June 13, 2009
U.S. Geological Survey Launches Digital Map Beta
The Digital Map - Beta is the first step toward a new generation of digital topographic maps being created by the U.S. Geological Survey. These maps are built from The National Map data, which are integrated from local, State, Federal, and other sources. Tools are available free for download. Users can turn data layers on and off, zoom in and out, and print the maps. As the Digital Map - Beta evolves, the USGS will add historical versions of the topographic maps and will incorporate other data layers including hydrography and contours. Use of the term "Beta" signifies that these maps are initial versions that do not yet contain the full content of the traditional USGS topographic quadrangle maps according to the USGS announcement.
Digital Maps - Beta are available free on the Web in the GeoPDF format. File size is about 15 to 20 Megabytes. Tools are available free for download. Users can turn data layers on and off, zoom in and out, and print the maps.
Release Time Line. This new topographic map series will be released formally this fall. The USGS plans to make an updated version of each map every 3 years. As other data layers are integrated, they will be added to the maps, so that after 3 or 4 years all of the data within The National Map will be shown. In the near future, high-resolution scanned files of all historical versions of the new topographic maps also will be available for free download.
Hat tip to beSpacific. [JH]
June 12, 2009
Maybe Westlaw thinks Scalia was wrong, but…
On May 26, 2009, the United States Supreme Court decided Montejo v. Louisiana, which overruled the Court’s 1986 decision, Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625 (1986). To be sure, Justice Scalia in his majority opinion in Montejo stated on page 21 of the slip opinion “Michigan v. Jackson should be and now is overruled.” Also, on May 26, 2009, my colleague, William Gaskill, planned to use Michigan v. Jackson as a Shepard’s/Keycite example in his Legal Research Bootcamp course. He sent his class an email asking them to determine whether Michigan v. Jackson was still good law by class that evening. I opined that students’ answers would be different depending on the time of the day they verified the case. I was wrong. The next morning, William had informed me that according to Keycite, Michigan v. Jackson is still good law.
We’ve been keeping track of the case over the past two weeks and as of today at 3:30 p.m. EST, according to Westlaw, Michigan v. Jackson is still good law. West did enter Montejo into its system, but someone must have read over Nino’s quote or maybe they just figured the majority was wrong. In any event, I hope for sake of criminal lawyers everywhere that this will be remedied soon.
By the way, West, Shepard's picked up the change in Michigan’s status.
David C. Walker, Reference Librarian, Charleston School of Law
Martha Minow Appointed Dean of Harvard Law School
Martha Minow, the Jeremiah Smith, Jr., Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a member of the HLS faculty since 1981, has been named dean of the School effective July 1, 2009. Minow’s appointment follows the March confirmation of Elena Kagan to serve as solicitor general of the United States. [Announcement] [JH]
Simon & Schuster Will Sell Books Through Scribd
The market for e-books got slightly bigger today with news that Simon & Schuster will use Scribd as a distribution channel. The company will make about 5,000 titles available. They will be in a secure PDF format that can be loaded on a Sony book reader, but not Amazon's Kindle. Scribd is one of several popular community document sites where users upload their own documents. Simon & Schuster must see enough of a community mass to make their titles available this way. That company and other publishers are looking to create a market for e-books before Amazon dominates it completely the way Apple does for music and players. Amazon's strategy of a single price for all titles is right out of Apple's playbook, and one at which publishers chafe. The Kindle is new enough as a reader, even in successive generations, to be subject to competition. In fact, Scribd is planning an iPhone app that allows content to be read on that device. Publishers appear to be proactive long before their counterparts in the music business in pushing alternative channels. Kindle as a device certainly has its selling points. It's elegant, it has a connection to the Amazon store which is part of the bundle, and it makes reading easy. It is possible that web readers may be just as happy as reading a PDF, albeit one with restricted rights (no printing, among others) on a netbook or other device. Simon and Schuster and the rest are probably counting on it. [MG]
Head Over Heels Literally
This week's Friday Fun video was suggested by Janet Fischer, Collection Development/Government Documents Librarian, Golden Gate University Law Library. Thanks Janet! [JH]
Product Development Thomson West-Style
|Update on Rudovsky v. West Publishing Corp.|
|The Legal Intelligencer's Shannon P. Duffy is reporting that a federal judge has refused to dismiss a defamation suit brought by two law professors who claim that West Publishing harmed their reputations when it falsely identified them as the authors of a poorly researched treatise update. For background, see LLB's earlier post, Cold Comfort for West in "Sham" Treatise Pocket Part Ruling.|
According to the product description, The Complete CAN-SPAM Act Practice Guide: Including Regulations, Case Law and Related Statutes (Thomson West, 2008) "provides an in-depth analysis and explanation of the CAN-SPAM Act, implementing regulations, and case law, presented in a clear, well-organized manner. Helpful for both experts and novices, the text will enlighten this complicated area of law. The author's extensive subject knowledge comes from having won the largest damages award ever granted under the CAN-SPAM Act..."
According to Lance Burke's (Reference/Access Services Librarian, Elon School of Law) book review on AALL Spectrum Blog, "if none of your patrons are interested in this field, it is unlikely this book will be the catalyst that sparks their interest." Burke observes that only 91 of the 422 page text contains analysis by the author, Ian C. Ballon. "The longest chapter of the book, and unfortunately, the most tedious" writes Burke, Scope of the Act’s Coverage "discusses what types of businesses and messages are covered under the act. While this information would be invaluable to someone who was interested in learning if a particular type of business is covered by the act, it does not make for interesting reading."
Sounds like Thomson West took what would have been an OK practitioner article publishable in an ABA journal, added 331 pages of filler -- the CAN-SPAM Act and regs, state anti-span laws and court documents from one of Ballon’s CAN-SPAM cases -- and slapped on a $79.00 price tag. In other words, nothing new in product development. For a little more on product development Thomson West-style, see the above sidebar. [JH]
Cheap Geek's Guide to Free Online Presentation Tools
Greg Lambert writes that he couldn't live up to my reputation as the "cheap geek" if he didn't share three free online presentation tools: Adobe ConnectNow, Present.IO and Authorstream's "Present Live" feature for PowerPoints. Check out his review on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. [JH]
Judge Sotomayor's 50 Most Important Opinions According to the PreCYdent Algorithm
USD Law prof Thomas Smith has used his PreCYdent SE algorithm to compile Judge Sotomayor's 50 most important opinions. [download from his post]. Smith is the driving force behind this sophisticated search engine. For a guide to web resources covering the Sotomayor nomination, see Vicki Szymczak's (Brooklyn) LLB post, Researching Sotomayor. [JH]
June 11, 2009
LibGuides: the Future of Research Guides?
Chances are, you’ve heard of LibGuides, a platform for creating research guides from Springshare. For any readers exhausted by all the talk of web 2.0 and the latest tech fads, put the skepticism aside, LibGuides really does live up to the hype.
Putting together a research guide with LibGuides is easy (if you can navigate your way around Microsoft Word, you can manage LibGuides). A single guide is actually multiple boxes of content, anything from database links, a catalog search box, RSS feeds, embedded videos and more. On top of that, those boxes of content can be shared across different guides; for example, if I create a box with a tutorial on terms & connectors searching, I could import that box into other research guides. There’s an investment of time required to create content on LibGuides, but the task of updating those guides should be faster than paper or regular HTML guides, and could be shared.
The other investment required is money – a LibGuides subscription ranges from $899 to $2,999 annually. However, it’s a fully hosted system, requiring no IT support or resources to setup or maintain. A number of law libraries have already jumped on the LibGuides bandwagon, and the AALL CS-SIS is maintaining a list of those libraries on their wiki.
One last thing: the exact pronunciation of “LibGuides” has been a source of some controversy (well, at least at my institution). Thankfully, the company has settled the debate in their LibGuides F.A.Q. It’s “Lib” as in “liberation”. [EF]
Editor's Note: Please welcome Elizabeth Farrell to LLB as a contributing editor. Elizabeth is the Research/Instructional Technology Librarian at Florida State University College of Law Research Center. She recently has co-developed and taught an upper level course in environmental legal research at FSU. Elizabeth received her J.D. from the University of Cincinnati and her M.S. from Florida State University. Before joining FSU, she was a senior legal research associate at LexisNexis.
Elizabeth's post on LibGuides is the first of many I believe LLB readers will find informative and stimulating. I agree with Elizabeth. LibGuides looks like a great web service for creating hosted research guides that has legs, meaning its adoption base is already sizable, continues to grow, and has, in my opinion, proved itself sufficiently that it is not a fad. I would love to use it in my little county law library but the licensing fee may be too pricey, in other words, decision pending.
Welcome aboard Elizabeth! -- Joe Hodnicki
Slugfest in the Legal Blogosphere: Mr. "Legal Hitman" v. Mr. "Irresponsible Anonymous Blogger"
Over the past several weeks Ed Whelan who writes for Bench Memos, a blog published by the National Review Online, and an a pseudonymous blogger at Obsidian Wings known as “Publius,” have been debating various issues related to SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor complete with barbs and insults. In other words, legal and political blog commentary with a heavy dose of ranting and raving -- not exactly an unusual phenomena in the blogosphere.
Publius apparently calls Whelan a "legal hitman," upsetting Whelam sufficiently to track down his identity and out him in Exposing an Irresponsible Anonymous Blogger. "Publius" confirmed his identity in Stay Classy Ed Whelan. He is John F. Blevins of the South Texas College of Law ("I have blogged under a pseudonym largely for private and professional reasons. Professionally, I’ve heard that pre-tenure blogging (particularly on politics) can cause problems. And before that, I was a lawyer with real clients. I also believe that the classroom should be as nonpolitical as possible – and I don’t want conservative students to feel uncomfortable before they take a single class based on my posts. So I don’t tell them about this blog. Also, I write and research on telecom policy – and I consider blogging and academic research separate endeavors. This, frankly, is a hobby.").
The outing created a firestorm of posts in the legal blogosphere. Apparently there's nothing more important going on in the world right now. There is one and only one law blog post worth reading, see Chicago Law Prof Brian Leiter's Thoughts on Anonymity and Pseudonymity in Cyberspace. [JH]
DOJ Said to Focus on Google in Book Settlement Investigation
Twitter Usage Patterns: Peer-to-Peer Communications or One-Way Micro-Broadcasting Service?
A recent Harvard Business School study by Bill Heil and Mikolaj Piskorski, New Twitter Research: Men Follow Men and Nobody Tweets, suggests that the top 10 percent of Twitter users produce more than 90 percent of all Tweets. On a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production. "Twitter's usage patterns are ... very different from a typical on-line social network. A typical Twitter user contributes very rarely. Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one. This translates into over half of Twitter users tweeting less than once every 74 days."
Purewire reports that 80 percent of Twitter accounts have fewer than 10 followers and 30 percent have no followers according to Erick Schonfeld's article on TechCruch, On Twitter, Most People Are Sheep: 80 Percent Of Accounts Have Fewer Than 10 Followers. Purewire stats as reported in Schonfeld's story:
Accounts with 0 followers: 29.4%
Accounts with 1 to 9 followers: 50.9%
Accounts with 10 or more followers: 19.7%
Accounts following 0 people: 24.4%
Accounts following 1 to 9 people: 43.4%
Accounts following 10 or more people: 32.2%
Accounts with 0 Tweets: 37.1%
Accounts with 1 to 9 Tweets: 41.0%
Accounts with more 10 or more Tweets: 21.9%
Based on these recent Twitter usage studies, Schonfeld writes "[i]t just may be that Twitter really isn’t as much about two-way micro-conversations as it is about one-way micro-broadcasting." As Dan Giancaterino (Jenkins Law Library) writes on Jenkins Blog, "there seems to be a lot more listening than talking going on with Twitter." [JH]
JISC: Orphan Works Are Languishing Unused
JISC has released In from the Cold: An Assessment of the Scope of 'Orphan Works' and Its Impact on the Delivery of Services to the Public. A snip from the announcement:
The scale and impact of Orphan Works across the public sector confirms that the presence of Orphan Works is in essence locking up culture and other public sector content and preventing organisations from serving the public interest. Works of little and/or variable commercial value but high academic and cultural significance are languishing unused. Access to an immense amount of this material, essential for education and scholarship, is consequently badly constrained, whilst scarce public sector resources are being used up on complex and unreliable 'due diligence' compliance. Without any kind of UK or European Union-wide legal certainty, there will remain a major risk for all users of Orphan Works. The quantity of Orphan Works and their impact is only accelerating as content is being created and digitised without adherence to any single internationally recognised standard for capturing provenance information.
