BookMooch survey

October 31, 2009

As in the past two years, professor Karl Fast’s class is studying various aspects of BookMooch, conducting interviews and writing recommendations for changes. I’ve blogged quite a bit about the classes’ previous years’ results, and last year’s report on BookMooch’s culture is fascinating reading (as well as being very helpful for me).

This year, the class has broken down into different groups, each looking at a different aspect of BookMooch. It’s a bit more ambitious (which is great!) and the groups are attacking questions that I think are really important for BookMooch.

  • First survey: how you use social networking sites to talk about books and BookMooch.
  • Second survey: to find people to interview over Skype.

(these survey are now closed, thanks to everyone who answered them!)

Updated book topics

October 30, 2009

Mark and the other BookMooch admins have put together a new list of top book topics, and I think it more accurately reflects both what people are looking for, and the books that are available in BookMooch.

These new topics are now in place, and you’ll see lots of new topics that people have asked for (such as “cooking“). They show up in the “browse topics” page, and also on the “recently added by genre” page.

ps: I know that the topics assigned to books aren’t great, but this will be fixed in a bit, when I switch off of using Amazon’s data (sigh, who put “Davinci code” in “cooking”), to use using book data from other sources. I’m hoping that will happen in December.

Here is the new list of book topics:

Action & Adventure
Arts & Photography
Audio Books
Biographies & Memoirs
Business & Investing
Children’s Books
Comics & Graphic Novels
Computers & Internet
Cooking, Food & Wine
Gay & Lesbian
Health, Mind & Body
Home & Garden
Jewish American
Libros en Espanol
Literature & Fiction
Mind & Body
Outdoors & Nature
Parenting & Families
Religion & Spirituality
Science Fiction
Short Stories
Women’s Fiction
World Literature

I’ve added a suite of features that show you books as they’re added to BookMooch. Specifically:

  • see all books as they are added to BookMooch (in real time!)
  • see books in a specific genre as they are added
  • see books available in a specific country as they are added
  • only see books which are both in a specific country and a specific genre, as they are added
  • see books as they are added by a single member
  • use Twitter to subscribe to any of these feeds and monitor them however you like
  • use Twitter to search for any combination of countries, users and genres that you like.

You’ll find all these features under the new “recent” button in the “browse” section of BookMooch.

I’d very much appreciate it if any mooching Twitter expert wrote tips in the wiki help page for the “recently added books” page, as the capabilities this all makes possible are pretty neat.

Note that this feature is brand new, and the “newly added books” pages only contain books that have been added since this evening. This means that many of the genre searches you might try will come up with no books, simply because not enough time has elapsed for books of that genre to be added since the feature was added. However, in a few weeks, most of the search variations should yield results.

A note about wishlist notifications vs. the “newly added books” page

These pages are updated as if they were the very last wishlist notification for any newly added book. I.e.: as if every book had an invisible “update me” member at the end of its wishlist.

Here is how this works:

  • If nobody has this book on their wishlist, then the “recently added books” will update 2 minutes after the book is added. The two minute delay is there so that if a book is added and then whoops! it is removed, no notification is displayed.
  • If there are several people who have wishlisted the book, the “newly added books” will only update one hour after the last email notification to all the wishlisted members. In this way, this new feature doesn’t preempt wishlist notifications: you’ll still get the emails when a book you want is added, and you’ll have at least an hour to get the book before it shows up on this page.
  • If a book is mooched, reserved or removed before the “newly added books” page is updated, then the book is never added to the “newly added books” page.
  • If a book is mooched, reserved or removed after the “newly added books” page is updated, then the book is removed from the “newly added books” page. People going to the “newly added books” page will not see books that are now no longer moochable from that member. Note that there is one minor glitch, namely that the “real time” update on this page only adds books (i.e. if you leave the page open and never reload it by hand), it doesn’t remove them if the book is now unavailable. To see an updated version of the page with unavailable books removed, you need to reload the page in your web browser.

Ok, now let me explain how to use all these features.

You’ll see the new “recent” button on the “browse” page:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.20.19 Pm

the page you get defaults to showing you all books as they are added to BookMooch. It looks like this:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.42.52 Pm

the rounded grey box which shows you the new books automatically updates every minute or two, and it uses very little of your computer power (and none of BookMooch’s), so feel free to leave it up all day.

