To cope with some serious anxiety while waiting for my spouse to come back from an interview and waiting to find out whether we’re getting the apartment we want, I added some stuff to this site. There’s a del.icio.us feed in the blog sidebar, and on my main page I’ve added my promised pre-print (come on, you know you want to read about e-journal cataloging), plus a del.icio.us link and a LibraryThing link.
Library Journal interviewed Tim Spalding, creator of LibraryThing, for the January 15th edition. The interview includes Tim’s explanation of how tag clouds work. Tim talks about the relative size and bold-ness of the tags and how the software figures out what to display in very non-technical terms. It’s really interesting. He also tells about LT plans for the next few months.
I finally started cataloging my books on LibraryThing over the holiday break. Two things struck me immediately.
1. Library Thing is better than any other website I have ever used. Why?
The sign-up process is identical to the sign-in process! What a concept! Reason enough to upgrade to a paid account and support them! No e-mail address, no birthday, real name, state of residence, areas of interest, name of pet, or favorite color! I’m way over my personal quota for exclamation points. The only hitch in the sign-up proceedings was me pausing to read the text several times and thinking, “yeah, right, I wonder what will happen once I click submit.”
Of course, once you have an account, you can provide more information, including an e-mail address, which, as LT points out, may be useful if you forget your password.
2. On a more sobering note, there is no comparison between the search results for the two most prominent data sources in LibraryThing, Amazon and LC. Search for 1984 and 8 of the first 10 Amazon results are for the book by George Orwell (the other two are for Cliffs and Spark Notes). Even after viewing complete information for the first 10 LC results, I couldn’t always figure out why the item made the list. There was nothing by George Orwell on the first page. At the other end of the spectrum, a search on “lear nonsense” (without the quotes) brings up a relevant but solitary result in the LC catalog, while Amazon’s first 10 results are all–surprise!–Edward Lear’s nonsense poems and drawings. Guess which source I try first?
I’m fascinated by LibraryThing’s new UnSuggester, unveiled Sunday along with their “real” recommender system. UnSuggester gives you opposites instead of similar titles.
For example, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky overlaps least with Daughters of the Moon by Lynne Ewing. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins overlaps least with Wild at Heart: Discovering the Passionate Soul of a Man by John Eldredge.
It could make an interesting collection development tool–or at least a fun way to expand your horizons a bit, even if you don’t read the opposites.
You can read more about UnSuggester and BookSuggester (the actual recommender system) at the LibraryThing Blog. And you can try them out for yourself even if you don’t have a LibraryThing account.