Archive for September, 2006

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Librarians and the CIA

David Weinberger (Small Pieces Losely Joined) has an interesting blog post on a recent stint as consultant to the CIA on social software. It turns out David and six other experts* were called in to engage some 50-odd CIA analysts about wikis, blogs, tags and “linking linking linking.”

“This was a totally fascinating set of sessions. The CIA folks there included visionaries (e.g., Calvin Andrus), internal bloggers, the people behind Intellipedia (an in-house wikipedia), folks from the daily in-house newspaper, and some managers not yet sold on the idea of blogs and wikis and tags. … The people we met with are serious about understanding the opportunities, experimenting, piloting, and evangelizing.”

First thought: The CIA has an in-house Wikipedia!?

Second thought: When CIA analysts—a process-oriented, authority- and expertise-driven profession if ever there was one—get serious about social software, isn’t it time for mainstream librarians to get interested?

And the water-boarding? Okay, maybe librarians should avoid following everything the CIA does.

*My invitation lost in the mail, I’m sure.

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Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Library Camp East

Tim gets points for blogging his trip to Denver before he’s even home, while I’ve been back from Library Camp East for two days now. Better late than never? I had a great time in Darien (which, by the way, is a looong drive from Boston). Don’t worry, I wasn’t neglecting LT while I was gone – you’ll notice the computer on my lap in this somewhat blurry picture (play Where’s Abby!)…

John Blyberg (winner of Talis’s mashup contest!) talked about making library content available in outside the catalog, and showed off PatREST, Casey Bisson talked about OPACs, and demoed his WPopac. I got to meet people I’ve had conversations with, but never met in person, like Dan Chudnov of Library Geeks fame (who talked about OpenURL and COinS), and Jessamyn West (who’s a LibraryThing Author to boot!). Oh, and Sharon, I promise, I can help you find your old LT user name. I’m a great detective. Lichen blogged all day, and lest I forget anything, there’s a good summary of the blog coverage at Life as I Know It.

All in all, it was a great mix of people, and well worth the drive. The only downside was the moment was in my car, halfway home, getting off the phone with Tim (did you know you’re not supposed to talk on a hand held cell phone while driving in CT?), when I realized that I ran out without getting my mug. And it used Blyberg’s catalog card generator! I’ll have to settle for pining for it. Sigh.

UPDATE: Alan Gray, the head of technology at the Darien Public Library, and organizer of LCE06, is mailing me a mug! Because, as he says, they are “berserk about customer service.” How great is that?? Now I can stop pining and get back to work.

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Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Presenting to the TLC CARL Users’ Group

I flew out to Denver for a few hours, to present to the The Library Corporation‘s annual CARL Users’ Group. TLC and LibraryThing haven’t inked any deals, but TLC’s customers, like the customers of other library ILS and OPAC systems, are hearing a lot about “Library 2.0,” and the ideas around it–tags, user generated content, FRBRization, and so forth. I was glad to fly out and do the LibraryThing dog-and-pony show. The site went down in the middle of my presentation, but it didn’t turn out TOO bad. I hate demoing products, but love talking about the “issues” of LibraryThing. It reminds me of being a graduate student instructor. I wish I could demo LibraryThing on a blackboard, with chalk.

For the next ten days, Abby and I will be hopping between speaking events. Next up, we’re at Tufts for “The Dawn of the Embedded Library: Integrating Library Services into People’s Trusted Networks” (thrown by NEASIS&T). Then I’m off to Germany for the Frankfurt Book Fair. But don’t worry, we’re working on features night and day. To get back to Portland, I somehow lucked into a 12-hour overnight layover in LaGuardia. Nothing to do for twelve hours but drink coffee and program!

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Sunday, September 17th, 2006

Alert the New York Times: Zebo falling like a stone

Today’s New York Times covers, “The World’s Largest Repository of What People Own.” Zebo is not a competitor, and I wish them well. But somebody needs to hold the NYT’s coverage to a higher standard.

Here is Zebo’s Alexa traffic chart, as of today.

Was the article titled “Zebo Falls like a Stone” or “Social Shopping Site Fails to Keep Users”? No, it was a glowing and hopeful profile—a site that’s going somewhere, not the red-stomached belly-flop it really is.

The Times cites the founder that “four million people” have joined since January. Check the blogosphere. Google Blog Search knows of only 47 bloggers linking to the site, compared with 4,785 for LibraryThing, a site with 2% of Zebo’s stated users. Is it possible people who join LibraryThing are 5,000 times more likely to blog about it? Did they discover the perfect user repellent?

