My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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why I’m quitting Mendeley (and why my employer has nothing to do with it)

Earlier this week, Mendeley was bought by Elsevier. I posted the announcement on Twitter to state that I would be quitting Mendeley. This tweet sparked a conversation between me and the head of academic outreach at Mendeley (William Gunn) that could only go so far in 140 character chunks. I was trying to highlight that, while I respected the Mendeley team’s decision to do what’s best for them, I could not support them as a customer knowing that this would empower a company that I think undermines scholarship, scholars, and the future of research.

Today, Gunn posted the following tweet: “All you folks retweeting @zephoria know who she works for, right?” before justifying his implied critique by highlighting that he personally respects MSR.

I feel the need to respond to this implicit attack on my character and affiliation. When I’m critical of Elsevier, I’m speaking as a scholar, not on behalf of Microsoft or even Microsoft Research. That said, I get that everyone’s associations shapes how they’re perceived. But I’m not asking people to buy my ?product? or even the products of my employer. I’m making a public decision as a scholar who is committed to the future for research. I believe in making my research publicly available through open access initiatives and I’m proud to work for and be associated with an organization that is committed to transforming scholarly publishing.  I’m also committed to boycotting organizations that undermine research, scholarship, libraries, and the production of knowledge.

I also think that it’s important to explain that there are huge differences between Microsoft and Elsevier.  I fully recognize that I work for a company that many people think is evil. When I joined Microsoft four years ago, I did a lot of poking around and personal soul-searching. Like many other geeks of my age, I spent my formative years watching an arrogant Microsoft engage in problematic activities only to be humiliated by an anti-trust case. Then I watched the same company, with its tail between its legs, grow up. The company I was looking to join four years ago was not the company that I boycotted in college. It had been a decade since United States vs. Microsoft and even though many of my peers are never going to forgive my employer for its activities in the 90s, I am willing to accept that companies change.

There are many aspects of Microsoft that I absolutely love. For starters, Microsoft Research (MSR) is heaven on earth. Overall, MSR offers more freedom, flexibility, and opportunities to scholars than even the best academic institutions. They share my values regarding making scholarship widely accessible (see: Tony Hey’s 6-part series on open access). And, unlike research entities at other major corporations, Microsoft Research has supported me in doing research that’s critical of Microsoft (even when I get nastygrams from corporate executives). Beyond my home division, there are other sparkly beacons of awesome. I love that Microsoft has made privacy a central value, even as it struggles to ethically negotiate the opportunities presented by data mining. I have been in awe of some of the thoughtful and innovative approaches taken by the folks at Bing, in mobile, and in Xbox. Even more than the work that everyone sees, I get excited by some of the visioning that happens behind closed doors.

Don’t get me wrong. Like all big companies, Microsoft still screws up. I’ve facepalmed on plenty of occasions, embarrassed to be associated with particular company decisions, messages, or tactics. But I genuinely believe that the overall company means well and is pointed in a positive, productive, and ethical direction. Sure, there are some strategies that don’t excite me, but I think that the leadership is trying to move the company to a future I can buy into. I’m proud of where the company is going even if I can’t justify its past.

I cannot say the same thing for Elsevier. As most academics and many knowledge activists know, Elsevier has engaged in some pretty evil maneuvers. Elsevier published fake journals until it got caught. Its parent company was involved in the arms trade until it got caught. Elsevier played an unrepentant and significant role in advancing SOPA/PIPA/RWA and continues to lobby on issues that undermine scholarship. Elsevier currently actively screws over academic libraries and scholars through its bundling practices. There is no sign that the future of Elsevier is pro-researchers. There is zero indicator that Mendeley’s acquisition is anything other an attempt to placate the academics who are refusing to do free labor for Elsevier (editorial boards, reviewers, academics). There’s no attempt at penance, no apology, not even a promise of a future direction. Just an acquisition of a beloved company as though that makes up for all of the ways in which Elsevier has in the past _and continues to_ screw over scholars.

