Last Thursday, after a long day at the office, the three Mendeley founders took it upon themselves to make a trip to IKEA, as we needed to select furniture for our new office. Here are a few impressions.

On the tube, around 9.30pm. Still hopeful, reviewing the floor plans:

Me, yawning and sneezing and coughing, all at the same time. I was tired and already had a cold. And we were waiting for the bus. Around 10pm.

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Great news, everyone!

Team Mendeley is happy to announce three new members! They’re all brilliant, and terrific people to hang out with, too. The latter is rather important, because we’re going to have a roof terrace at the new office, and what fun would rooftop barbecues be without terrific people? In order of appearance and in their own words:


Ben Dowling is a software engineer at Mendeley, working on Mendeley Web. He graduated with an MEng software engineering degree from the University of Southampton in 2006, where he continued to live and work until moving to London to work for Mendeley. He’s excited to be working on such an innovative project, and is looking forward to life in the big city!

Andi Rutherford is. And when not playing with words, and editing them on Wikipedia, he is also a software engineer for Mendeley Web, and plays a significant role by ensuring that your information is kept secure. He does this by actively trying to hack the site – no joke – this is basically what banks do to ensure your accounts are kept safe. He also has an unhealthy regard for standards, and can be found with the biggest smile when Mendeley pages pass W3C validation.

He comes to us by way of the University of Sussex, Imperial College London, King’s College London, and the Open University too! (I think you can guess how he spends his free time – not so much a bookworm as a bookrabbit). He is actively interested in design especially with regards to usability, and when not learning stuff he is aspiring to become a master calligrapher. Please note, he really does have terrible handwriting, so any level will be an easily quantifiable improvement.

Steve Ridout is a software engineer at Mendeley. He studied computer science at the University of Cambridge and completed his MSc and PhD on computational modelling at the University of Greenwich. During his PhD and later as a Research Fellow, he wrote software for mechanical stress analysis, optical modelling, and risk analysis. Steve is now helping make Mendeley the research tool he wished he had in academia.

When not writing code for Mendeley, Steve occasionally enjoys making games, films, and playing his guitar.


Steve didn’t mention it, so I’ll bring it up: He is also the developer behind Ape Invasion, which he programmed in his spare time to teach himself ActionScript. The dialogues are sheer comic genius, so by all means go there and play the game!

Another good discussion ruined by facts

Last week, I mentioned an idea that Michael, Felix and I had discussed a while ago: The Journal of Failed Studies. We felt that this journal was to have a bright and shining future… if we ever got around to launching it.

Then Prof. Duchier kindly pointed me to The Journal of Interesting Negative Results, which in turn linked to The Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis. Especially the latter contains a number of fascinating articles on my favourite research subjects: Mood and subliminal influences on decision-making… all refusing to show a significant effect, unfortunately.

And so it appears that The Journal of Failed Studies already exists in several academic disciplines. Admittedly, they all found nicer ways of saying “fail”, too. To paraphrase Thomas Alva Edison: “My study hasn’t failed. I have just found 1000 ways of supporting the null hypothesis!”

Mendeley at night

The other day, whilst Victor went to his meditation class (still awaiting some insights into that, Victor…), Paul and I had a “nice and cozy” evening break in the office. We were having a Tesco dinner (the one who first correctly guesses at least three of the foodstuffs we had will get ten free beta invites) and watched some news on a magnificient 12,1” laptop display, and I wanted to share some of those impressions with you. It’s really not much to write home about, but it’s our start-up life…

Off to Weimar to wrap up the Guru*Lab

I’m currently packing my bags for a trip to Weimar. I’ll fly out of London Stansted to Leipzig-Altenburg in the morning, but since Weimar isn’t close to any major airports, I’ll only be arriving in the early afternoon.

The occasion for my visit is the last seminar I’ll be teaching at the Bauhaus-University, at least for now. It’s also been the longest-running and most exciting one I’ve had the joy of being involved in: For almost one and a half years, a group of students has had the chance to contribute their work to the feature film project Heart of Fire under the supervision of its Oscar-winning producer Andreas Bareiss, Prof. Hennig-Thurau and myself.

Heart of Fire, which premiered at this year’s Berlinale film festival, is inspired by the true story of Senait Mehari, who was forced to become a child soldier during the Eritrean civil war and is now a pop singer in Germany. It was produced by Andreas Bareiss (producer of the Oscar-winning Nowhere in Africa), Sven Burgemeister (producer of the Oscar-nominated Sophie Scholl) and directed by Luigi Falorni (Oscar-nominated for The Story of the Weeping Camel).

Over the course of the project, which we termed Guru*Lab (as an extension of our Guru*Talk sessions), we got to work with all of these fine people – and pretty much everyone else who was involved in financing, producing, and distributing the movie. The students analyzed and commented on the screenplay, designed possible film posters, carried out marketing research, and organized and ran a test screening of the movie’s rough cut prior to the official Berlinale premiere. Perhaps most exciting of all: Three of the students were chosen to be part of the film crew and traveled along during the difficult three-month shoot in Kenya. Their task was to document everything and create the official Making-of.

