Skimzee’s Web Tool, Bookmarklet & Chrome Extension Summarize the Web

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Skimzee is another free tool to help you combat information overload on the Internet. Via web site, bookmarklet or Chrome Extension, you can summarize most news stories, content from YouTube, Twitter or Facebook, Wikipedia, and control the size of the summary with an adjustable slider. The site also incorporates an RSS finder/reader function in that it allows you to search for feeds, add them and create groups of them from the Settings page accessible at the little gear icon at the upper right on their site. You can get the summaries from your home page – hover over the results and click to expand the “view summary” link. Some will not show that link – particularly if the site is behind a paywall, or uses Javascript, or is password protected.

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A Latest Stories drop down on the Feeds tab lets you browse by subject. You can also click on trending or latest videos, or Facebook feed or wall, if you set up your Skimzee to access such content. Search tab allows you to enter search terms or a specific URL for summary treatment. A drop down arrow next to the search box allows you to select / deselect your target content. Skimzee also prompts you with popular page links at the top.  The settings page from the gear button allows you to customize your Skimzee experience, including what page is summarized when you navigate to Home, what feeds to show at startup, what Summary Bookmarks to include along the top, what and how to summarize via the bookmarklet or extension as you browse the Web, what RSS feeds to include and how to show them, and more.

Skimzee

There are other tools out there that help you make sense of the Web by personalizing your experience and showing you news deemed of interest to you. Skimzee takes a different approach by giving you access to all the news, albeit in shortened, summarized form. If that is your preferred method of parsing, then Skimzee might be of interest. Check it out – and check back in. Would love to hear what you think.

myRight – The Online Legal Consult Site

 

You know how many lawyers offer that first consultation for free? Maybe you don’t want to go down to the lawyers office and get the goods. Good news – you may have another option as close as hand as your keyboard.

 

myRight, the invention of two law students, is intended to return the power to the people, as it were. By offering this initial consult via the web, the idea is that non-lawyers may be able to answer their own legal questions without the formalities of meetings and legal retention.

 

The site leads the user through a series of questions that narrow the issue and, hopefully, yield a useful answer. Basic information is provided along the way, towards that end. The site is obviously helpful to non-lawyers, but may also be helpful to lawyers looking to prepare their own consult scripts for various simple legal issues. Contributing lawyers are the potential profit source for myRight – lawyers can pre-pay for leads for when the legal issue gets too complicated for the basic level addressed on-site. There is a button at the top of the page for connecting with a lawyer, an explanation of the legal point below the questions and a list of related questions and links at the bottom of the page.

 

 

Apparently, there is something in it for LegalZoom too, the founder of which is a myRight advisor – if you find yourself at the end of the series of questions on preparing a will – you will be prompted to buy one from LegalZoom for 10% off the regular price.

 

I can hear traditional attorneys now, clamoring about the hazards of such a “one-size-fits-all” approach. But don’t write it off too quickly. Most legal problems can’t be solved by a simple 6 step questionnaire  myRight will filter out the few that do, empowering users to address the matters they can, while offering lawyers an opportunity to tap into the “I thought I could do it myself” community that pervades the internet these days. For lawyers, think of myRight as another option for reaching clients in this Brave New World.

BriefMine Promising Cheap Option for Access to Legal Briefs

When I think about where to find a brief, I immediately think Westlaw. But if you aren’t so much into the high price of access, there may be another option coming your way. BriefMine is a new web tool that offers an interface with a database of briefs tapped via natural language search. Right now, the private beta service can link issues with briefs across the country. Eventually, BriefMine promises to link the briefs to the legal opinions they yield.

There is a User page and a search interface. The user page is for tracking content and possible collaboration with other BriefMine users. Store documents within the Favorites Feed on this page.

The Search page is super-simple. It uses natural language search, employing the following syntax (from the site):

BriefMine Search query syntax:
• To search for the word “foo” in a document, simply enter text: foo
• To search for the phrase “foo bar” in a document, simply enter text: “foo bar” (in quotation marks)
• To search for phrase “foo bar” AND the phrase “quick fox” in different places of the same document, simply enter text: “foo bar” “quick fox”

BriefMine’s premise is that legal research can be brief-centric and built on the research foundation built by others. Why reinvent the wheel, right? While private beta is free, it appears BriefMine will eventually be a paid service, albeit with a much lower price of admission than Westlaw.

I can’t for the life of me get a description of their database scope, so I really can’t opine on what may turn up in response to your search and how comprehensive that results list will be. Obviously, the more docs in the database, the more useful. I would imagine BriefMine will be adding content as they go along and presumably will have a meaningful collection when the service becomes paid.

Find out a bit more about them in their promotional video, below:

Someone’s Finally Tamed Pacer! PacerPro To The Rescue

Have you ever used Pacer to retrieve federal docket information? Did you enjoy the experience? C’mon, now, be honest. It pretty much stinks, no two ways about it. There is little doubt that Pacer – the massive on-line nationwide database of U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records, with 214 separate databases and an estimated trillion documents  – is sorely in need of a modern make-over. But I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath while the federal government gets around to doing that.

In the meantime, two entrepreneurs have taken upon themselves the massive task and have come up with PacerPro – a much more pleasing web-based skin and set of tools for anyone wishing to interface with Pacer. John Sanders, previously of Apple and Autodesk, and Gavin McGrane, an attorney, have quietly spent the past couple of years combining their legal and technical expertise to develop PacerPro, which makes searching Pacer simpler and, dare I say it, even enjoyable. Gavin and John kindly offered me the opportunity last week to watch PacerPro in action and provided me with the overview of the product, which launches today as a preview release.

PacerPro definitely leverages the Pacer databases, but changes how researchers interact with them. Pacer users are familiar with the form-driven search interface that makes creative searching incredibly difficult – it is nearly impossible to hone in quickly on the exact document you may be looking for in the traditional Pacer interface. But with PacerPro’s streamlined look and feel – with intelligent search fields for the Pacer search tool and a Google-like natural language interface for the archive tool that accesses all Pacer docs that PacerPro’s users have retrieved, results are easier to find, sort and scan. There are tools to bookmark cases under the My Cases tool, and the ability to store documents in folders so that you can find them easily at a later time and “sync” the documents with other users, via their email. Imagine – you can directly share a Pacer document with someone else electronically! Space-age!

What makes it even more space-age is the companion mobile iOS app – you can access your collected resources stored in PacerPro on your iPad. Even offline. Even while on a plane or in a courtroom. Very cool indeed.


The key features of PacerPro at launch include the following (taken from their press release):

  • Searching PACER – PacerPRO’s robust search tools’ capabilities include: Search across multiple courts simultaneously to find a complete set of records. Filter these results to identify relevant cases quickly. Save past searches.
  • Document Management – Once the relevant information is retrieved, users can bookmark cases for easy access.  PacerPRO automatically indexes the docket for quick and easy searches.  Electronic files make it easy to create and save collections of documents, reflect changes in the docket, and organize document collections.
  • Mobile Access – Entirely web-based, PacerPRO provides attorneys access to important case information anywhere at anytime.  And, thanks to PacerPRO’s iPad application, attorneys can now take curated docket collections offline — great for places where internet access is not always available, such as the courtroom, on airplanes, and at depositions.  No more delays while you update paper files.  No more lugging boxes full of binders stuffed with pleadings.
  • PacerPRO Archive – PacerPRO is in the process of compiling our own archival database.  The PacerPRO Archive returns results with simple, one-word or boolean searches.  We are constantly adding to the PacerPRO Archive. Archive searches are free.

No doubt, Gavin and John have taken on a pretty big task. But it seems they have risen to it with a nicely designed product that will help litigators or anyone neading ready access to federal docket materials interact with Pacer more easily and with a lot less pain, from pretty much anywhere.

The service is not free – the PacerPro online subscription will cost $25 month, which represents a special introductory price. The iPad app is also subscription based, at $15 a month. Plus your usual Pacer charges when you request a document, although archive searches are free. Remember, the archive is all documents that PacerPro users have requested via Pacer – the archive is a secondary database automatically created and accessible via natural language search. So, while it won’t be cost effective for the infrequent user, the time savings alone may be worth the cost for heavy Pacer users, litigators and anyone else needing regular, quick access to the federal courts.

I wish Gavin and John all the best with their application – they clearly have seen a need and filled it nicely. Looking forward to playing with PacerPro myself. You can find more about it at their newly live website at pacerpro.com. Or follow them on Twitter at @pacerpro.

Mindreading Magic? Or Something More Sinister

Great video that drives home the point that you can never be too concerned about your Internet security.

 

I Have a Good One For You: Google Wave Resurrected – Rizzoma

So here I am, minding my own business, checking out the notifications filter folder in my Gmail box and all of a sudden, I get mention of a new comment on a Google Wave conversation I had participated in oh, about a million years ago. Naturally, my interest was piqued and I, of course, much like the proverbial cat smitten by curiousity, followed the link. To Rizzoma.

