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Top 106 Unread Books Meme October 5, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Books, COMBS, librarything, memes.

I got this from Writing Grandmother’s Book, who got it from Superfastreader.  It’s another book meme which lists books tagged as unread in Librarything.  Bold what you have read, italicize your DNFs, strikethrough the ones you hated, and put asterisks next to those you read more than once.

Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One hundred years of solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
Atlas shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
* Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian
A portrait of the artist as a young man
Love in the time of cholera
Brave new world
The Fountainhead
* Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A clockwork orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King

The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels

Les misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
* Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things

A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present
* Cryptonomicon

A confederacy of dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The unbearable lightness of being
* Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
* The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
* The Hobbit
In Cold Blood

White teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

There are a lot of books here in common with the 100 Books Meme.  But they are nowhere near the bottom of the curve among the people who filled out that meme (see frequency table here).  For example, more than half the people who did that meme had read The Hobbit (67%), Catcher in the Rye (64%), etc.

 I’ll tag raincoaster, Stiletto, strugglingwriter, and K. F. Gallagher.

100 Books Meme – Tag Mirrored September 19, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Books, fiction, folksonomies, librarything, literature, Other, tagging.
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While I was putting up my own LibraryThing Tag Mirror yesterday I was also puzzling about the list of books comprising the 100 Books Meme.   Then, suddenly, and somewhat painfully, ineinsbildung!  [When backed into a corner, exclaim something in German.  Even fewer people (one of whom is this blogger) know German than know Latin.]  

It occurred to me that I should give the same treatment to the idiosyncratic list that is the 100 Books Meme.  So I created a LibraryThing account comprised just of those books read by half or more of the bloggers who did the meme.

What sort of tags do those books have?  Well, these (click to enlarge):


And here is the tag mirror for the entire list of 100: (click to enlarge):


What does this tag cloud say about the composer of the list? I’ve got to get to work, so I’ll leave the rest as an exercise for the student, posting about it later only if I can make some sense of it.

Click here to examine the 100 Books LibraryThing tags individually or perhaps here would be even better.

Librarything Tag Mirror September 18, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Books, folksonomies, librarything, Other, tagging.
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I got this from Cavan.  I have been very lazy about updatain my LT account.  Originally, I had what I thought was an interesting way of tagging my books, but beyond a hundred or so I stopped tagging them altogether.  Librarything recently unveiled a new feature for showing your library via tags put in but people who are less lazy–the tag mirror. 

The tag mirror shows my library, as if it was tagged by the more-responsible librarians there.  There are several different options for the number of tags.  Here’s 150 tags, the lowest setting (click to enlarge):


And here’s my library with 300 tags (click to enlarge):


I think there’s an option for 1000, too. but I couldn’t figure out how to actually display it.  If you click here, you can see it.

Name that Blog December 21, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, bookmooch, Books, Constructivism, Education, Hipster PDA, how to, librarything, lifehack, Lowell, luck or time, Market Research, Massachusetts Drivers, Origami, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0, writing.

Davidbdale brought to my attention yesterday, late at night, when I had already had a particularly difficult day, the fact that there is a blog called “as a blog returns to its vomit” which is run by a pastor, somewhere in the Midwest, probably.  Why did this bring me even lower?  Well, david saw this blog, which does not even have an open comment thread, in WordPress’s list of fast-growing blogs and thought that it was mine.  (No, david, mine’s the blog that’s hardly growing at all.)  And it bothered me because I really should have thought about the name a little more before I started this thing, and I should have checked for others using the name, or variants thereof.

In an earlier post I said that I was thinking about making some changes to this thing, more drastic ones than the accretive ones and annoying changes of backgrounds and themes that I normally make.  Well, let’s add a name change to the list.  The name of this blog doesn’t really reflect the content of the site, or the community that reads it, or really anything important.  And pastor whatever-his-name-is seems to have gotten the name first anyway (in March, I think.)

So I am changing the name temporarily to Pro Tempore (another nod to davidbdale, who needles me about my use of Latin).  This will not affect any links that you have made to this blog.  They will still appear as the original name and will still link here, because I am not changing the URL.  But as the name implies, this is a temporary measure.  I would really like some suggestions as to what to call this thing going forward (accordingly, I have tagged it with most of the tag categories I normally use, so that people who read this tag-surfing will get a chance to chime in here.)

