Zotero & RefWorks: Damn Web-Based Apps that Work

One of three monitors filled with data by jbb
One of three monitors filled with data by jbb

I’ve been going at it all day, one tutorial after another, pausing to answer student queries online and then moving on to the next item in the EBSCO/ERIC search. I’ve been experimenting with Zotero and RefWorks and my mind has been continually amazed that I can so easily import library citations (with full articles) so easily. I go back to the days of cryptic notecards, piles and piles of books, several hundred dollars in photo-copied journals and articles and an f-ing typewriter. Screw this business of clueless high school students and undergrads copying and pasting right out of Wikipedia. From the comfort of my apartment with Steve Miller playing loudly on iTunes and enjoyng whatever beverage I might choose, I have access to the collected works, wisdom and musings of our entire species. Yeah, I know that was the original idea when DARPA began to put what would become the Internet together. I guess I’m a bit overwhelmed that the damn thing actually works almost as promised. How often does that happen with technology. Right. Never. I’m just wondering how these online tools might work with the writing/organizing tool that I’ve used most over the past years, Circus Ponies’ Notebook.

When I began studying for my doctorate in 2004 I was done with the reigning reference software of the time, Endnote, because that piece of dookie never quite worked as advertised. I found an interesting mac-centric reference manager called Bookends that was bundled with word processor geared toward scholarship called Mellel. I never really got the chance to put either program to the hardcore test in part because I started using Notebook for all of my note taking and draft work and then I took a leave from the doctorate, so not so much need for either app. I guess I’m going to get a chance to really test the hell out of all of these apps over the next few days and weeks.

Alas, as much as I love my beloved Notebook (all of the planning and design of my course at Full Sail was put together in Notebook, then tested in Dreamweaver before going live), I find that I’m doing more and more gathering via web-tools like Evernote, where the content stays on the web, accessible from any device and not trapped on a single machine. I’ve actually pretty much switched to editing my blog using the web-based WordPress editor built into the blogging platform and use my resident-app, Ecto, for a couple features missing on the web-app and as a form of local backup of my entries. I can even imagine moving my dissertation composition to something like Google Docs and that’s heresy from someone who’s chased after the latest and greatest word precessing features going all the way back to WordStar and NewStar on my old Kaypro computer. Wow. Scary thing, vendors like Evernote, are calling their product our “external brain.” Onward and upward.

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