Friday, November 17, 2006

 

Socializing in a New Crowd



There are days when I forget to be purposeful, to make (or look at) a "todo" list. It is not spontaneity or improvisation; I just sit down in front of the computer and start browsing. Yesterday was such a day.

One of my "tracking" strategies is to select a link or two I've saved at del.icio.us that are both interesting to me and saved by a small number of other people. Then I look at what else they have saved to see if it interests me (in which case I save it, too). If the "fit" is really good, and they are reasonably active, I add them to my "watch list" to occasionally check what they've added. I've been hoping del-icio-us would add programmed ways to find people with overlapping interests more easily, but it doesn't seem to be happening; it doesn't even seem possible to program myself with the limited functions of their API. Maybe someday.

Yesterday I was happy to find someone who had located a whole lot of resources on the French language: dictionaries, translation information, and so on. I would have liked to say "thank you" and "good work!", but that is something del-icio-us does not really encourage: very, very few people indicate a way to contact them (I don't) and there is no "drop-box" or commenting or messaging system to serve the purpose. The only way I have found is to save something with a "for:username" tag and leave some sort of message in the "notes" for the link; I don't know whether anybody ever looks at their "links for you" in-box, and no one to whom I've offered a link has replied.

Later on, I read about another new "social listing" system. It seems too good to be true! It is called LibraryThing.com and enables one to catalogue one's books. It takes a lot of the work out of cataloguing by interfaces with Amazon, Library of Congress, and over fifty other catalogues: enter an ISBN, LC number, author, title, whatever you have and it searches for a matching entry. If a match (or several) turn up, you just click to confirm; if not, you can enter the information manually. Other sites have done that before (it seems, although I never found them), but here there are tagging, commenting, reviewing and other possibilities for socializing, too.

Now the really good part: facilitating finding other people with similar interests. It does what I want(ed) del-icio-us to do! It sorts through the libraries of other users and finds the people who have the same books you do (not all, of course, but overlaps) and calculates the ranking taking into account rarety (or banality) of the books-in-common.

The weighting makes a difference. I have only entered 177 books so far, yet there is someone else who has thirty of the same ones! However, he has catalogued over 6000 titles (yes, I'm impressed--that's three/week for forty years!) so his chances of overlapping anybody's collection is higher than average. Furthermore, the books of mine that match are mostly fairly "popular" titles. Switching to the "weighted" list, twenty-four others rank above the aforementioned person, some with only three or four matches. And the list evolves as I add titles. I'm really enjoying this!

The timing is good, too. It gives me an occupation so I don't think about Ségolène Royal's nomination as the French Socialist Party's presidential candidate: one of those things I can't change, but wish I could. Like someone said about Dubya, she wants to be president, not do president (cheerleader, not leader); this I do believe.


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