Jason Puckett With great power comes great bibliography.


Zotero for organizing audio collections

Maybe this is obvious to everyone else who uses Zotero regularly, but I had sort of an a-ha moment yesterday afternoon with a student and I wanted to share the idea.

I was doing a Zotero consultation with a grad student in our school of social work, and in the course of conversation it came up that she's using a lot of personal interviews in her research. "Oh," I said, "I think there's an Interview reference type in Zotero if you need to cite them." It turns out that there is indeed.

So then I was showing her how to attach PDFs to article citations. "You know," I said, "you can attach other kinds of files too, like Word documents, or ... or MP3s. Hey! You could attach interview recordings, and then tag them with the interview subject's name and make them searchable." We got very excited at this point and I'm a little embarrassed at how geeky the whole thing was.

But I can think of several use cases for this. Obviously if you're in a discipline like social work, Zotero would give you an easy way to organize interviews. The Zotero metadata is probably friendlier to search than the native MP3/ID3 tags, and of course it can generate citations in ways that ID3 data can't do.

This would also be great for historians and digital archivists (like my wife) working with oral history material, especially with the forthcoming API that will publish from Zotero to the web via Omeka. EDIT: Combining it with Zotero Maps or the Timeline feature could be useful and/or cool.

The only drawback I can see is that a collection of MP3s would likely eat through the free 100 megs of storage space on the sync server very quickly, but storage is cheap.


Upcoming ACRL webcast on open source research tools

I'm giving an online presentation for ACRL next week:

Superpower your Browser: Open Source Research Tools

Libraries are harnessing the power of digital resources, moving tools and resources not only onto the Web but into the browser software itself. Open source browser plug-ins such as LibX and Zotero can help researchers at every stage of the research cycle, from search and discovery to writing and citation.

The LibX search toolbar can be customized to search your library's catalog and databases, insert library links into sites like Amazon and Wikipedia, and more. Zotero is a citation manager and bibliography creator that is as easy to use as iTunes. New features such as online storage and shared libraries make Zotero a strong competitor to proprietary software.

This webcast will examine these two powerful browser tools as well as others. By using free, open source tools, libraries can offer assistance and resources with little cost and foster skills that patrons can use throughout life, regardless of location.

If you're interested in seeing how LibX and Zotero can benefit libraries and researchers, join me and ACRL on March 23 at 11am Pacific/2pm Eastern. My C&RL News article by (almost) the same title will give you an idea of what I'll be talking about, but the online format gives us a chance for some live demonstration, Q&A and discussion. Also probably some funny pictures of superheroes and my cat. Register here.

(See ACRL's e-learning site for more details)


Zotero development plans

Protecting my money maker

"Protecting my money maker" by jonlesser (not me)

This is a quick post about some tidbits I learned today from one of the Zotero developers. She was able to share with me some of the development plans for the coming year or so:

1. Zotero API to give it interactivity with webapps. (I'm thinking I'd love to be able to save items into Zotero and have them appear in a formatted bibliography in a Libguide. I hope something like that will be possible.) This will start with a bridge between Zotero and the Center for History and New Media's open source web publishing project Omeka.

2. A web-based client, which would do two things: Make the Firefox add-in optional, and allow Zotero use from other browsers!

3. Zotero Commons, a drag-and-drop interface to a scholarly repository hosted by the Internet Archive. I know the least about this one. A friend has already asked me about how they'll address copyright, to which I answer "I have no idea."

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Zotero’s future not at risk

If you saw the Chronicle of Higher Ed article this week about Mellon closing its Research in IT grant program, you may have been concerned (as I was) about its impact on Zotero. This grant was a major contributor to Zotero's funding.

Happily, Dan Cohen reports that Zotero and the Center for History and New Media is in no danger of folding, and has diverse enough funding to continue actively. It sounds like they have ambitious plans for new projects in the future. Whew!

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LibGuides and Images

Yesterday afternoon I discovered something I hadn't realized about LibGuides, and I thought I'd share the word for other LG users.

One of the cooler features of LG is the ability to copy entire guides, within an institution (so for example if you teach lots of sections of first-year English and need multiple guides with minor changes, you don't have to start from scratch each time) or from one institution to another (so if your friend at another library has a great guide, she can give you permission to copy it and make changes).

When you copy a guide, though, it doesn't actually copy the images that go along with it. It copies the HTML code, which includes pointers to the original images. What this means in practical terms is that if someone makes a copy of my Zotero guide (which has a Creative Commons license, so I'm happy to share as long as I get credit), their copy uses the same images I'm using on my original. Not copies of my images, but the same actual image files get served up to both guides.

Why is this a problem? Well, if I delete one of my images, and a dozen people have copied my guide, I've broken that image on a dozen libraries' sites. If I change the image, it changes on all those sites (maybe in a way the other guide owners don't want). If I'm hosting my images on my library's server instead of buying image space from Springshare, I'm unwittingly providing bandwidth for images on a dozen other libraries' pages.

There are very logical reasons why LibGuides behaves this way. It's relatively easy to copy a page of HTML as opposed to duplicating all the images and changing the code automatically to point to the new copies, and not every institution subscribes to Springshare's optional image hosting add-on. (Fortunately, if you do subscribe to their image hosting, you're not charged for bandwidth.)

