Category Archives: Web Communications

DocuTicker Shuts Down

DocuTicker, the resource for grey literature published by government agencies, think tanks, etc., announced that it stopped publishing in 2016. Since its launch in June 2004, the site has posted 35,754 items. DocuTricker observed that there are many other web resources that perform the same grey literature service.

HT to Information Today. — Joe

Policy implications for the Deep Web

In The Deep Web and the Darknet: A Look Inside the Internet’s Massive Black Box [SSRN], Dakota S. Rudesill (OSU Law), James Caverlee (Texas A&M) and Daniel Sui (OSU) write

The reality is that while the Surface Web manifests an often astonishing level of altruism for promoting the common good, and the Deep Web inevitably does to some (unknown) extent as well, the Deep Web and Darknet quite often reveal the darker, more antisocial side of human behavior. The markets for hacking programs, other cybercrime tools, and stolen data, in particular, have continued to grow with no signs of slowing down. There an urgent need for policymakers and the public to better understand the Deep Web and develop a more comprehensive law enforcement, regulatory, and national security response. This focus needs also to take into account the potential positive uses of the Deep Web.

The authors’ paper is a policy brief that “outlines what the Deep Web and Darknet are, how they are accessed, and why we should care about them. For policymakers, the continuing growth of the Deep Web in general and the accelerated expansion of the Darknet in particular pose new policy challenges.” It was published by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program.

From the Policy Implications section:

In particular, we would like to stress that policymakers should pay attention to the following:

  • Socio-cultural forces are involved in the “generation and sustainability” of criminal entities that use the Darknet. For example, some countries do not have functioning or sufficient markets in legal goods, a context in which the Darknet may actually facilitate increased social welfare and economic efficiency. States in such a situation may have little incentive to enforce cybercrime laws, while free-riding on the law enforcement, regulatory, and national security efforts against truly bad actors carried out by other states.
  • The Deep Web and the Darknet are attractive to many because of the prosecution, regulation, and national security surveillance efforts of states in the physical world and Surface Web. Illicit activity is being driven below the electronic thermocline of common search engines and usual investigative techniques, and states must be willing to dive beneath it to gather information and take action.
  • The transnationality of these networks frustrates eradication, regulatory, and prosecution efforts of any one state, creating cooperation, collective action, and law harmonization problems for state actors attempting to work together to counter illicit use of the Internet.
  • Rather than eradication, policymakers must focus systematically on bad actors and bad patterns, while striving to anticipate and favorably shape evolution of the Darknet. At times this effort might, like anti-terrorist efforts globally since 9/11, risk resembling “whack-a-mole” (the takedown of Silk Road represents one pelt). It will only succeed over time if a broader strategy including prevention, detection, and response is developed and followed with broad international participation and support.

— Joe

Internet Archive will host Zimmerman’s Research Guide

Following up on last month’s announcement that Zimmerman’s Research Guide will go dark on the Lexis Info Pro site comes news from Andy that arrangements have been made to host an archived version of the Guide’s final edition. Details here. — Joe

Nebraska Courts To Drop Printed Opinions

From the Press Release:

Free online access to the official published judicial opinions of the Nebraska Supreme Court and Nebraska Court of Appeals will be available to the public beginning January 1, 2016.

Text-searchable opinions dating back to 1871 will be available for the Nebraska Supreme Court. The full collection of opinions of the Nebraska Court of Appeals, beginning with its establishment in 1992, will also be offered.

Previously, appellate court opinions were printed or were available online through various for-profit subscription services. All published opinions will be provided via the Nebraska Appellate Courts Online Library at ne.gov/go/opinions. Once printing of judicial opinions in the Nebraska Advance Sheets and the Decisions of the Nebraska Court of Appeals ceases in June 2016, opinions will be available exclusively online.

Newly released opinions of both courts will continue to be available for 90 days on the Nebraska Judicial Branch Web site athttps://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/ and from the Clerk of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals upon request, and from any electronic provider of legal information choosing to provide them.

