Another small tweak. The link from your name in the main member menu now links to your public bio page. Previously, it linked to the “edit your profile” page.


The reason for this change was to put more commonly needed menu items on your bio page, and thus easier to get to.

For example, I added a “Save for later: XX” statistic, which is only displayed for your bio page (save-for-later is considered confidential)


Clicking on that link brings you to your “save for later” page. That also enabled me to get rid of the “save for later” button that was on the top right, reducing clutter.

Speak of reducing clutter, I moved the “show inventory” button to the right of the inventory count, and shortened it to just “inventory” :


Now, on the top right there is only one button on your bio page, where there used to be 3:


I get a lot of complaints that the “log out” button is hard to find under “your membership”. I’ve been trying to find another good place to put it. One place I thought of is to the right of “your bio”, ie:


but I’m not sure anyone who is currently complaining will find that better. One reason I’m reticent to put it someplace prominent is that most people never need to use the feature. Either it’s your dedicated computer, or when you close the browser, you log out automatically. By putting a loud “LOG OUT” button, I’d make many people feel like they really need to log out, introduce fear and paranoia, and generally send bad vibes. Any thoughts on this… ? Besides, it seems that everyone who writes, is doing so to complain that they couldn’t find the “log out” feature, and that the placement in “your account” is stupid. Then again, those people now know where it is, so they can find it in the future, so perhaps there’s no problem.

This is a tiny tweak, but it’s always bugged me how, on the book details page, you often had to look at a dozen or two topics on the page. Worse, because every topic was linked to a browse page for that topic, every topic was blue underlined, making it “scream” on the page.

And to add insult to injury, Amazon tends to put too many topics on books, so we got lots of complaints about how stupid we the BookMooch staff must be to have all these stupid topics, stupid!

I’ve changed the topic to be a dropdown now, such as on this page:


as you can see on this book, there are lots of topics:


the book details page looks a lot neater now, with all those blue underlined topics gone. You can still browse on a give topic, by selecting one and clicking “GO”

A teeny change, I know…

I thinking of perhaps doing the same for previous givers/moochers/wishlists. It’s usually not a problem, as most book titles aren’t popular enough to be traded frequently but the page for “The Long Tail” is ghastly:


Give someone a smooch!

August 30, 2007

After much discussion on a previous blog entry, the “secret admirer” idea has emerged on BookMooch as the “give someone an anonymous smooch” feature.

This new feature is now available on BookMooch, and you’ll see a “smooch” button in the “bio” page for each member (on the top right, near the “report abuse” button).

Once you click the “smooch” button, you get a form which explains the feature a bit more, and gives you the opportunity to leave a note:


The confirmation page tells you what your note was, and that the email notification was successfully sent to them.


The anonymous smooches are nonetheless part of their “public record”, right under their feedback.


and anyone can see the date, and the note that was left, but not who gave the smooch.


The smooch does appear in the points log for both the giver and the recipient, so there is a little bit of a hint there, but I think this is important, so that people can see how their point scores are working.


Finally, the recipient gets a notification email from the BookMooch system, with the giver’s note, and a short explanation:


I’ll happily entertain rewrites of any of the text above, to make it cuter/friendlier/clearer.

GlobI’m currently working on the new forum feature for BookMooch, and one of the features is enabling forums in other languages besides English.

Below is a list of the languages that are in the pick-list when you create a forum (anyone can create one). I didn’t want to use a list of all the languages in the world, as that’s too many, and sorting languages by “number of speakers” ends up with every dialect in India, but drops Finnish, Catalan, and other smaller languages that have a fairly big Internet presence.

I ended up using a list of “the most popular languages purchased when buying the language learning software by Transparent Language”. In other words, these are the languages most popular with people who own computers and want to learn another language. That seems to hit my target demographic pretty well.

Nonetheless, I checked LibraryThing’s language list, and I had missed some important languages such as Welsh, Turkish and Romanian, so I added the languages LibraryThing had, which I didn’t have. Note that my list is a lot longer than LibraryThing’s, but looking at some of the things I have, which they don’t, I think that’s probably just fine.

