Sunday, December 17, 2006


mildlydiverting on Listal

I've been trying on and off for a month or two to upload our records from delicious library on to listal. Not for any particular reason, just because it seems fun to have a list of my (Our! God, I've actually allowed the boyfriend to comingle his CDs and Books with mine, which explains the Prog and some of the History of Apple stuff...) huge physical media library up with the virtual library that places like and amazon generate.

Listal itself is fun, but a bit... pointless, so far. It doesn't seem to encourage sharing and loans, nor resale, nor easy discovery of reccomendations. It might just be that until this evening it hasn't known enough about me, so I'll withhold judgement for a bit. What I really need is a site that I can easily query from my mobile phone when I'm trying to remember if I actually own that particular discounted David Bowie advert, or a site that tracks my ownership behaviours and instantly improves my reccomendations on any given eCommerce site. I'd like a bit of promiscuity with my data, please.

What I will say is that the profile page that you're encouraged to use as your linking presence on the site doesn't feature your collection nearly prominently enough - it's well below the fold. Profiles on social networks are beginning to look so similar - here's the box with the picture and location, here's the favourite stuff box, blah blah - that getting the 'killer app' above the fold on the page that people are likely to enter at seems ever more important.

On a related note - actually, an entirely unrelated note - YouTube and Twitter, what's up with your error messages? They don't appear next to the submit button I've just clicked, but in a banner at the top of the page. They're sufficiently far in to my peripheral vision that I literally don't see them, and just sit there thinking 'Hmn, this doesn't work... I wonder what happened?'. I finally understand why my mother has problems remembering to check status bars. Please fix!

Back to listal. Other niggles are that there's no view that allows you to just see everything - it's always broken in to music, books, dvds... I'm too used to thinking in terms of streams of stuff these days, and, well, that seems artificial. I'm really confused by the Movies / TV / DVD categories too - are they assuming that they'll track download purchaces? Otherwise, how do I reclassify all my DVDs into movies or telly or other?

They provide the now ubiquitous tagging for organising your stuff, but really, with 400 odd books (and that's less than a third of my total library, at a guess) I simply don't have the ability to go through and usefully classify stuff. I could do with a batch processor, or a use of Amazon's classification system to broadly indicate the topics of my books. A cross between that and Amazon US's 'Statistically Improbable Phrases' would tell you a great ammount about the actual content in there, and be a good starting point for better organisation. Folksonomy is all very well, but only works contiguously - you need proper librarianship foo to retrospecively work through that ammount of data. Use the API's available to you! I can acutally see a multiple-select-drag and drop interface like flickr's organizr working well for that ammount of representation-of-things in this context. Some of the CD metadata is a bit borken too; more likely the fault of delicious monster, but perhaps its the time for a project like musicbrainz to take Amazon's dirty data on books and physical media instantiations and expose it publicly for community cleaning? I think the combining, cross referencing and curating of this kind of data is one of the most useful things to have come out of the open source wikipedia / freedb ethic of the last few years.

So, anyway; Listal useful in that it has let me get physical objects in to a virtual space. That's less impressive once you understand that I compiled the list by waving barcodes in front of the boyfriend's macbook, but it's another link in the chain of making my life networked, and finally becoming little more than a set of public data streams. Hmn.

1 comment:

Siobhan Curran said...

It would be rather cool if you could take a snap of something's barcode on your mobile, send it somewhere, and get a text message back if you already own it.

Does anywhere do that?