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Archive for September, 2005

RefWorks (and XML)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28th, 2005 by darcusb – Comments Off

In my post on Endnote alternatives, Alf Eaton had sent me a ping about RefWorks, to which I replied I hadn’t beeen impressed the last I looked at it, something like a year ago.

Well, I just took another look, since my university has a license. It seems to have improved quite a bit, and is now quite useable. It has a fairly rich data model as these things go (indeed, it seems to be richer than Endnote’s at this point), and has good integrated search capabilities.

However, its XML export support is actually even worse–at least in terms of the design of tha format–than Endnote’s. Bizarrely, most of the output is the actual schema, while the content itself is a single “row” element with a ton of attributes, which are printed regardless of whether there is any content.

Well, at least it seems do well with RIS output.

I still wish we’d see a free software alternative. This isn’t exactly rocket science, and there’s room to best RefWorks, particularly in the GUI.

Sovereignty Trumps Intellectual Property

Posted in Uncategorized on September 22nd, 2005 by darcusb – Comments Off

Tim Bray published an account of a recent meeting to discuss the state of Massachusetts’ draft IT policy; the one that mandates fully open document formats. In response to the comment (it seems from a Microsoft rep?) that This appears to be an assault on the intellectual property of the private sector, MA’s Eric Krist reportedly replied:

Sovereignty trumps intellectual property. Companies certainly have the right to own their own intellectual property. We’re all for IP in implementations, just not in interchange formats.

In a time of so much — much more serious — obfuscation and utter insanity (yes, I’m talking about the politics in this country), it’s refreshing to hear someone in a position of some leverage so clearly articulate a point so sensible, and yet so counter to dominant orthodoxy. This put a smile on my face, as I nodded my head in agreement. It reminded me of my response to conservative Republican Ron Paul’s principled opposition to the Iraq war. “Finally,” I thought, “someone talking sense!” I can only hope the perspective holds sway in the face of no-doubt serious behind-the-scenes pressure.

On a related note, Tim and I seem to have pissed off some people at Apple by publicly lambasting their decision not to release the schemas for their productivity applications (Keynote and Pages). Sorry, Apple, but I’m not going to cut you the slack that I won’t cut Microsoft.

The State of OpenOffice

Posted in General on September 19th, 2005 by darcusb – Comments Off

Jono Bacon has a nice essay on the current state of OpenOffice. He argues—rightly in my view—that:

I would go so far as to say that a feature complete, high performing and integrated is key to the success of the Linux desktop. In many ways, the efforts with GNOME and KDE pale in importance to the work on People will not move to the Linux desktop if there are not the applications, and is essential.

This point is clear in higher ed. Despite being a co-project lead for an offical OOo project, I still cannot recommend the suite to my colleagues, which is pretty much the point at which both OOo and Linux might become a real option for them. Without good bibliographic support, OOo simply has no chance in higher ed.

Jono makes another point that has frustrated me over the past year or two:

With 1 RedHat, 80 Sun, and 8 Novell hackers, the number of paid developers greatly outweighs the less than 10 active external coders involved in the project. If you then factor in the need for artists, quality assurance, documentation, translations, system administration and more, the project needs a huge development backbone to keep going.

One of the problem that faces is a lack of hands on deck.

He then goes on to offer some suggestions to spur greater contribution, among them switching to a much shorter—six month—release cycle. That might help, as will further modularizing the HUGE OOo codebase. Indeed, one reason our project is stalled is because we need some low-level changes to make what we want to do feasible. Those changes can’t happen—or even be planned—until 2.0 is out the door.

But beyond that, speaking for the OOoBib project, we really need more institutional support.

More on OpenDocument and RDF

Posted in Uncategorized on September 17th, 2005 by darcusb – Comments Off

The OpenDocument TC is in ongoing discussion about using RDF for metadata. To wit, Duane Nickull from Adobe posted a draft of a proposal, and Florian Reuter from Sun posted some slides that give some more context.

Duane’s proposal would handle links between (non-RDF) XML document content and its RDF referent by means of XML id/idref links. I’m not that familiar with the technical intricacies here, but this feels like a not quite-ideal approach. Also, I’m not thrilled that some rather arbitrary restrictions from the XMP spec (like that metadata must be wrapped in an rdf:RDF element, despite the fact the current RDF spec has no such limitation) have ended up in the draft proposal.

Nevertheless, I’m glad to see this on the agenda with the OD group, and that they’re taking RDF seriously. My experience working with this group on the citation proposal was nothing but positive, so I expect good things to come of this.

Endnote Alternatives

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14th, 2005 by darcusb – 15 Comments

So two grad students came to ask me about Endnote today. The first had already bought it and was struggling to figure out some basic interface issues. The second had apparently heard my rant about the application secondhand, and so wanted to check with me before going out and buying it himself. “Should I buy Endnote?” he asked.

With great hesitation, I said “yeah, probably; there just aren’t any real alternatives I’m aware of.” I can’t tell the guy to mess with XML/XSLT/RDF after all. He just wants a nice GUI app to manage his references and format his citations and bibliographies.

However, I really don’t want to have to do that again. Long term, of course, it’s my hope that we’ll be able to provide a better, and free, alternative, but in the meantime, anyone know of any other acceptable options for Word/Windows users?

OpenDocument and RDF-XMP

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3rd, 2005 by darcusb – Comments Off

About 18 months ago I suggested to someone on the OpenDocument TC that they look into supporting Adobe’s XMP document metadata framework, which is a nicely designed real world implementation of RDF. More recently there’s been movement on just this idea.

This is a great idea. On one hand it would enhance document metadata interoperability (with PDF documents produced with InDesign or Illustrator or LaTeX or whatever, with SVG document produced by any number of products, etc.).

On the other hand, it would also fit well with where we’re leaning (as in, we’ve not discussed it much yet and have made no decisions) at the OpenOffice bibliographic project, which is not MODS, but rather RDF; perhaps a miz of DC and PRISM. In that case, the same metadata used to represent the document proper could be used to represent embedded references (aka citations) to other documents.

Hmm …

[update: I may have spoken a little too soon on the quality of XMP, at least from an RDF standpoint. It supports only a subject of RDF, and it seems a rather poorly chosen subset at that. I hope OpenDocument TC will insist Adobe remove this arbitrary restriction.]

Win for OpenDocument

Posted in Uncategorized on September 3rd, 2005 by darcusb – 1 Comment

The big news on the OpenOffice front is Massachusetts’ decision to insist that all state documents be authored using the OpenDocument file format. There is predictable grumbling from Redmond about the decision (and frankly FUD from people that ought to know bettter), but I think David Wheeler explains the decision quite well.

This is hugely important. It only takes a few governments to insist on open file formats before they — and more specifically OD — become the norm. And OD will be important for higher education too, particularly once the spec incorporates the already approved citation coding improvements that are embodied in the cite schema.

As for Microsoft, they have two choices: open their file formats (e.g. submit them to a standards body, and remove any legal restrictions) to stem the tide toward OD, or add the ability to read and write OD to its suite.