Wednesday 30 June 2010

Zotero adding Bluebook format

Zotero, the free, open source add-on for the Firefox browser, has taken notice of law schools, according to a letter posted to the teknoides listserv. from Frank Bennett . Zotero enables users to manage bibliographic data and to store web-page snapshots and other electronic objects during their research and writing, but until now was not able to compose citations in Bluebook format. Now the development trunk version of Zotero has acquired the basic capabilities needed for legal writing, has a user interface and is ready for action of a sort.
And Zotero would welcome our help! From this point, the project will benefit greatly from the input of actual legal writers. Unfortunately, there are very few lawyers in the Zotero community now, for the obvious-enough reason that Zotero has until now not been terribly useful for things legal.
The developers are looking for people to do beta-testing: who are comfortable with a few basic technical things (installing Firefox, installing plugins), who are able to invest a small amount of time playing with software with limited and occasionally broken functionality, and who have the patience to report a bit of detail when things do not work correctly. We can help build a Zotero that is useful and welcome to law students and other legal writers.
Links to the development forum and utilities:
Zotero-legal (Google group): A forum for discussion and a repository of notes and proposals.
Zotero development trunk (main and word-processor plugins): The utilities that run in Firefox.
Bluebook style (CSL 1.0): The current version of the Bluebook style in CSL 1.0.

Monday 28 June 2010

AAUP criticizes PA legislature

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has issued an open letter titled "Academic Freedom in Pennsylvania" which criticizes some of the wording of a bill passed by the Pennsylvania Senate on Friday. The Bill, SB 929, called the College Textbook Policies Affordability, Accountability and Accessibility Act, concerns the AAUP because it would seem to dictate specific choices to professors on which books to select. The bill has not yet been taken up by the PA House of Representatives. The AAUP letter states that "The Pennsylvania legislation is also worrying because it is part of a national trend to regulate textbook selection. Certainly rising textbook prices are a serious matter. Increased availability of electronic versions of textbooks that certainly should prove less expensive is likely an inevitable feature of a changing marketplace. But the main ways to reduce the expense of a college education are to increase state appropriations to public colleges and universities and to eliminate unnecessary administrative positions."

Tuesday 22 June 2010

New York prosecutors' definition of "hate crime"

An ABA Journal report refers to a New York Times article about how prosecutors in Queens are broadening the definition of the term "hate crime." They are applying hate crime law to nonviolent crimes (for example, mortgage fraud) committed by people who prey on the elderly because they believe older people are easy to deceive and might have substantial savings or home equity. The legal theory is that New York’s hate crimes statute does not require prosecutors to prove defendants “hate” the group the victim belongs to, merely that they commit the crime because of some belief, correct or not, they hold about the group. The theory has not yet been tested in an appellate court, possibly because many of those charged have pleaded guilty and waived their right to appeal. But Queens trial judges have upheld it against defense lawyers who argue that the hate crime charges are inappropriate. At least five defendants have pleaded guilty to or have been convicted under this hate-crime theory, and charges against two others are pending. Prosecutors across New York state are closely watching how this approach is being used, because it can result in stiffer sentences for the criminals.

Minority under-representation on juries

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog has a post reporting that there is a continuing problem with "racially skewed" juries in our courts. The post discusses a report (60 page pdf) published recently by the Equal Justice Initiative that found "shocking evidence of racial discrimination in jury selection" in the eight states they studied: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
The blog post says that there is also another challenge in getting minority representation in juries, as recently reported by an Iowa newspaper: potential jurors there are drawn from driver's license and voter lists, but minorities are less likely to be on those lists because, as a court administrator says, "there are people who choose not to vote. There are people who don't have driver's licenses".

Wednesday 16 June 2010

2 resign from AALL's vendor relations committee

Law Librarian Blog has a lengthy and troubling post about the AALL CRIV (Committee on Relations with Information Vendors) committee. This is the committee that plays the important role of, among other things, being "ombudsman" between law librarians and vendors. Joe Hodnicki of Law Librarian blog now reports that last month two members of the CRIV committeee tendered their resignations effective immediately. He goes on to explain "Why? Well one may say, well, I am saying and am not speaking for either Lucy or Caren, that our association has eviscerated this Committee's mission." The blogpost, and comments it elicited, is a must-read for any AALL member.

FBI monitoring Facebook?

The BBC reports that armed police were called to St Aelred's Catholic Technology College in Newton-le-Willows (UK) after being advised of a potential threat by the FBI. The school stated that the FBI 'raised the alarm after Internet scanning software picked up a suspicious combination of words,' which implies that they are carrying out routine, automated surveillance of social networking sites.

Guggenheim Museum soliciting artistic YouTube videos

PC World reports that the Guggenheim Museum in New York is collaborating with Google on a project called YouTube Play: A Biennial of Creative Video. The project will showcase up to 20 video works submitted to YouTube at the Guggenheim in New York on October 21, and online at'"

Monday 14 June 2010

PACER fees & PACER costs

A recent blogpost by Steve Schultze, Assoc. Director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton, analyzes the US Courts' PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system, the source for federal court records and its well-known 8-cents-per-page charges for access to these records. He observes that "Digital technologies have a way of pushing the cost of information dissemination toward zero, but ... this does not appear to be the trajectory of public access fees." When Schulze took a careful look at the federal Judiciary's financials for the past few years he found that even though there is a statutory limitation on PACER fees such that "the Judicial Conference may, only to the extent necessary, prescribe reasonable fees... to reimburse expenses incurred in providing these services", the Judicial Conference has been expanding its spending of PACER fees so that most fees are being spent on other services, such as expensive technology and media upgrades for federal courtrooms.

Turn your old typewriter into a keyboard

Technabob blogs about someone who has created a way to turn old manual typewriters (yes, the ones that tax the strength of your fingers) into 21st century keyboards. You can DIY or custom order ath his Etsy shop.

Friday 11 June 2010

American finance 1861 - 1935

The folks in St. Louis Federal who maintain the Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research (FRASER) have added a new, cool chart to their website. It covers what was happening in American finance between 1861-1938, including such historical reference points as the battle of Gettysburg, the patenting of the rubber stamp, the purchase of Alaska, the invention of roller skates, and the Chicago fire. The chart is available as either a very large pdf file, or in an interactive slideshow.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Measuring the value of federally funded research

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that federal science-financing agencies have been working with universities to devise a way to measure how their expenditures help the national economy. A new initiative called Science and Technology for America’s Reinvestment: Measuring the Effect of Research on Innovation, Competitiveness and Science (STAR METRICS) will monitor the impact of federal science investments on employment, knowledge generation, and health outcomes. The initiative is led by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). STAR METRICS will help the Federal government document the value of its investments in research and development, to a degree not previously possible. Together, NSF and NIH have committed $1 million for the program’s first year. The program will measure the impact of federal grants on jobs, patents, publications, citations, and business start-ups.
According to participants, data for the program will come from research institutions that volunteer to participate and the federal agencies that fund them and information will be gathered from the universities in a highly automated way, with minimal or no burden for the scientists and the university administration.

National Federation of the Blind sues law schools

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, and three blind students who have applied or are considering applying to law school in California have filed a lawsuit against the Law School Admissions Council and four California law schools for violating and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit claims that the law schools require or encourage applicants to use a centralized Internet-based application process provided by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) through its Web site that is inaccessible to blind law school applicants

Students create their own library

The Los Angeles Times has a story about students at Cal State Los Angeles who have created their own "people's" library. The regular university library, due to budget cuts, was forced to limit the hours that it's open. Instead of staying open until midnight, the library now closes at 8 pm. Students contend that reduced access to library resources was affecting their studies, especially during the period before final exams. So they gathered donated chairs and tables and have been using campus electrical hookups for lighting and equipment just outside the university's main library and created an open air study area. The "People's Library" stays open until midnight, and provides a copy machine, a printer and free coffee as well as a quiet place to study and internet access.

Wikipedia founder discusses academic use

The Chronicle of Higher Education today has a podcast of an interview with Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia. He talks about the best and worst ways to use Wikipedia in teaching and research, and how to teach students about the validity of Wikipedia articles.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Homeland Security essay contest winner

The Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) recently released the results of its Third Annual Essay Contest. Participants were asked to answer the following question: "How can, or should, the United States make homeland security a more layered, networked, and resilient endeavor involving all citizens?"
The contest-winning essay, Twitter, Facebook, and Ten Red Balloons: Social Network Problem Solving and Homeland Security (6 page pdf), was submitted by Major Christopher Ford, a Judge Advocate with the U.S. Army. According to the CHDS director, the winning "essay touched on a topic of increasing relevance in homeland security. Emergency managers and first responders are beginning to realize the potential social media has in helping them meet their missions and are grappling with how to effectively apply this technology. The winning essay offered a glimpse into the possibilities Web 2.0 holds for homeland security use." The essay is well worth a read. It concludes that "with little funding, de minimis incentive, and a strong social cohesive element, individuals can (using social media) create efficient, layered, and accurate organizations that are able to accomplish complex objectives. Applying these systems
to homeland security is a natural development. "

North Korea's (soda) Fountain of Youth

The BBC reports that North Korea's government, in a joint venture with a fruit juice company, has announced the development of an anti-aging "super drink" that "helps improve mental and retentive faculties by multiplying brain cells.... protects skin from wrinkles and black spots and prevents such geriatric diseases as cerebral haemorrhage, myocardium and brain infarction by removing acid effete matters in time... (and) is efficacious for different skin diseases, including allergic dermatitis. It also makes skin fair."
No word yet on the flavor or whether there's a diet version.

Sunlight "Design for America" contest winners

The Sunlight Labs blog, a part of the Sunlight Foundation (a non-profit, non partisan Washington, DC based organization focused on digitization of government data and making tools and websites to make it easily accessible) has announced the winners in its recent "Design for America" contest. The contest was "a 10 week long design and data visualization extravaganza focused on connecting the talents of art and design communities throughout the country to the wealth of government data now available through bulk data access and APIs, and to help nurture the field of information visualization." There were three categories that contestants could choose from, with several subcategories in each. The main categores were Data Visualization, Process Transparency, and Redesigning the Government.
Some of the winners were: How a Bill Becomes a Law (in the Process Transparency category); an elegant redesign of the IRS website (in the Redesigned the Government category); an interactive game called Who Paid Them (Data Visualization), another game called (who visits the White House and why); and a Redesign of the US Passport Form that you can compare to the current US passport form.

hat tip: Joe Hodnicki at Law Librarian Blog

CMU prof. to advise on Bush Oral History project

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story about CMU professor Kiron Skinner who has been asked to serve on the advisory board for the George W. Bush Oral History Project at the University of Virginia. Prof. Skinner is an associate professor of social and decision sciences and director of the International Relations and Politics Program at CMU, and is one of the country's most renowned experts in the areas of international relations, U.S. foreign policy and political strategy. The project, conducted by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, will document the life and career of the 43rd president with a focus on the White House years. Skinner will be one of two historians on the board, and will advise on the project's implementation and development, recommend individuals most familiar with the Bush presidency to interview and work to bring attention to the project.
Prof. Skinner is quoted as saying "It's an honor to be a part of documenting a comprehensive oral history of George W. Bush's presidency — which happened during a challenging and unique time in American history."

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Cambridge University library announces digitization project

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Cambridge University in Cambridge, England has received a gift of $2.1 million from British philanthropist Leon Polonsky. Cambridge will use the donation to launch a project to digitize some of the most significant rare books and manuscripts in its "Foundations of Science" and the "Foundations of Faith" collections which include some of the oldest Korans in existence, as well as centuries-old Christian and Jewish texts, and papers by well-known scientific thinkers like Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley.

