You Want Fresh? Get Government-Fresh!

Real-time, social or what have you, even the Federal Government is getting in on the Web 2.0 action! Want your government social media aggregated? Check out – government 2.0. The site collects official government web content streamed from the various social media outlets, including Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and the White House blog. The information is not limited to the White House: there are sources from various federal agencies, the military, political parties and even federal contractors and labs. The information is rounded out with relevant news stories.

The site is clean, with minimal distraction. There are the obligatory sharing icons and buttons for more social media goodness. What a great idea from our tech-forward governing body!

Hat tip to Research Buzz.

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Will Microsoft Build a Better Magnifying Glass?

Not to be outdown by the likes of Google and Wolfram Alpha, Microsoft appears to be unveiling its new search engine next week at the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things D tech conference in Carlsbad, California, according to Resource Shelf.

The engine’s code name is Kumo, but it is really a rebranding of Microsoft Live Search conjoined with its new semantic ally, Powerset. And guess what? It is going to help us find more relevant results! The screenshots over at All Things Digital / Boomtown show a clean, spare look. PC World reports a three-column search results page with useful tools like related searches, a “single-session search history for quick backtracking”, and other related categories tied to your search inquiry. PC World uses an example of searching for a recording artist with results that include song lyrics, tickets, albums and the artist’s biography. Or searching for a product with results including images, reviews and product manuals.

Will Kumo stand or fall amidst the search stars? Not sure, but I can say this: more semantic competitors add up to us edging closer to a truly semantic on-line world! Kudos to Kumo!!!!

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More Free Legal Resources

This time, the “free and available” is brought to you by the Warren E. Burger Library at the William Mitchell College of Law. The site offers a tabbed window with primary legal materials by jurisdiction, topical materials, materials targeted to students, faculty and administrators, attorneys and non-lawyers, general information and research materials and secondary legal research resources such as blogs, citation and research guides, forms, journals and law reviews and portals and even a little international schwag.

There is a lot of good material to pour through. Consider adding it to your bookmarks, tagged “free”, “legal”, “resources”, and “research.”

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Speak Legalese to Your Computer & It Might Just Understand You

I have been toying with purchasing Dragon Naturally Speaking. I just love the idea of pacing back and forth, turning to my computer and bossing it around, ordering it to perform tasks without being tied to the keyboard, mouse or glide point. I have held off to date due to the cost of the program and my uncertainty as to whether it would work for my particular situation.

ABA Law Practice Today has an article by Rodney Dowell about a new version of Naturally Speaking that is particularly attuned to legal professionals. Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 Legal gets a thumbs up from Dowell, who was skeptical due to his questionable results with Version 9 Preferred. I haven’t used the program yet, so I cannot review it. But I can encourage you to hit the jump above, as Dowell puts a lot of detail into his review of this new and improved tool.

That law degree doesn’t come cheap. While Version 10 Preferred can be had for around the $150 range, Version 10 Legal ranges between $749 and $1,299. A key difference is the ability to dictate in Outlook and PowerPoint. The “legal” comes from the software coming pre-configured with legal vocabulary – nearly 30,000 legal terms – and the ability to format legal citations.

To summarize Dowell’s findings, here is his parting quote:

If you will only dictate in Word or WordPerfect buy Dragon Preferred. For me, however, the power of dictating to a computer lies in my ability to move across applications, work in Outlook and deal with e-mails, create macros and custom vocabularies, and the ability to create templates. This ability to broadly use the product across multiple applications is what makes the Dragon Legal edition a worthy purchase, especially at the lower price points.

Related articles by Zemanta:

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Follow The Librarians!

Connie Crosby, a tech-savvy librarian from our neighbor to the north, mentioned on her blog today that the Online University Lowdown has created a list of the 50 best blogs for law librarians to follow. Why do I mention this? Anyone interested in research, writing, technology and reference management should make a point of finding web-friendly library scientists and reading their offerings religiously. I have several of these blogs in my reader and I never fail to pull interesting and enlightening information from them. My first exposure to many of the resources that I have adopted was from a blog entry authored by a researcher or librarian. My first exposure to Twitter came from blog posts by Connie and another professional mentioned in her blog above, Steve Matthews.

Time is definitely precious, with all of the possible venues for information and engagement cropping up in our real and virtual worlds. If you have to budget time for information gathering, I recommend offering a little shelf-space to some of the fine resources mentioned in this list

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New & Improved Zotero – Available in 2.0 Flavor!

This is a job for Zotero
Image by jazzmodeus via Flickr

Picked up this tidbit from Simon Fodden at SlawZotero 2.0 Beta is now at large! I have talked about Zotero in the Studio before: it is simply a fantastic reference tool for citing and organizing on-line research. 2.0 offers a host of new features. Here is a run-down from Zotero’s site:


  • Automatic synchronization of collections among multiple computers. For example, sync your PC at work with your Mac laptop and your Linux desktop at home.
  • Free automatic backup of your library data on Zotero’s servers.
  • Automatic synchronization of your attachment files to a WebDAV server (e.g. iDisk, Jungle Disk, or university-provided web storage).


