Mendeley for Android – An interview with Product Manager Steve Dennis

Steve-Dennis

We made it! Mendeley for Android has been out for 2 weeks, allowing you to read and annotate PDFs, sync your annotations and documents across all your devices, use Mendeley offline during your commute, search your library and edit document details, and download or remove PDFs on demand! On top of that, not only have we already issued an update, but the team are still working hard to get even more features included in the App!

Despite being really busy, we managed to grab Steve Dennis, the Product Manger behind Mendeley for Android…

Q: Hi Steve. Could you tell us a bit about what you do, and your history with Mendeley?

Sure. I started working at Mendeley as an interaction designer and front-end developer in 2010, and mostly worked on the website, small projects here and there, homepage and dashboard improvements, and a bit of work improving the catalog. After a year or so I got involved with the Desktop App, and worked on features like Deduplication, Journal Abbreviations, the Visual CSL editor, and others.

Then, when we decided to re-launch our iOS App, I came on board as the product manager & designer, working initially with a remote team in Austria, before bringing development fully in-house in 2013.

Currently I’m the Product Manager for Mendeley’s native reference management Apps (Desktop, iOS, and Android).

Q: Mendeley for Android has been requested for quite some time. Now that it is already out, do you think you’ve matched the researchers’ expectations?

Not a chance, heehee. You can never please everyone, especially not with a version 1 of an App that’s been anticipated for more than 5 years. I’m expecting it will meet the needs of a lot of Mendeley users, who want to read and annotate when they have a spare moment on the train, the couch, or wherever they are.

I think that as long as we continue to be transparent about what we are doing and why, people will mostly be reasonable, and appreciate the work we’re putting in.
There are a few things I’m expecting people to ask for as soon as we go live (folder management, tag search, better metadata extraction), and those things are already in our backlog.

Q: Do you think researchers will be able to go completely mobile using Mendeley at some point?

It’s certainly more possible now than it has ever been. I know people who no longer have a PC and just use their tablet. What I think is more likely though is that we will see the lines between mobile and desktop blur, and operating systems become more consistent between experiences.

Q: What are you most excited about with Mendeley for Android?

Honestly I’m looking forward to having people use it and engage with us (constructively, of course) about new features, improvements, and fixes. I build tools like this for users, and I can’t wait to hear what they think.

Q: What was the greatest challenge during the development of the Mendeley for Android App?

The whole development process has actually gone really smoothly. The biggest challenge would have been during the period from announcing the June launch date, to the actual release. It was 2-3 months of tough decisions about which features to include, or drop from release due to the timeframe.

A curveball (but a welcome challenge) was towards the end of last year, when Google announced Android Lollipop, and their material design guidelines. We’d already done a lot of mockups and user flows based on KitKat, and had to do a bit of rework to get the App feeling more sleek and modern, but it was a fun process and we’ve definitely got a better App as a result. I’m looking forward to experimenting with more of the animations and user interface elements from material design in future, though their guidelines for tablets could use some work.

Q: How did you deal with the differences in designing for Android vs iOS?

When we started, I hadn’t designed an Android App before, or actually even really used one. You can’t design well for a system you don’t know, so I immediately replaced my iPhone 5 with a Nexus 5, and just started to immerse myself in it daily.

I knew I didn’t want the Android App to feel like a lazy part of the iOS App. A lot of the basic structure, the way you navigate through folders, download PDFs, and stuff like that made sense to bring to Android.

Other things we approached from scratch. Having an interface that adapts to a huge range of screen sizes. Having access to the file system, to add or attach PDFs. Having an explicit “Back” button, vs the “Up” arrow, and how to handle the differences (though there’s still some work to be done here).

A lot of the Android design approaches are actually informing what we’re doing on iOS now too, so I expect them to become more similar over time as we discover patterns that work well regardless of the platform.

Q: With so many variations of Android devices and operating system versions, has this made developing Mendeley for Android more difficult than for iOS?

It’s actually really difficult to say how much of a problem this will be until the App is out in the wild. So far, its actually been an easier process then the first year of iOS development was, but that’s largely due to our team and tools having matured, and the lessons we learned from iOS.

