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Give higher weight to exact title matches for Touchstones

Recommend Site Improvements

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Mar 31, 2015, 3:15pm Top

As the subject suggests.

If I recall correctly, Touchstones use the work search feature under the hood, and provides the results sorted by overall popularity of the work. This results in frequent mind-boggling results where the default result, which many users don't know how to change, doesn't actually match any of the words in the title, but connects because each of the words appears in some edition or another.

(Recent case in point: the first Touchstone suggestion for my new ER win, The New Wild, is "The Portrait of Dorian Gray". Which does admittedly contain the word "The"; one edition has "New" in the title, and a couple people have misspelled the author's name without the "e". That's all it takes to rocket this book with 22,000 copies to the top of the list.)

Touchstone searches, though, are different from title searches where people may be uncertain of the title or not have a particular title in mind; the user has a particular title in mind. A minimal change would be to do a phrase search rather than a words-search, so the Touchstone logic searches for, in this case, "The New Wild" - providing four results including the correct one. (The correct one doesn't show up at all in the existing version.)

Edited: Mar 31, 2015, 3:22pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Mar 31, 2015, 3:22pm Top

Sorry about that, accidental double-post.

Mar 31, 2015, 3:44pm Top

Please, please, please yes!

Edited: Mar 31, 2015, 4:38pm Top

I agree. It is really a hassle to look down long lists of very unsimilar titles to find the one you typed in right.

Mar 31, 2015, 5:15pm Top


Mar 31, 2015, 5:17pm Top

Yes, please.

Mar 31, 2015, 5:31pm Top

That said, I wish both touchstone and title searches could reduce the significance of subtitles (i.e., anything after a colon) when doing exact matches.

I'd like to see a search for "Blink" bring up the 14,846-member Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking before the 15-member "exact match" that doesn't have a subtitle.

Mar 31, 2015, 5:40pm Top

What lorax said!

Mar 31, 2015, 7:29pm Top

This would be nice.

Apr 2, 2015, 5:55am Top

Without lessening the need for this improvement, I would like to comment on how nice it is to have touchstones work! on books that I entered the first copy of even less than an hour ago! Not to have to force these is a big improvment! I'd better stop before I wear out the ! key.

Apr 2, 2015, 12:33pm Top

What >1 lorax: and >8 _Zoe_: said. Yes please

Plus what >11 MarthaJeanne: said.

Apr 2, 2015, 12:37pm Top

This would be a welcome enhancement. Sometimes what it comes up with is just baffling.

Apr 2, 2015, 3:16pm Top

I would welcome this also

Apr 2, 2015, 3:20pm Top


Apr 21, 2015, 2:05pm Top


(Maybe one of my RSIs eventually will get picked for the List. Here's hoping.)

May 4, 2015, 3:02pm Top

marking this one, makes perfect sense.
>16 lorax:, I've noted at least a handful of your suggestions, FWIW. You're not being ignored! :)

Jun 19, 2015, 4:38pm Top

okay, UPDATE: lorannen helped me prioritize the overall RSI list a couple of weeks ago, so the next step is to go over this list with Tim and the other developers to get a feel for what can happen and when. Since we've got a big feature being released in the next few weeks, that has taken the front seat and I'm looking to be able to make more progress on this afterwards! I'll try to get updates out to the RSI's that we know are either deferred, or not likely to happen for awhile (with as much explanation as possible), before I leave the country next Friday (just until July 5th). If you have questions about any specific RSI, you can always message me on my profile or email me at kristi@librarything.com (just don't abuse me :).


Jun 23, 2015, 4:33pm Top

my UPDATE for this RSI: this one's being deferred for now. It would be great to have (I definitely agree with it), but is lower priority on the list compared to other RSI's. So, not now, but keep bugging us in the future. :)

Jun 24, 2015, 8:38am Top

Thanks for the update. What's an appropriate timescale for bumping - six months, a year?

Jul 17, 2015, 3:46am Top

Another example:


The top entry is The Other Boleyn Girl a good book in its way, but noone wanting that would enter 'Tudors'

Wolf Hall

The Queen's Fool

The Boleyn Inheritance

The Constant Princess

The Virgin's Lover

and then finally a few that include Tudors in the work title.

Jul 17, 2015, 3:54am Top

Yeah. The problem is that "Tudor" is included in many of the editions that go into Tudors. I agree that we need to figure out how to make it POSSIBLE to find Tudors this way, but dial down the prominence.

Edited: Jul 17, 2015, 4:42am Top

And you have to index the other editions, because otherwise you wouldn't catch the translations.

La Otra Bolena

Edited: Jul 17, 2015, 4:51am Top

For autocombining you totally ignore anything after a colon, so that is recognized as an important boundary. Weighting anything before the colon much higher would help a lot. I don't know how other people do it, but when I'm touchstoning I usually cut and paste my title before any colon.

Edited: Jul 17, 2015, 5:46am Top

And this one is just ridiculous


BTW The work that points to could use some care by an OCD combiner with lots of spare time. But I didn't see Tamerlane in there.

Edited: Jul 17, 2015, 6:13am Top

>25 MarthaJeanne: Well, it's there, sort of :

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Ten Volumes in Five: Tamerlane Edition

Publishers, editions, physical informations, etc... all the random cruft that users or their sources include in their titles unfortunately get parsed even when not truly part of the title.

Jul 17, 2015, 7:24am Top

You looked harder than I did. That's one that needs separating.

OK, took that one out, but there are lots more 'Works', 'Complete works', ... that need to be separated. Still- seems very strange that one copy with the word after two colons should outweigh the books that have that as the main title.

Edited: Jul 17, 2015, 11:41am Top

It's all the complete poems and tales ? Why separate, unless I'm missing something ? Some of the complete works include something beside the poems and tales ?

Edit : According to the disambig it seems to be the case.

Edited: Jul 17, 2015, 12:42pm Top

Yes, he wrote things other than short stories and poems, for example essays.

