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Unsuggester: Finding the Book You'll Never Want 164

Selanit writes "Lots of socially-oriented sites provide suggestions for things you might like based on user-provided data. But how many can claim to offer you things you'll probably hate? LibraryThing, the social book-cataloging site, has used its database of personal libraries to create UnSuggester, which does exactly that. You type in a book you like, "It analyzes the seven million books LibraryThing members have recorded as owned or read, and comes back with books least likely to share a library with the book you suggest." For example, apparently readers of Edward Said's "Orientalism" rarely purchase "Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine. Who'd have thought? Quirky though it may be, the tool seems an interesting way to broaden your horizons. If you're a hidebound, crufty old fogey, I un-recommend it!"
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Unsuggester: Finding the Book You'll Never Want

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  • by wiz31337 ( 154231 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:21AM (#17099282)
    Just in time for the holiday shopping season!!! Revenge for all the ugly shirts, sweaters and every other "squishy' gift. [Evil laugh]
    • by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:32AM (#17099412)
      It kept recommending the Bible.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by wiz31337 ( 154231 )
        Even if you type in the Bible as a book you liked?

        (I would check, but the site has been /.ed.)
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by flyingsquid ( 813711 )
          I typed in Joseph Heller's _Catch-22_, and kept getting stuff like _The first and second Epistles to the Thessalonians_, _When I don't desire God : how to fight for joy_, _The gagging of God : Christianity confronts pluralism_... makes sense considering all the shots the book takes at religion. There's a great bit where the Chaplain sees Yossarian naked in a tree at a funeral, and thinks that it's some sort of sign from God, but can't figure out what it is.

          Incidentally if you're looking for a good read, an

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by toleraen ( 831634 )
        Yeah, I can't imagine too many bible readers own copies of "Satanic Goat Sacrifices for Dummies"
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Oh come on, there has to be at least one republican senator into that kind of thing.

          I mean, they've been caught doing everything else.
      • The results of entering my books are kind of interesting. Apparently Christians and feminists can agree on at least one thing - they don't like fantasy and sci-fi.
        • That's rather interesting, considering that the the granddaddy of fantasy literature, The Lord of the Rings, was written by a Christian. Ok, I'm probably exaggerating LOTR's role in the genre, but you get the point.

          As I suspected though, the contents of my bookshelf are as schizophrenic as I thought--I've got books that are unsuggestions sitting just a few feet apart on my bookshelves. My general feeling is that to be a well-rounded person, you've got to read as widely as possible (though I'm more than I li
        • It was a little weird. Am I really the only one to have read (and enjoyed!) both "Thud" by Terry Pratchett and "The Jesus I never knew" by Philip Yancey? Weird that it is not commutative, though... I really doubt I would enjoy reading "Diplomacy" by Kissinger...
      • by jbrader ( 697703 )
        I put in Gravity's Rainbow and it gave me all manor of books about Christianity. Seems to work pretty good to me.
        • After trying it out a bit, it seems to me that

          1. Christian books are very popular, especially the ones with wide denominational appeal
          2. Many people who read them don't read very many other books, and conversely it may seem that library hogs don't enjoy Max Lucado and Philip Yancey...

          So very many books give Christian literature as books you won't enjoy. You see the same effect (but to a lesser degree) to other books that are primarily read by a segment of the population, such as programming books.
    • by trb ( 8509 )
      The perfect choise for all those dear ones who were going to receive another lump of coal this year.
  • I'm unique! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:24AM (#17099320)
    Apparently, not enough people have read The Art of Fisting [], so there are no "opposite" books to read.
  • by Ninjaesque One ( 902204 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:26AM (#17099342) Journal
    . . ., the social book-cataloging site. . .

    What's next? Social misanthropy sites?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      You mean Slashdot isn't a social minanthropy site?! Holy moly! I'll have to tell Mom the next time she opens the basement door.
    • You mean, like a site where people can get together and complain about how stupid, criminal and/or deluded everyone else is (including some of the other people on the site itself)? Sounds oddly familiar...
  • by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:28AM (#17099366)
    It was a static HTML page containing the bibliography of Dan Brown.
  • In reverse... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fitten ( 521191 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:29AM (#17099382)
    Probably a better way to broaden your horizons is to enter a book that you read (or started to read) and knew you hated. Then it might tell you about some books you may like. It won't always work because it isn't tailored to your own tastes (your own likes/dislikes) so there aren't two poles in the general evaluation but at least it may give you some ideas and even open you up to some other genres of books.
  • OK..... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:34AM (#17099444)
    Those of you who have bought will NOT like....

    Zen Buddhism --- War in 3 Easy Steps

    Idiots Guide to become a Stock Broker --- Honor and Ethics

    The Holy Bible --- Pedophiles in our World

    Guide to Windows Vista --- Kama Sutra
  • It might help if every Slashdotter wasn't typing in his favorite science fiction book (i.e., "The Joy of Sex"). The website is slower than a snail in heat.
    • by AusIV ( 950840 )
      From the site:
      Note: To deal with Slashdot, we've degraded the search capability, to titles only, and search for the beginning of the title, not the middle.
  • How did slashdot know that, based on my use of search engines and other meta-ish things to find things that I want, need, or would like, that the thing the article describes is exactly something I won't use! It works so well that even posted summaries about articles about it are un-compelling. For extra credit, mod this comment overrated so more people will read it.
  • by martyros ( 588782 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:37AM (#17099518)
    The site has some example "opposites" on the front page. Some of the "opposites" made some sense -- like St. Augustine's "Confessions", and some romance novel called "Night Pleasures". But a book about Lisp and Wuthering Heights?

    Although, to tell the truth, although I've programmed in many languages, and read Wuthering Heights, I've never actually programmed in Lisp... may be there's something to this...

    • I liked Wuthering Heights.
      Don't really care for Lisp (more of a PROLOG kinda guy).
    • by Boglin ( 517490 )
      I own and have read both books. What do I win?
    • by Khomar ( 529552 )

      My favorite was the "My Life: Bill Clinton" contrasted with "Don't Waste Your Life". So, did Bill Clinton waste his life, or is the reading of his book a waste of our own? :-)

    • I typed in the name of this book I'm reading currently, "White Mughals", and found DNA's H2G2 on the list, in addition to other sci-fi works like Dune, and surprisingly enough, Shakespeare's Midsummer's Night Dream.

      I suppose I'm a statistical anomaly, in that I'm interested in medieval Indian history, modernist English literature and in contemporary science-fiction, but I've read, and loved, all books mentioned (or wanted to read "Dune"; have read the rest).

  • King vs Pratchett (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XenoPhage ( 242134 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:40AM (#17099566) Homepage
    I tossed Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" in there to see what I might not like to read and to my surprise the result was a great deal of Terry Pratchett.. Of course, like many others, I love Pratchett and I've read most of the Discworld series...

    I was going to toss Pratchett in there and see if King was the result, but with the slashdotting of the site, I think that will have to wait..

    I must remind myself to never get listed on the frontpage of slashdot...
    • I must say, I concur. Big fan of Stephen King's works, the Dark Tower especially, and also of Terry Pratchett. I would have checked myself, but when you see things like this...
      Come back soon. We're letting people back in slowly, as we recover from being Slashdotted.
      *hangs head*
      • I must say, I concur. Big fan of Stephen King's works, the Dark Tower especially, and also of Terry Pratchett. I would have checked myself, but when you see things like this...

        Come back soon. We're letting people back in slowly, as we recover from being Slashdotted.

        *hangs head*

        Well, one can't always predict when one will become slashdotted... And preventing such an occurance isn't something that is likely high on anyones list... While I would like to believe that every site I've worked on is worthy of pla

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by radtea ( 464814 )
      I was going to toss Pratchett in there and see if King was the result, but with the slashdotting of the site, I think that will have to wait..

      Wyrd Sisters results in a bunch of Christian evangelicalish stuff, some of which is not totally dissimilar to some of what's on my shelves (I have an interest in ecclesiastical history.)

      While this is a kinda clever marketing idea--see what you hate!--I'm doubtful about the underlying logic. For one, some of us are really ecelectic: I own works ranging from de Sade t
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by XenoPhage ( 242134 )
        The logic is likely similar to the Amazon "people who bought this item also bought..." logic.. it's statistically correct since they're using real numbers, but just proves that statistics aren't always accurate..
        • by radtea ( 464814 )

          The logic is similar, but the statistics are a lot harder to generate in this case because the probability of non-ownership of any given book by any given person is extremely high. So they need to collect much more data than Amazon does to answer the question they are answering.

