Connotea — another look

In Ted’s recent comments on connotea, he said he enjoyed it, but found that connotea was not such a great citation manager; it doesn’t always gather the metadata needed. On the connotea site, it explains that it is “specially designed for scientists and clinicians,” so it gathers bibliographic data better for some sites than others.

I agree, connotea is no substitute for a bibliographic reference manager like Endnote (to which Duke subscribes) or Refworks. I also agree that it’s “downright fun!” As a librarian, I use it as an academic networking tool, to find, track and tag resources as I come across them. It’s very handy for retrieving items on a particular topic, and for creating feeds for specific classes–I tag resources with the course name.

Ted was also concerned about messy tags. The “related tags” on the right belong to other users, who may create them however they’d like.

That’s both the beauty and the chaos of a Web 2.0 tool–everyone gets to play, and you can follow their leads, or not.

So, the short answer is: the value of connotea depends on your purpose. For a free web-based citation manager, you might like to try zotero (from an earlier LibraryHacks post):

The open-source Zotero (part 1 / part 2) is [a] Firefox extension that allows you to store, retrieve and organize your reference sources for a more streamlined citation process.

Has anyone out there done more than a first foray into zotero? Please send us your comments.

3 thoughts on “Connotea — another look”

  1. I’ve done a bit of messing around with Zotero, including giving a couple of talks about it early in 2007. I like it a lot, although it needs some sort of repository scheme before it can be thought of as a Refworks killer. Right now it’s all local, so you’d better have a laptop, work exclusively with one machine, or have a USB key with Firefox on it to use Zotero nicely.

    If I recall correctly, Zotero folks have been working on a central repository for some time — hopefully it’ll be out soon.

  2. Update to my newbie Connotea-adventures:

    Firstly, there is no loss or degradation of author-information, as I earlier thought. After accumulating a couple dozen test-citations, I exported my collection in 4 of the formats Connotea offers. I then studied them in a text-editor, and all the original author-details are fully intact. Project-lead Ian Mulvaney confirms this is the designed functionality.

    There is additional info in the actual records which does not display on the Connotea site, but is plainly being gathered/retained.

    On the Connotea site, author-info is displayed in a truncated form, but this is only for display-purposes.

    The messy-tags complaint needs a closer look. Catherine says that by using a different tag-control (than I had selected) we can get individualized handling of tags. I hope so, and will follow her directions & explanation, but Ian Mulvaney agreed that tags are subject to ‘homesteading’ that fixes their capitalization. But, I am downgrading this issue to ‘mismatched socks’, even if it proves to be unavoidable at the present.

    If the tags we input have not been used before, we can edit them easily, but if someone else has already entered “YOUNGER DRYAS”, when we enter “Younger Dryas” it automatically changes to the full-caps form. But I may not be editing from the right place, and will try Catherine’s advice.

    I exported citations and Bookmarks in 4 formats, and scanned all of them (BibTex, EndNote, RIS and TXT). Connotea is supposed to be able to then import several of these, though the recommendation is to use RIS (the most widespread exchange-format).

    I deleted my Connotea entries, and then against recommendation re-imported them using the BibTex export file. The transfer was not perfect, but my collection contained numerous ‘experimental’ entries, especially from sources that were not really citation-enabled (um, were not really citations). The well-formed citations all appeared to import properly and in several cases Connotea actively improved/corrected the citation. It appears to like BibTex.

    I also made an account on, and then imported my Connotea BibTex export file. Again, not without casualties, but considering the ragged nature of some of my examples, no surprise. ‘Proper’ citations appeared to migrate flawlessly (or again, better).

    I installed the Firefox extension Zotero. Unfortunately, when first started Zotero insists on accessing a Startup page on-line, which includes multimedia. I’m on dial-up, and that’s a show-stopper. I will try to find a way to stop Zotero from doing that, and continue investigating. It gets very high accolades, seems very serious, and even has documentation!

    [Zotero’s one-click install did not work for me. I right-clicked, Saved File As, then in Firefox I clicked the File menu, clicked Open File, browsed to the downloaded file, double-clicked it, and it installed.]

    I recommend Connotea … and BibSonomy, and have now put in a session logged-in and making entries to both at the same time. After building a collection of duel-entries, I will then try a couple ways of mass-synching them.

    Both these projects make a distinction between ‘normal’ Bookmarks, which they both allow, and entries that are intended to meet professional citation-needs. Connotea is very fast, easy & automated (especially on collaborating websites, which includes the web’s richest sources), while BibSonomy is the height of German academic rigor, with detailed record-editing exposed.

  3. re: Ted’s “mismatched socks”–I replicated the problem with the tag reverting to all caps, and he’s right. Can’t change it even if I copy the record to my library and rename the tag.

    Yes, it’s annoying, but at least the tag still serves the function of locating materials that it describes.

    I’d love to hear more about your experiments with connotea and BibSonomy, and zotero.

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