Wednesday 30 April 2008

Law prof sues students

Inside Higher Education has a story about University of Arkansas at Little Rock law professor Richard Peltz who is suing two students who are involved in the university’s chapter of the Black Law Student Association, the association itself, and another individual who is affiliated with a black lawyers’ group. Peltz charges them with defamation, saying that his comments about affirmative action were used unfairly to accuse him of racism in a way that tarnished his reputation. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that Peltz had also filed a grievance against the law school last June, alleging a hostile work environment.

Plagiarism detection service for scholarly publishers

CrossRef and iParadigms have announced that they have are partnering to launch CrossCheck, a service that helps verify the originality of scholarly content, in June. This will give scholarly and professional publishers the ability to verify the originality of works submitted for publication by checking against a vast database of proprietary as well as open web content. Until now, there was no automated way to check submissions against previous publications because the published literature had not been indexed and “text fingerprinted” for this purpose. The CrossCheck database will include the full-text journals of leading academic publishers, and is expected to grow very rapidly as CrossRef member publishers sign up for the service.

Scholarly Electronic Publishing bibliography online

The updated 2007 annual edition of the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography (SEPB) is now available online (263 page pdf). The SEPB is an electronic book with citations for over 1400 selected English-language articles, books, and other printed and electronic sources that are useful in understanding scholarly electronic publishing efforts on the internet. Where possible, links are provided to sources that are freely available online. The author is Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Assistant Dean for Digital Library Planning and Development at the University of Houston Libraries.

EPA info for Air Quality Awareness Week

This week is Air Quality Awareness Week and the EPA and National Weather Service are encouraging everyone to to improve their knowledge of the Air Quality Index (AQI) that measures ground-level ozone. The EPA provides lots of online information and publications about air quality and info on air quality trends through 2007 ; you can also sign up for email alerts or an RSS feed on daily air quality where you live with the EPA's "enviroflash" service.

Tuesday 29 April 2008

Orphan Works bills in the House and Senate

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on Friday that Congress is revisiting the longstanding problem of "orphan works" (copyrighted works whose owners may be impossible to identify and locate) in copyright law. Public Knowledge Policy Blog reports on the bills and Georgia Parker of the Center for Intellectual Property at the University of Maryland has a thoughtful discussion at ©ollectanea blog. Govtrack has the House Bill 5889 and Senate Bill 2913 and lets you subscribe to newsfeeds about them.

Monday 28 April 2008

Livescribe Pulse pen captures audio as you take notes

Technology Today has a video review of the Livescribe Pulse pen, a "smartpen" that is a computer within a pen. You can use the Livescribe Pulse pen to capture handwriting and simultaneously record audio and synchronize it to the writing. Users can simply tap on their notes to replay what was recorded from the exact moment they were writing, so they never miss a word they hear, write, or speak.

PreCYdent: a new legal research website

The San Diego Business Journal reports on a new legal research website called PreCYdent (still in beta), started by Tom Smith, a law professor at the University of San Diego’s School of Law and chief executive officer of PreCYdent. The interface looks like a plain old search engine, which is no accident -the founder has heard many law students complain that they can’t do legal research on Lexis or Westlaw with a few search words the way people do searches on Google. On PreCYdent, you can search cases for free by typing just a few key words - the site is supported by advertising. PreCYdent searches the legal citations network the way the major Web search engines search the Web. The beta version contains U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals cases from 12 states, including California, Florida, Hawaii and New York. Within the next two to three months, Smith says he anticipates extending the service to cover all 50 states.

Thursday 24 April 2008

Take Your Children to Work Day in the law library

A collection of cases children might enjoy, from the law librarian listserv lawlib. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

Flat World Knowledge: a revolutionary experiment in textbooks

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education has a story about a fledgling company called Flat World Knowledge that is taking a new approach to textbook publishing. According to their website, "We set out to solve problems – the silly cost and inflexible nature of textbooks, the lack of choice for students, and others." Their plan is to offer textbooks free online, and allow allow instructors to freely use the textbooks to mix, mash, and make their own. The books will include images, audio and video. The full commercial launch of their products is scheduled for 2009; until then, you can watch their videos about flatworld and sign up to receive progress reports. Their motto is Because great minds are evenly distributed. Great textbooks are not.

