Friday, October 06, 2006

Frustration Trumps Utility: SORA Fails to Live Up to Potential

SORA—The Searchable Ornithological Research Archive "is an open access electronic journal archive, and is the product of a collaboration between the American Ornithologists' Union, the Cooper Ornithological Society, the Association of Field Ornithologists, the Wilson Ornithological Society, and the University of New Mexico libraries and IT department."

Contents of the following ornithological journals (and years) are available in searchable and browseable formats:
Auk (1884-1999)
Condor (1899-2000)
Journal of Field Ornithology (1930-1999)
North American Bird Bander (1976-2000)
Pacific Coast Avifauna (1900-1974)
Studies in Avian Biology (1978-1999)
Wilson Bulletin (1889-1999)
Contents of the following journals (and years) are available in browseable formats only:
California Birds/Western Birds (1970-2004)
Ornithological Monographs (1964-2005)
Ornitologia Neotropical (1990-2002)
SORA is of inestimable potential value in that it promises to make available on every ornithologist’s computer desktops a healthy percentage of the published scientific literature on North American birds of the last 120 years. Thus far, however, it has failed to deliver on its promise.

In my experience, the potential utility of SORA is all-too-often trumped by the frustration experienced in trying to download literature from the database. Time after time in the past year I have tried to download PDF files (from three different PCs) only to have the browser lock up part way through the download.
I don’t recall having this problem with SORA when it initially came online. In fact, I used it successfully to search, view, download, and print literally dozens of historical documents for a project that I was working on two years ago. This download problem is something that has just cropped a little more than a year ago. The administrators at SORA are acutely aware of the problem. In fact, the Help section of their Web site notes that "Another common problem [when attempting to view Adobe Acrobat files] is for a file to begin downloading, but lock up before completing the download." (emphasis added)

I have downloaded hundreds of PDF documents from dozens of Web sites and don’t recall ever having a file lock up in the middle of downloading. In my experience, that is a circumstance unique to SORA, where it has become a frequent (even expected) occurrence. I just wish that SORA and its collaborative partners would work together to fix this problem so that SORA's potential as an invaluable online resource to ornithologists and other avian researchers could be fully realized.

Are there others out there who are experiencing the same frustrations? If you've found a solution to this problem, I'd appreciate it if you would share it with me!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me, too. First off, you can't use Firefox or Netscape. I keep getting messages that my preferences aren't suited. What they basically want is for the file to open in a new window. So I set it to do that. Still won't work. I also tried right click save open and that doesn't work either. So it is IE only. Ugh. Slow, slow, slow.

The DejaVu files open much better, faster, and more reliably than the pdfs. Recommend you download Lizard or whatever the heck it is called.

I had hoped/thought that the societies would continue to add new numbers, but apparently not.

Keep in mind that SORA is a volunteer effort, and the service was provided by the UNM for free.

Meanwhile, be nice to me. I have online access to a university library and I'd be glad to get you whatever you need.

The High Priestess

October 10, 2006 2:35 PM  

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