So, without further ado, here is my list of languages that forums can be in. If you see a language which you think should be on the list, please post a comment.



A longish interview of me appeared today in the Keene Free Press.

Read it here

More speed = More use

August 24, 2007

The speed up of the BookMooch web site has greatly increased the use people are making of it. Below are some metrics.

The most dramatic change is in the number of new members per day. This is a chart of the past 30 days:


The net number of books added per day to the system is now a positive of 5000 books per day, whereas previously it was often a net-gain of zero. Books from people who are no longer using the system (ie, they are put on vacation) are removed from the totals on this chart. This chart shows 140 days, so I can see the long term trends. Notice the huge drop in the number of books occurred when the “put someone else on vacation if they don’t respond to your mooch requests” feature was added, which really cleaned up the database.


As far as the daily number of mooches, a bug prevented me from getting that number for a 3 month period, so this chart is actually showing 29 days of no growth, back in May, but now you can see that there are 60% more mooches per day than 3 months ago.

Yesterday, there were 1700 books mooched!


So that’s where BookMooch stands at the end of its first year!

“secret admirer” idea

August 24, 2007

Rose FrontA new idea popped in my head last night. Here it is:

A button labeled “[SECRET ADMIRER] : give someone a bit of love” would be on the bottom of the discussion forum pages, and also on the “acknowledge receipt of this book” page.

This button would lead to a form which says “If you think someone is really super, make them feel special and let them know they have a secret admirer! This form will sent them an anonymous “secret admirer” email with your note, and will give them 1 mooch point from you in thanks.”

The anonymous note *is* however, part of the recipient’s public record.

What made me think of this are four things I’ve observed:

1) how women anonymously give each other roses on Valentines’ day, just to be nice

2) an article I read, about a company where anyone could fill out an “appreciation” form, explaining why that coworker should be appreciated. The forms were not anonymous, but the company would give a $100 gift along with the form, and of course, the employee received a paragraph from the coworker explaining why they’re being admired. In BookMooch’s case, I didn’t want “the company” (ie, BookMooch), to give the point, because then the secret admirer thing seems insincere to me. If you say you admire someone, but you have todonate your own point.

3) My best friend in California, Bob Gable, who is a psychologist and works a lot in prison reform, has explained to me that people are much more likely to permanently behave in positive ways if the rewards for positive behavior are not expected (ie, they come erratically). In other words, if you are sometimes rewarded for pro-social behavior, but not every time, you will generally act in a pro-social way all the time, for the unexpected benefits that come from that.

4) At Lyris, we had a tech support department policy that said that each tech support employee had to receive at least 3 *unsolicited* “love” letters from a customer every quarter. This caused the employees to change their behavior and think of ways to “wow” the customers to motivate them to do the extraordinary thing of writing a letter to a company. In other words, how to “go way beyond the call of duty”

Also, I think the gift is more special if it’s anonymous, because then you don’t have to reciprocate, you really did just receive a “nothing expected in exchange” statement of generosity and appreciation.

Note that with this scheme at BookMooch you can only give a person 1 “secret admirer” letter, you can’t do it over and over to the same person.

I’m hoping this idea will lead to really positive behavior on the discussion forums, but also to reward people who go the extra step and include a postcard or personal letter with the books they send.


I’m working on new discussion forum software, that will be completely integrated into BookMooch. Anyone will be able to create a new discussion forum. Participation will be over the web and/or by email.

One idea I had, was for a newly created discussion forum to be associated with book topics. For example, you could have a “Science Fiction” discussion forum. Whenever the book topic “Science Fiction” appeared on a BookMooch page, a small icon indicates that a discussion group is available.

Here are a variety of different icons, all variations on speech bubbles, that I’ve been tinkering with:


and here is how it might look in context:


I’m leaning toward the icon to the right of “Science” above as my favorite, because it’s the least obtrusive.

Which icon do you like? Or something completely different (perhaps point me to a URL on the internet)

I will probably also enable these icons on authors and places, so that if a discussion for “San Francisco” exists, it would be so linked on the “books available in San Francisco” page. I’m also toying with the possibility of individual members being able to have their own discussion forums, sort of like a blog, where they can post whatever they like about the books in their life.

ps: I am still working on the volunteer-tech-support thing, but I realized this morning that the tech support idea, as it now stands, is really more like a specialized kind of discussion forum, so that I should do the discussion forum first and then see what needs to be done to it to make it work for tech support.

