Digital Odyssey 2007

Building our Future

  • Categories

  • Archives

Tim Spalding on Social Cataloging and the Fun OPAC: Notes

Posted by odyssey2007 on April 23, 2007


Tim Spalding was fun. And we have something in common. We both like big. The movie. The one where Tom Hanks plays a kid in a grown-up’s body.

Spalding, the founder of LibraryThing, referred to a scene from the movie where Josh, the character played by Hanks, challenges the thinking of Paul, a marketing man, behind a new toy:

JOSH: I don’t get it.
PAUL: What exactly don’t you get?
JOSH: It turns from a building into a robot, right?
PAUL: Precisely.
JOSH: Well, what’s fun about that?

Source: Script-O-Rama

The reference was made in connection with Spalding’s feelings about discussions regarding next generation OPACs, which do not fit his idea of “fun.” According to him, “The library is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” but he also says that librarians keep their websites and OPACs separate because it’s their “secret shame.”

Anyway, if you are not familiar with LibraryThing, you may want to check out the following before reading the rest of this post: basics, concepts involved, take the tour and/or press coverage, which includes “Beating Oprah at the book club game” and an August 2006 podcast interview.

Incidentally, Spalding didn’t have slides. He just kept showing webpages as he talked. Very 2.0 =) And that’s why this post will have a lot of links, starting with his previous Thingology posts that explain in much more detail several things that he mentioned.

Is your OPAC fun? (a manifesto of sorts)

Everyone else’s OPACs people have to use. LibraryThing is optional. LibraryThing is an OPAC people WANT to use. They even pay. LibraryThing is the fun OPAC!

When tags work and when they don’t: Amazon and LibraryThing

Tagging works well when people tag “their” stuff, but it fails when they’re asked to do it to “someone else’s” stuff.

WorldCat: Think locally, act globally

OCLC isn’t creating a web service. They’re not contributing to the great data-service conversation. They’re trying to convert a data licensing monopoly into a services monopoly.

He’s very likeable, but I liked him even more when I realized that we had big in common. And though big is a movie, I suppose the “bond” I felt with Spalding is very similar to the one that LibraryThingers make with one another through the books they own, like, tag, review and recommend. And they have fun!

Interestingly, however, while discussions about usability, findability, and remixability have been quite popular in the biblioblogosphere, the concept of “funability” could only be found on Danish liblogs before Spalding’s presentation at CIL 2007. So how do you make the OPAC fun?

  1. Don’t hide the fun. Library websites should have catalog search boxes. He said that librarians “hide” their OPACs because it’s their “secret shame.” This was greeted, perhaps not surprisingly, with laughter.
  2. Allow inbound links. Bloggers and other users who link to a page that won’t be there the next time will not make the same mistake twice. The Library of Congress is the biggest offender.
  3. Allow outbound links. Websites are like reference librarians. The more you send people away—and they find what they’re looking for—the more they will come back to you. Regarding concerns about linking to Wikipedia and local bookstores, he shared a little secret: patrons know about them =)
  4. Link around. There are so many possible links that can be turned into first-level links in a catalog. But these links should not lead to search results but a page.
  5. Dress up your OPAC. Get covers from Syndetics or Amazon. Dress it up with LibraryThing for Libraries, which is now in beta. It won’t be free, but it’s not going to be expensive and it works!
  6. Allow user-generated content.
  7. Do not call it “user-generated content.” WorldCat’s content guidelines state that reviewers should not comment on other reviews. What’s so fun about that? Plus, reviewers don’t have their own page. This probably has something to with the fact that while WorldCat has more traffic than LibraryThing, reviews of The Da Vinci Code on the former (2) have neither the quantity (343) nor the quality of the latter. Amazon, meanwhile, doesn’t allow outbound links. According to Spalding, “People look at your site not to look at your content, but at their content.”
  8. Get your data out there. There are people out there who will do something about it. RSS feeds are not as effective as blog widgets. LibraryThing never advertised. It grew because people were allowed to show off their books.

Finally, he ended by suggesting two things:

  1. Do it yourself. You can do more than you think you can.
  2. Buy or steal solutions. Or work it into your next discussion with the ILS provider.

Other stuff I found interesting:

  1. Examples of differences between Library of Congress Subject Headings and LibraryThing tags:
    • Neuromancer by William Gibson:
      —Computer hackers–Fiction vs cyberpunk
    • Tales of the city by Armistead Maupin:
      —City and town life–Fiction vs gay fiction
  2. Examples of synonymous tags on LibraryThing that lead to different recommendations:
  3. Books tagged “katrina” in the days right after Hurricane Katrina were not about weather disturbances but books lost by the owners.
  4. The most popular tag for The diary of a young girl by Anne Frank is “holocaust,” a word that did not appear as a subject heading until many years after the book was first published.
  5. The Book of Mormon is at the top of the 25 books that people can’t agree on—either they really like it or they really don’t like it.
  6. The Suggestions feature makes recommendations based on books you have in your entire library or single books. There’s also the UnSuggester, which… is self-explanatory =)
  7. Check out John Blyberg’s card catalog card generator.
  8. His “personal hobby project” would not have been possible if he hadn’t “outsourced” the work to users.
  9. The cost of OPACs hasn’t gone down, even though Moore’s Law has been in existence for the longest time.
  10. The days of one big thing sign off are over. Beta forevah!

Posted by Von Totanes


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: