BookFilter? July 11, 2007 6:51 PM   Subscribe

I was kind of peeved when Technorati dropped the book category from their popular page and list. I've also noticed a lot of requests for book recommendations on AskMiFi. Bunches of book or bookish tags. Mefites seem a bookish crowd. A fascinating Librarything group. Might it be worth considering expanding the book conversation specifically? We have a Music page. Why not a Books page? Rather than posting music files or lists, we could link to Amazon or Powells or Libraything or Google Book Search or WorldCat or blogs or reviews. There's a movement to react to the old media's abandonment of book coverage by encouraging more online coverage. Is this worth investigating for Metafilter?
posted by Toekneesan to Feature Requests at 6:51 PM (31 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

As you point out, there's already a librarything group.
posted by zamboni at 7:08 PM on July 11, 2007

This has been discussed a whole bunch of times. Relive the discussion by making use of the search function!

Also, AFAIK, a travel section is currently in work, so probably they should finish that one first.

Summary: read MetaTalk more often.
posted by !Jim at 7:13 PM on July 11, 2007

Like the suggestions for creating dedicated NewsFilter or PoliFilter subsites, I really don't think there is enough quality links out there to justify the existence of BookFilter. The MetaMusic comparison doesn't really make sense to me, either; MeMu presents original content created by MeFites, whereas your description sounds more like a collection of book recommendations or reviews, which is already handled by AskMe or runs into GYOB territory, in which case folks can use Projects.

If you're proposing an area where people can post their writings, there've been at least two or three attempts to get a MeFi writer's group off the ground, the most recent being on my most hated of irrelevant websites, Vox.

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:15 PM on July 11, 2007

Thanks Alvy Ampersand. You reminded me that I needed to at least try and update the Vox blog every once in awhile.

Books, what's that?
posted by sleepy pete at 7:42 PM on July 11, 2007

I'd love a place on MeFi where we could discuss books, with reviews and recommendations by some of the smartest, funniest, snarkiest curmudgeons on the interweb.

*hopes shameless flattery will work*
posted by Quietgal at 7:43 PM on July 11, 2007

It died.
posted by 517 at 7:45 PM on July 11, 2007

TravelFilter is the next priority. BookFilter sadly isn't around anymore. I don't know much about the LT group... anyone? I'd love to see peple's top three requests for other 'Filters theyd like, I bet Book would be high on the list, but even if it was the perfect idea it would still be low down the "to do"list. I get all my books from lately. I've heard they've got some good book talking going on but I haven't tried it out yet.

And fuck WorldCat until it starts finding ways to give discounted membership to libraries in rural noplace and stops telling me that the "nearest" copy of the Da Vinci Code is in the next state.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:01 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

We were brainstorming a bit a couple weeks back about doing a little bit more profile integration of non-metafilter site membership info—basically a sort of "I'm also on" feature extending the limited crop of things like flickr and IM services that we currently have. LibraryThing was very much on the list we brainstormed—barring some sudden bookish intentions on Matt's part, that's probably going to be the next best thing.

I think Alvy's more or less got it, regardless—the idea of a [favored interest] sub-site is attractive because it'd be mefites doing it, but that doesn't mean the sub-site would actually work. I'm not sure how we'd manage to wrangle enough book content to make a sub-site worth it, and content is pretty much king around here.

Music is a place where people can post things for relatively convenient consumption, and can produce things to post reasonably quickly and spontaneously—we can't really share books via the internet, nor consume them in ten minutes and jump into a lively discussion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:04 PM on July 11, 2007

WorldCat is fucking ridiculous. I've looked up books that my own public library has, fewer than five miles down the street, and it tells me the nearest one is halfway to Miami. And our library catalog is on WorldCat!

Rock on WorldCat programmers! Way to make something annoying and useless.
posted by Tuwa at 8:06 PM on July 11, 2007

You know I'm peeved Technorati doesn't have porn on its popular page...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:09 PM on July 11, 2007

HiFi is a place for music created by MeFites. So you're looking for BoFi as a place for MeFites to post books they've created? Because otherwise the analogy fails to hold water.

