Need a way out on group limitations - linked attachments and updating items

edited July 2, 2019
I am asking, actually begging, for help so I can realize my vision of a large community based group/bibliography. I have created the group and seeded it with my personal library. The group homepage is:

But I do not see a path to success for my vision because of two issues:
1. Groups do not allow linked attachments
2. Groups do not allow for easily updating an item that has been updated in personal library or another group.

My vision is to create one single source of bibliography for my research community. I am seeding it, and expect (or hope) others will join and this will become a major source. Note this makes it a DIFFERENT kind of group - hundreds of members who are not sharing research projects. Thus, this group is about bibliography and metadata and indexing. It is about collaborating on creating a massive curated reference. It is NOT about collaborating on specific projects (though that can easily happen in any case). Individual members will acquire their own PDFs and annotate them. Members are not sharing documents (but are sharing the benefits of full-text index/search).

But right now, I have two exact libraries (personal and group). I cannot move to having only the group library because I use linked attachments and groups do not allow that. And, I cannot possibly maintain two libraries with equally "current" items. Because, if I update an item in my personal library, I have to go and manually update it in the group library, too. Finally, and this is a minor issue, having the same item show up twice while citing is at best irritating and at worst leading to citing from the wrong library.

I have thought about this a LOT. I have requested and argued my case in the past. I am sincerely requesting a reconsideration and asking for two features: (1) allow linked attachments in groups and (2) provide a feature to turn-off link sharing (just like there is a choice to not share attachments). That lets me and interested members not have duplicate items in personal and group library. For this discussion, ignore concerns about bibliography preservation (I already have a schema worked out for that).

I hope @dstillman and the dev team will consider this request. I am willing to put my money in this, to the best of my means. If the linked attachments is completely undoable, then, create a system so I can keep my personal and group library items updated easily.

Here are the past posts where I have argued for my vision and need:





  • Hi, I've just come across this thread while looking for a solution to problem #2 above. I'm trying to have some items in both my library and a group library, but have any changes or additions (such as a new child note) appear in both places without making each change twice, manually.

    In your previous discussions, has anyone considered creating/allowing items in group libraries that work sort of like "junction links" in Windows - i.e., they simply act as invisible links that show the item stored one library as if it were in the other library, and any changes thus only need to be made once? Not sure if that's totally clear...
  • I definitely second your first proposal, to allow linked files in group libraries. In our case we use Dropbox to sync files, because it's faster and more reliable, and also because of costs (Dropbox free capacity is enough for us, while Zotero's pricing scheme is prohibitive coming from our country).
    This limitation is blocking us from using Zotero as reference manager in our group (in fact, I haven't found another yet which can fulfill what we are looking for).
    Having this enabled would revolutionize the way how we work in our team. I'm sorry to hear that developers aren't willing to incorporate it.
  • My experience may (or may not) be relevant to this discussion.

    If Zotero group users begin linking to full text files of material under copyright I expect publishers to become alarmed and to take some sort of action.

    In the past I gathered metadata for my online database directly from publisher ftp sites designed for bibliographic databases. However, for the vast majority of journals I need only one article per issue. Downloading the entire issue became burdensome. I began using the journal websites and capturing metadata for selected articles with Zotero.

    Over the past year my agreements with, Elsevier, Sage, and Taylor and Francis Group have come for renewal. With each of these publishers the A&I folk noted that I was not using their ftp sites and asked how I was captured their metadata. I explained my process and they each closely queried me about Zotero groups. They wanted to know if I was placing any of their material in my Zotero Groups (either gathered from my university's subscriptions or from my access through their agreements with my database. I explained that I didn't place any articles within my personal Zotero groups and that I certainly wouldn't for any SafetyLit work related group. SafetyLit isn't staffed to be a clearinghouse and I have a policy of never, ever sharing full text of anything even if open access. Even with that long-established policy I still receive one or more requests for copies of articles every day. Taylor and Francis is in the process of revising their contract with me to include language prohibiting the placement of their material attached to any Zotero group record or any similar function of other bib-management software. My agreements with Elsevier and Sage now include language stating that I will not store full-text items from their catalog in _any_ form on any work-related or work-connected computer system. These two publishers ask that after viewing the full text of articles and writing or editing an abstract that I delete the file the same day it was used.

    In short, publishers are aware of and concerned about Zotero groups and how sharing of their full-text material with non-subscribers to their journals might affect their sales.

    Take my comments for what you will. I understand the desire of academics to have a convenient way to work together but I also want Zotero developers and users to be aware that publishers are watching with concern.
  • Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Nonetheless, as far as I know, users can already share full-text PDF files in group libraries through Zotero's online storage. I don't see why publishers would be more concerned about Zotero if it let their users share relative links to their already existing personal file sharing set-ups (e.g. Dropbox, network drives, etc).

    In fact, I would be less concerned as, compared to sharing through Zotero's online storage, the potentially copyrighted material wouldn't reside in Zotero's servers.

    And I highlight "potential" copyrighted because I think we must not forget about the multitude of fair use cases this option would be used for, such as sharing open access articles, and other files with less-limiting licenses.

    At this point users can anyway attach links to their files in in group libraries. A Zotero plugin could even be developed that looks at the file attached, retrieves the link to it, and attachs this link instead of the local file. But it's a cumbersome workaround, as users would need internet to access their files, and saving changes (such as annotations) wouldn't be straightforward. I say this to mean that allowing links to files in group libraries would simply facilitate something that's already somehow possible; I think it would be more a benefit for users, than a new concern for publishers.
  • I don't think copyright is a concern here. Zotero could just impose the same restriction it does for attached files and not allow them in public groups.

    Zotero developers have been pretty clear on this and I'm not sure why you would think they're not willing to incorporate linked files in groups:
    1) They're generally open to allowing links for groups
    2) That would require enabling relative links for groups which will require both some code and some GUI changes
    3) Given that equivalent functionality is already available usig Zotero groups (which at $120/year for unlimited storage for as many groups as you want are really quite cheap), this isn't a development priority for the core team -- there are a large number of other, frequently requested features that do not exist at all at this time
    4) They'd be very happy to review & merge pull requests on this, so others could develop this or try to hire a developer who would be willing to work on this.
  • I am willing to contribute a couple hundred dollars and create/manage a fund to pool enough money to pay a developer willing to add this feature to the satisfaction of the developer team. I don't need anything fancy and I understand even that could mean substantial work. I need links and relative links to work in groups, and a feature to turn off sharing links in groups (just like you can turn off sharing files in groups).

  • @adamsmith @dstillman
    What skills should a developer have to be able to code for this feature? How important is it that they be familiar with Zotero code on day 1?

    I will revive my communication with the person who wrote the code for the existing relative links feature. However, if he is not available or not interested or not affordable, it will be useful to know what to look for in another developer.
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