Using social media for teaching

The Chronicle of Higher Education's ProfHacker blog has a post in which he discusses how he has used social media technologies - specifically Twitter, a wiki, Zotero and Google Wave with his students in his classes. He has some interesting thoughts on what works well and how some problems might be fixed in the future. He also invites comments by posing questions for his readers:
What experiences have you had using social media in the classroom?
What are your favorite (social media) tools? Which would you never, ever use again?

Friday 4 June 2010

Libraries evolving: a view from the Courts

The Third Branch, online publication of the US Courts, has an interesting article titled The Evolving Library. In the article Ann Fessenden, librarian for the Eighth Circuit, discusses the changes she has seen in libraries over the past 25+ years, during which today’s libraries are becoming less repositories for books and more about knowledge management. The Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management is currently conducting a study of circuit libraries to determine how a significant reduction in law book funding in FY 2012 and beyond would impact court libraries and library services. The study began with a nationwide survey of all legal researchers, according to Committee member Judge Julio Fuentes (3rd Cir.), chair of CACM’s Library Subcommittee.

Resources for online collaboration

Computerworld has an article that discusses 20 free and low-cost online tools that can be used for online collaboration. The article presents descriptions of what each tool offers, screenshots of what each tool looks like, and suggestions for situations that are particularly suited to using these tools.

Gerald R. Ford library digitization

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library has announced the launch of a major program to digitize and post to the web some of its most important materials. The first digitization project was the "National Security Adviser Memoranda of Presidential Conversations, 1973-1977" - the Library's most popular and most used textual collection. Each folder of the collection contains the White House's transcript-like records and handwritten source notes from over 1,000 presidential meetings on foreign relations and national security matters, January 1973 - January 1977. The online collection is updated as new material is released. The Library holdings include more than 25 million pages of documents, about 450,000 photographs, and thousands of audiotapes, videotapes, and films with an online guide providing descriptions and finding aids. The Library continues to digitize to make more of this massive collection available to researchers via the Internet.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Appeals court dismisses Katrina greenhouse gas case because of judges' recusals

The New York Times reports that the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has been forced to dismiss Comer v. Murphy Oil because half of the 16 judges in the Court recused themselves; a quorum of 9 judges is required. The case began with a lawsuit by residents of coastal Mississippi residents affected by Hurricane Katrina, who charge energy companies with contributing to the effects of Hurricane Katrina by emitting greenhouse gases. The companies being sued have argued there is no evidence linking their emissions to Katrina's effects. Last fall, a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs could proceed with their lawsuit; the defendants asked for an en banc rehearing. At that point, seven Fifth Circuit judges recused themselves from the case and the remaining nine voted in February to vacate the three-judge panel’s ruling and move forward with the en banc. But on April 30, the court posted a notice saying that an eighth judge had recused him or herself. The court didn’t give the rationale behind the eighth recusal or even name the judge; (The recusals are likely due to stock-ownership issues.)

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Pedestrian sues Google over Google Maps

PC World reports that a woman who says she relied on Google for walking directions in Utah that got her hit on a major roadway has filed a lawsuit against the Internet company claiming it supplied unsafe directions. Lauren Rosenberg filed the $100,000 lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Utah. She says that she used her BlackBerry to download walking directions from Google Maps between two Park City addresses. Apparently it was dark outside, and Google maps had her walk through Park City on a road without sidewalks that she says isn't safe for pedestrians.

British student fined over library matchmaking

A student at University College London has been fined by the university for creating a dating website for library patrons, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog. Richard Martell, a UCL student in his final year, started the website called FitFinder with a couple of his classmates. The site was an instant success and quickly spread to other British universities. Unfortunately, some students and other universities complained about the "offensive tone" of some messages posted on the site, and administrators at UCL fined Richard and asked him to take it down. The administration said that the site brought "the college into disrepute."
Now other students are signing an online petition at FitFinder to bring the site back.