So on Friday and Saturday, we’ll wrap up the seminar, review our work and project’s progress over the past 16 months. We’ll also attend the premiere of the Making-of which will be screened as part of the Bauhaus-University’s annual back.up film festival. It’s going to be a blast!

HOWTO: Mendeley on OS X/Linux/Toaster

Update: We now have native versions for Windows, OS X and Linux, so I have crossed out the instructions on how to run Mendeley using WINE and Darwine. The instructions for running Mendeley on your toaster remain valid.


[June 13, 2008]: My name is Mike and I’m a software engineer. No, I won’t fix your computer. However I will get Mendeley running on it because you’re such a nice person.

I’m hard at work at the moment making Mendeley work on Linux. For those who care this involves moving from a Visual Studio based build-system to one using CMake and also fixing some of the inane rubbish that the the MSVC++ compiler seems to think should be valid C++.

At the moment you can use WINE on Linux/FreeBSD, Darwine on Apple OS X and Mendeley-shaped bread in your toaster to fulfil all your unsated academic document management needs.

Running Mendeley on Apple OS X

  • Install Darwine from http://www.kronenberg.org/darwine/ into the Applications directory.
  • Install TRiX from http://mike.kronenberg.org/?p=69 into the Applications directory.
  • Run TRiX from Applications.
  • Make sure the following options are selected: In the “General” tab: “MS Arial, Courier, Times fonts“, “MS Tahoma font (not part of corefonts)”. In the “Libraries & Runtimes” tab: “vc6redist from VS6sp4 (mfc42, msvcp60, msvcrt)”
  • Press the “Install” button.
  • When done (i.e. Terminal displays “All done, no errors”) install Mendeley (double click on .exe file – Darwine will do the rest. Allow it to install into the default directory: i.e. “C:Program FilesMendeley Beta”). If “All done, no errors” did not appear then try and click “Install” again until it does.
  • Open a new Terminal.
  • Run the following commands: “cd ~/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/Mendeley Beta/; /Applications/Darwine/Wine.bundle/Contents/bin/wine Mendeley.exe
  • The last command should have launched Mendeley! If it didn’t or you are having any other problems then post them here and we’ll try and help.
  • KNOWN Problems: Depending on your language, “Program Files” may be something like “Programme” instead. If the above command doesn’t work then try to run “ls ~/.wine/drive_c/” and use the results to see where you should “cd” to.

Running Mendeley on Linux/FreeBSD/BeardOS

  • Install Wine from your package manager.
  • Download Winetricks from http://www.kegel.com/wine/winetricks.
  • When downloaded run “sh winetricks” from a terminal, when in the same directory as Winetricks.
  • Select “allfonts” and “vcrun6” and press “OK“. Press “OK” when the VC6 installer pops up.
  • When done (i.e. the terminal displays “All done, no errors”) run “wine Mendeley-” when pointing at the correct downloaded installer and change the version number to be correct. Allow it to install into the default directory: i.e. “C:Program FilesMendeley Beta”).
  • Run the following commands: “cd ~/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/Mendeley Beta/; wine Mendeley.exe
  • The last command should have launched Mendeley! If it didn’t or you are having any other problems then post them here and we’ll try and help.
  • KNOWN Problems: Depending on your language, “Program Files” may be something like “Programme” instead. If the above command doesn’t work then try to run “ls ~/.wine/drive_c/” and use the results to see where you should “cd” to.

Running Mendeley on your Toaster

  • Get a piece of Bread.
  • Cut the piece of Bread into the shape of the Mendeley logo.
  • Insert into Toaster and set heat to at least 5.
  • Wait patiently for the Toast (toasted bread) to pop out of the toaster.
  • Optional step: Use a Knife and a Spread (any bread-compatible spread will do) and combine them on the toast.
  • Consume the toast.
  • The last command should have launched Mendeley made you less hungry! If it didn’t or you are having any other problems then post them here and we’ll try and help.

Announcing the Journal of Failed Studies… coming sometime

Dr. Felix Eggers‘ comment on my last post did remind me of something! In August 2006, Felix, Michael Paul and I were attending the AMA Summer Marketing Educators’ Conference in Chicago. All of us where in the middle of our Ph.D. theses back then, with Magdas, Shirleys and Bernies popping up left and right. Sitting at the Chicago waterfront, we wondered where we could ever publish all of our failed studies. The ingenious solution: We needed to start our own journal, aptly named The Journal of Failed Studies.

Come to think of it, it’s really not such a bad idea. Replication is one of the cornerstones of empirical research. If a study fails to replicate a previous result, or fails to confirm what theoretically should have worked, other researchers should know – assuming that your study didn’t simply fail because of sloppiness. Or maybe even then it would be useful to know which potential mistakes to look out for. However, as all researchers know, journal editors prefer to publish unusual or even counterintuitive results over failed studies (and who’d want to fault them for it) – resulting in the so-called “file drawer problem” or publication bias.

