The future of MLZ

This post calls for a straw poll of interest in “Multilingual Zotero.” If you aren’t familiar with the tool, it is a variant of the Zotero reference manager distinguished by the following two additional features:

  • For those studying or working in the law, MLZ is capable of “automating the Bluebook”—or any other legal style—with styling targeted to specific jurisdictions.
  • For researchers working in multiple languages, MLZ can store and output references supplemented with translations and transliterations, with the same ease offered by Zotero proper.

My request is simple: if you use MLZ or have an interest in it, please favorite this tweet on Twitter. This is not an appeal for money (although that may come at a later time); it is simply a request that you signify your interest. The reasons are explained below.

What’s up?

Two major developments are on the horizon. First, Firefox is on the verge of requiring that all extensions running on the platform be signed. While there are sound reasons for that policy, it is certain that the approval and release process is going to require an additional commitment of time. If I can gauge the value of the tool to the community of users, I can better decide which of several paths forward makes the most sense. More on that below.

Second, the Zotero team are currently preparing for a Zotero 5.0 release. The new version will contain a rewrite of much of the Zotero code base, and the MLZ code will also need to be substantially rewritten. This work is not optional, since sync support for legacy clients (which of course includes the current version of MLZ) will be terminated a few months after the Zotero 5.0 release. Again, there are sound reasons for the underlying changes, but (again) this will require a significant investment of time if I undertake it alone.

And so?

I have invested six years in MLZ development, with the aim of casting a research tool with robust legal and multilingual support. With the recent deployment of modular legal styles in the rebranded “Juris-M” iteration of MLZ, that feature set is now complete. The core justification for my work on the project has been to serve programs in our faculty, which required such a tool. That hasn’t changed, and work on it will continue in some form, come what may.

The question I need to answer for myself is whether this project is primarily local, or has a larger footprint. If the latter, it will make sense to explore ways of putting the project on a firmer footing, both in funding and in participation. Given the capabilities of the tool, particularly in the law, I believe that the prospects for securing support are good—but my vision may be clouded, for obvious reasons.

On the other hand, if outside interest is limited, the other option is to do the minimum necessary to keep the tool running for our students, with some sacrifice in convenience.

Your tweet-favorites will help me work out my priorities for the coming summer season.

Frank Bennett

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3 Responses to The future of MLZ

  1. Karl M Hegbloom says:

    I did not see the tweet, but I would certainly like to see the features of MLZ continue to exist, whether as it’s own program, or rolled into the main Zotero codebase. I think that’s the best option! Whatever it takes.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your note! I’ve started coding the changes. I can’t guarantee that there will not be a gap in sync support, but we’ll get there.

  2. Swallar says:

    Just downloaded MLZ, and I’m super excited to have a citation manager than can handle legal cites, especially one that can integrate Chicago and Bluebook into the same document. I look forward to getting everything set up and testing it out! Just wanted to second that this is a great service you are doing.

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