Yesterday, the Information Society Project at the Yale Law School hosted a spirited lunchtime discussion of the law.gov project(the Yale Law Library was very well-represented, too). LII Director Thomas R. Bruce and law.gov mastermind Carl Malamud made (unusually, for them) brief statements about the nature and progress of the project, and then answered questions from the attendees.Running throughout the session were questions about how bulk legal information works as you move lower and lower in the hierarchy of the legal system; how does a small city, for example, afford the expertise and effort necessary to put municipal codes online? How might publishing technology serve town and village courts? As yet, there aren’t solid answers to this, but the general hope is that open-source, open-standards technology is affordable enough to spawn small enterprises that might be able to service this very wide market.
Mike Wash, CIO of the US Government Printing Office, talked to Federal News Radio yesterday about the collaboration between LII and the GPO. It’s a good description of the project, which aims to produce high-quality online editions of the Code of Federal Regulations. Mike’s a great guy, and we’re looking forward to working with him and his team.A streaming version of the interview is here. A copy of the GPO press release is here.
It has not been a good week at the LII. Yesterday at around noon our server room experienced a serious power spike. We’re still not sure where it came from, but it was sufficient to cause all of our servers to reboot despite protection with UPS devices and the like. One of them didn’t come back, and as Murphy would have it it was the director machine for our cluster. We’ve worked around the problem, but because the repair involves a DNS change it will take a while to propagate through the network (I’m writing this from central Connecticut more than 16 hours after the DNS change and it has still not reached Comcast’s servers here). We would expect it to be net-wide within 24 hours. This is just…bad. We are still investigating the power-event that led to this. More here when we know more.
This morning, the Law Librarian blog (a must-read here at the LII) is talking about the possibility that law schools are gaming the circulation statistics for their flagship law reviews. The detailed data is in a study by George Mason lawprof Ross E. Davies. We won’t comment on the possibility that gaming is going on. But boy do we like those numbers, even if they’re inflated. In fact, we like them especially if they’re inflated. Because according to the figures in the Davies article, the electronic circulation of the LII Supreme Court Bulletin (which stands this morning at a provable 19,594) is very likely greater than that of all the flagship law reviews of the US News Top 19 combined. So is its print circulation via the Federal Lawyer, the magazine of the Federal Bar Association, which is estimated at a further 16,000 or so.
Now, a few sober notes and disclaimers before everyone gets overexcited:
- The LIIBULLETIN is not a scholarly law journal, in the traditional sense.
- It is a lot smaller than “real” law journals. If we were to print it out and count pages in circulation, the LIIBULLETIN would doubtless lose to any one of the flagships. Comparisons based on gross weight would be meaningless, because electrons do not have a lot of heft.
- There is no involvement by scholars. LIIBULLETIN is a student-driven enterprise in which students write collaboratively, for attribution, on tight deadlines, about subjects with which they have no familiarity until the Court’s oral argument calendar is handed out. Some feel this bears a certain resemblance to the realities of law practice.
- Historically, it accepts a smaller percentage of students wishing to work on it than Cornell’s other student-edited publications.
- Unlike those journals, senior student leadership is chosen by LII management; they pick the supervising editors and associates.
So, we’re doing something different and we’re doing it using a different organizational model, so comparisons may not be terribly valid. No doubt the traditional law reviews think so.
But we…think differently.
For those of you who missed it (we doubt that’s many of you), we just got back on the air after a little over two days of downtime. We experience slowdowns — usually related to networking problems, or an overloaded database back end — about two to four times a year. This is the first time in six years that we’ve been down for an extended period of time. A longer treatment of the issue, and some musings about it, are in LII Director Tom Bruce’s blog.
Sadly, it was our own fault. We pushed supposedly-innocuous changes out without adequate testing, and they brought the site to a grinding halt. The fault turned out to be in code that has been running under lighter loads for more than a year without incident, but did not scale well. Unfortunately, we had left ourselves without an easy line of retreat, lengthening the time needed to restore service.
We are very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused our users. Many of you have written or called us to inquire about our fate or to express support over the last few days. We’re very grateful to you. With a little luck, it will be more than six years before it happens again.
Over in VoxPopuLII, Nuria Casellas of the Autonomous University of Barcelona talks about uses and development of ontologies and the Semantic Web. It’s a great introduction to a set of technologies that we’re beginning to build into everything at the LII — and that will form the basis for the next round of new (free!) legal information products and features. An added bonus is VoxPop Editor-in-Chief Rob Richards’ reading list for those just getting up to speed on these recent developments.
The dramatic upsurge in Cornell Law School applications this year (52%!) has the Wall Street Journal comparing the school to Lady Gaga (here, and here). We’re intrigued by the intuition of “CLS grad”, who commented on the WSJ’s second post by saying:
I believe that it is Cornell’s ever-increasing online presence – through the Legal Information Institute – that has created an awareness of the school that surpasses those other names.
We’re happy to claim a share of the credit. The LII has been placing primary law materials and statutory supplements online since 1992 — roughly the time that this year’s applicants were entering kindergarten. We’ve long been a resource for K-12 teachers and college professors, so perhaps it’s not such an extravagance to claim that, for a lot of people who are now thinking about law schools, we’ve shown the school in a good light. And LII Director Tom Bruce’s checkered past as a roadie and lighting designer might make you think that using the LII to throw a spotlight on the Lady Gaga of law schools is, well, fitting, somehow.
We’re interested in investigating this a little. How about it, readers? When did you first encounter us, and how? Do we make the Cornell Law School a more interesting place?
LII Director Tom Bruce gave a short talk yesterday as part of a roundtable at iConference 2010, a gathering of next-generation librarians and information professionals held at the University of Illinois. On the panel with him were James Jacobs of Free Government Information, ShinJoung Yeo of Radical Reference, Daniel Schuman of the Sunlight Foundation, and Cindy Etkin from the USGPO depository library program. Under discussion were policy issues and historical conflicts involving government institutions and open access to government documents. A writeup of Tom’s last trip to Champaign-Urbana is here (at p. 69).