tures they developed. I try to give, and developers take, a lot of freedom there. Chris, in particular, has been known to work for a week on
some new feature or bug fix which I didn’t ask him to work on, and,
indeed, for which he’s ditched what I gave him. Mostly he does good
there, but it can be annoying.
What new and exciting features can we expect in the near (and not-so-near) future? That would be telling.
We’ll get Facebook in a month or two. We have lots of fun plans.
I hope that we have the new widgets out by the time you read this.
LibraryThing looks like a good flagship for collaboration, data
sharing, and their mutual benefits: libraries share their data, and
you offer them recommendations and social data, e.g., tags. Your
social data would also be interesting to people researching social
networks, for instance. Do you share data with non-libraries? We
have a standard form for students studying social networks and etc.
We’ll give out most data under those terms. (The [Terms of Service]
even mentions we may do that.)
If you look at the API page, you’ll see we share a lot of our data,
most of it for free. We’ll be doing more there soon.
whatever. I want it to serve as an essential resource for information and
socialization for everyone in that peculiar demi-monde, linking up
every major player and party—readers, authors, publishers, agents,
new bookstores, used bookstores, book clubs, public libraries, academic libraries, athenaea, literary societies, etc.
Finally, and most importantly, what’s on your bookshelf? Ha. I’m listening to Philbrick’s Mayflower [ 2] on this trip. At home, my nightstand has Problem Solving 101 [ 3], What Have you Changed Your
Mind About [ 1], and two books on ancient history.
2. Philbrick, N. 2007.
1. Brockman, J. 2009. What Have You Changed Your Mind About?:
Today’s Leading Minds Rethink Everything. http://www.
3. Watanabe, K. 2009. Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart
What about Library Thing are you most proud of? What would you
say is the most important contribution of Library Thing today? I’m
very proud that, basically, I invented book-based social networking and
social cataloging. I proved that it was a good idea, and that people
would be interested. (Some early critics suggested there were only a
few hundred people who’d want to it.) I’m very proud that we’ve always
pushed the envelope. Common Knowledge, our Talk system etc. Tagging in general makes me happy. We’ve done so many groundbreak-ing things there—we come up again and again in the recent book on
the subject—tagmashes, tag combinations, tag-subject mixing, etc.
Library Thing proved that tagging would work for books—work like
Hell, I might add.
I’m also proud that Library Thing swims in the opposite direction
on the basic issue of intellect, respect, and integrity. We don’t require
e-mail for the privacy-sensitive. We don’t show little square photos for
user names—we use words. We take it for granted that people want to
edit their data, and to get it out again. We respect libraries. We enforce
a no-ad hominem rule. We run the site collaboratively as much as possible. We have no “community managers” (shiver). We talk openly
about money. We don’t have any advertising for members. We charge.
Much of this runs counter to contemporary wisdom. Shelfari and
Goodreads don’t allow you to edit your book data, and they only use
Amazon. (If you’re over 30, you have books Amazon doesn’t sell!)
They are less intellectual, more pushy in their virality—Shelfari
famously so. They were built to flip.
We’ve actually been hurt a lot by them. Stats are very wiggly, but
Goodreads is probably larger now—in sane metrics, not bogus ones.
But we’re still growing quite nicely, and getting deeper and more
interesting. If, in the future, the market settles down into the free one
that treats you like a child and the paid one that treats you with
respect, I’ll be fine with that.
What is your vision of the future for Library Thing? I want every
serious book person to use LibraryThing—every day, every week,
Anna Ritchie will graduate with her PhD in Information Retrieval
from the University of Cambridge in May 2009, having previously
received her Master of Philosophy in Computer Speech, Text and Internet Technology and BA (Hons.) in Computer Science there. She now
works full-time on stress testing her bookshelves.
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