Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Widgets get a lot better

We've just brought live new, improved widgets, available from the make widget page.

Some highlights:
  • New "animated" style cycles through your covers in a oddly mesmerizing way.
  • Widgets are extensively customizable, so you can fit them to your blog without any special knowledge.
  • Power users can do more, with Javascript and CSS customization. Check out Chris' blog for stylish use.*
  • The new widgets are shareable (an example) so members can show off and swap styles. (Yes, we'll be having a widget-creation contest soon.)
  • Widget links don't go off somewhere, but open up a slick lightbox "mini-book" page, with your information and (optional) links, to LibraryThing and elsewhere. You can, of course, fill in your Amazon Associates code, if you want to make money off your widget.
  • Widgets now include (optionally) tags, ratings and reviews. You can filter by reviews and tags too.
  • The code is good—based on our improved JSON Books API and designed not to slow down your page (they're "lazy-loading"). Weirdly this can make the widget look slow. That's because it's not slowing down the rest of the page!
  • Internationalized from the ground up.
  • Orcas, baby!
Go ahead and make a widget.

Talk about it here, or on Talk.

Luke! Widgets were helmed by new employee Luke (member: LibraryThingLuke), who wrote most of the core code, all the styling options, the share system and so forth. Other LibraryThing people helped. Chris—hard at work on collections, we promise—chipped in some attractive styles. Mike wrote the crucial cover-animation code, something he's been working on for our upcoming Facebook application. I made sure Luke got a list of changes every morning, including at least one thing I wanted the other way the day before.

Luke offered the following thumbnail bio:
"Luke Stevens lives in Portland, Me with his wife and three kids. He enjoys single malt scotch and silver-age comic books. He rides a motorcycle from the early 80's that elicits laughter from his evil co-workers. Twitter: saintlukas; blog:"

*Chris swears by

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Blogger paixe said...

This is an AWESOME new toy, I love it! It's very pretty, watching all my books shuffle past me on display. Like some Scrooge counting his coins.

One thing. Do you think there'd be a way to get this onto Facebook? Or Google Apps, for the iGoogle homepage? I'd love to show it off on Facebook, and it would attract a lot of people over to LT, I believe.

Anyway, very good work. Love it!

4/01/2009 3:32 AM  
Blogger Evert said...

Looks great! :-)

One little item though... I have entered my own Amazon associate ID when I created my widget, but I can see in the URL I am being sent to that it uses 'librarythin08-20' instead...?

4/01/2009 9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4/01/2009 9:12 AM  
Anonymous cnb said...

Very nice. Any plans to make a widget that can work on a blog? They disallow both Javascript and CSS unless a special widget is made for and approved by them in advance.

4/01/2009 9:28 AM  
Anonymous Silvernfire said...

Fantastic! I couldn't get your old widget to display properly on my Vox blog (too wide), but this was easy to tweak. Thank you!

4/01/2009 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried to limit this to two tags. This didn't appear in the script...I'm just trying this out on the basic animation. Any hints?

Otherwise, this is really spiffy!

4/01/2009 10:13 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Anonymous, when you say "it didn't appear in the script" what do you mean? -Mike (

4/01/2009 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Christine said...

Very nice!

One thing, though -- when you click on a book and the info box pops up, there isn't any immediately apparent way to close the info box. I realise that you can just click anywhere on the page you've popped up over, but it might be a confusing thing for some. Most popups I see tend to have a "click to close" somewhere on an upper corner.

Just something to consider.

4/01/2009 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I entered the tags and the script did not change at all - even after tabbing off the field. I tried both multi-word tags, then just a single-word tag.

I was trying this on the Basic Animated Preset. There was nothing in the "embed this widget" script that changed to show that it was selecting those tags only. (All of the other presets alter the script somehow.)

4/01/2009 11:19 AM  
Blogger RT said...

Somehow I am failing to make this work on Blogger. I get this error message when I click on a book (at

The requested URL /widget_work.php was not found on this server.
Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

4/01/2009 11:37 AM  
Anonymous librarythingluke said...

@Tags - Due to some load issues on the server, some things will not always refresh the widget. Its easy to imagine customizing a half dozen options on the widget and refreshing it 6 times before you even see it, so for now I've slowed it down.

Its not as nice, and I plan on switching it back later, but in the meantime you can try hitting the "refresh" button at the top and bottom of the widget options to force your selections to reload. Let me know if you still have trouble. More discussion happening over in talk.

4/01/2009 11:39 AM  
Anonymous librarythingluke said...

Rebecca, other Blogspot users:
I had trouble putting it in HTML directly on Blogspot. Here is how I was able to do it:
Use the Layout tab in your blog settings, where it lets you pick blog "gadgets."
Select "add gadget"
Select "html/javascript"
Paste the embed code in thusly. I had the best luck using a widget set to a width of "fill". You can see it (and my kids) here:

4/01/2009 11:46 AM  
Anonymous librarythingluke said...

If you're following here and not on talk: Amazon Associate has been fixed, as has Amazon country.

4/01/2009 12:29 PM  
Anonymous librarythingluke said...

@cnb - We have spent some time discussing and researching the problem of Wordpress hosted blogs. At this time we have no obvious solution, but its something we are still interested in and will continue to explore.

The thing is this: We want a static image widget to be as awesome as we can possibly make it. Something pretty, dynamic, truly random, etc and that requires a bit of infrastructure to do without javascript.

4/01/2009 1:18 PM  
Blogger Christer "Mort" Boräng said...