Jul 27, 2015, 3:06pm Top

>20 lorax: I'm not sure. But, the way things can go around here I suppose closer to a year wouldn't be too bad for a bump? :)

Nov 4, 2015, 3:44pm Top

Another example:

I just finished reading The Sound Book by Trevor Cox. That's a link rather than a touchstone, because if I try to touchstone "The Sound Book" it is number *215*, that is not a typo, number two hundred and fifteen on the list, and I'm well past 150 before I get anything with either "Sound" or "Book" in the title. Everything else, from the Harry Potter books through "Where the Wild Things Are" through the John Grisham books, has an edition with "Sound" and one with "Book" in the title, but not both together.

This is ludicrous.

Nov 8, 2015, 12:19pm Top


Dec 22, 2015, 2:10am Top


Dec 22, 2015, 9:19am Top

Guys, I want this too, which is why I created the RSI, but kristilabrie said in post 30 that a year (from late July) would be an appropriate timescale for a bump. It's not that this is forgotten, it's that they made a deliberate decision not to do it.

Dec 22, 2015, 4:26pm Top

>34 lorax: I don't know, that sounds tongue in cheek to me, it can't hurt to make a bit more noise.

Dec 27, 2015, 9:44am Top

But Kristi also acknowledged that Tim is basically disregarding the List and continuing with his previous approach to development priorities, which suggests that patience isn't necessarily the best approach.

Dec 27, 2015, 6:56pm Top

That's it, I'm all out of patience!

What do we want? BETTER SEARCHES!

When do we want them? NOW!

Jan 7, 2016, 9:51pm Top


I'd settle for author names not coming up before book options are exhausted...

Feb 19, 2016, 10:22am Top

A note, since Tim is working on Touchstones, that both of my examples in this thread are still badly broken.

Apr 14, 2016, 10:02am Top

If this RSI is insufficient to address the touchstone issue, then please do something else about it. It's affecting almost everyone who uses touchstones, and it's been going on for years now.

Apr 19, 2016, 1:31am Top

Grrr! Chronicle in Stone by Ismail Kadare comes up with a 1st match of Little Women on the touchstone list. Can't see the logic there. I don't think it matters how far down the list the actual matching title is, Little Women is not a good match!

Apr 19, 2016, 1:37am Top

On another thread someone was looking for Arthur by Rhoda Levine. It isn't on the list. If you use Arthur, Levine you can find it, but it's still far down. Even though there is only one copy entered, this is not very helpful.

Apr 19, 2016, 3:22am Top

At the very least the majority of words should appear in the same edition.

Apr 19, 2016, 4:53am Top

I just did several that gave most ridiculous results. Horror: 100 Best Books as well as Horror Films give Frankenstein. There is zero HORROR found in the word Frankenstein!! I don't give a crap if Franky "is" horror this is the title not the content! Neither "Frankenstein" nor "or, The Modern Prometheus," its subtitle, contain "horror"!! Another one that I forget now but had to force, turned up nothing but like 6 freaking Harry Potter titles. WHAT?? I am so damn sick of touchstone ridiculousness. I swear, every time I go to make one now I get a wave of apprehension -- what idiotic thing with zero merit for turning up is the system going to feed me this time?? *sigh*

Edited: Apr 19, 2016, 7:26am Top

>41 klarusu: If you hover over the links created by the touchstones in your post, watch the link that shows up on the bottom of your screen. The work number that appears for both Chronicle in Stone and Little Women are coming up as identical, which suggests something is missing numbers or something in the code.

Apr 19, 2016, 8:04am Top

>45 gilroy: that's just how touchstones work. if you type Little Women it will stay as Little Women, no matter what the touchstone link says.

Apr 19, 2016, 8:56am Top

Yeah. If you type in that title and then other it to the correct work, it's a diff number. It's nothing wrong aside of touchstones sucking.

Edited: Apr 19, 2016, 1:26pm Top

>45 gilroy: Thanks for the suggestion but yep, what >46 JerryMmm: & >47 .Monkey.: said. I just left it pointing to Little Women to illustrate the point. I've had some other humdingers recently but I forgot to note them.

Edited: Jun 7, 2016, 10:27pm Top

Logic would suggest that if there is a title that is exactly what you typed in for the touchstone, that title should be the first thing to come up. For instance, In the Fall is the title of a novel by Jeffrey Lent. Why, then, does To Kill a Mockingbird appear, followed by Animal Farm, and Les Miserables, before In the Fall? Bird Cloud is a memoir written by Annie Proulx. Peter Pan and Leaves of Grass top the list when I seek the touchstone for that title. Jane Eyre gets me Pride and Prejudice. I'm not looking for a technical explanation of why this happens...I'm looking for any sort of reasonable justification for allowing it to work that way. Whatever the logarithms (if such they be) are doing, it seems perverse.

Jun 7, 2016, 9:21pm Top

>49 laytonwoman3rd: Ahhh, logic. See that's your problem right there.

Jun 7, 2016, 10:23pm Top

>50 bernsad: Well, I was afraid of that.

Jun 8, 2016, 10:41am Top

I'm totally in favor of giving higher weight to exact title matches in the touchstones. The popularity model gives crazy results (often starting with Harry Potter books), making it hard to find the right touchstone.

Many thanks to Lorax for starting this thread.

Jun 8, 2016, 10:43am Top

This is my 'if I could get one thing fixed and one thing only' wish. More ridiculous examples today. A Little Life is really NOT Twilight whatever the touchstone god believes ...

Jun 8, 2016, 10:49am Top

I think the initial touchstone is wrong for me about 7 times out of 10, since I'm usually referencing "unpopular" books. I've discovered lately that even veteran users may not be aware of this hazard, or how to fix touchstones that are inaccurate as a result. I expect that Talk abounds in wrong touchstones that have never been noticed by the users posting them.

Jun 8, 2016, 11:18am Top

>54 paradoxosalpha:

Or even wrong touchstones that are noticed! Why the poster doesn't just remove the touchstone rather than saying "Touchstone goes to the wrong book", I have no idea.

Jun 8, 2016, 11:25am Top

>55 lorax: LOL yes that one has always perplexed me.

