Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bugs, New York, Radio

Today was a full day—New York, radio, publishers and bug-fixing. In reverse order:

Bug fixing. I finally slew the bug that sent work copies off into la-la land. I also found why book-swap data was screwed up. It turns out Bookmooch's data feed is now too large for PHP's 40MB default memory space, and this was short-circuiting other feeds. Wow—way to go Bookmooch. I increased it to 80MB until I can rewrite it to load the data in pieces, and reloaded everything. I also fixed a matching algorithm, so that http://www.librarything.com/title/the_perfect_store goes to The Perfect Store, not The Great Gatsby. I'll be working the rest of the night, except when I have to put my laptop through the x-ray.

Publishers. I gave a talk to the Association of American Publishers. Twenty minutes is too little time, starting from zero and trying to get to what's "happening" with social software and books. But I think I got across the central message—(1) I'm crazy*, (2) LibraryThing is orders larger and more interesting than its competitors, (3) stop marketing at people and get in the conversation, (4) get involved with LibraryThing.

It certainly would be nice if the publishing world were as friendly to LibraryThing as the library world.

New York. I flew into JFK this morning (6am departure, ouch!). I was there on business, but, since I work all day long, I don't feel guilty spending the afternoon at The Strand, diligently confirming they do, in fact, have eighteen miles of books. Today's haul: Richard Westfall's The Life of Isaac Newton and Adam Cohen's The Perfect Store: Inside eBay.

Radio. I appeared on Public Radio International's Radio Open Source. They were doing a show on David Weinberger's upcoming book Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. I've blogged about David and his book before. To repeat: It's excellent. Weinberger, a true Miscellaneous Man**, explores how digitization and mass-collaboration, -filtering and -classification (eg., tagging) are changing knowledge, and its relation to authority. After an introduction with David, host Christopher Lydon brought in super-librarian Karen Schneider, then me, to chime in on the topic.

I pointed out how tagging worked for tags like chick lit, queer, glbt and lgbt.
I also tried to get at a nagging issue for me—does "knowledge" change, or do we just get new perspectives and ways of getting at it? I'm happy to see the realm of debate, uncertainty, personal choice and personal understanding expand—for us to "swim in the complex," as David writes. But I won't give up on a small, hard (Pluto-like?) core of truth. More on that later.

OpenSource streams at 7pm tonight. After that, the audio—direct or podcast—will be available here.
*I love explaining to people that LibraryThing has no advertising or funded promotions, and doesn't push affiliate links, but is profitable. On a more personal note, it was unreal being back among "publishing types." I never mentioned it, but I used to work at Houghton Mifflin. I felt at home in uncomfortableness, as it were.
** Who else has a PhD in Philosophy and wrote jokes for Woody Allen? He's more varied than my junk drawer!

9 Comments:

Blogger jane said...

Okeydoke, and thanks! I'll click on the open radio file soon, can't wait. And thanks for reminding me about Everything is Miscellaneous. I'm positng a link to this on my new ning community!

4/26/2007 7:44 PM  
Blogger RJO said...

Today's haul: Richard Westfall's The Life of Isaac Newton...

From the Department of Great Un-taken Suggestions:

I have Westfall's Never at Rest, which is his big Newton biography. "The Life of Isaac Newton" is the short version. I met Westfall some time ago at a conference, and told him I enjoyed "Never at Rest." He said he was working on a shorter, more popular version. I suggested he call it "Sometimes at Rest."

Ah well. He had his chance. ;-)

4/26/2007 7:47 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

It certainly would be nice if the publishing world were as friendly to LibraryThing as the library world.

Maybe you should rename it "PublishedThing." :P

4/26/2007 8:52 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

>Never at rest.

Yeah. I read about half of it, skipping around a little. I have to say it didn't grab me. Newton seems both boring and unsympathetic, and the sources don't allow ready access to what was really going on in his head at key points.

4/27/2007 12:09 AM  
Blogger RJO said...

You might prefer The Janus Faces of Genius. If you have some notion (as I did) that Newton was probably like your basic physics professor only a whole lot smarter, this book will disabuse you of that notion. His picture of the world was *nothing* like ours.

4/27/2007 12:21 AM  
Blogger Amanda Ellis said...

The radio OpenSource transcript and YouTube video is up. Here it is: Weinberger’s Miscellany.

4/27/2007 12:54 AM  
Blogger Matt Joyce said...

I loved the Isaac Newton by James Gliek. http://www.librarything.com/work/14537

I'm not sure I've ever read more than one version of a biography. Curious.

4/27/2007 1:40 AM  
Blogger Trochee said...

seems to me like the swap feed is not quite fixed. when I look at bookmooch's page on Maus, it shows that it's on 16 wishlists.

yet when I look at librarything's swap page for Maus it shows 0/0.

Seems less broken but maybe not completely fixed yet?

--trochaic on LT, trochee elsewhere

4/27/2007 2:12 AM  
Blogger PastaKeith said...

Great job on the show.
Personally, I wish they had given you some more time.

Maybe another day!

4/28/2007 7:53 PM  

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