Sunday 30 November 2008

Censoring the internet

The magazine section of the Sunday New York Times today had an interesting article entitled "Google's Gatekeepers: Censooooooor?" that looks at how Google deals with censorship on the internet. The article discusses how Google - or specifically, a few people at Google - exercises extraordinary power over global speech online. A number of specific incidents both in foreign countries and the US, where Google (which also owns YouTube) decided to remove content, are presented.

Withdrawal Agreement Between US and Iraq

The New York Times has posted a copy (18 page pdf) of the "Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq" on its website.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Billing Wexis expenses recently published astory that a federal judge has awarded more than $31.5 million to class-action lawyers who spent eight years battling The Coca-Cola Co. over whether it artificially inflated revenue figures to boost stock prices. However, note that in his order, Judge Willis B. Hunt Jr. reduced and disallowed a number of charges submitted by the class action lawyers. One of the expenses he disallows is the $93,960.67 in "Lexis,Westlaw, Online Library Research" charges submitted. He says "This Court is of the opinion that charging separately for use of a research service is akin to charging for the useof a caselaw reporter. That is,the research service is a tool, much like a computer or a pen, and this Court considers the use of such a service part of a firm's overhead... computer-aided research, like any other form of legal research, is a component of attorneys' fees and cannot be independently taxed as an item of cost in addition to theattorneys' fee award... Moreover, this Court is aware that many firms pay a flat rate to Lexis and Westlaw regardless of their usage, and class counsel cannot claim such flat rate payments as an out-of-pocket expense." He cites Leftwich v. Harris-Stowe State College, 702F.2d 686,695 (8thCir. 1983). In that case, the opinion states "(an) exception is the court's award of $145.89 for Lexis research. We believe that computer-aided research, like any other form of legal research, is a component of attorneys' fees and cannot be independently taxed as an item of cost in addition to the attorneys' fee award the district court granted Leftwich. Accordingly, we vacate that portion of the district court's cost award relating to Lexis research."
The case, from the US District Court for the northern district of Georgia, is Carpenters Health & Welfare Fund, et al vs. The Coca Cola Company etal. FILE NO.: 1:00-CV-2838-WBH.

ULS website will be unavailable

ULS has announced that their website will be unavailable on Tues. Dec. 16 and Weds. Dec. 17. They suggest we use PITTCat Classic ( ) during this time to access databases, ejournals, and other electronic resources.

Friday 21 November 2008

Friday fun: lame blogs

PC World has announced the top 11 lamest blogs (Barco 2.0 did NOT make the list, hurray), including the lamest corporate blog (Jack in the Box) and the lamest celebrity blog (Kim Kardashian) and the Lamest Exclusion of Relevant Information in a Blog (Ted Stevens for Senate).

Thursday 20 November 2008

LIFE archive added to Google images

Google has announced the LIFE photo archive, a collection of images photographed by LIFE Magazine photographers and newly digitized by Google. The collection which has been added to Google’s Image Search consists of approximately 10 million photos dating back to the 1850’s, of which about 20% has been digitized so far with the rest expected to be added over the next few months. The archive includes many iconic images from throughout the 20th century taken by famous photographers like Gordon Parks, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White, and Dorothea Lange.

Russian children playing the "butterfly game."
Location: Moscow, Russia
Date taken: 1941
Photographer: Margaret Bourke-White

Federal Housing Administration wiki

The FHA has launched a wiki - which it calls both a "wiki" and a "wikipedia" - for people and organizations who have a desire or need to understand and use FHA's products. It contains lots of useful information for homeowners and homebuyers, though it is disarmingly amateurish-looking. And you have to have a username and password to actually edit the wiki.

Start-up hopes to improve patent quality

A new company called Article One Partners offers an online community to test the validity of approved patents. Article One, which launched this week, hopes to use the Internet to create a global community of experts to review patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The idea is to tap the wisdom of the online masses to unearth "prior art" — evidence that an invention is not novel and therefore doesn't deserve a patent — that the Patent Office may not have known about when it approved the application. They will pay contributors up to $50,000 if they provide evidence that invalidates a patent.
Here is an interview with patent attorney Cheryl Milone, the founder and CEO of Article One Partners.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Can you delete your digital past?

Computerworld had a very interesting article "Deleting your digital past - for good" about how you might go about taking down online information that you don't want to be available. As you might expect, it's not easy. The article offers three scenarios of people who don't want certain information to remain on the internet -and only one can definitely be fixed.
A whole industry known as "online reputation management" has grown up around helping individual clients and corporate clients suppress negative information online by creating more positive and search-engine-friendly postings.

Ellen Barshevsky

If you follow the ABA news blawg you know that when Ellen Barshevsky comments on a post she ummm excites a lot of people. Yesterday the ABA blawg formally banned Ellen Barshevsky from posting any more comments: "Specifically, we have tolerated for some time, often to the delight, but increasingly more often to the dismay of our regular readers, what we can only assume is the fictional “Ellen Barshevsky” and her various personas. As of this morning, “Ellen” has formally been banned from commenting on the site." So this morning it was good to read the blawg post "Ellen has her own blawg". Yes "she" does, and she sounds just the same.

New website for disaster victims

A new website, Disaster Legal Services, has been launched by four national legal organizations to provide information for victims of disasters to help in recovery from hurricanes, fires, floods or other disasters. The site is sponsored by the American Bar Association, Legal Services Corporation, National Legal Aid & Defender Association and Pro Bono Net. The site has information for people who need help as well as lawyers who want to volunteer to help them.
Hat tip: beSpacific

Online education

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting article that discusses some of the challenges faced by higher education administrators and faculty as the popularity of online courses grows. According to the article, one in five college students took an online course last year and "that demand is beginning to be felt at institutions with growing online enrollments, whether or not their faculty are willing to go along for the ride. “[E]ither they have enough of a subset of their faculty who do believe in it, or they’re moving outside their institutions” to staff online courses".

President-Elect Obama on EPA libraries

President-Elect Barack Obama has written a letter (pdf) to John Gage, President of the AFGE, expressing his support of the EPA. He says "I strongly oppose attempts by the Bush Administration to thwart publication of EPA researchers' scientific findings, as well as the attempt to eliminate the agency's library system."

New website for service members and veterans

The U.S. Department of Defense has launched a new website called the National Resource Directory with information about services and resources for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans, their families and families of the fallen, and those who support them from recovery and rehabilitation to community reintegration. It is well-organized and has a wealth of information including links to the services and resources of federal, state and local governmental agencies; veterans service and benefit organizations; non-profit community-based and faith-based organizations; and academic institutions, professional associations and philanthropic organizations.

Monday 17 November 2008

Wiki government

There are two new websites that invite people to make policy proposals for President-Elect Obama and then vote on them. The basic premise is that if Wikipedia basically works, why not use distributed Web contributors to decide how to run the free world, too? The first of these, The Whitehouse 2 was launched a few days ago by Jim Gilliam. The idea is that if enough people get involved in supporting causes Washington can't ignore it.
The second, Obama CTO, tees off on one of the planks in Obama's technology platform: creating the position of a national Chief Technology Officer. The new site, from the founders of FrontSeat, a platform for civic participation, invites people to suggest top priorities for the job.
President-Elect Obama has also announced that he will record his weekly address as a YouTube video to be posted at

Friday 14 November 2008

What does the Google book deal mean for libraries?

The Association of Research Libraries has posted a 23-page analysis “A Guide for the Perplexed,” designed to help libraries figure out what the deal Google recently reached with publishers and authors over its Book Search program means for them. Prepared by Jonathan Band, a copyright expert who advises the library association on intellectual-property issues, the guide lays out the basic framework of the settlement in ways that non-librarians may also find useful.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

New Federal Digitization Guidelines Working Groups

The November LOC newsletter has details about a new government collaboration to develop a common set of digitization practices and guidelines. Two working groups have been formed to deal with different types of formats: a still-image working group will establish appropriate guidelines for the scanning of text, maps, photographic prints and negatives; and an audiovisual working group will set standards for digitizing audiovisual materials—sound recordings, videos and film. The website also has a glossary of digitization terms.

New Berkeley Law Library expected to rate LEED Gold certification

Marketwatch reports that UC Berkeley law school has broken ground on a major expansion of its law library and programmatic space but has managed to keep the expansion within a modest footprint by placing two of the three building levels below ground. The new addition will house highly efficient library stack space and a combination of reading rooms, seminar spaces, computer labs, library staff offices, and collection services in two light-filled underground levels. The architects will integrate sustainable features into many aspects of the design to help meet a goal of LEED Gold certification for the new structure.

Monday 10 November 2008

50 best inventions of 2008

A story in Computer World points to Time Magazine's recently released list of the top 50 inventions of 2008. Topping the list is the $400 genetic test from "23 and me" (which we've blogged about). Other inventions on the list: Samsung's Touch Sight camera for the blind; the invisibility cloak (drat, not for sale yet); smog-eating cement; Hulu; the Time Eater clock (depicting time as a wave) unveiled by Stephen Hawking; Google's Floating Data Center (see the patent application); and sound-enhanced food.

