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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
Books In English Not Defteri | Notebook

From the Mail – 27.10.2020

I was not expecting a book pre-order turn into an almost two month adventure but life in Turkey is full of surprises.

I’ve been not pre-ordering dead-tree books from abroad for a while, mostly because I have trust issues with Turkish postal service. So many bad memories I don’t want to remember. But for some reason I’ve thought getting a paperback copy of this book is a good idea.

It’s published in September 10th and the publisher sent it the same day. After about one month without any book, decided to reach out to the postal service. But instead of an apology or any type of help, they just recited the Wikipedia definition of how postal services work. Not even the already getting old “sorry, it’s the pandemic” excuse. So I turned to the publisher and their customer services was way too nice. They apologized for something they have no control over it and offered another copy sent via UPS courier. I was surprised but happy.

And finally, the book arrived yesterday. UPS was quick to get the package out of customs and deliver it to me. Now I’m waiting for the weekend to dive into it. If that looks like something you’d like to read, here’s the book’s website.

(Sidetone, I’ve learned that iOS and macOS recognizes their tracking numbers and directs me to the tracking page with one click. Sadly, none of the Turkish companies are included in their list.)


Why I’ve told you all of this? Mostly because it’s the perfect example to explain my love for ebooks. One click and I have the book. And since most of the publishers I buy from regularly sell their ebooks without DRM, I don’t have to deal with anything extra too.

So, if you ever consider sending me ARCs —which is something I’d love to receive more but looks like I should be a member of a secret club for that to happen— or gift me books, either make sure the publisher sends those via a courier company or just go for the ebook version. I’m totally fine with ebooks.

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
Duyurular | Announcements In English

From Useful Idiots to Useful Facts: What Is Behind the Fake News Debate?

Information Nightmare: Fake News, Manipulation and Post-Truth Politics in the Digital Age Cover

My first major academic publication is available now. It’s a book chapter written by me and Sarphan Uzunoğlu, titled “From Useful Idiots to Useful Facts: What Is Behind the Fake News Debate?”. It’s part of the book Information Nightmare: Fake News, Manipulation and Post-Truth Politics in the Digital Age, edited by Tirşe Erbaysal Filibeli.

Here’s the abstract of our chapter:

It is claimed by many liberal pundits and some scholars that Lenin used the term, useful idiot, referring to Western intellectuals who supported communist experiment, in the time the new Soviet State was still particularly vulnerable (Landes, 2013). However, there is no conclusive evidence that Lenin used this concept. Nevertheless, this did not preclude the use of the concept to define the function of different political actors in daily political debates. Like useful idiot, the terms post-truth and fake news, are often used by politicians, journalists and academics without questioning histories of these terms and their function in academic and political life. The word post-truth was defined by the Oxford Dictionary in 2016 as the word of the year. There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of searches for the word fake news since presidential elections in 2016 according to Google Trends statistics. Regardless of the prevalence of these terms in the circles of journalists, politicians and intellectuals, Keyes (2004) as the first author to publish a book about the term stated that politicians, authors, journalists, scholars and intellectuals are the subjects who benefit from post-truth politics the most. Likewise, Žižek (2018) claimed that even big media organizations may establish a troubled relationship with the truth and provide a crooked representation of controversial cases such as the situation of Julian Assange. In another interview, Žižek stated that the main problem was that people wanted to believe in more controllable lies (RT, 2019). Taking Žižek’s and Keyes’ arguments into consideration, this article is going to provide the critique of contemporary uses of the term fake news; and focus on how fake news debate is politically manipulated.

From the back cover:

Today, we live in a post-truth era. Creating alternative realities, and making people believe fake realities become easier. Digital platforms tend to promote dramatic, sensational and emotional content that harms democracy. This book examines different aspects of the matter: rise of populist politics, impact of digital social platforms, engagement-oriented algorithms, spread of disinformation and counter-measures like fact-checking mechanism and developing digital media literacy skills.

“Journalists, academics and civil society groups are increasingly working together to help people confront the confusion caused by the post-truth realities of digital communications, which is no longer the stuff of propaganda from the state, but comes from all sides of the internet. In this information space every fact is challenged by an alternative fact, and all of these different versions of the truth look the same online.” – Aidan White

You can find more about the book and get it for yourself here.

