Mendeley vs EndNote – Back to the Tranquil Hegemony of Thomson Reuters

In my daily researcher life, I need to have access to a good referencing manager. A referencing manager looks after the sources (SodaPDF –offering a complete PDF application you can take with you wherever you go-  articles etc) you cite in research papers, lets you make research notes, and generally takes care of the bibliography.

The king of the hill is EndNote – it’s expensive, but UQ has a site licence.

I used EndNote throughout my PhD, and when I started the postdoc with UQ they bought me a Windows machine rather than the Mac I used throughout the PhD.  That was OK – the reference manager moved across to Windows just fine.


The Mac came back.  I cracked and bought my own damn machine (2015 MacBook Pro 13”, thanks very much) since the uni would only buy a Mac for someone with a three year contract, not a two year contract.  Anyway, I was appointed to an ongoing role last year, and so the Dell (whose battery life was just forever awful) went back and I got a second Mac provided by the University.  I did try to make the Windows work for a year!

Anyway, since I was sick of carting a laptop home each day, I continued to use my own MacBook at home and the uni Mac at, well, Uni.  Unfortunately, this is when I came across a pretty big problem with EndNote.  I use unformatted citations – Cite While You Write is the work of the devil.

Now, unformatted citations use Record Number – a unique record number in the database.  Unfortunately when you sync – such as when you when EndNote is being synced to a second Mac at home – that Record Number gets replaced.  With the result that your manuscript with the record numbers now is completely unusable.  Something of a problem.

I tried and tried to fix this problem but in the end I thought, why bother?  EndNote is the work of the devil anyway, so let’s get with the cool kids.  Zotero and Mendeley are popular choices for people that are used to interfaces not designed around a DOS Screen (sorry, EndNote, but really?)  Let’s give Mendeley a try.

So I paid the money over for Mendeley disk space (I have 2500 sources, too much for the free bit of kit) – but in hindsight I should have gone with a month or two subscription only.  I have found a few problems with Mendeley.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a great piece of software.  It is fantastic at the social side, importing references from the PDF only (truly, it’s terrific!), and its styles seem fine for me.  It also suggests the papers that make sense – its AI is truly terrific there too.

There’s another ‘but’ coming.

It doesn’t do RTF scan.  Which means I can’t do Scrivener (one of the reasons I wanted the unformatted citations to work in the first place).

It seems to have a disturbing habit of losing PDFs occasionally.  Not frequently, not often, but still.  That’s kind of what it is for.  I’m very good at losing PDFs under my own steam.

Using it is a pain – the interface, while sexy and down with the cool kids, is a bit fiddly.  It’s easy to drop a paper into the wrong folder and – in a hierarchical folder – it’s hard to know which is where (the folders show what’s in the folder as well as all the subsidiary folders).

It often just gives a beach ball on the Mac, at least.  It’s kind of slow and annoying and argh.

I’ve now discovered how to use EndNote with Scrivener and unformatted citations in a synced environment (give the label a citation key – like Bibtek does and use that for the temporary citations, not the dodgy record number).  You do, though, have to go through and give 2500 sources their own unique citation key… blurgh.

So I’ve managed to make EndNote do most of what I want; can’t say I’m entirely happy with the choice of going back to EndNote (it’s clunky, like a Volkswagen Beetle’s clutch, and it’s got an interface that is busier than a three-armed economist).  I will probably get itchy feet again and go back to Mendeley, one day, maybe, but for now it’s back to EndNote.  I’m not quite sure if I’ve done the right thing – maybe as I use it I’ll be reminded of the ‘hidden painful’ things, as there seems to be in all software.

Emerging Online Social Communities and Emergency Services in a Connected World

The following was a ‘joke’ abstract I wrote on Facebook (yes I know – get a life), and was inspired by a Queensland Police Service Media posting in relation to a specific incident.

When you are writing a paper I always finds it helps to write the abstract first – at least to clarify the purpose of the paper.  Obviously, you rewrite the abstract later.

This study develops a theoretical model from a comprehensive literature review to identify factors relating to the successful building of online communities. The developed theoretical model is then considered in the important context of emergency services and their extension to the online world. The theoretical model undertakes a secondary data analysis of material published in the public domain by these public service entities in light of the theoretical model. This qualitative analysis is supplemented through consideration of quantitative measures of the success of these communities through espoused key performance indicators such as number of ‘followers’, community engagement (measured as percentage of respondents sharing, liking, and commenting upon announcements), and time to resolution.

The mechanisms of success are explored through the qualitative analysis of the material and depth of comment made through publicly available social media. This study contributes to the practical understanding of public sector emergency services response in an online environment, and furthermore provides a theoretical framework for the consideration and extension of social media effectiveness in the current integrated social world.

