Social life around books

In posts to come, I will write about books that are currently on my mind and my reading list. But first: a bit about the process of discussing books on the web.

Over the last couple of years, I've used various websites that let you record books that you own or read and what you think of those books: LibraryThing, goodreads, Visual Bookshelf (a Facebook application), and Shelfari This selection of sites doesn't even include my Amazon wishlist ("Stuff I find interesting"), a WorldCat "Stuff I find interesting" list, my Google Books "My Library", and other lists I must have forgotten about. Some of these lists I use actively, while joining (in response to a friend's request) has been the only activity I've performed.

I've been intrigued by book-oriented social network services for some time now, but none of them has won me over. I explained my reluctance to adopt these services on p. 238 of my mashup book:

One thing that keeps me from investing too heavily in these sites is the struggle of how to move my book data in and out of any of these sites. For any given site, I look for APIs that help in that regard as well as any feeds that might allow users to easily import and export data.

In other words, I'd like to use any website of choice and have my information show up on all of them. I'd even be willing to program such information exchange (that's where the APIs come in.)

When I write about books, I have a choice about where to write -- on this blog or on one of the book social network services, or in a traditional print publication (among others). I will try to write in a lot of places and see what happens.

Learning from the everyday

I've not thought seriously about physics since I finished my Ph.D. in biophysics in 1997. But now I think often about how to get back into studying physics. Not the physics of graduate school requirements, but the physics of everyday life. Doesn't it make sense to get students to tie their learning to what they encounter in their own worlds? Of course, the world is much bigger than what's in our faces and immediately under our feet. But it's in the way buildings stand, water freezes and boils, and how insects fly that are the hints to the deepest stuff we know. Like Lex Luthor quipped: "Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe."

To find out whether there's been much work put into designing curriculum based on everyday life, I will look at references such as: