Google Reader shuts down, Feedly copies Google Reader API

Google yesterday announced that it will shut down Google Reader. Supposedly, Google wants to focus all its attention on Google+. As a researcher, I depend on Google Reader for keeping up with the news, publications, case law, and anything else that has something to do with the topic of my research. I’ve linked it to other services with IFTTT (‘If This Then That’), which I strongly recommend. If I tag an item as ‘twitter’, it is automatically tweeted. If I star an item, it is sent to my Readability read later list so I can read it when I have time. When I read that Google Reader will be powered down, I was desperate for a moment.

Nothing compares to the clean design of Google Reader and its effectiveness when skimming through an endless list of articles. Feedly comes close though after applying some tips to make it feel more like Google Reader. The great thing about Feedly is that they have ‘cloned‘ the Google Reader API, which means that there is no need to import and export your feeds once Google Reader is offline. The transition should be be seamless. It could also imply that all services that are connected to Google Reader may continue to function in the future. All is not lost! Knowing a bit about intellectual property, I wonder whether it is legal to just copy the Google API. Under EU law, a literal copy of the lines of code that make up the API probably is a copyright infringement. If Feedly only mimics the functionality of the API, then there should be no problem for Feedly (see SAS Institute Inc. v World Programming). Maybe Google and Feedly have already come to an agreement about the issue.

Anyway, let’s hope Google is open to continuing the Google Reader platform as an open source project so that the RSS-ecosystem stays intact. Maybe the White House will have a role to play in that?

Reference management going social with Mendeley. Farewell Endnote.

I have been using EndNote for about two years now. Before using EndNote, I had never used a reference manager. I thought it was a great invention. However, after some time a few things started bothering me. Because I work in different places and on different computers, I was always copying my EndNote-library to USB-sticks, e-mailing it to myself and uploading it to my webserver. If I wanted to share an article with a colleague or friend, I had to go into the file structure of my EndNote library, find the file and attach it to an e-mail. When searching for a particular subject in my personal library, I had to either use the Windows Explorer to search through files or use Adobe Reader to search through multiple PDF’s. Besides, EndNote was first released in 1988 and the software GUI seems to have never changed. I know of the existence of ‘EndNote Web’, but I have little faith that it will work smoothly and intuitively after using EndNote’s desktop version. EndNote Web comes ‘free’ with the desktop software. If you’re a student or in research, the desktop version is probably free or costs you pennies. However, that is only possible because your university has bought a campus-licence. A single EndNote licence costs about $ 250.

As you might have expected, I am no longer using EndNote and have found a new reference manager. It is called Mendeley. It is a free web-based reference manager. A desktop version and Microsoft Office plugin can be dowloaded at Mendeley’s website. It also runs on your iPhone or iPad. A working non-official Android app is available at the Android Market (there is a Mendeley API!). All changes to your library are synced to all devices. Sharing an article is as easy clicking on one button. And, it features full-text search through your library.

The features that I am most enthusiastic about are Mendeley’s social features. You can join research communities that share articles on certain topics. Add colleagues and fellow students as contacts and keep up with their research. Upload your own articles and promote them on your profile (watch out SSRN!). Feel free to add me at:


Circumvent that Newspaper Pay Wall, the Legal Way

Some newspapers are planning to put their content behind a ‘pay wall’, meaning that they will charge you for access to their articles. The New York Times is planning to set up such a wall, which will probably will be in place by January 2011. The Wall Street Journal website already offers certain articles to subscribers only.

When you are doing research, pay walls can be very annoying. They can also be tiresome when you are not doing research of course. However, there is a trick that you can use to get access to pages behind those walls. How? The answer is Google News.

Google News has a program called ‘First Click Free’. Participating publishers allow users to access articles behind walls, without requiring them to register or subscribe. The idea behind this program seems to have nothing to do with copyright or good PR, but it has to do with the problem of cloaking. Nevertheless, Google also writes that “First Click Free is a great way for publishers to promote their content and for users to check out a news source before deciding whether to pay”. Maybe the argument of cloaking is just a way to force publishers to have a special door in their walls for Google (and its users).

How to use

Whenever you bump into an article on e.g. The Wall Street Journal (this newspaper participates in the program) and you see an excerpt or summary of the article, copy the title of that article. Then surf to Google News and paste the article’s title into the Google News search field and press ‘Search’. Make sure Google News includes older articles in its search when the article you are looking for is not of recent date.

Remember that, depending on the publisher, the number of free articles you can read through Google News might be limited.