Q: Now that the Android App has  been released, is it going to be actively improved on a regular basis?

Absolutely. We have a well staffed mobile team across iOS and Android now, and a well prioritised backlog that I’m hoping to share at some point. In the meantime, see the bottom of the launch blog post for a short list of things coming up.

As much as possible, we want to work towards a consistent and coherent feature set across our Apps. Soon we’ll be launching our new Recently Read feature on iOS and Desktop, but have it locked in the backlog for Android and the Web Library a bit later this year.

Q: Have there been any plans to exploit mobile specific features (i.e. camera) to implement mobile-only features into Mendeley (e.g. OCR of DOI)?

We’ve done some hack-day projects with barcode scanning for books, which worked quite well, but this wasn’t prioritised for the V1 release. I’d expect features like this will make their way to users in the medium term, once we’ve sorted folder management and improved the reader a bit. We had some difficulty finding an ISBN resolver with both good quality results, and rate limits that would account for the number of users we have, so that search is still ongoing.

Q: How many people worked on making Mendeley for Android?

Two developers full time, but loads of people across Mendeley contributed, and we couldn’t have done it without everyone pulling in the same direction. Our two core Android developers Elad Schwarz and Sergio Torres are responsible for the user facing App, with David Ingram contributing hugely to the SDK it’s built on. Myself as the designer and product manager, and our mobile team lead Peter Schmidt helped support the team, organising sprints and planning, as well as hiring. Ricardo Fonesca joined us recently as a full time QA engineer, helping us improve our automated testing. Then there’s a huge number of people who helped build the new API, with Joyce Stack and Matt Thompson being key in making the API what it is today. Huge thanks to everyone I didn’t name also 🙂

Q: What features are you most looking forward to developing in the near future?

Improving the accuracy of document details when you add a PDF to your library. We have a really promising server-side metadata extraction service built by our incredible data science team, but it still needed a few tweaks before we could put it into production, so we’ll be working towards that soon, and people should see a significant increase in the quality of document details when that lands.

I’m also looking forward to improving the usability of the annotation features and the PDF reader in general, better support for stylus input and that sort of thing.

We have no shortage of things to do, that’s for sure. So I better get back to work…

ZlsL_BwbBgebtCsd6NIjJqcZmjGE4UIEZfSMa_-lcWM

Mendeley for Android is available on the Google Play store.

We have a winner!

ZlsL_BwbBgebtCsd6NIjJqcZmjGE4UIEZfSMa_-lcWM

Congratulations to Noel D of Richmond, Virginia, winner of our Social media Nexus 9 competition.

And, congratulations to George S from Edinburgh, winner of our Email Nexus 9 competition.

Thanks for all the entries! Keep an eye on the Mendeley blog and Social media channels for Mendeley news and future competitions.

Mendeley for Android is available now from Google Play for your tablet or phone!

Eyes on Pluto – Now you too can journey to the outer edge of our Solar System!

It says something very deep about humans and our society, something very good about us, that we’ve invested our time and treasure in building a machine that can fly across three billion miles of space to explore the Pluto system…..” Alan Stern, Astronomer and Aeronautical Engineer quoted in Smithsonian, June 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 12.09.16

The New Horizons mission to the Dwarf Planet, Pluto, is a pioneering feat of astronomical research, resulting in almost a decade of space travel at up to 47,000 mph, culminating in the closest approach on July 14th 2015. In the run up to, and in the days after, New Horizons will carry out an astronomic schedule of research initiatives aimed at revealing the first close up view of this cold, unexplored world.

Although we’re a long way off of a human mission to Pluto, you can still check out the almost 3 billion mile journey with NASA’s Eyes on Pluto simulation!

Keep up to date with the latest from the New Horizons mission by following NASA’s blogs.

Eyes on PlutoScreen Shot 2015-06-24 at 17.40.28 is the latest simulation from the Eyes on the Solar System team who have created a series of 3D environments full of real NASA mission data. These simulations allow you to explore the whole solar system from your computer.

Another aspect of the Eyes on Pluto project, is NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory  in California. The DSN is a network of three highly sophisticated antenna arrays, stationed in three locations around the globe. These sites, distributed at roughly 120-degree intervals around Earth ensure constant contact can be maintained with objects in deep space, including the New Horizons spacecraft.