Edited: Jun 8, 2016, 11:46am Top

>54 paradoxosalpha:, >55 lorax: Well, I do come across people who don't realize there is an option to change the automatic touchstone....maybe we need to mention that here again? OK, I will: Look to the right of your post, and if the title you refer to is not the title that shows under "Touchstones", click on "others" and you'll get a drop-down list that, most of the time, will include your proper title in it somewhere. Click on that, and LT will replace its default title with the one you really want in your post.

Jun 8, 2016, 11:47am Top

>57 laytonwoman3rd:

Yes, that's just what I mean. I don't find that UI to be so opaque, but evidently lots of people are oblivious to it.

Jun 8, 2016, 11:50am Top

Yes, please fix the way this works. I just added The Portrait by Iain Pears to another thread and hilariously, Lord of the Flies is the automatic touchstone. I mean, what relevance does that have at all? Ridiculous.

Jun 8, 2016, 11:52am Top

>57 laytonwoman3rd: Somehow I really don't think the people in this thread are the ones who need that explanation...

Jun 8, 2016, 11:54am Top

Also, touchstones used to work much better, so I wasn't really paying attention to them unless I knew there were other books with a similar title. Only when I saw this thread I noticed they go wrong so often now.

Jun 8, 2016, 11:58am Top

>60 .Monkey.: Perhaps, but you never know who may drop in.

Jun 8, 2016, 11:58am Top

Yeah, several mos ago some sort of change happened, I forget why, but it made things a helluva lot worse. I mean there were always issues with popular titles but in general it wasn't too awful, I don't think it messed up more than half the time, if that. Now, almost every time I use one I have to fix it. I HATE it. It's ridiculous. It shouldn't be this way and I don't want to bother using it anymore. Except they're useful. *sigh*

Jun 8, 2016, 12:36pm Top

>63 .Monkey.:

Well, it was bad enough in March 2015 for me to have started this thread then. Which reminds me we're coming up on the one-year mark from when it was deferred for a year.

Jun 8, 2016, 12:38pm Top

It always had issues, no doubt, but they got a lot worse.

Jun 8, 2016, 1:25pm Top

>64 lorax: So we have "another week" to go...

Jun 8, 2016, 1:28pm Top

I'd add my vote too. I post a weekly summary of new book reviews from the Guardian and it takes me ages to fix the touchstones for the post.

Jun 8, 2016, 2:03pm Top

>65 .Monkey.: I agree with Monkey, this has gotten noticeably much, much worse lately. And the unintentional hilarity it sometimes provokes is not really worth the annoyance of having to fix pretty much every touchstone.

Jun 8, 2016, 2:15pm Top

I'd almost prefer no touchstones to the ridiculousness of how they work now. A lot of people don't pay attention to them, so the threads are littered with incorrect ones. What's the point then?

Jun 9, 2016, 8:41am Top

Hate the touchstones, hate the searches. What the heck is going on? I'm about to get my ten year user badge and I agree things have gotten a lot worse in the last bit. I hate to say it, but lately I've been checking out GoodReads and the searches there are especially good.

I totally agree that exact matches should come first!

>55 lorax: >56 .Monkey.: >69 katiekrug: I think some people like to highlight the title of the book and use the touchstones to do that even if it does go to the wrong book.

Jun 9, 2016, 9:10am Top

I don't even use this feature all that often but I am totally expecting it to be wrong every time. Every! Time!

It took me quite a long time to learn that *Others* meant other books, as opposed to other authors. Duh. OK, I'm not a librarian. I'm not a bookstore employee or owner. I am a simple minded reader who enjoys keeping track of what I've read, what I've bought, and what is in my "Library". It seems like this should be an easily fixed problem. Why would it be linked to popularity? Readers are not famous for stampeding to read the most popular books all the time, are they?

Jun 9, 2016, 9:48am Top

>71 maggie1944:

The idea behind the popularity sort is probably that in the case of multiple matches, the one meant is statistically most likely to be the more common one. That works if all the matches are equally good; there are a number of books titled "Night Watch" or "The Night Watch", for instance, so the Touchstone feature needs to have some way of picking from among them.

The trouble is that the way it picks the matches that it then sorts by popularity is *terrible*.

Jun 9, 2016, 10:21am Top

>71 maggie1944: Readers are not famous for stampeding to read the most popular books all the time, are they?

We sort of are, whence the concept of "bestseller".

Incidentally, most touchstones I've done lately have been for authors, and those seem to work fine. Maybe the devs would do well to look at any differences in how work and author touchstones are calculated?

Jun 9, 2016, 10:21am Top

Probably no easy way for it to tell when some text string is a core part of the title, and when it's just the result of someone's wrong import or asinine idea on exactly what should go in the title field.

So you get all kinds of binding and publisher or imprint info, condition, bits of review, location, author names and other crap that is part of someone's title somewhere and can be potentially picked by the touchstone. And of course popular books are the more prone to *someone* having done it.

Jun 9, 2016, 11:22am Top

>73 AndreasJ:

"Bestseller" is now evidently a product genre, marketed to people who want to read (or merely display) "what everyone else is reading." But these are a minority of the total readers, and an even smaller minority of the kind of readers with an interest in cataloging their personal libraries.

Wikipedia observes: "In everyday use, the term bestseller is not usually associated with a specified level of sales, and may be used very loosely indeed in publishers' publicity."

Jun 9, 2016, 11:26am Top

Well, I did a site search for a title yesterday which had very common words. It produced a zillion hits. So I searched again with quotation marks around the title and immediately got useful results with titles that had that string of words in that order. The one I wanted was the third one.

Touchstones, of course are a different story.

Jun 9, 2016, 8:41pm Top

I'm not so concerned with searching....I expect a lot of things to show up in a search that are not exactly what I'm looking for. The point of a touchstone is to point to a particular work...not to a lot of possible things that are something like (or NOTHING LIKE) that particular work.

Jun 10, 2016, 6:52am Top

>75 paradoxosalpha:, indeed. When I think of "readers" I do have in mind my friends with whom I talk books in real life, and those with whom I write/read about books here. Neither of those two groups, in my experience, seem overly impressed with "best sellers" and actively avoid reading "Oprah's Book Club" marked books. Of course, there are exceptions.

