Tuesday 31 March 2009

Google: saving us from our idiot selves

Slate has an article about what they call "Gmail's embarrassment reduction pack", several new features in Gmail that help us fix common mistakes made in email we send. The most recent is the "undo send" feature that gives you five seconds after you've hit "send" during which you can pull back the email and edit, delete, etc. Gmail also has a "mail goggles " feature you can choose to use - this requires you to answer math questions before sending late-night mail on the weekends, and a "forgotten attachment detector." The final element of the embarrassment-reduction pack is a built-in Gmail feature that signals when the message thread that you're reading has been updated which Slate says theoretically prevents you from being the fourth person to drop the same witticism in an officewide e-mail jokefest.

Social Media for law firms and lawyers

A marketer who specializes in law firm marketing has posted a short and simple slideshow online that explains how lawyers can use social media to reach out and market themselves. It provides simple explanations and suggests Best Practices for using such social media as blogging, podcasting, and social networks.

hat tip: Slaw

EU warns internet sites about rights of users

Technology Review reports that Meglena Kuneva, the European Union's commissioner in charge of consumer rights, is warning internet site operators that they should better protect users. The European Commission is concerned that data being collected from personal profiles on social networking, search engine or other sites are increasingly being used for commercial purposes at the expense of privacy and consumer rights. The EU is calling on Web site operators to adhere to basic consumer rights to prevent deceiving, misleading or imposing excessive pressure on users to sign up to certain services or to buy products.

Social media for law schools

A blogger called "Social Media Law Student" is actively encouraging her law school to "get real" about social media. In posts Part 1 and Part 2 she talks about how her law school warned students to be very careful about blogging, facebook, etc. - yet she knew from experience that participating in Twitter and commenting on blawgs is a good way to meet people in law and to learn about the field. So she emailed a Dean about how useful social media can be - and is now working with the Dean to develop a "Best Practices" guide for social media in law schools.

Google books to be available for Sony ebook reader

The Washington Post reports that Google and Sony have teamed up to take on Amazon's Kindle electronic book reader. Google is going to provide Sony with some 500,000 copyright-expired titles for its e-book Reader, with benefits to both companies. Sony can claim that it has a much-larger library and is more "open" because of its open platform; Google will get prime placement at the Sony eBook store and publicity for the Google Book Search project.

Monday 30 March 2009

UN v. Free Speech?

The Associated Press reports that on Friday the U.N.'s top human rights body approved a proposal by Muslim nations urging all nations to pass laws that limit criticism of religion. Members of the Human Rights Council voted 23 in favor of a resolution Thursday to combat "defamation of religion." Eleven nations, mostly from the West, opposed the resolution and 13 countries abstained.

The academic library of the future

The Chronicle of HIgher Education Review has an article titled "Humanists must plan their digital future" that discusses the future of academic libraries. It begins by talking about Stanford University and its "highly fraught" process of making decisions about campus libraries. A 2007 preliminary proposal to tear down the seismically unsafe Meyer Library and digitize and house off-campus most of its 600,000 volumes produced a cry of protest. Then last fall a faculty committee proposed its own plan for rethinking the library. The article's author writes a long and well-thought-out discussion of the issues facing academic libraries that she characterizes as "a national crisis". Her main argument is that as libraries are redesigned to make use of electronic resources it is important for scholars - the faculty who are using these resources - to realize that they must become involved in the process and the design.

What happens if websites change their terms?

Technology Review has a story about Kodak's online photo service, Kodak Gallery. Apparently they used to provide free storage of photos but this recently changed. Someone who had photos stored on their service got an email from them saying that Kodak will delete her picture albums unless she spends at least $4.99 by May 16 and every year thereafter on prints and other products. That's the new rule for people whose photos take up less than 2 gigabytes of space on Kodak's servers -- enough for around 2,000 1-megabyte photos. And customers who signed up under the old rules won't be given a pass. Kodak's decision to change its policies illustrates the risks people face as they increasingly rely on privately run services to handle their digital memories and communications. These services often state in the fine print that they can change the rules at any time, and users have little recourse when they do.

Polling in the classroom

The audience response systems known as "Clickers" have become increasingly popular as learning tools in large classrooms. The only drawback is that you have to purchase the technology - the transmitter and the individual clickers for each student. Now there has been some move toward developing a lower-cost alternative by using cellphones as clickers. The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog wrote about an iPhone app that can be used in the same way as clickers, and cellphones in learning has a post - as does e-learning acupuncture blogpost - about a company called Poll Everywhere that provides an Audience Response System by using text messaging on a cellphone instead of clickers. It is free for using with an audience of 30 or fewer, larger audiences require subscriptions.

Friday 27 March 2009

YouTube EDU has university lectures

Lifehacker reports that YouTube has created a sub-site called YouTube EDU that aggregates thousands of free lectures from over a hundred universities across the country, including MIT, Yale, the Culinary Institute of America and CMU. There is a directory containing an alphabetical list of the schools so you can browse their offerings. The one law school currently on the list is the USC Gould School of Law.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Flipping the bird is protected in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports , and Legal Blog Watch has picked up the story, that a Pittsburgh judge has ruled that flipping the bird is protected speech under the First Amendment. U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone made the ruling in a case involving a traffic dispute in Squirrel Hill. Apparently David Hackbart of Regent Square was trying to parallel park on Murray Ave. when another driver pulled up in front of the parking space so he couldn't back in. Hackman "angrily displayed his middle finger" to the other driver then displayed the same gesture to Officer Brian Elledge, who told Hackbart to stop.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

US Attorney General in Madoff case goofs

MSNBC recently published documents that the US Attorney General for the Southern District of NY submitted to Judge Denny Chin regarding the Bernard Madoff case. The documents include many letters and emails from Madoff victims asking Justice Denny Chin to punish him to the fullest extent of the law; presumably the Attorney General wants Madoff's victims to be heard. But Talking Points memo points out that on page 36 of the first 96 page pdf there is an email from someone who may not actually be a Madoff victim; it's a Nigerian scam email (well, technically it's from the Congo, but still.)
Wonder who put the emails together.

New Mexico repeals the death penalty

On March 19 Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico, signed into law a repeal of the death penalty in that state. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers published his remarks , in which he gives a well-expressed and well-supported explanation of his decision to sign the law.

hat tip: Karen Shephard

National Law Journal and Legal Times are merging

The Legal Times, which has reported on the D.C. legal and lobbying communities since 1978, reports on their blog that they are merging with the National Law Journal. The combined publication will focus on national legal news, with a special emphasis on Washington, and it will carry the name The National Law Journal. It will publish continuously on the Web and weekly in print, with the first combined print edition expected in May. A redesign of its Web site is planned in the next several months.

hat tip: LLSDC

PACER is down

The Washington DC area law librarians are reporting that PACER is down this morning.

Monday 23 March 2009

Former Duquesne Law Dean takes new job

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has a story that former Duquesne Law dean Don Guter has accepted a job as dean of South Texas College of Law. Mr. Guter's abrupt removal as dean of Duquesne Law was controversial.

hat tip: Prof. Rhonda Wasserman

U. Michigan Press to go 100% digital

Inside Higher Education reports that within two years, officials at the University of Michigan Press expect well over 50 of the 60-plus scholarly monographs that the press publishes each year to be released only in digital editions. Readers will still be able to use print-on-demand systems to produce versions that can be held in their hands, but the digital monograph will be the norm. Michigan officials say that their move reflects a belief that it's time to stop trying to make the old economics of scholarly publishing work.

Many UK government databases flawed

Blogzilla, in a post titled "Database State", points to a new Report (67 page pdf) published by the British Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. The report assesses 46 databases across major government departments in the United Kingdom. Some of the findings are sobering:
  • A quarter of the databases are almost certainly illegal under human rights and privacy laws.

  • More than half the databases have significant problems with privacy or effectiveness and could fail a legal challenge.

  • Fewer than 15% are "effective, proportionate and necessary, with a proper legal basis for privacy intrusions".

  • Data is increasingly centralized and shared between health and human services, local governments, police, schools and "the taxman".

  • Only about 30% of government IT projects succeed, yet the government plans to spend over 100 billion pounds on such projects in the next 5 years.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Search images in Google by predominant color

Google Blogoscoped reports that Google Image search can now be restricted to return results of a specific color. The choice is available on the Advanced image search form.

Sunday 15 March 2009

audio of RIAA arguments against streaming will be streamed

Slashdot has a story about the 1st Circuit case SONY BMG Music v. Tenenbaum - in which the district court recently ruled that an oral argument about the constitutionality of statutory damages could be streamed. The RIAA has been fighting the streaming rule with a petition for 'mandamus or prohibition' in the appeals court, which is opposed by the press. Oddly enough, it seems that audio of the appeals court's oral argument about the streaming will itself be recorded and then streamed. The blog "Recording Industry vs the People" thoughtfully provides links to all the documents in the case.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Stop the annoying Windows restart prompt

Each time Microsoft sends out a new "service pack" for Windows - with improvements or repairs for your computer's operating system - your computer will badger you with an annoying popup announcement. It says something like "important updates have been installed on your computer but you have to restart it for them to work, so do you want to restart your computer? Huh huh huh do you do you do you? Or not?" (I'm paraphrasing). In my case, this usually happens when I'm right in the middle of something and the popup keeps badgering me every 10 minutes or so, interrupting my work and driving me crazy. Well here's how to make it stop. Go to your "Start" menu in the lower lefthand corner of your computer screen. Click on "Run" and then, when a little popup window window appears, type "cmd" into the box and click OK. A strange black box will appear on your screen. Type "sc stop suauserv" and hit the Enter key. The black box will go away and the popups will stop.
Don't worry, when you turn your computer off at the end of the day the service pack installation will be completed for the next time you reboot.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Testing "lawyerly talent"

The New York Times has an interesting story today about a study at the University of California, Berkeley, that looked at traits that a "good lawyer" should have. To find out what applicant traits should figure in admissions decisions at law schools, they coordinated individual interviews, focus groups and finally a survey of judges, law school professors, law firm clients and hundreds of graduates of Berkeley’s law school. Their survey produced a list of 26 characteristics, or “effectiveness factors,” like the ability to write, manage stress, listen, research the law and solve problems. The professors then collected examples from the Berkeley alumni of specific behavior by lawyers that were considered more or less effective. Using the test, the researchers developed a test that could be administered to law school applicants to measure their raw lawyerly talent.

