Sunday 31 May 2009

Web 3.0 explained

If you're just getting comfortable with the concept of Web 2.0, hold onto your hats because Web 3.0 is here.  But not to worry, Amit Agarwal explains the differences between Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 in plain english on his Digital Information blog. He says: "Web 1.0 - That Geocities & Hotmail era was all about read-only content and static HTML websites. People preferred navigating the web through link directories of Yahoo! and dmoz.

Web 2.0 - This is about user-generated content and the read-write web. People are consuming as well as contributing information through blogs or sites like Flickr, YouTube, Digg, etc. The line dividing a consumer and content publisher is increasingly getting blurred in the Web 2.0 era.

Web 3.0 - This will be about semantic web (or the meaning of data), personalization (e.g. iGoogle), intelligent search and behavioral advertising among other things."

Digital Rights Management empirical study

Ars Technica reports on a study (208 page pdf) by Cambridge law professor Patricia Akester entitled "Technological accommodation of conflicts between freedom of expression and DRM: the first empirical assessment." Prof. Akester was awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship to undertake a project looking at the impact of technological measures on the ability of users to take advantage of the statutory exceptions to copyright. She spent several years interviewing dozens of lecturers, end users, government officials, rightsholders, and DRM developers to find how DRM and anticircumvention laws affected actual use. She found that DRM actually persuades citizens to infringe copyright and circumvent authors' protections. Prof. Akester published a summary of her findings on Intellectual Property Watch. Ars Technica describes her findings as "DRM is so rage-inducing, even to ordinary, legal users of content, that it can even drive the blind to download illegal electronic Bibles."

Consumer's Guide to Intelligence

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has just posted its latest update to the Consumer's Guide to Intelligence. According to the introduction, " In order to enhance our relationships, it is important for consumers to understand the mission, background, opportunities, and challenges facing the Intelligence Community (IC). We have published this handbook with this very thought in mind—to broaden your understanding of our work and to help us become stronger partners in protecting our Nation. The "National Intelligence: A Consumer's Guide" (114 page pdf) gives a thorough overview of the Intelligence Community and intelligence process and has lots of information about all the federal organizations, agencies and departments involved in gathering intelligence, from the National Clandestine Service (NCS) to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMDD). It includes a glossary of intelligence terms and long list of acronyms and abbreviations.

Cyberspace policy review

The Obama Administration has released the results of its cyberspace policy review in a document entitled "Cyberspace Policy Review: Assuring a Trusted and Resilient Information and Communications Infrastructure" (76 page pdf). Additional items that may be of interest: A list of all the documents consulted during the policy review, a White House fact sheet on the policy review including a list of participants at the White House briefing, and "Securing Our Digital Future - Remarks" by Melissa Hathaway, Cybersecurity Chief at the National Security Council.

Friday 29 May 2009

Bill tracking for states legislatures

The AALL Government Relations Committee has created a page on their website devoted to Bill Tracking in state legislatures. It has links to state sites where you can track bills for that state. It also includes information about the dates of state legislative sessions.

Friday fun: Electronic Frontier Foundation and fair use parody

Brad Templeton, chairman of the EFF, made his own parody using Downfall footage; he explains it on his blog.

Thursday 28 May 2009

G20 Summit to be held in Pittsburgh

The Associated Press reports that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today announced that Pittsburgh will be hosting the G20 Summit on Sept. 24 & 25, 2009. The summit is a gathering of the leaders of the top economies of the world representing 85 percent of the world's production and 80 percent of the world's trade.
Why Pittsburgh? The Wall Street Journal economics blog explains that this is the approach often followed by the Group of Eight, the organization of big industrialized countries, whose summits have been used as an economic development tool and as a way to bring businesses to cities outside the host nation’s capital.

hat tip: Karen Shephard

3 new legal ejournals on SSRN

Three new legal subject matter ejournals have been added to SSRN:
1. Animal Law, sponsored by the Syracuse University College of Law, provides a forum for posting both completed works and works in progress on legal, policy, and jurisprudential issues relating to animals.It includes within its scope wildlife, domestic animals, and farm animals. Subject matter includes, but is not limited to, torts, tax, public heath, family law, commercial transactions, contracts, agricultural law, law and rhetoric, international business transactions and international trade, constitutional law, criminal law, property, insurance, estates and trusts, comparative law, foreign law, or other areas of the law, as they relate to animals. They welcome abstracts on practice, theory, and empirical research as related to the topic.
2. Energy Law & Policy, sponsored by the Institute for Energy and the Environment at the Vermont Law School, will publish abstracts, working and policy papers, forthcoming articles, and recently published articles dealing with the production, transmission, distribution, conservation, and use of energy, as well as the environmental and social implications of these issues, both in the U.S. and internationally. The journal will discuss questions related to electricity, heating and cooling in both residential and commercial settings, the transportation sector, and energy policy as it relates to industry and economic activity generally. Although the primary focus of the journal is law, materials will also be published that focus on economics, engineering, finance, and the social sciences when they affect the development of energy-related law and policy.
3. Natural Resources Law & Policy, sponsored by the Environmental Law Center at the Vermont Law School, will publish abstracts, working and policy papers, forthcoming articles, and recently published articles dealing with the regulation, management, and distribution of natural resources. The journal will discuss a diverse array of natural resource topics such as public and private land use, wildlife and biodiversity, forest protection, mineral rights, parks and wilderness, the public trust doctrine, water and wetlands, and tribal lands and resources.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Internet privacy webcast: Gmail users beware

Yesterday the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard had a very interesting lunchtime webcast with Christopher Soghoian on the topic Caught in the Cloud: Privacy, Encryption, and Government Back Doors in the Web 2.0 Era. Mr. Soghoian, a Berkman Center fellow, spoke for over an hour about internet privacy, especially the privacy of all sorts of personal information.  The vast majority of Internet users still transmit their own personal information over networks without any form of encryption and the rapid shift to cloud computing exposes end-users to an increased risk of privacy invasion and fraud by hackers. He argued that this increased risk is primarily a result of cost-motivated design decisions on the part of the cloud providers (he especially pointed the finger at Google), who have repeatedly opted to forgo strong security solutions already in widespread use by other Internet services. 
If you would like to see the webcast it is available as video and/or audio on the Berkman website
If you don't have the time or inclination to view the whole webcast, here's one important tip Mr. Soghoian gave to anyone who uses Google's gmail:  Go into your Gmail account. Click on "Settings".  Scroll down to the bottom of the page.  In the box that says "Browser connection" click "Always use https" ; https is a secure protocol that provides authenticated and encrypted communication.  
Mr. Soghoian argued that Google should automatically make all Gmail secure, but that they don't because it's expensive for them to do so. 

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Technology news in the NY Times

The New York Times had a trifecta of interesting technology articles today: 
1. Texting May Be Taking a Toll is an article in the "Health" section that talks about health effects of the teen texting phenomenon ("American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the 4th quarter of 2008").  Although "the rise in texting is too recent to have produced any conclusive data on health effects", the article discusses concerns about the psychological effects as well as the possible effects on, um, teens' thumbs. 
2. The Idea of the Day column today was titled The Case for Taxing E-Mail ; it points to  an article in the British magazine Prospect suggesting that taxing a few cents per email might cut down on the estimated 90% unwanted junk e-mail that we all receive (though one might point out that charging postage on snailmail hasn't stopped the original junk mail from arriving on our doorsteps).
3. Roger Cohen's Op-Ed column, Peaceful Evolution Angst, discusses the effects of social technology in repressive communist countries: "Technology has taken the “total” out of totalitarian. The Stalinist or Maoist dark night of the soul has been consigned to history by wired societies...communication and the online world serve as safety valves for one-party states ...Students don’t do sit-ins, they blog and use Twitter.”

hat tip: Tom Bruce

Westlaw program for deferred grads

Word is out that Westlaw has heard from many in the law school community about the Lexis ASPIRE program (blogged last week) and will be launching its own plan for those soon-to-be law school graduates impacted by start date deferrals and similar circumstances.  The program will be called YourLegalCareer dot com and the website will bring together a number of useful Westlaw resources including links to free CLE courses through WestLegalEd Center, a discount subscription to Attorney Jobs, and options to request a free password for pro bono or other work. It is expected to be up and running by the end of May, so stay tuned.

Slaw wins award

The Canadian blawg Slaw has won a well-deserved Lawford award for Excellence in Legal Publishing from the Canadian Association of Law Libraries.  Slaw has nothing whatsoever to do with cabbage or coleslaw; it's  a Canadian co-operative weblog about any and all things legal.  But you don't have to be Canadian to find Slaw useful - the excellent writing and reporting cover many topics of interest to practicing lawyers, legal librarians, legal academics and students, wherever they may be.  One of today's posts, for example, takes a close look at social networks' Terms of Service agreements (TOS) and discusses how TOS are impacting the very rights and freedoms we as individuals enjoy while interacting and communicating in the Internet environment.

