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Notes from the Technology Trenches - Y2K wrap-up, sources for Web design, computer technology news source and Supreme Court Brie

By Roger V. Skalbeck, Published on January 17, 2000

Roger Skalbeck is the Electronic Initiatives Librarian at Howrey & Simon in Washington, D.C., and is the Web Master of the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C. Current work activities cover myriad aspects of electronic research resource evaluation, intranet content development, as well as research and technology training, all from a librarian's point of view. This column reflects the personal views of the author, which are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organization. This column, of course, is 100% free of any legal advice.

Well, Y2K came and went, and aside from a few minor mishaps, from all accounts there have been no significant, widespread glitches. Fears of malfunctioning elevators, ATMs and life-critical systems, not to mention the thought of planes falling from the sky thankfully did not materialize as realities.

Nonetheless, there were a few strange things related to the date that appeared on Web sites across the Internet.  Most of these were quickly corrected, but there is an archive of images available at the Y2Kmistakes site. Here you will find coverage of dozens of sites at which people spotted technical glitches with the portrayal of dates in a wide variety of settings. The affected sites ranged from those for Pokemon to the New York Times. The Y2K Mistakes site even provides a section on parodies and pranks, including a link to the retro-styled page for Case Western Reserve University, boasting a date of 1900, with a stylish retro aesthetic.

Coverage includes screenshots of sites that were hit by Y2K-related bugs, which is particularly useful, as all of the pages that I checked at the end of the first week of January had already been updated. Some stories from other news sources were reported on strange date mishaps, including the following:

Sources for Web Design

Now that the somewhat mythical date of 1/1/2000 has come and gone, you will certainly know the extent to which any Y2K problems remain within your organization. Assuming that your organization has straightened things out, or hopefully avoided them altogether, it is probably time to move on to other projects and concerns, at long last. Among some possible projects, you might be tackling one of particular interest to me: the development and improvement of intranet and Internet resources. If you have an external web site, an organization-wide intranet or even just a handful of HTML pages that you share with colleagues, it is important that users are able to use them effectively. In particular, I think that it is important to look at the design and architecture of any resources that you use or maintain in order to see if they are as effective and efficient as they can be. To these ends, I suggest the following sources to consider.

In the LLRX bookstore, you can find a number of books on site design, along with links to online reviews. A few new titles listed are Design Wise: A Guide for Evaluation the Interface Design of Information Resources, as well as Planning and Designing Effective Web Sites. Others are referenced in a section on Web Page Design and Construction. In addition to these books, I have found Lynch and Horton’s Web Style Guide and Information Architecture for the World Wide Web from Rosenfeld and Moreville to be particularly valuable. There are sure to be others, and I welcome any suggestions.

To supplement printed materials, and to get access to design and architecture expertise about the Internet, there are of course places to get it on the Internet. As a very modest beginning, the following should provide numerous topics to consider for your own interests:

News of advances in computing

Now that we are entering into a new millennium, in which information technologies are sure to be changing as much as they ever have, I suggest that you turn to the Rapidly-Changing Face of Computing (RCFOC) for news of what we will be arriving in the new century and beyond. This is a weekly publication with news compiled about the latest and greatest advances in technologies, which is subtitled “insight, analysis and commentary on the innovations and trends of contemporary computing, and the technologies that drive them.”

If you haven’t seen this before, it is worth checking out. Topics range from nanotechnologies, advances in cutting-edge hardware, a variety of ecommerce items and a host of tidbits on the conversion of communication, entertainment and information technology products. Jeffrey R. Harrow, a senior consulting engineer from Compaq authors RCFOC, but coverage is not aligned with the company. You can view each week’s issue on their web site or receive it as a subscription, and it is also available in an audio format. The site was redesigned about two months ago, and the author continues to compile and publish news that is not widely covered elsewhere.

Supreme Court Briefs on FindLaw

Regardless of the year, January has typically marked a hot and busy time for the Supreme Court, and this year appears to be no exception. There is a new collection of materials available on FindLaw, which make it even easier to stay on top of the current term cases. In what I believe to be the first major free brief repository of its kind, FindLaw recently made available a collection of Supreme Court briefs within their Constitutional Law Center. This Supreme Court collection at FindLaw also includes a topical index for the October 1999 term, an extensive docket, as well as a great depth of court rules, historical documents and other materials related to the court and constitutional law.

With the new collection of briefs, most of them are available in text-based HTML format, with some provided as scanned pages or in alternate Adobe Acrobat formats. The online presentation of the briefs is superb, as there are even color-coded markers indicating the nature of each respective brief for a given case, which correspond to Supreme Court Rule 33. The addition of the color-coded materials as well as the organization of related briefs under each case heading make this a very useful resource. These features also show how Internet-based delivery of legal materials can be greatly improved by good organization and design. As added features, this section integrates links to underlying appellate court cases as well as subject area descriptions of each case in the current term. Hopefully additional organizations will take on similar efforts for courts in other levels and jurisdictions.

The year 2000 will certainly have a great deal to offer in terms of new technologies, new resources for legal research and new ways of interacting with information sources and services. Check back here each month for a look at a cross-section of some of the events and ideas that emerge.

As always, if you have comments or suggestions for future columns, please contact me.

Web Sites Mentioned in this column:

Y2Kmistakes

Case Western Reserve University (Y2K parody)

Y2K Burps Up Some Weird Dates

Windows 2000, the Early Years

Date Glitch Hits Star Trek Site

LLRX bookstore
Books:

The Alertbox: Current Issues in Web Usability

Usable Web

Web Style Guide

Rapidly Changing Face of Computing

Supreme Court Briefs on FindLaw Constitutional Law Center

Copyright © 2000 Roger V. Skalbeck. All Rights Reserved.