EPA encourages recycling electronics

The EPA, as part of its Earth Week activities, is encouraging consumers to use the EPA's Plug-In to eCycling partner programs to recycle electronics such as cell phones, computers, and TVs. The partnership includes electronics manufactuers and retailers who offer various recycling options to consumers such as take-back or trade-in programs in store or online; some of the companies involved are Best Buy, Sprint, Sharp, Staples and Office Depot. According to the EPA, last year the program recycled more than 47 million pounds of consumer electronics. The EPA website also has information about finding a program that you can contact about recycling your electronics.

Tuesday 22 April 2008


The Chronicle's Wired Campus blog reports on a product called the Deluxe Yacker Tracker that libraries can use to monitor noise level. It looks like a traffic light that can be set for anything from 40 to 110 decibels (fyi a vacuum cleaner is ~70 decibels, a chainsaw is ~100 decibels). When the noise level reaches that setting the yellow light starts to flash and when the noise level goes 20 decibels louder than the set level the red light flashes and a siren can be set to go off. The Deluxe model has a remote, the regular model doesn't.
The Wired Campus blog doesn't mention which colleges are considering installing this in their libraries.

LOUIS beta search engine of federal documents

LOUIS - the Library Of Unified Information Sources ( in beta testing) - is a free search engine of federal documents from the Sunshine Foundation. LOUIS makes it easy to search from a collection of over 300,000 documents from seven sets of federal documents dating back to 2001:
  1. the Congressional Record
  2. Congressional bills and resolutions
  3. Congressional reports
  4. Congressional hearings
  5. GAO reports
  6. Presidential documents
  7. the Federal Register

LOUIS, which updates its document depository daily, even allows you to set up a "standing query" as an RSS feed, to get alerts every time Congress or the executive branch takes action that references the subject of the initial query. There's a screencast available on its homepage to help familiarize you with the site.

The new Thomson Reuters

The merger of Thomson and Reuters was completed last Thursday, you can read the press release from the newly formed Thomson Reuters; the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune has an article about what the merger may mean for Minnesota (West is headquartered in Eagen, Minnesota, in the Twin Cities area).
Also check out the new Thomson Reuters website - click on "Learn More" to see the nifty little Flash video marketing the new Thomson Reuters. "The end of Think. The beginning of Know. Thomson Reuters. Knowledge to Act."
In a more practical vein, everyone's email at West has changed from to . But the email sent to will be forwarded to the new mailboxes indefinitely, so it shouldn't cause any sort of communications gap.

Monday 21 April 2008

Google is indexing "whois" information, adding quotes

From the Google Tutorial blog, news that Google has started to index "whois" information. "Whois" allows you to find out who "owns" the domain name for any website. Just type into the Google searchbox "whois (url for the website)" and it'll link you to the information.
And the official Google News blog reports that Google News is now adding recent quotes to search results - if you search for someone in the news and they've said something memorable recently, you will see the quote displayed in your results.

Social networking websites and lawyers

Is this a trend? I've come across two articles in the past couple of weeks about how lawyers are using social networking sites-NOT. The ABA Journal asks its readers "are you suffering from Facebook fatigue?" and Law Technology News reports that although social networking sites report millions of users a very small percentage of young lawyers actively keep up with their social networking sites. The numbers they provide are: reports having 60.1 million audience members, Facebook reports 22.6 million, and LinkedIn reports 4.8 million ; but only 8% of young lawyers feel that these social networks are "very important" for professional networking. Given the famously demanding work schedules of young associates and the amount of energy required to keep up with all the social websites it's not surprising.

Saturday 19 April 2008

New website makes it easy to sue

A new website called SueEasy claims to simplify the legal process by making it easy to sue. Potential litigants can use the site to post grievances and complaints and then wait for responses from attorneys competing to represent them. The site also allows users to search for lawsuits and class actions and join in with other litigants.
No I am not making this up.

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Audio on Pacer

A few months ago we reported that Pacer had a pilot audio project in the federal courts. The number of courts involved in the project has been expanded to 5 including the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. These courts have made some audio files available on Pacer online. Pacer customers can listen to digital recordings of hearings by selecting a docket entry with an audio icon from the Docket Report of a case. For the 12 month duration of the pilot project the fee for accessing the recordings is 8 cents in addition to the 8 cents per page of the Docket Report. If audio access becomes permanent, usage and cost information gathered during the pilot will be used to determine "an appropriate fee." You can read more here.
Hat tip: Kate Frey.

