Airpower: a bibliography of British aviation history

One quite inadequate response to the paywalling of bibliographies is to set up your own, which I've made a start at here. It's a little narrower in focus than the RHS bibliography, being limited to works relating to the history of British aviation up to 1941 which I looked at in the course of my PhD research. However, it also includes primary sources. I'm still pruning it -- there might be some things in there which don't have 'significant' aviation content, for example.

It's running on WIKINDX, a content management system specifically designed with bibliographies in mind. (Thanks to Alun for the tip!) It was pretty easy to set up; most of the work I did was playing around with the templates and CSS to make it look a bit like Airminded. As a LaTeX user I was pleased to find that I could import my bibTeX bibliography files fairly painlessly, but if I was working in the Endnote world WIKINDX can handle that too. Just as importantly, it can export bibliographies in both formats, along with RTF, RIS and HTML. There plenty of other bells and whistles, including an integrated word processor which I can't ever see myself using.

There are a few different ways to view the database. One is to just list all the resources (i.e. books or articles), sorted by creator (author) or year, perhaps. Another is to browse the creators, which is done via a combined heat map and cloud. Or there's a quick search and a ridiculously capable power search. It talks to Zotero, and there's an RSS feed for recently-added resources. And so on.

What is the point of this? Is it going to be actually useful to anyone? Should I keep control of it myself, or open it up to others to edit? Should I be using citeulike or Mendeley instead? I don't know! But I'm already thinking about putting up a future war fiction bibliography ...

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7 thoughts on “Airpower: a bibliography of British aviation history

  1. Brett this looks good. I think it should be opened out to all aspects of air power history, but then again I would. I think if you expanded it and opened to a few dedicated people willing to add to it there would be people out there that would use it. Air power history is still an expanding area and trying to collate a useful bibliography would be a great aid to those of us in that area.

  2. Post author


    I've heard of it but not used it -- I use BibDesk to manage my BibTeX references, which is very slick but OS X-only, unfortunately.


    I certainly have no objections to it being about more than just bombing! That's just what my bibliographic collection looks like. It could be opened up to post-1945 or even non-British stuff too, though I'm more hesitant about that. Depends on whether there is actually enough interest to make it worthwhile (though I've noticed quite a few hits from * hosts already).

  3. This looks fantastic. I wouldn't say it was inadequate at all. I think specialist things like this are the way to go. I agree with Sharon Howard that crowdsourcing can never produce anything like the RHS Bibliography, but I also think we don't need it to. Nobody ever actually needs the whole of the database, only a subset of the records, and we all know other people who need a similar subset. If everyone ends up getting what they need then it doesn't matter if there isn't one central database that has everything.

    Now I'm wondering how easy it would be to make a mashup that would automatically sync WIKINDX with a Zotero group...

  4. Post author

    A good point. Though it really has the same problems as crowdsourcing the RHS bibliography, but on a smaller scale, which perhaps makes all the difference if there are enthusiastic maintainers. There are still issues to do with completeness and uptodateness and who owns the resources (maybe there needs to be a GPL-type viral license for data, to make sure it's always going to be free). But with a less ambitious scope these might be more manageable. And if a number of such databases sprung up, there'd probably be a way to tie them in to a metadatabase anyway ... Just speculating wildly!

  5. Post author

    Just a quick note: I've taken this down. I'm not sure how useful it was and I never got around to updating it. Probably would have been better off doing it at Zotero or somewhere like that, anyway.

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