It would be too easy to rant and rave about this

Zotero is a marvellous, active open-source project, providing a Firefox extension that captures and formats bibliographic information from web pages.

Thomson Reuters describe themselves as “the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.” Whatever. They specialise in closed-source, proprietary solutions which to my simple mind is at odds with a role as an information source.

Via FriendFeed from Rafael Sidi’s blog, I learn that Thomson Reuters are suing George Mason University, developers of Zotero, for “violating its license agreement and destroying the EndNote customer base”.

Here’s my simple, black-and-white view of the world. The greatest achievement of the internet is the potential to set information free. There are free-thinking, forward-looking organisations like GMU who see this potential and act upon it. There are also organisations who see only threats to their corporate interests. Publishing corporations no longer control the flow of information to consumers and some of them seem to be struggling to accept this, adapt and move on.

As I say, too easy to rant and rave. If you’d like to do so in the comments, feel free.

14 thoughts on “It would be too easy to rant and rave about this

  1. Deepak

    I really liked some of the things TR was doing with Calais and the like, but this is silly. Ranting and raving is an understatement

  2. Jonathan Badger

    I’d *like* to not use Endnote, just like I’d like to not use Microsoft Word, but the problem is most people, particularly bench biologists, aren’t really into the whole open source movement, and science is collaborative. To them, Word+Endnote is just how one writes scientific papers and in my experience trying to convert them to LaTeX (or even something less radical to their user experience like OpenOffice) just doesn’t work. Have others had success with this?

  3. Ricardo

    Everyone should just make as much noise about this as possible. Make them look (even more!) evil for doing this.
    Hope Zotero finds a way around this and just keeps inovating as they have been doing so far.

  4. Pingback: Mailund on the Internet » Blog Archive » Trying out Zotero

  5. nsaunders Post author

    Have others had success with this?

    In a word – no. I’ve tried to introduce several collaborative writing tools to colleagues and all have failed. They won’t use Google Docs, due to lack of bibliography tools. They won’t use a web interface to a version-controlled document repository, because it’s another site/login to remember. They won’t even share their Endnote libraries in anything other than binary .enl format because exporting to a plain text format is apparently too difficult to learn. It seems they are only comfortable with Word + Endnote, on their own machine.

    This amounts to more work for me, because I only use Linux at home and work. I end up either (1) converting draft papers to LaTeX, working on them, exporting to RTF and sending back to other people or (2) using OpenOffice where possible. You might argue that I’m just making my own life more difficult, but I find it’s out-weighed by the psychological benefits of never going near a Windows machine.

  6. kevin

    Gah.. i dread having to turn back to windows but its a needed evil cos the PI is enamoured with endnote. I think he will flip if i suggest to drop the use of endnote.
    I used to like endnote. but I was forced to use it only in the lab cos it was too expensive to own a licence at home.
    synchronising endnote libraries was another headache.

    in the end i turned to bibtex and a java based ref manager so that I can work from home and in the lab on my thesis.

    haven’t thought of how I am going to do this in my new workplace.. any suggestions welcome!

    I am using zotero now keep interesting papers but have yet to use it on a manuscript writing yet. Hope it goes well.

  7. Cameron Neylon

    The Endnote-Word thing is two fold. There is still an interface issue with both wikis and googledocs for collaborative authoring. I think this is probably because people have got used to word documents looking ‘pretty’ on the page and the concept of document on page is so deep rooted (why do people print off pdfs for example).

    There’s also a funtionality issue – I’ve realised that a lot of people write documents in ‘down’ or ‘travel’ time where web access is dodgy at best. I’ve never got googledocs offline working properly yet (though I haven’t tried for a while)

    I do wonder though whether presenting Kevin’s PI with free collaborative literature management would make a difference (assuming of course it does the formatting)

  8. chris

    Have others had success with this?

    I simply write text and use brackets to mark where referencing should happen. When the paper is complete whoever gets the tedious job of referencing gets to choose how to do it. Not optimal, but saves me from beating my head against the wall. Also works well when you’re not the primary author: supply enough info and let the drudge – sorry, I meant first author – deal with it.

    The buck starts here…

  9. Rick

    @rpg
    Even the XML export is something to curse about–it is poor XML that often fails validation, changes between versions, cannot be imported back into EndNote, etc.

    @Jonathan
    Sure–write for journals that prefer LaTeX. Or just set your own rules for papers you are first author of & make sure that they are strong enough to get colleague to begrudgingly accept your “eccentricities.” Occasionally, people want to use MS Word’s commenting/change tracking features. OO.o 3.0 brings Writer’s features into greater parity. But you can also let them use MS Word if they wish & do most of your authoring in OO.o (or even in Latex, with oolatex from tex4ht).

  10. rpg

    It’s a pain.

    I hate Word, which is why I use Pages on my Mac. I refuse to learn LaTeX—I’m a writer/scientist, not a type-setter. I *want* WYSIWYG and I don’t care who knows it (and Pages, really, is beautiful). Learning LaTeX would be a waste of time because all my co-authors are Word zombies anyway.

    What I really want is for Papers to integrate with Pages. Then I’d be a happy bunny (Pages also talks Word DOCuments, so that’s not generally a problem).

  11. nsaunders Post author

    I think what we all want is a system that just works in terms of integrating a reference collection with writing software, whatever those two things happen to be. It’s interesting to read how different people approach this problem.

    The second issue is interoperability – how we work with others. All I can say is that it’s frustrating when “others” believe that Word + EndNote is the only solution and are unwilling or unable to consider alternatives.

    I believe the future is bright for Zotero (current legal issues not withstanding). If they develop plugins for all the major writing platforms, who knows, we might get a few more people away from EndNote.

Comments are closed.