Research Tip Of The Day: Getting More Out Of Wikipedia

As much as I rail against it, Wikipedia still seems to be a mandatory stop on the Web for lots of web researchers. If you want to get more out of the massive wiki, check out this tool offered up by Lifehacker called The Full Wiki. The web app organizes the information on the page and will even help you pull cites for highlighted sections – not bad if you are thinking of citing to a Wikipedia page, as you might as well go right to the source. The app is in beta right now and has only mined a small subsection of the vast universe of articles for citation purposes. Even so, you can use some of the other tools to map and tree your topic and find other, better sources of content for your research. It is a great idea and a means of leveraging Wikipedia’s content in a more meaningful way.

Instant Outline? Topicmarks Summarizes Complex Articles

Ho ho, now here is a COOL tool. A cool SEMANTIC tool. Particularly if you are lazy or reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit. MakeUseOf has a thorough review of Topicmarks, a web-based application that automates a summary of key terms and text in electronic form, or a “smart, interactive synopsis” of your electronic documents.

Open a free account, or sign in using Google or Yahoo. Topicmarks invites you to “open” your “personal knowledge space.” Then, upload a document (in a variety of formats, including Word, PDF, html, or plain text) to the Topicmarks site. Or use their bookmarklet to summarize any web page you happen to be visiting. Or email your document to the special email address provided by Topicmarks under the “profile” button.

Topicmarks’ engine then goes to work, and you will be notified by email when the process is complete. Under the button for “text knodes”, you will find your document summaries. Via tabs, you can get the overview, facts, summary, keywords, index, and properties. These tabs offer different ways to digest your information – either by quick facts, general overview, a deeper dive into particular keywords, or an index of all keywords. The information is linked across tabs – click on a keyword in the index and pull up the “facts” associated with that keword in the facts tab.

Your texts are stored forever, and it is currently free, although heavy users might see a cost for the service in the future.  Keep in mind that texts are public by default, and you can share your knodes with Facebook and Twitter, but you can make them private in the settings.

So, you research your topic (or you collect materials sent to you by others). Send them through Topicmarks. Read the synopsis. Check out some key terms. Does it look interesting? Check out the whole article? Does it look like dreck? Move on.

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but it might take a lawyer, to see how Topicmarks might be of value to the legal profession. The fine folk at Topicmarks are mindful of this, including lawyers and paralegals on their list of who might benefit from their service. They also suggest the following uses for their awesome service:

  • Analyzing your own writings
  • Being up-to-date with the latest financial research
  • Building a knowledge base for a graduate thesis
  • Building a knowledge base for a master’s thesis
  • Checking current facts against past press releases
  • Checking doctoral theses
  • Discovering emerging patterns
  • Evaluating student papers quickly
  • Finding back quotes they remember having read somewhere
  • Finding inconsistencies in long reports
  • Getting the gist of subordinates’ presentations
  • Preparing a school project
  • Reading up quickly on industry analyses
  • Researching a first student paper
  • Sifting through annual reports
  • Sifting through legal cases
  • Staying abreast of white papers
  • Storing relevant legal precedents
  • Writing fiction abstracts y analyses
  • Researching a first student paper
  • Sifting through annual reports
  • Sifting through legal cases
  • Staying abreast of white papers
  • Storing relevant legal precedents
  • Writing fiction abstracts

Why do I love this? Well, it’s free (for now), it’s effective, its a serious efficiency tool, it’s web-based with social sharing, it’s research-and-writing-oriented, it’s uber-cool Semantic-powered. A clear winner on all counts. My mind is already coming up with new ways to play with it – I am thinking about finding the most complex securities case I can find in Google Scholar and running it through Topicmarks to see what I get. Check it out and turbo-charge your own electronic research and reading experience!

Save Your Browsing On Your Desktop With Hooeey

I have been thinking a lot lately about saving, tagging, storing and retrieving web information and research. And, while I use a number of different tools to to meet these needs, I just discovered a new one with a different wrinkle  – a desktop application that saves and stores your browsing history in the form of screen shots and searchable text. Hooeey Webprint (link here) is a free beta tool that works in the background to save and store the sites you visit. Every web page is captured in real time as a screenshot and as searchable full text, archived on your own computer. Store, search, tag and share web pages that you visit and they stay in Hooeey even if you delete or erase your browsing history.

The original Hooeey service allowed recall of past browsed pages and a central place to store links, much like any run of the mill bookmarking tool. Hooeey Webprint is definitely different – creating a firmer repository of web information which you can organize and search in a very customized way, independent of your browsing experience. Hooeey webprint also can store the user’s web library on a number of different storage services such as Google Docs, Zoho, Amazon S3 and of course, on Hooeey webprint’s own cloud.

There is added functionality if you pay. Hooeey’s tiered offerings breakdown as follows:

Even the free service has something to offer, particularly if you tend to do most of your browsing on a single computer. But even the paid version might be worth the money to a heavy-duty web researcher. Think about this: your virtual research assistant unobtrusively hanging by your elbow, marking down every web page as you browse, without you having to be interrupted to fill in bookmarking and tagging information, accessible from every computer you use. Might be the death of the legal pad after all.

A Paper That Researches Itself? Oui!

Automate, automate, automate! Now you can even automate your research and writing process with a new web tool called OuiWrite. The brainchild of 25 year old Peyton Fouts, OuiWrite is featured on the free site OuiBox (link here) – which combines your e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts with OuiBox’s own own social network, news, calendar, photo, music, video and blogging applications. OuiWrite is one of those applications. The tool will automatically research your points as you write. Additionally, the tool will format your writing in MLA, APA or Chicago Style and create footnotes.

