PDF – Word Status Update

I just got my closed beta invite last night and will be putting Nitro’s PDF – Word converter to the test in the very near future. I will keep you posted on my results. I am quite the excited little Advocate about this application!

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Your Own Bound Volume Wiki Library

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, with B...
Image via Wikipedia

Do you miss the good old days when you could gaze lovingly at your WorldBook or Encyclopedia Britannica volumes adorning your shelves, offering the look of erudite scholarship whether or not you actually opened them? Have you ever read a Wikipedia entry and thought to yourself “Self, I would really love to have this in print form so that I can refer to it whenever I want, even if my computer is nowhere to be found”? Well, now you can, thanks to German startup PediaPress (and Wikipedia). According to Robin Wauters at Techcrunch, the two have teamed up to provide a wiki-to-print feature and have just added six languages in addition to German.

The feature is still in its test phase and you can consult Wikipedia’s help section for more information. Wauters advises that books can include tables of contents and category lists. While the paper books start at $8.90 for 100 pages plus shipping, you can download the PDF for free and even make your own books if you fancy yourself a crafter.

Right now, it is available for registered users only, but likely will be opened up to non-registered users at some undetermined future date. Wauters includes a link to a sample book, ‘Amphibious Aircrafts’ here (PDF).

Pretty cool way to build up your library on most any topic you can imagine. Now, if they could just get the reliability issue under control.

UPDATE: Repaired, Robin – you are at Techcrunch now [ sorry :)) ]

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Since When Is Intelligence Actionable?

seal of the CIA
Image via Wikipedia

Be careful: Dow Jones Insight might have “smarts” so lethal, there ought to be a law against them. Not really, but I did get a chuckle from John McIntyre’s post at You Don’t Say on the obtuse employment of jargon with unintended “legal” consequences. Mr. Mcintyre’s colleague forwarded a paragraph praising Dow Jones’ Insight product, an “automated media analysis solution”, for its many features, not the least of which being the product’s “actionable intelligence for proactive communications strategies.” I’m certain this is not what the drafter intended, but it sounds to me that Insight’s got the “smarts” to land itself in court. But don’t worry: I imagine Insight is fully capable of defending itself with it’s “proactive” communication strategies (read: motion to dismiss).

UPDATED: with link now (damnable iPhone WP interface)

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From Image to Words in One (Easy) Step

Maybe I should just direct all the Studio readers over to Lifehacker today for the goods. Kevin Purdy reports on Nitro’s PDF-to-Word, a converter that allows you to upload a PDF, select format (Word or RTF) and supply your email address. Purdy states that the Word conversion is “impressively faithful to your PDF originals, with lines, graphics, boxes, and other elements retained and arranged in fluid layouts.”

Hit the jump for samples of an IRS form and more graphics-heavy docs. They are quite impressive.

I cannot count the times I have sworn at my computer while I resurrected the ungodly mess of an insurance policy I copied from PDF and pasted into Word. Needless to say, I am pretty excited about this app.

Unfortunately, the app is currently in closed-Beta, but the Lifehacker article offers a password available to the first 2,000 Lifehacker readers that sign up. I already have my request in!

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Make Your Mouse Jump Ship


Image by totalAldo via Flickr

I have been thinking, lately, of adding another monitor to my laptop set-up, so that I can keep track of more information at the same time and increase efficiency. Having never used a multi-monitor set-up, I admit that I have a few “newbie-style” questions about how it works in the real world. One of those questions is: “how do you access information on the different screens with your mouse?”

Lifehacker has a post today about Multi-Monitor Mouse, an application triggered by a keyboard sequence that jumps your mouse from one monitor to the next. There are settings that allow you to set the order of the jumps (for more than two monitors) and the placement of the cursor after the jump, among other tweaks. Seems like a must-use application for multi-monitor set-ups.

Well, that’s one question answered.

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Writing and Writing Instruction: It "Ain't" What It Used To Be


Image via Wikipedia

Remember a time when “ain’t” wasn’t a word? Well, “ain’t” now has its own written definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The written word is what separates us from our tree-swinging cousins. But what passes for writing and the written word are as changing and fluid as acceptance of the word “ain’t” in recognized and respected authorites.

Writing, particularly the persuasive variety, is a uniquely vital tool for lawyers and the legal profession. This blog has addressed legal writing instruction on more than one occasion. Another common thread has been how to approach writing instruction in the age of e-mail, text messages and social networking sites that limit the paragraph to 140 characters or less.

The National Council of Teachers of English is now weighing in on this weighty topic. Following a tip from Legal Writing Prof Blog, I read a report prepared by the NCTE entitled A Call To Support 21st Century Writing. The linked report is drafted by a past NCTE president, Kathleen Blake Yancy at Florida State University in Tallahassee. The report attempts to tackle three key subjects from a teaching perspective. One is of particular interest to me: “developing new models of writing;…” The educators behind the report are seeking to help students “compose often, compose well, and through these composings, become the citizen writers of our country, the citizens writers of our world, and the writers of our future.” Lofty goals, indeed.

