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December 29, 2005

Free Online Workshops - Internet Searching, Wikis, and More

OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) is offering a handful of free online workshops this spring. Topics include Internet searching, travel planning, starting a wiki, and more.

Source: Beyond the Job

Letterman Top Ten Archive

Tis the season for year-end top ten lists. But none are as fun as a good old Late Show with David Letterman Top Ten like these from the Top Ten Archive:

Thanks to the Librarians Internet Index for the link.

South Koreans to Receive Indictments via Text Message

According to BoingBoing, prosecutors in South Korea will begin issuing indictments via text message in the coming year.

December 22, 2005

Madison's Wi-Fi Project Comes to Life

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, downtown Madison's wi-fi project has come to life, albeit a small one.
Computer users within several hundred feet of the YWCA at 101 E. Mifflin St. should be able to pick up a signal from a transmitter atop the building, said Dick Grasmick, the city of Madison's chief computer expert on Tuesday.

And it's free, for now.

The device is still being tested, so uninterrupted service cannot be guaranteed. The YWCA site is just the first transmitter to go online for what is slated to become a 9- square-mile "cloud" of wireless Internet access centered on the Capitol by March.

Full-fledged WiFi service will eventually cost users somewhere between $15 to $25 per month, but the system is not yet set up for customer billing, said George Twigg, a spokesman for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.

So Internet access is free - albeit spotty - while it's being tested.

To access the network, users can scan for available net works and look for a network titled "MadCity Broadband," Grasmick said.

Update 12/29/05: Kristian Knutsen of the Isthmus Daily Page did a walk around the Capitol Square to test wi-fi signal strength. See article for locations where reception is and isn't available. And thanks to Kristian for the link to WisBlawg!

Web tools for Investigating Private Businesses

From PI Newslink, the blog of private investigator, Tamara Thompson comes a pair of Web tools for finding documentation on a private business:

- The Small Business Administration maintains database of companies to which they've made loans. The returns can include the gross receipts of the business, number of employees and owners.

- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) produces a monthly report of its litigation with companies . The online site doesn't have a database but you can quickly create one using Google.

For example, if the business name is "Amycel", your Google search would be formulated like this: "amycel site:http://www.eeoc.gov/litigation/settlements/"

The Google result will return all pages in the litigation monthly reports that mention Amycel. Unfortunately, the online reports only cover those issued since December 2002.

December 21, 2005

Pac-Man Re-enacted

It seems that many things from my youth that are making a come back these days. A trip to Toys-R-Us is like taking a trip down memory lane - Strawberry Shortcake, Scooby Doo, Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids...

But this blast-from-the-past made me laugh out loud. From BoingBoing:

"Two students [from] the University of Michigan, dressed up as Pac-Man and the Ghost respectively, ran through the UGLi (the Undergraduate Library) and the Fishbowl (a huge computer lab on Central campus) during finals week. Pac-Man screams in horror as the Ghost chases him yelling 'Waka Waka Waka.' "

Link to *.mov

Electronic Discovery Primer for Judges

Thanks to PDF for Lawyers for the link to the Electronic Discovery Primer for Judges in the Federal Courts Law Review from February 2005.

From the abstract:

The law of electronic discovery is beginning to emerge, but most issues are so unexplored that judges must still develop much important law... This article is a practical guide for judges to the main electronic discovery issues likely to be presented in the foreseeable future, and a brief discussion of possible solutions.
The article is available in HTML, PDF and WordPerfect format.

Article Explaining RSS

An article I wrote entitled, "RSS: It's About Time" appears in this month's edition of Connecting... (the newsletter of the Computing Services Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries).

The article offers a basic introduction to RSS and explores its usefulness for legal research. Topics covered include:

  • What is RSS? - what is it and how is it like/different than email
  • RSS readers - which one is right for you
  • Drawbacks of RSS? - potential and actual nasties
  • Other uses of RSS feeds (besides blogs) - newspapers, custom alerts, legal info, and more
This past summer the CS-SIS generously provided me with a grant to attend the AALL Annual Meeting in San Antonio for which I am very grateful.

December 20, 2005

Comic Strip Search Engine

Looking for a little humor to lighten the mood or perhaps make a point? Check out OhNoRobot, a search engine for the text in online comic strips.

A couple of caveats courtesy of LibrarianInBlack (from whom I discovered OhNoRobot):
- A lot of the more mainstream online comics aren't included. There are about 232 comics that are indexed.
- Many of the comics included are extremely alternative--and perhaps not always safe for work. Reader beware.

On a related note, Unshelved, a comic about libraries had a bit about library blogs this month (See Dec 5-10, 2005). Unshelved doesn't seem to be indexed by OhNoRobot.

Was Student Visited by Homeland Security for Requesting Book from Library?

There is a good bit of speculation about whether or not this story is true. From BoingBoing:

A Massachussetts paper is reporting that a college student was visited by Department of Homeland Security agents in October after requesting a copy of Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung -- better known as "The Little Red Book" -- from a university library:

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program. . .

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

Read the debate over at BoingBoing.
Update (12\21\05): See BoingBoing's update on this story
Update (12\29\05): A hoax indeed (from BoingBoing)

December 19, 2005

List of Law Library Blogs Updated

I've just updated my list of Law Library Blogs and Blogs by Law Librarians or Law Library Associations. There are now 91 such blogs! I'm so pleased that law librarians are making this technology their own.

Report on Public's Access to Legal Information & Assistance in WI

The Public Access to Legal Information Committee of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin (LLAW) has just released the results of a year-long study of the public access to legal information and assistance in Wisconsin. This 40-page study compares access levels across libraries and courts, as well as noting success stories in the area of legal assistance to the public.

This study is extremely thorough and very well written. Beginning on page 19, suggestions are offered for enhancing services to the public. They are divided into recommendations for public law librarians; public & academic librarians; and to the Circuit Courts of Wisconsin.

The report was the brainchild of Paula Seeger, Librarian at the Dane County Legal Resource Center and chair of the PALI Committee. You may also recognize Paula's two blogs, DCLRC Blawg and Burning Ears Blawg.

The report is available on the LLAW Website. Print copies are also available for $5.00 each by contacting Paula.

Wisconsin Lawyer December Issue

The December 2005 issue of the Wisconsin Lawyer is now available on the WisBar site. Highlights include articles on quantitative methodology, international law and the state bar annual report.

December 14, 2005

What Can Happen When You Don't Wipe PDF Metadata

PDF for Lawyers reports on another case of too much information being released when metadata is not wiped from a PDF file.

Yet another PDF metadata snafu -- this time by the White House! In this article by PDF Zone's Don Fluckinger, we learn that the 38-page Iraq policy document posted as a PDF shows a Duke PoliSci professor as the author. (Ouch!). This story joins last spring's military secret redaction debacle as an example of why it is important to have at least a basic understanding of your technology.

December 13, 2005

Strange Origins of Wisconsin Place Names

From Odd Wisconsin, one of my favorite blogs, comes Weird Wisconsin Names. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, one of the most popular features of it's new online Dictionary of Wisconsin History is the origin of place names, complete with maps and aerial photos.

Cuba City, for example, was originally named Yuba -- from "You b'damned" -- after a dispute between two early settlers who platted it out differently. This was later changed to Cuba for the sake of politeness, which evolved into Cuba City.

Unfortunately, I did not find the origins of Wisconsin village named for one of my own ancestors. Legend has it that there was a dispute raging in the small village. Johann Marx, my great-great-grandfather, supposedly eased tensions by setting up a keg of beer in the center of town. The village, thereafter, became known as Marxville. Only in Wisconsin.

Create a PDF of a Website

Dave Fishel over at PDF for Lawyers has shared a useful tip on how to create a PDF of an entire Website or selected portions of it. Why would you want to do this?, he asks.
You may be doing research on a company for a takeover bid. The work requires you to spend many hours studying the company, but you don't want their network logs showing your IP address snooping around at all hours of the day and night. Or perhaps you want to preserve a website as evidence of how things looked on a certain day and time. Or to archive your own firm's website as a backup or "wayback machine." Perhaps you've found a site with lots of amazing material that you would like to keep available for quick reference, but you're not always online, the site doesn't have search capability, and you want to have it available and make notes on it.

Head on over to PDF for Lawyers for instructions complete with screen shots. As Dave warns, be judicious about how much of the site to PDF since some sites are extremely large.


Update 12/19/05: For some reason, the direct permalink to this PDF for Lawyers post is broken. To view the post, go to the blog's main url at http://www.pdfforlawyers.com/ and navigate to the 12/12/05 posts. The relevant post is titled, "How To Create a PDF of an Entire Website."

GuideStar Offers Basic and Advanced Nonprofit Research Tools

Around this time of year, people often think of donating to charities. Choosing worthy ones, however, can be difficult. GuideStar, from Philanthropic Research, Inc., can help you and your clients make more educated decisions. This Web site provides information about the operations and finances of more than 620,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States.

With GuideStar Basic, you can conduct a simple search to verify a nonprofit's legitimacy, learn whether a contribution will be tax deductible, view a nonprofit's recent Forms 990, or find out more about its mission, programs, and finances. This service is available at no cost, but a log-in is required.

For the more serious researcher, GuideStar also has additional packages for a fee: GuideStar Select and GuideStar Premium. These include greater search capability, advanced sort options, and extra documentation. For more information, see the features chart on the GuideStar web site.

But, wait - there's more... GuideStar also offers a handful of other products for research and outreach, as well as, what it calls some custom solutions.

December 12, 2005

Detect Phony Web Sites with SpoofStick

"Browse freely but carry a SpoofStick" is the slogan for Corestreet's free browser extension that helps users detect spoofed (fake) websites.

The heart of most "phishing" schemes, spoofed websites are usually made to look like well known, branded sites, such as citibank.com. The phony URLs often closely resemble the real thing. Phishing for the "accidental tourist," attackers hope to lure people to a spoofed site where they will enter their credit card numbers and other personal information.

SpoofStick makes it easier to spot a spoofed website by prominently displaying the most relevant domain information. Note the actual domain name displayed below the address line in this screen capture.

SpoofStick is available for both IE and Firefox.

Source: PC World, July 2005

December 7, 2005

Administrative Rule Making Explained

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance has compiled an educational guide to administrative rule making in Wisconsin. Administrative rules are reported in the Wisconsin Administrative Code.

"The state constitution grants the legislature the power to enact laws. The legislature, in turn, has delegated to state agencies the authority to promulgate administrative rules, which have the power of law," instructs the guide. The guide follows the rule making process from initiation to publication. It also explains the use of emergency rules.

In 1979, legislators granted themselves the power to review all proposed administrative rules. Since that time, 5,930 permanent (81%) and emergency (19%) rules have been filed. Although this cumulative number has climbed steadily, the number of rules filed per year has actually declined in the last decade.

According the guide, the executive branch is developing a Web site that will allow people to search proposed administrative rules by topic and submit comments.

Although the guide does not appear to be available electronically, you may request a free copy on the WTA Web site or by calling 608-241-9789.

December 6, 2005

Marquette Student Suspended Because of Blog

The suspension of a Marquette University dental student for violation of professional conduct codes resulting from negative comments on a blog has created a controversy on and off campus.

From the JS Online article:

What bothers Taylor [Scott Taylor, the student's attorney] and others is what they call vagueness of Marquette's codes of conduct and the decision to apply them in this case. The dental school's code requires students "to conduct interactions with each other, with patients and with others in a manner that promotes understanding and trust" and condemns "actions, which in any way discriminate against or favor any group or are harassing in nature." . . .

Daniel D'Angelo, an adjunct associate professor of behavioral sciences in the School of Dentistry, agreed. He reviewed the student's blog entries at the request of his parents before the conduct hearing. D'Angelo, who is a co-director of Marquette's Ethics and Professionalism curriculum, determined that the postings did not justify disciplinary action.

"What he wrote was imprudent, immature and oftentimes distasteful," D'Angelo wrote in a letter to Anthony Ziebert, a professor who headed the student-faculty review committee that heard the case. "But no matter how much I or anyone else find these entries, rude, distasteful and imprudent, it doesn't make these entries unethical or immoral."

The student is appealing the decision. This marks the second time Marquette has taken action against a student for statements made on a blog.

December 5, 2005

Lobbying in Wisconsin Explained

From the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau's Governing Wisconsin series:

Lobbying in Wisconsin: What Do Lobbyists Do and How Are They Regulated in Wisconsin?

Search Terms as Witness for the Prosecution

According to prosecutors in Durham County, NC, a man on trial for murdering his wife Googled the terms "body decomposition," "rigor mortis," "neck" and "break," as well as, downloaded a topical map of a lake bed in the days before he dumped the her remains in the same body of water.

According to the article in eWeek.com:

Whether they should be allowed to or not, search terms can help prove a case.

[The defendant's] Google activity was introduced at trial to convince the jury of the timeline for [his] murderous activity. . .

It helped; the jury found [him] guilty of first-degree murder after just two hours of deliberation Tuesday.

The use of Internet search terms has privacy advocates concerned. Also from the article:

The thought of someone's brain blueprint in the hands of investigators is causing alarms, mainly because the federal courts are unclear on whether search terms are meant to be kept private, and therefore off-limits to an entity like the police.

Complicating matters is the need to balance privacy rights and allowing investigators to adapt their techniques to the new technologies that their suspects use.

