Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mendeley+Elsevier

In case anyone else is googling around about the same problem, or just wants to hear a funny story about the joys of cloud* services...

Part 1: Elsevier has a centralized editorial website for all their journals that you can log into as either an author, a reviewer, or an editor. This is a recent agglomeration of many individual websites for individual journals, so you can link those individual journals to your central account as you encounter them. This works ok, but then Chrome remembers my old passwords for the specific journals, and I paranoidly question whether I've set up a different password for reviewer login versus author login, so the end result is I've reset my password with them many times. I always reset it to the same password though, so the rate has been falling steadily.

Recently though, I haven't added any new journals to my account, and I've still had to change the password several times in the last two weeks. I used the saved Chrome version, verified in Chrome's password manager that it is in fact the password I remember setting, reset the password to exactly the same thing, and then it works fine. I feel like I'm going crazy, but hey, never underestimate the ability of the cloud to screw up basic things.

Part 2: For organizing papers, I use Mendeley desktop. Mendeley is buggy as a bog, which for a long time I was forgiving of because it was a brand new and free service, but now it's been 10 years and I pay them to keep my papers synced across my work and home computers, so my patience is waning. But at least I've got my workflow set up, I know the bug workarounds I need, and it runs in linux well-ish, so so far the switching costs have kept me there (but if anyone has tested alternatives please let me know...) Anyway, many of the bugs are related to network access and syncing, and in the process of unplugging-and-replugging as many things as I can think of in an attempt to fix the situation, I end up resetting my password a lot. Always to the same thing, but still.

Recently though, and in an unfortunate coincidence with updating mendeley versions on my two computers so that I thought the upgrade was related to the problem, I've been forced to reset my password nearly everytime I open it on my desktop or try to log in online. Again, I check that the saved password is what I remember, reset it to the same one, and then it works.

Resolution: I couldn't find anything helpful on google and since I am a paying Mendeley customer I was optimistic they would actually respond, so I wrote off the Elsevier problem as a lost cause and emailed Mendeley support. And amazingly enough within 24 hours I had a useful response (addressed to "Dear Joel", but oh well, details.....) Apparently when the login page on the Mendeley website says "Mendeley now supports signing in with your Elsevier credentials." what it really means is "You MUST now sign in with your Elsevier credentials, and when you change your password here it will also change it with Elsevier". There is of course absolutely no message of the sort in the desktop client at all, which is what I use for everything except resetting the password. So I've apparently been resetting both passwords simultaneously, alternating between the two.

I don't remember actively linking my Mendeley and Elsevier accounts, but I'll acknowledge the possibility that I've just forgotten or didn't realize that that's what I was doing. If so, I apologize for complaining about this particular issue and instead ask you to redirect my complaints towards the fact that Mendeley crashes on me several times a day and has to be restarted every time I ask it to sync something and gives me meaningless ungoogleable connection errors randomly when I open it and won't let me just skip the damn login process and see my local database while it ponders whether to connect this time around. And as for Elsevier, well we all know what else we can complain about with them...

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* The cloud is one of things about which I drift pretty close to the fearmongers' warnings about impending dystopia. I'm not sure who came up with the idea, after seeing how Web2.0 royally fubared the web, to put everything on it. So use syncthing instead of dropbox, back up your gmail (gmvault works well), and use distributed/opensource/offline/encrypted/whateverelse systems when possible.**

**And linux and emacs just because it will make your life so much better. And road bikes.

2 comments:

Steve said...

I'm a big fan of zotero. I have 3700 papers synced. I use it on Linux and Windows. The developers monitor the support forum and respond quickly to bug reports. If you ever think of switching I'm happy to answer questions :)

Vera L. te Velde said...

Thank you Steve!! I tried zotero years ago and had trouble with it but you drove me to test it out again and I love it so far. Now I just have to figure out how to bulk export my mendeley notes and highlights to regular pdf notes and highlights :)