Support free blogging

BoingBoing has a post about bloggers in Italy asking for support to help fight an initiative to require Italian bloggers to register with, and be licensed by, the state.

Friday 6 March 2009

Online social networking and criminal law practice

Over on LLRX, law librarian and criminal defense attorney Ken Strutin has compiled an interesting bibliography of information resources about online "social networking" and criminal law practice. He provides links to articles and websites that explain basic concepts of what social networking is, the materials that can be found on profiling sites for investigation and their impact on criminal litigation. According to Mr. Strutin, "the activities of users and the information being posted on these sites are having wide ranging effects on the administration of justice, law enforcement investigation, prosecution and defense."

Housing foreclosures most severe in just a few areas of the US

USA Today has a lead story on how housing foreclosures helped to trigger the current financial crisis, but it adds that housing foreclosures in the US are mostly located in just 35 counties in 12 states and that "the financial crisis devastating the national economy may have begun with collapsing home loans in only a few corners of the country". The story includes an interactive map providing a county-by-county analysis and a map of the United States that shows states where foreclosures have been highest.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

New legislation to amend patent law

Yesterday bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 515) and House of Representatives (H.R.1260 ) to amend Title 35 of the U.S. Code, "to provide for patent reform". According to a story in Techworld, the legislation is intended to stimulate innovation and would change the way the US Patent and Trademark Office works, bring US patent law in line with global laws, and introduce "reasonable royalty" provisions, which change the way damages are calculated and would reduce the likelihood of massive payouts for some patent holders.

Financial stimulus plans in other countries

The Law Library of Congress has just published online Financial Stimulus Plans: Recent Developments in Selected Countries, a series of reports summarizing the recent developments in the proposal or implementation of financial and economic stimulus packages in a selection of foreign countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. The purpose of the reports, according to the LLoC, is "to help bring a comparative and global perspective to our understanding of the formulation, implementation, and ultimate impact of the current $789 billion U.S economic stimulus bill."

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Social networking at library conference

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog has a story that will warm the cockles of cybrarian hearts. The post reports on last week’s WebWise Conference on Libraries and Museums in the Digital Age, where social networking tools were used to full advantage. Michael Edson, director of digital media strategy at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, told the conference attendees that who said in a presentation that “tomorrow’s scholars” will use social networking to full advantage and “the future of knowledge creation is about putting it out there and building it collaboratively.”

PACER under scrutiny

Wired has an interesting article about PACER, the information system for the US federal courts. Senator Joseph Lieberman, chair of the Senate's Government Affairs Committee, has written a letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States asking Judge Lee H. Rosenthal to explain why in the age of Google the PACER isn't free for citizens. He also asks about the problem that was pointed out recently by Public Resource dot Org founder Carl Malamud - many documents aren't redacted where they should be, and sensitive information is available. Carl Malamud is running a campaign to become the nation's public printer.

Sunday 1 March 2009

HeinOnline is now compatible with Zotero

HeinOnline has announced in a blogpost that Zotero is now compatible with HeinOnline's Law Journal Library. Users are able to bookmark articles directly from a search results list in HeinOnline, or when viewing the pages of an article. Zotero "is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources." If you use Firefox as your internet browser and do a lot of research and writing take some time to explore Zotero.

Internet Exceptionalism

Inform IT has published an online article by Eric Goldman, Assistant Professor of Law at Santa Clara University School of Law and Director of the school's High Tech Law Institute, entitled The Third Wave of Internet Exceptionalism . In it he discusses "internet exceptionalism", internet-specific laws that diverge from regulatory precedents in other media. In 1996, a judge called the Internet "a unique and wholly new medium of worldwide human communication." Predicated on this perceived novelty, regulators have enacted many Internet-specific laws that Although Internet exceptionalism can be appropriate, it also can produce bad regulation when the Internet's differences are overstated. sense.

Amazon's Kindle 2 runs afoul of the Authors Guild

Last week Amazon released the much-awaited Kindle 2 ebook reader (and more) with a built-in text-to-speech feature that Amazon kept secret. Now CNET reports that the Authors Guild has claimed text-to-speech created a derivative work and violated copyright. Paul Aiken, the guild's president said many publishers were also angered over the speech function, adding that Amazon never consulted beforehand with either of those groups. Amazon responded Friday by handing publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech feature on any title they choose.