June 17, 2009
How the Media Frames "Open Access"
Philip Davis, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication at Cornell University and a former science librarian, applies concepts of media framing to the debate over open access in How the Media Frames “Open Access” (Journal of Electronic Publishing). From the abstract:
The results of an analysis of editorials and letters published in major world newspapers illustrates that proponents of free access to the research literature have routinely framed their arguments in terms of transparency and accountability. In addition, proponents have been able to construct social action frames, a necessary component in creating social movements. Opponents, on the other hand, lack a central frame and have constructed complex and nuanced counterarguments about quality and sustainability of scientific publishing. While these counterarguments may be sound, they lack the simplicity and narrative structure of the proponents’ arguments.
Who's Running the Most Web Servers?
From publicly available data:
1&1 Internet: 55,000 servers
Rackspace: 50,038 servers
The Planet: 48,500 servers
Akamai Technologies: 48,000 servers
OVH: 40,000 servers (company)
But according to Rich Miller in Who Has the Most Web Servers? there are much larger server farms, including Google (a three-year old estimate at 450,000 servers) and Microsoft was running about 218,000 servers as of mid-2008 and Company’s new Chicago container farm will hold up to 300,000 servers, so the count will change rapidly when that facility is deployed. [JH]
Reminder: Applications for the 2009 AALL Leadership Academy Due June 30
The AALL Leadership Academy, will be held October 16-17 in the Chicago area. Applications will be accepted May 1-June 30, and participants will be selected and notified by mid-August. Fellows will participate in pre-engagement exercises, have an opportunity to obtain a mentor, and receive ongoing leadership development opportunities. [JH]
June 16, 2009
Attend the CALI Conference Virtually – for Free!
The CALI Conference for Law School Computing always has an interesting mix of sessions for librarians, IT folk and law faculty, and new this year, all the sessions will be webcast live! Using the open source web meeting software Dimdim, each session will have a live video feed and chat room.
The conference kicks off this Thursday, June 18, and runs through Saturday, June 20. The links for all the conference session webcasts are available on the conference program website. While all the sessions look fantastic, the following may be of particular interest to librarians:
- Authentication and Online Document Repositories
- Critical Mass is Critical – A View Into the Changing World of Scholarly Communications
- Firefox Add-ons for Legal Research
- No Carrot No Stick No Budget No Problem:Tools for the 21st Century Library
- A Holistic Approach to Academic Computing: Librarians and Instructional Technologists Are Better Working Together
- Introducing and Integrating Free Internet Legal Research Into Classroom
- Crowdsourcing and Open Access v2.0: Harnessing the Power of Peer Production to Disseminate Historical Records and Legal Scholarship
- Kindle for Law Schools
- Using LibGuides to build Legal Research Guides
- Building awesome library web apps with open source
- Coursecrafting: (def.) Mashing up legal research, moot court, skills training and instructional technology into something new and innovative!
- Thinking Outside the (Glass) Box: Digital Displays in Law Libraries
Kudos to Washington & Lee's Sally Wiant on a Job Very Well Done for 31 Years
Sally Wiant will retire as director of the Washington and Lee Law School Library at the end of June after 31 years at the helm according to W&L's announcement. She will assume full-time duties on the Washington and Lee Faculty of Law. This fall, Sally will teach a practicum course on intellectual property in the Law School's new third-year curriculum.
In July, Caroline Osborne, research and instructional services librarian, will assume the duties of Acting Director of the Law Library. The School will form a committee to conduct a national search for a new library director in August. [JH]
Are Lawyers Competent to Construct Keyword Searches?
This issue raises its head every now and then in the context of electronic discovery. One of the latest opinions on this comes from Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck in the Southern District of New York. The case is William A. Gross. Constr. Assocs., Inc. v. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co., 256 F.R.D. 134 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2009). It involves delays in the construction of the Bronx Criminal Court Complex. The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) owns the project and agreed to produce emails from non-party Hill International, the project construction manager, as part of the discovery. The parties could not agree on keywords for locating the relevant emails. DASNY proposed one set of words that were specific to the project, but possibly too narrow to give comprehensive results. The other side proposed terms that were broad, and almost generic enough to include the entire email archive.
The opinion, and others quoted in it, suggest that the problem here is more than simply a dispute between litigants. Judge Peck thinks it may be that lawyers simply don't have a handle on what they are trying to find. That includes more than the information in the relevant electronic archive. The context is an archive of emails. Searching it should take into account how individual emails were created, their purpose, how they are stored, and the form of the documents. Practically every vendor of e-discovery systems offer contextual search using Boolean style connectors. One would think that with some 30 or more years using a similar and sophisticated search strategy with Westlaw and Lexis that constructing keyword searches in document sets wouldn't be that much of a problem. Apparently it is.
