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DVDs - John C. Kirk

Jan. 17th, 2007

07:02 pm - DVDs

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I've been thinking recently about the logistics of lending DVDs between friends. It's not too hard to keep track of what I've actually lent out (I use a single Word document for books/comics/DVDs/whatever), but it's more tricky to know what DVDs other people have that I might want to watch or to keep other people informed about what I have without spamming everyone with huge emails. I saw someone set up a wiki for this a couple of years ago, but that didn't work very well; I think it worths better in a structured database. Ideally, you want everyone to store their info centrally, although that may be difficult with big lists. For instance, I've heard people praising LibraryThing, but I'm not realistically going to type 700 books into a new system, and then keep two databases up to date. (That's even more of a challenge for my comic collection.) I think there may be a way around this, using something like a web service, where the central site would connect to individual databases on separate servers to query them, but I'm not sure whether there are any clear standards for that yet.

Anyway, coming back to DVDs, I don't have a huge number of them, so it wouldn't be too hard to retype them all somewhere else. I did think about creating my own website (linking to a back-end database) for this, but I figured I should have a look around for an existing site first, rather than re-inventing the wheel (particularly if I want other people to enter their data). I found DVDLender, which looks pretty good: the idea is that you can belong to multiple "gangs", and only people in the same gang as you can see what you've got. This means that I can have different gangs for different circles of friends, without needing any transitive relations between them. You can then search for a DVD, it will show you everyone who has a copy, and you can click a button to ask to borrow it.

It's a free site, and seems to have been set up out of genuine goodwill, rather than as a money-making scheme. (They get commission from Amazon sales, but that's all.) Having said that, I'm not sure how much it's maintained, and from a technical point of view I can see several areas for improvement; also, the DVDs I've picked at random from my own collection aren't in their central list yet, so it will take a bit longer to add them. Still, I think it's worth playing with, so "if you wanna be in my gang" then just let me know. Alternately, if you know of any better sites elsewhere, I'd be interested to hear about them too.

Meanwhile, speaking of videos, here are a couple of good YouTube clips that I saw on Peter David's blog recently:

* March of the Emperor - very funny.
* Pandas - quite cute, although you'll need to have sound turned on to get the full effect.

Edit: PaperbackSwap seems to work on a similar principle, although it's only for the US, and arranges donations between strangers rather than temporary loans between friends.

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Comments:

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From:nou
Date:January 17th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
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DVDLender does look a bit shonky but might be worth a try. I only have about three DVDs but am acquiring more as I find things I want to own (that Bob doesn't own already). I'll join up when you decide on a site.
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From:billyabbott
Date:January 17th, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)
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I use DVDProfiler from Intervocative
The normal version is free, you enter dvd by barcode number (or reader if you have one) or can search for it in their database. The database is user maintained and the obsessive DVD collectors keep it pretty much up to date (I may occasionally be one of them...).

It's a windows app that lets you publish your collection to their site (mine is at - http://www.intervocative.com/dvdcollection.aspx/cowfishbill) and the software allows you to mark where dvds are in location as well as who they have been loaned to (it can be used by small/medium video shops).

The pay-for version gives you a few more features and "high res" cover scans...I've never felt the need.

And if you want to borrow any of my DVDs, let me know - that page is pretty much up to date, although I need to do an audit (the software prints out lists to do that as well...I quite like it, you may be able to tell :)
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From:johnckirk
Date:January 17th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC)
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Interesting, thanks - that certainly looks a lot more "professional" (for want of a better word) than DVDLender. The Windows app isn't a problem for me (and probably not for my SJA friends), although I'm guessing that it may be a limiting factor for people like nou. If I created an account there (which I haven't done yet), would I be able to click a button to say "Please lend me X", or would I need to contact you separately about that?

The other site I'm looking at is BillMonk (partly because it reminds me of the "Monkfish!" sketches from The Fast Show). There's an interview with the guys who developed it here, who both used to work at Amazon.com. I think that shows in the app itself, since it has a handy "bulk entry" feature, where you can enter a series of codes (e.g. ISBN numbers) and it will look them up against the Amazon website of your choice. Conveniently, it will accept line breaks as a separator, so I can run a SELECT query in my existing database, then copy/paste the results. So far it's been doing pretty well about matching the results; it couldn't find a few ISBN-13 numbers, but it did recognise the corresponding ISBN-10 numbers. The bulk entry page stopped loading properly in IE7 after my first go (it keeps saying that I have a local copy of the page that's out of date), so I'm using it in Firefox 2.0 instead, and that's working fine.