Official opinions in the online library will be accessible 24/7 using smart phones, tablets or computers from anywhere with Internet access. Access via the online library allows the appellate courts to make their judicial opinions more easily available to the public.

Nebraska joins Arkansas and Illinois in dropping printed opinions in favor of online access.  Hat Tip to Rich Leiter for the news.

Mark

The Wayback Machine Is Getting It’s Own Search Engine

Gizmodo reports that the Wayback Machine, the part of the Internet Archive that preserves web sites, is getting its own search engine.  That’s good news in that the only way one can use the archive now is by typing in a URL.  There are 439 Billion pages in the Archive.  The web from my perspective is still a chaotic place despite its sophistication.  Stuff comes and goes, and it’s not just Facebook posts.  This development should be a vast improvement for researchers.

Mark

Westlaw Gets Into The Cloud Business, Sort Of

At least in the Academic version.  I received an email yesterday promoting new features in Westlaw for the coming academic year.  One of them is:

Share Your Uploaded Documents

This exciting new feature will let you share user uploads with professors, students, study groups, research assistants, journals and law reviews, moot court and clinics.

  • Upload your own documents into your WestlawNext® folders.
  • Add citations, hyperlinks, and KeyCite flags to online documents.
  • Annotate (add highlights and notes) to your own content.

Previously one could only designate and share items that were flagged from Westlaw content.  It certainly is an interesting play to get students and faculty to spend more time on Westlaw.  More information is in an audio tutorial here.

Mark

Georgia Sues Public.Resource.org Over Copyright In Published Annotations to the Georgia Code

The State of Georgia is suing Public.Resources .Org, Inc. and Carl Malamud in federal court for posting copies of the Official George Code Annotated on the Public.Resources.Org.  Georgia contracts with Lexis to create annotated copies of the Code where Lexis fills in the annotated material in what appears to be a work for hire as Georgia claims copyright in the annotations and value-added materials.  In some respects, it explains why Lexis wasn’t a co-plaintiff.  The State does not claim copyright in the text of the Code itself.  The complaint is seeking injunctive relief and requesting that all scanned copies be removed and destroyed, and yes, attorney fees.

I think it would have been much easier for the State of Georgia if copyright remained with Lexis.  The ownership would have been clearer.  It’s a murky situation otherwise.  I guess the question the Court is whether the State can actually claim a copyright in this case.  The United States government, as an example, disclaims copyright in most cases, but there are exceptions.  Two of these indicated at USA.gov are:

  • Works prepared for the U.S. government by independent contractors may be protected by copyright, which may be owned by the independent contractor or by the U.S. government.
  • The U.S. government work designation does not apply to works of U.S. state and local governments. Works of state and local governments may be protected by copyright.

The complaint his available through a link with a story at The Register, which is a U.K. based technology news site.  I’m a big fan of the site due to the somewhat snarky attitude the site takes at tech news.  The story in the Register about this case notes that Georgia effectively calls Malamud a “terrorist.”  Here are the excerpts from the complaint where Georgia makes that claim:

20.  On information and belief, Defendant is employing a deliberate strategy of copying and posting large document archives such as the O.C.G.A. (including the Copyrighted Annotations) in order to force the State of Georgia to provide the O.C.G.A., in an electronic format acceptable to Defendant. Defendant’s founder and president, Carl Malamud, has indicated that this type of strategy has been a successful form of “terrorism” that he has employed in the past to force government entities to publish documents on Malamud’s terms. See Exhibit 2.

21.  Consistent with its strategy of terrorism, Defendant freely admits to the copying and distribution of massive numbers of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations on at least its https://yeswescan.org website. See Exhibit 3. Defendant also announced on the https://yeswescan.org website that it has targeted the States of Mississippi, Georgia, and Idaho and the District of Columbia for its continued, deliberate and willful copying of copyrighted portions of the annotated codes of those jurisdictions. Defendant has further posted on the https://yeswescan.org website, and delivered to Plaintiffs, a “Proclamation of Promulgation,” indicating that its deliberate and willful copying and distribution of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations would be “greatly expanded” in 2014. Defendant has further instituted public funding campaigns on a website http://www.indiegogo.com to support its continued copying and distribution of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations. Defendant has raised thousands of dollars to assist Defendant in infringing the O.C.G.A. Copyrighted Annotations.

Terrorism, seriously?  Someone explain to me how this adds to the substance of the complaint.  It’s not as if black helicopters will be circling Atlanta at the end of the trial, not over annotations at least.

Mark

Some Thoughts On The 25th Anniversary of the Internet

The Internet turned 25 years old today.  At least that is what several articles in the press are reporting.  That anniversary is somewhat in dispute, but hey, crowdsourcing is never wrong, right?  The news report on the local CBS radio outlet pointed out that anyone under 25 would not know a time without the Internet.  Well, duh.  Perspectives change.  I never knew a time without television, radio, telephones, cars, or any of the other technological advances that allow individuals to roam and communicate freely.  It’s evolution.  Anyone remember the telegraph?  Think of Morse code as packets sent over a wire to a receiving station, though a bit more manual than what we are used to today.  Evolution.

The Internet itself has evolved.  I don’t need to go into things like Gopher sites (remember them?).  I remember complaints in the early days when advertisers and merchandisers established web sites to sell us stuff.  Some believed this was the wrong direction for a medium with such a strong educational potential.  The Internet is now an enthusiastic marketing paradise for consumers and companies alike.  Education is in fact one of the products.

I want to harken back to a few events at the dawn of the Internet age that come to mind when these anniversaries pop up.  I don’t know if anyone remembers Usenet.  It was (and is still is) a global discussion board for all kinds of topics.  Law academics and technologists would use it to share ideas about the distribution of legal materials.  The discussions were substantive and interesting.  A message appeared in 5,000 newsgroups one day in April, 1994 from the law practice of Cantor and Siegel.  It offered firm services in regard to a green card lottery.  The discussion groups exploded in outrage.  My point about this is outrage or not, spam should join the terms death and taxes as certainties.  Wikipedia has more information about this.

The second event happened a little bit earlier.  Anyone remember Lotus 1-2-3?  It was the spreadsheet software of choice before Microsoft Excel hit the market.  Lotus announced in 1990 that it intended to sell CDs with contact and other demographic information for 120 million U.S. consumers.  It would include purchasing habits in the information set.  The collective outrage forced Lotus to cancel the project approximately one year later before any CDs were released.  Today the discussion focuses around how much of our information corporate collates.

I think we have more or less accepted the concept that we are tracked.  How secure that information is kept and who has access to it seems to dominate the conversation these days.  There are those, of course, who believe we shouldn’t be tracked at all.  I acknowledge their fight.  I think the best we can get is control over how our information is used in some form.  I’m not averse to being surprised in this policy fight, however.

My point for those 25 year olds who never knew a life without the Internet is simple.  You also may not have known an Internet without spam, without tracking, without government interference, without being characterized or classified.  Consider the cultural norms that have evolved with the Internet and decide if you’re happy with the trade-offs you accept for convenience.  The Internet wasn’t always the way it is now.  Some of those old norms still have value.  — Mark

 

Some Thoughts on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger and Net Neutrality

The big news today is the announcement that Comcast is acquiring Time-Warner Cable (TWC) for $45 billion.  Internet activists are aghast at the idea as it has the potential to reduce competition between Internet service providers in markets served by both companies.  A petition is already posted on the White House web site urging the rejection of the merger.  Comcast has stated that it believes the merger will likely be approved, albeit with conditions.  It’s already stated that it would shed some 3,000,000 customers for the combined company to stay under or maintain a 30% market share.

I have a funny feeling that the merger will be approved as well due to the politics surrounding it.  I believe activists are right in that competition will suffer.  How many cable and Internet services exist in any given area?  Usually it’s one or two and in some major metropolitan areas it can be three or four.  The FCC wants to foster competition in cable and Internet services and approving the merger would seem to go against that policy.

About three weeks or so ago, the FCC lost a major case where its net neutrality rules were struck down.  The Court said that the FCC didn’t have the power under its rules to regulate information service providers.  The Court said that the FCC has the power to reclassify Internet providers as telecommunications carriers if it wanted to.  These can be regulated.  FCC chairman has made statements that he will take the Court up on its suggestion.  The problem, of course, is that the reclassification is a time consuming process subject to political pressure.

Regulation would prevent an Internet Service Provider from slowing down or blocking traffic from Internet companies.  A deliberately slow connection for Netflix or Amazon media streams isn’t good for that either company.  Payments from either would solve that problem without regulation.  It’s that kind of business model which is at stake.  Congress is not of one mind when it comes to allowing the FCC to regulate in this area or not.  Lobbyists, start your cash machines.

Let’s harken back several years when Comcast merged with NBC.  The FCC lost a similar case when it tried to prevent Comcast from slowing bit torrent traffic on its network.  The FCC’s leverage at that point was to impose net neutrality-like conditions on Comcast in approving the merger.  I suspect that there will be a similar result in this case.  The FCC, in this scenario, will get Comcast to abide by net neutrality principles in exchange for its takeover of TMC.  It’s a politically expedient outcome that will give the Commission more time to work on its net neutrality strategies.

One can only hope that Google starts building out last-mile fiber connections in more places than Kansas City and Austin to expand competition between carriers.  It takes a huge financial investment to wire up a city and Google is one of the few companies with both the money or interest in taking on the challenge.  – Mark

The Washington Post hosts The Volokh Conspiracy behind the Post’s “rather permeable paywall”

Yesterday the Washington Post-Volokh Conspirarcy joint venture was officially launched. Eugene Volokh explains this new chapter in his 12 year old blog:

We’re now trying what might be the most ambitious experiment yet: a joint venture with the Washington Post. The Post will host our blog, and pass along its content to Post readers (for instance, by occasionally linking to our stories from the online front page). We will continue to write the blog, and Volokh.com will still take you here.

We will also retain full editorial control over what we write. And this full editorial control will be made easy by the facts that we have (1) day jobs, (2) continued ownership of our trademark and the volokh.com domain, and (3) plenty of happy experience blogging on our own, should the need arise to return to that.

The main difference will be that the blog, like the other Washingtonpost.com material, will be placed behind the Post’s rather permeable paywall. We realize that this may cause some inconvenience for some existing readers — we are sorry about that, and we tried to negotiate around it, but that’s the Post’s current approach.

Joe

Kudos to Dewey B Strategic

… for winning this year’s ABAJ Blawg 100 in the Legal Research/Legal Writing category. Very well deserved recognition for Jean O’Grady who has “‘thought in Boolean‘ for decades now.” For a complete list of this year’s winners, see And the Blawg 100 popular vote-getters are … . — Joe

Friday Fun: Pitching for votes for the 2013 ABA Journal Blawg 100

Here’s a pitch from Josh Gilliand to vote for his blog, The Legal Geeks, in the “For Fun” category. Voting for the 2013 ABA Journal Blawg 100 closes at the end of business today. — Joe

Oh my! Some law schools are over, some are under, performing according to Blog Emperor Caron

What are we talking about? The Blog Emperor is comparing the differential in the US News law school overall and academic reputation rankings. In this blog post, he listed 53 law schools that are over-performing and underperforming their overall rankings because, well, academic reputation is very, very important.

How about the US News judges-attorneys reputational rankings? No, that’s not important. Only peer assessment scores are. Considering the low sample sizes and, in some years, response rates for both US News reputational surveys, the annual reputational findings are absurd (unless one might be fishing to increase human and robot traffic because law prof blog traffic dips during Winter Break; see today’s earlier post about web communications traffic stats).

For reaction to the nonsense, see the comment trail for Staci Zaretsky’s ATL post. My favorite, so far, is

I’m sorry, but who gives a shit what law professors and law deans think of the school? IF they count as part of the legal community (which I don’t really think they do), it is a small, insular, largely irrelevant portion.

Tell me what real lawyers think about the schools.

