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Notes from the Technology Trenches - Keeping Pace With the Changing Technology Scene

By Cindy Curling, Published on July 14, 2001

Cindy Curling is the Electronic Resources Librarian at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson in Washington, DC, a web committee member for the Law Librarian’s Society of Washington, D.C., and organizer of its Legal Research Training Focus Group.

Updated August 15 and September 3, 2001, with changes indicated by      (yellow background color) for easy identification.

 


 

Change is a mixed blessing, as often noted by the original author of Tech Trenches, Elizabeth Klampert, and here it comes again. As Roger Skalbeck, the second author of Trenches explained very briefly at the end of his last column, he has chosen to cut back on his writing to concentrate on different aspects of his career, including attending law school.  I’ve been asked to continue the column, and while I hope to capture some of the best qualities of their work, invariably, my version will be a little different. While I’ll do some reviews and highlight new resources as Roger did, I’d also like to use the column as more of a forum for discussion on technology topics that impact us all, in small part a return to Elizabeth’s occasional sympathetic rants on technology-driven frustrations.

To make this work, I need two things. One, I need to keep up with our friend and enemy, technological development. To that end, one of the first things I had to do as the new kid on the block was to look for a list of sites and services so that I could keep up with new resources, technology news, web sites and anything else that might help make dealing with technology more efficient and less painful. Part of my job is to keep my firm informed in this area, so I had a few favorites to start with. However, as I looked over the available options (with help from Roger for some sources - many thanks), I realized I had never really seen a good cumulative, descriptive list of such useful resources, and that it would probably be worth sharing once it was assembled.

So, this month I’ve put together a list of the newsletters, web sites, magazines and other resources that I regularly review in the constant effort to keep up. Many of these are broad resources that cover a range of technology interests, but the list has a definite legal bent. LLRX itself has an excellent, constantly updated list of Breaking News, Tech Trends, and CongressLine articles, and regularly carries features on legal technology issues - including this column.  But there are many additional resources available which focus on a range of topics and depths of treatment. How you might use the resources would depend on your environment, but as one example, my library distributes an in-house e-mail newsletter every couple of weeks to let everyone know about new web sites, products and promotions from our technology vendors, alert services, training opportunities and anything else they might find helpful. It takes around an hour or two each week to assemble, has been very well received and has given the librarians much higher visibility as technology experts.

A happy side benefit of the newsletter is that since we follow the changing technology scene, we’re simply better informed. One of my professors used to harp on a librarian’s responsibility to keep current with professional reading, and that has only become truer. Even if you don’t see yourself using everything here, the list should give you enough information to pick and choose what’s right for you. The materials are listed below by frequency and also alphabetically. Keep in mind that this is a completely subjective list, and not exhaustive. I’ve included the things I think are useful, and they happen to be mainly free and available via e-mail because those are my preferences. I’ve noted exceptions and would love to hear from you if you know of other good bets.

Which brings me to the second element I need for the column to work: your feedback.

  • Is the Tasini decision already affecting your access to information? What changes do you see coming down the pike as a result?
  • Then there’s the Minnesota public library Internet filtering/hostile work environment case. How does filtering Internet access sit with you? Do you see access to books on the shelf and access to the Internet as the same issue? Or is technology making merry with our concept of collections?

On a related note, did you see the recent report from the Privacy Foundation on workplace surveillance? It was noted in the LLRX Newstand on July 9, and includes a link to a press release that lists many large firms (Skadden Arps is the firm highlighted in the report itself) which use a Tumbleweed filter called WorldSecure. Is your firm filtering? What are your policies? How do you feel about limiting access? What do you tell your users about filtering during their training?

If I get enough feedback before the next column, I’ll delve more deeply into filtering. E-mail me your thoughts and suggestions on these and other technology issues, and I’ll try to return an interesting and balanced picture of the results. Beware, though, I tend to agree with Nero Wolfe on the idea of balance. Speaking with a law student about his chosen profession, Wolfe explains that he hates lawyers because they always behave as if there are two sides to every question. "Patently absurd!" he exclaims. But I’ll do my best.

Resources for Keeping Pace with Changing Technology

Daily Services

Semi-WeeklyWeeklyBiWeekly Monthly Tailored Frequency NewslettersAdditional Sources

Daily Services

BNA's Internet Law News (ILN):  I started reading ILN, a daily e-mail service, a couple of years ago before it was sponsored by BNA, and I’m grateful it has continued. Michael Geist, its compiler, is a law professor at the University of Ottawa Law School, Director of E-commerce Law at the Toronto law firm of Goodmans LLP, and also a BNA Consulting Editor. He issues this amazing list of headlines with news summaries every working day. Coverage includes domestic and international Internet legal issues such as domain name disputes, Internet securities fraud and intellectual property matters.

The service is free. To subscribe, go to http://ecommercecenter.bna.com. Professor Geist also has his own site at http://www.lawbytes.com.

Law.com’s Legal Newswire:  The Legal Newswire is associated with Law.com and brings you a daily e-mail digest featuring the cream of the articles published in legal newspapers from across the United States. Legal technology material is only one segment of the news it offers, but the rest is worth seeing as well.

Sign up for the free e-mail delivery service and see today’s headlines at http://www.law.com/newswire/.

Law.com also has subscription e-mail delivery for articles specifically focused on technology issues, but for a fee. If you’d like to look at the current news or for information on subscribing, try the Tech Law Practice Center at: http://www.law.com/professionals/techlaw.html or the Automated Lawyer at http://www.law.com/professionals/automated_lawyer/.

LLRX:  As mentioned briefly above, LLRX runs a regularly updated stream of breaking news on law and technology issues, compiled and edited by Sabrina I. Pacifici, and keeps a nice log of articles available in its Newstand. You won’t be surprised to find that I visit this site as a regular morning stop. Looking here and at a few other sites which include a little more analysis will probably meet the legal technology information needs of all but the most technology immersed.

Breaking News and legislation related to legal-tech issues (see CongressLine News) are updated throughout the day, and are available on the front page of the site.  Sabrina provides abstracts for these sources and a section called Tech Trends, as well as additional related sources, via the main Newstand page, at http://www.llrx.com/newstand/index.htm.

SearchDay:  Written by Chris Sherman, Associate Editor at Search Engine Watch, this free weekday e-mail newsletter features the latest search engine news, with reviews of new search tools, tips and more. Though it’s published daily, the format varies with special features every Thursday and a round-up for the week each Friday.

To subscribe, use the form at http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/ or send a blank e-mail message to join-search-day-text@list7.internet.com. SeachDay is also available on the Web at http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/.

TVC Alert:  Written and compiled by Genie Tyburski, long time librarian at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, this excellent free weekday news bulletin includes brief reports and occasional features, mainly on news and Web resources for library and legal professionals. A must read for all of us.

To subscribe to TVC Alert, send a message to listserv@shrsys.hslc.organd leave the subject line blank. In the message body, type: subscribe tvc-alert FirstName LastName.

You may also want to see Genie’s Web site, The Virtual Chase, at http://www.virtualchase.com/, especially if you do any Web training.

The Virtual Acquisition Shelf and News DeskGary Price keeps an eye out for useful Web sites, documents and news,  sharing them with other information professionals through this service. He adds to the list of new resources throughout the day, every day. His free  weekly e-mail updates don’t include nearly as much as the full list, but are  useful reminders to check the site.

Gary is moving his service to Free Pint, and materials will soon be found at http://www.freepint.com/resourceshelf/index.php3. Until the transition is  complete, go to http://resourceshelf.blogspot.com for the latest resources, and to sign up for the reminders, go to  http://www.freepint.com/resourceshelf/update.php3.

You probably know Gary’s name from his efforts to provide access to the "Invisible Web" - especially through his sites, Price’s List of Lists and  Direct Search. As I mentioned above, my list is pretty subjective, not exhaustive, and focused on resources for legal information professionals,  but Gary has a site you may want to check out if you are even more of a technology hound than I am. He’s compiled links for almost any site covering "Information Technology & Internet News" at http://gwis2.circ.gwu.edu/~gprice/tech.htm.

Semi-Weekly

The Internet Tourbus:  Though mainly aimed at new and general Internet users, this free e-mail newsletter continues to surprise me with useful, completely accessible information. From the site: "Net gurus Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen … explain Internet technology in plain English with a dash of humor ." I couldn’t put it better. Postings are sent twice each week, generally each Tuesday and Thursday, and often include good information for Web developers, handy downloads, computing shortcuts, advice on minimizing spam, how to politely respond to virus warnings, interesting sites and more.