One advantage of BillMonk is that it can track more than just DVDs, e.g. books/music/games/clothing. They also have a system for tracking financial debts between friends, although I doubt I'll use that. The main disadvantage is that they limit each person's "library" to 500 items, which in my case is woefully inadequate :) Following up on sulkyblue's post about social networking sites, BillMonk will accept FaceBook accounts; that's no use to me, but I can see it being helpful if it's one less password to remember. The way visibility works is closer to LiveJournal than DVDLender is; rather than me defining a "gang", each person defines their own group of friends. That's more flexible, but it also involves a bit more work and duplication of effort for the individual people involved.
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From:rjw1
Date:January 17th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
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obvioulsy they need to use openid.

also didnt lorna write a dvd sharign thing a while back. or rwas that books i forget.
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From:sulkyblue
Date:January 18th, 2007 09:56 am (UTC)
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Yes I did. I got bored and didn't finish it.
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From:johnckirk
Date:January 18th, 2007 12:44 pm (UTC)
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I did find something similar: The Open Media Lending Database. I don't know whether it supports OpenID, but it has links to a few other global catalogues. The main drawback there is that it's something I'd need to install on my own website, rather than being hosted elsewhere. Also, the last release was almost 2 years ago and their demo site now seems to be a page of spam links.
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From:billyabbott
Date:January 18th, 2007 06:37 am (UTC)
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DVDProfiler is a dvd catalgoue that lets you note who you've loaned things to rather than a lending system, so you'd have to look up things on other peoples pages (if they've synced them to their home collection) and then contact them seperately.

As for the bulk uploading, the software downloads a complete copy of the title and basic metadata database to your machine, so after you enter a barcode it find the dvd pretty much instantaneously. It then looks up all the DVDs you've entered on the dvdprofiler site and downloads all the user entered info from there - which is a cross between IMDB, Amazon and random obsessive information enterer's info. I don't think it's got a bulk imprt where you can just give it a text file though - you have to type/scan things directly into the app.
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From:johnckirk
Date:January 18th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)
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I've just installed the software, and it recognised the first barcode I tried, so that's quite impressive. Unfortunately, it's storing all of its data files in the installation folder (under C:\Program Files), so it doesn't work properly when I'm logged in as a basic user. There are a couple of workarounds for that (e.g. changing the permissions on that folder), but it's really a bug in the program itself. I've created a new topic in their forums, so I'll see how people respond to that.

Meanwhile, I submitted a couple of suggestions/requests to BillMonk last night (one of which was about their 500 item limit), and the automatic acknowledgment said that they'd reply within 24 hours, so I'm waiting to see how they get back to me as well. They can duel for the privilege of giving me a free service, mu-ha-ha!
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From:billyabbott
Date:January 19th, 2007 10:10 am (UTC)
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"Bug" it may be, but it's a bug that pretty much all small fee and free windows software seems to have. It's getting better, but not that fast - maybe Vista will be better...

I remember the experiment that one of our windows devs tried a couple of years back - he tried to develop using visual studio and a non-admin account. He lasted a few weeks, but gave up in the end.
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From:johnckirk
Date:January 19th, 2007 12:00 pm (UTC)
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I remember the experiment that one of our windows devs tried a couple of years back - he tried to develop using visual studio and a non-admin account. He lasted a few weeks, but gave up in the end.

Yes, I remember you mentioning that, and I've been meaning to write a post about my experiences with non-admin for the last year or so :) I gave a talk about this for my SJA skilled presenter training, so I'll try to transcribe my notes over the weekend.

As for the app itself, I am generally impressed by it, to the extent that I think I'll switch over to this as my primary database (replacing the Access file I've got at the moment), so thank you for the recommendation. I've entered most of my disks now, and I should get the rest of them finished tonight. I also found a couple that weren't already in the main database, so I have one contribution pending ("Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 & 2") - feel free to review that and vote on it :)
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From:johnckirk
Date:January 18th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
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Following up on this, BillMonk can't handle DVD barcodes at all, which is a black mark against it. They can accept ASINs (Amazon's own unique ID system), but since those aren't printed on the DVD box they aren't a great deal of use :)
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From:totherme
Date:January 18th, 2007 11:17 am (UTC)
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It'd be nice if there were something like last.fm, which didn't require you to enter data by hand at all - just a plugin for your computer-based dvd player...

Of course, that would probably require a big CDDB style database to already exist :/
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From:johnckirk
Date:January 18th, 2007 12:50 pm (UTC)
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I've heard about people using Escient Fireball in conjunction with one of those huge 400-DVD loaders, which can apparently work quite well. DVDProfiler does apparently recognise DVDs if you put them in your computer's drive, but in my case it's quicker to type in a barcode than it is to move the disk from the box to the drive and back again.
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From:totherme
Date:January 18th, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
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I was thinking that they would be automatically catalogued as you watched them :)
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