April 10, 2013 § 2 Comments
My twitter feed is on fire, since the announcement of Elsevier having bought Mendeley, after a few months of rampant rumors. “Elsevier is evil ! They will shut down Mendeley ! Mendeley lost its soul ! We should in no way contribute to Elsevier’s business and benefits”. These are a few of the reactions that quickly followed the announcement. What should I do ? Should I care ?
Elsevier has an awful track record: from fake journals to insane profits on journal bundles, to name a few. Everybody agrees on that, and for sure they realized it and are trying to make up for it, somehow. Now that they own Mendeley, they are going to do all sort of crazy things. Maybe, maybe not, time will tell. Mr Gunn seems confident at this point. Others much less, to say the least.
I have a different take on the current events. I am usually a very pragmatic guy. I used to use Endnote, like everybody else a few years ago when there were no alternatives. Their habit was to update the software every year, although I never found any significant improvement in the update. I remember that sometime the update was WORSE than the previous version, breaking my library. And I had to pay 100$, give or take, to update. Every year, although I quickly gave up on the update. No PDF organization, no way to perform full text search. No sync. Quite rough.
Then Papers came out. And it was awesome. Finally a decent PDF organizer, that quickly improved. Not having the choice of my OS (Win), I had to give up on Papers when I came back from the US. Too bad. A windows version has been developed since, but I already gave up. It’s been bought by Springer since, and I’m not sure Springer is any better than Mendeley.
And then I came across Mendeley. It more or less provides everything I need: easy import (I love the DOI look up), easy organization, full text search, cross plat-form sync. I’ve paid for a data plan for a while to have all my files synced between my laptop and desktop computer (Dropbox is not allowed where I work). Works flawlessly. Excellent to insert bibliography in papers I write. Automatic bibtex file creation when I need to use LaTeX. If only they could provide the abbreviated journal name, that would be perfect. I now trow in it every interesting paper I came across, whether it’s directly related to my interest or not. It is thus becoming my personal, curated papers database. The value I get from this software has very quickly become extremely valuable.
And now it belongs to Elsevier. Well, I try not to submit papers anymore to Elsevier journals (although Acta Materiala is a solid journal in my field), I avoid to review for them. I use Scopus less and less since Google Scholar has become extensive. I get little or no value from Elsevier’s products. But Mendeley is different. As I said, I get a lot of value from it right now, and I don’t mind paying 5$ a month for my data plan, it’s worth it. My files are synced across all on my computers. If the situation turns ugly, I don’t lose anything but the time spent migrating to another platform. So for now, I’ll stick to Mendeley, and see what happens.
March 14, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Based on my twitter feed, there were two main news yesterday: the election of an old dude in Rome, and the not very classy decision of Google to kill Reader in a few months. As you can guess, I am much more concerned about that second one, for my daily work routine. I have expressed my love for RSS previously. As of today, my strategy hasn’t changed. RSS is still the best way, by far, to keep track of new articles.
Many people today are claiming that RSS is dead, and twitter will do the job instead. Not at all, as far as I am concerned. I have a very different usage for both. I use twitter to discover recommendations and keep track of the scientific buzz around. The constant flow of tweet is nevertheless a guarantee that I will miss some stuff. It’s ok. It’s in the very nature of twitter. When it comes to tracking new articles in journals, twitter just doesn’t do the job. I use (mostly) Google Scholar to search for article on a topic in which I have some interest. Something specific. But it’s definitely not a tool for systematic tracking of new papers. My current RSS feed currently comprises around 50 journals, 30 blogs, and roughly 40 RSS feed of Scopus search results or equivalent. Since October 2008, I have read over 300k items in Reader. The counter is stuck at 300k for over a year, actually. My current feed provides about 3k items per month (I used to have much more). I spend about 10-15 min per day to keep track of new articles, and usually discover 2 or 3 new papers of interest for me, not directly related to my specific niche (freezing !). If I need to visit every single journal website to get the same information… well, there’s just no way. RSS is still the best choice. No question.
My second constraint is that during my day, I use 2 different computers, a phone and an iPad to check on my RSS feed, depending on where I am and what I do. Reader was providing a flawless solution for the sync. There will be another one soon, that’s ok.
The only question left now is: how long will Google Scholar survive? Reader was much more useful to me, and I guess I’m not the only one like this in the academic world. There are now ads in Scholar. I don’t see why they should even bother keep working on it, unless they have some long terms plans for it that goes beyond the simple search engine it is today. By which I mean an iTunes store-like system for academic papers, for instance.
Will I survive ? Of course, because I don’t have the choice. I will export my RSS feed to another service and keep using it. I will miss the convenience of Google Reader until a better solution comes up. Good bye, you’ve served me well.
February 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
An important update. Most notably, it is now a standalone application. The reference manager war is running and that’s a good thing for us. Also a new word processor integration that looks very similar to that of Mendeley or Papers. I am not planning to switch, though, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it ! I am happy with Mendeley so far.
October 5, 2011 § Leave a Comment
This is the most interesting tidbit of yesterday’s apple news regarding the new iPhone, to me. WolframAlpha is now integrated into iOS. I hope OSX will follow, that would be quite something. The funny part is that people will be using it without even knowing it.
June 22, 2011 § Leave a Comment
A much welcome update to one of my favorite piece of software. Finally bringing duplicate findings. All improvements listed here.
April 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
March 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Out today. Completely rewritten from the ground up, with lots of much needed and welcome improvements. Check out the website for the complete list of new features and improvements. Worth mentioning: Papers is becoming more and more a document manager, in addition to a reference manager, you can now store many different file formats. Papers is taking advantage of all the underlying technology of Mac OSX, the user interface is a delight to use (the opposite of Endnote, if you ask me). The integrated search tools (up to 25 search engines combined) are certainly a great time saver. The deal-breaker will be the integration with word processing document, which is where I find Endnote still superior, so far. We’ll see how it goes. I also hope they finally improved the metadata extraction (that’s what they claim), which is where Mendeley really shines.
Alas, as I am bound to a PC in the lab, I am turning to Mendeley as my sole reference manager software. It syncs seamlessly between computers at home and in the lab. I only using Papers on the iPad to carry my papers with me, but keeping two libraries up to date is a pain. The annotation tools are keeping me with Papers so far. I’ll switch to Mendeley for iPad when:
- I can sync all my library without paying additional fees (my library is larger than the 500Mb free limit, with around 800 papers), and access it without a network.
- Annotation tools are added on the iPad version, and sync with the desktop version.
Competition is welcome in this domain anyway. If I was the Endnote developers, I’d be really worried.
December 12, 2010 § Leave a Comment
A nice and solid update overall. The new UI is much lighter than previously, feels much more responsive and is much less in the way. The other great improvement is the ability to add papers through Dropbox. Ideas for improvements: batch import through Dropbox, and the ability to define a “watched” folded, like Mendeley, to bring a little bit more of automation and make the sync a bit less tedious.