There are so many interesting and valuable points in the article that stress the general importance of writing but also speak to me as to why effective legal writing is crucial to our society. Most notably, the report points out that writing historically has taken a “back seat” to reading, because society could control its citizens through reading, but through writing, citizens could exercise their own control. Implicit in this aspect of the report is the idea that reading emphasizes obedience to the rule of law, while writing offers the means to challenge this rule. There can be no better context for illustrating this point than the oral and written advocacy required before the courts and between adversaries.

The report also acknowledges that writing historically has been considered a laborious process and frequently linked to testing, inviting people to shirk its burden. Remember the good old days when writing even a short essay required that you physically place pen or pencil to paper and write an outline, then a draft, then edit the draft literally by cutting and pasting sections with tape or glue and ultimately laboriously penning your final copy to be placed lovingly between manilla card stock covers? I know you are out there!

Then came a new wave of writing and written instruction, referred to as “process writing” or “composing.” Hot on the heels of this development was the advent of digital technology. The report’s acceptance of digital media as a positive catalyst for writing is refreshing. I remember making the switch from pen, paper and note-card to computer-based composition during my first year of law school and recall the dramatic effect upon my writing process. The report quotes sources that praise the desktop computer’s ability to inspire creativity through a visual writing mechanism that was unprecedented at the time. My own experience mirrors this sentiment. 

Fast forward twenty years. We find ourselves surrounded by writers, who perform the task not just for penmanship, test-taking or grammar-skill building, but for imparting information, connecting with other people, conveying a need or merely passing the time on-line. Writing is gaining in importance as a medium for communication, on bulletin boards, in chat rooms, emails, listservs and social media sites. Writing is now employed as a direct conduit to another person, in much the same way as verbal communication in person or via telephone, had been used in our pre-digital and early digital phase. Writing is now a means for participating in dialogue with people across town, across the country and across the globe, for all sorts of purposes.

And writers are now gaining their writing experience outside of the classroom, in what the report calls “extra-curricular social co-apprenticeship.” The tutelage is not doled out by an expert, but is subject to peer review across electronic outposts, with the opportunity for the writer to observe immediate results and receive instantaneous feedback. In such a fast-paced, high-heat incubator, grammar and spelling necessarily take a second seat.

I recommend reading the report for its examples of how modern communication is employed and how it can effect real change right here and right now. The report commends the participants in the examples – one of a girl saving her neighbors from flooding with a timely email and pictures and one of group of students formed on Facebook for the sole purpose of confounding AP test examiners – of accurately reading their audiences and understanding the vast power of networking.

Conclusions? The antiquated process of formal writing instruction, formal writing practice and ultimately for a lucky few, public exposure of the written product is crumbling. Complex thinking should be allowed to develop along with beginning skills such as sentence structure, spelling and punctuation. Educators must recognize that students will already be familiar with the process of writing for a public audience. The report also suggests that writing should be elevated to the status of its own subject of study. Writing in groups and for groups should not be discouraged and texting, when appropriately controlled, has its place in encouraging outside discourse on classroom topics.

How does this fit into the law school curriculum and legal writing instruction? I am not certain of the nuts-and-bolts answer to that question, but I do believe the report highlights that instruction at all levels should embrace rather than eschew the modern modes of communication. Never before has the written word enjoyed such prominence as a casual communication tool. The social writing experience will impact upon the formal writing experience in the educational setting and beyond. Teachers at all levels will do well to embrace this “process writing” and the compositional experience students will bring to the classroom when they frame the importance of effective professional writing in school and ultimately on the job.

I love the final words of the report and will close with them:

Historically, like today, we compose on all the available
materials. Whether those materials are rocks or computer
screens, composing is a material as well as social practice;
composing is situated within and informed by specific kinds
of materials as well as by its location in community.
We have simply never seen it quite so clearly as we do
now.

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Writing and Writing Instruction: It “Ain’t” What It Used To Be


Image via Wikipedia

Remember a time when “ain’t” wasn’t a word? Well, “ain’t” now has its own written definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The written word is what separates us from our tree-swinging cousins. But what passes for writing and the written word are as changing and fluid as acceptance of the word “ain’t” in recognized and respected authorites.

Writing, particularly the persuasive variety, is a uniquely vital tool for lawyers and the legal profession. This blog has addressed legal writing instruction on more than one occasion. Another common thread has been how to approach writing instruction in the age of e-mail, text messages and social networking sites that limit the paragraph to 140 characters or less.

The National Council of Teachers of English is now weighing in on this weighty topic. Following a tip from Legal Writing Prof Blog, I read a report prepared by the NCTE entitled A Call To Support 21st Century Writing. The linked report is drafted by a past NCTE president, Kathleen Blake Yancy at Florida State University in Tallahassee. The report attempts to tackle three key subjects from a teaching perspective. One is of particular interest to me: “developing new models of writing;…” The educators behind the report are seeking to help students “compose often, compose well, and through these composings, become the citizen writers of our country, the citizens writers of our world, and the writers of our future.” Lofty goals, indeed.