Nonetheless, I do agree with most here who say touchstones do not consistently work well.

Jun 10, 2016, 7:38am Top

So this morning, I read in Talk that someone is starting to read a book called Descent. Since I had recently wishlisted Descent, I wondered if it was one of the several books with that title. Clicking the touchstone only assured me that the touchstone was wrong, because it linked to The Inferno.

Jun 10, 2016, 12:32pm Top

>79 paradoxosalpha:

Ha! That at least is obliquely connected, in a punny sort of way. I had Charles Bukowski's Pulp bring up in the first place... Pride and Prejudice. Although that too could be someone's idea of a joke, I suppose... :)

Jun 10, 2016, 4:20pm Top

We could start a game, to think of the most plausible connection between a work and its first touchstone.

Jun 10, 2016, 4:30pm Top

That would be fun, but can I ask that the game be elsewhere, to keep this as an actual request thread, so that if someone from staff ever actually DOES look at it they can see the point without reading the whole thing?

Jun 11, 2016, 8:00am Top

I'd like to add my name to the list of people requesting an improvement to the touchstones.

Jun 11, 2016, 9:49am Top

>81 wester: >82 lorax: Started the game on http://www.librarything.com/topic/224666

Come join me and have a laugh about this tragedy.

Jun 11, 2016, 10:24am Top

>80 LolaWalser:

It's because one of the editions of P&P is "Pride & Prejudice (Pulp! the Classics)"

Edited: Jun 12, 2016, 6:48am Top

But why, oh why, if there are two works for a title does the touchstone usually go to the one with fewer copies?

I admit, that makes it likely that I will notice and therefore combine the two.
The Duchess of Jermyn Street

had a 4 copy work by 'Felding' and a 58 copy work by 'Fielding'. The Felding version still comes up as the winner.

Jun 12, 2016, 6:19pm Top

Bird Cloud yields PETER PAN first.

Edited: Jun 13, 2016, 8:36am Top

Of the books nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist
The Glorious Heresies (works)
The Green Road ( Emma, by Jane Austen!)
A Little Life (Twilight! )
Ruby (Wuthering Heights)
The Improbability of Love (works)
The Portable Veblen (works)

Jun 13, 2016, 11:50am Top

>88 charl08: Yep, those are among the ones that I have found most frustrating in recent weeks.

Jun 15, 2016, 12:16pm Top

Jun 15, 2016, 1:05pm Top

>90 EBT1002: !! Middlemarch is one of the most popular classics. That's crazy.

Edited: Jun 16, 2016, 3:36pm Top

>91 jnwelch: Fished this book out of The Road : The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot/Rebecca Mead/ISBN 1847085164/Manual Entry

As I was saying earlier, as long as the text looked for is a match in even one copy, there's no frequency checking to ensure that's not an outlier.

Jun 16, 2016, 3:42pm Top

>92 Jarandel: Good for you for figuring it out. A system ripe for improvement.

Jun 16, 2016, 5:01pm Top

>92 Jarandel:

As I was saying earlier, as long as the text looked for is a match in even one copy, there's no frequency checking to ensure that's not an outlier.

Exactly. And it doesn't even check if all the words it's looking for are ever present in the same copy. (Which I pointed out in the first post, but that's 90+ posts and over a year ago, so it's worth mentioning again.)

Edited: Jul 11, 2016, 5:34pm Top

*stir, stir, stir*

Pax by Sara Pennypacker yields Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Reading Henry James by Louis Auchincloss, yields Pride and Prejudice

Jul 26, 2016, 10:40am Top

On July 27, 2015, lorannen said:

the way things can go around here I suppose closer to a year wouldn't be too bad for a bump? :)

So, after a year of adding examples and confirming that the problem still exists, consider this a:

Edited: Jul 26, 2016, 11:19am Top

Why do I get the feeling that this is heading towards:


Jul 26, 2016, 4:41pm Top

I still have

Jul 26, 2016, 6:13pm Top

Your wait may get a little

Be sure to bring a book with you, and maybe a

Jul 26, 2016, 6:56pm Top

Jul 26, 2016, 6:58pm Top

Aug 29, 2016, 11:44am Top

Plain old-fashioned text BUMP.

Aug 29, 2016, 4:31pm Top

Aug 29, 2016, 4:32pm Top

Is that a BUMP in the road?

Sep 3, 2016, 10:35pm Top

Alfred and Emily yields JANE EYRE!

Sep 3, 2016, 10:55pm Top

>106 laytonwoman3rd: There are 3 editions with Alfred in the title and 15 with Emily

Sep 3, 2016, 11:31pm Top

Touchstones have taken holiday, perhaps for the Labor Day weekend. In the thread https://www.librarything.com/topic/210054, post #100, I posted a list, and most Touchstones appeared correctly. Eleanor and Franklin came up as Treasure Island, and clicking on (other) roused a list of Harry Potter books. Same with The Known World. I don't remember what book came up as the Touchstone, but it wasn't correct. And again, clicking on (other) brought up the same damn Harry Potter book list.

Looking up the book # and endeavoring to "force" the issue, per the Touchstone FAQ, got me nowhere. The number itself showed as the Touchstone.

Sep 4, 2016, 8:29am Top

The Known World
Eleanor and Franklin

For the Developer's sake

Edited: Sep 5, 2016, 2:24pm Top

>107 lesmel: Can you expand on that a little? I don't know what you mean.

EDIT: Never mind...I think I've figured it out. So if anyone has entered the title Jane Eyre incorrectly by adding Emily Bronte's name in the title box, (in an omnibus edition with Wuthering Heights, maybe?) the popularity of Jane Eyre will override the correct title? Still puzzled by Alfred on this one, but I'll assume I'm on the right track anyway?