  • Zotero users get a personal page with a short biography and the ability to list their discipline and interests, create an online CV (simple to export to other sites), and grant access to their libraries.
  • Easily find others in one’s discipline or with similar research interests.
  • Follow other researchers–and be followed in return.


  • Create and join public and private groups on any topic.
  • Access in real time new research materials from your groups on the web or in the Zotero window.
  • Easily move materials from a group stream into your personal library.

Even More Functionality That Makes Your Life Easier

  • Automatic detection of PDF metadata (i.e., author, title, etc.).
  • Automatic detection and support for proxy servers.
  • Trash can with restore item functionality so you don’t accidentally lose important materials.
  • A new style manager allowing you to add and delete CSLs and legacy style formats.
  • Support for Endnote® export styles

While it is billed as a research-friendly tool, Zotero can also serve as a facile note-taking application for personal and professional pursuits. And, best of all, all that capability is free!

Check out Zotero, now with 2.0 power!

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First the Insurance Journal, and Now The New England Journal Of Medicine …

Journal of Medicine… is on Facebook! The Journal has its own Fan Page, with almost 4,000 fans. The site will allow readers to link to articles and a Journal podcast. Kudos to another industry or scholarly publication connecting with its base via the social web!

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There's A New Blawg in Town … From The Wild West

West has announced a new legal blog, Legal Currents, promising material on legal- and technology-related topics from around the globe. The subject matter will include technology, innovation, content and trends shaping the legal industry worldwide, with authors from inside and outside West. The site contains CLE videos and podcasts, West’s famous “Headnote of the Day” and other bits and pieces. Congrats West on your new blawg branding!

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There’s A New Blawg in Town … From The Wild West

West has announced a new legal blog, Legal Currents, promising material on legal- and technology-related topics from around the globe. The subject matter will include technology, innovation, content and trends shaping the legal industry worldwide, with authors from inside and outside West. The site contains CLE videos and podcasts, West’s famous “Headnote of the Day” and other bits and pieces. Congrats West on your new blawg branding!

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Alpha's Not Beta (Anymore)

Have you been hankering to try Wolfram Alpha’s new computational, knowledge-based search engine? Are you wondering if it is the next best thing in search? Well, I am playing with it right now, in another tab, and I have my own impressions.

For those who are still unsure of what Wolfram Alpha is, you can get the long, broad and sweeping answer at their “about” page. The short answer is that it is a search engine that “computes” answers for you by accessing a knowledge base treated or overlayed with algorithms / coding that Alpha can easily “read”. Or, if you ask Alpha this question “wolfram alpha”, you get this:

wolfram alpha

If you click on the “use as an internet domain link” on the above page, you get this:

Wolfram Alpha domain

I am fascinated with this new form of search interaction. But it is not the quick and dirty search service that Google offers and any comparison should end with the fact that they are both described as “search engines.” First, it takes some time to load the search page, much longer than it takes to load a Google page. Then it takes much longer to get an answer to your search inquiry, but that is expected. Alpha is not merely responding to your “query” with a list of pages ranked by hits. It is actually computing your answer by dipping into its information resources and providing a calculated response. The plus side is that you can be assured that your answer is most likely correct (unlike Google where the only assurance is that your answer has been hit by tens of thousands of other searchers).

The downside is that you have to consider whether Alpha is the best source for the particular information you are looking for and then you have to be very careful how you phrase your query. Take a look at Alpha’s search tips box:

Wolfram Alpha Help Tips

Alpha is great for quantitative questions, but not so good for qualitative questions. And even for quantitative questions, you have to be careful how you pose them. Talking to Alpha is much like talking to Spock – you will be treated to literal logic that is responsive to your request but may not be what you were looking for.

For example, my first search query was “distance from earth to sun.” Alpha got hung up on the words “distance” and “sun.” It defaulted on distance to astronomical units (AU) – how was Alpha to know that I meant miles? It did default to our Sun, but not before noting that it could not be sure that our Sun is what I meant. Fair enough.

I then asked it for “miles from earth to sun.” No answer. I then entered “miles from earth to sol.” No answer. I then entered “earth to sol” and, voila, I got astronomical units, kilometers, meters and miles. I also got a “corresponding quantity” of 4.5 micropascals, with an equation for how to get this amount.

When I finally got my answer, I got everything I was looking for and more. No question that my answer was accurate and scientifically solid. But getting there is more than half the battle and it helps to throw any notions about how to search in the more traditional formats right out the window.

Wolfram Alpha now has its place in my search arsenal – I added it to my Firefox search bar tool. But I will not be turning to Alpha for answers on every query. No doubt Alpha will evolve and will become more powerful as more information is made accessible to it. Give it a try yourself – I would love to hear about your impressions and results!

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