Dear publishers: this is how to fix a bug in your platform

September 9, 2013

You know how every time you point out a problem to legacy publishers — like when they’re caught misrepresenting their open-access offerings they explain that it’s very complicated and will take months to fix?

Here’s how that should work:

To summarise: I found a bug in the PeerJ system; I reported it in two tweets (total word-count: 32); 27 hours later, they had fixed it, and our article was showing the end-pages in its bibliography.

Are you watching, Elsevier? 27 hours.

Of course, we do realise that it’s much harder for you. PeerJ have all that manpower, those thousands of people working on their system, while you only have one or two techies, who have all sorts of other duties as well as finding bug-reports on Twitter and immediately fixing them. It’s always tough for the little guy, isn’t it?

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9 Responses to “Dear publishers: this is how to fix a bug in your platform”


  1. Thanks Mike – we were glad to be able to respond so promptly and kudos to Alf and Jason for fixing this so rapidly!

    The ‘end-page’ data was always present in the PDFs, so it was an oversight for it to be missing from the HTML.

  2. David Marjanović Says:

    I like the smell of sarcasm in the evening. :-)

  3. Jay Nair Says:

    Why does the page list the citing style as:

    “Cite this as
    Taylor et al. (2013) Why sauropods had long necks; and why giraffes have short necks. PeerJ 1:e36 http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.36

    when there are only two authors.

    I mean that “et al.” is more commonly for more than two authors.

    Shouldn’t it just be:

    “Taylor and Wedel (2013) Why sauropods had long necks; and why giraffes have short necks. PeerJ 1:e36 http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.36

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    Jay, you’re right. I’ll draw PeerJ’s attention to it, and see how long it takes them to get this one fixed.

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    “And now we play the waiting game.”

  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Jay Nair has spotted another apparent HTML rendering error: in the section on theropods (p. 5 of pdf for equivalent) it reads “Therizinosaurus cheloniformisMaleev, 1954″ with no space between the species name and “Maleev”. I think this is indeed a problem with HTML rendering since it appears correctly in the PDF.

    The odd thing is that this rendering bug does not manifest for “Nanshiungosaurus Dong, 1979″ in the very same paragraph — even though the XML (which I believe the HTML is generated from) is the same in both cases.

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Alf Eaton from PeerJ emailed me 16 minutes ago (at 11:18) to say that the rendering bug that omitted the space between cheloniformis and Maleev had been fixed (and I have verified that it is so). That’s a bug-report/fix/deploy/customer-contact cycle of two hours and three minutes.

    Come on, PeerJ, you have to do better! I’m sure Elsevier would have got that done in HALF the time!

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    I’ve just noticed that PeerJ also fixed the “cite this as” bug that Jay mentioned in the third comment above. I don’t know when that was changed, but the upper bound is about 33 hours.

    So that’s three bugs fixed within (at worst) 27, 2 and 33 hours, for an average complain-to-fix time of 21 hours.


  9. […] (One can hardly help comparing this performance with that of PeerJ, who have maybe a ten-thousandth of Elsevier’s income and resources. When I reported three bugs to them in a course of a couple of days, they fixed them all with an average report-to-fix time of less than 21 hours.) […]


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