Widgets now available

May 12, 2007

In the “your account” menu at BookMooch there is a new choice for “Widgets: fun tools you can embed in your web site or blog”.

“Widgets” are explained as: “A widget is a small piece of HTML code that you copy/paste into your blog or personal web site. The widget then displays live information from BookMooch on your web page.”


The list of widget choices is a bit on the long side, but there are only a few variations on the theme. All the widgets display a book cover or a book title, from either your inventory, wishlist or mooched history.


In order to use a BookMooch widget, you must have your own blog or web page. There are many web site technologies on the Internet, and so there are many ways of embedding widgets in them.

The simplest way to test which embedding technologies will work for you is to copy/paste the test HTML into your web page, and see which messages it displays. Then, use the first listed method which works. The test HTML is displayed if you leave the default technology as “I don’t understand” :


Once you know what widget technology your web server supports, you go back and choose it, and the HTML you need to copy to your web page is given to you. There is also a live example of the widget in action, so you can customize it to your needs.


I would love feedback on:

1) other widgets people would like to see

2) what you think of all this

3) was it too complicated? do you have suggestions to simplify it?

4) other ways to improve the widgets. Putting them under “your account” may be too buried, I welcome suggestions of another place to link to it from (if people find the widgets useful).

In the BookMooch wiki entry for “widgets” I put some additional information about the widgets, which I’m reproducing here as well:

You can test a widget easily by copying just the URL out from the HTML code, like so:

and putting it in as the URL in your web browser. In this case, you’ll see 10 book covers.
You can also modify the URL in various ways to get more options than the pull down menus give you. For example, this is the default URL for the “5 most recent books you’re giving away, separated by a space” :

if you wanted to separate each book with ” | “, you change the + (which is the HTML for a space in a URL) to “+|+” like so:

and if you wanted to show just 3 books instead of 5, change the number in the URL

You can also change the user that the widget is getting information from: it doesn’t need to be you. For example, if I change “johnbuckman” to “buckman_ca” the widget changes accordingly:

The “en” in each URL specifies the language any text in the widget would return in. Currently, none of the widgets returns any text other than the author name and book title, which we never translate.

The “html” parameter in the URL above determines the output format of the widget. Currently, there are only two choices, “js” for javascript, and “html” for plain HTML.

I’ve started working on features that integrate BookMooch with other people’s home pages, and would love some feedback on my ideas.

Here are a few things I’m thinking of:

1) “My books widget”: a bit of HTML you put in your blog or home page, that shows any of:
a) books you recently mooched
b) books you recently got
c) books recently added to your wishlist
d) most recent book reviewed

2) “Is it moochable widget” a bit of HTML you put on a web page, that tells you if that book is available for mooching. Useful for other web sites that have describe books (kind of like this page http://www.librarything.com/work-swap/39145 but for your own web site, and a lot smaller)

3) “blog this book” button. You tell BookMooch a bit about your blog, and you can then write your thoughts about any book that Amazon has (not just bookmooch books), and we can either give you the HTML or post directly to your blog, including the book cover, and live-status about whether the book is currently moochable. To encourage people to blog books, the book details page will link out to sites that have blogged the current book, which will greatly enhance your blogs google rankings.

4) possibly… books I’m about to read, and comments/reviews on each book, which is then automatically blogged.

5) also possible… if you add a review on bookmooch, it can optionally automatically post your review to your own blog, and bookmooch will link to your blog in thanks

Other ideas? The general thrust is how to help people with blogs or web sites easily talk about their bookmooch experience, but also about books in general.



Margo Milner volunteered to write some help/documentation pages for BookMooch, and I thought this was a great idea, but I also wanted everyone to be able to add to the help pages, just as we do today for the translations.

The solution was to put the help on the BookMooch wiki, so that each page at BookMooch would like to a dedicated help page, and anyone could edit the wiki page to add helpful information.

Now, on every page at BookMooch, you’ll see a (?) button on the top right of the page, across from the title. Clicking this pops up a help page on the Wiki, for the page you were on. Most pages are currently blank (since I just launched this today), so you can help out by:

1) putting in some helpful information yourself, about the BookMooch page

2) editing the page and putting questions in, and things you’d like answered about how that page at BookMooch works

Note that if you use BookMooch in a non-english language, you will get your own help page at the wiki for that page. In other words, the help pages are multi-language compatible.

Also note that some pages, such as the pending page, have multiple title sections, and hence multiple help. This is on purpose, so that there can be a separate page for “Books accepted to send” and “Books waiting to receive, which have been sent”. Since these concepts are a bit complicated, and these are big page sections, I thought it’d be helpful to have separate help for them.

The email address you use at BookMooch now needs to be confirmed. The next time you use BookMooch and go to the “add books to inventory” page or try to mooch a book, you will be asked to confirm your email address.

A very short email message will be sent to you with a URL in it. When you click on the URL in the email, your email address is confirmed.

You won’t be able to mooch or add books until you confirm your email address. This is what the page looks like that you’ll see until you confirm:

Confirm Email

New accounts at BookMooch will be able to log in right away, and use all the features at BookMooch, except for adding books to their inventory or mooching books. Many sites won’t let new users log in at all until they confirm their email address, but I thought that was unfriendly, as that stops people from checking BookMooch out to see if they like it, and what we really want to do is stop actions that affect other members (adding and mooching) until we know their email address is valid.

There are a few goals with this change:

1) when you try to mooch from someone, there will be a greater chance that they’ll get the email message requesting the book if they confirmed their email address

2) if you have an anti-spam program, it’s an immediate reminder to set your anti-spam software up to allow BookMooch messages

3) we’ve had some abuse of the system, both with people adding an account and immediately mooching as well as (less frequently) adding lots of books that people have on their wishlist, causing spurious wishlist notifications.

4) with this additional step, we administrators can ban people who repeatedly cause trouble, and make it just a bit more difficult to hit us repeatedly

People have long asked for a way BookMooch could identify members who have abandoned their BookMooch accounts, so that people don’t see their books as moochable and then get disappointed when the book isn’t sent to them.

Alternatively, if someone goes on a long vacation, and isn’t answering any mooch requests, it would be good for their account to be automatically put “on vacation” so that no-one mooches from them while they’re unresponsive, but when they come back all is set back to normal.

Many ideas for doing this were discussed on the forum, but the idea I liked best was based on the scenario of “I tried to mooch from this person, but they never replied”. I like this because a human being makes the judgement, which can then handle more odd cases than a computer judgement. For instance, if we auto-vacationed people who haven’t logged in since 30 days, that would remove people who would respond to mooch requests that would come in, but otherwise don’t use the service. Those people should be allowed to remain, it’s only non-responsive members that we don’t want.

So, here’s how the new feature works: if you go to cancel a mooch, and it’s been more than 7 days since you made your request, you can now indicate that “the book owner never responded”. This choice *only* appears on the cancel page if 7 days or more have elapsed since your mooch request. Here is what it looks like:


If you do indicate that “the book owner never responded” then the book owner’s account is immediately put on vacation. Vacation, if you don’t remember, means that the person’s inventory is set aside, so that their books don’t appear in searches and aren’t moochable. They then get an email like this:

Subject: Your BookMooch account is now ON VACATION
Date: May 3, 2007 10:40:50 PM BDT

Your BookMooch account is now ON VACATION

A recent book requestor has indicated that you did not respond to their book mooch request within 7 days.

BookMooch has therefore assumed that you are currently not replying to requests and has automatically put your account on vacation.

To undo this, log into your account by going to:

BookMooch does this so that people who stop using our service automatically have their books removed. That way, people cannot request books from people who are no longer using our service.

In the future, to avoid having your account go on vacation, we ask that you respond to all mooch requests within 7 days. You do not need to send your books within 7 days, but you should acknowledge the request.

If the book that was cancelled is on multiple wishlists, no wishlist notifications are sent out, since the owner’s account is put on vacation. This is an important improvement, because until now, an annoying cycle occurs when someone cancels a book from someone who is inactive, which then triggers a wishlist notification to others who want the book, they try to mooch it, and the cycle continues. However, if the mooch request is cancelled due to non-response, and the owner comes back from vacation a few weeks later, then the wishlist notifications are sent out then, as they should be.

Back to the cancel screen. If the requester has not waited 7 days before asking to cancel, then a message is displayed on-screen that says:

Are you cancelling because you haven’t heard back from the book owner?

If so, we ask that you wait 7 days before cancelling, to give the person plenty of time to reply.

After 7 days, if you cancel because the owner did not respond, BookMooch will automatically put the owner’s account “on vacation” so that other people do not accidentally request books from this person until they become active again. This helps other people avoid requesting books from people who do not respond, and is another reason we ask you to wait 7 days before cancelling.

Thereby encouraging people to be a little bit patient.

Note that if you go to cancel a book within 24 hours of your request, BookMooch assumes that you are cancelling it because you changed your mind, and no “please wait 7 days” plea is displayed, the cancel page works as it always has.

I’m hoping this fairly simple feature is fair and also effective at slowly weeding out accounts that have been abandoned.