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In English İnternet Notları | Notes From Internet Rethinking the Internet

Adventures in Building a Library Catalog

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

Introduction

Some time ago, I wrote about the problems with Goodreads and how StoryGraph can be a good alternative for many. This is something I’m really interested because most of what I do is about books and because of my ADHD brain, not being able to track the books I have causes quite unique problems such as having multiple copies of the same book, sometimes in different languages.

This is why one of my major quests in life is having a personal library catalog in which I can track what I have. But this is not an easy task.

Chapter One: Storygraph

Although Storygraph seemed like a good alternative with many promising options, there were many problems which made it really hard to use. The most important one was the issues with finding and adding Turkish books. Most of them were not available and some were only returning the results for English editions. Which is a huge problem because if I’m going to keep track of my books and my library, I have to make sure the correct editions are logged. 

Another important issue was the limits of its social aspect. There’s no way to know if someone I know is on the platform unless they tell you. There’s no easy way to find people, no way of communicating, etc. Since I was also trying it as a Goodreads alternative, this was an important issue for me. Because I really like seeing which books other people are reading and what they think about it. 

Missing the social side plus not being able to track books in Turkish simply made Storygraph a bad choice for me. I had to move on.

Chapter Two: LibraryThing

Then I tried to give LibraryThing a shot. It seems old school and not really sure how many people actively uses it, but it seemed like a better place to keep a library catalog because of the power tools such as scanning book barcodes with the iOS app. 

At first, LibraryThing was working just fine, until I’ve decided to start adding my library at home to have a catalog I can easily search. Although LibraryThing can search the university libraries in Turkey, most of the data was either incorrect or totally missing. Yes, it was finding most of the books, but occasionally the names were wrong, sometimes the authors. Some books had Turkish character issues in their names, some showed the translator as the main author, some had completely unrelated information.

This is why I’ve returned to using Goodreads for the online and social part of the book tracking adventure. But Goodreads also has issues about Turkish book data, even though much less than the other options. Those issues mainly caused by volunteer librarians on the platform, and although I’m one of them, I don’t have the time to track every issue and fix it.

This means I still need a solution for building my library catalog. That’s when I decided to give an old friend a chance.

Chapter Three: Calibre, The Old Reliable

For those who don’t know, Calibre is a digital library software that’s mainly used for organizing your e-book library. It also has so many power tools and plugins inside, which makes it a crazy powerful software. I’ve been using it to organize my e-books for years, but it never occurred to me that I can use it for more. Until now.

You can simply use Calibre as it is, and it’ll probably work just fine but if you want to make sure that it can find anything, you can go to add-ons and search for these extensions too:

List of Calibre plugins I've installed.
The list: Amazon.com Multiple Countries, DNB_DE, Goodreads, Wikidata, Find Duplicates.

After this, all you have to do is expand the Add Books menu and select “Add Books by ISBN”. This screen will open, and you can add as many ISBNs as you want and let Calibre do its thing. If you need an easy way to separate e-books from paper ones, you can simply add a tag like I did and all the books will have this tag automatically added.

Calibre menu screen for adding ISBNs for import.

Now I can keep track of my library in one place and easily add more books whenever I buy new ones. All I have to do, write the ISBNs on my phone and then paste them inside the Calibre. While other solutions had dozens of missing books or books with incorrect information, Calibre only had two missing ones: one of them published a couple of weeks ago and one published by a small publisher. All I had to do, copy and paste book info from the publisher websites, and it was done.

Conclusion

So, this is where I ended up:

Calibre will be the tool to keep track of our household library for everything, e-books and dead-tree ones. I wish I could find a way to simply turn that into a one-person book blog, but until I have enough time to give it a shot, it’s a dream project waiting in my notes. 

For a more public facing book tracking, I’ll keep using Goodreads. But I’m thinking about other alternatives too. Maybe creating a special category on my blog and write small posts every time I finish one. I’m not sure about it yet.


This experience taught me a lot about platforms, books, ISBNs and many other things. But one common thread I’ve been facing in many online tools is how Western —and sometimes simply US— centric those tools and projects were. I can easily use many tools as long as I keep everything limited with English and/or US-based. When you step outside English, you’re on your own. Nothing fully works and most of the time you have to figure out the problems you face by yourself because most of those were never occurred to the developers or not seemed urgent. 