Elsevier’s practices make me deeply deeply angry. While academic publishing as a whole is pretty flawed, Elsevier takes the most insidious practices further at each and every turn, always at the expense of those of us who are trying to produce, publish, and distribute research. Their prices are astronomical, bankrupting libraries and siloing knowledge for private profit off of free labor. As a result, many mathematicians and other scientists have begun stepping off of their editorial boards in protest. Along with over 13,000 other scholars, I too signed the Cost of Knowledge boycott.

I see no indication of a reformed Elsevier, no indication of a path forward that is actually respectful of scholars, scholarship, librarians, or universities. All I see is a company looking to make a profit in an unethical manner and trying to assuage angry customers and laborers with small tokens.

Mendeley’s leadership is aware of how many academics despise Elsevier. In their announcement of their sale, they justify Elsevier through some of the technologies they developed. There’s no indication that the “partnership” is going to make Elsevier more thoughtful towards academics. Mendeley’s reps try to explain that the company is a “large, complex organization” full of good people as though this should relieve those of us who are tired of having our labor and ideas abused for profit.

All companies have good people in them. All companies are complex. This is not enough. What matters is the direction of the leadership and what kinds of future a company is trying to create. People may not like either Microsoft or Elsevier’s past, but what about the future?

In Mendeley’s post, they indicate overlap in their vision and Elsevier’s vision as a company. This does not make me more hopeful of Elsevier; this makes me even more dubious of Mendeley. Elsevier has a long track record with no indication of change. It is the parent company. Startups don’t get bought by big companies to blow up the core company. New division presidents or vice-presidents do not have penultimate power in big companies, particularly not when their revenue pales in comparison to the parent company’s. I wish Mendeley employees the best, but I think that they’re naive if they believe that they can start a relationship with the devil hoping he’ll change his ways because of their goodness. This isn’t a Disney fairy tale. This is business.

I genuinely like Mendeley as a product, but I will not support today’s Elsevier no matter how good a product of theirs is. Perhaps they’ll change. I wouldn’t bet on it, but I am open to the possibility.  But right now, I don’t believe in the ethics and commitments of the company nor do I believe that they’re on the precipice of meaningful change. As minimally symbolic as it is, I refuse to strengthen them with my data or money. This means that I will quit Mendeley now that they’re part of Elsevier. In the same vein, I respect people who disagree with my view on the future of Microsoft and choose to not to use their products. I believe in consumer choice. I’m just startled that a head of academic outreach would try to brush off my critique of his new employer by implicating mine. I guess that’s the way things work.

I believe that the next place for me is probably Zotero, but I’m trying to figure out how to get my data (including the PDFs) over there. I’m hopeful that someone will write the scripts soon so that I don’t have to do this manually. If you’ve got other suggestions or advice, I’m all ears.

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38 comments to why I’m quitting Mendeley (and why my employer has nothing to do with it)

  • Thanks for posting this, Danah. I don’t find Zotero that much more compelling of a product than Mendeley, but there aren’t any great alternatives, unfortunately. And until there’s a non-profit project that goes to bat for the academic community, I don’t see being able to avoid tradeoffs whether in technology or philosophy.

  • Alex

    I do believe that MSR is a wonderful, wonderful institution (and that the conversation has taken an unproductive turn when Microsoft apologism enters into it), but please a little respect for Elsevier Labs, who do similarly good work that often seems orthogonal to their corporate mission. Apart from probably-justified dismay at Elsevier now having access to Mendeley’s user data (which, given the quality of their API, wasn’t necessarily worth paying for), the very positive example of Elsevier Labs means that there’s no reason to necessarily expect that they will ruin the (great) product. By all means continue to do things like only publishing and reviewing for open access venues; Elsevier will find a way to monetize that, too, and scholars’ goals will be achieved without having to argue the moral high ground.

  • zephoria

    Alex – I’m not arguing that Elsevier will ruin the product. I’m stating that I will not use Elsevier products, provide free labor to Elsevier, or provide data that Elsevier can monetize. Until Elsevier changes its ways, I will boycott Elsevier and publicly condemn their practices. This is not a personal critique of anyone at Mendeley. This is a political statement in an era in which research is being undermined by organizations like Elsevier.

  • Alex

    And as a political statement, it certainly has merit — in terms of academic freedom, Elsevier is definitely a little handsy, if not the worst of the bunch. But breaking down your concerns step by step:

    - using Elsevier products: this would seem to include downloading articles from their web portals, and potentially making use of the metrics provided at a glance on those pages? It may be a rotten Catch-22, but you can’t ignore a chunk of the literature like this.
    - provide free labor to Elsevier: as I mentioned, this seems to include reviewing for their journals, particularly those which are not open access? Of course, don’t do it! I just don’t see how this relates to Mendeley.
    - provide data that Elsevier can monetize: they have stated they will keep Mendeley’s API open and free; game-changing scholcomm tools like ImpactStory (whose founders have similarly rebuked Mendeley and Elsevier this week) have gone on record that they will continue to use Mendeley’s API as long as it remains so. If this changes — as would signal the first real practical, day-to-day loss from this business deal for end and not-so-end-users — then I would say to hell with them too.

    I’m not trying to be pedantic — just pointing out that you may now be damning what has become the best of Elsevier without acknowledging the other ways you are and can be hamstrung by the worst of them. Can’t destroy global capitalism overnight.

  • zephoria

    I respect that you love your product, but I have a choice to not use it. And I will make that choice, just as I choose to not review for Elsevier and try not to cite articles published in Elsevier journals. My choices may not dismantle capitalism overnight but they are still my choices. This is the upside of capitalism.

    And yes, I am damning what I believe is now the best part of Elsevier. In my book, Elsevier is evil enough for all of its products to be damned.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, danah. I gave you plenty of time to point out what was obvious to me, but would have carried a lot more weight if you had said it yourself – big companies can change & non-profits aren’t the only path to righteousness – but when it seemed clear you weren’t going to make that connection for your readers, I made it myself.

    I understand you’re making the decision as a scholar and I respect that. I also understand that Elsevier has to prove themselves. If we’re going to get caught up in looking backwards, though, shouldn’t Mendeley be given the benefit of the doubt? Have we not done everything we can over the past 4 years to work for open scholarship? We participated in the SOPA/RWA blackout, we wrote comments to the OSTP, we campaigned vigorously for the wh.gov petition, we pushed #altmetrics, not to mention being the first to make a openly licensed API for academic data available to the public, for free. Our record is im-fucking-peccable in this regard and we deserve a lot more credit than you gave us.

    I really do love what MSR is doing. Alex Wade and I have worked well together on many things over the past few years & I hope that continues. I also hope you can look past the goad I had to give you to get you to address this issue. I also hope that when, not if, the fruits of our work with Elsevier begin to show that you will be able to give credit where credit is due.

    What would need to happen in order for you to feel comfortable using Mendeley again?

  • Your defence of Microsoft is well expressed, but is it necessary? Many of us have to work for organizations despite not sharing their goals, because we have to earn a living. At work I do my job, professionally I hope, but I don’t have particular loyalty to my employer (it’s a big company that bought my previous employer a couple of years ago). We don’t usually make these assumptions of alignment about, for example, auto workers or train drivers, why for software engineers or social science researchers?

    I’m sure that Microsoft does things you don’t approve of, but few of us are able to be completely comfortable with all aspects of our lives: the best we can do is to recognize and embrace the contradictions.

  • zephoria

    William – First, I’m completely offended by your justification for deciding to try to publicly shame me to *your* followers after we had an @reply conversation on Twitter. Don’t tell me you gave me plenty of opportunity to tell my followers where I work. I’m completely open about that.

    Second, I have never questioned that Mendeley has been fighting the good fight. This is why I was a passionate user. What I keep stating, over and over again, is that my beef is with Elsevier. And now that you’re Elsevier, I’m not interested in using your product. It’s simple as that.

    Yes, companies can change. But they don’t change overnight or by one acquisition. Elsevier is actively engaged in insidious practices to this day. It will take major changes to overcome my distrust and anger towards them. When you get Elsevier to 1) stop bundling their journals and overcharging libraries on individual subscriptions; 2) provide an affordable open access pathway for all of their journals; and 3) help Congress create and pass an open access bill, let’s talk.