Unfortunately QPS delete some of their posts when there is no longer a public benefit arising (e.g. they found someone they specifically named) – which makes getting some of the numbers a little more difficult.

I was reminded of this because of this call for research students at QUT:

Poverty in Australia

A friend of mine on Facebook posted up a quote:

“You need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty – finish high school,marry before having a child, and marry after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of the families who do this are poor; 79 percent of those who fail to do this are poor.”

William Galston, Clinton White House

He wondered whether the states would be the same in Australia; that question intrigued me to investigate the differences atwixt here and there.:

Current poverty rate in the United States is 15.1 percent. The measure is based on income received – $22,350 per annum for a family of four, or about $428 per week.


Poverty rate in Australia is also based on income received. However, here the poverty level is defined by the Henderson Poverty Index from the Melbourne Institute (based upon the Henderson inquiry of 1973). Using this basis, the Poverty Line in Australia is $776.71 per week for a non-working family of four, or about $40,528 (as of September 2011).


The current estimate is ‘1 in 10’ Australians, or 10%, live in poverty according to this definition.


To put that lot in perspective, in the US you are considered to live in poverty if you live on $US428 per week for a family of four – poverty rate 15.1%. In $US, the equivalent Australian measure is $US823 – and our poverty rate according to that definition is 10%.

In Australia, the same non-working family of four is entitled to a welfare payments (again according to the Melbourne Institute as above) of $686.41 per week. I believe I am correct therefore in saying that Australia has a welfare system that prevents people from being in the situation that does not even begin to define poverty in the United States as welfare payments exceed US’s threshold. So in my brief sojourn into the world of social welfare research (rather than my actual research), there are three measures of poverty:

  • Objective – you earn less than this, you don’t have enough to survive on the staples with. For this kind of poverty, dumpster-diving is a way of life.
  • Relative – you earn less than a majority of people in your country, so you live in relative poverty (x-boxes aside). For this kind of poverty, surround yourself with friends who are less well off than you.
  • Subjective – you feel like you don’t earn enough to live off. This is everyone, because everyone defines someone else as rich if they earn about 10% more than you do.

When I look at the toys my kids get compared to what I got growing up, and then they announce ‘I’m bored’ – well, I could just throttle them :). I can tell you, I didn’t break my Christmas presents on Christmas day – heck, I still have my Christmas present radio from 1986 (it’s looking a bit battered and I’ve finally retired it).

In the States, too, the point was made that the wage arrangements allow wait staff at cafes etc to be paid $3 and make up the difference to the minimum wage via tips.  Apparently if the waitstaff don’t get sufficient tips to make the minimum wage the employer is supposed to cover it.  Apparently, a lot of people don’t know that rule (thanks Sam!).  And Sam also pointed out that there are a lot of ‘private/public benefits’ of the welfare state – she has had to buy a more expensive house in a ‘good’ area, and security firms are a way of life in some parts of the US, due at least in part, probably mostly, to the grinding level of poverty and the complete lack of a welfare safety net.

To be clear: I think it’s a good thing to have safety net. I also think its a good thing to have a high-ish minimum wage. You hear of unskilled people in US working huge hours and getting paid next to nix. I’d rather they had training options available to build a future for them and their family. Sam also pointed out the difference between purchasing power in Australia and the US; that’s very true, especially given housing costs here versus there.  Nonetheless I think the overall conclusion remains – Australia is much more insulated from ‘real’ poverty and thus the Occupy movement here in Australia is not quite full of the 99%ers.

So, just wow. Two countries alike in many ways and yet so very very different.

Using Scrivener and EndNote together on Mac OSX

And so, some time ago I bought a Macbook.  And then I found the killer apps that I needed to write my thesis.  Scrivener, hands down, is the best writing tool on PC or Mac.  There is now a PC version, at least in beta, and although it’s not as mature as the Mac OSX version I believe it is getting there.

There’s so much more that I’d like to write about Scrivener and how it is helping with writing the thesis.  However, it’s not as easy as all that – so I did a video instead.  Voila, one video ‘Scrivener and EndNote’:


You can buy Scrivener from, and EndNote from  Scrivener is not very dear at all (say, $A47.19 at the non-educational price).  So you can’t complain.  Endnote is usually available through a university licence – that software cost me zero to run under the UQ licence (so long as it is for research etc etc).

Anyway I highly commend these two applications to you (although apparently is coming up well from behind as well as an alternative to EndNote).  All worth the price of admission.

[PS:  You might be interested in this other post on my blog, where you can download my Scrivener template for academic papers/writing:  Scrivener – draft academic template for academic writing]

[PPS:  Since writing this post, I have written an automatic style formatter in Word (very rough, very basic, and very ugly) that converts fonts of a certain size to a Heading 1, 2, 3 and 4 style in Word – see this post here:  Scrivener to Word Visual Basic Fromatter].