EPA announces more transparency in regulation

The EPA has announced that it is making federal environmental regulation more transparent by providing on-line information as soon as the agency begins the development of a new rule. Starting this week, the EPA is posting Action Initiation Lists
(AILs) on their website each month to notify the public about new rules & regulatory actions. These AILs describe actions that were approved for commencement during the month and provide summaries, agency contacts, and other information about the rules EPA has approved for development. For example, the March 2008 AIL announces the agency's plans to issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for greenhouse gases in late spring. This notice will solicit public input as EPA considers the specific effects of climate change and potential regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary and mobile sources under the Clean Air Act.

Google Earth 4.3 adds new features

New features on Google Earth have just been unveiled and show the increasing detail of information that Google is using to really map the earth (and sky).
The main new features:
  • You can see any earth scene in the lighting from any time of day

  • Street View, the actual photos that Google is taking of many cities, is integrated into Google Earth

  • Users can help Google build the "street view" of Google Earth - take a picture of your house (or other building), use Google Sketchup to turn it into a 3D image, send Google the 3D image and address and they will decide if they want to add it to Google Earth.

  • Here's a great little video from the Google Earth blogger illustrating some of these features; he also has more information and screenshots on the blog.

    Monday 14 April 2008

    How to use social bookmarking

    Here's a video that explains how to use social bookmarking to keep track of great websites - the video uses as its example but other social bookmarking sites (digg, reddit, StumbleUpon, etc.) work on similar principles.

    Sunday 13 April 2008

    Microsoft Vista annoyances deliberate

    Ars Technica has a report that Microsoft has admitted that Vista's seemingly endless stream of pop-ups, asking you to confirm this action or that action, was actually designed to annoy users. Microsoft's David Cross came out and said so: "The reason we put UAC into the platform was to annoy users. I'm serious." Apparently this is Microsoft's dunderheaded way to get software developers to adopt Microsoft's latest views on secure application installation and setup, but it comes at the expense of ... er.... "the user experience".

    Website rates quality of lawyers is a website that rates lawyers and tries to offer relevant information and "better guidance" than other ranking websites, according to co-founder Mark Britton. Avvo uses a mathematical algorithm that takes into account such factors as professional achievement and past disciplinary sanctions, as well as information gleaned from public records and firm Web sites, to rate lawyers a score between 1 and 10. Lawyers are rated and assigned labels ranging from "Superb" to "Extreme Caution," based on awards, publications, professional membership, even peer endorsements. Profiles of disbarred, inactive, even deceased lawyers going as far back as Abraham Lincoln (including a portrait and his authorship of the Emancipation Proclamation). The search function allows users to search lawyers by name, location, or legal practice area, and has a forum for questions and discussion.

    Saturday 12 April 2008

    Vote for Jurist!

    Congratulations to Jurist for receiving a well-deserved nomination for a Webby Award as best law website (IMHO there's nothing else comes even close!). Help Jurist win, vote on the Webby awards site:
    Go to and register to vote
    2. Once you register, an activation code will be sent to your email (check to make sure it's not misdirected to your "junk" folder)
    3. Log on to and click on "Website: Vote now"
    4. Scroll down to "Society" and click on the "Law" category
    5. Vote for JURIST!

    Rules of Thumb

    There's a new website called "Rules of Thumb" that collects and publishes rules of thumb. Like "MEASURING WITH A DOLLAR BILL: A US Dollar bill is 6 1/8" long. By folding back part of the margin of the bill or 1/8" you have a 6" long piece of paper. Folding this in half, thirds etc, you can easily measure 2", 3", 4" 6" et cetera very easily, and fairly accurately."
    It's searchable and seems to have rules for just about everything.

    Wednesday 9 April 2008

    Scalia on CSPAN this morning

    Justice Antonin Scalia will make a rare TV appearance on C-SPAN today (Wed. April 9 at 10 am) to participate in the Students and Leaders series. This is a series in which public officials "return to the classroom" to talk about leadership and their commitment to public service. Justice Scalia will answer questions from seniors from the Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, VA.