There is a lot packed into each entry on the page, so let me go step by step through it. One reason it’s so packed with data is because Twitter, which I’m using to manage this feature, limits each line to 140 characters. I need to make each letter count.

Here is what a single book line looks like:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm

The book title is given first. If the title is more than 70 characters long, only the first 70 characters are shown.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm2

Next, the author name is displayed. If the book title is quite long and the author name is quite long, only the book title is given. This doesn’t happen very often, though.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm3

Next, the URL to the book at BookMooch is given. If you’re interested in this book, click this URL.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm4

Note that the URL is a new, very short version of the book URL, in a new format of — if you ever need a short URL to paste into an email, you’re welcome to do this (ie, to trim into

An aside: while working to make this very short URL, I noticed that some people mis-type common URLs at BookMooch, such as “” (leaving off the trailing /) — I now transparently “fix” the most common typos and they work as you’d expect, redirecting you automatically to the right URL.

Next on the line is the BookMooch userid of the person giving this book away:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm5

Twitter uses #tags to indicate important searchable tags, which is why the # is present so many times on this line. It also means that you can use the twitter web site to search for any BookMooch username, and you’ll see (on their books as they add them.

Next, the country of the book owner listing this book is displayed, as a two-digit code (ie, USA is “US”)
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm6

Next, the main genres this book is categorized in are shown, in a very abbreviated format:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm7

In this example, #chld = children’s book, and #clssc = classics. If there are too many genres for a book for the 140 character limit, as many as will fit are shown.

Finally, how long ago the book was added is displayed:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.45.04 Pm8

Now, let’s go back to the “recently added books” form itself.

You can select a genre, and then click the “genre” button to view only newly added books in a certain genre. The list looks like this:

Note that only the “top genres” from the “browse topics” page are used. I’ve been talking to the BookMooch admins and they’re about to give me a more useful list of genres, so this will change in a few days.

the same kind of search is possible for countries, which is very useful if you prefer to mooch books from people in your own country:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.01.05 Pm

At the top right of this page, and of every page of the “recently added books” feature set, you’ll find an “advanced search” button:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.58.47 Pm

this brings you to a page where you specify a genre and a country that you’d like to restrict your view to.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.03.30 Pm

For example, you can show only “Romance” novels in the “United States”
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.04.19 Pm

As of today, you can now see a “recent” button on the inventory page for every member.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.09.08 Pm

this will give you a live page of books added by that member:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.11.07 Pm

I haven’t yet mentioned the “twitter feed” button that is on the top right of every “recently added books” page:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 10.58.53 Pm

If you click this (or the “join the conversation” link at the bottom right of each page) you’ll be taken to a page that is equivalent to the page you were just viewing:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.12.51 Pm

If you have a twitter account, you might want to follow the “bookmooch” account on Twitter and use any of the dozens of Twitter goodies out there to do neat things.

For example, if you go to your own inventory page at BookMooch and click on the twitter feed link (editor: I just noticed that button is missing, will fix tomorrow), you might see:
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.15.44 Pm

You could then (for example) use a Twitter Widget, such as the “Widget Search” to build an automatically-updating widget of your inventory for your web site.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.17.22 Pm

this is a really convenient way to embed your BookMooch inventory on Facebook or Myspace.

You can also very easily search newly added books inside Twitter itself. For example if you type “bookmooch #us #scifi” then this will match the “bookmooch” user (which is where the feed comes from) and the country “us” (United States) and the Science Fiction genre.
Screen Shot 2009-10-26 At 11.22.35 Pm

There’s a lot packed into this new feature, and I’m sure I’ve omitted some neat things that are possible, so please leave comments to this blog entry if you’ve got more ideas!


Bio photos now zoomable

October 19, 2009

Any place you see a bio photo, such as on Mark’s page, you can now click on the small photo:


and you’ll see a much larger version of their photo:


the zoomed image shown can only be large as the source image was: if the person uploaded only a small photo of themselves (example), the zoom will show a small version too. However, lots of people (example) uploaded large photos of themselves, so that’s what you can now see.

I know this is just a small tweak: I’ve started work on having BM host book-cover images itself, rather than pointing to Amazon, and the work to make this bio-photo-zoom feature work was also needed to make book covers zoomable too. Amazon supplies book covers zoomed down to all sorts of different sizes, and I’d like to be able to display them at sizes I want, so that I could do (for example) a clean looking “browse-books-by-covers” feature.