  • I use Zotero and am a big fan of it, but honestly it doesn’t serve all the functions I need at the moment. I use it for annotations but not for organizing my research. For research I use devonthink pro office (mac only though), but I have been looking for a cross-platform solution since I’d really like to have the option to move over to a linux flavor.

    If nothing else, I think that many academics who use Zotero will feel similarly and hopefully Zotero will develop this functionality more. I’d love to see more people get behind this, as the more users it has asking for this functionality the more chance we’ll have on getting it :)

  • step21

    I can only recommend citavi. At least if you use Windows or have to emulate it anyway. http://www.citavi.com It’s very popular in Europe, quite full featured and out of all the proprietary solutions easily the best. It’s free for projects up to a 100 Articles/Documents.

  • Well, to be honest, danah, I don’t think you gave us the credit we deserved & it made me kinda mad.

    To your three points, though:

    1. Mendeley probably won’t have much to do with bundles or subscriptions, so I’m not sure how much I can do here besides continuing to chip away at the idea of journals as a useful level of aggregation.

    2. I have been told that they’re working on this. Not sure what “affordable” means, but maybe we could shoot for APCs around the average (not thousands higher as some currenty are)?

    3. Mendeley has done a lot of advocacy around FRPAA and related stuff, and even Elsevier says they now realize RWA was a bad idea. I think the market will solve this before legislation does, but can we consider this point achieved either way we reach the goal?

    If I get my way, all three of these points will be rendered moot by better and more open technology, though.

  • zephoria

    William – I think you keep misreading my critique of Elsevier as a critique of you or Mendeley. I was never critiquing how Mendeley approaches OA issues; I’m critiquing your now parent company. Yes, Mendeley is a good actor in the fight, but your parent company is not.

    To earn back lost trust, a company has to do a lot more than be average or state that their actions were bad in retrospect. They have to EARN trust. Mendeley had my trust, but your parent company does not. And, as I told you on Twitter, I will not help you strengthen your parent company’s stranglehold on scholarship. So when your parent company rights its wrongs and earns back the trust of academics by going above and beyond what other publishers are doing, then I will reconsider my stance on their products.

  • First, Mr. Gunn, the point about danah working for Microsoft is a cheap shot, nothing more. Shame on you, really. If she wrote a dubious paper claiming that Microsoft’s new social network platform “BINGFACE” was the best ever or something, you’d have a point. She has a long history of being an advocate of open access and people can and have criticized her work for other points but I have never ever heard of anyone doubting her commitment to this.

    Second, the conflict of interest between Elsevier and Mendeley is not just any kind of conflict of interest that can be explained with “there are good people in every organizations and many big corporations are out to make money but they still do some good.” So, your reasoning there doesn’t work either. Elsevier MAKES MONEY by RESTRICTING FLOW OF SCHOLARLY INFORMATION and COLLECTING RENT that exists because of the said restriction. And they just acquired your company. Your boss’s business model is what it is.

    So, Third, “Trust us” in that context is not only ridiculous, it is dangerous for academics. What if Elsevier turns around and sells access to its services in high-priced bundles and makes alt-metrics available and important–but only accessible if you pay? And pay and pay and pay (the current Elsevier model). Then, you will move on to a new job, your venture capitalists will be spending their $100,000,000 in the Bahamas or whatever.. And the academic community will be screwed. Will you care? Maybe, but so what? Right now, you are paid to defend Mendeley in these forums, maybe in the future you won’t be. So what? This is not about you and if you care about your own integrity, you should consider what happens if Elsevier continues to be what it has been. Meanwhile, whatever your own path, future of scholarly communication will be at the hands of the most-hated publisher.

    Finally, it’s true that money other big publishers also do that but Elsevier has been notably worse than any other such organization and in fact it has taken the lead the fight in the right to gouge libraries in the worst possible way and to block scholars from reasonable access to their own work. For us to trust Mendeley under these conditions would be potentially self-destructive. When you bring out your magic wand to get CEO of Elsevier to do the things danah says (stop bundling, support open access pathways, support a bill) we’ll listen to you.