So, tell me what to call this blog.  The prize will be, I don’t know yet.  Suggest something for that too.  I’d like to hear from everybody who reads it.  That means you too, Mom, Dad.  And I’d particularly like to hear from those of you with descriptive names that seem to work so well for your blogs.  That would be davidbdale, whose blog name describes exactly the content of his site, as does strugglingwriter’s, prairie flounder’s and some of the others on my blogroll.

Books and LibraryThing IV December 13, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, librarything, Market Research, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0.
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A little addendum to the last post.  Apparently Mr. Tim Spaulding is the Founder of LibraryThing.  Crikey!

Books and LibraryThing III December 13, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, librarything, Market Research, My other blog, Other, statistical analysis, web 2.0.
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Tim Spaulding of LibraryThing writes:

“Well, why not just have LT add a field for putting that sort of data in, so that it can come up with percentages for personality types, signs and so forth. *Tagging* should be about the book, not the tagger. The tagger’s metadata resides one level up, right?”

I am deeply flattered that Tim, who apparently works at LibraryThing, would comment on my post.  I’m not at all sure what that bit about residing “one level up” means, because I am primarily a user of other peoples’ data.  This means that most of my databases are something I create by stringing together data from a wide variety of different sources, splicing them with available key variables and demographic data.  But Tim does pose an interesting question in the rest of it, to which I’d like to respond.

My offhand response, formulated while in the shower this morning, was going to be “well, Tim, companies, in my experience, just don’t move quickly enough to make that sort of change.  It would take quite a while, I imagine, to get LibraryThing to take note of the advantages of doing anything different.”  That obviously doesn’t make any sense, in this case, because this is clearly a company that moves quickly and thinks deeply about things, too.  And to add a field for this sort of thing might be a good way for LibraryThing to go about this sort of tagging.  I’d be happy to remove my tags and place them in the profile section, I guess, if LibraryThing would rather do it that way. 

But I disagree that tagging should be about the book and not the tagger.  One of the advantages of tagging is that it says as much about the perspectives of the tagger as it does about the book.  Tagging is about both, and more.  For example, I just finished reading Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series of books.  I could tag the books as science fiction, but that information is already coded in their LC and Dewey numbers, which LibraryThing makes available to us (and thank you, LibraryThing, for doing that.)  But later today I will tag them with some other tags that reflect my use of these books.  I am interested in these books because they show how libertarian science fiction novelists dealt with racial tension during the 1960s and 1970s.  In that respect they are similar to Robert Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold.  They also play with the idea of free will and predestination, possible absorption of the soul into a godhead, that sort of stuff.  So I’ll tag them with something about some Hindu ideas, like Samsara, or Atman and Brahman.  I’m currently reading Greg Bear’s Blood Music, which somebody told me is about nanotechnology.  It is not, but Bear’s vision of absorption into a larger community and the loss of individuality forms one of the recurring themes of Farmer’s book.  If I tag Bear’s book with the tag “Riverworld,” is this information about Bear’s book, my perception of Bear’s book, my perception of Farmer’s book, or Farmer’s book? 

When I was in graduate school I read Carlo Ginsburg’s marvelous The Cheese and the Worms.  Ginzburg studied the court proceedings of a trial of the Italian (if I remember correctly) Inquisition.  Now the court records recounted trial proceedings and the responses of the accused heretic.  But Ginzburg managed to pull from these records a story about how a 15th Century miller viewed cosmology–that’s what the records were about to him.  But to their writers they were about proper procedure.  Ginzburg’s book, to me, is about historical method, cultural studies, reader-response criticism, and that sort of thing.  If I tag the book this way, I am intruding sharply into your book-centered vision for tagging, aren’t I?

It seems to me that tags reflect information about a book, but also invariably reflect the reader’s ideas about what the book is about, which is a slightly more distant relationship, logically and grammatically, but often even more useful.

Take an example from Flickr, to simplify the discussion a little.  People assign tags to pictures based on what they think is important in a picture.  Maybe you take a picture of a bridge, but other people tag it “purple” because that’s what they are interested in.  If a lot of people use that tag, then more and more of the information stored in that tag represents a weird societal interest in the color purple, rather than the fact that the picture has purple in it.  The more people fixate on that, the more of the tag’s information reflect’s taggers’ interests.  Perhaps this weird societal interest in purple will go away in a little while; maybe it is just a fad.  If the information about people’s interest in purple is only in their profile, it is not stored with the date information about when they were interested in purple.  Placing it in a profile fixes it in time and space.  Well, I guess I didn’t simplify anything with that example.  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that tags contain both information about users and about the thing they are using, whether a book, a picture, a website, or whatever. 