Rizzoma was an existing Russian company but, in 2010, they too became smitten with Wave and started work on improving it. They started private beta of their site in January 2012. Apparently, they began allowing import of existing Google Waves in February, 2012. And, to make it more Google-like, you can sign in with your Google ID, or a Facebook ID.

If you hadn’t moved your waves over by April 30, 2012, you are out of luck in saving that matter. But, you can certainly head over to Rizzoma and start a new wave if you are hankering for that old not-sure-whether-it’s-email-chat-text-messaging-social-network-sharepoint-bulletin-board experience of Wave. The interface is quite similar, but seems stable more stable, something Wave really wasn’t. Right now it is totally free and it’s open source – let’s hope they find a way to make money or they may be going the way of the Wave. Rizzoma did their research and found that Wave users were using it for business purposes, and have directed their efforts at becoming a decent business tool. Some other cool features of Rizzoma: the ability to @mention like Twitter; the ability to open access to any link, and the ability to reply and correct a message in any place of a document. Rizzoma sports a clean interface, with a navigation pane on the left divided into Topics, @Mentions and Public, a shortcut window on the bottom left. and  a larger content pane on the right. There are also sharing buttons for sharing topics from Rizzoma to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

In all seriousness, I always liked Wave and thought it could be a very effective collaboration tool, particularly for business users. I think Rizzoma might be onto something here – taking the best parts of Wave, making it more stable and usable and keeping the vibe going. Good luck to them for sure.

If you want to see a use case in action, check out the Rizzoma video – don’t mind the robo-voice, the video started out in Russian, but I thought viewers here might prefer the English version:

Crowdsourcing the Law? Apparently You Can, With Jurify

Seems a blasphemous concept, but how about getting top-tier legal resources from the finest legal minds for free? Jurify is looking to secure content from the best and the brightest lawyers to include on their site, offering in exchange recognition via direct attribution and inclusion on top ten lists by category. They are soliciting information from lawyers, double-checking its accuracy with other lawyers, and then offering the content to still more lawyers and the public at large for free or cheap. Up the Revolution!

Jurify’s brand new, slickly designed site, is the brainchild of law grads / lawyers Eric and Nicole Lopez who hope to change the way people access legal resources. They are so hip, they look like they are even using Instagram photos on their about page! So, what kind of content are we talking about here? Really anything – memos, blog posts, client alerts, white papers, videos, cases, articles, websites, news stories, training materials, sample briefs, sample forms, whatever. All tagged and searchable, with the ability to rate and comment on the content and awarded with Credibility Scores. What’s that? The Credibility Score measures a legal member’s level of engagement with a specific subject, generated via a proprietary algorithm. The algorithm factors include the type, quantity and quality of contributions, professional background and achievements. If you contribute quality content, the site promises to include you in lists that showcase your brainpower, presumably encouraging the public to choose you for more in-depth analysis. Oh, and you can even earn achievements, like little Foursquare badges. I want the Learned Hand badge – I have ALWAYS loved his name!

From their site:

Jurify is the home for top-tier attorneys and blue chip executives involved with the law. Created by experienced lawyers from global law firms who grew tired of the cloistered and outdated way law was practiced, Jurify is an invitation-only platform that channels the collective genius of the best attorneys worldwide to deliver high-quality legal resources in mere seconds.

Our content is contributed by carefully-screened attorney members who share without pay. These lawyers are rewarded withrecognition through direct attribution as well as placement in our practice-specific “Top Attorneys” lists. They also earn Achievements designed to showcase their accomplishments and provide additional validation to discriminating clients and employers in search of the best the legal world has to offer.

The site promises the mindware of the most accomplished practitioners, and invites viewer attorneys to apply for free membership, as inclusion in the site is invite only. I imagine they are pretty hungry for applicants right now – as it appears obvious the success of Jurify will depend heavily on getting quality material from a lot of quality contributors. While it may not be as attractive to busy lawyers already earning a decent living and finding it difficulty to piece two minutes together, I see it as a potential marketing tool for newer lawyers interested in getting their name out there. Which cuts against the promise of crowdsourced experience, but let’s overlook that small hiccup for the moment. There is also, as expected, a rather lengthy terms and conditions I recommend reading closely.

Jurify is indeed a novel concept. Can it take hold? In a world driven by social media, achievements and on-line recognition and promotion, maybe it could. I hope it does. Better access to legal help isn’t such a bad thing, is it? Check out their promotional video below and stop by their site. Let me know what you think – this is definitely a conversation-starter.

New Collaboration & Presentation Tools = New Way of Thinking

The web is about a lot of things, not the least of which is collecting information and getting your message out and how best to go about doing that. I talk a lot about collecting and presenting in the Studio mostly because there are always great new tools cropping up to leverage technology to make the process cooler, more efficient and more fun. Lawyers are all about researching, collaborating and presenting. Why not use some slick tricks to give you an edge in that game?

