Fun with Authors

by Rachel Baker on September 11, 2009

I went to the OnlinePublicist to catch up and found reference to The Literature Map I’d never heard of such a thing, but after reading Lisa’s explanation, I couldn’t help myself, I had to go check it out.   I used Stephen King, and clicked continue, was given a map of sorts that shows you possible authors I may enjoy.  How cool is that?!

Here’s one of the paths I took:

Stephen King
J.R.R. Tolkien
Douglas Adams (never read him)
Terry Pratchett
Neil Gaiman
Anne Rice (though it on the outer banks of the Neil Gaiman)
Edgar Allan Poe (don’t really like)
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (never read)

Of the authors I’ve read on this list, I do enjoy reading their books.  I did sort of cheat between Neil Gaiman and Anne Rice, because she was on the outer circle of the Neil Gaiman map.  That’s okay though – she was on the map.

So here’s the thing with this map.  I think the literature map could be a great tool to find authors you’ve never heard of, new books you’ve never thought to read.  I do think one should know what it is about the author’s books they like prior to picking a name off the list and ordering a book.  For example, I put in Louisa May Alcott, and well, of the authors I have read on the list, I liked very few of them and those I did like, were not for the same reasons I like Louisa May Alcott’s writing.

And, when I put in Brian Haig (a relatively new author to me), I found about a 50-50 split on authors I’ve read and liked and authors I’ve read and didn’t like.  The same thing occurred when I typed in Tom Clancy.  And for both of these authors, the ones I liked were for the same reasons I liked the originating author.

A note about accuracy and how (I think) the system probably works:

The Map of Literature is part of the Gnooks network which is small part of the Gnod world.  What is Gnod?
“Gnod is my experiment in the field of artificial intelligence. Its a self-adapting system, living on this server and ‘talking’ to everyone who comes along. Gnods intention is to learn about the outer world and to learn ‘understanding’ its visitors. This enables gnod to share all its wisdom with you in an intuitive and efficient way. You might call it a search-engine to find things you don’t know about.”

Now, what is Gnooks?
“Gnooks is a self-adapting community system based on the gnod engine. Discover new writers you will like, travel the map of literature and discuss your favorite books and authors.”

Another interesting tool in the Gnooks network is the box (from the above link) for Gnod’s Suggestions.  Here you put in three of your favorite writers and the engine generates other authors you may be interested in reading and gives you the option to rate whether you ‘like it!’ you ‘don’t like it’ or you ‘don’t know’.

I suspect the way the engine works is by evaluating the rating system results and by using artificial intelligence is able to learn what authors are similar to other authors and what other readers have enjoyed based on who they deem their favorite authors.  I further suspect, the literature map works the same basic way. I would be willing to bet, it tracks which authors get clicked on surrounding an originating author, and over time develops a map based on that data which starts out from the data received from the suggestions application.

This is only as accurate as the number of people who are actually using the system.  I am not sure I would add this information at the end of a review suggesting reading a book if you liked enter name of author here.  That said, I definitely enjoyed exploring both the literature map and the suggestions.

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