Monday, January 29, 2007

Oh! You LibraryThing!

Been goofing around with LibraryThing, which is a nerdy delight. Basically it allows you to enter all of your books and keep an online library.

Once you get all your crap in there, though, it can also make recommendations based on the books you have, scanning other folks' libraries with similar tastes to tell you what you might be missing. They have an interesting feature called an "Unsuggester," which tells you which book you are least likely to own based on one you have.

So, yeah, basically, it's mostly a colossal waste of time. It'll generate little random things like the one I put in the sidebar. Most likely each of you is seeing a totally different collection of book covers. Imagine!

So I've put in 300 or so of the books nearest my desk, using a "CueCat" bar-code scanner I ordered for this task, which adds the books automatically (when it recognizes the book). It seems to have some trouble getting the correct edition cover in there, but there's a ton of user-supplied artwork you can use to get it right.

Anyway, I thought some of you might find this interesting enough to check out. It is possible that this is merely a side effect of how tired I am right now.


Anonymous said...

It's interesting how chronology can affect one's thinking. Had this been the first post I read this morning I would have chuckled and moved on but I had already read a rather optimistic one about the joy of techs and attached one of my cynical rejoinders.

Having software tell us what to read (for many people it will come down to that) is a worrying thought.

You perhaps know I used to work in a public library. In that library every Christmas they wrap up a lot of books, chosen at random, in Christmas paper. Borrowers select from these, not knowing what they are and thus end up reading something they would never deliberately have chosen. Comments they have made afterwards show this experience to be eye-opening.

I think your LibraryThing should at least have a built-in randomizer so that it occasionally suggests a title outrageously out of sync with the owner's normal choice in reading.

Email SilverTiger

Unknown said...

It sounds exactly like the type of thing I would love to spend time on....instead of writing which I must do. Maybe if I reach my word count goal for today I will have fun and play with it.

You didn't drop by the coffee on Friday????

The Periodic Englishman said...

Oh my God, Maht. It is a thing of wonder and pointless beauty. I'm not sure if it is possible to calculate in advance how much time I will waste on this exactly - but the best estimate is lots.

I need an Unsuggester for other aspects of my life - I think everyone probably does. You could type in your criminal record and see what crimes you are least likely to commit based on your previous form. Whether or not you then choose to commit these crimes, of course, is a private matter. But it would certainly help to keep Unsuggester on his toes if you did.

Good to see you. Now get to work, goddammit.

Kind regards etc....

The Periodic Englishman said...

LibraryThing is God, to be sure. But I worry that it might be misused by punters trying to make themselves seem better read than they actually are. LibraryThing is not a dating site - as they are at pains to point out - but LibraryThing may very well find itself being used as such by less principled members. LibraryThing should be careful about that.


Unknown said...

There are people in white coats who can help with this sort of thing.

Pants said...

I really couldn't do it. I get so much pleasure out of buying and borrowing books I already own and have previously read. There's no sensation quite like getting three quarters of the way through a book and going... hang on a minute, this seems very familiar...

The Moon Topples said...

SilverT: I look at the suggestions much the same as the ones I get from Amazon. A lot of times it clues me in to a book I didn't know was out yet by a writer I like, or generates enough curiosity to make me try something out, but mostly it's just a harmless diversion. And the Unsuggester seems to do the "out of synch" thing you've suggested, in that no book is really the opposite of another. And their assumption that liking one author is a guarantee of liking or disliking another is of course flawed. People are way more complicated than that.

Liz: Thanks for the reminder that I'm writing a novel as well. So much of the work on it I've accomplished lately has been internal rather than on the page. Sorry I missed Friday. I just spaced it completely.

PE(1): It would also make it more difficult to develop a profile of your likely behavior by law enforcement officials.

PE(2): Seems a little weird to lie about your reading on a web site, but I expect you're right. I myself will be unlikely to add the John Grishams I have read on airplanes. Especially as they are "Unsuggested" for some of my more treasured books. Also: thanks for the kiss, but the Moon Topples is also not a dating site. I hope you understand.

Minx: Really? What sort of people? Are they fancily-dressed librarians?

TSP: When I get my whole collection up there, you'll be able to see how many times I have bought some of the books I have. I think I have every Vonnegut at least twice, some of them because they looked old, and some because I didn't have one handy when I wanted one. Currently, I have one of his books in there 3 times, and I haven't even gotten to the paperbacks yet.

There's supposed to be a way to swap books with other members, which I am eager to try out one of these days. Certainly might save me some money.

Unknown said...

No. Dentists. THey will drill some sense into you vis your root canal!

Librarians are notoriously bad dressers, no white coats in amongst all those grey skirts and flat brown shoes. Perhaps Librarything could Unsuggest the type of clothing that they might like to buy and make a list of all the ones that they have bought three or four times!