    Finally, I use commercial products for research but ONLY IF THERE IS A BUSINESS MODEL THAT DOES NOT DEPEND ON RESTRICTING MY WORK. If Mendeley wanted to do the honorable but a little harder path, it could have said, hey, researchers it’s $5 a month to use our service for professors, $3 for grad students, first year free for students, and we pledge never to sell to any old publisher just because we want to cash out, I’d give it a serious look.

    Look, your past boss sold the company to your current boss because they made lots and lots and lots of money. Please don’t tell us this is about open access under a new roof. It’s about a start-up cashing out. If Elsevier actually supports open access in its own journals, stop bundling, support an open-access bill, I promise I’ll give it a real look again.

    And since open-access and open-source Zotero makes it very easy to export, you’ll be able to earn users back if and when you show real commitment.Till then, the academic community cannot risk getting more dependent on a corporation with such a shady, scary history.

  • Thanks for clearing that up, danah. There’s no hard feelings and I understand it will take time. It seems like that your conflicted feelings about your employer are very similar to mine. Microsoft has mostly been able to put their past behind them and I hope that one day I can be as proud of Elsevier as you are of them.

  • Mr.Gunn, did you read a word she wrote? The whole point of her post is how her feelings about her own employer do not and should not map on to your feelings because you are telling us to trust your own employer when it comes to open access. She is not selling us Bing.

    Ayayayay to reading comprehension. This makes me even more scared about your assurances.

  • not my name

    Frankly, I am of the belief that OA is terrible for scientists. There is now a glut of terribly crafted papers, written by dubious scientists, and moreover it has forced scientists to self-fund the editorial, peer review, and hosting of their papers instead of experimenting. But is there boycotting and declaring opposition to OA? No, it’s just part of the evolution of science.

    Now, I’m not saying that Elsevier is perfect, nor am I saying that Reed Elsevier is not evil – I do not forgive the arms trade shows – but STM publishers serve a purpose as does OA publishing. Declaring that you are not going to use Elsevier and Mendeley is actually hurting Science as much as Elsevier hurts Science by charging too much for a subscription access; both are short-sighted and petty moves.

    Do I wish Elsevier made all their content free? Certainly, free is always better that paying. Do I wish that OA would figure out a way to make better peer-reviewed papers? Certainly, better is always preferred. But what does any of these morality plays have to do with Mendeley? Nothing. Mendeley is a tool, advertised as OA friendly, but still a tool, and as a tool it has no more preference for me than Micro$oft Word, which I still occasionally use for writing papers with others even though I think M$ is evil.

  • Jill ONeill

    Out of curiosity, since you refer to the incident of “fake journals” as a reason for boycotting Elsevier, do you also boycott the Merck and Wyeth pharma companies since they were the organizations paying for the questionable marketing approaches? You recognize that it was Reed, the parent company that was involved with the arms industry, but blame Elsevier anyway for the activity? All the while, you present Microsoft Research as a somehow warmer, gentler entity, even as you admit that you get nastygrams from Microsoft executives (one assumes from the parent corporation).

    I have always respected your thinking and your philosophical views even as I have disagreed with them frequently, but I am a little disappointed in your rejection of Mendeley simply because the start-up pursued a strategy that would permit them to expand.

  • Schmoe

    Gee this piece creates the impression that you are very self-important and tedious.

    Also kind of sophomoric in suggesting that MS is basically well intentioned and Elsevier is basically evil. They are both profit making firms (nothing wrong with that!) led by people who are rewarded for providing good return for investors. So that’s what they try to do. Microsoft didn’t invent much, but they have slowly refined and bundled together pretty good software, and their main focus is on forcing users to keep on upgrading even when the earlier software was just fine. As a PC user, nothing they have done in the past 10 years is anything but a minor annoyance. So I don’t hate them, but I sure don’t love them. Elsevier is trying to make the best of a legacy business that also takes advantage of their various monopolistic advantages and suck as much money as they can out of university libraries. It’s not criminal, it’s not admirable, it’s just business. But as someone who has published with them and been on their ed boards, I don’t love them and I don’t hate them. They seem to me almost identical to Microsoft.

  • Brian

    So this news rather forces me to move my cv of mendeley as well as our group research. Do you have a different “all in one citations + paper sharing” that you recommend?