There are also suggestions that often [works are selected for digitisation based on the fact that they do not pose any copyright issues, thus creating a black hole of 20th century content. These issues stress the need for an informed and skilled public sector to deal with all the issues associated with copyright-related materials, the necessity for access to resources to deal with Orphan Works, and an informed and proportionate understanding of the nature of the risks associated with the use of these works.
Hat tip to Digital Koans. [JH]
Firefox Add-ons for Research, Communication and Current Awareness
Check out Bonnie Shucha's (Wisconsin) list of Firefox Add-ons which may be useful for the legal or library professional. Very helpful. [JH]
June 10, 2009
Law Library of Congress Web Page Highlights
I hadn't been to the web site for the Law Library of Congressin quite some time, but I found myself visiting yesterday looking for some primary constitutional law documents. They were there, in a newly reorganized form that brought all of LOC's constitutional materials together in two places (linked from one to the other). The pages focus on the text and analysis of the Constitution, and the application to various topics, such as interpretation, executive privilege, military tribunals, presidential powers, etc. They include links to PDF pages from law reviews, legal magazines, and other references. This was great for what I was seeking.
As with any site with substantial resources, I took a short tour and found a few other items I didn't expect to find. There is the Sonia Sotomayor page, with links to her writings, cases, her past two confirmation hearings, and web resources. Under legislation I found links to three subject areas, census, freedom of information/privacy, and immigration. The subsequent pages had links to the full text (PDF) of selected hearings. The census hearingswent as far back as 1908 (60th Congress); the FOIA hearingsback to 1975 (94th Congress); and immigration hearings back to 1923 (68th Congress). These are test products from the LOC/Google partnership to digitize the entire collection. I note that the publication of older Congressional materials on Google Books still tends to be spotty. Searching for
Kudos to Vicenc Feliu
Vicenç Feliú has been appointed Law Library Director of the Law Library at the University of the District of Columbia School of Law effective July 1st. Vicenç Feliú comes to UDC from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University where he has served as the Assistant Director for Public Services and Associate Librarian for Foreign, Comparative, and International Law. Congratulations! [JH]
SCOTUS Gives Chrysler Sale to Fiat Green Light; Deal Could Be Closed Today
A day after Justice Ginsburg temporarily halted the sale of the Chrysler’s assets as part of its bankruptcy proceedings, [LLB post] the Supreme Court unanimously denied the bid to block the sale to Fiat yesterday. The unsigned, 2-page per curiam order declined to address the merits of the stay petitions. In Court clears Chrysler sale, without dissent, SCOTUSblog reported yesterday that "[w]ord was circulating in Washington and New York Tuesday night that the Chrysler deal could be wrapped up as early as Wednesday morning, with the electronic transfer of funds to pay Chrysler for most of its existing assets." [JH]
The Next Frontier of Search
Developers are entering the "next frontier of search" by trying to add structure to the mass of unstructured electronic data. Computational search engines like Wolfram Alpha and Google Squared aim to construct a database of factual information based on user search logic and present that data is some structured way, like "squares" akin to a spreadsheet display produced by Google Squared where rows of output represent attributes/characteristics related to the user's search terms.
