21 September 2009

On the Road to Mendeley

Vic Keegan had an interesting article in the Guardian last week about a new site mendeley.com:

The music radio site Last.fm is one of the great ideas from the UK during the first dotcom boom. Users can listen to their own songs and other tracks recommended by Last.fm's algorithms based on their tastes, including iTunes, and those of friends. It could easily have been a one-trick pony. But now a few academics have applied its serendipity to scientific research. Why can't researchers, instead of waiting anywhere up to three years for their papers to jump all the hurdles, be part of a real-time market place – a fusion of iTunes and Last.fm for science? They pitched the idea, among others, to two of Last.fm's investors: Spencer Hyman and Stefan Glaenzer, newly enriched by the sale of Last.fm to CBS. They bought into the idea of using the site's principles to aggregate users' data (anonymously) while building up a databank of articles. Now the show is on the road and expanding fast. It is free, but a premium version will be added soon.

What's particularly fascinating is to see the cross-over of ideas from arts to science, and that both are driven by the insight that sharing with others brings huge benefits to them and to you.

Even though it's not open source, it's good to see that from the start there's a GNU/Linux version of the Mendeley client. Since the power of the site comes from the network effects of sharing, not the secret sauce hidden in the code, there doesn't seem to be any reason why that code shouldn't be opened up, and plenty of benefits in doing so. Now that Mendeley has started on its journey of sharing, let's hope they go the whole way.

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