LLRXBuzz - September 30, 2002



The Latest on Legal Research

Tara Calishain is the co-author of Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research, 2nd Edition, and author or co-author of four other books. She is the owner of CopperSky Writing & Research.

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A special state and government focused issue of LLRXBuzz. Enjoy!

California Offers Free E-Filing

If you're in California and you do your taxes on a 540 2EZ, you might be in luck. USA Today is reporting (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2002-09-18-calif-etax_x.htm) that taxpayers using that form can file their state taxes online.

Those who qualify can download the form from http://www.ftb.ca.gov/, fill it out offline, and then return to the site to upload the form. (The direct URL is at
http://www.ftb.ca.gov/elecserv/index.html.) Filing online will bring refunds in five to seven days; not bad.

Iowa Rolls Out Online Property Tax Payments

Iowa has rolled out online property tax payment services for 70 of their 99 counties. It's available at http://www.iowatreasurers.org.

From here, taxpayers can pay first and second half payments with major credit cards and e-Checks. (Paper checks processed by entering information from paper checks into the Web sites.)

By the end of the year, the online payment service will include 75 counties. All 99 counties will be covered in 2003. The site also mentions that motor vehicle renewals will be offered online "soon."

Study Indicates Digital Divide

Researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology's College of Liberal Arts have presented the findings of a study to a meeting of the American Political Science Association. The study of State Legislative Web sites indicates a digital divide in content, usability and interactively. The study ranked New
Jersey's site the highest with its legislative calendar, available proceedings, educational material and much more. Rounding out the top divide were the sites of Minnesota, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Connecticut. The study also placed Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California and Rhode Island on the lower end. Get the full press release about it at
http://library.northernlight.com/FG20020923270000185.html.

Digital Award Goes to Arizona

The Center for Digital Government and Government Technology magazine have awarded the Digital Legislature Award to Arizona. Criteria for the award was based on "legislative transparency" and usability for the public. The Arizona site was recognized for its ALIS system which provides a way for citizens to track individual bills. A second place award went to Louisiana, while Connecticut, Kentucky and South Dakota tied for the third place award. More information is available in the press release at http://www1.internetwire.com/iwire/iwprj?id=46339&cat=te.

VA Office Offers E-mail Alerts

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Public Affairs is now offering an automatic distribution service from its Web site at http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/opalist_listserv.cfm. The service will include news releases and fact sheets about new programs and services.

Google Suffix -- Count Domains In Google Results

If you've ever wondered what kind of sites link to yours, or what kind of sites are in a particular query's results, check out my GooSuffix tool at
http://www.buzztoolbox.com/google/suffixcensus.shtml.

First of all, this uses the Google API and it burns eleven keys per use, so if you've got your own key please use it. What GooSuffix does is take the first 110 results of a search you run, count the domains returned by a query, and
return a table of the domains that appear in the search results in alphabetical order. Filtering is turned on -- that is, if a host has multiple results on a search, then the search only returns two results.

Reader JK originally gave me the idea for this tool; they were trying to figure out the different types of sites that linked to theirs. With this tool you can enter a link: query and get a quick snapshot of which domains are linking to that page. Enjoy.

Google Expands News Service

Though the banner graphic indicates that it's still in beta, Google News has done some real expanding. You can see the new version at                     http://news.google.com.
 
The front page looks a lot different now. Stories are the front pages are grouped into several different categories, including Top Stories, World, Sci/ Tech, and Sports. A list of categories on the left side of the page lets you view a page full of that category's stories.

The really big change is the number of sources. The front page of the news site now claims over 4,000 sources, way up from the hundred or so that were available when the site first launched. When I first covered Google News in March of this year, I noted that the news search contained seven days' worth of material. This new incarnation seems to have expanded in that regard too; I found material from August 29, so it looks like Google News is indexing at least three weeks' worth of material.

A functionality tip for those of you who have bookmarked Google News searches: run a Google News search and sort it by date (you'll see the sort by date option on the upper right part of the page after you run a search.) You'll lose the relevance grouping but you'll now have the newest additions at the top. See how you only have 10 results per page? Add &num=100 to the end of the result URL. Voila, you'll have 100 results or the number of results from the
search, whichever comes first.

If you didn't try Google News before because of the anemic results, try again. It's filled out considerably.

The Wall Street Executive Library

Looking for business and news reference? Check out the Wall Street Executive Library at http://www.executivelibrary.com/.

This is more a fingertip-reference type site; instead of an annotated link list this site is a link list gathered into topics that include News Center, Magazines and Journals, and Office Reference & Toolkit.

There must be several hundred links on the front page alone, but the site doesn't stop at the front page. Check out the headers for a "more.." link. These links will take you to more extensive link pages elsewhere in the site (The entire site has over 1000 links.) Check the tutorial link for more information on how to use the site. I found a few cool new links here; worth an explore.

Get On the AnswerBus for Natural Language Searching

I admit it; I still dig natural language search engine though they aren't quite the big thing they were back in the heyday of Ask Jeeves and the (late, lamented) Electric Monk.

If you still want that natural language goodness but don't want to limit yourself to Ask Jeeves, check out the AnswerBus at http://www.answerbus.com.

AnswerBus is a project of Zhiping Zheng, who has a paper on it at            http://www2002.org/CDROM/poster/203/. It's simple to use, though -- enter a question. Instead of giving you a list of possibly-related questions, like AskJeeves, does, AnswerBus gives you a list of answers.

I started with the obligatory question, "Why is the sky blue?" and AnswerBus came up with ten possible answers, the first one -- which was a hyperlink from the phrase "The reason the sky is blue is very complex" -- being just fine.
I then tried a question that's about the only ST:TNG quote I know: "Why is the sky black?" That one wasn't as easily answered, but I did get a relevant answer in #2 of the list of ten.

AnswerBus couldn't answer the somewhat obscure question "Who wrote Cocktail Time?" but had no problem with "Who starred in The Matrix?" It got wildly confused with the question "How many pounds are in a stone?" giving me a list of weights in stone and pounds. (I was able to figure out how many pounds were in a stone by looking at the weights.) "What's the weather in Boston?" went well, with answers linking to several different lists of weather. "What are the hurricane names for 2003?" popped the correct answer right up. A fun exploration.