Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mendeley news items

First, I've been messing with the latest Mendeley release, and the performance/speed issues are much improved. Unfortunately, there are several new nasty bugs, which the company is aware of and working on. These problems stem from the complete rewrite of the code that finished just prior to public release (more on this later), so I'd expect them to be in working order very soon (I assume version 0.6.1 will be at the bug-free level of v 0.5.9). The most significant issue is the inability to sync libraries to the server, which will be addressed first. Auto-renaming on Windows (at least) is broken as well, which isn't really a bad thing, since a previous bug could cause trouble for less savvy Windows users - see my post about the file name length issue.

Now, the good/big news is that I got to meet with Victor Henning, one of the two co-founders of Mendeley. Awesome guy, and we ended up talking for about 4 hours about various topics, from research to Mendeley business.

On the topic of the bugs in 0.6.0, Victor mentioned that there were several setbacks in the schedule due to all the non-coding workings which took time from the bug squashing. They promised the new version by the end of November and wanted to deliver on it, which they did, but needed about 2 weeks to work out the new code's kinks. There were some other things, but overall they needed this version out when it was released and getting everything up to the functionality of 0.5.9 is priority #1, and should be a matter of weeks. What's reassuring is that it isn't a case of not knowing what is wrong, or the problems being unexpected. They're on top of it all. Figuring out how to optimize the code and make things run smoother is MUCH more difficult from a coding perspective, so the fact they they addressed that so impressively means the smaller bugs should be cake.

The vision of the program and service, and some of the collaborations (sorry, all hush hush, but the details are very sweet), make me truly excited about the future of the project. The next post will cover some of the similar, but either more unstable or less usable options, and none of them hold a candle to where Mendeley will be in a year, or so. Victor and company are very interested in keeping the system features responsive to users' needs, and the push is far more towards openness and adoption than hoarding and proprietary knowledge. So, I had high expectations and they were all met or exceeded by what I heard.

Oh, and Victor was toting a few interesting books, which I need to look into: Quantum Enigma, Physics Encouters Consciousness by Rosenblum and Kuttner and The Quest for Consciousness by Koch

As a slightly random aside...

One question, of course, is why not go open source? From my perspective (my thoughts only), this is a big project that requires full time resources. Firefox, Linux, and a few other projects are always pointed to as if they are the norm, but there are 10's of thousands of projects that are crap, dead, or updated at a glacial pace, and those are the real norm. We did talk about how a project this size requires investment from outside sources to get off the ground, and those sources are rarely OSS friendly (not unreasonable, especially in the current economic climate). This flies in the face of the official OSSI standing, so you end up in a situation where you are controlled entirely by outside interests. IMO, the OSSI is remarkably close minded for being about 'openness', and abiding by their requirements seems unreasonable.

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