Coding

Online bibliographic data management

I am a social scientist with lots of curiosity and a bad memory. This means I need tools that help me remember who wrote what were and why. When I started academic work, I had a box with index cards. Later, I started using reference management software, such as “Reference Manager” and “Biblioscape” on Windows (I never liked Endnote). When I moved to the Mac, I migrated my data to “Bookends“, and I am happy with it in general. But I was always annoyed about the closed nature of these applications. It was hard to get data from one app to the other, there was no way of programmatically editing the data (No scripting, even on the Mac where scripting is built-in), and no or only limited access to the database that is used to store the data. And I wanted to be able to edit and process the data my way, and not just the way the application authors let me.

At the same time, I always wondered why there is no really good open source alternative. OpenOffice has bibliography support built in, but so far, it is not useful. There are many open-source projects which help you maintain a list of bibliographies, but very few of them are truly platform independent or feature-rich enough to compare with the commercial programs. And I wanted a software that was intuitive, multi-user, web-based, and easily extensible. I could find none that would have all that and have a nice, user-friendly GUI.

So I had to roll up my sleeves and write one myself. Bibliograph 1.0 was released in 2006, but could not find a large audience, since it was based on PHP4 which was already outdated back then. Also, I had hacked it together in a hurry, so the architecture was really bad. So the project lingered for a couple of years, while I was busy doing other things. Now, thanks to a grant, I could again work on the software, invest some more time into the design, and now am close to a new release. . If you’re interested, have a look at the public demo. I hope I can publish the first Beta soon. [Update 07/2012: Unfortunately, that never happened. I am close to a rewrite that will ditch the PHP backend in favor of nodejs. The PHP-based code is available, though, if you’re interested.]

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