Joe

Bots now outnumber humans in web traffic

According to Incapsula, bots went from 51% of web traffic in 2012 to 61% of web traffic this year for a 21% year-over-year increase. The cloud computing firm found that most of the increase in bot traffic was due to increased activity by “good bots” like search engines. Spam bots, comparatively, are on the decline. However, the fact remains that any self-congratulatory remarks about a blog reaching a visit and/or page view milestone or blog rankings based on those metrics are wild inflations of this form of “social media.” If the bot traffic trend continues at this pace, pretty soon one will have divide web traffic stats by four to come up with a reasonable estimate of human mouse clicks and eyeballs. — Joe

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Making the Discovery Decision: Today’s American Libraries Live video broadcast on web-scale discovery services

It’s free and it will be streamed live today starting at 2:00 pm Eastern. Panel members include Gwen Evans, Executive Director of OhioLINK, Courtney Greene, Head, Discovery & Research Services, Indiana University and Edward Smith, Executive Director, Abilene Library Consortium. Pre-registration for this 60-minute discussion is not required. Details here. — Joe

Update on LG Smart TV Data Collection Issues

I wrote a post earlier this week on LG’s data collection practices on its smart TVs.  LG televisions apparently have a feature for collecting and transmitting to LG channel view information as well as file names from a connected USB stick.  There is a setting that allows a user to turn off the feature though when selected the information was still collected and transmitted.  The rationale for this was to customize ads sent to the TV based on viewing habits even though there was (allegedly) no personally identifiable information collected.

LG figured out it had a publicity problem on its hand.  The company issued a statement saying it will fix the problem with a firmware update that will actually turn off the feature when a user turns it off.  The same update will stop the reading of file names from attached devices as well.  LG admitted that data was transmitted though never stored on its servers.  What?  Then what was the point of transmitting it in the first place?  I think there is more to this than the company wants to admit.  Perhaps the information was sent to a third party who supplies the customized ads.  Who knows.   I think LG needs to be a bit more forthcoming on just what is going on here.

Details are in a report on CNET.

Mark

Can library associations do more than just thank the GPO for keeping folks informed during the latest shutdown?

You bet. They can advocate vigorously for the official recognition of federal web communication programs (and not just FDsys) as essential government services to avoid future suspensions the next time the federal government shuts down (and there will be a next time). It’s not just about the provision of digital information. Web-based citizen services are essential. Perhaps the fiasco of healthcare.gov will raise the public profile of this issue. — Joe

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping, He Knows When You’re Awake…

There seems to be a convergence of stories recently about privacy and tracking lately.  If privacy isn’t dead it certainly seems to be fighting a losing battle while on life support.  Where to start?  There is a report in CNET on Vint Cerf’s statement, “Privacy may be an anomaly.”  The reason for that is the level of detail people are sharing through social media.  Another Cerf quote:  “Technology has outraced our social intellect.”  I find that hard to argue with that concept.  There are multitudes of ways to track people and their habits down to fine details.

An older story in Ars Technica tells that Facebook is working on a way to collect mouse movements.  As the story points out, it’s not uncommon for web sites to track where someone clicks on a page.  That’s one way to determine an ad’s effectiveness.  What Facebook intends to do is watch the mouse.  How does someone move along the page?  Where does the mouse hover and for how long?  Mobile views obviously do not use mice, but tracking in this context extends to tracking when a newsfeed is visible.  My understanding is that the Facebook like button is its own tracking device between sites whether one has a Facebook account or not.

The next item concerns the humble toothbrush, though it is symbolic of the so-called “Internet of things.”  The concept is promoted as a social good in that all of the dumb devices we use will become smart at some point and our interactivity with them will come with new conveniences.  Consider this statement from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff as reported by ZDNET:

“Everything is on the Net. And we will be connected in phenomenal new ways,” said Benioff. Benioff highlighted how his toothbrush of the future will be connected. The new Philips toothbrush is Wi-Fi based and have GPS. “When I go into the dentist he won’t ask if I brushed. He will say what’s your login to your Philips account. There will be a whole new level of transparency with my dentist,” gushed Benioff.