Westlaw and Lexis are really misleading in this regard, and it's not their fault. It's easy with practice and experience to extract relevant documents from Westlaw and Lexis once an individual masters the search strategy. There is a combination of knowing the terminology of the legal subject, what kinds of documents are in an individual database, and some thought in the use of language as to how these legal concepts appear in text. The misleading part is that these massive collections of documents have similar structure. Cases have captions, docket numbers, counsel lists, authors, and a stylized language that uses consistent terms of art. Statutes, law review articles,long-form commentary such as treatise, and even newspaper articles have enough of a regular structure that makes searching within them relatively easy for an experience searcher. An archive of emails or irregular documents is another matter entirely. Westlaw and Lexis carefully run their additions through editors to eliminate misspelling's and other typographic issues. Even then problems crop up. Raw archives present problems with typos, short form language (LMAO anyone?), incomplete sentences and other off the cuff communication syntax.
Judge Peck bluntly lays it out:
This case is just the latest example of lawyers de-signing keyword searches in the dark, by the seat of the pants, without adequate (indeed, here, apparently without any) discussion with those who wrote the emails.
He quotes from Judge Grimm in the Victor Stanley case:
While keyword searches have long been recognized as appropriate and helpful for ESI search and retrieval, there are well-known limitations and risks associated with them, and proper selection and implementation obviously involves technical, if not scientific knowledge.
* * *
Selection of the appropriate search and information retrieval technique requires careful advance planning by persons qualified to design effective search methodology. The implementation of the methodology selected should be tested for quality assurance; and the party selecting the methodology must be prepared to explain the rationale for the method chosen to the court, demonstrate that it is appropriate for the task, and show that it was properly implemented. Victor Stanley, Inc. v. Creative Pipe, Inc., 250 F.R.D. 251, 260, 262 (D.Md. May 29, 2008) (Grimm, M.J.).
And from Judge Fasciola in the O'Keefe case:
Whether search terms or “keywords” will yield the information sought is a complicated question in-volving the interplay, at least, of the sciences of computer technology, statistics and linguistics. Given this complexity, for lawyers and judges to dare opine that a certain search term or terms would be more likely to produce information than the terms that were used is truly to go where angels fear to tread. This topic is clearly beyond the ken of a layman and requires that any such conclusion be based on evidence that, for example, meets the criteria of Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. United States v. O'Keefe, 537 F.Supp.2d 14, 24 (D.D.C.2008) (Facciola, M.J.).
Judge Peck suggests applying some thought to conducting searches, and that counsel cooperate. He also suggests using sampling techniques to see what's there and then refining the search. This is a technique that librarians and other information professionals use all the time. Sometimes one has to get a sense of what the archive contains before constructing specialized searches within it. That means finding out about what is being searched. Competent information management in discovery may mean that lawyers may need to hire an expert when necessary. Judge Peck noted that in passing through other cases he cited. He also endorsed the principles of the Sedona Conference, available on the Internet. Ironically, the site address in the opinion was malformed. The correct address is http://www.thesedonaconference.org. (Judge Peck, or at least the editors of F.R.D. used spaces to separate elements of the domain name.)
From the site description:
The Sedona Conference® is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) research and educational institute dedicated to the advanced study of law and policy in the areas of antitrust law, complex litigation, and intellectual property rights. Through a combination of Conferences, Working Groups, and the "magic" of dialogue, The Sedona Conference® seeks to move the law forward in a reasoned and just way. The Sedona Conference® succeeds through the generous contributions of time by its faculties and Working Group members, and is able to fund its operations primarily through the financial support of its members, conference registrants, and sponsorships. See "About Us," "Working Group Series," and "Sponsorships" for further details.
Electronic discovery and best practices associated with it are one of the areas covered in detail at the site. Much of the information there is free with registration. [MG]
New Property Tax Database
The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the George Washington Institute of Public Policy have launched Significant Features of the Property Tax, an online database that presents data on the property tax in all 50 states. This new site provides data sets and links relating to the property tax and its role in state and local finance in all 50 states. The interface allows users to access property tax and data online in a variety of forms, including tables of the most frequently sought figures, a query system for creating new tables, and a downloadable database.
A snip from the site:
The term “Significant Features” pays tribute to the work of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, which was established by Congress in 1959 to study the relationships among local, state, and national levels of government. Until its termination in 1996, ACIR provided a wealth of research on the functioning of the federal system, particularly through its flagship publication, Significant Features of Fiscal Federalism.
Hat tip to ResourceShelf. [JH]
Using A Blog to Peer Review Drafts of an Academic Book
Noah Wardrip-Fruin, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of California at Santa Cruz, let the readers of a blog peer review drafts of his latest book, Expressive Processing (MIT Press). He shares his final conclusions about the strengths and weaknesses of his experiment on Grand Text Auto. [JH]
Add OpenJurist to List of Free U.S. Case Law Websites
Well, I'm adding OpenJurist to my list -- news to me but I might be behind the curve because of the proliferation of free case law websites. OpenJurist's database currently has approximately 647,000 opinions from the United States Supreme Court beginning in 1754 when it was known as the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and Federal Appellate Courts beginning in 1880 from the First, Second and Third series of Federal Reporter. The database is tied to a Google search engine. Hat tip to Cleveland Marshall Law Library Blog. [JH]
Preserving Born-Digital Literary Materials for Scholarly Use
What are the archival challenges presented by contemporary authors' practice of drafting almost all of their materials on a computer? Approaches to Managing and Collecting Born-Digital Literary Materials for Scholarly Use, a white paper produced by the Office of Digital Humanities in the National Endowment for the Humanities, explores the issues using a case studies approach. Hat tip to Digital Koans. [JH]
June 15, 2009
Need Design Ideas for Constructing or Renovating Your Law Library?
