Ubiquity – A Glimmer of Web 3.0


Image by isriya via Flickr

I feel a bit like a puppy with a bone, getting all semantic on Studio readers. I stumbled onto another implementation of intuitive related-ness in Mozilla Labs Ubiquity. The word “ubiquity” means, per Answers.com, “[e]xistence or apparent existence everywhere at the same time; omnipresence: “the repetitiveness, the selfsameness, and the ubiquity of modern mass culture.” (I used Ubiquity to pull that definition with a single key stoke).Ubiquity, the application, strives to offer the user just that: the ability to be anywhere on the Web almost instantaneously.

Right now, Ubiquity is still a Mozilla Labs experiment, but it is one that is open to anyone willing to download it. To best “get” it, consider the example on Ubiquity’s “about” page:

You’re writing an email to invite a friend to meet at a local San Francisco restaurant that neither of you has been to.  You’d like to include a map. Today, this involves the disjointed tasks of message composition on a web-mail service, mapping the address on a map site, searching for reviews on the restaurant on a search engine, and finally copying all links into the message being composed.  This familiar sequence is an awful lot of clicking, typing, searching, copying, and pasting in order to do a very simple task.  And you haven’t even really sent a map or useful reviews—only links to them.

This kind of clunky, time-consuming interaction is common on the Web. Mashups help in some cases but they are static, require Web development skills, and are largely site-centric rather than user-centric.

Enter Ubiquity.

The overall goals of Ubiquity are to explore how best to:

  • Empower users to control the web browser with language-based instructions. (With search, users type what they want to find. With Ubiquity, they type what they want to do.)
  • Enable on-demand, user-generated mashups with existing open Web APIs. (In other words, allowing everyone–not just Web developers–to remix the Web so it fits their needs, no matter what page they are on, or what they are doing.)
  • Use Trust networks and social constructs to balance security with ease of extensibility.
  • Extend the browser functionality easily.

O.k., that is a LOT of technical jargon for us click-and-run sorts. How you interface with it, though, is quite simple. Once you download it, Control-Space Bar opens a window over your browser. Enter a few letters into the command line and Ubiquity anticipates what you might want to do. For example: highlight some text on the browser page, open Ubiquity and start typing “email this to ….” completing the line with a contact from your Gmail account (the email command currently only works with Gmail). Ubiquity will start to guess which contact you mean and automatically knows “this” means the selected text and presents a tab to send the text to your contact, without having to cut, open gmail in new window, paste, enter contact and send. If you see the phrase “Boston, Massachusetts” on a web page and you want to know the weather, highlight the text, open Ubiquity and start typing “weather” and up pops the current weather in Boston.

There are many contacts, but simply typing in a letter like “n” will give you news, “i” opens the IMDB, and so on. Ubiquity clearly seeks to break down the artificial boundaries of “silos” of information locked into separate web pages and applications and create a seamless process of tasking on-line.

I applaud any tool that speeds up my web-process. Ubiquity, although still wet behind the ears, seems to be a promising entree into the next level of the Web. Check out the video on Ubiquity created by Mozilla Labs below for more information and visual experience.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Semantic Web – Redux

New, Improved *Semantic* Web!
Image by dullhunk via Flickr

I have been thrilled with the response and interest in my last post referring to Pandia’s top five semantic search engines. It is a topic that I find fascinating and apparently lots of other people do too. I have had some interesting email exchanges with lawyers and programmers on the topic since I posted on Tuesday and have learned a great deal more than I knew two days ago.

I want to share with you a few highlights. First, I was contacted by Dmitri Soubbotin at SenseBot. Mr. Soubbotin is a senior manager there and will be speaking at the upcoming Boston Search Engine Meeting in April, 2009. There is a highly informative interview with Mr. Soubbotin here, at Beyond Search from ArnoldIT.com, a blog about search and content processing. Mr. Soubbotin was interested in hearing how lawyers could employ semantic search, i.e. what kinds of documents or uses might be envisioned. We agreed that there were unstructured documents that lawyers might be interested in accessing that would be ripe for the special “semantic” overlay that enables relevance-based searching. We talked about scientific and medical research, intellectual property information, internal compliance documentation, large-scale discovery materials (searching for privileged documents based on relevance could be very helpful in the course of litigation), people and asset information and other generalized web-documents. I should also point out that semantic search could be quite valuable within the enterprise intranet for organizing the scores of documents that even small and mid-sized businesses produce.

I would love to get feedback from the legal readership here as to how they might use a semantic web tool in their practice or marketing efforts.

I also received an email from Lee Gesmer at the Boston firm of Gesmer Updegrove, LLP. In 2005, partner Andrew Updegrove had interviewed Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web and champion of the Semantic Web movement. The link here is the ten page interview, with Berners-Lee’s comments about how the Semantic Web works and where it fits in the evolutionary process. I read the interview with great interest – although it is three years old, the information Mr. Berners-Lee provides still seems new and exciting. It is a great primer for anyone wanting to understand how the Semantic Web works and what the W3C is trying to effect. Mr. Gesmer also provided a link to ConsortiumInfo.org, a site maintained by Mr. Updegrove offering information about standards, standard setting and open source software.The firm provides legal representation to consortia and open source foundations and has amassed quite a collection of information furthering these efforts.