  • and anything is possible. A negative search can be just as valuable as a positive one.
  • by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:52AM (#17099710) Journal
    not purchases.

    I've purchased many books it turned out I didn't like, and I didn't recommend.

    I'd rather see a "You liked these books, which indicate the following books may also be for you, and the other books here won't be as interesting, based on reviews of other users."

    Rather than a "Users who bought this book also bought that book!"

    I dunno, say something that takes your oppinion on a book, such as:
    "Book A", 8 of 10

    and then comes up with:
    The top three books for people who gave "Book A" an 8 of 10 are:
    "Book B"
    "Book C"
    "Book D"
    The bottom three are:
    "Book E"
    "Book F"
    "Book G"

    The top three books for people who gave "Book A" greater than 5 out of 10 are:
    "Book B"
    "Book H"
    "Book I"

    hmm... slashdotters unite! We could make this!
  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:55AM (#17099750) Homepage Journal
    obviously, prior art exists, no patent forrrr you. the spammers have been using this engine for years.
  • by MojoRilla ( 591502 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @11:58AM (#17099794)
    A site which suggests which Slashdot stories I won't like, including dupes?
    • by The-Bus ( 138060 )

      A site which suggests which Slashdot stories I won't like, including dupes?

      Digg's been up and running for a while now.


      My Unsuggestion was: "Vogue Knitting on the Go: Socks". I'd say that's more spot on than the recommendations I get. The worst recommender, by far, that I've ever seen is Ticketmaster. I unwittingly got a few emails from them and there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to their recommendations. "Don't miss Beck! Don't miss Rod Stewart! Don't miss the Haitian Steel Drum Comedy Troupe! Don't

  • by Chacham ( 981 )
    Read all comments on this story as +1, instead of +5.
  • I wrote "Lord of the Rings", and it "unsuggested" : "Knitting on the road : sock patterns for the traveling knitter by Nancy Bush"
    • by shudde ( 915065 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:41PM (#17100318)

      You may be on to something there.

      Given a choice, I'd much rather read 'Knitting on the Road' then suffer through Tolkien again.


      While knitting on the road on her journey to Gandalung, wending solemnly through the treachorous passes of Orkdell, Nancy espied a riotous figure approaching from the shadowy North, wherein dwelt the Elves of Glimmersill.

      "Greetings Knitting Lady of the Road", addressed the stout and sturdy figure, "allow me the honour of addressing you and giving you an 800 page recitation of my lineage."

  • by tgv ( 254536 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:15PM (#17099990) Journal
    You're all missing the good thing: type in a book you loath and it will come up with a good one instead! Perfect for changing Christmas gifts!

    I typed in "Da vinci code" and it came back with (amongst others) two Lisp books and Knuth's Art of Programming (3 volumes). If that isn't a good alternative to world famous besteller author Dan Brown's biggest cash cow...
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:31PM (#17100182) Homepage
    Reminds me the Book Mill [] in Montague, Massachusetts, whose slogan is "Books you don't need in a place you can't find." The Bookmill is a good place to look for books you didn't know you wanted.

    Another good place is the New England Mobile Book Fair. [] The fact that the "mobile book fair" is a huge, stationary building tips you off that there's something quirky here. This huge bookstore in Newton, Massachusetts is only good for two things: finding one specific title, or pursuing utter serendipity.

    Its slogan should be "Books you can't find in a place that has them all." OK, it doesn't have all of them, but your chances of finding a specific title there are way higher than at Barnes and Noble.

    You see, for unknown reasons--I assume the bulk of their business must be supplying schools or something--their books are organized, first by binding (paper or hardbound); then, by publisher; and, within publisher, by title. You don't realize how bizarre this is until you experience it. After all, even if you know the title you often don't know the publisher, so the first step in finding any specific book is to look it up in their electronic copy of Books In Print.

    Once you've found the book, even if you are curious about other books by the same author and are correct in suppose they're published by the same publisher, you still can't find them because they're not alphabetized by title.

    Oh, and did I mention that they double-shelve their books, so even if you know the binding, publisher, title and they have it, it may not be visible on the shelf?
  • Every time I enter something from my large, diverse personal library, all I get in return are various books by Jon Katz.
  • I tried to do something similar in concept the other day, clicking around [] in search of someone with whom I did not share a single common artist.

    The closest I got was one MrLag, with whom the only commonality was U2 and Dido :-)

    (Of course, my "musical opposite" should have listened to about the same number of artists/tracks for this to be interesting)

  • When I entered Atlas Shrugged, it gave me Vogue Knitting on the Go.

    I don't think it takes a computer to make than connection.....

  • by grappler ( 14976 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @01:37PM (#17101216) Homepage
    The #1 unsuggestion for "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" (a great book) is "The Devil Wears Prada", which I thought was pretty good. Just because not many people are likely to own both doesn't mean you can expect an active dislike the way you would between, say, an Ann Coulter book and a Michael Moore book.
    • by Onan ( 25162 )
      Are you kidding me? I own multiple works by both Michael Moore and Ann Coulter, though admittedly nearly all of both have been purchased in airports. I find them both similarly amusing in their ridiculousness.

      In fact, I've maintained for a long time that Coulter and Moore are basically the same person. I happen to agree with the positions that one of them advocates far more often than the other, but the intellectual honesty, rigor, and fairness with which they make their cases is nearly interchangeable. And
    • you can expect an active dislike the way you would between, say, an Ann Coulter book and a Michael Moore book.

      Actually, Ann and Mike are pop culture's politics. No one who's seriously into drilling down into the political quagmire is going to bother with either one of these entertainers. Entertainers is exactly what they are and shouldn't be taken as much else.

      The "far" right and "far" left in this country have a ton in common compared to some of the wider based political parties that have an established
      • by grappler ( 14976 )
        Actually, Ann and Mike are pop culture's politics. No one who's seriously into drilling down into the political quagmire is going to bother with either one of these entertainers. Entertainers is exactly what they are and shouldn't be taken as much else.

        Indeed, that's kinda why I picked those examples. Whenever somebody mentions either in trying to make a point, I have to roll my eyes.
  • by linuxghoul ( 16059 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @01:42PM (#17101300) Journal
    huh...i guess amazon would not be moving to this any time soon ;-)

    btw, not that great: i typed in lord of the rings, and it came back with this load of books by mary higgins clark..another one of my fav authors...

    but get this: number 50 on the list was.........The hobbit!!

    hehe...someone messed with the unsuggesters head..../me thinks the frost posters got to it...another one bites the dust!! long live the slashdot troll coalition!

    i will go now...
  • ...though this might be the result of too small a dataset. Every book I put in resulted in an "unsuggestion" list with at least one book I also liked, or, in some cases, books I knew someone who also liked my main suggestion liked. It seems it's a lot easier to find similarities than unsimilarities, because it's easy to guess that people who like 'A' will like 'A1', 'A2' and 'A3', but it does not follow that they WON'T like 'B'. Why, for example, would I not like Harry Potter because I like Ringworld? Why w
    • Perhaps opinions are more sharply divided when the books in question are fairly similar. Have you noticed that the fiercest arguments are between experts and over fine shades of meaning? Or between people who are lovers, or in the same family? It seems the more two people generally agree, the sharper are their disagreements over any remaining differences.

      So I would not be surprised if people who generally like fantasy and sf are quite sharply divided over whether Tolkien or Pratchett is better. But show
  • The danger of recommends-type systems has always been the potential for the formation of subcultural ghettos, where everyone sticks in the "safe zones" of recommended material. To date, it never seems to have materialised, but Internet shopping still isn't mainstream enough for it to really be likely.

    Being able to identify a "danger zones" could just give the user the courage to step out of the safe zone into the unknown.

    It's analogous to the guide-book industry. Not so long ago, travel guides

    • What's wrong with cultural ghettos? I mean, from the point of view of an iconoclast not typically living in one? I say they're a great way to avoid people I don't want to meet.

      I mean, I like the idea that if, say, I go traveling in Normandy then everyone with a fairly shallow understanding of French history gleaned from a Let's Go guide will be standing in line to see Mt. San Michel, leaving the more subtle bits of the countryside relatively empty for me. And if I go to San Francisco, all the tourists wil
    • Another danger (besides being totally useless) is that "recommendation" book sites can be used to promote certain books by skewing the search algorithm so the book you want to sell shows up a lot. I'm pretty sure this has been done (and not only by Amazon).
  • I think I may have discovered a new author to try...

