Lodahl's blog: Bibliographics

28 October 2007


I came across this blogpost (http://netapps.muohio.edu/blogs/darcusb/darcusb/). It's a discussion about bibliographic applications, here Zotero versus RefWorks.

I am using Zotero my self. Zotero is licensed as open source and works as extensions to other application (Mozilla Firefox and OpenOffice.org).
RefWorks is what I would call proprietary software going towards freeware. The software is in some context free (as in free beer, not as in freedom).
The discussion in the above mentioned blogpost is very much a comparison of free software and proprietary software. Why some librarians can recommend students and scientist to use a non-free application. In my mind there is nothing wrong with proprietary software. I am using proprietary and commercial software every day together with free and open source software. I choose from a various of parameters. To mention a few: Functions and features, robust data storage, openness in data format, price versus value.

As I see the problem is, that both applications in the comparison, as well as any other bibliographic application, stores data in closed binary databases. None of the two applications are actually open in the way data is stored. I chose Zotero, because I find the connection between my Internet browser (Firefox) and my text editor (OpenOffice.org Writer) convenient.

The basic problem here, as in many other situations, is that we don't have an open standard for storing bibliographic data. If the providers of bibliographic applications could agree on one common way of storing the data, any student, teacher or librarian could use an application of his or her own choise. Data can be published, exchanged and searched in.

Should this be a part of the ODF standard ?
I don't know.
I am one of the people speaking the ODF case in Denmark.
It would be natural to extend ODF to contain bibliographical data as meta data (Rob Weir about the Semamtic Web: http://www.robweir.com/blog/2007/10/odf-enters-semantic-web.html)

On the other hand we must be careful not to think that we can put everything into one standard. ODF is developed in OASIS and approved by ISO. ODF is implemented in OpenOffice.org, Kword and many other applications. A new version of ODF will be a hard work to get through the two organizations and the implementation will be delayed several years. The more different aspects the format contains, the more difficult versioning and implementation will become.

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