Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

LibraryThing and AquaBrowser My Discoveries

AquaBrowser, which makes one of the few really interesting online library catalogs, has teamed up with us to offer LibraryThing tags and recommendations within AquabBrowser.

The product is called My Discoveries. Basically, it gives AquaBrowser a series of desirable social features, like tagging, list-making, ratings and reviews—and not in some half-assed way either. LibraryThing comes in as a way to kick off the tag data (a 21-million-tags kick) and to add recommendations to it. My Discovery customers who choose to go with LibraryThing data will be able to see both LibraryThing’s as well as their own patron’s efforts.

Putting tags and recommendations in AquaBrowser is a natural step. LibraryThing for Libraries is showing what LibraryThing can do to a library catalog and more generally the importance of having large amounts of data to help “social” features reach their full potential. But some sort of LibraryThing-AquaBrowser project has been written in the stars for a while now. Writing up this blog post I did some blog searching around LibraryThing and Aquabrowser. Apparently we should have hooked up long ago—the idea is positively rampant on the biblio-blogosphere. As NeoArch puts it:

“What would happen if we put traditional cataloging data, LibraryThing, and a highly visual OPAC in a blender?* Probably something special. It’s just my opinion, but I think if both types of data could be incorporated and added to an OPAC with a powerful interactive visual interface, like AquaBrowser, we would see a fopac [folksonomic OPAC] that every patron could fall in love with.”

We finally met up at ALA in Washington, DC. The core team is whip-smart, and as a relatively small company they have a development culture not unlike our own.** High on my list of virtues, they have a larger sense of what they’re doing. The co-founder and the Marketing director put it in a book, Risen: Why Libraries are Here to Stay. I don’t agree with all of it, but the basic point is dead-right, that innovative and user-centered technology from libraries can avert everyone’s worst-case scenario, the “fading out” of the library. We think projects like this might play some small role here—and that would be something. Also, I’m dying to take a “business trip” to their offices in Amsterdam.***

Here’s their press release.

Lastly, we should be sure to say that LibraryThing for Libraries still very much in play. LTFL is designed for all library catalogs, not just one. We have a number of planned improvements, and a frankly absurd number of customers waiting to try it out. (We’re hiring someone to take it on full time in August.) But working directly with AquaBrowser is going to give their customers what’s good about LTFL with perfect back-end integration and much more baked into the software from the start.

We’d be only to glad to partner with or work more closely with other vendors. This is clearly the future, and everybody’s going to get there eventually.

*We definitely need a LibraryThing edition of Will it blend?
**I suspect they do test, however. AquaBrowser is headquartered in Amsterdam. It’s something of a happy coincidence that yesterday was LibraryThing’s big push into Dutch-language books. The effort was a coincidence, but two of their top people have generously offered to scout out some potential sources.
***I’ve been there four or five times on the way to Turkey—KLM has great lay-overs. And my brother, best friend and I stopped there on the way to my bachelor party in, um, Lithuania (desperately random on the part of my brother). But I’ve basically only done the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House and walked around till I was lost. Now that we’re tying in to all this Dutch data, and we have work to do with AquaBrowser, a longer visit is surely necessary! Now, what accounting category does hash fall under—”office supplies”?

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  1. Matthew says:

    My issue with AquaBrowser is that every time I rate a book/movie/cd, my ratings are then stuck in no-man’s land. No one looks at ratings in AB, because they seemingly aren’t exported to LibraryThing at all, yet the user is forced to look at the ratings of LT users on AB. What sense does that make?

    I want to be able to export my AquaBrowser ratings to a usable site, like Amazon – something I can actually get to via an app, for instance.