Looks very nice. The only thing I miss is the ability to only list negative tags to get all minus a few books.

4/01/2009 6:02 PM  
Anonymous paradoxosalpha said...

Both review widget types are missing a space between the final word of the title and the word "by" leading the author, e.g. "1984by George Orwell." I hope this gets fixed soon, because I really like the review widget, but I won't put it on my website with this defect.

4/01/2009 8:10 PM  
Anonymous libraryThingLuke said...

paradoxosalpha: Oddly enough, I hadn't noticed it because it looks ok in Safari and Firefox (my weapons of choice), but I did just now see it in IE6. I'll try and deal with that sometime tonight, if you check in the morning hopefully you'll be able to use it. Thanks for letting us know, keep it coming.

4/01/2009 8:49 PM  
Anonymous librarythingluke said...

Ok. The "by " thing looks fixed.

4/02/2009 1:19 AM  
Anonymous Judi said...

The new widgets look great!

I'm just going to second the "please make some that work on WordPress" request.


4/02/2009 4:50 AM  
Blogger Ken Broman said...

For some reason the pop up windows don't close on my blog once they are opened. Even if I click outside the box. I have to refresh the page to get rid of them.

4/03/2009 6:10 PM  
Blogger Graeme said...


I'm using Chrome 2.0 at the moment, and the window size seems to be badly calculated, so the widget is just too big for the window, forcing a scroll bar with a tiny amount of scroll.

I second the request for a close box.

Could we have a link to WorldCat as well as or instead of Amazon??

4/05/2009 9:15 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

That is really mesmerizing!

4/06/2009 5:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I really like the looks of this (even though I had to go to one column to fit my blog).

One thing: I notice that I can choose books filtered on a tag. Is it possible to filter books *out* based on a tag? For example, I wouldn't necessarily want to show anything I had tagged as "erotica" in my sidebar.

4/07/2009 9:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I like the look of the new widgets, and additional options such as linking to multiple amazon sites, but for my purposes the new widget form lacks an important feature that the old widget (jswidget.php) had - namely the ability to insert specific parameters in the script rather than have them all stored in an id that apparently can only be created by the form.

Or have I missed something? Maybe there is a way to do that with the new setup. If not, is there still some way to access the previous scripts?

4/07/2009 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will this work on LiveJournal?

4/16/2009 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Ellie said...

It would be great to be able to turn this into a Facebook application - you could have a box on your profile with the shifting covers, and I think it would generate plenty of interest amongst bookish friends (and so spread the Gospel of LT!).

4/16/2009 6:44 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Livejournal: Not now. We're looking at it.


4/16/2009 7:28 PM  
Anonymous djw said...

Great work and thanks for making a new widget. My request is for the option to retain the old version's ability to link directly to the Amazon (or other site of choice). I want my readers to click to buy the book, not click to read more about the books I have on LibraryThing. Makes sense? It would be more items in that pulldown menu of click-response choices.
Thanks so much!

4/16/2009 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I "third" the request for a close feature after clicking on a cover. (Or at a minimum the instructions to click outside the box to close it.) Why force users to use trial-and-error for this non-standard implementation?
Otherwise, VERY cool!

4/17/2009 2:46 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

I like to display my recently read books in my blog sidebar. Goodreads has a widget that lets me do that, but I don't like Goodreads nearly as much as LT. I'd really love a widget that would pull the last X books that I read based on the read date and display them.

5/02/2009 9:50 AM  
Blogger zelda said...

Our animated widget seems to be multiplying on our page. In efforts to fix this I've deleted the old code and created a new widget. Now I have several widgets listed in my widgets page. How do I get rid of all but one?

I love the look of the new widget, but the open nature of the old code, where you could fiddle with cover size for example, made life much easier.

It was not in the least bit intuitive the figure out how to get the cover size I wanted when creating a new widget.

5/08/2009 4:18 PM  
Blogger Mike said...


We currently don't provide a way to delete the widgets from your stats page (assuming that's what you mean) but after two weeks of no activity they should drop off.

As far as cover sizes and flexibility can still get nearly the exact cover size you desire by making the widget 'fill the space' (under 'Customize style') and then constraining the width on your web page. I agree though that that might not be obvious and there's nothing there that expresses that possibility.

One thing to keep in mind is that with a grid-like layout it would not be good to specify static width/height because then different shaped covers would not play well together visually. This is why we've chosen to size the covers to the area you place them in... overall this ends up being more flexible.

Thanks, we welcome any additional comments.

-Mike (

5/08/2009 4:50 PM  
Anonymous Jens said...

Widgets are great!

is it possible to see my own book comment in widget? I could not found an option.

Thanks, Jens.

6/24/2009 1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The widget posts a link to LT in my LiveJournal, but not the animated display. Am I doing something wrong? Please consider that I am *not* really that knowledgeable about this stuff :[

6/26/2009 12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

any idea on how to get the widget to work on google site

7/27/2009 8:04 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Which google site? Blogger? -Mike

7/27/2009 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the widget on my website for my students! However, it repeats the book selections after only three changes, unless I refresh the page. Is there a way to keep showing all my books?

8/01/2009 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Luke said...

Not right now. We don't want to slow peoples pages down, so we limit each widget to 3 widgets-full of content.

8/03/2009 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am using to host my library website. When I paste in my library thing widget code and press save, google posts a message telling me that scripts have been disabled.

Does anyone know how to get it to work?

8/09/2009 2:05 PM  

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