As always, Springshare's tech support was quick to respond and clarify the question for me in their forum. Subscribe to this thread if you're interested in getting updates.

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Mendeley citation software, first impressions

My friend Colleen Harris called my attention to a new bibliographic manager program called Mendeley. I spent a little time trying it out today. I want to stress that this was a brief test run, and these are, as the title of the post says, just first impressions.

Mendeley, presently in version 0.6 beta, is free (but not open source), and runs on Windows, MacOS or Linux. I tried out the Windows version. It's got two components: a separate desktop application like EndNote, and web-based storage for references. Add a bookmarklet to your browser toolbar and you get a somewhat Zotero-like experience of saving references from many databases and other sources like Amazon and Google Scholar. (It didn't work with my library's catalog, but did work with Worldcat.org.) You can save either single citations or pick from a list of search results.

It took me a moment to realize that citations were being saved to my online Mendeley library, and wouldn't appear in the desktop application until I pressed the Sync Library button. This is a different experience than I'm used to, but wasn't much of a hassle. The desktop client looks a lot like the Zotero interface (but outside of the browser window, obviously), and if you're used to either EndNote or Zotero it will seem familiar and easy to use. If you're using Mendeley on multiple computers it should be easy to keep your libraries in sync, a feature that Zotero 2.0 has but EndNote lacks entirely.

There's also a Word plugin that installs as part of the setup. It didn't work for me at first, and gave me an error message requiring me to reboot before it would work. The instructions in the error message were full of horrible spelling mistakes, which is a superficial complaint but didn't really inspire me with confidence. Once I rebooted, it worked fine, and the process of inserting citations and creating bibliographies is just about identical to Zotero and EndNote.

Mendeley is clearly geared toward academics: there's an online profile associated with your web account that includes publications, grants, and classes. It fills in suggestions for the name of your institution as you fill out your profile, and I had a hard time forcing it to accept "Georgia State University" instead of "University of Georgia - Georgia State University" (we're a separate institution, not a unit of UGA, as Mendeley seems to think all of our state institutions are). There's a My Publications group in the desktop client, and you can add publication credits to your Mendeley CV by dragging references here.

My first impression of Mendeley is that it's easier to use than EndNote, and probably not quite as easy as Zotero. It's not quite as mature as either product, but casual users and students probably wouldn't notice many lacking features. The missing ability to import citations from library catalogs may bother a lot of potential users, but searching Worldcat or Amazon is a pretty easy workaround. The online storage puts it one up on EndNote, as it's a lot easier to use than EndNote Web, and users who prefer EndNote to Zotero might want to consider Mendley as a free replacement. I'll be keeping an eye on it.

Mendeley: How it Works


My essential browser add-ons

Marianne Lenox's "My Favorite Browser Add-Ons" post caught my eye, and I thought I'd post my own list.  I'm intrigued by the fact that there was zero overlap between our lists.

Image by *Sparrow

Image by "*Sparrow"

When I get hold of a new computer for the first time, there are a few browser add-ons I have to install before I feel at home.  Oh, and Firefox comes first.  Do I even have to say that?

Zotero:  Well, duh.  You knew this one too, right?  If you do research at all, you must have Zotero.  I've discussed this at some length elsewhere.

Adblock Plus:  I'm always vaguely surprised when people complain about banner ads on the web, because I almost never see them.  Adblock Plus does a brilliant job of keeping them off my screen.

Delicious Bookmarks: Replaces the old-fashioned on-disk bookmark list with easy access to my Delicious account.  (I do use local bookmarks only on my browser toolbar, but my big list of bookmarks is all online at Delicious.)

Mouse Gestures: Allows you to execute common commands by using the mouse to draw simple "gestures" on the screen.  I'm so used to using it for forward/back navigation that I'm often slightly confused when I try to navigate on a computer without it.  This add-on has many more functions than I'm ever likely to learn -- I just find it handy for for forward and back browsing, and opening and closing new tabs.

LibX: I think of this as a counterpart to Zotero in many ways.  LibX is an open-source library toolbar that can (must, actually) be customized for your particular library.  It functions as a catalog/database search bar, but to me the coolest part is what it does to page contents.  It adds library links to Amazon item records, auto-links ISBNs to your library's OpenURL server...  Actually, it's worth a separate post in itself.  One of my summer projects is to improve my  Libx guide for GSU users.


Zotero groups coming

Dan Cohen of the Zotero project reports that Zotero groups are presently in testing and will be available "very soon," possibly even as soon as next week.

Presumably this will mean the ability to share references via the profile/follow feature on the Zotero site.  I'm pretty excited in a geeky way.

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Social Zotero

Zotero rolled out new versions of the stable and beta releases this week.  I had a bit of a glitch getting the sync function to work with this beta version, but a little digging through the Zotero forums fixed that.

More interesting is the fact that they've added online user profiles.  If you set up an account on the Zotero site (reserve your name!), you can suddenly upload a user picture, follow other users, and optionally make your entire library visible if you're syncing with the Zotero server.

I hope this means that we might expect to see recommendations and citation sharing soon.  I'm looking forward to Amazon-style "researchers who liked this article also liked...."

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Google Reader video

Google has published a great 2-minute how-to video called Getting Started With Google Reader.  I added it to my RSS Libguide.  It's also on their Reader Help page.  Nice job of translating RSS into plain language!