– database as personal ebook publishing generic book cover

We recently did a soft launch of

The Free Law Reporter™ (FLR) is an experiment that builds onCarl Malamud’s Report of Current Opinions (RECOP).(more info about RECOP fromJustia,Robert Ambrogi and Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase). The RECOP bulk feed can be found at

The goal of FLR is to develop a freely available, unencumbered law reporter that is capable of serving as a resource for education, research, and practice. The first step is to use FLR to provide greater access through enhanced and alternate formats of the weekly feeds coming from RECOP.

One of the features of is that you can do a search for cases and then download all of the results as an epub file.  There is a long tradition of “books as databases” … white pages, almanacs, catalogs, etc. and we wanted to explore the idea of the ebook as a portable and perhaps easier to search/read mini-database.  We don’t have the resources to do a full-blown Ipad/Iphone app, but by supplying content from the database of cases, we can deliver to these platforms via the Kindle app, Ibooks and other ereader apps.

The feature mountain we are now climbing is how to create better searches that can be turned into better ebooks.  Some possibilities we are exploring…

  • all cases decided by a particular judge – think of lawyers who are preparing to go before such judge
  • all cases that reference a complex search term – think current awareness as ebook instead of as RSS stream.  The Kindle/Ipad can be a better reading experience than Google Reader, though Flipbook has me excited.

Controlling the epub from the database – or better yet – letting the user control it – opens up our possibilities of publishing to new vistas.  That’s the point, I guess.   More on this later.

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Hello, My Name is … John Mayer

I recently cleaned up my office and decided to organize a huge pile of name tags that I had received from various events, conferences, workshops, reunions and such.  The earliest one is from 1995, so this represents 16 years of name tags.

All the names tags from 16 years of events.

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Classroom Laptop Bans Redux

I have long believed that the issue of banning laptops in the
classroom is not the real issue, it is instead an indicator of student
attention/distraction. The premise of the argument to ban laptops can
be boiled down to…

“If you provide a distraction free environment, students can learn more”.

Plenty of room to argue what a “distraction” is, but I would rather
look at the “learn more” part.

If “learn more” is the goal, then this issue needs to be studied,
unpacked and examined to find out what exactly it means. Some
students are trying to learn more by using their laptops. Others are
realizing that they are not learning in the traditional, “sage on the
stage” classroom and so are opting to use their laptops to do
something else rather than waste their time “not learning”.

Generally speaking, the instructor who just lectures has no idea at
all if students are actually learning. Mere lecture may be the
easiest/cheapest way to “instruct” a roomful of students, but it
provides the least amount of feedback and therefore least opportunity
for correction. Shiny, happy faces without glazed-over, bovine
staring is NOT an indicator of attentiveness and interest and
learning. No network engineer worth her salt would run a network
without a dashboard of feedback about the health of the network and
systems. What is the equivalent in the classroom that measures
student attention/interest? (and yes, I know, students are not nodes
in a network and faculty are not servers).

I believe that lecturing should be eliminated almost entirely or taken
offline as videos or podcasts. Let the students learn the doctrine
from the book/reading/CALI lesson (sorry) and use the classroom for
small-group interaction, mini-writing projects where the results are
“passed to the left” and discussed with a partner, etc, etc. Some
interaction occurs with the socratic method, but, I suspect, not

This is what the laptop ban issue is highlighting. Students want to
learn and don’t want to waste time if they are not learning. They
want formative feedback – mostly from the instructor, maybe from their
peers, even from a computer – something that tells them they ARE
learning and mastering the topic. They can consume the “data” of the
course best on their own. They ARE graduate students after all.

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Just A Podcasting Test

Here is my test podcast.

Click to listen or right-click to download – JustATest4Podcasting.mp3

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Case Law Wordles

One of the cool things about having a commons that contains public domain versions of case law is that it invites experimentation.

I ran across this nifty toy the other day called Wordle ( that let me create the above graphic. I grabbed a random Supreme Court case from CALI’s Legal Education Commons ( or and produced the Wordle you see above. Can you tell what the case is about?

BTW, clicking on the image will take you to the text of the case.

I will try to post a new one of these every couple of days just to see what happens as I run various famous cases through Wordle.

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CALI Tools For Law Faculty in 15 Minutes from AALS 2009

Here is the link to a screencast of my presentation at AALS on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 in San Diego. I was participating in the "Redesigning Legal Education" session. I had 15 minutes to cover a lot of ground, so I apologize for my fast-talking.

Here is the Powerpoint file… 2009AALSClassroomTechnology.ppt

Here is an MP3 of my talk… 2009_01_07_ClassroomTech.mp3

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Mayer, Lazar, Devenny, Marik, Robinson, Kokosz Families Sing the 12 Days of Christmas

The picture does not capture the participants – unfortunately, no one took pics at this year’s Christmas gathering.

Some may say this it is better that no pictures were taken if you listen to the singing in the podcast.

Just saying…

Here is the podcast … MayerFamily12days2008.mp3

Click to play or right-click to download.

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Blogging Hiatus Ends

I am back to blogging. I had to take some time off to recover from quintuple bypass surgery. Let this be a reminder to get your cholesterol checked – mine was over 330 last April – now it’s around 150 thankyouverymuch.

I’ve been back to work for quite some time now (since May), but I had fallen so far behind that I just didn’t know where to pick up the blog. Well, it’s a new year and I know what my first blog post of 2009 must be…See the next post.

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New Podcast Launched – PLEASE PAY ATTENTION

"Please Pay Attention" is the working title of the new podcast series. We would love to get suggestions from listeners to name this podcast.

Elmer Masters and I talk about legal education-related IT topics several times a week and we have threatened in the past to turn some of those conversations into podcasts because we believe that others might benefit. Alternatively, others might listen and set us straight.

So we have followed up on our threat and recorded the first in a series of podcasts. The general topic area is IT in legal education/law schools. We don’t expect to be the only voices on this podcast as we will be inviting "guest speakers" – that is – real IT folks who work at real jobs in real law schools.

But for this first podcast, we decided to keep it between just me and Elmer and talk about Drupal (Elmer attended DrupalCon in Boston last week), Drupal, the massively popular open source content management system and related topics on law school website design, development and administration issues.

We talk a bit about the planned DrupalFest to be held during the 2008 Conference for Law School Computing on June 18-21, 2008 in Baltimore, MD at the University of Maryland School of Law.

Give it a listen, give us some feedback and in a couple of weeks we will see if this a drive-by podcast or we will be repeat offenders.

Here is the podcast … LegalEdITpodcast001rev1.mp3 (updated version after running The Levelator to clean up sound volume levels)

iTunes links to be added soon.

Intro and out-tro music is Creative Commons licensed and was found at Podsafe Audio. The artist is Heather Sullivan and the tune is "I Believe".

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Transforming Legal Education – 2008 CALI Conference Theme

CALI Conference Theme

We have a theme!!!

"Transforming Legal Educaction" is the theme for the 2008 Conference for Law School Computing.

We’ll be posting links for registration and putting out a call for speakers soon. All of these links will be here.

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