May 20, 2009
Running Windows 7 on a Frankenbox
Dan Giancaterino (Internet Librarian, Jenkins Law Library) reports on his experience installing and running Windows 7 on his Win7 specs-not friendly "Frankenbox" (part Compaq, part Dell desktop with 512 MB of RAM and an old Pentium 3 processor running at 730MHz). Brave soul. It actually works, sort of.
For other brave souls, here's the Win7 Release Candidate downloads and instructions. According to the Windows 7 Blog, "Windows 7 RTM, or release to manufacturing, is the final stage for the engineering. If the telemetry we receive from the Windows 7 RC meets our expectations in terms of quality, then we expect to hit RTM in 3 months or so."
Windows 7 Features Reviewed. Betanews is running a series on the top 10 Windows 7 features. First one here. And with every new Microsoft OS release, comes a look back to the early days. See Flashback 1990: The debut of Windows 3.0. on Betanews. [Click on image, above left, for a screen capture of File Manager circa 1990]. [JH]
May 19, 2009
How Happy Is Your Profession?
Time Magazine has an happiness index measuring how happy various job categories measure up in their happiness quotient. Clergy hit the top of the scale and gas station attendants hit the bottom. Librarians, for some reason, are listed twice in the index, once at about one-third to the bottom, and again at about the half-way point. It's the only profession to be listed twice. Lawyers are about a sixth of the way from the top (very happy) and legal assistants are about a sixth of the way from the bottom. Correctional institutional officers rank higher than legal assistants. The moral is the more power, the happier, I guess. You can play with the rankings here. The rankings seem to come from 2007, so lawyer happiness is pre-recession layoffs. [MG]
Finally (Hopefully) Some Relief from Our Current Economic Turmoil for Taxpayers
Sen. Mark Udall (Dem., CO) introduced S. 1058 May 14th. The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reduce the tax on beer to its pre-1991 level. God bless Udall and his six bipartisan co-sponsors. [JH]
Basic Requirements for the Authentication of Digital Repositories of Legal Resources
In Authentication of Digital Repositories, John Joergensen (Rutgers-Camden) identifies two necessary and essential elements of an authentication system for digital legal materials: (1) disclosure of how a publisher obtains the material they offer, and how that material is handled, and (2) document-level verification using a digital signature that includes one or more MD5s (Message Digest 5 hash) at the metadata level for chain of custody purposes. Hat tip to Legal Informatics Blog.
Perceptions of Trustworthiness. Do we trust LexisNexis and Westlaw more than other sources for legal resources? Of course we do and this despite the fact that neither vendor regularly performs audits of their databases. Moreover we do so while free or low cost legal research vendors harvest their documents from the same “unofficial” court sources our "traditional" online legal research vendors use. Commenting on Joergensen's post, Kate Wilko on Legal Research Plus writes "[h]is post reminded me of a lecture that Bob Berring gave to our Advanced Legal Research in which he likened these veteran vendors to Tinkerbell. The legal community believes in their veracity and authenticity and so they continue to dominate the digital landscape. It’s high time we created room for more Tinkerbells to spread their online legal resource dust."
Indeed it is and Joergensen hits the proverbial nail on its head. "[T]he crux of any debate about authentication comes down to this disconnect between the perceptions and needs of the professional and librarian communities, and what most Internet law publishers do to produce accurate information for the public."
As legal researchers move to free or low-cost online legal research services and away from LexisNexis and Westlaw, our job is to push for the authentication of the digital legal resources they use. Joergensen's document-level verification recommendation sounds easily do-able to me. See his article for more details. [JH]
ScheduAALL 2009: Share Your Personal AALL Annual Meeting Plans
Loyola Law School's Tom Boone has launched a very useful and fun personal scheduling application for attendees of the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting and Conference, ScheduAALL 2009. Take a tour of the app here. ScheduAALL can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. See also the ScheduAALL Blog.
Planning on meeting a vendor at a bar or restaurant? Post it to your ScheduAALL 2009 schedule so we all can converge there and max out the vendor's expense account. Seriously, Boone has implemented a great tool for networking with friends and colleagues at this year's annual meeting.
Hat tip to Sara Sampson (LLB Contributing Editor and Head of Reference at Georgetown Law Library) for pinging me via Facebook. [JH]
Should the US Join the Convention on the Law of the Sea?
An upswing in piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia, the rise of new naval powers such as China and India, and a rapidly melting polar ice cap in the Arctic are but a "few of the pressing issues that give mounting urgency for the United States to join the convention" say Scott G. Borgerson. In The National Interest and the Law of the Sea (Council on Foreign Relations Press, May 2009), he explores the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Borgerson examines the international negotiations that led to the convention, as well as the history of debates in the United States over whether to join it. He then analyzes the strategic importance of the oceans for U.S. foreign policy today. The report ultimately makes a strong case for the United States to accede to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, contending that doing so would benefit U.S. national security as well as America’s economic and environmental interests. [JH]
Reminder: Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award Nominations Due By June 1
If you know of an individual or group who is performing outstanding works of public service, please let the Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award know. Nominations may be sent to the committee through Richard Leiter, either via email or in hard copy (Schmid Law Library, University of Nebraska Lincoln, PO Box 830902, Lincoln, NE 68583-0902). A cover letter should describe the person or group and the activity for which they are being nominated. Any supporting documentation such as brochures, testimonials, letters of reference, new coverage are are welcome, but not necessary. If additional information is required the committee will request it. The deadline for nomination is June 1.
The Award is funded through sales of The Spirit of Law Librarianship, (first and second editions are available) and by donations to the Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award for Public Service Foundation. If you are interested in contributing to the Foundation, please send contributions care of Harry S. Martin III (Terry), Jamail Center for Legal Research, Tarlton Law Library, The University of Texas Law School, 727 East Dean Keeton Street, Austin, TX 78705.
May 18, 2009
My First Week Teaching Legal Research in China
[Please refer to my March 8 LLB post for background.]
I arrived in Wuhan last Sunday afternoon. To my surprise and dismay, I learned the next day that the law library is reclassifying/reshifting its English-language collection. No one seems to know when it'll be done. All I know is that that wing is closed to me and my students. I'd planned to inspect it last Monday and craft exercises using some of the materials there. But now I can't. So I spent most of last week revising my syllabus [Download Syllabus_(May_2009)], PowerPoints, and exercises to include only resources I know the students can access: Westlaw, LexisNexis, HeinOnline, and free websites available in China. Not ideal, not even close, but in China you often have to roll with the punches.
My classes have mostly gone well so far. I had around 100 students attend my first class Tuesday primetime: 7-9:25pm. That's right, 100 students! Most were Chinese, but there were a few from Africa who are enrolled in a new international law LL.M. program. It was a little overwhelming at first. Most of them looked attentive. Unlike at Touro, I didn't see anyone here using a laptop or crackberry. One student, however, got a call on his cellphone, ran out of the room, and apologized to me after class. Next door to my classroom, some other students had choir practice. That’s right, law school choir practice! They sang for the duration of my class. We could hear them because they sang loudly and the walls lack soundproofing. My students thought it was funny. So did I.
My second class on Thursday night only had around 60 students. And no choir practice next door, thank goodness. When I told the students that my class at Touro usually has around 15 students, and never more than 20, they looked at me in disbelief. I don't think there are formal enrollment caps here. The cap is however many students want to attend and can squeeze into a room. I gave out my first research exercise [Download Research_exercise_1_-_May_14_2009]. It's due on Tuesday. I'm curious to find out how the students do. It deals with American legal research, which I rarely teach at Touro. But in China, American legal research is foreign legal research. I asked for 20 in-class oral presentation volunteers on May 25 and 26. Two students raised their hands. (Chinese students are very, very shy when it comes to speaking in class.) I have 18 more spots to fill. I haven't figured out to how fill them yet. I may draw names out of a hat or give them the chance to do group presentations. The latter would get more students involved and help alleviate some of the individual shyness. Again, I'm rolling with the punches here. I don't like it, but have no choice.
I met with two students for three hours on Friday afternoon in my office. I was only supposed to have two hours of office time, but stayed an extra hour to show a student how to search on GPO Access and Westlaw. He said their Westlaw rep only showed them how to do "basic" (?) stuff. I showed him how to add tabs, do Boolean searching, find by citation, KeyCite, and use limiters. This seems "basic" to me, but apparently not to students here. He was very appreciative and said I should show the whole class these things. I told him I'd try to if time and internet connection permits.
To be continued . . . [RLS]
Two Cases From The Supreme Court This Morning And Other SCOTUS News
The Supreme Court has issued two opinions this morning. The first deals with a Bivens lawsuit filed by an Arab-American against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller over arrest and harsh treatment immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Court did not decide the ultimate issue, but said the pleadings in the case were not specific enough to pass muster under pleading rules. The Court amplified its statements on sufficiency of pleadings from Bell Atlantic v. Twomley (550 U.S. 544). The result is that the case is sent back to the lower courts so they may determine whether the case can be repleaded.
The second case involves sex discrimination in determining pension length based on pregnancy rules in effect at a particular time. The plaintiffs in the case complained that their time of service calculations for their pensions were less due to pregnancies calculated as uncredited leave time. Congress changed the rules when it passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which made it clear that treating pregnancies differently from other medical conditions was discriminatory. AT&T changed its pension plan to account for the new law but did not make any retroactive changes in the way it calculated pensions prior to the law. The Court held that At&T did not necessarily violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act under these circumstances.
The two cases are Ashcroft v. Iqbal and AT&T v. Hulteen. Stories in the Washington Post are here (Ashcroft) and here (Hulteen). The Court in other action will not get involved in former Congressman William Jefferson's case, but will review the conviction of media mogul Conrad Black. The Court will also review the constitutionality of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. [MG]
The Abercrombie and Fitch of the Legal Publishing World: Profile of West Publishing Company
Citypages (Minneapolis) profiles West Publishing in an ever so uncritical chamber-of-commerce success story way in Westlaw Rises to Legal Publishing Fame by Selling Free Information. But the detail-rich article is recommended reading and does report some interesting information, some of it known, some estimated by legal information professionals:
West makes its money by selling free, public information—specifically, court documents—to lawyers. On this simple model, the company raked in $3.5 billion in revenue last year, placing it on a par, sales-wise, with retail giant Abercrombie and Fitch. But its operating profit margin really impresses: At a whopping 32.1 percent, West outpaces that of tech giants like Google (19.4 percent), Amazon (3.4 percent), and eBay (20.8 percent).
From 1996 to 2005, the price for initial editions of Thomson's legal books went up about 4.5 percent each year—just slightly above the increase in inflation, and comparable to LexisNexis's 4.2 percent annual increase for similar materials.
But during the same period, Thomson's price for supplementation—updates to the initial books after changes in the law occurred—rose 11.5 percent each year, far higher than both the rate of inflation and Lexis's increase in prices for the same service.
That explains in part how in 2005, even after electronic media dominated the market and comprised 57 percent of West's revenues, the company still got 43 percent of its revenues from print.
Isn't this long-standing pricing practice the reason why law librarians are looking first to West print title cancellations during our current financial circumstances, even when 50 percent discounts for some print title continuations are offered in Westlaw multi-year plan renewals?
The article includes a look at West's editorial process. "At West, every case goes through a 22-step editorial process. Multiple people work on each case, cross-checking each other's work to ensure that it is 100 percent accurate. Attorney-editors add searchable terms tuned to West's search engine." The process is partially automated using West's Categorization and Recommendation Engine (CARE). CARE suggests key numbers for new cases, identifies cases affected by a new decision, and performs a host of other tasks that freelance attorneys performed for West before its implementation, "but an army of 800 attorney-editors analyzes the cases, writes the summaries, and approves many of the recommendations that CARE provides."
Hat tip Jim Levy (Nova) on Legal Writing Prof Blog who credits Deborah McGovern, Nova's Emerging Technologies/Reference Librarian, for calling his attention to the article -- always a welcome acknowledgment for the current awareness services law librarians like McGovern routinely perform. [JH]
Use Restriction on Public Domain Reproductions by Cornell University Library Removed
Cornell University Library no longer requires its users to seek permission to publish public domain works duplicated from its collections according to the Library's new policy. The Cornell initiative goes further than many other recent attempts to open access to public domain material by removing restrictions on both commercial and non-commercial use. Kudos to Cornell for donating more than 70,000 digitized public domain books to the Internet Archive.
Threat of Legal Action Ineffective.The Library, as the producer of digital reproductions made from its collections, has in the past licensed the use of those reproductions. Individuals and corporations that failed to secure permission to repurpose these reproductions violated their agreement with the Library. "The threat of legal action, however," noted Anne R. Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, "does little to stop bad actors while at the same time limits the good uses that can be made of digital surrogates. We decided it was more important to encourage the use of the public domain materials in our holdings than to impose roadblocks." [Press Release]
Hat tip to DigitalKoans. [JH]
Call for Papers: Symposium on Computational Argumentation
A call for papers , deadline July 3, 2009, has been issued for a symposium on “The Uses of Computational Argumentation,” Nov. 5-7, 2009, in Washington D.C., as part of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence’s Fall Symposium Series. Papers are invited on the following topics:
Applications of argumentation systems
Implementations of argumentation systems
Argumentation and inconsistent information
Argumentation and uncertain information
Argumentation and decision making
Argumentation as an interaction mechanism
Formal models of argumentation
The symposium organizers include two international leaders in legal information systems research, Dr. Henry Prakken and Dr. Trevor Bench-Capon. For more details, see the symposium website. Hat tip to the IAAIL blog. [Robert Richards]
Opening: Access Services Librarian, Mercer
The Furman Smith Law Library at Mercer University School of Law in Macon, Georgia, invites applications for the position of Access Services Librarian. Librarians are active participants in the life of the law school, and teach a required one-credit first year legal research course. The law library serves approximately 440 law students and 30 law faculty.
The Law Library encourages applications from experienced librarians, as well as from individuals who are just completing the required degrees. For more information about the position and to apply, see vacancy number P10-008 here.
May 17, 2009
More Kafka Than Kafka: Representing a Gitmo Detainee
The Guantanamo Labyrinth by Tom Hundley, (Chicago Tribune) writes Bob Ambrogi, "is the best description I've read of what it is like to be a lawyer representing a Guantanamo detainee." Highly recommended. [JH]