Communications received from New Horizons are sent from DSN to mission control and used to check the probe’s progress. Scientific data is then relayed on to the Science Operations Center for processing.

It’s possible to track which of three DSN sites is currently in contact with New Horizons via DSN Now.

In July, we will be publishing a summary of New Horizons research, highlighting the path from papers to Pluto – we’ll let you know when it’s out.

Congratulations June Advisor of the Month – Blessing Chataira-Mawire

Pic_Shoulder_BCMWe’re proud to present Blessing as the June Advisor of the Month!

Blessing has been working hard to not only spread knowledge of Mendeley in her community, but she is also the Deputy Director-Training and Outreach at ITOCA as well as helping in the development of learning material for the Research4Life and other capacity building programmes over several years on the continent. She studied at the University of Pretoria, National University of Science and Technology, University of South Africa and CASP-UK, and holds a Master’s degree in Development Communication, Science Honors degree in Information Science, and a certificate in Knowledge management. Additionally she is a qualified assessor and moderator of professional courses, registered with the education bodies in South Africa. Blessing is educated in the training of evidence based health, and critical skills appraisal of evidence for health workers.

We managed to get some time to speak with this tireless and enthusiastic Advisor…20150422_171918

How did you get into your field and what is your research story?
I have a passion for research, specifically in the development fields of agriculture and health. My research is in these as well as development communication. I am sold that research if not properly communicated for it purpose has no use. I train trainers mostly from higher education institutions and research institutions.

My passion at the moment is in health and knowledge management, specifically evidence based practice in developing regions and regional knowledge management. My research passion has also been influenced by the work I do with the Research4Life Programmes.

Tell us about your work with Research4Life?
I started working on the R4L programmes in 2007 developing training material and building the capacity of researchers in health, agriculture and the environment. This later expanded to the ARDI programme. I have since been an ambassador of R4L working with faculty, students, librarians and researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa on the use of R4L and related programmes such as TEEAL. These programmes give access to the current literature and evidence in the specific thematic areas and have made such an impact on research in the region. I have thus over the year improved my skills in literature searching as well as in the critical appraisal of the evidence accessible.

Where do you do your research/work the best? What kind of environment suits you? 
In any developing community.

How long have you been on Mendeley and what were you using prior to Mendeley?
About 3 years now. I used EndNote and Refworks.

How does Mendeley influence your research?
Mendeley has enables me to want to look at diverse sources of evidence knowing that it is all being organized and available at easy access. It has also helped me share the research that I do easier.

20150422_100933 20150422_100753

Why did you decide to become an Advisor and how are you involved with the program?
My work involves a lot of capacity building for researchers and I love how Mendeley makes research writing much easier. I get a lot of people still who are amazed by Mendeley and although I did not create it, feel satisfied knowing that imparting the skills of using Mendeley is priceless to most of our African researchers. One of my latest classic response was “it is a miracle!” to which I smiled from my heart.

What academic/researcher/librarian would you like to work with or meet, dead or alive?
I have met some of the ones admired. I guess someone who has a passion for Evidence Based Healthcare. I have met Sir Nigel Crisp and been to a talk of Sir Ian Chambers.

What book are you reading at the moment and why?
I read the Bible almost each day because it helps me know God more and is my life handbook. I just finished reading Leadership Books by Steve Covey such as Principle Led Leadership and also read up John C. Maxwell. I am in many leadership roles and to wisdom one needs knowledge.

What is the best part about working in research?
Finding out a new phenomenon that impacts lives for the better of course.

And the worst/most challenging part about working in research?
It is at times driven by self-centred objectives and not very outward looking.

What is the one thing you want people to know about Mendeley?
If you are doing research, you need to use it – user friendly, light and never boring.

 

NASA Museum Alliance

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 12.03.01

As the NASA Space probe, New Horizons, approaches Pluto, members of the NASA Museum Alliance are preparing to host various events to live-stream and celebrate this nine and a half year journey that culminates in a momentous Pluto Flyby!

