I have been talking with students recently about reference management software. Amongst others, the students can choose between:
- Endnote Web
However, with the recent demise of drop.io, it could be argued that recommending the open source, unsupported Zotero exposes students to an unacceptable risk. What happens when the student fails to submit coursework on time because Zotero failed? Of course, couching recommendations with cautionary remarks chill-off students from engaging with and benefiting from a tool that is unlikely to fail.
Expert use of tools like Zoterio and drop.io will have incurred a certain amount of investigation into the robustness/life expectancy of the tool. An expert will have a sense of whether it is necessary to devise a contingency plan in the event of the tool's unavailability, whether temporary (read a book for a bit) or permanent (start looking for an alternative that might be compatible with your archive).
Whether using email, online filestore, collaboration spaces, blog, mindmapping, bookmark sharing or reference management, all of them may suffer 'outages'. But this is something users have come to live with, it is implicitly part of working in these ways.
It is easy to demonstrate the benefits of Zotero. Communicating the 'small print' is far more tricky. But I am at a loss as to how to convey the 'tool appraisal' and 'back-up and rescue' skills mentioned above without completely losing my audience.