Any marketer would gush over this level of personal detail.  It may benefit the doctor-patient relationship, but who else would have access to this information and how will it be used?  I’m not sure I would be comforted by doctor-patient confidentiality in these circumstances.  I’m sure it will all be in the terms and conditions for the device, or not, at least if the next story’s details are accurate.

A blogger in the U.K. has discovered that his LG smart TV sends details about his viewing habits back to LG servers.  Those habits also include the file names of items viewed from a connected USB stick.  There is a setting in the TV that purports to turn this behavior off (it’s on by default).  It doesn’t work as data is forwarded to LG no matter what the setting.  LG responded to this disclosure as reported in the story on Ars Technica:

“The advice we have been given is that unfortunately as you accepted the Terms and Conditions on your TV, your concerns would be best directed to the retailer,” the representatives wrote in a response to the blogger. “We understand you feel you should have been made aware of these T’s and C’s at the point of sale, and for obvious reasons LG are unable to pass comment on their actions.”

Or putting it another way, we don’t care if you’re put out by these practices.  Life’s good, as they say, depending on who has the power in these relationships.

When I think of Marc Benioff’s toothbrush scenario I can imagine smart devices coming with embedded chips that connect to the web automatically and upload information.  As of now the choice is ours as to whether to connect our devices to the web.  I have a DVD player that is web-enabled though I have not turned on that feature.  My TV set is huge, but also not connected to the web.  My choice, of course, and I may not be typical.  In fact, I’m sure I’m not.

I can predict that there will be a time when a web connection is going to be mandatory for some devices to even work out of the box.  It’s in every marketer’s interest if that came to be.  Or, if I wanted to be exotic, I can predict another pervasive wireless Internet that overlays the one we know and love.  It will just be for smart devices that will connect automatically for our “convenience.”  There may just be enough moneyed interests to make that happen.  Terms and conditions may or may not apply.

Mark

Congressional legislative information web resources: Domain and ownership transitions

As (I hope) we all know by now, Congress.gov is moving into full production today and Thomas.gov’s tombstone is expected to read RIP, 1995-2013, soon. In case someone has not read Andrew Weber’s Sept. 23, 2013 In Custodia Legis post for guidance, see The Transition from THOMAS.gov to Congress.gov.

What may have been lost in this domain transition news is David Moore’s Oct. 29, 2013 announcement that OpenCongress.org has been acquired by the Sunlight Foundation from Participatory Politics Foundation. Details here. — Joe

Welcome to the blogosphere, Informed

Hat tip to Sally Peat’s BIALL Blog post for calling attention to Informed. Quoting from Informed’s hello world post:

Aim:

This blog has been set up with the aim of providing a neutral space for library and information professionals to share their thoughts about wider information issues.

Objectives:

To provide a neutral space for library and information professionals to publish blog posts on a range of wider information issues

To be outward-looking in our content

To create an audience within and outside of the profession

To provide a neutral space for library and information professionals to publish blog posts on a range of wider information issues

Neutrality is the main guiding principle of this project. It has been started by a small group of like-minded people, it is not affiliated to any groups. Our editorial process will involve volunteer editors reviewing posts prior to publication to ensure that posts are not libellous, slanderous or contain ad hominem attacks. People commenting on posts will also be required to adhere to these basic rules. Editors will not change the content of posts unless these rules are breached and will remain ideologically neutral.

To be outward-looking in our content

This blog will focus on wider information issues, highlighting the relevance to and impact of library and information professionals on society. There are lots of great blogs that are addressing key issues within the profession and our uniqueness will be this outward-looking focus.

To create an audience within and outside of the profession

Attracting an audience both within and outside of the profession is vital as this broad audience will enable us to demonstrate the relevance to and impact on society of library and information professionals.

This is probably the most succinct statement of purpose blog posts I’ve ever read. Based on the content of the posts already published, the Informed Team of bloggers is hitting their aim and objectives. Informed is highly recommended. — Joe