LibraryThing vs Bookish

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Tim Spalding of LibraryThing, asking if I was serious about the twitter conversation we had:

He wanted some form of independent analysis of recommendations coming from LibraryThing and from Bookish in Bibliocommons catalogs. After exchanging a few emails, we came to the following agreement:

  • I would solicit and select 4 testers for the recommendation systems
  • The reviewers wouldn’t be told who had arranged for the review, nor who was paying them (reviewers were offered $200 for the effort) until after they had turned in the reviews and they were posted here
  • The reviewers would examine 7 different Bibliocommons catalogs and write up their thoughts, but there was no suggesting of the books they were to search for or anything like that…they had free reign to use the catalogs in questions to look for any books they wished.
  • Tim wouldn’t know who they were during the review, and not afterwards until the reviews were collected and this post went live
  • There would be no editing on his part of the reviews…what they said, they said. No picking and choosing to rose color anything.
  • I would collect and edit the reviews only in as much as needed to anonymize them.
  • Tim would get the names of the reviewers after this is posted in order to pay them, but he would have no way of knowing who wrote what among the reviews.

This was as good a protocol as I could put together quickly for a blinded analysis of the two systems. I can promise that as I write this, Tim has no idea who the reviewers were, nor has he edited the reviews below in any way. They are as independent a look at the two systems as I could arrange.

So what is posted below are 4 comparisons, in the voices of the reviewers, between the recommendations provided by LibraryThing and Bookish.

This was done as a consulting job, so in the interest of full disclosure I am also receiving a small payment for my work in doing this.

Now that these are public, I will be sharing the identities in both directions of this endeavor. Who wrote which review will remain anonymous, but both sides will be alerted in order to settle the accounts in question.

Measure the Future at ALA Midwinter 2015

At ALA Midwinter 2015, the Knight Foundation gathered the winners of the Knight News Challenge for Libraries and gave us a stage in order to let us announce our projects to the world. This is my presentation from that day, complete with full-on me wearing suit. Soak it up, you’re not likely to see me in one all that often. ūüôā

Measure the Future

Measure the Future logo

I am beyond thrilled to announce that my project¬†Make the Things that Measure the Future: Open Hardware & Libraries has been awarded one of the eight John S. and James L. Knight Foundation‚Äôs Knight News Challenge grants. The winners of these grants seek to answer the question “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgable communities?”

What are we going to be doing? Here’s a quick video that explains the project:

As a result of this, I give you the Measure the Future Project. ¬†That’s the website where we will be reporting on our progress, linking out to the code and hardware that we make, and generally being as transparent as possible as we move towards making the things that measure the future. It also links out to our social media accounts and other places of interest where we’ll be talking about what we’re doing.

This means that I will be working for the next 18 months on a project that I first imagined over 2 years ago, a project that I think has the potential to have incredible impact on how libraries view data about their buildings and what happens inside them. As we move through the next decade, I feel strongly that libraries of all types are going to need to measure and report new and different metrics in order to demonstrate to their funders that they are still vibrant parts of their communities. I’m hoping that I can help define those metrics by producing the hardware and software that collects, measures, and reports them.

I’m honored and¬†privileged¬†to have this opportunity to work to make libraries everywhere better. I would like to thank everyone that helped Measure the Future to this point, but especially my team members Jenica Rogers, Gretchen Caserotti, and Jeff Branson, all of whom were willing to agree to help support this crazy idea I had even before it was fully formed.

At 1pm today there will be an announcement at the ALA Midwinter conference in Chicago, where the winners will have a chance to celebrate a little and explain to the world what they will be doing to make libraries better and communities more engaged. If want to see some of the most interesting work that will be done in libraries over the next few years, I recommend coming by and seeing what the other groups are up to.

Congratulations to all of the winners. Let’s go make libraries amazing. Let’s go make our communities amazing.

If you want to help us Measure the Future, let me know.

Calling all collection development librarians

Or, actually, any librarian that feels comfortable doing evaluation of a couple of recommendation engines. I have an opportunity for four librarians that want to do a few hours worth of work examining book recommendation engines, take notes and write up their findings in a couple of pages, and get paid for the work. The general idea is to see which of two engines provide “better” recommendations based on your expectations and professional knowledge.

I’ve been asked to organize the review so that the process is blinded as well as I can manage: you won’t know who asked for the review, and they won’t know who is doing the review until the process is over (and you need to be paid). I will collect and anonymize the reviews, so¬†that the company paying you for your time won’t know who said¬†what about the products in question. There is no expectation of positive reviews for either product, and I won’t do more than give you some neutral writing prompts to follow so as to keep the process as unbiased as possible.

If you have a few hours to throw at doing some free-form analysis of a couple of recommendation engines, email me at, use the subject “Recommendation Evaluation”, and include your name, current employer, and any information that would make you particularly good at this, and I’ll be in touch with more information.

State of the Union 2015 Tag Cloud

State of the Union 2015 Tag Cloud

This is the ninth in my yearly posting of a word cloud for the President’s State of the Union address to the nation. Every year, the words shift slightly, the rhetoric being used changes subtly. But the last couple of years have been far more hopeful than when I started doing this, when the words were “terrorists” and “fighting” and “security”. I’m much happier with a State of the Union that includes “families” and “jobs”.

Here are links to the previous 8 years worth of tag clouds, if you want to see the changes yourself.


CES 2015 MegaPost

One last CES 2015 post, collecting the video coverage I did in one place so that you can watch them all at once if you so please. I don’t recommend consumption of video in parallel, though…generally speaking, it’s best consumed serially.

Here’s all five of my CES2015 videos for your viewing pleasure:

CES2015 Preview

CES 2015 Unveiled

CES 2015 Press Day

CES 2015 3D Printers

CES 2015 Best & Worst Wrap Up

Thanks one last time to Springshare for sponsoring my CES2015 coverage. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform. 

CES 2015 – Best & Worst

Here’s my last video from CES2015, a wrap-up that’s full of the best and worst of the technology that I saw. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my coverage, and I’ll get a chance to head back next year for another run at the largest technology show in the world.

If you want to catch up on all of my coverage, you can see everything I posted via this link.  And if you have any questions about technology and libraries, want to pick my brain about anything that I saw, or want to ask me about specific technology recommendations for your library, feel free to drop me a line.

CES 2015 coverage sponsored by Springshare. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform. 

Just a quick note that I am producing a CES 2015 wrap up video that has a variety of things that I haven’t talked about or linked to yet, including some of my favorite overall pieces of tech that I had a chance to see and play with at the show. However, going through ALL of the video I took is taking me some time (at a quick glance, I took something like 3 gigabytes of video while I was in Las Vegas). Which means editing it together isn’t a quick affair.

It will be out this week. But later this week. Keep watching this space.

CES 2015 – 3D printers

I spent the first day of the exhibit hall opening working to see all the 3D printers that I could, and that turned out to be basically an all-day affair. This year CES isolated all of the 3D printers together at the Sands convention center, which turned out to be great…they were all together, and it was easy to compare sizes and capabilities. Check the video for some visuals and commentary on the ones that I paid the most attention to, but here’s the basic rundown for libraries.

There is yet another questionable audio portion in this video where my evil microphone comes back into play. Please forgive me, and know that I will be burning said microphone on the alter of better audio quality as soon as I am able. 

My number one choice for libraries that are looking at buying a 3D printer is the Lulzbot Mini from Aleph Objects. Released officially here at CES2015, the Mini will be shipping this month for $1350, and comes preassembled and can be ready to print just minutes after taking it out of the box.

I have been continually impressed with the quality of work that Lulzbot is doing, and I personally have one of their larger Taz printers (the Taz 2) that I have been running for over a year now with almost zero problems. But most importantly for libraries, Lulzbot is a dedicated Open Hardware company, which means that you will never be locked into proprietary parts or software to run your printer. If you need to repair a part, everything is documented and can be sourced from non-Lulzbot sources if needed.

Perhaps obviously I am biased towards open hardware, but I think that it is keeping with the spirit of the Library to support open information in all its forms. My older recommendations for printers included Makerbot…until they started locking down their devices to the point where now they are having serious issues with their newest printers, and customers have no recourse.

I have two other recommendations for libraries that are looking at buying a 3D printer in the next year. The first I mentioned briefly on one of my earlier reports, Ultimaker and their new range of small, medium, and large printers. Also a champion of Open Hardware design, Ultimaker provides all of the files and schematics for their printers online for free. I don’t think any library would go wrong choosing one of these printers for their Maker Space.

Finally, the third in my recommendations for libraries looking for something more interesting, even at the entry level, for 3D printing is any of the products from SeeMeCNC and their line of Delta printers. A departure from the cartesian printers that nearly everyone else makes, Delta-style printers are really eye catching and would be a great addition to a library Maker Space. And with their newest mini-delta, the Eris, SeeMeCNC has hit a very attractive price point for libraries, only $599.

Lots more type of stereolithographic printers as well…these are the 3D printers that use resin-based printing rather than the typical melted plastic that you find in the printers mentioned above. Take a look at the video for shots of the Form1, the Old World Labs printers, and more.

By far the most interesting new type of printer that I got to see was the Voxel8, a printer that’s designed to print in both plastic and conductive ink simultaneously, enabling the 3D routing of conductive structures and circuitry inside the plastic being printed around it. Watch the video to see more about them.

CES 2015 coverage sponsored by Springshare. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform.