November 28th, 2006

Social tools for academic papers

When working with academic papers, you encounter the same old problems everybody has with digital data organization: categorize by author, date, topic, method or journal? Additionally, you have to keep track of the references for citation.
So I decided to try out one of the new public bookmarking tools for academic research: citeulike and connotea.

They both seemed pretty frequented and offer roughly the same tools like storing paper references online, tagging, groups, topic subscriptions, social features (who has read this paper) etc.
One great benefit of these tools is that you can use them to discover papers, store them and later, when citing them, just export your bookmarks and you have all the metadata you need for proper citation in bibtex format. So no more copy-and-paste of authors, title, years etc. This is done once for each paper by the first user to cite the paper and the rest of the community benefits from the effort.
The second great benefit is the social factor: once you discover a user with a similar interest profile as yours, browsing his list of bookmarked papers is great joy because you find lots of valuable resources for your research topic you might not have found otherwise.

So which of the services did I choose?
From a first impression, connotea seemed more well-designed, mature and clean.

But, this doesn’t mean too much nowadays.
So first, I checked the popularity of the sites. These are the statistics from


Wow – this seems to be quite a tight race. No clear winner here.

Then I wanted to see, which of the tools are more talked about in the blogosphere using


Clearly, a tie again.


The final decision however, was very easy, when I looked at the tag clouds of the two services. Connotea first:

Clearly, the bulk of users are medical students, bioinformatics, biology, some computer scientists.

Contrarily, citeulike’s tags:


A bunch of geeks – that’s my boys! I signed up immediately.

I found it very interesting that, in the end, a rough overview over the community structure gave the feeling I was at the right spot – a much more important criterion than a feature comparison, access statistics or the visual design.

And here`s my account:

3 Responses to 'Social tools for academic papers'

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  1. Jerry
    November 28th, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    well-formed-data strikes again. will definitely become part of my web interaction habits.
    man, if you keep up that posting quality, i dunno…

  2. fabian
    December 1st, 2006 at 11:46 pm

    another straight flush for well-formed-data, true!

    it’s interesting how this hi-jacks my way of procrastination:

    usually, when i procrastinate, i go to my newsreader. but now, what awaits me there is nothing but a massive list of papers (from the citeulike-tags i have subscribed to) and stuff to incorporate into my work. one place less to hide, very good :)

  3. Florian
    January 29th, 2007 at 1:10 am

    I found your blog via google by accident and have to admit that youve a really interesting blog :-)
    Just saved your feed in my reader, have a nice day :)