I have learned much from my simple act of blogging about Semantic Search engines. The flow of relevant information back and forth between citizens of the Web: isn’t this what the evolution of the Web to its 3.0 version is all about?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Time Has Come For Semantic Search

Image representing Powerset as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Always looking for the next big thing, the Advocate’s ears prick up whenever the term “semantic search” is heard. Today I found this list of the top five semantic search engines at Pandia.com. As the reader may (or may not) know, what makes semantic search different from your garden-variety Google is organization of results by context rather then popularity. Further, semantic search will pull entries containing related words or content, even if they were not included in your query. In theory, semantic search should yield results that are more on the intended point. Great for those times when you don’t have a firm grasp on all of the pertinent lingo in your topic area.

Pandia tops it’s list with Hakia, an engine I have discussed in a prior post. It searches structured text and yields a very structured result. It will also pose related queries.

The next engine listed is Sensebot. Results are summarized in digest form, providing a good overview of a research topic.

The third engine is Powerset. Not a regular search engine, per se, it’s strength is in application to a smaller subset of data, like Wikipedia (Pandia’s example). If you want an improvement on a site’s native search function, Powerset seems a good choice.

DeepDyve is the fourth option listed. It offers a access to that elusive “deep web” not indexed by the Googles of the world. Usually only accessible via Boolean search techniques, DeepDyve offers a natural language interface.

The final engine is called Cognition, an engine built on a semantic map developed over a span of 24 years. It searches Public.resource.org (federal caselaw), MEDLINE (medical abstracts), English Wikipedia, and a New English Translation of the New Testament.

Pandia’s article provides a handy overview of these engines. I look forward to giving them a whirl, particularly DeepDyve. Any question that semantic search is the future? The three links at the bottom of Pandia’s article indicate that Microsoft has bought Powerset to get it foot in the door, Google is planning to push semantic search in 2009 and Ask.com is focusing on semantic search.

My apologies to Studio readers about the lack of links and abundance of typos. I am posting from my iPhone’s torturous touch keyboard. I couldn’t wait to bring you the semantic good news!!!

UPDATE! I have been itchy all day knowing that this post was missing that certain, special something (like EDITING). I have rectified the situation. I feel better now. You may go back to your regularly scheduled activities, as will I.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

What Should A First Year Legal Research Course Look Like or A Legal Research Primer for Attorneys of Any Experience

Lines of law school
Image by blmurch via Flickr

Nancy P. Johnson from the Georgia State University College of Law has penned an article entitled Best Practices: What First-Year Law Students Learn in a Legal Research Class. I found the article through the Social Science Research Network and it can be downloaded here. The article presents a comprehensive overview of most of the points that should be raised in a first year legal research class, given time other constraints. I thought the suggestions for how to teach the class and what to emphasize were spot on.

Other thoughts that occurred to me while reading the article: first, Ms. Johnson discusses students’ tendencies to want to jump onto Google and head straight for the Wikipedia for resource as a bad thing (no argument there). I wonder, though, if having a class of students entering school familiar with the concept of searching on-line for authority offers some advantages over prior generations that had to get their mind around on-line searching in the first place.

Second, on page 8 of the article, Ms. Johnson admonishes that the debate over whether book or on-line research is better is dead: get over it and recognize that both sources provide valuable information for the researcher! A good legal research class discusses both types of research. Contrary to some of the naysayers I have highlighted in previous posts, book research is still being taught and students are still being encouraged to crack open the spines when investigating their topics. As Ms. Johnson points out, you never know where you are going to end up after law school and what sorts of resources might be available to you in your practice.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

What's All The Flap About Jail-Broken iPhones?

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Last week, I saw a discussion on Friendfeed about how Apple is taking a stand, so to speak, against the freedom fighters who seek to unshackle the iPhone from its genetic constraints. In other words, Apple has an issue with the jailbreakers – the people who hack the system in order to access otherwise unavailable functionality. Apple claims it is a violation of its copyright to jail break the iPhone. Richard Korman, Esq. has an article on this topic over at ZDNet that collects the filings before the Copyright Office both for and against the exception to the Copyright Laws.

When I first saw the debate, my initial reaction was that Apple’s prohibition on jailbreaking the iPhone should be a matter of contract law, not copyright law. Apparently, counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”), Jennifer Granick, has taken precisely that position. Apple is fighting this position because contract law would require it to sue each and every individual for breach of contract in its crusade to protect the integrity of the device. Copyright law offers an easier and less expensive route for stopping offenders, with its automatic statutory damages of $2,500 per offense and possible criminal repercussions.

I have trouble viewing copyright law as the proper mechanism here. Saul Hansel in the New York Times gives voice to my own impressions about this ill-fitted remedy:

This is the exasperating part. It’s hardly clear that the Library of Congress, which does look after copyright law, is the right place for this debate. After all, the copyrighted software is really a small part of a cellphone and not really part of the fundamental issue.