Sep 6, 2016, 1:11pm Top

>110 laytonwoman3rd: I'm inclined to think yes. If you look at the editions page and do a find for "Alfred" you will see:

Jane Eyre (Everyman's Library (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.))/Bronte, Charlotte/ISBN 0307700372
Jane Eyre (Everyman's Library (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.))/Bronte, Charlotte/ISBN 0307700372
Jane Eyre (Everyman's Library (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.))/Bronte, Charlotte/ISBN 0679405828

As for "Emily" you will see variations of:

Jane Eyre/Bronte, Emily
Jane Eyre Hardcover By Emily Bronte 1950/bronte, emily
Jane Eyre/Brontë, Emily/ISBN 0141040386
Jane Eyre (Konemann Classics)/Bronte, Emily/ISBN 3895082597

I don't know how much author names come into play in touchstones for titles. Touchstones are flakey automagical fairies to me.

Sep 6, 2016, 1:31pm Top

>111 lesmel: I like "flakey automagical fairies", as a descriptive, not as a fact. , I've been using LT for going on 11 years now, and the touchstones used to work SO much better than they do now. That's why this thing is so irksome.

Sep 6, 2016, 1:52pm Top

>112 laytonwoman3rd:

I'm not even sure that the decay in Touchstone performance is due to changes in how it works so much as more and more less-than-ideal (never say bad, never say bad) data creeping in to the titles. As more copies of the very popular works get added, more and more words start showing up in the title for single editions, so without either phrase searching or edition weighting these are going to be more likely to show up for any given Touchstone search.

Sep 6, 2016, 2:28pm Top

>113 lorax:

Yeah, I think that's what we're seeing.

Sep 6, 2016, 2:37pm Top

I wonder if there would be better results if it searched against Canonical Titles instead of merely the Title field? I don't know how this system works but the examples above suggest that some personal variant title entries are being consulted.


Sep 6, 2016, 3:10pm Top

>115 Keeline: Most works don't have canonical set, they don't need to, as the majority of titles don't include such extraneous/erroneous info and the proper one wins out.

Sep 6, 2016, 3:23pm Top

Only search the winningest title would probably be too easy and restrictive..

Sep 6, 2016, 3:37pm Top

>117 JerryMmm:

Right, for one thing that would rule out titles in translation, and would mean only one of the UK/American titles would work when they differ. There are a few possible fixes other than what I suggest in the thread title and the OP a year and a half ago, including only considering editions with more than some threshold number of copies or requiring all the words to appear in the same edition(s).

Sep 6, 2016, 6:42pm Top

>118 lorax:

The obvious threshold would be 200 copies, already established by LT as the "Too much love" threshold beyond which only LT staff (and those in the know) can combine works. See, e.g. http://www.librarything.com/topic/129366

Most of the intrusive works mentioned above - Emma, Pride and Prejudice, The Road, the Harry Potter books, Jane Eyre, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Twilight, Little Women, Frankenstein, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, Les Miserables, Peter Pan etc. - all already have many more than 200 copies.

Edited: Sep 12, 2016, 8:32pm Top

The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams gets the touchstone Robinson Crusoe.

Edited: Sep 19, 2016, 10:13pm Top

My local public library does title searches by following each letter of the title you type in and then searches in the orderof the letters, symbols, or spaces you type in. Articles don't count in the beginng (i.e. The search doesn't start with A or The or La or Le or Der etc. at the start of the title). So, LT should be able to the same thing.

Sep 22, 2016, 11:19am Top

Blood Games brings up A Storm of Swords... When I was trying for a Vampire Novel by Chloe Neill

Edited: Sep 22, 2016, 11:29am Top

Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole comes up as Harry Potter

Sep 22, 2016, 12:54pm Top

A lot of things come up as Harry Potter. >__<

Sep 23, 2016, 10:11am Top

>122 gilroy: One edition of A Storm of Swords is "A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold Part two: Book 3 of a Song of Ice and Fire" and of course the HBO show is Game of Thrones...

>123 charl08:

* One edition of HP & Sorcerer's Stone is "HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE - also known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone"

* One edition is "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition (Harry Potter, Book 1) Harry Potter is a magical boy, who goes to Hogwarts. Harry Potter has a strange suspicion that someone will steal something special from Hogwarts. Harry goes down to the depths of Hogwarts to investigate and finds the mischievous person. Read the book to find out who it is and what they want to steal. I liked this book because it is a magical world. I recommend it to whomever likes magic."

* One edition is "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Book 1/Excellent Book - I can see why kids enjoy it. It feels like it is written for children even though J.K. says that she didn't do that on purpose. Just look at the names of things - Slytherin has a Snake mascot and it's lead teacher is called Snape. If she"

There may be taboo for calling "bad data"....but I'm saying it's bad data. All three of those are clearly NOT titles of HP #1. Flakey automagical fairies are going to be trumped by inconsistent (BAD BAD BAD) data every single time. What is the point in having a touchstone if every error in data input makes the system exponentially worse.

Sep 23, 2016, 10:15am Top

>125 lesmel: Here I thought part of it was pulling information from other parts of the book like reviews. Had that happen too.

Sep 23, 2016, 10:50am Top

>125 lesmel:

The reason for not calling it "bad" is that people will get up in arms about Catalog Data Is Sacred and they can say that Moby Dick was written by Mark Twain, or put a review in the title field, if they damn well want to, which stopped attempts to get that sort of marking even back when there was still development taking place on LT itself. Since there's no way anything would happen anyway these days, we may as well call it what it is rather than tiptoeing around in the vain hopes that a sufficiently polite phrasing would aid in seeing something happen.

Sep 23, 2016, 11:21am Top

>127 lorax: I'm a lapsed English major and a librarian. I'm also known to be fairly blunt. It's bad data to put a review in a title field. We probably agree on this; and I'm not looking to light a torch or grab a pitchfork. I'm not going to hunt down users and ask them to change their titles or whatever...TOS and whatnot.

LT's stand on "catalog data is sacred" doesn't change the fact that authors or reviews in title fields is bad data. OCLC uses a master record for a reason. Even then, the OCLC database is littered with *gasps* bad data!

I do not believe catalog data is sacred. A title is a title is a title. An author is an author is an author. Emily Bronte didn't write Jane Eyre and anyone that catalogs Jane Eyre that way is...uninformed (or stupid, in my not humble opinion) -- same for saying Mark Twain wrote Moby Dick.

There are catalog constants. Title. Author. Publication info (yes, yes a title could be published multiple times). None of that a sacred just because you or I added it to the LT database. To say it is means LT as a whole is crippled and ineffective instead of a strong, effective tool. The sacred bits (again, my not humble opinion) are stuff like tags, reviews, ratings. Stuff that comes directly from the user/reader.

Not that I think my opinion is going to change anything.

Sep 23, 2016, 11:51am Top

>128 lesmel:

Were you around when Tim proposed what he was then calling the "ratty data flag"? That's the context I'm coming from here. It would have been a way for users to indicate that data in another users' catalog was not suitable for bubbling up to the work level. Reviews in the title field, flagrantly wrong authors, the sort of thing we're talking about here.

There was a small but very vocal minority that was absolutely furious at the very notion that their own sacred catalog data could in any way be designated as being inferior to anyone else's. As was so often the case on LT, that small but vocal minority was sufficient to completely stop any thought of developing such a feature. As a result, ever since then when suggesting any sort of "Not suitable for bubbling up to the work level" indication for book-level data, I've been extremely roundabout with my phrasing, never using "bad" or "ratty" or "flag" or the like. However, as I said, I don't think any further development in this area is going to take place anyway, so I may as well start being direct.

Sep 23, 2016, 12:02pm Top

Yes. But.

While some things are wrong, there are other aspects of the title about which there can be valid differences.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the sorcerer's stone

Whether or not to include ': a novel' in the title.

How to punctuate when there is a subtitle.

These are all valid differences in titles that people feel strongly about. I often edit my titles to reflect my personal preferences. So please do not change my title to match the most common version or the canonical title. (Not to mention that I may have read the German translation and not the English one.)

For what it's worth, I don't put reviews in the title field. Considering that titles are truncated for display purposes and auto combining purposes, it seems that search could also be told to only consider the first 10 or 15 words. I wouldn't want to totally ignore subtitles, as sometimes they are more memorable than the official main title.

Sep 23, 2016, 12:11pm Top

Does this have any effect on LTFL? Because I think at this point, the only features that will see any improvement are the ones that contribute to earning money.

Sep 23, 2016, 12:16pm Top

>130 MarthaJeanne:

I don't think any of us are talking about that level of difference, and at any rate it's a distraction from other solutions to the immediate problem at hand, which is FIXING TOUCHSTONES, which could be achieved in a number of ways that do not involve any judgment calls as to the quality of data.

Sep 23, 2016, 12:16pm Top

While many of the examples posted here and in other threads are highly amusing, I confess that in day to day use of the touchstone feature I've had little trouble getting the right books to show in recent months. It's a long time since I had to force a touchstone. So I do find myself wondering why others seem to have so much trouble - what are we doing differently?

Sep 23, 2016, 12:24pm Top

In the meantime I'm sure that the issue of some people getting an extra treasure hunt badge is going to get prompt attention.

Sep 23, 2016, 12:28pm Top

>133 AndreasJ:

I don't think I've had to force a touchstone (by using the work number) for at least a year, probably much longer. BUT even if I enter a title that matches the work title, it is very, very rarely the default touchstone selection. I always have to use the "(others)" link to get the book I want. And more hurried or less adept users are constantly creating false touchstones because they accept the defaults without checking them.

Sep 23, 2016, 12:43pm Top

>129 lorax: No I was not. Otherwise, I probably would have been screaming about master records and separation of content and display.

>130 MarthaJeanne: I will agree to disagree. My library science degree training me to enter data a particular way. Personal preference bedamned. Plus sentence case versus title case is cosmetic and shouldn't be controlled in the metadata. Like HTML (content) and CSS (display of content). And as >132 lorax: mentions, touchstones can be fixed without having a disagreement/fight over quality of data.

Sep 23, 2016, 2:16pm Top

>136 lesmel: Some of that is national preference. Just because US libraries prefer one way of doing things does not make other ways wrong.

Sep 23, 2016, 2:18pm Top

>128 lesmel: Nothing of substance to add, except that when I worked in a bookstore, a woman asked me for a copy of Great Expectations by David Copperfield. I handed her a copy of the novel by Charles Dickens without comment, and then was roundly berated for trying to give her the wrong book. And then told how terrible our bookstore was for not having it in stock. I did direct her to the B. Dalton's at the other end of the mall. I hope they had fun.

Sep 23, 2016, 2:42pm Top

>138 RidgewayGirl: I'm reminded of the story/joke about the woman who wanted a copy of The Red Ship that everyone was talking about. The clerk had difficulty finding it until realizing the customer meant The Rubiyat.

Sep 23, 2016, 3:51pm Top

Edited: Sep 24, 2016, 6:00pm Top

Weird things customers say in bookstores ( which doesn't come up as Harry Potter ;-)

Sep 25, 2016, 11:18am Top

After reading this whole thread:

Are Touchstones ever going to work as initially intended?

Edited: Sep 28, 2016, 4:15pm Top

>132 lorax:, >136 lesmel: Yes! Let's fix the touchstones. Today, I never did find the one for Ian McEwan's high profile new novel Nutshell. Stephen Hawking? Really?

Sep 27, 2016, 11:06am Top

>143 jnwelch: That one doesn't really surprise me since Hawking has a way more popular book (20x members) with "Nutshell" prominently in the title.

Sep 28, 2016, 1:20pm Top

People Die = Harry Potter. Really!?!?

Result of:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Book 4/I did not like that most of the book people are hating Harry - but overall - an excellent read. I liked how it came together in the end. BAD DATA


Harry Potter En Die Beker Vol Vuur/Rowling, J.K. Not unexpected considering the number of languages the book is translated into

Might as well go back to using GoodReads.

Sep 28, 2016, 1:37pm Top

Eventually, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will be the initial default target of every touchstone.

Sep 28, 2016, 2:16pm Top

>146 paradoxosalpha: Pretty much.