  • JR

    Danah, I agree with everything you say about Elsevier and admire the eloquence with which you say it. But I’m not sure about your right to say it, in a “people in glass houses” kind of way. To paraphrase one of your comments, “Until Microsoft changes its ways, I will boycott Microsoft and publicly condemn their practices. This is not a personal critique of anyone at Microsoft Research. This is a political statement in an era in which democracy is being undermined by organizations like Microsoft.”

    In my country, Microsoft lobbied relentlessly and in secret to change the wording of a law which would have prevented software from being patented. It has subverted public standards-setting bodies to get its OOXML “standard” adopted. It has pressured governments around the world to try to prevent them from requiring standards to be royalty-free. And just this week it appears to be trying to have distribution of Free Software declared an anti-competitive activity in the EU.

    Because of its business practices, not only do I have to pay for a Windows licence when I buy a personal computer, I don’t even get the choice to reject the licence terms. So it makes money from me even though I don’t use any of its products.

    Microsoft’s practices “make me deeply deeply angry.” It’s bad enough that it attacks software freedom in the same way that Elsevier attacks open access. That’s just what companies do. It’s the willingness to hack, subvert, undermine and weaken the democratic process — and the indifference to the consequences — that I find unforgivably unethical.

    You are fortunate to work somewhere that is “heaven on earth.” To pay for that, my country and others have become a little less democratic. So I’m not sure I agree that your employer has nothing to do with it. Some people care about software freedom as much as you clearly care about open access. From here, Microsoft and Elsevier look like 2 peas in the same pod. You write passionately about open access and why Elsevier’s practices are unacceptable. I think there is a bigger issue, which is the slow motion capture of democratic governments by large corporations with deep pockets.

  • Question marks are not quotation marks, hence no, you are not asking anyone to buy your ?product? (sic). Borked Unicode is a hallmark of Windows usage.

  • Hi Dannah,

    Have you tried colwiz yet? colwiz is a University of Oxford start-up and it brings together reference management with collaboration and productivity tools (https://www.colwiz.com/features).

    You can import your Mendeley data directly with just a few clicks. No export required (http://help.colwiz.com/customer/portal/articles/957903-importing-publications-from-mendeley).

  • ACS owns Colwiz

    colwiz? are you freaking kidding me?! american chemical society – which lobbies against open access, sues startup competitors, and pays their executives an $800,000 salary from membership fees – just bought a majority ownership in colwiz. see: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Chemical_Society

    nice try, colwiz people.

  • Colwiz is majority owned by its founders. We provide researchers with free tools to improve their productivity, as well as offering a reference management solution.

  • ACS owns Colwiz

    so how much of colwiz does ACS own then? http://blog.colwiz.com/2013/03/27/worlds-largest-scientific-organisation-partners-with-colwiz/

    and why did you not mention it in this thread? seems very relevant given the topic of discussion. did you hope nobody would notice?

  • Vernon

    Qiqqa is an excellent alternative to Mendeley. Not only does it do what Mendeley does, it has excellent research and search tools built in. I switched some time back and have not missed Mendeley at all, despite having been a user right from the time that it was beta software. BTW, I have no affiliation with Qiqqa.

  • An Elsevier insider

    It seems jarring to me that someone who is able to articulate a nuanced, thoughtful and balanced view of Microsoft’s strengths and faults over the years is seemingly happy to troop out the same tired old hyperbolic criticisms of Elsevier. For anyone interested in taking a more balanced view and some actual facts, I would direct them to http://www.elsevier.com/about/issues-and-information/elsevieropenletter

    As someone who’s been on the inside of Elsevier for many years, I have seen the company make mistakes and take policy positions I strongly disagree with, but I have also been proud of what we have been able to accomplish for the communities we serve. I am also utterly convinced that senior leadership understands and is driving change from within, and bringing our new Mendeley colleagues into the fold is just one sign of that change.

  • An Elsevier Outsider

    @An Elsevier Insider – hmm…. you keep telling yourself that if it helps. But I would say that Elsevier is right down there with other carrion feeding corporations who can put on a smile as sweet as saccharin whilst reaching into your backpocket and remove the contents of your wallet.