You're always welcome to discuss books on MetaChat. You can even take over the (dead) MetaChat book club.
posted by Eideteker at 8:20 PM on July 11, 2007

I did suggest a sort of consumerfilter section a while back, but it got interpreted as a pepsiblue let's link to all these cool gadgets which understandably turned off MeFites - I wouldn't want that either.

The angle I was aiming at was more of services-rating system so that companies don't exploit individual customers with the mindset of "pffft, it's only one guy". Quite hard to do, and more sites like this are cropping up like this in any case.
posted by nthdegx at 8:28 PM on July 11, 2007

I think there's something to the idea of MetaFilter starting its own literary salon. It could be a free-for-all kind of deal, where people could post either their own stuff, reviews, articles that wouldn't make for very good FPPs* or just whatever that's at least tangentially related to literature. Yeah, I could get my own blog and post it there, but a) nobody would read it b) I quit blogging for a reason, it's boring :)

I think there is little reason to start a BookFilter that would be narrowly focused on either original writing or recommending/reviewing/discussing books or sharing literary links not suited for the blue (IIRC the original impetus for MeFi was to make sharing bloggable links easy). But a BookFilter that did all that and more could be something glorious, a 21st Century literary salon. Or, hey, it could be a damp squib, I'm no sybil. But the point is, it could be done with little or no tweaking to the MetaFilter template, there's no extra functionality needed that I can think of. The rewards could be immense.

BooFi has a certain ring to it. So does WriFi and LitFi for that matter. Or, to get a little bit more pretentious, The MetaFilter Salon has a certain je ne sai quoi.

I don't know how much of a hassle it would be to run, though, that's always a big factor. I'd hate for Team MeFi to get overextended. But then, I'm sure there are some perfectly lovely people who'd be happy to moderate BooFi, as thankless a task as that would be. Though, of course, ideally the moderation would be light, and would mostly take the form of humiliation by barbed wit (i.e. just like on the gray and the blue).

*For example, this essay on John Dryden is thought provoking, but it's not especially noteworthy.
posted by Kattullus at 8:29 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's hard to say that there'd be enough critical mass of readers/reviewers to keep an entire book site interesting and worth visiting. Maybe if we can flesh the idea out and come up with ways to have always new stuff on the page, it could work.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:32 PM on July 11, 2007

Well, the librarything group discussion board started out strong, then kind of coughed and died (possibly because this is such a diverse group the lack of a clear unifying theme gets intimidating, possibly because all those super-cool zeitgeist features kept freezing up). I'd been meaning to get back and start a topic or two now that I've finished my catalog, but hadn't gotten there. It does seem like that would be the less-labor-intensive way to go, at least for the near future.
posted by ormondsacker at 8:33 PM on July 11, 2007

I'm not sure how we'd manage to wrangle enough book content to make a sub-site worth it, and content is pretty much king around here.... we can't really share books via the internet, nor consume them in ten minutes and jump into a lively discussion.

I think these are practical issues that could be solved, and are worth solving, given the large desire for book discussion demonstrated on Metatalk and AskMe. Off the cuff, one workable solution might be a site where people could post book reviews, perhaps with a capsule summary and extended content, as in the green. Others then discuss the book itself or, more likely, it's topic, like in the blue, except the source material is dead trees. That works better for nonfiction than fiction, but that might be acceptable. To provide nifty bookish integration, you could associate the ISBN number(s) with the post and display some book metadata or cover images fetched from Amazon web services. If you want to give people a chance to read the book first, you could make posters request their ISBN two weeks or whatever before, and list upcoming reviews. None of this should be particularly tricky technically. I'm not saying this is the one true BookFilter implementation, just arguing that it might not be hard to create a book site that generated quality discussion.
posted by gsteff at 8:43 PM on July 11, 2007

... where people could post either their own stuff, reviews, articles that wouldn't make for very good FPPs...