"If search terms aren't part of the routine now for everybody in law enforcement, they soon will be," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which provides commentary on technology-related law.

"That raises questions about privacy and how far police can go. What you Google for defines you. Your search logs are the closest thing to a printout of your brain that we have."

Source: Robert Ambrogi's Law Sites

December 2, 2005

WSLL Circulation by Mail for Judges and Attorneys

From the December 2005 WSLL At Your Service, the newsletter of the Wisconsin State Law Library

Circulation By Mail for Judges and Attorneys When time or distance prevents you from visiting the Wisconsin State Law Library to borrow materials, we can ship them directly to your office with our Circulation By Mail service. Anyone licensed to practice law in Wisconsin may use this service, whether you are located within or outside the state.

How does Circulation By Mail work? If you're not sure which titles you need, start by searching our library catalog. To place a request, contact our Reference Desk. The librarian on duty will verify that the items are available and can place holds on anything that's currently in circulation.

Materials are shipped the day or day after you place your request. We normally ship by UPS ground service, with next business day delivery to most areas within the state. Delivery to far northern Wisconsin or an out of state location may take longer. Milwaukee area attorneys may also have materials delivered to the Milwaukee Legal Resource Center (MLRC) through our once-a-week interlibrary delivery service. When time is critical, FedEx shipping is another option.

How much does it cost? For attorneys, the cost depends on the delivery method you choose:

  • UPS ground delivery: $10.00 per item plus return delivery.
  • FedEx delivery: $10.00 per item, plus FedEx charges billed directly to your FedEx account. You are also responsible for return delivery costs.
  • Interlibrary delivery to the MLRC: No charge. You may also return the materials there for free delivery back to the State Law Library, or ship them directly at your own expense.

Your loan period is 3 weeks, with an option to renew them for one additional week if needed. You may renew materials online with your library card number, or you may contact the library for assistance.

For judges, materials are shipped no charge; you are responsible for return delivery costs. We use UPS ground service unless you request another method. Your loan period is 30 days, and you may also renew materials online with your library card number or by contacting the library.

To take advantage of this convenient service, please contact our Reference Desk. We look forward to hearing from you.

December 1, 2005

Library Elf Helps You Track Your Library Books

My kids love going to our local public library. Besides the really cool Thomas train set, they always want to check out a slew of books. While I encourage reading, a part of me cringes every time I take a stack up to the circulation desk. How on earth am I going to keep track of all these books?

Well, I guess I was a good girl this year because Santa has sent me a little elf to help. Library Elf is actually a neat reminder service for your public library account. Just enter your library card number, and Elf will send you an alert via email or RSS before your books are due. And if you place holds on library materials, Elf can track that, too.

Several Wisconsin public libraries are participating, including Madison and Milwaukee public libraries. You can monitor more than one library card, including those belonging to others if you know their library card number (and pin if required). (Hmm - could be some privacy concerns there.)

Now if I just had a little elf to keep my toddler from tearing up the books, I'd be all set.

Update 12/29/05: Mary Minow of LibraryLaw Blog did some investigating and learned that Library Elf feeds were not private with some RSS readers such as Bloglines -- that means anyone could view your library account. Elf has fixed the problem by disallowing feeds via Bloglines - subscribers will just received "Error" messages instead.

BlawgWorld Highlights Content from 51 Influential Blawgs - including WisBlawg!

Neil Squillante & Sara Skiff over at Technolawyer have put together a very nice collection of "thought-provoking essays from the most influential blawgs" in the newly published eBook, BlawgWorld 2006.

The essays were handpicked by each respective blogger as most representative of their blawg. There are some really great blawgs here - some which you will probably know, others which may be new to you. And I'm very pleased to say that WisBlawg was selected as one of the fifty one featured blawgs. Check out my contribution.

If you are new to blawgs, this eBook will serve as a nice introduction to the type of content you can find in the blawgosphere. If you are already a blog reader, BlawgWorld may just introduce you to one or two more you would like to read.

Although it is available exclusively to TechnoLawyer members, anyone can join for free and receive a free copy of this eBook at www.blawgworld.com.

EBSCO to Offer RSS Alerts

EBSCO, provider of well-known databases such as Index to Legal Periodicals & Books, Academic Search Elite, and Business Source Elite, will be offering a RSS option for alerts starting early next year.

According to the announcement from EBSCO, RSS enabled Alerts will allow librarians and users to feed results from EBSCOhost Search and Journal Alerts into their news readers and aggregators, as well as their web sites.

Source: Library Stuff