There are so many interesting and valuable points in the article that stress the general importance of writing but also speak to me as to why effective legal writing is crucial to our society. Most notably, the report points out that writing historically has taken a “back seat” to reading, because society could control its citizens through reading, but through writing, citizens could exercise their own control. Implicit in this aspect of the report is the idea that reading emphasizes obedience to the rule of law, while writing offers the means to challenge this rule. There can be no better context for illustrating this point than the oral and written advocacy required before the courts and between adversaries.

The report also acknowledges that writing historically has been considered a laborious process and frequently linked to testing, inviting people to shirk its burden. Remember the good old days when writing even a short essay required that you physically place pen or pencil to paper and write an outline, then a draft, then edit the draft literally by cutting and pasting sections with tape or glue and ultimately laboriously penning your final copy to be placed lovingly between manilla card stock covers? I know you are out there!

Then came a new wave of writing and written instruction, referred to as “process writing” or “composing.” Hot on the heels of this development was the advent of digital technology. The report’s acceptance of digital media as a positive catalyst for writing is refreshing. I remember making the switch from pen, paper and note-card to computer-based composition during my first year of law school and recall the dramatic effect upon my writing process. The report quotes sources that praise the desktop computer’s ability to inspire creativity through a visual writing mechanism that was unprecedented at the time. My own experience mirrors this sentiment. 

Fast forward twenty years. We find ourselves surrounded by writers, who perform the task not just for penmanship, test-taking or grammar-skill building, but for imparting information, connecting with other people, conveying a need or merely passing the time on-line. Writing is gaining in importance as a medium for communication, on bulletin boards, in chat rooms, emails, listservs and social media sites. Writing is now employed as a direct conduit to another person, in much the same way as verbal communication in person or via telephone, had been used in our pre-digital and early digital phase. Writing is now a means for participating in dialogue with people across town, across the country and across the globe, for all sorts of purposes.

And writers are now gaining their writing experience outside of the classroom, in what the report calls “extra-curricular social co-apprenticeship.” The tutelage is not doled out by an expert, but is subject to peer review across electronic outposts, with the opportunity for the writer to observe immediate results and receive instantaneous feedback. In such a fast-paced, high-heat incubator, grammar and spelling necessarily take a second seat.

I recommend reading the report for its examples of how modern communication is employed and how it can effect real change right here and right now. The report commends the participants in the examples – one of a girl saving her neighbors from flooding with a timely email and pictures and one of group of students formed on Facebook for the sole purpose of confounding AP test examiners – of accurately reading their audiences and understanding the vast power of networking.

Conclusions? The antiquated process of formal writing instruction, formal writing practice and ultimately for a lucky few, public exposure of the written product is crumbling. Complex thinking should be allowed to develop along with beginning skills such as sentence structure, spelling and punctuation. Educators must recognize that students will already be familiar with the process of writing for a public audience. The report also suggests that writing should be elevated to the status of its own subject of study. Writing in groups and for groups should not be discouraged and texting, when appropriately controlled, has its place in encouraging outside discourse on classroom topics.

How does this fit into the law school curriculum and legal writing instruction? I am not certain of the nuts-and-bolts answer to that question, but I do believe the report highlights that instruction at all levels should embrace rather than eschew the modern modes of communication. Never before has the written word enjoyed such prominence as a casual communication tool. The social writing experience will impact upon the formal writing experience in the educational setting and beyond. Teachers at all levels will do well to embrace this “process writing” and the compositional experience students will bring to the classroom when they frame the importance of effective professional writing in school and ultimately on the job.

I love the final words of the report and will close with them:

Historically, like today, we compose on all the available
materials. Whether those materials are rocks or computer
screens, composing is a material as well as social practice;
composing is situated within and informed by specific kinds
of materials as well as by its location in community.
We have simply never seen it quite so clearly as we do
now.

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Ocean-Related Media New and On-Line!

National Oceanic and Atmosferical Administrati...
Image via Wikipedia

If you practice marine law, environmental law or are just generally interested in the ocean (I fit the latter category), the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released an on-line library of scads of ocean and related media including photos and videos. NOAA, the agency responsible for marine management, includes in its database media from areas under its protection, offering access not generally available to the public for imaging.

Hat tip to Research Buzz.

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Wikipedia: One Step Closer to Reliability

According to James Levy at the Legal Writing Prof Blog, BNA is reporting that Wikipedia’s founder is urging the Wikimedia Foundation to adopt a system of “flagged revisions” for anonymous contributions. The system will require that contributions from anons must receive approval from either administrators or “reliable” users, whatever that latter category means.

Whether or not this “enhanced” security will result in greater reliance and comfort for those interested in propping themselves up on Wikipedia remains to be seen. At least it’s a step in the right direction.

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First Circuit Hip to RSS


Image via Wikipedia

From a tip courtesy of Robert Ambrogi over at LawSites, I learned that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit is now feeding opinions and recordings of oral arguments via RSS. The link for the feeds is here. Thanks Bob!

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