LITA 2008: What is "Social Cataloging" and Why Should You Care?

“Having games in the library strikes me as being like having bocce in the frat house.”

Speaker: Tim Spalding, Founder of LibraryThing

“I have no practical advice for you, but I have inspiration and screen shots.” Such as, images from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and book pile photo submissions.

Social cataloging does not need to be defined. LibraryThing is a good example of social cataloging, but it’s not the only resource out there like that. (LibraryThing is now larger than the Library of Congress.) Good Reads focuses more on the social aspects, and Shelfari is being revived by Amazon. There are other sites like CiteULike and Last.fm that do social cataloging of things other than books.

Social cataloging explores the socialization. LibraryThing embraces the social and the digital because there is no physical aspect (except for what you have in your own collection).

Social cataloging ladder:

  • personal cataloging – your stuff
  • exhibitionism, voyeurism – about you and your stuff
  • self expression – book pile photos, reviews
  • implicit social cataloging – tag clouds on books that incorporate data from all owners, recommendations, connect with other owners of more obscure books
  • social networking – “friends” lists, users who share your books, groups
  • sharing – book covers of different editions, author photos
  • explicit social cataloging – work-level records (any title you would agree on at a cocktail party) for both books and authors, series data
  • collaborative cataloging – building the catalogs of famous dead people, developing an open-source alternative to Dewey

Regarding why Spalding felt it necessary to pull data from libraries and not just Amazon, he says, “Once you are over the age of 30 and you are not a Philistine, you have books that Amazon is not currently selling.”

Interesting factoid about how things are tagged on LibraryThing: LGBT and GLBT tags have two completely different lists of books.

Traditional cataloging is based on the physical form of cataloging with cards. It was too difficult to change subjects or to add weight to particular subjects because you couldn’t do that with physical cards. We need to get away from this now that we have all the flexibility of digital cataloging. Digital cataloging is social cataloging.

LibraryThing users are doing about 1,000 work combinations per day! Voluntarily! Experts on book topics are the ones pulling the data together, not experts on cataloging.

LibraryThing members figured out what books are on Dr. Horrible’s shelf based on a fuzzy still from the video. And then the guy who lives in the apartment where it was filmed corrected the editions listed.

There are many non-librarians who are passionate about books and classification. People care about libraries and library data.

On the other hand, we suck. Our catalogs are fundamentally not open to the web because our pages are often session-specific and not friendly to index spiders. Worldcat.org is getting fewer visitors, whereas Dogster.com is getting more.

Library 2.0 is in danger. Libraries are concentrating on what they can do, not what they can do best. We don’t need to have blogs or pages on Facebook. “Having games in the library strikes me as being like having bocce in the frat house.”

Do not pay anyone for Library 2.0 stuff. Do it yourself. OCLC is not yourself.

Or, pay Spalding for his 2.0 enhancements (LibraryThing for Libraries).

Social cataloging is about the catalog, about what you can do right now, about passion, and about giving (not taking).

thing 11: LibraryThing

I have had a LibraryThing account since mid-October 2005. Most of my collection is in there and tagged, and I’ve even started keeping books in my catalog that I no longer own (appropriately tagged, of course), just so I can keep a record of what I have had at some point.

If you look on my blog, you’ll see that I am using the LibraryThing widget to display a random book from my catalog. This changes every time the page loads, and sometimes I am surprised to see what is there. As I’ve noted several times in the past, I have more books in my house that I have not read than those which I have read.

If you’re new to LibraryThing and you have a large collection of books that are new enough to have barcodes printed on them, I recommend you purchase a CueCat scanner. It will speed up the process of getting everything in, and then you can take more time to tag, make notes, or do whatever else you may want to do to tweak your library to suit your needs.

What I have not done yet is to make use of the Recommendations, mostly because of the aforementioned over-abundance of reading material in my possession. Also, I’ve already read many of the books listed or they are already on my wishlists. Eventually, I plan to import my book wishlists into LibraryThing. I am doing that with my music collection on RateYourMusic, and I can see the value of having all that together in one place.

quechup? no, thanks.

New social networking site gives everyone the how-to for bad PR.

Last week, I got an invitation to join Quechup, a new social networking site, from someone I’m pretty sure doesn’t want to network with me. Unfortunately, this person uses Gmail, which adds all new email addresses to the contacts list, whether you want it to or not. Since this person had emailed me in the past, my email address was still in their contacts list.

The problem with Quechup is that during the account creation process for new users, they are asked to give permission for Quechup to view their email address books in order to see if any of their contacts are already on Quechup. What most people seem to miss is the fine print that indicates Quechup will be spamming everyone in the new user’s contact list who is not already on Quechup.

I have two theories about why they chose to market their site this way. The first is benign, and assumes that someone at Quechup thought that users would read the text that indicates Quechup would be sending non-members email invitations.

quechup

The second theory is that someone at Quechup expected that few would read the text closely, and that it would be a simple and effective way of collecting a large number of active email addresses.

I suspect that the truth may be somewhere in between those two theories. Social networking sites do not exist out of the goodness of some programmer’s heart. They exist to gather information about you and your friends, and to use that information to make money off of you. Quechup is no different in that than sites like MySpace and Facebook. However, unlike other sites, Quechup is quickly getting a bad reputation for mass emailing, and that will be a tricky spot to pull themselves out of.

Be careful out there. Even if you don’t read the Privacy Policy or Conditions of Use before signing up on a new site, do at least read the text presented on the signup page. And please, stop sending me Quechup invitations.

do it! do it!

Weird Al doesn’t want you to download this song — or does he?

If Michael Jackson is the King of Pop, then Weird Al Yankovic must be the Court Jester. For the past twenty-five years, Weird Al has been simultaneously entertaining and annoying millions of music fans around the world. He’s set to do it again with a new album later this month (Straight Outta Lynnwood).

A clever — if demented — bit of marketing has made the first single from the album, “Don’t Download This Song,” a free download. Mind boggling, isn’t it?

The song is an original ballad of the raised lighter variety, including a chorus that swells with a choir of backing vocals. Don’t be too surprised if it gives you flashbacks to “We Are the World” and other songs of that sort. Even with the sentimental touch, Weird Al is able to convey a sense of poking fun at the genre. It’s a sincere cupcake iced with irony.

The first verse sets up the extreme RIAA fascist perspective:

Once in a while maybe you will feel the urge
To break international copyright law
By downloading MP3s from file sharing sites
Like Morpheus or Grokster or Limeware or Kazaa
But deep in your heart you know the guilt would drive you mad
And the shame would leave a permanent scar
‘Cause you start out stealing songs, then you’re robbing liquor stores
And selling crack and running over school kids with your car

The chorus changes every time, and the first one is:

So don’t download this song
The record store’s where you belong
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should
Oh don’t download this song

Essentially, they all end up with the same message – illegal downloads are bad and you really should know better.

Some music fans write off Weird Al as a novelty act. This song is yet another one that demonstrates he can write songs with humor and also have something worthwhile to say. “Don’t Download This Song” points out all the evil bad things with illegal downloads, but this legally downloadable song will likely result in numerous sales of the album. Rather than getting all Lars Ulrich about it, Weird Al is going with the flow while still making music worth buying.