We always talk about how internet is global and open for everyone in the world, as long as you live in English. And it will seem mostly true if you’re in the US, UK, or some other Western country (although the same problems may be faced by Europeans or people in the US who doesn’t speak English). But when you try to work with another language, even if you’re using a global standart like ISBN, things change quickly. 

If the global internet starts throwing bugs at your face when you’re trying to work with a global standart, think about what kind of problems people are facing regularly when it comes to more serious issues such as content moderation.

Categories
In English İnternet Notları | Notes From Internet Not Defteri | Notebook Rethinking the Internet

Why I Keep Coming Back to Blogging

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

This is part of one of the blog chains here, titled “Rethinking the Internet” but instead of using numbered titles, I have decided to continue with unique ones.

If you’re someone who writes or reads online, you know that newsletters are the hot trend for a while. While I totally understand why it’s so popular and fits better for different ideas and projects (like the one I do with NewsLabTurkey and Tuhaf Gelecek), I never managed to write my personal one regularly. I could explain why with many different reasons —not being able to plan, can’t find new things to write regularly, being over-critical of my writing, having too much work in my hand— but after reading Cory Doctorow’s recent piece “Memex Method” I know why I couldn’t write a regular newsletter: because what I actually want to do is blogging.

Since I started using internet regularly, I always had blogs. It’s my natural state of being online —even though I spend way too much time on Twitter. I feel comfortable writing for my blog and enjoy the experience in general. I can work on my half-baked ideas without much pressure, because now everyone expects newsletters to be fully finished ideas and articles. Although it’s an understandable expectation, not really what I want to do.

Quoting from Cory, this is what I prefer doing:

“Blogging isn’t just a way to organize your research — it’s a way to do research for a book or essay or story or speech you don’t even know you want to write yet. It’s a way to discover what your future books and essays and stories and speeches will be about.”

This is especially important if you consider the fact that almost all of the work I do can be summed up as “reading, researching, taking notes and writing stuff”. I know some people prefer to call what Cory describes as blogging “digital gardens” but I’m having a hard time to understand why it’s not just called blogging. For my personal practice people usually describe as digital garden are either blogging but more linked together or how I use my private Roam Research graph for. There’s a good chance I might be missing something too.

Returning back to newsletter and blog thing, Dan Hon wrote about Cory’s piece on his newsletter and said something important: “But a blog post would be different. Medium posts are different. The setting is different. The place is different. The context is different.” This is quite important because what I couldn’t manage that newsletter keep going is mainly because I wasn’t doing something unique for that setting but instead trying to blog with a newsletter. That’s why I felt limited, not really fitting.


And of course there’s the thing about making an income out of your online writing. Right now creating a paid newsletter is the easiest way to almost anyone online but because I can’t create a Stripe account that’s not an option for me. I have a Patreon that’s been going on for a really long time but because I couldn’t figure out how to use that and a newsletter together, it never really took off. But if I decide to go with a blogging focused writing, I can make more use out of it and make sure people supporting me can have something more visible in their hands. For example, I can simply turn any post here patron-only and people supporting my work can read it with one click.

What I’m trying to say —both to you and myself— is that blogging is my real home online and I’m going to be using here more actively from now on. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with the newsletter but I’m thinking about turning that into a semi-regular announcement channel about the work and blogging I’m doing. Or maybe I will come up with an exciting experiment in the future.

Let’s end this with another quote from Cory about why blogging is important for anyone who’s job is similar to mine and his:

“There’s another way that blogging makes my writing better: writing every day makes it easier to write every day.”

PS. I’ve recently updated my RSS Reader page here if anyone is interested in that.

Categories
Blogchains In English İnternet Notları | Notes From Internet Rethinking the Internet

Rethinking How I Use Internet: 8

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

Goodreads today looks and works much as it did when it was launched. The design is like a teenager’s 2005 Myspace page: cluttered, random and unintuitive. Books fail to appear when searched for, messages fail to send, and users are flooded with updates in their timelines that have nothing to do with the books they want to read or have read. Many now use it purely to track their reading, rather than get recommendations or build a community. “It should be my favourite platform,” one user told me, “but it’s completely useless.”

Why Goodreads is Bad for Books

Goodreads is one of those platforms people really hate but feel like there’s no other option. Especially with Amazon buying it years ago and only adding Kindle integration and not dealing with anything else (such as their major spam account issue and not even being able to report them) it’s turning more and more into a website which is used by Amazon for selling more stuff.