But there is something else I am trying to get across, and that is that while LibraryThing is very responsive, clearly, to its user community, other companies aren’t necessarily.  Why not go into my Flickr account and tag pictures I like with my personality as well?  Why not do the same in my del.icio.us account for websites I like?  If users have to have companies create a database field every time they want to record personal information, it makes signing up for new accounts a little onerous, doesn’t it (warning, possible startup company idea)?

And unless LT allows people to include what might be termed “profile tags” in their profile (eg.: Capricorn, Masochist, Chocolate Lover) and search these tags right along with the tags these users applied to books, it would be pretty limiting.  Will LT Do that?  It would be really, really cool. 

Books and LibraryThing II December 12, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, librarything, Other, web 2.0.

O.K., I’m still thinking about books and LibraryThing. There was a lot of noise about LibraryThing last week, which mostly seemed to come from the slashdotting of its new feature “the unsuggester.” A neat gimmick, and I hope it steered a lot of people to the LibraryThing site.  I think that for people who love books and are always looking for books that they will like, and aren’t willing to slog though bad reading suggestions, LibraryThing is something to take very seriously. Today a short speculative post on metatags, folksonomies, and LibraryThing.

Tagging, as I’m sure you know, is a great way for individuals to organize their books. But it is also an important new research tool that, with the advent of LibraryThing, allows everybody to see how other people organize their books, and what they think about them. This is the beauty of tagging in any environment, whether using del.icio.us to organize websites or tagging on your own blog to make things easier to find in technorati. But there’s another possibility that I’d like to consider, and that is a sort of hybrid combining cataloging systems, which I call user-created, community standardized demographic metadata. Adam Mathes calls traditional cataloging, like Library of Congress or the Dewey Decimal System, expert-assigned systems of categorization—professional- and author-created metadata. He calls tagging a user-assigned system of categorization—user-created metadataUser-created, community-standardized demographic metadata (just rolls off the tongue, don’t it?) is like tagging with a personal twist.  Since we are all experts about ourselves (and sometimes experts on other stuff as well) we can easily apply an additional system of categorization that makes even more information available to others who might share our interests.This is a system whereby we attach personal data as tags. There might be a number of relevant tags that, with some small degree of standardization, would provide interesting tools not only for analysis and research, but for identifying, say, books we might like to read. This method will, in some form, be a large part of the semantic web, like it or not, so this here’s just a first step.  Since I like books, and LibraryThing is relatively new, it is a good place to start with it. Here’s what I suggest:

Those of you who know something about your personality type, use this as a tag on the books you really like. I will tag all of my books with MBTI-INTJ. INTJ is my personality type based on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. I will tag all of my books with the year I was born, b1964, so that people will know that the person who said he liked that book (based on the number of stars I assigned it) was born in 1964.  I will also use the tag r2006 for books I read in 2006. That way I can tag a book that I read when I was a teenager with that date, say r1978, and people will know that it was a book that somebody with my basic personality liked at that age. Finally, I will tag my books with the geographical location where I read the book (on the off-hand chance that southerners, for example, have different reading interests than those from, say, Massachusetts. I don’t know my GPS location, which I imagine this will have to be translated into eventually, but my country and zipcode should be good enough for now.

So, a minimal tagging taxonomy would look like this:

  • MBTI-XXXX (Personality-type as defined by the MBTI)
  • bXXXX (Birthdate of reader)
  • rXXXX (Date at which book was read)
  • US01854 (Geographic position of person who read the book at the time they read it—Country abbreviation followed by zipcode.)

If you have any interest at all in this, just look at my library in LibraryThing and look at the tags I have set up there for my books.

One of the nice things about such a system is that when you are looking at the tags of your own library, or of another individual’s library, these do not affect the appearance of a “tag cloud” because they should be the same on every book in either. However, they will affect the appearance of tag clouds for certain books, because certain personality types might like them better, or people of a certain age might.