Guess what? Fouts is enough of a genius to create a version of OuiWrite specifically for legal research, leveraging both Westlaw and Lexis sources (link here). It is a paid version, but how much would you pay for a brief that writes itself?

I encourage you to hit the jump over to the site, watch the videos and take the free trial. It is a pretty cool set up.

It will be interesting to see if OuiBox and OuiWrite Legal gain any traction. Seems that deveoper and consumer interest is out there. Just need to build the “write” mousetrap.

SweetSearch: Looking For Greater Research Reliability

Plug your search terms into Google and come up with the sites that have paid or engineered themselves to rank highest in the results order. Plug your search terms into SweetSearch and pick from websites whose rankings are based on their reliability and credibility.

According to Lifehacker’s Kevin Purdy, SweetSearch premises its results on the rankings employed by FindingDulcinea, an aggregator of scholarly websites. Only 35,000 of the best sites, rated and approved by SweetSearch’s researchers, are indexed. Pages from the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, educational and public institutions rise to the top, while psuedo-educational sites are swept aside.

While a visit to their page reveals that SweetSearch is obviously geared towards students, it doesn’t take a PhD in rocket science to realize the value for any researcher looking for the right information on the Web. If you like the idea of losing that first step of sifting through your Google results for the most credible site links, check out SweetSearch.

Lots of Legal Interest Apps, All In One Place

I can’t say all, because there are a few legal research apps I know that aren’t included on the lists. Nonetheless, this is STILL a pretty cool tabbed table of (mostly) iPhone apps to help you lawyer on the run. The list (link here) was compiled by Vicki Steiner at the UCLA School of Law. There are 23 listed for legal research and news, ranging from free to very much paid (here’s looking at you West), some strictly legal and some merely informative. There are 7 listed for law school and bar exam study. There are 22 listed for productivity, many among my favorites, including Dragon Dictation and DropBox. There are 23 apps for fun, including one I hadn’t heard of, called WestlawNext Gavel (link here), which lets you bring the virtual hammer down on your own personal judgments. Special texted download via code from those wacky guys at West. Go figure.

I also really appreciate that Vicki includes links on the overview tab to various app stores and collections, including Android Market, Android Zoom, Apple Web Apps, Blackberry App World, Evernote Trunk, Facebook App Store, Ovi Store, Palm Apps, uQuery, and Mobile Apps. If you can’t find it here, don’t bother.

Thanks for the hard work, Vicki!

And Something New From Fastcase: A Free iPhone App

Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites carried this post (link here) on Fastcase’s new iPhone application. What’s so special about it? Well, for one, free case law and statutes. Or is that two? Bob indicates that FastCase offers the largest, free, law library on the iPhone.  He does a comprehensive review of a pre-release version of what he describes as a fast and easy-to-use tool at the link above, complete with screenshots. I recommend you hit the link for the details – I haven’t my own copy yet to play with. However, this paragraph bears repeating:

As I noted at the outset, the app will be free to download and searching the Fastcase library using the app will also be free. First-time users will be required to register, but there will be no cost. Current Fastcase subscribers will be able to use their existing log-on and password.

How cool is that? I really can’t wait for this one to release.

In 20 Years, The Internet Will Get REALLY Interesting

I love reading smart peoples’ visions for the future. Especially when it involves technology, science, and our dear friend, the Internet. Check out some of the hopes, dreams, and goals shared by leading Internet engineers over at Networkworld, link here. Carolyn Duffy Marson reports on how these brainiacs are rethinking the entire architecture, with the hope of making internet access safer, reliable, and more widespread – reaching not only to the remote regions of this planet, but to other planets as well. Take THAT, ATT!

These scientists aren’t talking about terabytes, they are speaking in measures of exabytes of information. The research necessary to get us to the Brave New World of 2020 will be funded in part by the U.S.  Government (now there is a decent use of our tax dollars). From the article:

Indeed, the United States is building the world’s largest virtual network lab across 14 college campuses and two nationwide backbone networks so that it can engage thousands – perhaps millions – of end users in its experiments.

The motivation behind this massive research is the reality that the Internet is now so enmeshed into our business, financial, and personal lives that a failure from cyberattacks, insufficient networks, and huge data loads would be catastrophic. The Internet that carries out financial networks, our power grid, our government-to-citizen communications must not fail. The lack of security threatens this system and our brightest Internet minds are focused on protecting against the very real risks.

The article is a fascinating read and gets into the nuts and bolts of the research. For my purposes, the article is most interesting on two counts: first, the realization that our Internet experience will be vastly different in the short span of a decade and, second, that the powers-that-be realize just how hugely important this network is, how fundamental it will become, and how singularly important internet security and viability is to our international well-being.

Never mind our dreams for 2010: on to 2020 and the tech marvels that await!

Deep Web Research for 2010

DiggingWay back, almost a year ago, I posted about a paper presented by Marcus Zillman on deep web research. Deep web research involves getting below the surface layer of web pages to documents stored on-line with extensions such as .pdf, .doc, .xls, ppt, .ps. and other more esoteric extensions. These extensions and this type of searching are particularly applicable to business research, as companies tend to store their information in this manner.

Mr. Zillman has done it again – check out his list of deep web resources for 2010 published on His comprehensive list includes articles with background information, tools, resources on the semantic web, presentations, pertinent blogs and lots of other great links. You don’t have to “dig deep” to find what you might be looking for with Mr. Zillman’s help!

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