I love the New York Times. I get it nearly every day, and read it voraciously. The LibraryThing office is literally strewn with old copies. I can’t imagine a world without it. The Circuits sections is, even now, one of most important ways I learn about new trends in Technology. But this article—and one about swap site Zunafish earlier—have me stumped. How do they come about? Can there be any explanation other than good PR and lazy reporters? Besides Alexa and Google Blog Search, there’s Technorati, Feedster, Media Metrix, (14 people to LibraryThing’s 4,843!) and on and on. A check on any of those should would have thrown the story in a very different light.

It should be hard to spin on the web. If you product isn’t working online, it should be very hard to hide it. Even from the New York Times.

PS: LibraryThing’s never been covered by the Times. I rely on my still substantial trust in their journalistic ethics not to hold this blog post against me.

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Monday, September 11th, 2006

Put LibraryThing in your OPAC: Volunteers?

The pitch: Do you manage a library OPAC? Do you want to see what LibraryThing data would look like in it? I don’t want your time or effort. All I need is your permission to query your site from mine–with very respectful hit-throttling. Just don’t ban my IP and I’ll show you something different.

I’m particularly interested in Innovative Interfaces Millennium OPACs.

The backstory: A number of libraries have talked about or tried to put LibraryThing in their OPACs. One I was working with was going to put LibraryThing recommendations on book detail pages, but found it hard to bolt the two together from their side. LibraryThing provided APIs to its data, but the OPAC couldn’t handle the other side. (To remove recommended books not in the library they had run each book against a screen-scrape of their own catalog, which proved much too slow.) It was time to try it from the other side.

What I’ve been doing: I’ve been working on a LibraryThing/II mashup, hosted on LibraryThing and for experimental purposes only. The test screen-scraped the OPAC, added in relevant LibraryThing data–tags, recommendations, reviews, ratings, covers–and returned it. The test was page-by-page, so it generated no more traffic than if I were browsing around the OPAC by hand. But my IP got blocked anyway, presumably automatically.

Although I make no apologies for hitting a library website a hundred times, if I blogged about the effort, and Lib2.0 people visited, it might well generate a small spike in traffic. So, I’m looking for permission, or at least a casual promise to look the other way. You don’t need to sign anything, and you can deep-six the effort any time you like.


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Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

How to integrate with LibraryThing

The other half of the mashup!

As detailed on the main blog, LibraryThing is now integrating with swap sites.

Any swap site can do it, if they follow these simple steps. These are ideals, and negotiable. Just drop Tim a line and let’s talk.

  1. Provide feeds for books available and books wanted. For format see under all_inventory.txt and all_wishlist.txt. Provide ISBNs where you can, ASINs where necessary. Provide only one entry per ISBN, taking care not to have both upper and lower-case versions. The sort order is not important.
  2. Provide model URLs for the detail page of a book, getting a book and giving a book. (See note on “works” below.) Getting and giving should route a NEW user through sign-up before returning them to their chosen page.
  3. Provide a logo no larger than 250×50.
  4. Allow users to add received books to LibraryThing, using
  5. Provide a link to LibraryThing on your book detail page. Use

On works: LibraryThing doesn’t actually go by ISBN. It goes by “works.” Works are collections of ISBNs, mostly combined by users. So, Harry Potter in the UK paperback is the same “work” as Harry Potter in the US hardcover and even a Finnish translation of Harry Potter. So, when LibraryThing reads your feed it will interpret it that way. This means that, ideally, when making URLs on your site—LibraryThing’s book detail link, and certainly its give and get book links—you should be able to accept a NUMBER of ISBNs corresponding to all the ISBNs in a LibraryThing “work.” Ideally, these should be separated by commas.
If you want to use LibraryThing’s concept of work—an extremely powerful thing–you can use LibraryThing’s thingISBN service. Unfortunately, this is non-commercial use only, so you need to talk to Tim about it.

That’s it!

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Friday, September 1st, 2006

Podcast: Too much Tim and Abby

Want 1 hour and 39 minutes of Tim and Abby* rambling about LibraryThing? You know you do.

Daniel Chudnov’s Library Geeks podcast interviewed me and Abby. Some of it is pretty interesting stuff—the time allows us to get into some of the weeds. We do a fair amount on tags, privacy, open source and classification, etc.

Chudnov’s style is relaxed and intellectual. I have no idea why his podcasts always close with personality question—eg., what is your favorite swear word?—but it was fun doing.

Check it out:

*Actually, I do much of the rambling, and don’t let Abby talk.

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