Bookends' import workflow seems to pale in comparison to Zotero

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ryanjamurphy
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Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 8:41 pm

Bookends' import workflow seems to pale in comparison to Zotero

Post by ryanjamurphy » Thu Mar 05, 2020 9:43 pm

There's a lot I love about Bookends... once references are in Bookends. Unfortunately, I continue to pine for Zotero when I'm searching for and adding references to my library. I'm hoping I'm missing something about this process.

I do most of my search/discovery/browsing for references in my browser. (Opening up the Bookends browser just for research is counterintuitive to me. From a browser, Zotero's import is blazingly fast and incredibly convenient. Once I've found a reference I want, I click the Import to Zotero Safari Extension and wait a maximum of ten seconds. Then the reference is added and a snapshot or PDF is downloaded, no matter what kind of reference I'm pulling (as it works on news articles, journal articles, book listings… you name it). In the worst case, it at least autofills the item's title and URL. Similarly, if I drag a PDF into Zotero, it finds the reference info and autopopulates metadata within ten seconds while I watch.

Here's a demo video of Zotero on three different reference types. This has worked just as pictured ~95% of the time on thousands of references over the years.

Image

(sorry for the terrible quality, and for the annoying circling of the mouse. I was trying to draw attention to the fact that all the metadata is populated within seconds...)

Bookends is a different story. Once I've found a reference in Safari, I tap the "Open in Bookends" bookmarklet. Since the last version or two of Safari, I have to click "Allow". Then I have to wait for Bookends Browser to open with the URL. Once it's loaded (for a second time, since I already had it loaded in Safari!) I right-click on the Attachment proxy and select "Attach web page to new empty reference in library and autocomplete". Then, most of the time, Bookends won't be able to autocomplete right away and a search window will appear. Then I have to re-type or copy+paste the item title and search. Then I have to select the right item and hit Import. And that will only work if the reference is a scholarly work. If it's on a newspaper or blog, it will fail to pull anything (not even a title!) and I will have to manually add those details.

The contrast between these two experiences is so awful that I assume I'm doing something incredibly wrong. I also haven't seen anyone else talk about the differences, so I'm convinced of my own incompetence. I've tried to figure out what I should be doing, but have failed even though I've been using Bookends for over a year.

So, please, someone, tell me that there's a better way to import... or Jon, is there any hope we'll ever get a browser extension or an upgrade to the automaticity of this process?

Otherwise, maybe I can divide the workflow, using Zotero to collect references and then script the import to Bookends once every few hours or something...

Jon
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Re: Bookends' import workflow seems to pale in comparison to Zotero

Post by Jon » Fri Mar 06, 2020 8:20 am

There are few things I'd do differently. First, start your search in Bookends Browser, not Safari. That would save the initial steps. Second, don't right-click the proxy PDF, click on the downward arrow that appears when Bookends identifies reference metadata in the web page. That will list the references it finds for you to download, with an option to try to obtain the PDF as well. Only if the downward arrow doesn't appear (which means Bookends doesn't fine a DOI or JSTOR URL) would I go the route you're using now.

Jon
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ryanjamurphy
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 8:41 pm

Re: Bookends' import workflow seems to pale in comparison to Zotero

Post by ryanjamurphy » Fri Mar 06, 2020 10:14 am

Right, of course, the downwards arrow. Sorry. I should have described the ideal workflow in Bookends.

Trouble is, it doesn't appear very often for me. Half the time would be an optimistic guess.

Zotero's magic works 95% of the time, even on non-scholarly sources (which I use often). So I guess, is there any hope of seeing some development in this area?

Zotero's open source. I tried looking around a little to figure out how it works to no avail, but maybe I'll try some more. Perhaps its import process can be scripted in Bookends..?

Jon
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Re: Bookends' import workflow seems to pale in comparison to Zotero

Post by Jon » Fri Mar 06, 2020 10:38 am

AFAICT Zotero, which is a relatively large effort backed by a university and with many contributors, uses a variety of methods including HTML scraping to obtain metadata. We can't do that for a lot of reasons. Bookends uses unique identifiers in the web page (DOIs, JSTOR URLs) or embedded COinS to get the metadata automatically. If none are found Autocomplete paper is the fallback. We also recently updated Bookends Browser to work with Google Scholar so that any references you find there can be directly imported into Bookends (with PDFs, if available). We're always thinking of ways to improve retrieval of reference metadata, but using brute force isn't something we can do.

Jon
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ryanjamurphy
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Joined: Mon May 20, 2019 8:41 pm

Re: Bookends' import workflow seems to pale in comparison to Zotero

Post by ryanjamurphy » Fri Mar 06, 2020 11:10 am

HTML scraping is what I was guessing, too. At least on the non-scholarly source side. They must also be doing some kind of fuzzy content matching for scholarly PDFs. Zotero often succeeds when Bookends can't autocomplete, but once in a while Zotero fails spectacularly and downloads metadata for the completely wrong paper.

Thanks for the responses. Count me in for a few feature requests, then:
- A more robust Bookends Browser (e.g., with tabs and windows);
- A Bookends browser extension in Safari with better integration (e.g., no hitting "allow", no reloading the page in Bookends Browser); and
- Some filling in of data when autocomplete doesn't find a DOI, JSTOR, or COinS match (even putting the HTML page title in the Title box of the search window/metadata info would save many keystrokes and clicks!)

Thanks for the quick responses. I'll try to find other ways of speeding up this process.

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