>145 lesmel: Yes, it's awful. However, I'm pretty sure touchstones aren't the primary function of LT. >.> The only thing that could make me even contemplate going back to GR would be the complete demise of LT ...and probably also every other book site out there.

Sep 28, 2016, 2:26pm Top

>147 .Monkey.: I don't interact in the GR groups...so, no real change there. Plus GR actually gives me EOY stats on my reading. I've been duplicating my reading and reviews from GR to LT; but it's not really worth it when the books are a pain to add (even with the import) to LT. Still, I like the social aspect here.

Sep 28, 2016, 2:31pm Top

I recently celebrated my tenth Thingaversary here, and it was literally only this January that I started duplicating my reading tracking on GR as well. For a long time I held out hope that LT would improve, but they aren't exactly making an effort to retain existing members at this point, much less attract new ones.

I do wonder when it will get so bad that it starts affecting their ability to provide data for LTFL. I think that's basically the only thing that will turn it around now, but I worry that once it gets to that point it will already be too late.

Sep 28, 2016, 2:38pm Top

The support situation here on LT, combined with the fact that I don't trust CK data at all has led me to build my own book registration system in MySQL and PHP. I am currently building v. 2 and have plans for an iOS app. The advantages are that it is my private system that really works like I want. And it is a very good opportunity to learn database design, programming, deployment, system management and automated testing. It has even helped me get a raise at work.
I have no hope the situation will improve here on LT, and am slowly adding less and less data here. The social aspect is pretty much the only reason, and the ability to (once or twice a year) share my collection with my (real world) family and friends. But v. 2 will also fix that aspect so I am not sure I will keep adding data when that goes live.

Edited: Sep 28, 2016, 2:46pm Top

>144 _Zoe_: No, if you take a look, it doesn't go to The Universe in a Nutshell. It goes to A Brief History of Time! The other is #2, and to me the surprise is the prominent new book by a prominent author was unfindable.

Sep 28, 2016, 3:13pm Top

>151 jnwelch:

LT doesn't know "prominent". It knows "how many copies so far", and McEwan's "Nutshell" still has fewer than 200 copies.

I've separated the omnibus edition of "Brief History of Time" / "The Universe in a Nutshell" that was causing your behavior, so it's not likely to be reproducible once the system catches up, but it will certainly still go to various other "...in a Nutshell" titles with more copies first.

Edited: Sep 28, 2016, 4:20pm Top

>152 lorax: Yup. Thanks!

P.S. I'm still a fan of the idea that "dead-on" title matches come first. That is, The New York Four would have that title at the top, instead of Pride and Prejudice followed by a bunch of others.

Oct 12, 2016, 4:26pm Top

Can anyone find the touchstone for Knut Hamsun's Mysteries? I unsuccessfully tried twice.

Oct 12, 2016, 4:28pm Top

knut hamsun's mysteries

Got it right away.

Edited: Oct 12, 2016, 4:33pm Top

Mysteries To make it look like this you need to force it.

What is actually in the brackets is
That is the work number followed by 2 colons, then the title.

Oct 12, 2016, 4:32pm Top

Mysterier works as well. (Using its Norwegian title)

Oct 12, 2016, 4:48pm Top

>155 MarthaJeanne: - >157 laytonwoman3rd: Thanks! Does that seem bizarre to you? Or putting it differently, isn't it bizarre that the touchstone doesn't turn up for the book's title Mysteries?

Oct 12, 2016, 4:54pm Top

>158 jnwelch: I've come to accept "bizarre" as the normal way of touchstones.

Oct 12, 2016, 5:01pm Top

>159 laytonwoman3rd: :-) Ha! Hard to argue with that, Linda.

Oct 12, 2016, 5:39pm Top

>158 jnwelch: The word mysteries is just too common in book titles and subtitles, never mind descriptions. I think that one will always be a problem. Which is one reason we have the ability to force touchstones.

Edited: Oct 12, 2016, 5:50pm Top

>161 MarthaJeanne: Well, giving exact Title matches a big boost would help.

Oct 13, 2016, 6:08am Top

>162 jjwilson61: - Yep another vote for that. If I want to touchstone a title 'Mysteries' because that's the entirety of the title, I'd really want to see all the books that are only titled 'Mysteries' on top of the list before any others that happen to feature the word mystery somewhere in some other field with lots of extra words around them.

I've no idea how easy this would be to code however.

Oct 13, 2016, 6:37am Top

>162 jjwilson61: This is my real annoyance. I just don't get why exact titles don't take precedence over everything. Fair enough, it may not be sensitive enough to fix it when I make a typo or don't quite get the title right but if I type in the exact title, that should be first on the list.

Oct 13, 2016, 10:42am Top

Oct 13, 2016, 11:17am Top

>165 jnwelch:

You're preaching to the choir here.

Oct 13, 2016, 11:36am Top

>166 lorax: I hope someone who can change things hears the choir and is moved by it!

Like reading_fox, I just don't know how hard the change would be to make.

Nov 5, 2016, 2:46pm Top

Just a bump for this, please -
I know the choir and all that, but I just tried to do touchstones for Philipp Meyer's The Son (default - fellowship of the ring) and had to wade through a ton to get to the right touchstone. Worse, when I tried a touchstone for Nora Roberts' The Collector (default Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone) - I scrolled through the entire list (most of which I expect were to "collector's editions") and didn't see Nora Roberts at all. (I've now forced it, but it is increasingly frustrating).

Nov 12, 2016, 3:05pm Top

>164 klarusu: "...if I type in the exact title, that should be first on the list." Yep.

Edited: Nov 12, 2016, 4:25pm Top

Earlier today I combined a single copy of Dragonsong listed as 'Dragonsong (Harper Hall Trilogy, Book 1) by McCaffrey, Anne Published by Aladdin 1st (first) edition (2003) Paperback' and no author with the main work. Guess what I see as the default touchstone.

Nov 12, 2016, 4:50pm Top

>170 MarthaJeanne:

Oh, no. I could imagine a variety of understandable reasons why this might be working badly. But this behavior doesn't conform to any of them.