I’ve been agonizing over the past few days, about how to design and explain the new tech support system. I’ve been trying to reduce complexity, make it really simple for both people to ask questions, and for volunteers to assist in answering them.

Here is a screen picture of the current help page, as it sits on my wee laptop here in Stockholm (where I’m working on BookMooch). This is actually my 6th complete rethink


Here are a bunch of questions I have for my fellow moochers:

1) Will the question “Are you a guru” scare you away from looking at the new questions to see if you can answer them, thinking that you’re not really a guru, just an average person. Or, do you think it’s fun, and will look at the questions to assess your skill level, and then feel flattered that because you can answer some of them, other people see you as a guru?

2) I decided against a “ticket system” where there are “open tickets” and tickets are “closed”. In my experience, there is lots of confusion as to when a question is really fully answered, and frustration when a tech support person “closes” a ticket that the question-asker doesn’t feel was adequately answered. Instead, I was planning on a web-forum type of view, simply listing the questions you have asked, sorted most-recent-first. When someone answers your questions, you receive a copy of the answer by email, so you don’t have to check the page often. Besides “questions” and “answers from gurus” seems a lot more friendly sounding (and clear) than a “tech support ticket tracking system”. Is everyone ok with that?

3) You will be expected to leave a small tip when someone volunteers to answer your question. Since there is no “close this ticket” concept, I was thinking that there simply will be a link on the bottom of the email answer, and on the web page, that says “Did this answer your question? If so, be nice and tip this person for helping you!” And, the guru will have the option to send a “reminder” asking if the question has been answered to your satisfaction, and hint, hint, maybe perhaps a small tip would be nice.

4) I’m hoping that most questions can & will be answered by non-administrators, and that this will be a good way for people to earn mooch points, by helping others. Of course, even gurus will have to stay within the 5:1 mooch ratio, no matter how many points they’re given.

5) I don’t yet know how many volunteer administrators we’ll need, and for now, I’m thinking that the current administrators can “tap people on the shoulder” who they think are particularly clever and trustworthy moochers.

6) is “Help newbies!” offensive to people asking questions? Obviously, many questions won’t be from new users, but I thought I’d (ahem) try to be funny.

7) I’m not really happy with the buttons “browse” or “follow up” on the “Are you a guru” section

8 ) I was thinking of moving the “how it works” text to another page, but it’s really important, however it does really clutter up the page. It could be moved entirely to the [?] help links, if uhm, anyone ever clicks on those.

Other thoughts welcome!

For those of you who are curious, here are two documents I’ve been tinkering with, showing various other ways of designing the help. The web page picture is what the help page looked like this morning, and the other document is an outline of various ways to organize and explain it all.

Help2 Help1

BlackbirdbooksI received this very nice testimonial this morning from Blackbird books, a charity on BookMooch:

This is Tony from Blackbird Books in Kosovo. I just wanted to write and thank you for setting us up as a charity, and also express my appreciation to the whole community there for the additional points we keep receiving.

It’s really a very heartwarming thing to get up in the morning and find that some stranger has sent us the credit necessary to get another book. Right now the Bookmooch community is responsible for a respectable percentage of our entire library goal.

I know it might not seem like a lot to donate a couple of virtual points in this way, but it really does mean a lot for our project, and we continue to be really amazed at how giving everyone is being – I think it’s a testimonial to the kind of folks that have joined your online community.

To give directly to this charity, click here.

PrisonbookprojectAnother charity, the Prison Book Project has been making good use of BookMooch, and so far has obtained 330 books from the BookMooch community.

Claudine from the Prison Book Project wrote me recently to say:
BookMooch is wonderful. Oftentimes those we mooch from return the points to us; others just come through with gifts between one and 20 points whether we’ve mooched from them or not.

I just gave them another 100 points, and if you like the work they’re doing, click here to give them points.