Law schools: cheating 2.0

This week's National Law Journal (subscription required) has an article about cheating in law schools entitled "Cheating 2.0" ( Cheating 2.0 is also available on Westlaw, password required) .  The article reports on how technological developments have affected the way students cheat and also the way students view cheating.  It looks at both cheating on exams and plagiarism, and how various law schools are addressing challenges to academic integrity.  

Friday 22 May 2009

The Virtual Chase

Attention TVC fans: The Virtual Chase is back in business! Ballard Spahr, which hosted TVC for creator Genie Tyburski, has annouced that that legal information publisher Justia has acquired The Virtual Chase and intends to continue its development. According to the announcement, they "look forward to working with (Justia) to make this transition as smooth as possible. Watch the site for upcoming details."
For the uninitiated, The Virtual Chase was founded in 1996 by law librarian Genie Tyburski as a website that offers articles, guides, teaching materials, an alert service and more on Internet legal research strategies and resources for legal professionals. Several months ago Genie announced that she was "closing" TVC because of the increasing demands on her time. Let's hope Justia can keep up the high standards that Genie always maintained.

Libraries and ebook readers

The LIS News blog recently posted an article about libraries and the Kindle and other ebook devices. According to the article, these devices are a failure: not because of the technology, which continues to improve, but because e-book reader companies do not consider libraries as a viable customer. Their terms of service severely restrict usage so that you cannot "lend" an ebook to anyone. The author suggests that the ebook industry needs to realize that they have to somehow address the needs of libraries. As he says, "(Libraries) are in the intellectual enhancement business, no matter the medium. Libraries are the allies of the e-book reader devices. Start treating us like it."

New search engine presents results visually

There's a beta release of a new search engine called Spezify that presents your results visually in a large collage. It aggregates search results from many sources including Flickr, Amazon, Yahoo and Twitter. Try searching for "chocolates" and look at the yummy results. Of course you could also search for something more law oriented and see what you get.

Librarians respond to the Google book settlement

Ars Technica reports that the Google book settlement has created concern among professional library organizations. The concern is not so much about what is in the settlement as what is NOT in the settlement, namely provisions addressing two primary concerns of libraries: public access and patron privacy.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Data Dot Gov for Data

Data Dot Gov is a new government website  developed by the Federal CIO Council as an interagency Federal initiative and is hosted by the General Services Administration.  It's got a collection of government datasets and is encouraging users to suggest more datasets.  Browsing through the site provides links to a variety of information from government agencies and a number of informational tools like widgets for the FBI or airline on-time performance records. You can search the datasets by category, government agency, or both. 

Wednesday 20 May 2009

University of the People is free

Technology Review reports that there is a new online university called "University of the People" that offers a tuition-free education. Shai Reshef, the Israeli entrepreneur who founded the UoP, says he hopes the effort will expand education to less fortunate people around the world.  So far there are 150 people from 35 countries enrolled in the university that offers undergraduate degrees in business administration and computer science in English. Mr. Reshef said he hopes to have 15,000 people enrolled within 4 years.  The university is seeking accreditation in the United States. 

Monday 18 May 2009

Tax research resources compared

A post from the rips-sis listserv points to a recently published article entitled "The Virtual Tax Library: A Comparison of  Five Electronic Tax Research Platforms" by Katherine Pratt, Jennifer Kowal & Daniel Martin of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles (8 Fla. Tax Rev. 931, 2008).  The article studies and compares the tax research platforms of BNA, CCH, RIA Checkpoint, Lexis and Westlaw. The article is available on Westlaw:  The Virtual Tax Library: A Comparison of Five Electronic Tax Research Platforms.  An earlier edition is posted on SSRN and has the virtue of including all screenshots and Appendix A and B which are tables comparing the 5 platforms (the Westlaw version doesn't include the visuals).  
The print version isn't on the Barco shelves yet but we hope it will be here soon. 

Sunday 17 May 2009

Wofram Alpha goes live

New knowledge computation engine Wolfram Alpha is out of beta and geeks worldwide are checking it out. Lifehacker has a report of some tests. My own cursory tests had lukewarm results, i.e., I searched for "Supreme Court" and got a response that Wolfram didn't know what to do with my input (I was hoping it would churn out some statistics about the Supreme Court). When I searched for the date I was born it did give me all sorts of info about that day, like sunrise was at 8:15 am and sunset was at 5:58 pm and the moon was in a crescent phase.

Using a computer to judge the aesthetic value of a photo

Penn State researchers have announced the recent launch of a new online photo-rating system called Acquine (Aesthetic Quality Inference Engine) for automatically determining the aesthetic value of a photo. According to a researcher involved with the project, it is the first publicly available tool for automatically determining the aesthetic value of an image. Users can upload their own images for rating or test the system by providing a link to any image online. The system provides an aesthetic rating, with a score from zero to 100, within seconds. Acquine extracts and uses visual aspects such as color saturation, color distribution and photo composition to give any uploaded image a rating from zero to 100. The system learns to associate these aspects with the way humans rate photos based on thousands of previously-rated photographs in online photo-sharing Web sites such as

Should Congress bail out newspapers?

The Washington Post had an article yesterday that looked at how Congress might pass laws that would shore up the ailing newspaper business. Some of the possibilities discussed by the authors include "bring copyright into the age of the search engine", federalizing the "hot news" doctrine, and using tax laws to promote the press. The authors also say that "Unless Congress embarks on far-reaching change in public policy to maintain the viability of journalism as it evolves online, we will soon find ourselves with the remnants of a broken industry incapable of providing the knowledge necessary to manage life in a complex world. "

The European Union 1989-2009: 20 years of Liberty!

A moving video from EU Tube.

Friday 15 May 2009

LexisNexis provides free access for public interest law grads

LexisNexis is providing free legal research services to law school graduates doing work for the public good with the LexisNexis Associates Serving Public Interests Research (ASPIRE) Program. Law school graduates can sign up to access certain LexisNexis services free of charge here.
Eligible graduates include deferred fall associates pursuing public interest work during their deferral periods, 2009 graduates who elect to pursue public interest work while searching for law firm employment, and those 2009 graduates who pursue public interest work as a continuing profession.
If you are eligible, complimentary LexisNexis access will be provided throughout your public interest employment period, up until September 2010 maximum. Public interest employment must be for a non-profit or charitable organization. Government employment is excluded from this program. Documentation confirming your eligibility for this program must be included, i.e., a letter from your firm or public interest organization.
The free LexisNexis access will include federal/state cases, codes, regulations, and law reviews.
To ensure you don’t receive unanticipated or unwanted charges, other materials will not be visible.
Once your registration and documentation are received, Lexis will reactivate your law school ID no later than two business days prior to your start date.If applying after your start date, they will reactivate your law school ID within two business days.
Kudos to Lexis for doing this.

Libraries and Social Software webinar

The Computer Services Special Interest Section of the AALL is offering a webinar on Weds. May 20 from noon to one on Libraries and Social Software. Here's the description:
"What is social software? How and why would you use it? How do libraries use social software as a way to engage staff and patrons in a fast changing internet environment? Please join us as Sarah Glassmeyer, Reference Librarian from University of Kentucky, helps us explore social software use in a library context."
The cost is $45 for AALL members, $60 for non-members.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Syracuse Law school limits breaks during exams

According to an article in the Syracuse Sun, Syracuse University Law School has cracked down on 1L bathroom breaks during final exams. 1L students can now use the restroom only once during an exam because some are suspected of cheating by texting on cell phones or looking at papers in the bathrooms. Students with medical reasons to use the restroom more often than once per exam must provide medical documentation to a dean.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Let the games begin!

Write-on Competition update: things are going relatively smoothly compared to last year.  Librarians: there is a thin blue binder on the desk that has the competition rules, the Bluebook exercise they have to do, and the list of 25 sources that they are limited to using for their submissions.  
We have printed up 2 copies of  all 25  sources and have them on reserve - they are in thick binders. 
Ryan has made it relatively easy for them to print up almost all of the sources at once.  There are three sources that are only available on Lexis and I've put hot links to those on their TWEN site. 
For the competition students have to look through the limited sources and then make up their own article topic and write a law review article. They can submit the article to any of the student law journals, so if they hope to be on the Tax Law journal they would write some sort of tax-related article etc. 

Monday 11 May 2009

Write-on competition begins tomorrow

Just a reminder to everyone in the library: the Write-on competition takes place immediately following the end of law school final exams, beginning at noon tomorrow. Most of the 1L class participates in this competition because up to 8 students may be picked for Law Review based on this competition regardless of grades. The assignment will be available to them beginning on Tuesday May 12 at noon. This is of interest to us because there will probably be a mad dash to print out all the sources they have to use for the competition on May 12 at noon and the rest of the week. Ryan has made it easier for them to print their sources on Westlaw; I did inform the new Lexis rep about Write-on but I'm not sure if she's done anything proactive.
Any questions about the printing should be sent to the Westlaw and Lexis student reps who will be around just for this purpose.

