Sunday, August 03, 2008

Crowdsourcing Dr. Horrible, Jeff Atwood

Do you recognize this man?

Yes, it's Dr. Horrible, star of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (played by Neil Patrick Harris, the former Doogie Howser). Dr. Horrible is quirky web-only super-hero musical comedy created by Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Abby, Sonya and I are fans.

Anyway, I was re-watching the video and noticed two copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on one of Dr. Horrible's shelves. As a joke on our Legacy Libraries program, where members collaborate to catalog libraries by Jefferson*, Plath or Yeats, I suggested that members catalog Dr. Horrible's other books.

So they, um, did. They didn't start a catalog, but they figured them out even so. I was particularly impressed they were able to figure out the ones on the left, making a guess and then asking a member who had the book (Albert L. Lehninger's Principles of Biochemistry) to check the spine. The guess was right.

Score one for crowdsourcing!

Jeff Atwood? Which brings me to the other Dr. Horrible, Jeff Atwood, programmer, podcaster and author of the influential blog Coding Horror.

Jeff published a great post, "Programmers Don't Read Books -- But You Should," which included a shot of his "programming bookshelf." They're not just any books, but his enduring favorites. As he writes:
"The best programming books are timeless. They transcend choice of language, IDE, or platform. They do not explain how, but why. If you feel compelled to clean house on your bookshelf every five years, trust me on this, you're buying the wrong programming books."
With Jeff's permission, I started him an account, and asked members to help catalog his books, using the photo he provided. Again, the were able to do it with ease.

Two ideas follow naturally from this:
  • I'd love to see LibraryThing members catalog people's books from shelf-photos. As I wrote on the Atwood thread, I could see this being a paid service, with part of the proceeds going to charity.
  • Aren't there sites where regular people take apart celebrity photos, identifying shoes and clothing so other people can copy them? Wouldn't it be fun/ironic to do that for books, taking apart TV, movies and candids for the books in them? Of course, celebrities are not necessarily great readers, but people do occasionally read in movies, and some celebrities do too. For example, the word on the street is that Marilyn Monroe really was reading Ulysses.
Don't worry. I've got a half-dozen bugs and important features to go through before toying with anything like this. 

Also, the freeze ray needs work.

*Not to be confused with Dr. Horrible villain Fake Jefferson.

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Blogger Ryvre said...

There are already a couple libraries that catalog books from tv shows.
I set up RoryGilmore to catalog the books Rory read on the Gilmore Girls, and TheIsland catalogs books from Lost.

8/03/2008 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was amused to note the NY Post's "Vulture" media column doing an entry on a bookshelf in "Mad Men". Obviously that show is doing a good job choosing books for backdrops. It bugs me when movies or TV shows have books in the background that, if one recognizes the spines, are obviously totally wrong given the supposed owner.

8/03/2008 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I thought I was the only person in the world that looked at books on a bookshelf in the background of a newspaper or magazine photo to see how many I recognize. My mom thought I was nuts.


8/03/2008 5:24 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I feel like I'm admitting some terrible interior shame, but I even check out books at furniture stores. You know, the ones they buy by the yard and often nail down.

8/03/2008 5:46 PM  
Anonymous youthfulzombie said...

It would be pretty cool if the "Dead People's Libraries" branched out and allowed for interesting people and groups regardless of whether or not they are real or have ever lived. I would love to see Buffy's library, Sam and Dean's (of TV's Supernatural) library, how about George W. Bush's library (no matter how small).

8/03/2008 10:32 PM  
Anonymous KamTonnes said...

I always loved all the literary references in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I wonder if there would be a way to catalog the books that Lemony Snicket has read. What a great puzzle!

8/04/2008 10:07 AM  
Blogger JBD said...

I've added a Proposed Libraries (fictional) section to the ISDPB wiki. Feel free to add suggestions there for libraries of fictional characters. This is not meant to suggest "creating" libraries for fictional characters, but for listing books known to have belonged in their libraries (Don Quixote springs to mind).

8/04/2008 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things I love in one spot: Libarything and Dr. Horrible...Wheeeee!!!

On a side note, Joss has said that the "set" they used for Dr. Horrible's lair is actually someone's home, including the giant chair. It's not clear whether this included the "library" but it probably does. So it seems we've also inadvertantly catalogued a real person's library for them, along with the fictional.

8/07/2008 10:14 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Yeah. I figured. I was hoping it was Joss'.

Whoever it is, is a big reader. The scene right before this shows a lot of books all over. But they're not close enough to read the spines ;)

8/07/2008 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a real person's house. The link is to his blog entry about the filming.

8/07/2008 11:31 AM  
Blogger macmaxbh said...

I can't believe that Dr. Horrible and Jeff Atwood are in the same blog post, and that it's written by somebody who's not me. I thought I was the only person who is both Whedon-crazy and Atwood-reading!

The overlap between Dr. Horrible and Atwood is probably somewhat large, but the LibraryThing blog was definitely NOT where I was expecting to see the two combined.

8/07/2008 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They missed a few on that Dr. Horrible book shelf. I went to Library Thing and helped them out.

8/07/2008 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE that my buddy lifeofreilly gave them a list of his books... it's pleasing that his personality/profession is becoming part of the persona of Dr. Horrible.

8/07/2008 5:15 PM  
Blogger nathanm said...

Tim, try looking at the books in Ikea. They're all in Swedish!

8/08/2008 8:38 AM  

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