Wednesday, August 22, 2007

International tags and more

We've had quite an upswing internationally, particularly among Dutch speakers. Dutch has surpassed French as our second-largest language community. (Next up: the Germans!) So I spent the evening adding some international features.

I've added special tag clouds to work pages on our non-English sites (,,, etc.) They show tags used by members of that site, or on books in that language.

It doesn't always "work" that well. Perhaps half the tags on our non-English sites are still in English, the site tending to appeal to English-language speakers first. But I imagine that will change as the membership broadens, and tools like this make tagging in your own language more attractive.

The example above is from the Dutch site ( work page for Harry Mulisch's De ontdekking van de hemel (The Discovery of Heaven), the most popular work on the site. It's more than half English tags. A more Dutch example would be De kanonnen van Navarone (The guns of Navarone), tagged avontuur (journeys by airplane) and spionage (spinach) alongside thriller and world war two.*

I also added an indication of how many of your linguistic compatriots have the books. Here is the French page for Amélie Nothomb's Stupeur et Tremblements (Fear and Trembling)—the fourth-most popular book among French members, but not in the first 10,000 among English-language members. The text is yellow and in English because I just added it, so no kind French user has yet volunteered a translation.

Lastly, I thought I'd announce and explain a feature just before killing it. (As Hegel said, "the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk."**) That feature is tag-coloring, an experiment that recently went site-wide (with the change in caching systems). The idea was to color personal tags lighter than subject tags, algorithmically at first, with some hand work from the LibraryThing for Libraries program, and then moving to let users weigh in on what was and what wasn't personal.

I was never convinced either way, but I thought it worth a try. The reaction on Talk has, however, been pretty hostile, not helped by the fact I didn't talk about it after it went live). I think I agree with the criticism now too. Anyway, chime in there if you like it. Otherwise, it's going away... Sometimes beta means making mistakes.

*Hey, it's 3:35am here.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ps Tim:

Avontuur is adventure and spionage is espionage (you know, James Bond stuff).

8/22/2007 4:12 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Sophie, my dear, how dumb do you think I am? ;)

8/22/2007 4:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're not dumb :P I blame the dictionary or Babelfish ;)

I mean, can someone with a Mac be dumb ? :D

8/22/2007 4:30 AM  
Blogger undeadgoat said...

. . . And there I was, all excited that a World War II book was tagged "spinach".

(And then, of course, step 2 is to combine tags that are direct translations of each other . . . That would be so cool . . . and also, unfortunately, almost completely unworkable, because sometimes Europe and Europa would be the same, and sometimes they wouldn't be. And that is just off the top of my head, there are probably other examples. But you know. Hey, there might be some books that Spanish-speakers (or whatever) are gnashing their teeth over because they can't distinguish between Europa (continente) and Europa (mitología).)

8/22/2007 11:34 AM  
Blogger nicole said...

"I also added an indication of how many of your linguistic compatriots have the books."

Is this going to be based on how many people are using, say,, or on how many people actually own a French language edition of the book?

8/22/2007 2:06 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

>Is this going to be based on how many people are using, say,, or on how many people actually own a French language edition of the book?

The tags used both, the members use the latter.

8/22/2007 2:35 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Excuse me, I mean the former—

8/22/2007 2:36 PM  
Blogger nicole said...

Hmm. What happens then if a bunch of people using get a book in English? I mean, it's telling you how many other members of have it, but isn't it more interesting to know how many people have it in the same language you do rather than how many people using the same domain you do have it? I mean, people using don't include all French-speakers (or readers), aren't only monolingual French-speakers, aren't people living only in France, etc etc - the only thing they really have in common is they choose to use LT in French.

I guess I'm just feeling a little excluded because I have plenty of books not in English but since I use I won't get to see how many other people have editions in the same language at a glance. And I'm not sure why this way is better.

8/22/2007 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the hard work with languages other than English. I rather enjoy using the French site to view my library.

But, when, oh when, will you add better support for non-Latin alphabets. My Chinese collection is just waiting to be cataloged--and is owned by Amazon so perhaps information can be gleaned from it almost as easily as it is gleaned from the other Amazons. Maybe?

8/22/2007 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does this new development deal with foreign language tags combined with their English equivalents? The debate has come up in the Combiners group a few times, and I think this makes it especially important to address.

8/22/2007 10:29 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I changed it to take into account both, say, and books marked as being in French. (This is most French books, but, when the data is not from a library, it can be a little tricky to guess the language.)

Anyway, the new tag clouds on the non-English sites don't use the tag aliasing—so histoire has not been combined into history.

8/22/2007 10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think foreign tag-combining is going to be problematic at best. There was a discussion on combiners about "Koln" vs. "Cologne"; the former always refers to the German city, whereas the latter might refer to fragrance. Or "Europe" vs. "Europa"; the former always refers to the continent in some manner, the latter might refer to the moon of Jupiter. As it does, for instance, here.
(They're currently combined, which means the majority-rules tag display shows absolutely incoherent results when someone DOES want to talk about the Galilean moon; "europe" is nonsensical in the tag cloud for the work I link to, while "europa" makes perfect sense.) It makes me wish the majority-rules could be done on a work level, both for tags and for authors (so that a book written by an author using one name would SHOW UP under that name, even if another pen name dominates in LT as a whole).

8/23/2007 12:44 PM  
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