WolframAlpha v. Google

There's been a lot of buzz lately about the new search engine Wolfram Alpha (which is still in Beta but due to go online later this month). The search engine, developed by Stephen Wolfram, is "like a cross between a research library, a graphing calculator, and a search engine." It doesn't search through Web pages, and it will not help with movie times or camera shopping. What it does is answer questions. Using algorithms and formulae, t computes the answers to queries from enourmous quantities of data in databases that are maintained by Wolfram Research or licensed from others. Wired says it is like an "anti-Google." Meanwhile, Google has announced it's own data-centric service that currently includes data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau's Population Division.
David Talbot at MIT's Technology Review has written an article comparing how Wolfram and Google compare in answering the same questions. Neither was perfect. For example, in one test Talbot entered the query "cancer New York" and said that he was hoping to find statistics for the disease in the state of New York. Wolfram showed him where the Cancer constellation could be found in the night sky viewed from New York, when it would next rise and set, and included a map of the night sky. Google provided links to Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York, the New York State Department of Health's cancer page.
As a librarian, it seemed obvious from his report that what needs to be developed in both is something that would simulate the "reference interview". Any librarian knows that if a library patron walked up the ref desk and said "I want to know about cancer and New York" we would do a reference interview to quickly find out what specific information the patron wanted to find.

Friday 8 May 2009

Top government contractors

The latest online issue of Washington Technology is devoted to reports on the top 100 federal government contractors in 2009. A database of these companies is entitled The big dogs: Top 100 rankings where the companies can be viewed by Rank, A-Z, Industry sector, Publicly traded,Privately held, and other factors. The top contractor for 2009 is Lockheed Martin Corp., with $14,983,515,367.00 in federal contracts.

postage going up Monday

Can't say they didn't warn us... there are stories in many places, including the New York Times, reporting that postage will increase to 44 cents on Monday. Stock up on Forever stamps while you can.

A look at the GPO bindery

Wednesday 6 May 2009

The Bigger Kindle is here!

Yes, Amazon has launched its new, larger Kindle and the Wall Street Journal has the story here. It's called the Kindle DX and will cost $489. It has a 9.7-inch screen, about a third larger that the current Kindle, making it better suited for reading newspapers and academic textbooks.
Look out, textbook publishers. The New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post Co.'s are going to test-offer the new Kindle at a reduced rate for long-term subscribers.
Whether or not libraries can lend Kindles isn't clear, according to a recent article in Library Journal.

Digital preservation cartoons

The folks at DigitalPreservationEurope (DPE) are committed to making digital preservation materials available to the widest possible audience and to breaking down barriers to access. The release of a new series of short animations introducing and explaining digital preservation problems and solutions for the general public marks an important step reaching this goal. The first animation is now ready for viewing on YouTube . DPE hopes that these cartoons summarize complex digital preservation issues and explain them in a funny and easy to follow plot. The first one features "DigiMan" urging you to use Metadata when you store data, such fun!
Future animations will be released on their You Tube Channel.

Secure Flight Program begins May 15

For anyone who's traveling by plane this summer, here's information about new rules from the Transportation Safety Administration:
Beginning May 15th, for any NEW airline reservation created, the passenger's name must match their photo ID exactly, e.g. if your driver's license reads Renee C. Bragano, the name on the airline ticket must read Renee C. Bragano.
This will affect many travelers as most people only use their first and last names for airline reservations and frequent flyer programs. Travelers will need to update their traveler profiles with whatever travel agents/systems they use and to change their name with all of their frequent flyer programs to ensure that they are receiving proper frequent flier credit for their flights.
The next phase of the Secure Flight Program begins August 15th when all DOMESTIC airline reservations must include the passenger's date of birth AND gender. This information will need to be in a flight record 72 hours prior to travel. For reservations made within 72 hours of travel, all security information must be provided at the time the reservation is booked.
The final phase of the new program begins October 15th when ALL flight records, (international and domestic) must include the passengers date of birth AND gender. This information will need to be in a flight record 72 hours prior to travel. For reservations made within 72 hours of travel, all security information must be provided at the time the reservation is booked.
Passengers who decline to provide this information will experience delays during check-in, increased airport screening and can be denied boarding.
There is more information on the Transportation Safety Administration website.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Empirical studies of law-related information behavior

An email went out to the AALL Academic Law Library Special Interest Section today from fellow member Robert Richards Jr. of Philadelphia with a link to his recently posted list of empirical studies of law-related information behavior. He maintains a website with a bibliography of legal information systems and legal informatics resources. He also points out that a new dissertation on this topic is now available:
Stephann Makri, A Study of Lawyers' Information Behaviour Leading to the Development of Two Methods for Evaluating Electronic Resources (2008) (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University College London), also available at .

Pandemic preparedness

The American Bar Association has published a collection of pandemic preparedness resources that are especially geared towards law firms and lawyers.