Early reviews of both computation search engines are mixed and for a variety of reasons. Comparisons abound. See, e.g. Google Squared vs. Wolfram|Alpha … FIGHT! and What Is Google Squared? It Is How Google Will Crush Wolfram Alpha. Expectations are high, far higher I think than what these SEs can deliver. As information professionals, we must also be mindful of fundamental differences in their scope. Google Squared for example searches the Web while Wolfram Alpha's data is not drawn from the Web but from a database that is "curated" by Wolfram Research, meaning its data is drawn only from sources that are edited and checked. There is a huge difference between filtered and unfiltered data and search results will reflect this in addition to the differences in the algorithms used by Google Squared and Wolfram Alpha.
Law librarians have been testing Wolfram Alpha and Google Squared and rightly so -- it's what we are supposed to do. See, e.g., LLB's Early Reviews of WolframAlpha for Legal Research. Greg Lambert is the first (or at least one of the first) law librarians to write about a test drive of Google Squared for legal research purposes. See his Google Squared - Better Than Wolfram Alpha on Legal Searches? In my opinion, both computational search engines eventually will be tools law librarians turn to for factual research of legal documentation, like patent research (Greg's idea, not mine), but these tools will be additions to, not in lieu of, search engines we already use, and they probably will be more useful for business and scientific research than for legal research.
The Next Frontier of Search for Legal Research. I don't believe anyone in legal informatics is claiming otherwise about Wolfram Alpha and Google Squared but the point I want to make here is that the next frontier of search for legal research is replacing the aging search engines we current use regularly in LexisNexis and Westlaw and the only new search engine I have seen in recent years that offers the prospect of doing that is PreCYdent. Right now, the PreCYdent search engine is so closely and unfortunately associated with the free online legal research movement (see, e.g., Bob Ambrogi's Get Your Free Case Law on the Web and his earlier post, Sophisticated Search for Public Domain Law) that we tend to forget how innovative the PreCYdent algorithm is. That will change if/when LexisNexis or Westlaw admit that PreCYdent is better than their own search engines and license it.
It's time to replace the antiquated SEs in our fee-based online legal research services with ones that incorporate modern principles and techniques of information retrieval. Looks to me like a San Diego law prof and his team of software engineers have already accomplished this. For more, see Steven Robert Miller's PreCYdent: A New Search Engine Enters the Legal Research World and LLB's Law Prof as Toolmaker: An Interview with PreCYdent’s Thomas A. Smith. [JH]
Should (When Will) Legal Research Skills Be Tested on the Bar Exam?
The idea that the bar exam should include a legal research skills component has been kicking around for quite awhile. The late Roy Mersky, Clair Germain (Cornell), Blair Kauffman (Yale), and others have been promoting the cause for years. The National Conference of Bar Examiners and many others have been skeptical that legal research can be testable in a bar exam format but most ALR instructors know that a carefully crafted set of questions can test for an understanding of both the principles of legal research and their application -- it's really nothing more that determining if the exam takers are thinking like law librarians by analyzing a research issue from the perspective of access points and routes to legal resources.
One would think that the critique of legal education presented in the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's report Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (2007) and some recent studies like Katrina Fischer Kuh's (Hofstra) Electronically Manufactured Law study of researcher behavior and outcome [LLB post] would give the proposal some traction but that's debatable. Blair Kauffman reports on the latest developments and current prospects in Testing for Legal Research Skills on the Bar Exam: Are the Bar Examiners Ready? on AALL Spectrum blog. Required reading for everyone interested in improving the quality of legal research instruction in the legal academy. [JH]
U.S. Tax Court Instructional Videos Now Available Online
Hat tip to Jacqueline Laínez (Memphis) for calling attention to the U.S. Tax Court's instructional videos on Clinical Law Prof Blog. The video series covers 1) Understanding the Process; 2) Introduction to the United States Tax Court; 3) Filing the Petition; 4) Pretrial Matters; 5) Calendar Call and Trial; 6) Post Trial Proceedings; plus introductoryand review videos. Each video page display includes links to relevant Tax Court website resources. [JH]