Thursday, November 02, 2006

Localization for Community platforms

Social platforms are great, but if they only work with manually created profiles, this is often too little to be of real use. For instance, while it is nice to have a profile in openBC / XING, this only shows a part of who I am and what I do. On the other hand, I would probably not hang around MySpace because it does not seem to have the kind of people I would be interested in, but I might as well be wrong. While it's certainly fun to get acquainted with people from all over the world, I suspect that localized services are more interesting, since they may offer a real-world association, either by location (such as google local), or by resources. One possible link to the real world are media - books, music and movies. When it comes to book communities, there are at least three of them that come to mind, namely LibraryThing, which is currently being localized, or Shelfari, and finally, buchpfade. A quick comparison reveals the following:

  • Shelfari only connects to, so it mainly focuses on books in English. This is cool for English-speaking communities abroad (and, of course, in the US and Canada). On a side note, it has a great interface and look & feel.
  • LibraryThing not only has an interface in other languages than English, but you can also find non-English books. However, not all available metadata (e. g. ISBN number) seems to get imported. many books (incl. those that are out-of-print) cannot be found. As it is possible to internationally select different library catalogues where to search for, it should be possible to find almost anything that has ever been printed. There's lots of nice ideas related to socializing and community-building which are implemented there, so when it comes to diversity in functions, it's pretty cool.
  • buchpfade, purely in German, does a great job in finding almost any book that was ever published in German, and also some other media (DVD and CD). Lots of room for improvement, and indeed you will find that as time goes, more and more functions are being added.

I think that it makes sense to stay local before expanding and focus on community functions that emphasize the link to local places. While it may be nice to expand from books to media, looking at the books someone has read or is currently reading is something that may tell you a great deal about a person - especially if you do not have the chance to see each other at once. A potential way to build friendships? Time will tell ...

Bottom point is: Localization is not only about translating web pages, but also offering content that is of local interest. However, this will only work in the long run if such a platform attracts enough users. At the same time, by doing so, community building functions will increasingly become more important. Stay tuned ...


timspalding said...

Hey, thanks for the kind words. If Buchpfade really finds more books, I'm keen to know how. Between, the Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverbund and other German libraries (not to mention the LC), I would imagine LibraryThing did pretty well. Do you know what they're searching that we're not?

Dr. Matthias O. Will said...

Hi Tim,

I think I was a bit too quick in claiming that books out of print were hard to find. As I had not registered, but simply searched, I somehow had failed to see that the search is on the libraries of registered users. After registering, I did a few tests, and then finding not-so-common books worked really well. Sorry for that mistake.

Don't really know where they're searching, but you may want to ask them yourself. Their mail address is info (at)

timspalding said...

Thanks. I *believe* they're only searching Anyway, the result set matches. Try "Berossos" or "artemidorus" and compare results.

Good point about the search. I should make it clearer, so people understand you can *add* much more than is on at that point. Thanks!