After sitting through writing workshops and classes and other writer get togethers, I say most emphatically no to the idea of another member's own work on a book filter site (I might even scream it if asked in real life). Sorry. If there was a "your own writing" filter for those who would like a MeFi music-style site, put it there, but I don't foresee that happening in the near future, and I don't foresee that being a good thing.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:43 PM on July 11, 2007

I guess what I was thinking about was filtering all the front page posts on books or that are books-related, and the Ask posts about forgotten titles or I liked this, what do you recommend. And while I didn't actually think of member writing, maybe that too, perhaps all that could be consolidated some how. I really like the suggestions members offer each other. Much better than Amazon's "Others who have bought this, have bought these" algorithm. Maybe this would be more of an RSS type thing, though I personally would prefer a sub-site, but a way to perhaps choose a books maybe a politics or travel flavor of Metafilter. Groups? At least a place for book focused discussion.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:52 PM on July 11, 2007

And fuck WorldCat until it starts finding ways to give discounted membership to libraries in rural noplace and stops telling me that the "nearest" copy of the Da Vinci Code is in the next state.

Heh, it's telling me that the nearest library copy of the public library books sitting on my desk are actually in California (which is a whole ocean away from me). Do I win?
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:12 PM on July 11, 2007

After sitting through writing workshops and classes and other writer get togethers, I say most emphatically no to the idea of another member's own work on a book filter site

Well, it would be behind a cut, no? A short description, e.g. "This is a story I've been working on for a few years off and on about a woman's love for her pet rabbit, Oscar Pootieface" and then the actual story would be a [more inside]

You wouldn't have to read it. You could pass blithely by, like with FPPs that don't interest you or AskMe questions that you can't answer. And for the record, I share your dislike for writing workshops, online and off (though Critters was good when I participated in it many, many years ago). The point I was trying to make was that it would be like a literary salon, where anything could be posted as long as it had something to do with writing. The focus shouldn't be narrow, but all of literature. Fiction, nonfiction, amateur, classics, poems, genre, critiques, essays and general discussion about books. Nothing should be categorically banned (unless it was illegal, of course).

It's hard to say that there'd be enough critical mass of readers/reviewers to keep an entire book site interesting and worth visiting. Maybe if we can flesh the idea out and come up with ways to have always new stuff on the page, it could work.

MetaFilter and its subsites have always been very all-over-the-place. As long as BooFi were kept freeform enough, I think it would thrive. MetaFilter and AskMe serve different people in different ways, and BookFilter should do the same. Some people would come to share and find interesting links. Others searching for some fiction to read. Yet others to recommend books or get recommendations. There are countless ways to approach books, the same would go for BookFilter.

(and yes, I've totally fallen in love with the idea of a BookFilter :) )
posted by Kattullus at 9:17 PM on July 11, 2007

Are these books something you would need to be able to read to know about?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:25 PM on July 11, 2007

I think a LitFilter would be interesting. Letting people share their own work may be worth a go as well, I'd be interested to see what came out of it.
posted by SassHat at 9:34 PM on July 11, 2007

Perhaps an easy solution would be to make use of the Blue Organizer Firefox extension. Granted not everyone uses Firefox but lets ignore that for a second.

One of Blue Organizer's features is the creation of what they call smart links. Everybody who wanted to participate could create a grid of smart links to books on their profile page. Blue Organizer has other categories as well, music, movies, travel spots, etc., so that would be easy to expand. Those who set up a grid could then join a 'MetaFilter Booklovers Group'. Those interested could go to that Group page and there would be a list of all the members who had one or more grids devoted to books on their profile page. One grid could be all time favorites and the other currently reading, or non-fiction and fiction, or whatever. Each person who had joined would have a link on their profile back to the group page. Profile pages then could also have links to that individual's work hosted somewhere else, like say a personal Google page. The group page could include space for discussion or not, the main purpose would be a listing of those who were contributing recommended books. It's worth mentioning that each of these collections of smart links has an RSS feed as well. That might be good for something.