Maybe we’ll pull our Journal of Failed Studies idea out of the file drawer sometime. Here’s what Michael and Felix say about it:

“The Journal of Failed Studies?”

“Why not! Tee-hee!”

Worst. Result. Ever. Brilliant!

By chance, I stumbled across One Big Lab yesterday, a very interesting blog on Open Science maintained by (as far as I can tell) four Stanford bioinformatics Ph.D. students. One of the many gems to be discovered there is a series of t-shirt designs called “Worst. Result. Ever.”:

You’ve been there, done that. Spent hours, days, weeks… months?… just to discover that your hypothesis (or “hope-othesis”) is completely wrong. Finished a data analysis only to see that what you’ve just produced can only be described as the Worst. Result. Ever. […]

Each one is named after the hapless student who had the pleasure of seeing something very much like it in their own research.

I’ve had nightmares of the Magda, and once pulled a Bernie, too. Once the shirts become available, buying them will support the PSB workshop on Open Science in… what? Hawaii?! I need to go there!

Martin Varsavsky, a "Last.fm for research", and more exciting news

Wow, entrepreneurial icon Martin Varsavsky wrote something nice about Mendeley on his blog last night! We immediately noticed a traffic spike and a sudden number of beta test requests rolling in. Thank you, Martin!

We met Martin a while ago at an entrepreneurs’ conference and grabbed the chance to tap into his wisdom. At age 48, he has already founded seven companies, including the biotech venture Medicorp, the telecommunication providers Viatel, Jazztel, and Ya.com, and his latest venture, fon.com, which aims to provide worldwide WiFi access for free (here’s a recent NY Times profile of both Martin and fon.com). As you can imagine, it was a very inspiring meeting for first-time founders like us.

In his blog post, Martin outlines the similarities between Last.fm, the world’s largest music community, and Mendeley:

As Last.fm tracks the music you listen to and, basing on your taste, helps you discover new music and people, Mendeley helps you manage, share and discover research papers and find new articles and people with similar research interests using a recommendation engine. Mendeley also allows you to keep track of what is going on in your research field and shows you statistics about up and coming topics and authors.

Admittedly, we need to stress that not all of these features are working in the current beta version – this is a snapshot of the (hopefully near) future rather than the current state of Mendeley. Recommendations and statistics require a certain amount of data in order to be meaningful – but as the Mendeley user base grows, the possibilities of how we can make this data useful for the research community become practically limitless!

Martin mentions another connection to Last.fm: Our all-around awesome chairman Stefan Glänzer. We’ve never formally announced his involvement, but Stefan joined us a few months ago. Besides being a former professional DJ and a successful serial entrepreneur, he helped building Last.fm as the company’s chairman, so we consider ourselves truly lucky to have him on board. Not to mention the fact that he wrote a Ph.D. thesis himself, so he’s familiar with the pain!

Jan and I knew Stefan from when he was a guest lecturer in Entrepreneurship at our alma mater, the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management. Together with Professors Peter Witt and Holger Ernst, he published a book about fast-growing start-up companies, to which Jan and I contributed a case study.

To top it off, two extremely talented web developers have agreed to join us, starting in July! We’ll introduce them on these pages soon…

Sciences and Humanities, together at last?

A few days ago, there was an interesting story in the NY Times about new curriculum at Binghamton University which will try to bridge the divide between the sciences and the humanities. I meant to write about it on this blog, but didn’t find the time. Now I’ve read a reply which perfectly and concisely expresses my thoughts. Sheril Kirshenbaum, a marine biologist at Duke University and co-author of The Intersection on ScienceBlogs:

Experience has taught me neither field can be addressed comprehensively through a single lens, and we make the greatest strides and forge new directions through the convergence of people and philosophies.

I couldn’t agree more, although getting there took me some time. When I began writing my Ph.D. thesis, I shared the office with Daniela Wentz, a doctoral student in Media Philosophy. I think she’d admit that, being relative novices in our fields, both of us were rather cocky about the perceived superiority of “our” epistemological position. I had just read Popper (and some Lakatos) and thought that only quantitative empirical research deserved to be called “science”, whereas she felt that deconstruction in the vein of Derrida was the be-all and end-all theory of knowledge.

We quickly became very good friends. As we spent countless hours debating the pros and cons and whys and whynots of our respective philosophical approaches, both in the office and over glasses of red wine in the cafés of Weimar (Humanities scholars know how to debate in style, you have to give them that), the respect for the other’s methods of scientific inquiry grew. I believe that my understanding and appreciation of science benefited immensely from these discussions. So if you’re an empirical researcher who doubts the epistemological value of the Humanities, that’s really something I can recommend: Find a friend in the Humanities to fight with!

One final thought about linguistic implications: In my native language German, the word “Wissenschaft” – as the literal translation of “sciences” – does encompass both the sciences and the humanities in its meaning.