Are you bored?

I found two great places to play:

1. Literature Map. You type in the name of an author, and the site shows you other authors whose work somehow connects. This is what happens if you type in me. Play with this and let me know if you come up with anything funny or weird. Also – can anyone figure out how this works?

2. Shelf Life, a reading blog written by Laura Ryan of the Syracuse Post Standard. This is my new favorite place to go for news about authors and books.

I am writing today. Life is good.

23 Replies to “Are you bored?”

  1. The map is interesing, but it doesn’t always make sense. The website claims that the closer 2 authors appear on the map, then it is more likely for a reader to enjoy the other author. But that is highly subjective. For example, Alice Walker is on the other side of the planet from Zora Neale Hurston, but their works are closely linked traditionally.

    Still, it is a lot of fun.

  2. You are only 6 degrees of separation from Tolkien!

    That is really cool, but I can’t figure it out. I like how the names squiggle around on the screen before they settle.

  3. I’m pretty sure the map is done with some sort of flash or java script, but my knowledge of that ends at intermediate html ;). I’m pretty sure they connect authors based on how many people read both of them. It’s kinda weird because there are a few authors that aren’t anywhere near people I think they’re similar to.

  4. I really like the Literature Map. I used it to look up Don DeLillo (my favorite non-Laurie author) and a *lot* of writers i liked popped up. I took a course on AI, so i know one way the Literature Map might be made (though got the idea…i’m just trying to fill in the gaps):

    The Lit Map website is connected to a large database of every author who might get looked up. That database has a list of every author and every author who she could possibly be connected to. The database also has a list of “hits” – the number of times two writers have been connected to one another. Part of the database looks like this:

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    So when i go to the website and search for “Laurie Halse Anderson,” the site looks in its database, sees that the writers who have been most connected to Laurie are Karen Romano Young, Sarah Dessen, and a few others, and it puts those names on a webpage (the moving text on the webpages is programmed using JavaScript, but that’s another discussion altogether). On the webpage, the names with the highest number of hits are written closest to Laurie’s name. When i first visited the webpage, it also put a file on my computer called a cookie, which keeps track of certain information about what i am doing on the website – here, it keeps track of which authors’ names i am looking up.

    Now, while i’m still on the webpage they have for Laurie, i click on the name “Sarah Dessen.” The Lit Map records this as a connection between Laurie and Sarah, and counts this as a hit for both Sarah and Laurie. The Lit Map also updates its cookie to show that i have looked at both Laurie and Sarah’s webspages, and the Lit Map updates its database:

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    So the Lit Map is making connection between authors who visitors think are most connected. Finally, when i am on the webpage, i do a search for “Don DeLillo.” The Lit Map knows, by checking its cookie, that i have already looked up Laurie and Sarah, so the database is updated and puts a connection between all three writers:

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    And that’s about it. Please let me know if any part of this explanation doesn’t make sense.

  5. Have you checked out LibraryThing? It’s interesting to see the ‘tags’ different users have appended to each book. Out of all the millions of books on LibraryThing, Speak is now the one most frequently tagged with ‘rape’.

  6. when you type in “Madeline L’Engle” James Dobson comes up as one of the closest names. That made me laugh.

  7. I love reading “Shelf Life”! I actually sat next to Laura Ryan at the Nancy Pearl lecture at OCPL, and was so glad to see her blog about it.

  8. Wow! That’s fun 🙂 I’ll definitely have to share the literature-map with the teens at my library.

    And, I’m happy to see one of my favorite poets (e.e. cummings) pop up on one of my favorite authors’ maps (you!)

  9. literature map

    susana kaysen is connected to you? whoa. i just wanted to mention that because i’m a huge fan of the movie girl, interrupted and i thought that was interesting. and i think it’s cool that j.k. rowling is connected to you too.

  10. So does it say anything about a set of readers if, for instance, the readers of Lois Lowry don’t know how to spell J.R.R. Tolkien, but instead spell it J.R.R. Toliken? Does that mean Lois Lowry readers are dumber? I sure hope not, because I love her books. *crossing fingers, legs, and ear hairs*

  11. I think the people who run this are German, though I suppose that is not an excuse for bad spelling. Judy Blume pops up with her name correct, and also as “Judy Bloom.”

  12. Looking back at my explanation, i think it might be too technical. Would you mind if i rewrote it in more-plain English? (I’m not much a fan of giving up…)

  13. Second Draft…

    Well…it all starts When i visit the website and look up Laurie Halse Anderson. This seems very simple, but before the Laurie webpage can actually load, the website first has to do a lot of work in the background. What the website wants to do is to post a list of names of authors connected to Laurie. How does it know which authors are connected? The website has a table that tells it which authors are connected to Laurie. So the website looks up that table. Here is what it might looks like:

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    On the left side of the table are pairs of authors who are connected to one another. On the right side of the table are the number of times that those authors have been connected. The bigger the number, the more connected the two authors are. (How do they get connected? I’ll explain in a minute.) Now that the website has looked up a list of which authors are connected to Laurie, the website scans through that list and finds the author-author pairs with the highest “# of Connections.” Those authors with the highest “# of Connections” to Laurie are listed on Laurie’s page.

    So now i’m looking at Laurie’s page:

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    On that page, i see Sarah Dessen. I am also a fan of Sarah Dessen (ok, actually i haven’t read her books yet, but i really should…). Anyway, i click on the “Sarah Dessen” link. In the background, again, the website looks up which authors are most connected to Sarah and the website creates Sarah’s page out of the authors who have the most “# of Connections” with her. But something else is happening in the background, too. Since i have looked up both Laurie and Sarah, the website realizes that i am interested in both authors. So the website goes to its table and it adds one to the “# of Connections” column for Laurie and Sarah:

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    Notice that the “Laurie Halse Anderson – Sarah Dessen” column has been increased from 290 to 291, because the website noticed that a visitor (namely, me) was interested in both authors. So this is how a connection is recorded: while i was visiting the website, i was looking at the pages of both authors.

    So i look at the Sarah Dessen page for a while, and then i decide to use the website’s search engine to look up another author i like: Don DeLillo. The website goes to the Don DeLillo page – again, in the background, loading the authors most connected to Don. And also in the background, the website records a connection between Laurie and Don:

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    The number of Laurie-Don connections has increased from 11 to 12. And that, pretty much, is how the website is able to figure out which authors visitors of the website connect together. It repeats the process of recording connections and eventually patterns evolve, and it turns out that readers who are interested in Laurie are also interested in Sarah but are not, usually, interested in Don. Oh well.

    I hope that explanation worked out a little better 🙂

  14. That map is really interesting, but after I clicked on your name (and went, “See, apparently I SHOULD read Joan Bauer!”), I clicked on Sarah Dessen, and Jenny Carroll was really close, but Meg Cabot notsomuch. Um…SAME PERSON!

  15. You are only two or three links from Dr. Seuss, which is kind of cool.

    And also two or three from Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky. Funny how that works out.

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