New_Horizons_-_Logo2_big

The Museum Alliance is a NASA-centric STEM community of science educators, museums, observatories, planetariums, science-technology centers; aquariums, arboretums, aviaries, zoos; botanical gardens, nature centers, parks, NASA Visitor Centers and affiliates, theaters and auditoriums dedicated to astronomical shows, and other non-profit informal education organizations.

There are almost 1,100 professionals at over 575 U.S. and over 60 international members in the NASA STEM Museum Alliance. These organizations regularly use NASA educational products, images, visualizations, video, and information in their educational and public programs and exhibits.

Informal education professional, are invited to register with the Museum Alliance using the Partners Application, while individuals interested in attending an event can search for their nearest Museum Alliance venue

Enter for a chance to win a Google Nexus 9 to celebrate the release of Mendeley for Android

Mendeley for Android is finally here! To celebrate, we are giving away a Google Nexus 9 to one lucky person so they can enjoy the benefits of accessing their Mendeley library on an Android device.

To enter you simply need to Retweet this Tweet before midnight (GMT) on June 25, 2015:

One winner will chosen at random and announced on June 26, 2015

Starting today you can download Mendeley for Android from Google Play for your tablet or phone!

 

 

 

Terms and Conditions

  1. To enter the Prize Draw, retweet the Mendeley competition tweet to @mendeley_com before midnight (GMT) on June 25, 2015.
  1. A valid Twitter account and internet access are required for participation in the Prize Draw. The entrant does not need to follow @mendeley_com on Twitter to enter the Prize Draw. No alternate means of entry permitted. LIMIT ONE (1) ENTRY PER PERSON. Multiple submissions, including via multiple Twitter accounts will exclude all of the entrant’s other entries.
  1. No purchase necessary.
  1. Prize Draw is open to individuals who are 21 years of age or older at the time of entry. Entrants are responsible for determining if the Promotion is legal in their jurisdiction of residence. Employees of Mendeley, their family members or anyone else connected with the competition are not eligible to enter. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW.
  1. One (1) winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries on June 26, 2015 and announced on the Mendeley blog. The prize winners’ name and country will be available on the Mendeley blog in truncated format, example: “Jon B., from United Kingdom” for at least one month after the close of this Prize Draw. Winner will be notified via Twitter how to claim the prize. Odds of winning depend upon the number of eligible entries received.
  1. Submission of entry constitutes entrant’s consent to limited use of entrant’s first name, last name initial and country (e.g. Jon B. from United Kingdom) on the Mendeley blog for the purposes of announcing the winner.
  1. Only one (1) prize of Google® Nexus 9 Tablet (16GB, Wi-Fi, approximate retail value of 420 USD) is available to be won.
  1. No cash alternative to the prize will be offered. The prize is not transferable. Prize is subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute it with another of equivalent value without giving notice. The winner is solely responsible for reporting and payment of any federal, state and local taxes and for compliance with all laws associated with the use of the prize.
  1. The promoter’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  1. Neither Sponsor, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies, nor its advertising or promotional agencies shall have any obligation, liability or responsibility for (1) telephone, electronic, hardware, software, network, Internet, or computer malfunctions, failures, or difficulties of any kind; (2) any condition caused by events beyond the control of Sponsor that may cause the Promotion to be disrupted; (3) entries, prize claims or notifications that are lost, late, incomplete, illegible, unintelligible, damaged or otherwise not received by the intended recipient, in whole or in part.  Sponsor, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to disqualify any entry of any person tampering with or abusing the entry process, conduct of the Promotion or otherwise violating these Official Rules.  Sponsor further reserves the right to cancel, terminate or modify the Promotion if it cannot be completed as planned because of tampering, unauthorized intervention or technical failures of any sort.
  2. By entering the promotion, entrants release and hold harmless sponsor and its parents, subsidiaries, and affiliated companies, and each of their directors, officers, employees, representatives, vendors, partners and agents, from any and all liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action, for or related to any claims, costs, injuries, losses, liabilities, or damages of any kind (including, without limitation, personal injury, death, damage to or destruction of property, rights of publicity or privacy, defamation or portrayal in a false light) arising out of or in connection with the promotion or the acceptance, possession, or use of the prize, whether under a theory of contract, warranty, tort (including, without limitation, negligence, whether active, passive, or imputed), strict liability, product liability, contribution, or any other theory, to the extent permitted by law.
  3. The construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the United Kingdom, without giving effect to its conflicts of law principles.
  1. The Sponsor is Mendeley Ltd whose registered office is at Ground Floor White Bear Yard 144a Clerkenwell Road London, EC1R 5DF United Kingdom.
  1. Google®, Twitter® and Facebook®, are registered trademarks of Google Inc., Twitter Inc. and  Facebook Inc. who are in no way affiliated, associated with or endorsers of this Promotion.