To subscribe, just head for their main page, http://www.tourbus.com, and fill in the form. The site also has a great searchable archive of past postings.

Weekly

Internet Legal Research Weekly (ILRW):  Written by Texas attorney Tom Mighell with occasional guest authors, this free e-mail newsletter delivers timely legal research information, general Internet research features, some computer tips, and the odd fun item every Sunday. Some descriptions I’ve seen of this site say it’s aimed at beginners, but I often find useful bits here.

To subscribe, send an e-mail to ilrw-subscribe@topica.com, or go to
http://www.topica.com/lists/ilrw

LLRX.com UpdateLLRX publishes a new issue every two weeks, and the Editor/Publishers, Sabrina I. Pacifici and Cindy Chick send out an email notification providing the abstracts of the articles, as well as their respective urls.  Subscribe to this update, and be sure not to miss any vital info from articles on electronic legal research, foreign and international law guides, to Congressional news and reviews of Web-based services, all on target for legal information professionals.

To subscribe, go to http://www.llrx.com/email.htm and fill in the handy form.

NewsLink NewsbreaksNewsLink is a free weekly e-mail newsletter digesting materials from Information Today, Inc., the publisher of several news magazines focused on the information industry. I subscribe to be sure I see any online material available from Barbara Quint’s Searcher. Information Today and Computers in Librariesare two other well known publications from the same source. While it’s a helpful service, the digest tends to give you a tiny peek at the regular publication’s contents. You may end up using it for a limited time while you decide whether to subscribe to the sources in paper.

To become a subscriber, visit their Web site at http://www.infotoday.com/newslink/default.htm.  Listing of previous NewsBreaks at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/breaks.htm.

New Media Lawyer:  A weekly, free e-mail newsletter available from the UK’s Legal News Media. Contents are international - though the focus is on European issues, especially the UK - and include technology and "new media" legal issues.

This newsletter is available via the Web or via e-mail. Go to http://www.legaltechnology.org/headline.htmto see the latest issue. To subscribe, send your email address to: news@legalnewsmedia.com and include the word "News" in the subject line.

They also offer a fee-based e-mail and Web newsletter called Legal Technology Insider, but at over £100 for 20 issues, I didn’t go for it. To see complete subscription information, go to http://www.legaltechnology.org/subscribe.htm.

ResearchBuzz:  I use so much information from Research Buzz that I recently subscribed to the additional fee-based service, ResearchBuzz Extra. ResearchBuzz is a free weekly digest of the daily posting at Tara Calishain’s Internet research site, http://www.researchbuzz.com. The digest is an especially good source for new useful Web sites and for search engine news and tips, but covers a much broader range of research topics.

To subscribe to ResearchBuzz, just go to the sign up area at http://www.researchbuzz.com and let them know your e-mail address. For $20 or less you can get an annual subscription to ResearchBuzz Extra that includes the digest above, but without ads, in addition to a second newsletter which answers reader questions including step by step discussion, hints and tips along with more news and commentary on Internet research. For more information, see http://www.researchbuzz.com/rbuzzextra.html.

LLRXBuzz:  Tara is also the author of a weekly column on LLRX, the LLRXBuzzLLRX Buzz is published each Monday, and provides news and site reviews geared toward legal researchers.  You may opt to receive this column via email by subscribing at http://www.llrx.com/buzz/buzz.htm, or you can read the column on the Web.

The Scout Report:  An amazing free resource published every Friday by the Internet Scout Project, located in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Computer Sciences, this list of site reviews often covers legal Web sites. There is much more to it than that, though. It invariably includes several general interest sites for the non-legal staff, a news round-up on some current event and some great downloads.

To subscribe to the Report, go to http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/misc/lists/, or send an e-mail to listserv@cs.wisc.edu. In the body of the message type: subscribe SCOUT-REPORT.

You can see the current Scout Report along with a link to its archive at http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/report/sr/current/. The Scout folks keep a Web log too. It’s at http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/weblog/, and is also worth a visit.

Bi-Weekly

Free Pint:  Free Pint: Every two weeks, members of the Free Pint online community receive this free newsletter with tips for finding information on the Internet. Free Pint is based in the UK, but membership and coverage is international. You must register at the site for access to the newsletter, but registration is free and gives you access to the community archive of articles, book reviews, jobs, news, answers to your research questions and more. The newsletter is plain text, but each issue includes the address for an online version where the hyperlinks are active.

To register and subscribe, go to
http://www.freepint.com/. Free Pint also offers a free daily e-mail digest listing community exchanges that you can sign up for when you subscribe to the newsletter. I tried it for a while, but I was overwhelmed. Law-Lib and BUSLIB-L are already enough to handle, and the daily digest is similar in style.

NEW! FreePint has introduced a second level of membership they’re calling the "Free Pint Regular" at http://www.freepint.com/regular/. Regulars receive the weekly Pub Crawl, an e-mail round-up of articles from a range of information and Internet-related publications. A recent edition is available at http://www.freepint.com/go/b11381. Subscribers also have the option to create a profile in the Free Pint member directory that brings you publicity within the Free Pint community and which is linked from interactive areas of the site. See a sample profile at http://www.freepint.com/go/r2

A Free Pint Regular subscription is 60 pounds for a year, which equates to 85 US dollars, 169 Australian dollars or 97 Euros. Regulars also get a 10% discount on any product or service purchase made on the Free Pint site.

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox:  Web and intranet developers will definitely want to subscribe to Alertbox. It’s a painless, free notification that new material has been posted to Jacob Nielsen’s site, http://www.alertbox.com. Every two weeks Nielsen offers a column relating to issues of Web usability. Very sensible advice on everything from writing a decent error message to site appearance.

To subscribe send a blank email to join-alertbox@laser.sparklist.com.

Law Commerce:  Law Commerce is a new legal community site backed by LexisNexis, Ernst & Youngand others. Their free newsletter hasn’t yet begun publication, but I’m told it will cover a range of legal matters and that technology issues will be included.

If you’d like to sign up now, submit your e-mail address at their News & Information Center, http://www.lawcommerce.com/info/index.asp, or take a closer look at the site and use the pop-up box which appears when you first access the main page, http://www.lawcommerce.com/. They have a Technology Center as well, http://www.lawcommerce.com/technology/index.asp. Registration is required for some areas of the site.

Monthly

Search Engine Report:  A monthly e-mail newsletter exclusively about search engines, from Search Engine Watch. This free report gives a nice overview of major search engine-related stories, as well as an in-depth look at search tools and developments.

To sign-up for the Search Engine Report or look at previous issues, go to http://www.searchenginewatch.com/sereport/index.html.

Search Engine Watch also offers a bi-weekly e-mail publication, Search Engine Update, to site members. Membership at the site costs $59 for 6 months or $89 for a year. It offers similar content to the Report mentioned above, but in greater depth and with more emphasis on optimizing and promoting your site to search engines. For more information, go to http://www.searchenginewatch.com/about/subscribe.html?source=newsletters.

Law Technology News (formerly Law Technology Product News):  A monthly print publication from American Lawyer Media, this paper is also available on the Web at http://www.lawtechnews.com/, but without any e-mail alert feature. The print product is heavily oriented toward hardware peripheral products and litigation-related software, and tends to have an "All Ads, All the Time" kind of feel, but is worth a look. The Web version, while carrying similar information, tends to present its materials with less "Buy Me" aggressiveness. Both focus in some part on the needs of law libraries as well as on general legal practice.

To subscribe to the free print issues, go to http://lawtech.hotresponse.com/r4/register.cgiand fill out the extensive application.

Tailored-Frequency Newsletters

CNETCNETis a special case in the technology news world, and in this list. It is THE place to go if you are a tech-news junkie, but since many of the folks who write the newsletters above doubtless use it to compile their offerings, you may want to consider avoiding it all together. If you try it, be judicious about what you select to receive or you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed. The site offers a huge selection of newsletters, all free, all delivered via e-mail. Some are daily, most are weekly, and some are less frequent. Topics range from information security to software development to Mac browsing to shopping, and that’s just a small slice.

:  is a special case in the technology news world, and in this list. It is THE place to go if you are a tech-news junkie, but since many of the folks who write the newsletters above doubtless use it to compile their offerings, you may want to consider avoiding it all together. If you try it, be judicious about what you select to receive or you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed. The site offers a huge selection of newsletters, all free, all delivered via e-mail. Some are daily, most are weekly, and some are less frequent. Topics range from information security to software development to Mac browsing to shopping, and that’s just a small slice.

To see the newsletter list or to subscribe, go to http://www.cnet.com/subscription/0-16335.html?tag=sb. The site itself, http://www.cnet.com, is a goldmine of information on all the same topics as the newsletters, so be sure to look it over if you haven’t already visited.

Wired:  I have to confess that I love Wired in print, and while it’s probably best known for that graphics-overloaded magazine, the technology news at the Web site is great. Like CNET, it offers several options for e-mail delivery of tech news as well as a monitor option, which will alert you to new articles matching search criteria you, enter.

To subscribe to a pre-formatted e-mail newsletter, go to http://hotwired.lycos.com/email/signup/.

To set up you own monitor, try http://www.wired.alerts.com/wired/add_alert.jsp.

More Sources

In addition to all the options above, almost every major newspaper has a technology column that runs at least once a month and often weekly. Check out the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times - in print or online - or try your paper and see what technology news is affecting your area. Also, many libraries already run clipping services through a vendor like Lexis, Westlaw or Moreover. Consider setting up a tightly tailored search through one of these services if your information needs are not met by the options above.

Additional Resources

The entire section that follows is an update: Rita Kaiser, Reference Services Librarian for King County, Washington, contributes several new sites for the list:

Office.com’s Individual Newspage  -
http://www.individual.com  
This site allows the user to set up a preferred list of topics from general business news, law firm news, mergers and acquisitions, electronic commerce, knowledge management, web management, push technology and other topics. This site is especially useful for law firms wanting to keep up with current news without incurring subscription costs for online database searches. This service can be set to email headlines that can be posted easily on an Intranet. 

Law Office Computing - 
http://www.lawofficecomputing.com  
Billing itself as the technology magazine for the legal profession, it has also been called the “Consumer Reports” of the legal computing. Use it for free access to reviews of both new and old software products. 

Higher level access requires a subscription. For more information, see https://jamespublishing.safeserver.com/loc.htm.

Tech Law Journal  - http://www.techlawjournal.com  
An excellent site for legislative, litigation-related and regulatory news on computers and the Internet. Sign up for a free daily email at http://www.techlawjournal.com/alert/Default.asp

The Rapidly Changing Face of Computers http://www.compaq.com/rcfoc 
John Harbison, Librarian at Collier Shannon Scott, contributed this weekly technology journal site that he uses to keep up to date and to look forward to emerging technology trends. This series was discontinued with the 7/26/2001 issue, but the existing archive remains available at this address.  The author of the RCFOC series, Jeff Harrow, is no longer affiliated with Compaq and is now publishing his material as the Harrow Report at http://www.theharrowgroup.com/. That page also links to the RCFOC archive.

LII Week  - http://lii.org/search/file/mailinglist  
Carol Leita contributed the mailing list for her own site, the Librarian’s Index to the Internet, http://lii.org, a searchable, annotated subject directory of almost 8000 Internet resources selected and evaluated by librarians. It has a broad topic base, but does deal with legal resources. The update is available via e-mail and includes a list of the top 10 to 20 new sites added to the index each week. 

You can subscribe to the update from http://lii.org/search/file/mailinglist, or send an e-mail to listproc@sunsite.berkeley.edu and leave subject area blank. The body of the message should say only: subscribe liiweek yourFirstname yourLastname, for example, subscribe liiweek Cindy Curling. 

Current Cites  - http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/mailinglist.html  
Carol Leita also contributes this monthly publication, an annotated bibliography of selected books, articles, and digital documents on information technology edited by Roy Tennant.

To subscribe, send the message "subscribe Cites your name" to listserv@library.berkeley.edu.

By now you probably get the idea that there is as much information available as you are willing to view. I subscribe to or check in at most of the sites above. I don’t feel compelled to read everything, but there are a few I read religiously. For the rest, I do try to at least skim and pull out the items that seem useful and set aside time each week to go through the items I’ve selected. Which sources will work best for you will depend on the nature of your job and your environment, but hopefully the descriptions above will help you make informed selections.

Again, if you have a site to add, or you’d like to comment on how technology issues are affecting your job, I’d love to hear from you.