Friday, November 28, 2008

Sorry Connotea, it's not you, it's me.

I used to really like Connotea and the idea of being able to easily bookmark and share journal articles was what drove me to encourage many people in my lab to start using it. I truly believed it would evolve into a tool that would be essential for researchers and would be a major improvement to existing methods of tracking new papers.

Well, boy was I wrong. I haven't seen any improvements in Connotea for at least a year including a search engine that would be better replaced by Google. Even worse for the past few months Connotea website has been getting slower so that instead of looking up my papers there I just go back to searching Pubmed. Finally, for the past few days Connotea seems completelly useless so that papers I was hoping to cite for my near future thesis writing days are inaccessible.

Like any bad relationship I was hoping it would get better over time, but I have waited long enough and I'm breaking it off before I get any more committed. If the site does ever become accessible again I plan on exporting my bookmarks and taking them elsewhere. Any recommendations?


Benjamin Good said...

Hey man, I feel your pain. But.. A little birdy told me that this weekend they are moving everything onto a brandspanking new server that should make everything run dramatically faster (the database will be completely loaded in RAM).

I'm admittedly a little biased here because I have a ton invested in Connotea in terms of both 1000+ bookmarks and, of course, my favorite project ED. If not, I may have joined the Citeulike bandwagon myself a little while ago, but, after meeting Timo (head of NWPG which runs Connotea) I am pretty confident they will turn things around. Maybe give things a week to settle out before you go through the trouble of shifting services..

I do concur with your disappointment in the search and lack of new features over the past year. There is so much more that could be done there - I'm really curious to know what it is that they have been spending most of their time working on.

The one thing they do have is a good API (RDF!!). Maybe they are just hoping that people like me will build new features for them :). I have some in mind...

Morgan Langille said...

Hmmm...It sounds promising, but I am starting to feel like the battered house wife that keeps accepting chocolates and flowers.

I will give them a week, but to be honest I have lost most of my faith in them. Who doesn't post on their main page or send a note to their mailing list when major problems or upgrades are being made?

I might check out Citeulike, but I have a feeling I may opt for the private route and go with EndNote.

Benjamin Good said...

Endnote isn't really an equivalent as there is nothing social about it - I can't sign up for an RSS feed on what you or your lab is storing in there. It is handy for writing though. I've been using it in cooperation with Connotea fairly successfully for a while - but there are some problems. When I dump posts from Connotea into it I always end up with tons of redundant citations and its pain in the neck to figure out which ones have all the bib info and which don't. For an integrated version that apparently offers the best of both ?? friends have suggested Zotero but I haven't gotten around to trying it out yet.

Good luck with the dissertation writing :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Morgan,

I came across your post and wanted to suggest that have a look at Mendeley (, I'm one of the co-founders). It's not really comparable to Connotea or CiteULike, but it's definitely a (free) alternative to EndNote for example.

Mendeley is two things: Free academic desktop software (available for Windows, Mac and Linux) for managing & sharing research papers, and a website where you can back up and access your research papers, discover research trends, and connect to like-minded researchers. Mendeley went into public beta in August 2008 and is funded by former key personnel from, Skype, and academics at Cambridge and Johns Hopkins University.

Have a look and let me know what you think - we also have a full product development roadmap, so expect major improvements and feature additions over the next coming months!


Morgan Langille said...

Hmmm, Mendeley sounds promising. I just checked out the home page but I am getting re-directed to a page saying "updating". I think I may have bad timing with websites ;). I'm sure I will give it a try in the future, but to be honest I probably won't use it right away since I am starting to write my thesis and I need some proven not too buggy software.

Back on the topic of Connotea, I see that I can now access my bookmarks. However, it still takes ~30 seconds to load the page making it still quite useless.

Ian Mulvany said...


I'm the project development manager for Connotea. First off, sorry for the lack of communication, that's my bad.

Here is the current status update, we are, right now, in the middle of moving the entire site over to our new hardware. Earlier this year we tried software fixes to get around the speed issues, but these basically didn't work.

We hope that the hardware will fix the current problems and free up time to work on some of the feature issues.

I can appreciate everybody's frustration with Connotea at the moment. It's really come about through growth in daily traffic on the site.

I will make an announcement on the list and blog when the move over is complete.

- Ian

Morgan Langille said...

Hi Ian,

Thanks for the update. I will probably use CiteULike for next little while, but I promise to check in on Connotea once every so often.

I hope the upgrade goes well and Connotea becomes a successful tool once again. Competition is always good!

Ian Mulvany said...

Hi Morgan,

Thanks, I totally agree that competition is a good thing, it makes us all try that little bit harder, and hopefully the community will benefit in the end with a product that is actually up to the job.

- Ian

Gilmer said...

We have developed to share articles within your lab and the labs of your collaborators. It is not a reference management system but a collective intelligence system (more similar to digg) and a group to group sharing system (unique in our system). We are looking for Beta testers to give us their feedback. If you want to use it please go to

We will really appreciate it.