Here's some. [JH]
Supreme Court Action Today
The Supreme Court released two more opinions this morning:
Nijhawan v. Holder, Attorney General (08-495). Petitioner was convicted of mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. The jury did not make a finding about the amount of loss. Petitioner stipulated that the the victim loss exceeded $100 million at time of sentencing. The trial court imposed a sentence of 41 months in prison and restitution in the amount of $683 million. As an alien, petitioner was subject to deportation under the immigration statute's aggravated felony definition when the fraud amounts to more than $10,000. Lower courts have taken different approaches to interpreting the aggravated felony requirements as to whether the statute defined crimes as categorical or circumstantial. Some courts viewed the $10,000 as an element of the crime, while others examined all the circumstances to determine whether the conviction amounted to an aggravated felony. Justice Breyer examined comparable criminal statutes and determined that the statute is circumstantial. The conviction was upheld.
Polar Tankers, Inc. v. City of Valdez, Alaska (08-310). Valdez imposed a personal property tax that was tailored to apply to large oil tankers. Petitioner Polar Tankers challenged the ordinance as violating Art I, §10, cl. 3, which forbids a state to lay a duty of tonnage without consent of Congress. The Alaska Supreme Court upheld the tax. The Supreme Court reversed with Justice Breyer concluding that the tax violated the Tonnage Clause. Other Justices agreed the tax unconstitutional, but did not join completely in Justice Breyer's reasoning. [MG]
Lessons Learned from the Messy Practicalities of Law and Society Research
Hat tip to Stanford Law School Library Director Paul Lomio, Legal Research Plus, for calling attention to Conducting Law and Society Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices by Simon Halliday and Patrick Schmidt (Cambridge UP, May 25, 2009). According to the book's product description the work "takes students and scholars behind the scenes of empirical scholarship, showing the messy reality of research methods" using oral histories of well-known law and society scholars. The messiness theme is picked up in every review excerpt published on the book's Amazon page. The work's real contribution probably lies in offering advice on how to perform law-in-society empirical research.
I haven't seen a copy yet but Lomio says it makes a "good case for why PACER data should be free or at least less expensive for law schools." Just law schools? I'm pretty sure he would also agree with the proposition that PACER should be less expensive, if not free, for all public law libraries. [JH]
Cleveland Law Library Association Awarded Grant to Create Online Tutorials
The Cleveland Law Library Association has been awarded a grant to create online tutorials for Association members and site visitors. The Law Library will receive its funding from the Attorney Outreach Grant Program of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The tutorials will be accessible on the law library's website. See the Library's blog post for more.
Congratulations to Kathy Sasala and her great team at the Cleveland Law Library. [JH]
Map of Disputes Between WTO Members
The World Trade Organization has created an interactive map that depicts disputes between its member states. The web page display also includes hyperlinks to enable the user to access dispute documents, a chronological list of disputes, lists of disputes by country and by subject, and GATT disputes. Hat tip to LC's Wendy Zeldin. [JH]
Opening: Web Services Developer, George Mason University Law Library
The George Mason University Law Library is seeking an experienced web services professional who will report directly to the Associate Dean for Library & Technology.
Design, update, and maintain the law school's public website and Intranet, including visual design, site structure, and creation of multimedia and dynamic content.
Design, develop, support, and maintain web-based databases and other specialized electronic resources used by departments in the law school.
Advise, train, and assist faculty, staff, and student organizations with development of their web pages.
Participate in the planning, development, implementation, and support of current and emerging technologies for the law school including multimedia applications and distance technologies.
Develop user instructional materials and other documentation as needed. Provide assistance and training to faculty, students, and staff with a variety of technology resources.
Desired Qualifications: Advanced degree in law, library science, technology or related field. Experience with teaching or training; experience with video photography, video and audio editing, and optimization of multimedia content for the web.
For a detailed position description and application instructions, please see: http://www.law.gmu.edu/library/employment/positions/web_services
George Mason University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Women and minority candidates are particularly encouraged to apply.
June 14, 2009
EFF's Terms-of-Service Tracker
Terms-Of-Service (TOS) and other website policies form the foundation of one's relationship with social networking sites, online businesses, and other Internet communities. But most people become aware of these terms only when there's a problem. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a service, TOSBack, to help users monitor website TOS polices and track how they change over time. Great idea and EFF has the necessary resources to make this a very useful service. Here's the RSS feed. Hat tip to Simon Fodden on slaw.ca. [JH]