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15 APRIL 2012

Beta blockers? : proprietary data formats may be legally defensible but open standards can be a better spur for innovation

"Thomson [Thomson Reuters] makes the proprietary bibliography software EndNote, and claims that Zotero is causing its commercial business 'irreparable harm' and is wilfully and intentionally destroying Thomson's customer base. In particular, Thomson is demanding that GMU stop distributing the newer beta–version of Zotero that allegedly allows EndNote's proprietary data format for storing journal citation styles to be converted into an open–standard format readable by Zotero and other software. Thomson claims that Zotero 'reverse engineered or decompiled' not only the format, but also the EndNote software itself. ...

Litigation, which may go to a jury trial, is pending, so judging this case on its legal merits would be premature. But on a more general level, the virtues of interoperability and easy data–sharing among researchers are worth restating. Imagine if Microsoft Word or Excel files could be opened and saved only in these proprietary formats, for example. It would be impossible for OpenOffice and other such software to read and save these files using open standards – as they can legally do.

Competition between open–source and proprietary software is long–running, as personified by the struggle between Windows and Linux for desktop and server operating systems, but also in many branches of software used by scientists. Researchers tend to lean towards open sharing, but they will also pay for added–value features, and it's important that the playing field is level. Ultimately, the customer is king."

(Nature, p.708)

Nature Volume 455, p.708 (9 October 2008) | doi:10.1038/455708a; Published online 8 October 2008, Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited.

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TAGS

2006 • added-value features • authorshipbibliography softwareCenter for History and New MediacitationcopyrightDan Cohen • data format • digital informationEndNoteGeorge Mason Universityinteroperabilityknowledge integrationlawsuitlevel playing fieldLinuxMicrosoft ExcelMicrosoft WindowsMicrosoft WordNature (journal) • open sharing • open sourceopen source filesopen source software • open standard format • open standards • OpenOffice • operating systemorganise and share • OS • ownershipproprietary • proprietary data formats • proprietary formats • proprietary software • researchersreverse engineering • science news • science policy • Sean Takatssoftwaretechnology • Thomson Reuters • trademark infringment • Zotero

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
11 FEBRUARY 2012

Zotero: an easy-to-use digital research tool

"Zotero is an easy–to–use yet powerful research tool that helps you gather, organize, and analyze sources (citations, full texts, web pages, images, and other objects), and lets you share the results of your research in a variety of ways. An extension to the popular open–source web browser Firefox, Zotero includes the best parts of older reference manager software (like EndNote) – the ability to store author, title, and publication fields and to export that information as formatted references – and the best parts of modern software and web applications (like iTunes and del.icio.us), such as the ability to interact, tag, and search in advanced ways. Zotero integrates tightly with online resources; it can sense when users are viewing a book, article, or other object on the web, and – on many major research and library sites – find and automatically save the full reference information for the item in the correct fields. Since it lives in the web browser, it can effortlessly transmit information to, and receive information from, other web services and applications; since it runs on one's personal computer, it can also communicate with software running there (such as Microsoft Word). And it can be used offline as well (e.g., on a plane, in an archive without WiFi)."

(Dan Cohen & Sean Takats)

TAGS

aeroplaneaggregating relevant contentAlfred P. Sloan FoundationAndrew W. Mellon Foundationbibliography software • browser extension • Center for History and New MediacitationDan CohenDel.icio.usdigital libraries • digital research tool • easy-to-use • EndNoteFirefox • full text • gather together • George Mason Universityinformation in contextinformation on the webiTunesknowledge integrationknowledge repository • library sites • Microsoft Word • Mozilla Firefox • offline • online archives • online resourcesopen sourceorganise • receive information • reference informationreference managerresearch toolSean Takatssearchshared collectiontaggingtool • United States Institute of Museum and Library Services • web applicationweb browserweb serviceWiFiZotero

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
19 AUGUST 2009

Google Docs: the networked computer classroom?

"The networked computer classroom has always held out the promise of improved collaboration and peer review of documents. The foundational work in this area was based on social constructionist theory ( e.g., Barker & Kemp 1990; Cooper & Selfe 1990; Hawisher & Selfe 1991): scholars saw networked writing as a concrete application of social constructionism, which emphasized collaborative writing, and consequently produced collaborative tools (such as the Daedalus Interactive Writing Environment and the enCore MOO). More recently, content management systems and wikis have joined the list of ways to collaborate. All allow participants to review, co–edit, and comment on a single text in a single space.

However, these technologies have tended to fill relatively narrow niches, due in part to the learning curve for using them (most people don't want to learn special markup) and the need for specialized hardware and software to run them (most people don't have dedicated servers to run a CMS). Not surprisingly, most documents –– in university settings and in business collaborations –– are still created in Microsoft Word or another word processor, and emailed from collaborator to collaborator (a practice known as "ping–ponging"). This solution is a variation of the timeworn solution of handing drafts from person to person. And it has the same drawback: it's impossible for multiple people to work simultaneously on the same draft without versioning problems. Nevertheless, people limp along with this solution because it has a shallow learning curve and leverages existing services.
...
In August 2006, Google launched Google Apps for Your Domain, a suite of tools that includes email, calendar, and website design software (Google Mail, Calendar, and Page Creator), and is aggressively marketing the suite to the education market and small businesses. In essence, these organizations can outsource a chunk of their information technology to Google, and Google brands these services for each organization. This service is particularly valuable to the education and small business markets since these relatively small organizations frequently devote considerable IT resources to electronic collaboration and publication, and they have trouble holding on to people with deep IT expertise.
...
Eventually the product relaunched as Google Docs, integrated with Google's spreadsheet offering
...
Google Docs Features The headline news about Google Docs is that the application supports easy parallel collaboration. Once you've logged in, you see a list of the most recent documents (word processor files and spreadsheets) and the collaborators who have been working on them. You can choose to share your own documents with collaborators at a variety of permissions levels –– and they can similarly choose to share theirs with you. "
(Clay Spinuzzi, University of Texas at Austin)

Barker, T. and Kemp, F. (1990). Network theory: A postmodern pedagogy for the writing classroom. In Handa, C., editor, Computers and Community: Teaching Composition in the Twenty–First Century, pages 1–27. Boynton/Cook Publishers, New York.

Cooper, M. and Selfe, C. L. (1990). Computer conferences and learning: Authority, resistance, and internally persuasive discourse. College English, 52:847–869.

Hawisher, G. E. and Selfe, C. L. (1991). The rhetoric of technology and the electronic writing class. College Composition and Communication, 42:55–65.

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TAGS

authoringauthorshipclassroomCMScollaboration • collaborative writing • Daedalus Interactive Writing Environment • DIWEeducation • electronic literacy • enCore MOO • Google AppsGoogle DocsGoogle Inc • Google Spreadsheets • interactionlearningMicrosoft WordMOOpaedagogyparticipatory learningpedagogypeer review • ping-ponging • scriptible • versioning • wikiWritely (Upstartle)writing

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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