I’m sure that some people might object to this sort of personal disclosure, and of course it is entirely voluntary, so go ahead, object.  But the thing to remember here is that companies are making a lot of money already from knowing all of this stuff about you. I think that one of the important advantages of the internet, blogging, and Web 2.0 is that they allow people to take some small measure of control over information that has heretofore been owned by large conglomerates. The more we little people know about the world and each other, the more open the sources of our data become, the more power we will have. Not fomenting revolution, here, and I am trying to be realistic.

Oh, and the LibraryThing FAQ answers the question: Is LibraryThing a dating service?  Well, with people tagging their books with their personality type, it will be easy to use LibraryThing as a dating service.  So, I’m sorry about that. . .

Anyway, I’m interested in hearing peoples’ thoughts on this.  Is  anybody already attempting this sort of cataloging, or attempting to start some naming conventions for tagging in some other site or medium?   Please leave a comment so that I can at least clarify the muddy points of the above. 

Books, LibraryThing December 11, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, librarything, Other, Uncategorized, web 2.0, writing.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m beginning to rethink the way I do book reviews here.  There are several reasons for this. 

First, I began posting the names of books I had just read and some thoughts about those books as a way of letting people know what I was reading, what I thought about it, and possibly starting a conversation.  For some reason, certain book reviews get a lot of hits on this site every day, while others have not had any, ever.  That’s O.K., but I hate to go to the trouble of writing something about a book and posting it if nobody cares.   I realize that this is pretty typical behavior in the blogosphere.  Unfortunately, even the most heavily-seen reviews do not get interesting conversations started. 

And then there is the fact that if you don’t know me, what do you care if I liked a book?  I was tag surfing the other day and came across a review of Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco.  The reader hated this book.  I don’t have any idea how anybody could hate this book.  I have read it perhaps seven or eight times now.  I think the only book I have read more often is John Irving’s The Water Method Man, which I read pretty much every year since I was 17.  But more important than that, I’m not sure I would have ignored this person’s review.  Imagine.  Here’s this guy who hates a book, and he turns me off to it, yet I would have loved it. 

And then there is the fact that LibraryThing now exists.  I didn’t know about this resource when I started this blog.  It’s a strange sort of phenonomon, this social intelligence stuff.  But I’m going to be trusting LibraryThing to suggest books for me to read based on the books I say I like.   It’s like netflix does, of course, or Amazon.  But the key thing is that I will be entering books I have already read (unlike Amazon, where you purchase books and they suggest others based on your purchases).  And unlike netflix, LibraryThing doesn’t stand to profit, or at least I don’t think they do, or at least it doesn’t affect the algorthyms at this point. 

So, anyway.  I hope to get a better widget soon, one that shows the covers of books I have read recently, rather than that little button to the right.  But if you click on it, it will take you to my library at LibraryThing.  I have entered some of the first books that came into my head, some of which I read recently.  Most recently, that is since my last book post, I read the entire Riverworld Series, by Philip Jose Farmer.  I found the first two books, To Your Scattered Bodies Go and The Fabulous Riverboat, engaging, but not nearly as interesting as when I first read them as a teen.  The other two, The Dark Design and The Magic Labyrinth, I found incredibly tedious.  Farmer says in the preface to The Dark Design that he intended the whole thing to be a trilogy, but that with 400,000 words he had to break it up and make two more books out of it. 

I guess I think that that is laziness.  I am certain that I read the last two books before.  I even read a book that he wrote afterward, Gods of Riverworld, which assumes you know how the story ended up.  I could not have told you how the story ended up, though.  This was, in large part, because it is so incredibly wordy.  I Farmer had simply cut out his description of characters pouring coffee crystals into water and the crystals automatically heating the water (which appears at least twenty times in the last two books) he could have saved perhaps 3,000 words.  It is forgiveable laziness.  If Farmer was as tired of the whole thing as I was, it must have been difficult to stomach that editing job.  But I imagine with the popularity of the thing in the 1970s and 1980s it would have been difficult to forgoe the advance he must have gotten.

Anyway, LibraryThing quite simply obsoletes my posting of reviews of books about which I have nothing important to say.  Now I will only write in this space about books that made me think, books I really liked, whatever.  For a while, I thought that since they only let you post 200 books for free, I would be forming a very strange picture of my reading habits (200 being a very small sample of my reading).   But I may spring for the lifetime membership, if I hit the 200 limit soon.

I’ll try to clean up the review section soon.  It’s pretty ugly.