President-elect Obama's transition website

President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has launched, a website that includes a presidential blog and links to explanations of Obama's policy initiatives, alphabetically organized, and a prominent link to his acceptance speech in Chicago. The site projects an aura of openness: it includes a section called "Open Government" that, for now, invites visitors to click away and send thoughts and personal election-day stories. When you visit, you must submit your e-mail address, allowing Obama's team to continue bolstering the already vast e-mail database, described as the largest ever marshaled in U.S. political history. The new site was built by Blue State Digital, the startup that created candidate Obama's highly effective online social-networking presence.

Digital scholarship study from the ARL

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education has a story about a new report on the current status of digital scholarship, "Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication," from the Association of Research Libraries. The final report identifies eight principal types of digital scholarly resources:
  1. E-only journals Reviews
  2. Preprints and working papers
  3. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and annotated content
  4. Data
  5. Blogs
  6. Discussion forums (listservs, message boards)
  7. Professional and scholarly hubs

The report profiles each of these eight types of resources and discusses how and why faculty reported using the resources for their work, how content is selected for the site, and what sustainability strategies the resources are employing. The Appendices provide links to examples of digital scholarship.
The report discusses several ways that librarians can play a central role in sharing information about these digital resources with the campus community, and in guiding new projects toward success. The report also concludes that "field team" methodology used in the study was highly successful at gathering good information and is something ARL will continue to develop.

Federal Reserve site has Dynamic maps of Bank Card and Mortgage Delinquencies in the US

The Federal Reserve System is revamping their site with new information because of the current financial crisis. The Foreclosure Resource Center has lots of information for communities, policymakers and other organizations involved in assisting distressed homeowners. One interesting page is the Dynamic maps of Bank Card and Mortgage Delinquencies in the United States which lets you quickly see data on delinquent credit card payments and delinquent mortgages in any county in the US. Another dynamic map shows conditions and density of owner-occupied subprime mortgage loans for the states, counties and zip codes in the United States.
There is also a notice that the Statistical Supplement to the Federal Reserve Bulletin will cease both online and print versions with the Dec. 2008 publication.

Friday 7 November 2008

Faust 2.0: the Devil and the End User License Agreement

From xkcd, a Creative Commons comic. 

GAO's 13 urgent issues for the new administration

The General Accountability Office (GAO) has launched a new transition website intended to help make the transition an informed and smooth one.  The 13 urgent issues they identified are as follows and are (in alphabetic order, not priority order): 
* Caring for Service Members 
* Defense Readiness 
* Defense Spending 
* Food Safety 
* Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan 
* Oversight of Financial Institutions and Markets 
* Preparing for Large-Scale Health Emergencies 
* Protecting the Homeland 
* Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting 
* Retirement of the Space Shuttle 
* Surface Transportation 
* The 2010 Census 
* Transition to Digital TV 

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Firefox extension hyperlinks legal citations in webpages

If you use Firefox as your browser, Jureeka! is a new Firefox extention that claims to transform legal citations in web pages into hyperlinks that point to online source material. Another law librarian recommended it so I've added it to my browser and I'll try it out. According to the blurb, "Its handy toolbar also allows you to search for source material by legal citation and to find HTML versions of PDF pages. Jureeka! is great for quickly locating statutes, case law, regulations, federal court rules, international law sources, and more. It weaves together a host of law sources into a giant mesh."

Westlaw: I didn't know this

I've been using Westlaw Watch to build links into Westlaw, but now there's a feature on the new customizable Westlaw That makes it super easy to build a links to documents, search results, KeyCite results, databases or Brief It documents. It also lets you build searchboxes (for your blog or website) to find a document by citation (see example to the right), KeyCite a citation, search a database, find a database, or run Brief It on a citation. Very nice.

Headlines around the world

On this historic day, check out the newspaper front pages from around the world at the Newseum.
hat tip: Elizabeth Farrell at FSU Law.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

International Law Video Library

The International Law Video Library is an interactive library of material for those interested in seeing video clips of well-known persons in the field of international law as well as visiting sites of importance to the study of international law. It also contains the Human Rights Video Library which has video holdings of interviews with leading commentators and practitioners in the field of international human rights and video clips of visits to various sites which provide insights into the manner in which international human rights law functions.

Senate hearings, published or not

Librarian Jack McGeachy maintains the U.S. Congressional Bibliographies website at NC State where he compiles extensive information about Congressional hearings and their publication status. He has just released the "Statistical Report Card" that identifies Senate unprinted hearings from 2003 (108th Congress, 1st session). There is a list of specific titles of 2003 Senate hearings that remain unprinted, and unavailable to researchers and the general public. The report contains summary statistical data for each Senate committee on the number of Hearings held, and the numbers of Hearings printed and unprinted by the Government Printing Office. Each committee is then given a numerical grade that represents how well each committee informs the nation of its activities by publishing transcripts of its Hearings.