Academic Social Software Wish List

Hey, could I persuade somebody to build this application for me? What I want is something that combines the functionality of something like Library Thing with the functionality of a bibliographic software package like EndNote — a web-based application that would let me keep track of the books and articles that I use in my work, that would allow for note-taking (and perhaps even both independent and collaborative note-taking, so it might combine a personal-database type function with a more wiki-like function), and that would export in various formats that would allow for the insertion of proper citations in a range of styles in the standard word processing packages.

Or does something like this already exist? Could it just be done with a wiki? If there’s a better way, and it’s not out there yet, I beg you: Go build this and make yourself a small fortune. All I ask is that you name it after me.


  1. I see the similarity, though CiteULike appears to me to be more of an academic than a folksonomic version of EndNote. And so it looks like it would only work for texts that exist, on some level, online. (Though I see there are a lot of book-links to pages.)

    I suppose what I really want is for Library Thing to be article-friendly, with a good note-taking field and the ability to export properly formatted citations. Or for EndNote to be online, and social, with a much better, more clearly visible note-taking field. And a much lower pricetag.

  2. I was going to suggest For the note-taking, that’s something I’d like to add to LibraryThing. Strangely, that’s how I started the project–I wanted something to record all my marginalia. (I had thought about doing LibraryThing before that, but I thought it was “too big” for me.) To get to Marginalia I found I had to do cataloging, and voila.

    I’d like to add bibliography generation, but it seems a very daunting task. The data I get from Amazon and the LC doesn’t seem to me good enough. Even if I normalized title cases and etc, it would still be semi-bogus and not up to academic rigor. I wonder how EndNote and others do it…

  3. Wow. If you link it, they will come.

    Hi, Tim! Very, very cool of you to pop by. I’m glad to hear note-taking is on your radar, as that’s a key need of mine — in fact, it’s a much more important need than bibliography generation, which I’ve managed on my own to this point in my career, and which I could no doubt continue handling on my own with no problem. But note-taking — I don’t have a good system for organizing research notes, and keeping them with a catalog of my books could be good. Right now, I’ve got a folder full of MS Word documents, each of which contains the notes on a text. That’s been fine, but I keep thinking there’s got to be a better way.

    I had high hopes, in that regard, for EndNote, but the note-taking field, despite being able to hold something like 16,000 characters, is buried way down in the bottom of the record. I wish EndNote’s record interface were a bit more manipulable, letting you turn fields on and off on a note-by-note basis, so that (as in many other such databases) when you’re not editing the record you only see those fields that actually have data in them…

  4. Yeah, sorry about that. Is popping in a discussion about your website creepy or not? I can’t decide.

    Tell me what you want in a note-taking addition. Or, better, since you probably want it to read your mind and order pizza, tell me what’s most important to you. Are page and note sufficient or do you want more fields?

    I’m thinking I’ll add a way to “turn on” notes. When on, you’ll see an icon by books with notes. Clicking on that will take you to a note-entry page, like the current edit-book page except with a list of all the notes you’ve taken, sorted by page number or recentness. I’ll also add a print-notes feature. What else should it do? Oh, they’ll be some way to make some or all notes private.

    No promises for the next week or so, but I’m very interested.

  5. Hey, not at all — it’s definitely not creepy, particularly given your openness to new features.

    For my purposes, notes could really just be one big field; my research notes on particular texts tend to be enormous bulleted lists containing some quotes, some paraphrases, some summaries, and some questions or comments. Some basic formatting possibilities would be good, though that would no doubt complicate things. Printing is definitely good. Some kind of exporting — though not (at least yet) of bibliographies, but of the notes themselves — would be helpful.

    The thing that I like about LibraryThing’s interface, incidentally, is precisely the thing that I mention above disliking about EndNote’s — you distinguish between view-card and edit-card modes, which I find really helpful for making the data flexible and yet clean.

    The following offer should be taken with a grain of salt, as I’m no programmer, but, if there’s anything that I can do to help, I’d be more than happy to pitch in. Thanks for your generosity, in making LT both available and flexible…

  6. I could add “one big field” instead. I wouldn’t want to have only that, however. I think some people would think “A big text box? Gee, thank no thanks.” Exporting to Word isn’t hard and, depressing as that is, probably the only necessary format.

    The trick is the formatting. I’m very comfortable with adding HTML tags into text, but most are not. Ideally I’d like to have a Flash-based mini word-processor like Blogger has for comments. (Others too I’m sure.) This does add complexity.

    Thanks for the offer of help. This has been a help already. And maybe when I release it, you can blog it šŸ™‚


  7. I’ve had pretty good luck with citeulike, since I can store all the billion pdf journal articles i have to read. i can also attach public and private notes to them, so i’m really hoping when i take my quals i’ll have an easy way to sort through the reading by topic. i think it’s endnote kosher too. you CAN upload and store unpublished work, but i don’t think you can share it. you can still tag it and post it and all, though. i’d love to hear about other better things out there too, but i can’t deny that citeulike has been the one beacon of organization in my life. (apologies to my office mates.)

  8. Has anyone made progress on a notetaking software that can be integrated with endnote and Microsoft Word? I am a history professor and would need keyword and event date fields. Otherwise free text and some kind of link to endnote would be wonderful.

  9. Tom,

    I have no idea if you’ll receive this, but try our Note Software. It’s called NoteScribe, and you can create and store your notes as well as create your sources and bibliographies all in one place. If you’d like to import the notes into Word or endnote, you can export notes out of NoteScribe into an .rtf file.

    Check us out at

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