KinSync – Getting documents from Mendeley to your Kindle with no wires and no fuss

KinSync logo

Q&A with Aaron Asaro, KinSync Founder 

So, in a nutshell, what is KinSync?

KinSync is a webapp, built on top of the Mendeley API, which automatically sends documents from your Mendeley account to your Kindle e-reader. It aims to “Get documents from your Mendeley account to your Kindle. No wires. No fuss.”

How was the app developed?

At first we wanted KinSync to completely do away with the need to print an academic paper. To achieve this, we sent PDFs to a users’ Kindle e-reader. Once we had that mechanism working, we sought to find efficient ways to annotate and highlight the documents with the Kindle. The trouble is that they’re not designed for ‘active’ reading, so we couldn’t find a good way to make that work. The first live version was therefore a bit limited.

What was the initial user reaction like?

Users seemed to like the idea at first, but stopped using it after a while because the use case we were pushing (a total replacement of printed documents) didn’t gel with their experience. This was additionally problematic as our approach to marketing has always been to build a great product and rely on people telling their friends / colleagues.

What changed, and how are users using the product now?

After about 12 months we pivoted to a free product with a set of features that more closely matched our own behavior – using KinSync to catch up on recent literature. For example, instead of printing out 20 or 30 papers each week to skim read, our users now send the papers to their Kindle. If the papers prove interesting or valuable they are then printed for more active reading (i.e. attacked with highlighters and pencil).

One feature that has helped us to attract users is “document optimization”. To begin with, PDFs were quite cumbersome to read for anyone that didn’t have a Kindle DX. However, we implemented some pretty nifty technology that breaks these documents down into the columnar components – making them a lot easier to read (as shown below).

 

Kinsync screenshot

 

What was it like working with the Mendeley API?

The API hasn’t always been the easiest to work with, particularly from a documentation standpoint. However, where this fell short the community support from the Mendeley Dev team more than made up for it. A while ago we were a little concerned that, following the Elsevier takeover, the API would be depreciated. However, we have been pleasantly surprised that Elsevier/Mendeley have instead deployed even more resources – and over time the API seems to have become more robust.

What does the future hold for KinSync?

Ever more people are getting Kindles and Amazon are doing great things to bring the technology forward and prices down. We are hoping Amazon will open up the Kindles a little more so that we can deploy some of the features that have been on ice for way too long. Until then, we will continue to experiment with different ways of best delivering this service.

Mendeley API Version 1 is Out!

Mendeley Dev Portal 1

 

It has been a long 12-month journey, and the path wasn’t always lined with rose petals and unicorns, but last week we did allow ourselves a small celebration as version 1 of the Mendeley API was released.

API Celebrations

The API team designed this from the ground up, working alongside other Mendeley and Elsevier teams as well as key external partners, who all helped to test it out and provided crucial feedback to bring it into shape.

Mendeley users have already seen some of the results of this work, with better, seamless integration with Scopus and Science Direct in features such as the Web Importer and Readership Stats. This is something that Elsevier is really supportive of, as it provides an open platform to improve and optimise the research workflow at every step. The API is a key piece of that puzzle and we’re excited to see the new innovative applications it will lead to. If you’re a developer, be sure to check out the Mendeley Dev Portal and give the new API a whirl!

You can read more about this in our dedicated Mendeley Dev blog, and about API’s in general in this Huffington Post Article. As always, don’t be shy of letting us know what you think in the comments, Twitter or just email api@mendeley.com

New Android Kit Released for Mendeley API

Android SDK

We have been very busy at Mendeley looking at how to improve the Developer Experience for the community that builds cool stuff on the Mendeley API.

For those who don’t know, API stands for Application Programming Interface and it’s what allows your product to talk to other products, opening up your data and functionality to outside developers.

Altmetric

So far we have well over 100 active clients developing with the Mendeley API, which is not too shabby. These include Android and Kindle clients like Scholarley and KinSync, Altmetric, which tracks what people are saying about papers online, and Labfolder, an app that helps researchers organise their protocols and data.

Labfolder

We want developers to make A LOT more apps for Mendeley though, so we listened to feedback and put together a new and much improved API and sleek Developer Portal, where we’re now collating a whole bunch of tools and resources to support our developer community.