    The open letter is almost as good as the one MIT posted after the death of Aaron Schwartz – it is a pity they, and Elsevier don’t just seek approval by their actions rather than meaningless publicity releases – especially ones that boast 8 open access journals – that must rate an F for effort? Sell that story to anyone trying to access an article from one of your journals outside of a university.

    @mr gunn – at least your job is now easier – presumably the number of academics who will want to be “reached” by you has fallen dramatically

  • A Google insider

    “I love that Microsoft has made privacy a central value…”

    I realize that this comment is largely orthogonal to your points, but it really rubbed me the wrong way.
    The Scroogled campaign by Microsoft is one of the most painfully fear-based and misleading campaigns associated with privacy that I can recall seeing in recent past. It would be simply laughable if it weren’t (IMHO) setting back *thoughtful* discussions about privacy that should be happening across *all* companies and users. “us vs. them” rarely results in useful awareness, much less optimal policies and behavior.

  • Andreas Kuckartz

    Please keep us informed about your migration to Zotero.

  • SamSmith

    Lobbying spending in 2012: (www.opensecrets.org/)
    Microsoft: $8.1M
    Reed Elsevier: $1.5M

    Fines paid for anti-trust violations:
    Microsoft: >$2 Billion (so much I stopped counting)
    Reed Elsevier: 0

    Hmmm…

  • edith ackermann

    thumbs up, dana. crisp. clear, and to the point. i am with you !

  • slowdriver

    A couple of thoughts. Firstly Elsevier is a large commercial publisher, there are many others, e.g. Wiley, Springer, Informa. I would be interested to know if your objections would be the same if Mendeley had been sold to any of them. Their commercial practices are not, in my experience substantially different. So is your beef with Elsevier or with the commercial publishers in general? Perhaps you could clarify?
    Secondly and this is a much more general point, the survey evidence is that access is fairly low down on the list of concerns of academic researchers. In fact most institutions and organizations have access to far more scholarly content now then they ever did on the print world, and often by a factor. Drinking from the fire hose is the really pressing issue, and changes in academics reading behaviour bear this out, which is why Discovery is IMO a more important issue than access and which may partially explain why Elsevier acquired Mendeley.

  • Chris Maloney

    Here’s my opinion: William Gunn was bang on by criticizing your hypocrisy. I will never forgive Microsoft for what they did, and continue to do, to the software industry. You need to learn more about the history of the company you’re so proud of.

  • osvaldo martin

    According to the Privacy Policy of Mendeley “Whatever personal data and original content you upload to your Mendeley account is owned by you. We do not claim any ownership rights over your research. Of course, you can delete your data at any time. ” and then continues “In certain cases, we anonymously aggregate this data on an institutional level or other relevant segmenting and make that information available to the Mendeley community. ”
    Hence I can request Mendeley to delete ALL my data including the portions that have been aggregated, Am I right?

  • I agree with your critique of Elsevier. To the extent that scholarly information frames, influences, and mediates our understanding and experience of the world, it must be free and open. Elsevier is on the wrong side of this important struggle.

    But to the extent that the tools we use to communicate with each other, consume media, and interact and create academic work and other information good frame, influence, and mediate our understanding of the world, those must be free and open as well. Those tools include, of course, software like operating systems, productivity software, and more. Microsoft remains on the wrong side of that struggle. They might not be as sneaky or nasty as they once were, but they are fighting more free and more open alternatives in most of their core businesses and I think we all have a lot to lose from Microsoft success in most of their core businesses.

    As you say, MSR is a wonderful place and an incredible academic environment. I have enjoyed collaborating with people at MSR (including you!) and I look forward to doing lots more of it in the future. As you said, there are good people and good parts of every firm. Microsoft does lots of other great things.

    For the same reason, I’ll support the good work that Elsevier does. And I won’t bite my tongue in terms of condemning either. From where I’m sitting, I don’t see either firm as obviously less evil, in general, than the other.

  • Kirk21

    Different people are already reacting on the acquisition. See: http://jointherebelforces.tumblr.com/

  • Dorron Katzin

    Would PLOS be an option?
    http://www.plos.org/

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