    UN, Google project maps refugees

    The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has developed a mapping project with Google Earth that highlights the location and movement of refugees around the world, according to a story in Technology Review. The maps are intended to aid humanitarian operations as well as help the public understand more about the millions of refugees who have fled their homes because of violence or hardship. Users can visit UNHCR's Google Earth maps website to see satellite images of refugee hot spots such as Darfur, Iraq and Colombia (if you don't have the Google Earth software installed on your computer you will need to do so). Information provided by the U.N. refugee agency explains where the refugees have come from and what problems they face.

    Monday 7 April 2008

    Section 108 Study Group makes report

    The Section 108 Study Group has issued a news release announcing that they've written a report recommending changes in the Copyright law to reflect digital technologies. Section 108 is the section of the Copyright Act that provides limited exceptions for libraries and archives so that they may make copies to replace copyrighted works in their collections when necessary, preserve them for the long term and make them available to users. The Section 108 Study Group was convened by the Library of Congress and by the U.S. Copyright Office to prepare findings and make recommendations for possible alterations Section 108 that reflect current technologies and strike the appropriate balance between copyright holders and libraries/archives to best serve the public interest. You can find the full report of the Section 108 Study Group (PDF) or the Executive Summary of the report (PDF) on their website.

    Pittsburgh couple sues Google over Street View

    A couple from Pittsburgh (Franklin Park) has sued Google because a photo of their house appeared on Google Street View.According to the Smoking Gunthey are demanding in excess of $25,000 to make up for the 'mental suffering' and the diminished value of their home. They live on a 'Private Road' and claim that putting a photo of their property online is an 'intentional and/or grossly reckless invasion' of their privacy. Google, on the other hand, claims that this lawsuit is pointless since anyone can ask them to have pictures removed without legal action.

    Sunday 6 April 2008

    Research at CMU in artificial intelligence

    The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a feature article today about a number of research projects in artificial intelligence underway at CMU. One interesting project has developed
    a program that guesses where a photo was taken based on other photos it has already seen. It compares your photo with a database of 6 million photos people have posted online with map coordinates and is quite successful at predicting where your photo was taken.

    Virtual Congressional hearing

    The House subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet (of the Committee on commerce and energy) held a hearing about "online virtual worlds" last Friday. The Washington Post story about the hearing tells us that all of the politicians in the hearing were virtual world neophytes and had a lot of basic questions. Philip Rosedale, founder of Linden Labs and Second Life, was there to answer questions and Second Life set up a virtual hearing for them to see. You can watch a video of the hearing here.

    Saturday 5 April 2008

    Caselaw for everyone

    Legal Technology has an interesting article about Carl Malamud, the guy who's committed to making US caselaw freely available online. The article describes in detail the battle he's waging with Thomson West. He wrote a letter to them saying, "Codes and cases are the very operating system of our nation of laws, and this system only works if we can all openly read the primary sources." Two weeks later, the Thomson deputy general counsel and Vice President replied, highlighting "three categories of original work in the Reporters that West believes are subject to copyright protection," and signaling Thomson's willingness to defend its copyrighted intellectual property.
    Interestingly, if lawsuits ensue, Malamud has friends and funding -backers like Silicon Valley philanthropists such as eBay founder Pierre Omidyar-and, more controversially, Google Inc.

    Friday 4 April 2008

    Dropping 23 Spots in US News : interview

    The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has an interview with Makau Mutua, the Dean of the University at Buffalo Law School, which dropped 23 spots - from 77 to 100 - in the US News law school rankings.

    2010 Census setback

    The Washington Times reports that the Census Bureau has had to scrap plans to use handheld computers for the 2010 Census and is reverting to a paper-based system, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez testified yesterday. According to his testimony, "problems have developed with the Field Data Collection Automation Program, or FDCA...a key component of the reengineered short-form 2010 Census." Gutierrez said reverting to a paper-based census is expected to increase the cost of the 2010 census by between $2.2 billion and $3 billion, mainly for additional personnel.
    In 2006, the Census Bureau awarded a $595 million contract to Harris Corp. to develop more than 525,000 handheld computers for enumerators to use to collect data from Americans who did not send in their census forms. The handhelds were to replace the millions of costly paper forms and maps that enumerators carry when going door to door. However, the project has experienced constant setbacks.