The Mendeley you love – Now on Android

You’ve been asking for it for a long time, and it’s finally here. Starting today you can download Mendeley for Android from Google Play for your tablet or phone.

Over the last year, we’ve been working with a small internal team alongside users from our passionate Android community to bring you a great experience for reading, annotating, and managing your research wherever you are.

Features include:

  • Read & annotate PDFs
  • Sync annotations & documents across all your devices
  • Save PDFs to your Mendeley library from other apps or your web browser
  • Use Mendeley offline during your commute, and sync when you have connection
  • Search your library for keywords in the Title, Authors, Publication or Abstract
  • Edit document details (Title, Authors, Publication details, etc…)
  • Download or remove PDFs on demand, to easily manage device storage space
  • All features are available on your Tablet or Phone
  • Free!

GooglePlay

 

Highlights & notes

The biggest failing of the third party Mendeley apps available previously, was the lack of synced annotations with Mendeley Desktop.  Addressing this was our top priority when starting the project.

AnnotateAndroid

Creating highlights or notes is currently done via text selection.

  1. Tap-and-hold on a PDF to select the text you want to annotate.
  2. Adjust the selection to your liking.
  3. Tap the “Add note” or “Add highlight” buttons that appear in the top toolbar to start annotating.  Adding a note will also highlight the selected text at the same time.
  4. If you’ve added notes or highlights while offline, remember to sync them next time you’re connected to see them on Mendeley Desktop.

We will be improving on and adding more flexible ways to create annotations, including better stylus support, and more efficient interfaces for adding multiple annotations quickly.

 

 Add documents to your library

We know there’s a very slight possibility that not everyone you collaborate with uses Mendeley yet, so maybe from time-to-time, you might get a PDF emailed to you instead of shared in a Mendeley Private group.  No problem! You can add PDFs from email clients, browsers, or other apps to your Mendeley library

AddPDF

  1. Tap on a PDF in your downloads folder, or a link to a PDF in your browser
  2. Select Open with Mendeley
  3. Mendeley will download it and attempt to find matching details for the document
    1. If details are found, it will prompt you to check them, before saving the document to your library.
    2. If no details are found, you’ll be prompted to enter the details manually.
  4. Tap the ‘Done’ icon in the top left to save.

You can also add references manually from the home screen by tapping the action overflow icon (3 dots) in the top right and selecting Add Document.  The menu button is the equivalent if you’re on a Samsung device.

Tip: Select ‘Recently Added’ from the library overview to easily find any documents you’ve added in the last 2 weeks.

 

What’s next?

We’re very proud of what the team has been able to produce in the last year, but this is only the beginning. There’s a lot left to build, and a lot to tweak based on your usage and valuable feedback.  We had to drop some valuable features from scope in order to make our release date (folder management, as one example), but we are aiming to iterate quickly and be as transparent as possible about what we’re working on as we add these features.

We’ll be taking a few weeks to react to any major issues found during the launch, and then we’ll be working on the following things:

  • Remember previous page position for PDFs
  • Folder management
  • Editable document notes
  • Sync all files setting
  • ‘Recently Read’ filter
  • Improvements to fetching details
  • Much more!

We’ve carved out the first few weeks just for reacting to critical issues, sync errors, crashes etc, so if you experience anything, please report the error to our support team using the feedback mechanisms in the app (Settings > Support).  You can also go there to suggest or vote on upcoming features.

So please, spread the word, let us know what you think, and rate the app on the Google Play store.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js