There has been some discussions I’m following about what could be done about it. Tom Critchlow‘s “Library JSON“. Decentralized projects always gets me excited but at the same time I know that it’s practically impossible to turn it into something adoptable by everyone. Mostly because decentralized projects generally think about people who are technically more capable.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to test it when Tom makes a more robust version of Library JSON. I’m sure I will. But right now I have a new possible favorite called TheStoryGraph. There are many things I like about it and it really solves a lot of the personal problems I have with Goodreads.

From there, The StoryGraph recommends books, marked by thematic tags and length and accompanied by well-researched synopses. But beyond the design and descriptive tags, there is one major difference Goodreads users will notice: ratings are almost unnoticeable, deprioritised to the bottom of the page.

Why Goodreads is Bad for Books

TheStoryGraph is definitely more social but not like Facebook or Twitter, which are focused on playing you with their algorithms and not actually caring about what you want from these platforms. They’re actually focused on helping people to find new books.

Of course there are things TheStoryGraph has to be careful about while growing up. Tom’s quote on this summarizes it beautifully:

But Tom Critchlow argues that a “better Goodreads”, with functionality such as The StoryGraph offers, must avoid falling for the “seductive and imaginary ideas about social networks” that doomed a long list of previous competitors, including his own. “So many people dream of disrupting Goodreads,” he says, “[but] focus on the wrong things, myself included.”

Why Goodreads is Bad for Books

So far it seems like they’re not going to fall into it and I hope I’m not wrong.

Right now I moved all my Goodreads data to TheStoryGraph and will be using it actively. You can check my profile and see how it works and looks like, you can do it from here.

Categories
Blogchains In English Not Defteri | Notebook Rethinking the Internet

Rethinking How I Use Internet: 7

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

On most of what people call “the internet” I’m somewhere between lurker and behind the locked accounts. I want to draw more solid lines on that but maybe what I need is just going with the flow and seeing where it’s going to take me.

What I’m actually thinking about lately is actually my newsletter. I want to go back writing it and making it one of my regular online presence but I’m not really sure about the shape and the frame I want to put on it.

I already took some steps on the infrastructure side of it (which I have explained why in detail on the draft of the first new issue which still waiting me to finish it for, I don’t know, two weeks?). But I still don’t really know what I want that newsletter to be. Sure, keeping people up to date in a way that’s much readable and accessible than Twitter and maybe adding links to things I enjoyed and want other people to see. But what else? Are these enough to write a newsletter?

Probably one thing that’s blocking me to plan this whole thing is I’m still not sure what I’m going to put in this blog. Because I still don’t have a solid idea for one of them, it feels impossible to shape the other. Where’s the line between the blog and the newsletter? I know many people have this line drawn long time ago but when I was writing the newsletter I wasn’t blogging so I used that format pretty much similar to how I blog. Now I’m making those two my main online places so I have to do the hard work.

This is probably the moment I should plan a format for the newsletter. I still don’t know what it’s going to be but the only way to find out is to experiment. In the meantime, this blog is where I’ll be.

Categories
Blogchains In English Not Defteri | Notebook Rethinking the Internet

Rethinking How I Use Internet: 6

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

It’s been a while since I wrote in this blogchain. And during this time, I relapsed quite a bit. Especially after all the events going around the world. But this is a good time (at least for time) to restart this conversation.

The main thing is, for many different reasons, what many people consider as “the internet” (platforms all the way down) are actually becoming more and more harmful. In my case, it feels more and more like an addiction than a way of communication (for personal reasons mostly). And yes, I know, most of us stuck at our homes and we need to connect and communicate and conspire but those places are not fit for that. Especially not today.

Why? Because we’re all angry, the world is on fire and we don’t know what to do. But these platforms only helps us to get more angry, react without thinking and consume every new viral thing every minute (pun intended). This isn’t the way to figure that shit out. We can’t find out how to solve our problems or build better futures there. These places aren’t fit for that purpose. “Doomscrolling” is not going to help us.

That’s why I think this is a good time for me to make some big changes. Because I feel like we need to think deeper, write more and talk longer about what we’re going through and what we want next. This requires new ways to use internet. Or maybe return some of the old ways because those tools were more focused on building a community or can be used more easily to start deep conversations.

I’m also happy that people are trying out new ways to start conversations and find other people to think about all that. We need more of that. We need to take our communication and conversations to old and new places and build new stuff.

Since all of this feels more and more like apocalypse, may as well we can just act like that and build all that cyberpunk/post-apocalyptic ideas and communities now. Returning to Isles of Blogging feels like a much better option than keep relying on Silicon Valley gods and their toys.

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Blogchains In English Rethinking the Internet

Rethinking How I Use Internet: 5

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

Decided to experiment on my social media use: I’ll be giving most of the control to the automation for a while.

It’s not that I’m trying to go Hard Waldenponding. (Thanks for pointing that term out Warren.) But instead, taking a step back during the adjustment process. Because that’s what I need right now.

With September on its way, workload is getting heavier and #1000mphclub life is coming back strong. This means I have to give up something to save some space in my mind. But at the same time, totally quitting social media is not an option. Not just because I’m a freelance writer but also there are people I’m actually interested in what they’re doing.

So I decided to go with lurking and automation for a while. Meaning, I’ll be mostly in read-only mode (exception will be the private channels) and most of the posting will happen through automated stuff. This also means more blog posts, regular newsletters and Patreon posts, because those are, in a sense, private channels too.

I’m going with this option not just because I need to save some energy but also want to see if and how my perspective about those platforms will change. Stepping back and looking from a distance may help me to gain a different perspective.

Not sure how long it’s going to last but the current situation already forces me to stay away until the end of September. We’ll see how it goes.

Categories
Blogchains In English İnternet Notları | Notes From Internet Not Defteri | Notebook Rethinking the Internet

Rethinking How I Use Internet: 4

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

Do you ever feel tired just by using internet, mostly the social media platforms?

Not sure when it started but I’m feeling tired every time I check social media in the way they designed. With algorithmic timeline, not filtered, filled with “personalized recommendations” and advertisement. Still not sure which part contributes that tiredness the most but when I check from the lists I’ve created or use my private accounts to see what people are up to, I can stay online more. In the first case, feeling of giving up everything related to internet comes fast.

I guess one of the main reason of this can be seen from this quote by Robin Sloan,

No reasonable human needs more than 10,000 other humans to read their words within twenty minutes of writing them.

Robin Sloan – platforms.fyi

Everything is too much on social media. Because that’s how they make money. You have to be bombarded with information you can’t really control all the time and you have to react to that information quickly. Otherwise no one will see you on these platforms. Algorithm starts to hate you and hides you under more and more ads. It doesn’t matter if your friend wants to hear from you, you have to please the algorithm first.

To please it, you have to be fast. You have to play by its rules and be prepared to react whatever it gives you. Otherwise, you’ll get buried.

And I think I want to be buried by the algorithm for a while. To rest and work slowly, not rushing to react all the stuff. Instead of feeling tired just because I want to hear from people I really want to, I prefer to be buried by it. Will be using those platforms lesser for a while, focusing my energy to the streams which I can control the speed of it. I’ll be watching and stopping by time to time, of course.

But if you really want to hear from me or talk to me, places like here or the secret channels will be your best shot.

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Blogchains In English Rethinking the Internet

Rethinking How I Use Internet: 3

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

One thing I think bothers me most about all those social media platforms and its usage is the fact that it turned many people obsessed with numbers and they started to think about almost everything based on those meaningless analytics data.

For example, one of the Turkish musicians which I like recently did something really stupid and called out a random people basically saying “You have only 31 followers. Who cares what you think?” The dude was only saying that he gave another chance to his latest song and actually liked it this time. There wasn’t even anything remotely bad in that tweet or anything.

Another thing I’ve been seeing and still trying to wrap my head around is that some people trying to run their personal accounts like it’s a brand account. They’re checking analytics data, scheduling their most normal tweets based on that and bunch of other stuff. I think I shouldn’t be surprised about this considering years of online talks about “personal brand”. But this doesn’t change the fact that even thinking about it makes me sick.

I also see that people are also trying to do all that analytics, timing and other things on podcasting too. Like, it’s basically an RSS feed for sound files. People gets subscribed and listen whenever they want. But no, they have to put analytics and numbers into that too. And then find bunch of meaningless data.

Like I’m writing this post around 22 in Tuesday night and will post it when it’s done. Because it’s a blog and I’m doing this just because I wanted to. I shouldn’t be thinking about when I should publish this. But according to an important number of people only, I’m being stupid by doing this.


I’m really not sure about what to do in all of this. Like I said on the previous post, there are many people I like and care about what they’re sharing is in those places but other than that, it’s hard to find enough justification to stay in there with this madness. I’m not even talking about the toxicity part (at least not in this post).

I believe there will be many more in this series.

Categories
In English İnternet Notları | Notes From Internet Not Defteri | Notebook Rethinking the Internet

Rethinking How I Use Internet: 2

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

There are many things that drives me away from social media, especially from Twitter. One of those is the fact that, from my perspective, social media kills conversation and replaces it with stats (likes, RTs…). This tweet from Jay (her account is one of my favorites on Twitter btw) made me think about this more.

(Conversations happening under this one is quite informative, you should read those too.)

One thing that made internet special for me was the fact that I was having conversations with people all over the world, from the beginning. Most of my real life friendships, most of the people who influenced my work and my perspective were and are from internet. Hell, most of my friends are still from here. And seeing more people thinking in a similar way makes me think that I’m not crazy.

https://twitter.com/tezcatlipoca/status/1120475007098982400
(You should read the whole thread btw.)

More and more, whenever I look at Twitter or any other social media platform, I feel like I’m missing this part. And this is the part actually matters to me the most. I think that’s why I’m thinking about retreating to places like my blog or the newsletter, because those still gives me the feeling of conversation. A more intimate way to connect with people online. Yet, I see tweets like the ones above and receive a mention from a friend and start to think that there’s still hope.

Or maybe I’m just a guy who thinks way too emotional about a simple communication tool and gives too much importance to it. If that’s the case, I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.

Categories
Blogchains In English Not Defteri | Notebook Rethinking the Internet

Rethinking How I Use Internet: 1

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Rethinking the Internet

This is not one of those “I hate social media” stuff. I actually owe a lot to social media and will continue using it. But not in a way that will consume all my energy and turn me into an angry beast, which means my old way of using it. Don’t know why but I’ve always been quite invested in stuff happening online. (Actually I know why but I really don’t want to explain it right now, so please go along with it. We’ll talk about it later.) But for a while, this attitude of mine was making things worse for me. I know because things got really bad, at least in a personal and psychological sense. So I had to do something about it.

And this is me, doing something about it. From now on, I’ll not be as active as I used to be on my public social media profiles. At least for a while. Of course I’m going to share stuff about me or things I’ve created and my blog posts will go there too but other than that I won’t be following it like I used to do. Even though that means I’ll be missing some stuff from people who shares really good stuff but I really need this. I really need to re-align my focus and energy.

But this also means that I’ll be more online in the places where I can share more half baked thoughts — as Warren Ellis put it. Because more and more, I feel like the way people sharing stuff or having conversations on Twitter is not the way I’m enjoying it. Shouting matches, political snark and burns gets quite boring and exhausting quickly. And my brain really doesn’t want more of these things. Instead, I want to write more of my half baked thoughts, have a conversation with people about those and use this tool called internet in a way which works better for me.

So that’s why I’m starting this experiment. Starting from today, I’ll be working on re-adjusting my internet usage, probably analyzing every bit of it and deciding what works for me and what doesn’t. Right now my plan is to focus on places where I can write longer and share the stuff I want to share the way I want. Like my blog, my newsletter and Patreon. Instead of ranting on Twitter, I’m going to put it on my blog, if it’s worth putting here. Because whenever I want to write something here, I think about it more than I think about a tweet. And this makes a good personal filter.

I’m going to keep using Twitter, Instagram etc. too. But Twitter will be much more limited and I’ll probably read only the stuff I put on my private lists. Instagram still gets a pass because I’m using only a private account which is highly curated and instead of giving me anxiety, it does the exact opposite. Maybe I need something similar on Twitter too.

So, that’s pretty much it. Starting today, this place (alongside with newsletter) will be my main places online, alongside with the secret channels. If you want to get in touch with me, I’ll be still online but less. Most of the people who’s going to read this knows how to reach me in those channels, if you don’t drop me a line.

Let’s see how this one is going to play out.

(The title is numbered because I’m going to experiment with something called “blogchain”. If you never heard of it, this is a good start.)