frequently asked questions

These are answers to questions which, it is anticipated, will be frequently asked. If you have a question which is not answered here, please contact us.

who are you? was created by John King in 2002. See people for more details.

what exactly is is a project whose ultimate goal is the creation of a powerful toolkit to facilicate the construction of websites focussed on the life and work of individual authors. It is committed to using open-source packages. As such, it is envisaged that the toolkit will bring together technology in the areas of content management, forums, mailing lists and advanced meta-data. The first part of the platform is the bibliographic application which will be used to create, manage and publish bibliographic data.

why are you doing this?

There are a variety of different reasons for creating the application:

  • to create an adequate and free bibliographic management system for scholarly use. During the course of my D.Phil (1995-99) at the University of Oxford I had to read and track substantial quanitites of primary and secondary source material. Although it was clear that using a card index was already then out of the question, the DOS bibliographic database I used, Papyrus, whilst it did sterling service, was clearly limited in its capabilities. As explained in greater detail in the Conceptual Analysis, the power of this application lies in the huge flexibility it provides regarding media types and, in particular, their interrelationships. In this way, scholars can record key relationships between individual items - edition, translation, criticism, etc - in a way that mere lists cannot provide.
  • to create a web-enabled bibliography for During the course of my D.Phil I created a small web site related to the German author Ernst Jünger, about whose First World War writings I was conducting my research. That site is now at, and contains a number of bibliographies. The largest is an html-ised listing of a Word document outputted by Papyrus of my bibliography of secondary literature assembled over the course of five years. The fact that none of the commercial bibliographic database management programs are based on normalized, relational databases - a standard technology - or presents an API which is easily programmable to on non-Windows platforms, meant that a new application had to be created to meet the immediate requirement for a web-enabled bibliography.
  • to advance my knowledge of the J2EE platform. Following the completion of my D.Phil, and having decided to move away from UK academia given the decline in standards, rise in meaningless audits and general drop in interest in modern languages, I joined mondus, a b2b marketplace set up in Oxford, where I hoped to pursue my burgeoning interest in internet technologies. That goal was met for the most part and I gained a great breadth of experience. However, I didn't get quite the degree of detailed, low-level exposure to J2EE that I wanted - possibly just as well, given that our software "partners", who shall remain nameless, based their efforts on a product which might be considered to exemplify nearly all known J2EE anti-patterns. To remedy that, and to provide a solid basis for moving my career on, I decided that the best way to learn was to do, and thus this project was created, using the J2EE platform.

Why is it open source?

I have chosen to publish the source code for the bibliographic application under the GNU General Public License for two main reasons. First, I admire the ethos of free software development and what it has accomplished. Second, the project is large in scope and Open Source Development provides a clear framework for other people to get involved and help the project grow beyond what I can achieve on my own.

What distinguishes your application from EndNote, Papyrus, et al?

Some of the differences have already been mentioned - it is open source, web-enabled, platform independent, highly configurable and flexible, focussed on relationship networks rather than lists and is based on industry standard relational databases and the J2EE framework. It is primarily a server application with its functionality available to multiple users rather than a single desktop. The web application, and the remainder of the application, will also shortly be fully internationalized and it will thus be available in as many languages as there are people willing to provide translations.

Can I use it with MS Word?

The short answer is "no". It is not a desktop Windows application - it is server-side Java and XML, and thus cannot exploit the integration possibilities afforded by Microsoft's COM-orientated API for Word. We will, however, be looking to provide a degree of integration with Word in the future by exporting RTF (Rich Text Format, which is usable by Word) using JFor.

What is the current state of development?

The application has made steady progress since work was started on it in September 2002. The EJB layer is essentially complete. The development of the web application is ongoing. Generally, the code may be thought of as alpha quality.

Is there a road map for future development?

Following the completion of the web application, a period of consolidation is planned. This will include:

  • Refactoring. Some areas of the code are better than others. Code will be reviewed and systematically improved with an eye to robustness, performance and clarity.
  • Improved Test Suite.
  • Improved Ontology. The current ontology which provides a description of type attributes and the rules for type interrelationships is limited in its expressive power and needs improving.
  • Tidied Build Scripts. The ant build scripts need improving.

In the longer term, developments in the following areas are currently envisaged:

  • Full Multiuser capability
  • Creation of abstract media references. Currently, the application accurately models concrete media types and provides the facility to model and capture data relating to specific items in the real world. However, if were to say that a book is "about Macbeth" - then the likelihood is that is about Shakespeare's play in the abstract sense, rather than a specific and concrete edition or printing of it.
  • Subject Classification. The organisation of content into subject categories is notoriously difficult, but we will nevertheless be attempting to address this issue. One approach we will be looking at involves Topic Maps.
  • Different client platforms. Because the application is structured as a multi-tier application with the business logic cleanly separated from presentation, it should not be difficult to provide the server application with new types of clients. Possibilities include peer to peer (using JXTA), a conventional GUI using Java Swing, web services, etc, depending on how things evolve.

How can I get involved?

Sign up as a member of Sourceforge, and let me know you want to join in. You might want to let me know what experience you have of XML, Java (including EJB, servlets/JSP, struts, JDOM, Jaxen), SQL or advanced meta-data.

I downloaded the application, but I can't get it working

I can't promised to be able to solve every problem, but get in contact with a full description of your set up and the problems you're encountering and I'll do my best to help.