One con I can see is that it might require more moderation. It's possible to put just about anything in a list of smart links, so someone's collection of books could also have blogs and recipes. Perhaps there is some way to filter it to make sure that each member of that collection corresponds to an item in the Amazon book section. Blue Organizer is based on the Amazon A3 database so that might be possible. The biggest pro of course is that if you can get it to work for books it should be easily expandable to all the other categories Blue Organizer tracks.

Now I know nothing about programming so maybe this is all unworkable. On the other hand it looks like it might be a time saver or at least worth considering some of their features. In my opinion the most important aspect is to keep these 'groups' existing among interested Mefites here, on these pages. If a whole different site is started up, like Sportsfilter, generating enough content is going to be a problem.

You all can take a look here.
posted by BigSky at 9:50 PM on July 11, 2007

I've yet to investigate the range of features LibraryThing provides, but my observation so far is that the MeFi group seems to exist mostly just as a bunch of people cataloging their books.

Some attempts at discussion were started, but the discussion board there doesn't seem to have the critical mass of regular users required to make it interesting & dynamic. People only need to check back once or twice to find "no new comments in the past month" before they give up on a discussion or networking site.

In terms of cataloging, you are limited to 200 books unless you want to fork out, and the prices are not super-cheap (or at least, the return on investment is not clear yet). Considering that I would probably own thousands of books, this is a limiting challenge: what strategy to use? Catalog the reasonably obvious, canonical ones in hope of being directed to more off-the-beaten-path reading? Catalog the quirky ones to link up with people of similar tastes? Catalog by theme, subject matter or country? Fiction or non-fiction?

Whatever the answer, it seems that unless MeFites get talking over there, I'm only going to be bouncing off the wider community of LT users (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:05 PM on July 11, 2007

200 books unless you want to fork out
Thank goodness you mentioned that UbuRoivas. I've hardly got any cataloguing done because it's such tedious work. Now I won't bother. Thank you.
posted by tellurian at 12:36 AM on July 12, 2007

tellurian - to be fair, when the MeTa thread first appeared & we all went & signed up for LT, one of the LT ppl showed up here & explained that the pricing thing is actually more of a *suggested* price, becoz MeFites were complaining that we pay only $5 here & their pricing seemed a lot steeper. search back for the original thread to find the exact wording.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:18 AM on July 12, 2007

What ever happened to the "reviews" page, where mefites could recommend or request recommendations for books, music, movies, etc? I thought matt said he liked the idea, and it always seemed to me like it would be a cash cow.
posted by delmoi at 6:18 AM on July 12, 2007

Sliding scale, min of $6.00 usd a year. Also a sliding lifetime membership, min eludes me just now.
posted by everichon at 1:53 PM on July 12, 2007

Here's the post in the original LibraryThing thread, by Tim Spalding - apparently the guy who created the site.

Oh, LibraryThing is actually cheaper than MetaFilter, if you want it to be. We *say* it's $10 and $25, but when you get to the payment page it's pay what you want. (We stole the idea from Magnatune.) You can go as low as $4 for a yearly membership. The best part is that the average comes out just six cents less than we were originally charging.

I'd bet MetaFilter could do something similar—$2 to $60. That's the secret, by the way. More people underpay, but the people who overpay do so in a big way...

posted by UbuRoivas at 2:50 PM on July 12, 2007

I've been exploring Good Reads for the past week or so. Their goals are a bit different than LT--you catalogue what you've read, rather than what you own, and it's less exact than LT's ISBN-based system. It has basic friending (no differentiations between "muse" and "colleague though; drat!), and a small collection of discussion groups are getting off the ground. There's also an area where you can post your own writing (no idea re: quality, though the first profile I clicked on was a poet who turned out to have an impressive publication record in journals). It looks like it's trying to be a mini-social networking site for bibliophiles, and though I doubt it'll wildly succeed, it seems to be well-designed, if lacking in features. It is, however, recent & free. At any rate, it doesn't seem to be any worse or better a place for MeFi book talk than LT or another third-party site.
posted by soviet sleepover at 6:25 PM on July 12, 2007

That looks pretty neat (And free, LT's sliding scale be damned). Thanks, soviet sleepover!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:41 PM on July 12, 2007

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