Maldini is a citation and bibliography plugin for Nesta. It allows citations and reference lists to be automatically generated from BibTeX files, using a syntax analogous to the commands used for the same purpose in LaTeX. It is intended to streamline the workflow of those who write content both in LaTeX and for the web. It is also intended as an advertisement for Nesta itself, particularly for academics.

The Idea

Suppose I am writing a paper on a topic, and wish to produce content both for the paper and for a series of blog posts on related topics. If I am writing the paper in LaTeX, I should be keeping track of the references relevant to my paper in a bibliography management program such as BibDesk, which stores those references in a BibTeX file. The idea behind Maldini is simple: when I write content for my blog, I shouldn't have to manually copy and paste those references and their corresponding citations. There are at least four reasons for this:

  1. Bibliographic information should be maintained in a single place, so that errors can be corrected once and then automatically propagated elsewhere.
  2. Producing reference information for web content should be both simple and rigorous. It should be simpler to produce a citation than copying and pasting the reference in full from somewhere else, and the reference produced should have the same rigour as in any other academic context.
  3. Reference lists should be consistently formatted to a common standard.
  4. Reference lists should only contain things that have been cited.

Present Status

The initial release of Maldini (0.0.1) makes some initial progress towards addressing these demands. It includes the following features:

Multiple Citation Styles

Maldini provides the following citation styles, modeled on their biblatex equivalents: textcite, citeauthor, parencite, and fullcite (examples of these styles can be seen below).

Multiple BibTeX Entry Types

Maldini supports the following BibTeX entry types: article, book, inbook, incollection, inproceedings and unpublished (others, including phdthesis, are coming soon).

Automatic Reference List Generation

Maldini automatically generates reference lists that include all and only references cited with textcite, parencite, or fullcite.

Automatic Sorting

Maldini currently sorts the reference list by surname, then first name, then year. So for example Smith (2005) is listed prior to Smith (2007), which is listed prior to Smith (2008).

Call for Collaboration

As it stands, Maldini is little more than a proof-of-concept. There are many ways in which it should be improved, from the integrity of the existing code to the implementation of additional features. The source for Maldini is hosted as a public Github repository, which contains a README specifying outstanding issues and a wishlist of future improvements. Any help with the project would be appreciated, from user feedback to development collaboration.


New versions of Maldini will be announced both on my blog and on the Nesta mailing list.


At present, Maldini is implemented in terms of a class, Maldini::Bibliography, which provides a set of public methods with syntax modeled on biblatex (chosen because it is rapidly becoming the LaTeX standard for interacting with BibTeX files). These methods can be browsed in the Maldini YARD Documentation, which is automatically generated every time the Maldini sources are updated.


This page is itself a demonstration of Maldini in action. The source from which it is generated can be browsed here, and the BibTeX file it employs can be browsed here. Here are some citation examples, with a mix of citation style and BibTeX entry types:

  • Citation style textcite, entry type article: see Hitchcock (2001, p. 24).
  • Citation style textcite, entry type book: Collins, Hall and Paul (2004).
  • Citation style textcite, entry type inbook: van Fraassen (1989).
  • Citation style textcite, entry type incollection: Halpern and Pearl (2001).
  • Citation style parencite, entry type article: (McDermott, 2002, §2).
  • Citation style citeauthor, entry type book: Collins, Hall and Paul, p. 267.
  • Citation style textcite, entry type inproceedings: Cartwright (1989).
  • Citation style fullcite, entry type book: especially Woodward, James. 2003. Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation, Oxford University Press, New York. URI:, pp. 45-47.
  • Citation style nocite, entry type incollection:
  • Invalid citation key: Maldini: Invalid Citation Key hall_2004z

And here is the corresponding reference list, which is automatically generated by Maldini:


  • Cartwright, Nancy. 1989. “Quantum Causes: The Lesson of the Bell Inequalities”, in Weingartner and Schurz (Ed), Philosophy of the Natural Sciences: Proceedings of the 13th International Wittgenstein Symposium, Verlag Hölder-Pichter Tempsky, Vienna, pp. 120–127.
  • Collins, John and Hall, Ned and Paul, L. A. 2004. Causation and Counterfactuals, MIT Press, Cambridge MA.
  • Hall, Ned. 2004. “The Intrinsic Character of Causation”, in Zimmerman (Ed), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Vol. 1, pp. 255–299.
  • Halpern, Joseph Y. and Pearl, Judea. 2001. “Causes and Explanations: A Structural-Model Approach. Part I: Causes”, in Breese and Koller (Ed), Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence: Proceedings of the Seventeenth Conference, Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, pp. 194–202. URI:
  • Hitchcock, Christopher. 2001. “The Intransitivity of Causation Revealed in Equations and Graphs”, in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 98, No. 6, June, pp. 273–299.
  • McDermott, Michael. 2002. “Causation: Influence versus Sufficiency”, in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 99, No. 2, February, pp. 84–101.
  • Smith, Nicholas J. J. 2005. “Why Would Time Travelers Try to Kill their Younger Selves?”, in The Monist, Vol. 88, No. 3, July, pp. 388–395.
  • Smith, Sheldon R. 2007. “Causation and Its Relation to ‘Causal Laws’”, in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 58, No. 4, December, pp. 659–688. URI:
  • Smith, Sheldon R. 2008. “Symmetries and the Explanation of Conservation Laws in the Light of the Inverse Problem in Lagrangian Mechanics”, in Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Vol. 39, No. 2, May, pp. 325–345. URI:
  • Woodward, James. 2003. Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation, Oxford University Press, New York. URI:
  • van Fraassen, Bas C. 1989. “Ideal Science: David Lewis’s Account of Laws”, in Laws and Symmetry, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 40–64. URI:

Updated: 21 August 2012