    On a whim, I tried searching for some of the most unreadably boring books possible - The business motivational/strategy genre.

    Unsurprisingly, I kept seeing top-10 opposites that I really enjoy... A lot of Gaiman, some Prachett, even Robert Graves (From which I might hypothesize that the business world somehow forms the antithesis of our collective mythic tradions). But I also saw someone named Haruki Murakami consistantly appearing in the #1 or #2 slo
  • I typed in about 20 books that I own and that I thought could give interesting results, and the answer was invariably "Sorry. A book must be owned by at least 75 members to have unrecommendations."
  • This is pretty funny. I selected "Applied cryptography" by Bruce Schneier as a book in my library and the UnSuggester selected "The Devil Wears Prada" as the book I'm least likely to own. Ironically enough, I happen to be downloading the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" with Bittorrent at this very moment, LOL!

    Note: To deal with Slashdot, we've degraded the search capability, to titles only, and search for the beginning of the title, not the middle. UnSuggestions for Applied cryptography : protocols, algori

  • will become familiar with "goatse." Don't say I didn't warn you!
  • It *must* be broken (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheWoozle ( 984500 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @03:28PM (#17102912)
    It doesn't work. I have proof []
    • by Junta ( 36770 )
      Liked the first result, but more significantly, an obvious flaw is brought out by that result. Note the harry potter box set lists high. Of course it would, if you own the book independently, you wouldn't buy the box set and vice-versa. To say Harry potter fans don't like Harry Potter books is rather stupid.
  • by wsanders ( 114993 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @03:31PM (#17102982) Homepage
    A colleague points out that current sport among search mavens is to find the "the
    perfectly evil book which causes the Unsuggester to generate a great library. The best try so far was "Who Moved My Cheese? For Kids", but not enough people own it."

    The very fact that there is a WMMC for kids gives me greater despair then knowing GWB will be President for two more years.

    Although the WMMC regular ed. unsuggestions are pretty good, good enough to keep my book club busy for a few years: []
  • Pretty much every book I enter I get 'unsuggested' a book that I've both read and enjoyed!

    Alan Moore's 'Watchmen' gives me Brian McLaren's works, which I love.

    Brian McLaren's 'The Last Word and the Word After That' gives me 'Good Omens', by Pratchett and Gaiman, which I've read more times than I can remember.

    'Small Gods', by Pratchett gives me 'The Jesus I Never Knew', by Yancey. Again, an excellent, profound book.

    And then Yancey's work, in turn, leads me to Douglas Adams, who needs no defense!

    What's the m
    • Pretty much every book I enter I get 'unsuggested' a book that I've both read and enjoyed!

      Well, we've Slashdotted the site but I found the same thing. For every book I tried, I found several un-suggestions that I have read and enjoyed. The oddest unsuggestion pair:

      "Is Sex Necessary?" by Thurbur and White . . . and . . . "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstien.

      One's a cute (and rather innocent) parody of self-help books of the 1920s with funny little essays and doodly illustrations, the other is

  • I happen to like ANSI Commond LISP and Louisa May Alcott's Little Women!!

    It assumes that if you like Sci-Fi, you must be a geek and won't like things related to Christianity or Literature (and vice-versa).

    They either have sucky algorithms or people have narrower tastes than I expected. I hope it's the former...

  • Quirky though it may be, the tool seems an interesting way to broaden your horizons.

    The way I use to broaden my horizons is to buy books in a discount store. In England, a typical novel might cost about £7.00 or £8.00, while some discount stores have a "3 books for £5" offer. Often, these offers are for authors that I have never heard of. I have been buying most of my novels in this way for several years and most of the discount books by authors-unknown-to-me that I have bought have been

  • Yay (Score:3, Funny)

    by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Monday December 04, 2006 @08:03PM (#17107068) Homepage
    Let's type in Oprah's book list to find some books worth reading.

  • There is something odd about the The Harry Potter boxed set by J.K. Rowling, it seems to come up a lot in my trials as a book I wouldn't want to read. (Ignoring the fact that I've read to pretty much enjoyed all the books so far)

    It came up under searches for:
    * The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold.
    * Kim by Rudyard Kipling
    * Startide rising by David Brin
    * The voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
    * Harry Potter and the sorcerer's stone by J.K. Rowling

    The first three I could see where there might not be hug

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!