Dev Portal

We also have a growing API Team at Mendeley including Joyce Stack, who’s dedicated to Developer Outreach. If you’re wondering what exactly that is, here’s some first-hand insight on what her job is like. Just don’t call her an Evangelist, she hates that…

The latest step in this journey was to release an SDK (That’s Software Development Kit to you and me) to make things simpler for Android developers wanting to work with Mendeley. An early public access version is now available on GitHub which provides model objects and packages and takes care of authentication.

We’ll of course be looking to improve the API  because, as any good geek knows, no code is ever finished and we know there’s a long way to go! With that in mind please send us your feedback. You can email api@mendeley.com and reach out to @mendeleyAPI on Twitter.

For  all the latest news on the API and Developer Tools, also be sure to follow the Mendeley API Blog

Winners of the first Binary Battle Apps for Science Contest

We, along with PLoS, have been overwhelmed by the huge response that academics and the developer community have given to open up science. When we announced this contest to develop science applications on top of the Mendeley and PLoS platforms last March, we were not totally sure that anyone would even be interested. Boy, were we wrong!

Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media and one of five all-star judges, said this about the Binary Battle –

“I always tell developers to work on stuff that matters. It’s time to stretch beyond the consumer internet, and what better place to focus than on furthering the cutting edges of science?”

Mendeley launched the API platform in April of 2010 with the hope that it would 1) spur innovation in the science ecosystem and 2) send a signal to others that opening up data benefits everyone. To date, more than 1000 developers have applied for API keys to build on top of that data. With the Binary Battle announcement, we hoped to carry open science further and by all accounts we did.

Today we announce the winners of the 2011 Mendeley-PLoS Binary Battle. We narrowed the Binary Battle entries down to the Top 10+1, and then handed the voting over to our list of expert judges (Werner Vogels, Juan Enriquez, Tim O’Reilly, James Powell, and John Wilbanks. We also opened the vote up to the public to count as 1/6 and combined with the judges. It was great to see that both the public voting and the judges voting correlated very well. It was so close for many of the apps, but one stood out to both the judges and the public….Read More »

Binary Battle Top 40 Applications – Part 1 of 4

The Mendeley-PLoS Binary Battle to create applications that benefit science is now 30 days in. While more than 1000 developers are now using Mendeley’s APIs, we’re going to mention the 40-or-so official entries into the Binary Battle. This will be a four part series, in which about 10 apps are revealed in each segment. Check back tomorrow for the next 10 apps.

We’ll reveal the Top 10 apps in two weeks. The Top 10 apps will go on to be judged by a panel of experts: Werner Vogels (Amazon CTO), John Wilbanks (VP for Science at Creative Commons), James Powell (Thomson Reuters CTO), Juan Enriquez (Managing Directo of Excel Venture Management), and Tim O’Reilly (Founder of O’Reilly Media).

Winners announced November 30th!

Now, in order of entry received date along with the developer descriptions, here are the first 10 of 40-ish: Read More »

Tell us about your ideal science app & we'll get someone to build it.

Research is hard enough without having to deal with crappy software and programs that don’t talk to one another. Part of the problem is that many people who write great code aren’t scientists, so they don’t know what scientists need. We’d like to solve that problem, so we’ve teamed up with the Public Library of Science to issue a “Call for Apps“.

If you have a great idea for a scientific app but lack the coding skills to develop it, you’re in luck! Submit your app idea by August 10th (12pm PDT) and we’ll present it to developers who have the skills to make your dream a reality using the PLoS and Mendeley APIs, which are rich sources of data on scientific trends and stats.

Here are some ideas:

What’s the thing you wish someone would make an app for? We’ve got the data, you’ve got the idea, and chances are there’s someone who wants to bring your idea to life, if they only knew what you needed.

How To Submit Your App Idea:

  • Complete the Binary Battle App Idea Submission form
  • Leave a comment on this blog post with your ideas
  • or just tweet your idea using the #binarybattle hashtag

If you’re a developer, you may wish to enter your completed app in the Binary Battle.

A Mendeley data mashup wins at Data In Sight hacker competition.

Two weekends ago, a group of developers and designers gathered at the Adobe offices in downtown San Francisco to work on data visualization projects taking open data sets and fusing them in creative ways to yield new insights. swissnex San Francisco and Creative Commons organized the event and datasets were provided by Infochimps and Factual and judges were brought in from some of the top design firms and startups in SF and Europe, such as Stamen, LUST, Color, and Square. About a hundred developers and designers showed up for the event, and 20 teams competed in the event. Given such strong competition and high standards, I was really thrilled when my team was chosen as the best data mashup! Here’s what we did…Read More »