company (very little to not at all).
(I know I'm preaching to the choir here, it just gets my goat when people get all entitled about free stuff online, as if no one deserves to make any money by providing services we use every frickin' frackin' day.)
Amen! (Good to have you here, bunwat!)
I'm not sure how you managed to catalog 457 books without paying, Olga. (Import loophole?) But paid memberships keep LT advertising-free for its members and make it that much less likely that LT will be acquired by amazon or some other business.
I'm glad there's a price for full membership in LT. It changes a lot of things for the better here. Some of the "elitist" attitude of Thingamabrarians comes from the fact that we've made a purchase decision to use this site. And the value of a lifetime membership relative to the cost is ridiculously high.
Facebook costs far more than I am willing to pay.
I freely admit that I have an imperfect understanding of this issue, so I'm happy to be educated if it's other than what I've said.
That's true, but things like tags and recommendations which are used in LTfL come from LT too. It's aggregate data and doesn't feature your name/account but it's still user data being used.
We also don't have a choice about combining, or any of the other user-sourced data maintenance that goes on all the time. But we can feel better about doing these things for our own benefit when we've bought in. I do, anyhow.
If you go to any other members profile, it's on the right hand side under "Books you Share."
I have actually given up tagging books except in the most rudimentary way ("fiction," "nonfiction," &c) because I found the tag page so hard to navigate and without some kind of dropdown or autofill (which apparently Tim is opposed to?) it's almost impossible to weed out duplicates or similar phrasing. And I have over 8600 books here (actual books I own -- not "wishlist" or other filler) so navigating my library without tags is a real pain.
I find the tags page almost unusable and I've been here since about 2006. I really dislike the columnar layout, the way it goes across _and_ down, the live linking -- everything. I remember wayy back when, I could actually see all my tags in one long vertical line down the page. It was a lot easier to edit them that way. Now I've basically given up. I do think LT needs to work on making tags more user-friendly, somehow, even if it's not via a dropdown menu.
My browser does attempt to autofill tags for me, but it's a browser thing.
Just curious, though, why you use author names as tags when you can sort by author names anyway.
People keep saying this and it's frustrating to me. When I look at my tags page, the cleanest view I get is in three columns (I only want one) and across, which means the first row looks like this
1920s 1980s 2008 election
If I choose down instead, the first row looks like this
1920s graeme gibson norah ephron
There's no way for me to see all the tags in just one row and picking out typos is really had, even moreso because of the magnifying mouseover trick. I've been a member here a good long while and found the tag page so frustrating I pretty much just gave up on it. If there's a better way to view tags I'm just too dumb to find I'd be delighted to hear about it. I don't want to autofill from other peoples' tags, I'm not even that attached to an autofill for MY tags, I just want some better way to navigate my tags so I can actually use them.
Yeah, LibraryThing recs are just about as useless for me as Netflix recs and Amazon recs and GoodReads recs. I don't think I've ever found a recs engine that works for me, which isn't surprising, because I also like finding books through reviews. If a friend reviews a book I haven't heard about, or didn't think I'd like, that's worth a lot more to me than "you went to the trouble to enter a book on the Civil War so here are more books about the Civil War." There was a link going around about how more people than ever are choosing books based not on brick-and-mortar displays or newspaper reviews or online campaigns, but word of mouth. That kind of thing is really easy for me to find on GR, but a lot harder on LT.
Why do you only want one column though? Tags works well for me with 4 columns, reading across.
You are just expressing a preference at the moment and other people have other preferences.
Describe what you want to do and why it is hard for you at the moment.
Normalising "Post-apocalyptic" and "post apocalyptic" is very easy (at least for me). Just hover over the tag hit the edit link that appears and change the wording of one of the tags to the wording of the other. I usually get the first couple of letters right so they do appear very close to each other. Admittedly I don't have as many tags as you do but then I don't use author's names as tags.
(don't forget, Part III is waiting for you, just click on the link below:)
I must say that that's my least favorite part of the site so far (the across instead of down layout for the tag columns) - especially since the tag order is automatically done alphabetically. Reading the columns across instead of vertically when the order is supposed to be alphabetical drives me crazy. Granted, I managed to work around it by using numbers at the beginning of the tags so I could put things in the order I wanted; but man was that a pain. I'm not sure I'll ever be up to adding any new tags. I'll probably just make do with what I've already created. :o)
If the columns alphabetized vertically instead of across (abc down one column with the second column starting with d instead of a in the first column, b in the second column, c in the third column), I'd find them easier to use 'cause that's how my mind works with columns. It wants to read their contents vertically, not horizontally. So as things stand, I'd personally prefer one long column to several because while the list might be long, I could (probably) easily scroll to the section I was looking for.
Mine are alphabetized vertically. Yours can be too, if you click "down" in the center of the bar across the top of the tags page.
Other than to edit the tag names, I haven't played much with the tag page itself so that's good to know. Thanks for the info! :o)
But to be honest, that page doesn't bother me all that much since I don't spend much time staring at it. The optional tag area on my home page is what I was really thinking of. Those tags don't have the option to be alphabetized vertically - at least not one I could find. If you use more than one column there, you're stuck with them alphabetizing horizontally across however many columns you choose to use. Sorry for the confusion. :o(
(edited to add: I've just gone in and adjusted the settings on the tag page itself. Now they don't drive me so crazy when I do have to look at them. Thanks, everyone!)
Instructions on using Stylish: http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Stylish
I've also added it as a suggestion here:
presumably for use with tag mash. so you can select say
Asimov, Science Fiction,
> 214, 230
The reason I use author names for tags is so that I can group together books By the author with books About the author. I find this very useful.