I find slight consolation in the fact that my initial impressions were mirrored by people with far more experience in this area than myself. But that does little to curb my frustration with a corporate giant that wishes to waste taxpayer dollars by exploiting a system not necessarily designed to redress the “problem” it believes it has. Whatever happened to good, old, capitalistic freedom of contract?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

What’s All The Flap About Jail-Broken iPhones?

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Last week, I saw a discussion on Friendfeed about how Apple is taking a stand, so to speak, against the freedom fighters who seek to unshackle the iPhone from its genetic constraints. In other words, Apple has an issue with the jailbreakers – the people who hack the system in order to access otherwise unavailable functionality. Apple claims it is a violation of its copyright to jail break the iPhone. Richard Korman, Esq. has an article on this topic over at ZDNet that collects the filings before the Copyright Office both for and against the exception to the Copyright Laws.

When I first saw the debate, my initial reaction was that Apple’s prohibition on jailbreaking the iPhone should be a matter of contract law, not copyright law. Apparently, counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”), Jennifer Granick, has taken precisely that position. Apple is fighting this position because contract law would require it to sue each and every individual for breach of contract in its crusade to protect the integrity of the device. Copyright law offers an easier and less expensive route for stopping offenders, with its automatic statutory damages of $2,500 per offense and possible criminal repercussions.

I have trouble viewing copyright law as the proper mechanism here. Saul Hansel in the New York Times gives voice to my own impressions about this ill-fitted remedy:

This is the exasperating part. It’s hardly clear that the Library of Congress, which does look after copyright law, is the right place for this debate. After all, the copyrighted software is really a small part of a cellphone and not really part of the fundamental issue.

I find slight consolation in the fact that my initial impressions were mirrored by people with far more experience in this area than myself. But that does little to curb my frustration with a corporate giant that wishes to waste taxpayer dollars by exploiting a system not necessarily designed to redress the “problem” it believes it has. Whatever happened to good, old, capitalistic freedom of contract?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

You Can Run But You Can't Hide: Free Public Records Search on Facebook

Can this be true? Social media giant Facebook and TrueScoop have teamed up to offer free public records search on the site, according to Adam Ostrow over at Mashable. Holy moly! This line got me: “when you do a search, it’s broadcast to Facebook’s News Feed.” Oh, the humanity! How long do you think this Facebook application will remain available? Comments? Anyone?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide: Free Public Records Search on Facebook

Can this be true? Social media giant Facebook and TrueScoop have teamed up to offer free public records search on the site, according to Adam Ostrow over at Mashable. Holy moly! This line got me: “when you do a search, it’s broadcast to Facebook’s News Feed.” Oh, the humanity! How long do you think this Facebook application will remain available? Comments? Anyone?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Virtual Make-Overs: Easy, Fun and Creative!

I saw this nicely organized Vista desktop on Lifehacker today. Using some add-ons listed in the article, Kseve composes an image that looks strikingly like one of my desks. I really love the sticky pad widgets!

moz-screenshot

While this is on a Vista desktop, I believe the modifications can be done in XP as well.

I think it worth the time to organize and modify the space you stare at for much of your day. I did a little desktop modding myself this weekend, with the result below:

Lenovo Screen

I used Rocket Dock to make my Windows desktop icons and shortcuts more Mac-like. I also used Window Blinds and some customized skins from DeviantArt to skin my programs and menus. My desktop is vastly more user-friendly than it used to be. Plus it is far more fun to look at (as an illustrator, I am a big fan of Japanese manga and anime). Don’t get tied into those pre-defined views imposed by your operating system: get creative and have a little fun organizing your virtual office!

Related articles by Zemanta:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Here We Go Again

Illustration of a scribe writing
Image via Wikipedia

Why does on-line research get smacked around so much? Is it based on a belief that if something is too efficient and effective, it can’t possibly be good for you? Law Librarian Blog has an entry about Online Law Research – Pros & Cons here. Of the four points raised, only one can be fairly qualified as a “pro” – ease of searching. The author Holly McCarthy then cites the cons as “technological dependence” (what?), the working advantage of the “old fashioned” method (defined as “actually reading the documents), and an implicit assumption that if one is using on-line resources for research, they are not actually learning precedent.

I am not sure how Ms. McCarthy made the logical leap that performing research on-line rather than in the bound volumes means that you are not actually “reading” the cases or understanding precedent. I also am unsure why she concludes that “technological dependence” is a bad thing. Ms. McCarthy suggests that you are either an “expert” or someone who merely plugs in search terms. She makes the bald statement “[t]here are nuances to the written law that don’t translate well in digital format” without any explanation whatsoever.

I think it is fair to say that there is a substantial group of lawyers who specialize in research and writing that are going to take umbrage at Ms. McCarthy’s incomplete and unsubstantiated remarks. I am going to give Ms. McCarthy the benefit of the doubt on this and hope against hope that her statements just didn’t translate well in digital format.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]