Archival Zotero-fication, or Possibly Vice Versa

by Scott McLemee on December 12, 2007

I like Zotero a lot. It makes collecting and organizing material from research online much easier than it would be otherwise. Plus they sent me a t-shirt after my column about it appeared, which pretty much amounts for all the non-book-related swag to have arrived in 2007.

Still, I have been somewhat irregular about working with Zotero. Required to give a more or less sensible reason for this, I could say that it is a matter of waiting for the 2.0 version, none too patiently. But the really deciding factor is that I still use Netscape, which is proving less rational or defensible all the time. Shifting over entirely to Firefox (of which Zotero is a plug-in) seems like a good resolution for the new year.

One factor holding up the 2.0 version—which will, it’s said, allow people to share documents—is the range of intellectual-property issues it would create. But at IHE this morning, Andy Guess reports that the Center for History and New Media is going ahead with the development of a Zotero archive into which scholars can deposit material, as long as it is public-domain.

In partnership with the Internet Archive, and with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the center is creating a way for scholars to upload existing data files to be optically scanned (to make them text-searchable) and stored in a database available to the public. Since only works in the public domain can be made available in that way, scholars will have to complete an online form with legal assurances.

The vehicle for the new environment will be the Zotero plug-in for the Firebox browser, also developed by the center. The software stores Web pages, collects citations and lets scholars annotate and organize online documents. A new feature of the plug-in will allow people to collaborate and share materials through a dedicated server. Building on that functionality, according to Cohen, the system will allow scholars to drag and drop documents onto an icon in Zotero that essentially sends it to the Internet Archive for storage and free optical character recognition.

This seems like a step forward. I guess the next big development will come when the Zotero people work out something with the 800-pound gorilla in the room, also known as JSTOR.

{ 9 comments }

1

Erik Hetzner 12.12.07 at 7:49 pm

I was reluctant to use zotero; it is tied to a browser instance (and thus a particular machine; I use a lot of computers), it’s a bit clumsy.

But I realized that it has the feature of snapshotting web pages. This sold me.

Ideally, of course, we would all use the archive.org version of a page, or some other long-lived archive. But, until archive.org crawls a page, the snapshot is a great tool. It means that you won’t lose the text that you want to keep, and it means being able to search the full text of that document.

2

Aaron Swartz 12.12.07 at 9:21 pm

Ironically, JSTOR was started by Mellon.

3

Mark 12.12.07 at 9:24 pm

I’ve recently switched to Zotero and I’m hooked. For me, frustrated as I was with Endnote’s clumsy UI, Zotero really makes the day. It seamlessly integrates into my browsing experience. And for my offline resources, it allows me to grab references directly from Google Scholar or CSA (including abstracts!).

On the matter at hand, I don’t think that this particular development will make much of a difference. Sources that are in the public domain (effectively, sources that are +80 years old or so) quite simply form the minority of sources most academics want to cite. Free OCR service is nice, but I wonder whether this will work without human intervention (and if not, how they’re going to pay for that). Remember that the succes rate of OCR is still somewhere between 95-99 percent, which is 1 error per two lines at least. And for older sources (Fraktur!) this will be even worse.

PS You’re on WordPress — have you considered making your blog Zotero-friendly?

4

David Mackinder 12.13.07 at 12:15 am

‘the really deciding factor is that I still use Netscape, which is proving less rational or defensible all the time. Shifting over entirely to Firefox (of which Zotero is a plug-in) seems like a good resolution for the new year’: but Zotero works fine with Netscape Navigator 9

5

Trevor 12.13.07 at 2:21 am

Side note. For those all you Netscape fans Zotero works with Navigator 9. (http://www.zotero.org/blog/zotero-on-netscape-navigator-and-flock/)

6

bemused 12.13.07 at 3:44 am

“I was reluctant to use zotero; it is tied to a browser instance (and thus a particular machine; I use a lot of computers), it’s a bit clumsy.” Not clear what this means. Firefox is available on all major platforms, and the place you establish your saved information is within the Firefox profile which can be located on a USB stick or other portable storage medium.

7

Corey 12.13.07 at 12:39 pm

When I started grad school last year, I didn’t know about Endnote or Zotero. I saw fliers sitting around the Writing Center for Zotero, but when I went to the computing services webpage, they instructions for downloading free Endnote software (as did the library website).

This strikes me as odd now since I attend George Mason, who’s Center for History and New Media developed Zotero. As soon as I realized we had put it together I uninstalled Endnote (which was out-of-date anyway). Works great.

8

Geschichte Grad 12.14.07 at 1:40 am

I’ve been slowly adopting Zotero over the past few months–for reading notes and for research organization. It works well for these purposes, but I’ve never even thought of using it to share materials. An interesting idea. Still, I’m just hoping for some formatting options (tweaking the style guide and adjusting the formats of reports, specifically) in the next version.

9

Sean 12.14.07 at 5:25 am

Zotero already integrates with JSTOR (including full-text indexing of its PDFs). What else would you like to see happen between Zotero and JSTOR?

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