Nov 16, 2016, 1:57pm Top

I think I'm going to bump this one every Bug-Whacking Wednesday until someone with the little brown L chimes in to tell me to defer it for another year. Then I'll back off to once a month. ;-)

Nov 16, 2016, 6:28pm Top

>172 lorax:

Yeah, when I click on any recent touchstone these days, I'm thinking it's most likely not going where the poster intended. I'm now forcing touchstones as often as not, and when I'm not I often have to scroll way down the list to find the work that I've entered by exact name match, below the assorted popular-but-irrelevant titles.

Nov 16, 2016, 9:41pm Top

>172 lorax: Do you think they're secretly making it WORSE just to spite us 'cause we're SO annoying?

Nov 17, 2016, 5:04pm Top

>172 lorax:
... Or post a link to this thread in the BWW threads.

Given that this appears to be a legacy code issue that will require a fundamental overhaul of Search, it'll probably be given the same treatment as this squashed bug. Not that that will prevent me from bumping and reminding, though.

Nov 18, 2016, 10:58am Top

>175 Petroglyph: Does that mean there's hope?

Nov 18, 2016, 1:26pm Top

Just popping by to say I hear you guys, and this is on my list of priorities. Unfortunately, it's not a likely candidate for Bug-Whacking Wednesdays, as it's not really a bug (though Touchstones are, indeed, buggy), and, as >175 Petroglyph: accurately pointed out, there's some deep legacy code involved here. It will take some time.

Nov 18, 2016, 1:43pm Top

Well, I got my brown-L comment, so I'll back off to once a month. Thanks, lorannen.

Nov 18, 2016, 1:52pm Top

>178 lorax: Anytime! And I'd say after the holiday season, mid-January, is a good time for me to start making noise at devs about this one.

Nov 18, 2016, 9:31pm Top

Two weeks months!

>177 lorannen:
Thanks for the update!

Nov 21, 2016, 12:38pm Top

>177 lorannen: Duly noted, and thank you for responding. I will keep dropping subtle hints, though.

Jan 10, 2017, 2:22pm Top

>179 lorannen: Bumping this because we're *almost* at mid-January ;-)

Jan 10, 2017, 2:29pm Top

If photo of edition of book is in the site, provide a direct link from photo putting that edition in library (instead of trying to find it on amazon.com or wherever).

Jan 10, 2017, 2:34pm Top

>183 jckieffer: If that's a site improvement recommendation, try putting it in it's own thread.

Jan 10, 2017, 2:55pm Top

>183 jckieffer: I'm not even 100% sure what they are trying to recommend...

Jan 10, 2017, 2:59pm Top

To get back on track after 183 (I think I know what they're asking, but will not explain here so as not to further participate in the derail):

Bump. Tomorrow's a bug-whacking day, and Jan 11 is a lot like mid-January in that respect.

Jan 10, 2017, 3:00pm Top

>185 gilroy: I think it's direct entry, not via Add Books ... either way, not a touchstone thing.

Jan 11, 2017, 6:13pm Top

I've been meaning to say something about how strange it is that the touchstones often bring up completely unrelated titles. I see I am not alone in experiencing this.

Latest example: "March, Book 3" brings up "Of Mice and Men" first, and then a few dozen other equally unlikely titles. I guess the books by Alcott are somewhat understandable, but "Clockwork Princess?" "Le Morte d'Arthur?" "Frankenstein?"

Jan 12, 2017, 9:45am Top

>188 Storeetllr:

Please read the thread, in particular the first post, to see an explanation of why random popular books show up like this.

Jan 12, 2017, 11:23am Top

I did. I still think something can and should be done about it. It wasn't always like this. When Touchstones first appeared (like magic), I don't recall there were such esoteric title lists one had to wade through. Anyway, I was just adding my voice to those calling for a fix. Sorry.

Jan 12, 2017, 11:34am Top

>190 Storeetllr:

Yes, of course we think something can be done about it, that's why this thread exists! I see a lot of people who have observed the behavior but don't know why it's happening, which is why I pointed back to the first post.

Jan 12, 2017, 11:54am Top

The behavior in >1 lorax: is causing ghost author touchstones, I think. Anyone noticed this? I think there's already a report of this. You can see the ghosting here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/245053. Notice Anne Frank, JK Rowling, and Jane Austen? None of those are actual touchstones in my topic; but they are artifacts from the current touchstones system....and BAD DATA. That's right. I said it. BAD DATA. *stomps back to her cave*

Jan 12, 2017, 4:55pm Top

>192 lesmel: LOL! Well said.

Jan 12, 2017, 5:52pm Top

>190 Storeetllr: Part of the problem is an artifact of success. When Touchstones were introduced, there was only a fraction of the number of works and editions that are on the site now.

Jan 12, 2017, 9:42pm Top

>194 PhaedraB:

That's only part of the issue, though. They've also changed how work search operates at least once since Touchstones were introduced, and may have also made non-publicized changes to the code that introduced this problem.

Jan 13, 2017, 7:04am Top

>1 lorax: But if I understand you, it's a problem that's far more annoying to me when I'm searching for a book in my own library--if I could do a proper search for a title of which I remember only one word or only the forename of the author it would be much faster than going through likely tags (which I might have to do to physically locate the book & discover its title anyway). As it is, if I search my own books with the one word I remember I'm often shown a dozen or more results, many of them so remotely relevant that I'd assumed they were derived from user tags.

Jan 13, 2017, 8:14am Top

>194 PhaedraB: It's also an artifact of their overall approach to bad data—trying to avoid it rather than deal with it—as exemplified by the removal of the green plus. Avoidance only works so long.

Jan 13, 2017, 10:45am Top

>196 bluepiano:

This has nothing to do with searching your own books. It's specific to Touchstones.

Jan 13, 2017, 11:17am Top

>196 bluepiano: Searching your own library is a whole different ballgame. If you want to search on just title or author, pick title/author from the drop-down list.

Jan 24, 2017, 4:50pm Top

Tomorrow's another Wednesday, and it's still sort of mid-January. So,


Feb 8, 2017, 1:15am Top


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