I have two tools to talk about. The first is Prezi, a web app that combines the best of white boards and slide decks. Prezi is cloud-based, with a zoomable canvas. This allows you to take a large image, and move from concept to concept across the image, offering a “moving” experience that gives a different feel to your message. It uses a single canvas rather than the slides you normally find in a slide deck. You can add text, images, PowerPoint slides, videos, PDFs, etc.  on that canvas. As you create your presentation, you use the “zoomable user interface” to pan to part of the canvas, stop and then zoom in. This offers a far more “cinematic” look than a traditional deck. The resulting process is called the presentation “path” as it more closely simulates a journey through the media than a static stack of slides. There is a desktop editor available for offline construction as well. The Meeting feature allows for social, on-line collaboration on the canvas and path. And, of course, there is Prezi for iPad which is essentially a viewing rather than editing tool. How mainstream is this tool? Check out some of the recent TED presentations to see Prezi at work, making smart people look smarter.

And check out a sample Prezi here:

Archiving The Web Via PDFs and Dropbox

Hi, my name is Martha and I am a data hoarder. No really. I love to clip and save and organize the cool stuff I find on the web. Perhaps it comes from my professional background as a researcher – you never know when you are going to need that great bit of information in the future.

I also am a fan of PDFs and I love to work with them on my iPad. My favorite PDF app is iAnnotate, but there are other great ones, like the venerable GoodReader which has been around about as long as the iPad has. I also love Dropbox, the web storage / syncing / sharing application that is pretty much everywhere these days.

So, when MacStories published this great hack, I was all ears. Imagine using a web bookmarklet to save a webpage or URL as a PDF and store in your Dropbox so you can edit and sync across devices and access from anywhere? Federico Viticci has a great means of doing just that using the Instapaper Text Bookmarklet, available on the Instapaper web site (scroll down to the bottom of the page) and a command line Mac HTML converter called wkpdf.  Sure, its geeky. But it works great. Mac only, though, so sorry all you Windows users.

Hit the link above for the very explicit details. Viticci offers a couple of ways of getting the job done, but the end result is stored PDFs of sites with active links and images, with the crap stripped out for easy reading. I particularly like the option to use IFTTT by sending a Mail message with the URL, which then appends the body of the message to a text file. Takes a little bit of tweaking and a few apps to set the system up, but once it is up and going, you will be an automated URL / HTML to PDF machine! Thanks Federico!

Need It Simpler? Simple English Wikipedia Is For You

I know what you’re thinking. Simpler Wikipedia? If you find yourself struggling with the language in some of the more technically challenging Wikipedia articles, then maybe you see the utility. Simple English Wikipedia is a version of Wikipedia, indeed a Wikimedia property, that contains simple, straightforward and to the point articles on various topics. Unfortunately, not quite as many topics as the big cousin, English Wikipedia. 86,169 compared to 4,032,663. CTangent, an Admin for Wikmedia’s “simple” cousin, explains it thusly on Reddit:

 

SEWiki was designed for non-native speakers of English that are hoping to improve their command of the language. SEWikipedia, unfortunately, has been used as a political platform at the cost of the integrity of the project. For aspiring administrators of the full English Wikipedia, being an admin of the SEWikipedia is a nice thing to put on the resume. Many of these people would make very terrible administrators for various reasons. However, since SEWikipedia is so small, they can often gain adminship on this smaller wiki and use it to slingshot to a position of power on the English Wikipedia. In fact, when I was there, one of the founding members was de-adminned and banned by the other admins (including me) because he was using the SEWikipedia to prove a political point to the members of the English Wikipedia, who had banned him before. In principle, though, it’s a good idea. Technical articles are simplified for the layman, and non-technical articles are written so that non-native speakers can learn the language. There was a simple english Wiktionary too, but I think that got killed by the powers that be in Wikimedia.

 

I get it. Power struggle. All machinations aside, I can see why it could be useful even for English-speakers, particularly on highly technical articles. Some of the scientific articles I have read have left me bleary-eyed and cotton-brained. And I practice insurance law and read policies for a living. Having a simple English explanation for string theory would, at the very least, make me sound like I sort of know what I am talking about when my child asks me for help with his science homework.

 

So, how does Simple Wikipedia look and compare? Take the following two examples on the heading “Jurisdiction”, the first from Simple Wikipedia and the second from English Wikipedia. While I understand which version offers a better education on the topic, let’s be serious here,which would you rather read?: