Best Error Message Ever

February 23, 2008

While mucking around in LibraryThing this afternoon, there were some back end problems (I’m guessing). This error message made me laugh out loud:

Error: Rampaging elephant error. Hide the peanuts and try again later.

I hope it wasn’t something I did. I haven’t seen any elephants, but just in case, I hid the peanuts.  🙂 Somebody definitely has a sense of humor.

SantaThing – The Most Fun Ever

December 13, 2007

I was deeply intrigued when I read Tim Spalding’s post about LibraryThing’s SantaThing. As I so often do, I read the post, thought about participating and went on to do other things. However, I was on LibraryThing this morning and couldn’t resist signing up. The idea is pretty ingenious: those who want to participate pay $25 to sign up; LibraryThing selects each person’s Secret Santa; then people go to a web page to find out who they get to buy books for; LibraryThing employees actually buy the books and have them shipped to the participants. The Secret Santa page is open to all LibraryThingers, so that everyone can help by making suggestions. Of course, people can’t see their own page – so they do not know what suggestions might have been made or what items have been purchased.

All I can say is that this sounded like fun (ok, maybe in a geeky way – but I’m all about geekiness), and I am so glad that I decided to play along. I do have to say that picking out books for someone was not as easy as I thought it would be. Although the price to participate was $25, one could not spend more than $20.00 for two books. The $5.00 extra is to cover shipping. So, trying to find two books that were available on Amazon from the suggestions that the person I was buying for gave was difficult in itself. And then, I spent a good deal of time trying to get two books that came as close to $20.00 as possible. I mean, I want the person to get the most out of this as possible.

Well, I have made my selections for the person for whom I am playing Secret Santa. I really, really hope that I did a good job. I’m a little bit nervous. Of course, I don’t think there will ever be a way to find out if the person liked the books or not. So, I need not to worry about it. I tried my hardest – and the books were by authors that the person suggested.

Anyway, this was the most fun ever (ok, the most fun I’ve had all week). What a wonderful idea!! Happy Holidays! A big thanks to Tim Spalding and LibraryThing! I promise that I did this to have fun – and that I will indeed be pleasant about whatever books I receive from my Secret Santa.

LibraryThing for Libraries

May 14, 2007

Tim Spalding announced today that LibraryThing for Libraries has gone live at Danbury Library in Danbury, CT. I’ve been messing around with Danbury’s catalog this afternoon – and it is very, very cool! I am impressed with it. Personally, I love the similar books feature – and the other editions and translations. Tags are excellent – and I think that they are can make an important addition to the search and discovery process – but think that similar books could be invaluable from a research perspective. I can’t believe that most of us don’t already have this type of thing in our catalogs (ok, yes I can). As for the other editions and translations, we have this information already – but not in the actual record itself (usually at a browse screen). LibraryThing for Libraries helps to pull multiple editions and translations together in a much more user-friendly manner. The tag searching and retrieval can be a bit slow (as Spalding admits in the announcement), but I didn’t find it terribly slow – which I think bodes well for the future of the feature.

I do wish that it were easier to search for tags. Currently, one has to do a search, retrieve a record with tags and click on a tag in order to get the tag dialog box to open.

FYI, the Danbury Library has 56 books tagged “swashbuckling.” I could get lost (and almost did) playing with tags for hours!

A Look At Tagging

February 20, 2007

Ever wonder about tagging and how people use it? Well, take a look at Tim Spalding’s recent analysis – When tags work and when they don’t: Amazon and LibraryThing. Spalding writes: “Both LibraryThing and Amazon allow users to tag books. But with a tiny fraction of Amazon’s traffic, LibraryThing appears to have accumulated *ten times* as many book tags as Amazon—13 million tags on LibraryThing to about 1.3 million on Amazon.” This is interesting stuff. I can’t say that I am surprised by the results. I use Amazon constantly – to buy stuff, to check citations, to search inside the book, to read reviews, to check upcoming release dates for new titles, etc. I love Amazon. I make wish lists. I read other people’s lists. I do not, however, tag anything.

Now, I also use LibraryThing. I currently have about 1750 books in my catalog, and I have added tags to the majority of them. As one of the commenters (Jason Lefkowitz) on Spalding’s post puts it – “People WILL tag things if the tags are useful to THEM.” Tagging items in Amazon wouldn’t really do anything for me. If I’m interested in a title, I put it on some type of list. However, in my LibraryThing catalog, the tags have meaning to me. Tags, in other words, add value to my information. I don’t have any need to try and add value to Amazon’s information. In my catalog, I have about 526o tags (roughly 3.09 tags per book). I own mostly fiction books. The information that is important to me is character names – this is one way that I like to search through my books. I also put the time period of the work in a tag. Thus, I can sort my collection by the time period during which the story takes place. This may not make sense to others, but it is how I want to be able to search and sort my books.

What does all this mean for tagging in library catalogs? Will it be a useful concept for people? I’m not sure. I can see some applications where people might tag information about books that they used in their research – but only if they saw some value to themselves. One other area where tags have really taken off is in the PennTags project. PennTags is a really wonderful example of students using tags in some inventive ways. Here students create their own spaces, add items to it and tag their data. The key (again) is that people are tagging their own data. Information in a library catalog (the way it currently exists in most cases) does not belong to the patron. In Ann Arbor District Library’s catalog (or SOPAC), people have been adding tags. It is pretty interesting to go through the tags and see what people are adding. It is difficult to tell how popular the feature is. From a cursory glance, it doesn’t appear that too many titles have been tagged. Ultimately, I doubt that patrons will find tagging overly useful in a library catalog unless it fills some need.

In the mean time, Tim Spalding’s look at tagging is worth a read or two. He has some great ideas for making tagging work in ecommerce sites. I hadn’t given much thought to the impact of “opinon tagging.” Food for thought!

Making Progress With LibraryThing

December 27, 2006

One of the only things that I have spent any significant time doing this month is adding books to LibraryThing. I was reinspired after hearing Abby Blachly speak at Nelinet’s Annual Bibliographic Services Conference in November. I now have about 1600 books cataloged. Of course, one thing that I have noticed is that I get easily distracted. As I’m adding books, I feel compelled to re-read my favorites – or ones that I don’t really remember to well. I suppose this isn’t really a bad thing, but it means that cataloging books takes a lot longer than it needs to. On the plus side, I’m neatening up my collection of books which was previously strewn about in a rather haphazard manner. Hopefully, I can finish up my entire collection before school starts towards the end of January.

LibraryThing to Add Media

July 20, 2006

Given the tremendous popularity of LibraryThing, I really thought that I ought to check it out. It really is right up my alley – given that I have handwritten lists of books that I own. I hesitated about creating an account because I really didn’t need to get hooked on something else, but felt as if I needed to check it out while I was doing research for my paper on library catalogs. I, of course, created an account right before they started having some issues – and the system was a bit slow. When I finally got back to it (by which time it was working great), I definitely enjoyed the process of adding my books. I was incredibly disappointed when I tried to add my DVD collections and found out that I couldn’t. As such, I was THRILLED to read via that LibraryThing would be adding the ability to add movies and music later this summer. So, I guess I will just work on adding my books until then. Cool!!