    GAO reports on the EPA libraries

    If you're interested in the on-going story about the closing and dismantling of EPA libraries last year, the GAO has issued two reports recently:
    Environmental Protection: EPA Needs to Follow Best Practices and Procedures When Reorganizing Its Library Network and
    Environmental Protection: EPA Needs to Ensure That Best Practices and Procedures Are Followed When Making Further Changes to Its Library Network.

    Thursday 3 April 2008

    U. Chicago Law turns off wireless in classrooms

    The news is all over the blogosphere: the Dean of U. Chicago law school emailed everyone to say that wireless will be turned off in classrooms beginning next quarter.
    For some law student commentary as well as an opinion poll on the topic visit Above the Law and the Big Law Board.

    Wednesday 2 April 2008

    IFLA initiates library project database

    The International Federation of Library Associations, IFLA, has set up a database of library achievements and projects called "Database of Libraries Success Stories". They invite libraries to add their achievements and projects to the database according to the categories:
    • Libraries as access points
    • Libraries as ICT learning centres

    • Libraries for continuing education

    • Libraries for specific needs

    • Libraries for cultural heritage

    IFLA would like the database to showcase the value of libraries to society, saying that "(the value) must become better known so that the funding agencies for the information society ... will become more aware of libraries’ achievements and the services they provide in making knowledge and information available".

    The database is not restricted to projects developed in one institution alone; the strength of libraries in the world today is to cooperate and network on all levels, local, regional, national and international and IFLA especially interested in project involving partnerships between advanced and emerging economies.

    Dr. Seuss says STOP

    The Onion has a new Dr. Seuss poem. Here's an excerpt:

    This must stop! This must end! Don't you see what you're doing?
    You're defiling the work I spent ages accruing.
    And when it's dried up and you've sucked out your pay
    There'll be no going back to a simpler day,

    When your mom would give Horton a voice extra deep,
    And turn the last page as you drifted to sleep.
    Instead you'll have boxed sets, s*** movies, and… well,
    You'll have plenty to watch while you're burning in h***

    New JSTOR platform

    JSTOR has sent around an announcement to everyone who's been involved in the beta testing that the new JSTOR platform will be launched on Friday April 4 beginning around 7 am and continuing throughout the day. There shouldn't be any interruptions or downtime during the transition. Some highlights:
    • “MyJSTOR” is the first step in providing greater personal customization for users throughout the site.
    • Searches from an individual session are saved and can be rerun from a dropdown menu at the bottom of the search forms.
    • Basic searches, which search the full-text of all journals, can be entered directly from the home page by authorized users and can be limited by discipline.
    • Advanced Search now has proximity searching using NEAR 5, NEAR 10, & NEAR 25 operators in Boolean pull-down menus.
    • The “Images in JSTOR” and “Images in ARTstor” tabs appear in the results from all search forms.
    • The new Publication Information Pages include a journal description, holdings information, cataloging information, and a list of browsable volumes, arranged in 10-year segments.
    JSTOR is offering webinars later this month on several different dates- you can sign up for these webinars in the Sandbox . The topics of the webinars are "Highlights of the New JSTOR Interface" and "Using the JSTOR Interface."

    Tuesday 1 April 2008

    Shining the light on politicians

    The Sunlight Foundation blog, SunSpots, reports that the MAPLight (creator of the great Presidential Money Race Widget) and and Congresspedia, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy and Sunlight, have joined forces to bring their data together so you can learn more about members of Congress all in one place. The partnership allows you to access background and source information as well as money in politics information on a legislator. For example, here's PA Sen. Robert Casey on Maplight, showing where he gets his money. If you click on the Congresspedia tab you can get complete background information on the Senator: biography, voting record, etc.
    Hat tip: Emily Feldman at the AALL Washington Blawg.

    Yahoo launches internet site for women

    Yahoo has launched a new web portal targeted at female internet surfers. Shine offers nine categories ranging from to Parenting to Work and Money to Love and Sex and syndicates material from popular female lifestyle publishers including Conde Nast and Hearst. The site is aimed at roughly 40 million women between the ages of 25 and 54, a demographic highly appealing to advertisers.
    Yahoo's media strategy has been to create consolidated thematic sites designed to appeal to mass audiences. They have hired an editorial team to publish original stories on a daily basis as well as to select user blog posts to feature prominently on the site. Shine also offers items from existing Yahoo sites covering food, astrology and health.

    Great new gadget: USB wine

    It's the latest must-have for geeks.