The Report of Current Opinions: Santa Comes Early to the Open Law Movement

Public.Resource.Org will begin providing in 2011 a weekly release of the Report of Current Opinions (RECOP). The Report will initially consist of HTML of all slip and final opinions of the appellate and supreme courts of the 50 states and the federal government. The feed will be available for reuse without restriction under the Creative Commons CC-Zero License and will include full star pagination.This data is being obtained through an agreement with Fastcase, one of the leading legal information publishers. Fastcase will be providing us all opinions in a given week by the end of the following week. We will work with our partners in Law.Gov to perform initial post-processing of the raw HTML data, including such tasks as privacy audits, conversion to XHTML, and tagging for style, content, and metadata.

via The Report of Current Opinions – O\’Reilly Radar.

On Sunday Dec. 19 Carl Malamud made the startling announcement quoted above. And you did read it correctly: “The Report will initially consist of HTML of all slip and final opinions of the appellate and supreme courts of the 50 states and the federal government. ” To say that this is huge would be the understatement of the year.

From personal experience I can tell you that the “slip and final opinions of the appellate and supreme courts of the 50 states and the federal government” have never all been freely available in HTML before. Not even close. At best you could probably wrangle 75% of these opinions in PDF using a mountain of code to scrape sites and parse feeds. To have all this available as a single feed is a game changer.

As a researcher and builder of tools for legal research and education, having access to a single feed that contains all of this data is just the thing I’ve been looking for (and occasionally trying to build) for the past 15 or so years. I have no doubt that the availability of this feed will spark a flurry of development to use the data in new and interesting ways. I will certainly be incorporating it in the CALI tools I’m currently working on.

Of course there are a couple of caveats here. First, we haven’t seen the feed yet. It won’t be available for a few weeks, so right now I’m still just waiting to see what it will look like. Second, there are 2 “timeouts” built into this service, direct government involvement by July 1, 2011 and a general sunset of private sector activity in creating the feed at the end of 2012. The timeouts underscore the belief that providing free and open access to primary legal materials is a duty of the government, plain and simple. As citizens we are bound to follow the law and our government should be obligated to provide us with free and open access to that law.

I know I’m certainly looking forward to a new year that brings greater free and open access to the law. Thanks, Carl.

Google eBooks: Hey Amazon, Look At Us?

Two weeks ago the Google eBookstore finally launched, and the world was briefly amazed. Google Editions, as it was known until launch, was the book world’s Duke Nukem Forever: vaporware for seven years, depending on how you count. Its actual emergence was like the birth of a unicorn. A mewling, misshapen, half-baked unicorn.

Google eBooks: Is That All There Is?.

So, yep, Google launched an eBookstore. It really is a direct shot across the bow of Amazon, but Google should have gone for something with a bigger caliber.  As this article notes it has taken Google a lllooonnnggg time to get here, but one does wonder if “here” moved in the meantime and Google some how missed it.

There are really good reasons to believe that Google’s only real competition is Amazon, after both sites are just trying to sell you stuff. The thing is, Amazon sells directly while Google sells through search. And the fact that Google wraps everything in search actually puts it at a disadvantage.

When I’m looking for information I go to Google. When I want to buy something I go to Amazon. But that isn’t what Google wants to tell advertisers. Google needs those big spenders to think that people are searching Google to buy stuff. Amazon, OTOH, is a big retail search engine. People really do buy stuff there, not click thorugh ads to somewhere else to buy.

Try this: search Google for Sony Televisions. One of the top sponsored links is right to Amazon. If you see this enough, that direct link to Amazon for stuff you want to buy, sooner or later it will occur to you to just go to Amazon to look for stuff to buy. Just skip Google. And I have to think that is Google’s worst nightmare. If folks go directly to Amazon to buy stuff without searching Google first, then that ad money is lost to Google.

So, back to the bookstore. The Google bookstore is an attempt to try and harness the stuff that Google does real well, crunch lots of data in interesting ways, and turn it into retail dollars spent on the Google site. That would show Amazon! Look we can sell stuff too! It is a gamble though since retailing (even ebooks) is really different than search. But who knows, maybe some day a search for Sony Televisions will return a big “Buy Now” button taht takes you right to Google Checkout.

Finding Spam on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk

At this point, Amazon Mechanical Turk has reached the mainstream. Pretty much everyone knows about the concept. Post small tasks online, pay people cents, and get thousands of micro-tasks completed.
Unfortunately, this resulted in some unfortunate trends. Anyone who frequents just a little bit the market will notice the tremendous number of spammy HITs. (HIT = a task posted for completion in the market; stands for Human Intelligence Task.) Test if the ads in my website work”. “Create a Twitter account and follow me”. “Like my YouTube video”. “Download this app”. “Write a positive review on Yelp”. A seemingly endless amount of spam HITs come to the market, mainly with the purpose of spamming “social media” metrics.

via Mechanical Turk: Now with 40.92% spam. – A Computer Scientist in a Business School.

Article points out that spammers tend to pay too much and only assign one HIT per request. Comments reveal that workers on MT can be relatively sophisticated in detecting spam, often wary of requests that seem too good to be true. So, if you’re thinking about using Mechanical Turk to get some work done, keep in mind that the request should offer a reasonable fee and include multiple HITs. bundles brings little wikis to link sharing bundles are collections of links you can add, remove and rearrange. Bundles can be easily shared with a short link on your favorite sites like twitter and shows previews of link content in a bundle, so you can see site content before clicking through to the source

via bundles.

Creating a bundle allows you to share shortened, annotated links, with previews, with your friends or the world. Give your friends permission and they can add, edit, and annotate links in the bundle. And of course there are comments. All you need to do is login and start adding links. I created a bundle,, and it looks pretty cool. In some ways it may be more interesting than Delicious as a place to save links.

links for 2010-12-15

links for 2010-12-12