Categories
In English Not Defteri | Notebook

From the Mail – 31.01.2020

Surprise book from the mail. Recently supported the crowdfunding project by Teyit and this was one of the gifts for the support. Arrival of new books always makes me happy.

Teyit is a great fact-checking organization from Turkey and their crowdfunding project was a special series of reporting on anti-vaxxers and other bullshit/conspiracy theories on health. In case you want to check out what else they’re doing, here’s their work in English. They also have an English Twitter account too.

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Books In English Not Defteri | Notebook

New Books in the Library – 26.11.2019

Bottom two, K-Punk and State Machines, are from the early November London trip. K-Punk is one of those books which you’ll read and re-read dozens of times over the years.

Rest came in yesterday. I was only planning to buy Teknopolis, because it seemed interesting but ended up ordering five books. I’m also excited to read Colson Whitehead‘s novels. I’m always a bit cautious about reading translation novels but the publisher is a trusted one.

Categories
Books In English Not Defteri | Notebook

Books of 14.06.2019

Most of my readings are happening on my Kindle because it makes easy for me to reach English books and saves me from dealing with the Turkish postal service. Plus English books are expensive in dead-tree, so ebooks helps me save money too, especially on the shipping.

But every once in a while, we need some Turkish books in the house and we buy dead tree books. Today was one of those days.

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In English Kritikler | Critics

[Read] Rapture of the Nerds

rotn-cd-cs

Rapture of the Nerds – Cory Doctorow, Charlie Stross

If you’re a science-fiction writer and you want to write about Singularity, you have to know how people and civilization works. If you don’t, your story doesn’t mean much and it’ll be impossible to read. Thankfully, both Doctorow and Stross knows this very well, plus, they have a very good sense of humor.

Other than making sense at technical level and telling their story beautifully, those two points at the paragraph above makes this novel a perfect one. If you’re interested in technological singularity fiction and you want to read something ‘absurd’ but makes a lot sense (like Douglas Adams’ ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ books), you have to read this.

RotN captures the current situation of our civilization and gives us a very plausible possible future with technological singularity. If you read the book and laughing at the “plausible” part, just think about it. Do you think a civilization messed up like this one (don’t get me wrong, I love our civilization but we have to accept that) can do better than that? For me, RotN build on a very realistic ground and this is the main reason why story seems absurd at first glance.

If you want a clue about the book, just look at this quote:

As you can see, the genome of the said item is chimeric and shows signs of crude tampering, but it’s largely derived from Drosophilia, Mus musculus, and a twenty-first-century situationist artist or politician Sarah Palin.

Or this:

“Turns out we gotta prepare the way for holy war in cyberspace,” Sam says. Huw boggles. “Cyberspace? Who even says ‘cyberspace’ anymore?” “The Prophet, that’s who,” Doc says.

You can find a lot more like these in the book. Go get it. (Buy or Download CC licensed version.)

Categories
In English Kritikler | Critics

[Read] Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, Shivering Sands

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free – Cory Doctorow

This is one of the books that we’ll need more in the near future. Doctorow collects his ideas and short writings about the copyright, future of computing and future of artists and creates this handbook for anyone interested in any of these topics. And Cory shows us a clear picture of the problems we’re having right now on that ground and how we can start working to solve these.

If you’re an activist, writer, artist, publisher or just someone curious about the computers and the culture and economy growing onto; you have to read this book and always keep somewhere easy to reach. Because I’m sure that we’ll talk more about this book and what Cory says in it for a while, we have to. (Link to Buy)

Shivering Sands – Warren Ellis

Well, if you know me for a while, you probably know that Warren Ellis is one of those people that I can really worship if he starts a cult. He still doesn’t, so I’m just reading and enjoying everything he writes. And recently bought his blog post collection “Shivering Sands” and finished today. Now I’m waiting a couple months to re-read again.

To be honest, if you know and like Warren Ellis, you’ll love this book. If you don’t know him, I’m not sure if this can be a good start point. I would recommend couple of his comics first. And if you don’t like him, I’m really sorry for you. (Link to Buy)