Category Archives: Tips & Tricks

Tips and tricks to make your job easier.

Tracking Legislation: GovTrack.us & LegiScan

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As legal information professionals, I am sure you have received requests to track proposed legislation. Changes in statutory law are obviously fundamentally important to the practice of law. The potential for legislative change creates an information need requiring a method of monitoring the status of proposed legislation as it bounces around the legislature. Thankfully, monitoring proposed laws/bills can be done electronically. In fact, there is an abundance of software and services that can accomplish this task. In the past, I have turned to subscription services to set these tracks up. Using a Westlaw, Lexis, or Bloomberg BNA is fine and will do the job of tracking legislation for you, but the drawback to these services is they cost money. Notably, there are alternatives on the web that track legislation, and do so for free. Continue reading

Quickly Check the Availability of State Court Electronic Docket and Document Access With CourtReference.com

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Though I have detailed its flaws, PACER’s existence as the centralized interface containing electronic access to Federal court dockets and documents makes our jobs as law librarians much easier. State courts, on the other hand, are the wild west of electronic docket and document access. Continue reading

Searching Social Media | Part 2: Twitter

This series focuses on methods of improving the relevancy of your results of social media searches, while not being logged into the services themselves. Again, social media searching is clearly trending upward in the law librarianship profession, as attorneys are increasingly making these requests while conducting informal discovery. In Part 1 of “Searching Social Media” we examined how to use Google’s advanced search features to retrieve relevant Facebook results. In Part 2, we will examine methods of conducting higher-relevance Twitter searches. Continue reading

Searching Social Media | Part 1: Googling Facebook

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Have you experienced an increase in social media search requests? As attorneys become more likely to turn to social media during their informal discovery processes, I have found an uptick in questions like: “could you please do a social media background check on this person?” This is a growing information need I believe law librarians are excellently suited to fill, and really the next generation of public records search requests. Through conducting these searches and by leaning on the expertise of others I have put together my own toolkit on tricks to use. Below I list methods incorporating Google advanced search terms to conduct searches on Facebook quickly and with high relevancy (Part 2 of this series, where I discuss using advanced searches in Twitter, is available here). Continue reading

In Case You Missed It: The Droid Lawyer Connects Google Drive to Your Desktop

The cloud has changed the way we interact with the web—there’s no hyperbole in this statement. Mobile devices, private networks with shared data centers, the rise of apps, dynamic sites—all of these innovations were enabled by cloud computing. But, saving documents and files to a server somewhere out in the universe isn’t always as easy as ctrl-c and ctrl-v. Usability and navigation have always been some of the problems with cloud space storage because we have to ask a web interface to do the job of an operating system. The user can struggle through it, but usually the operations are clunky and slow. This all makes sense, users are accustomed to taking advantage of the full computing power of an operating system fine-tuned and devoted to file management—web-based software is going to be under-powered and clunky by comparison. Continue reading

Buying textbooks? Book.ly is the bomb!

With school back in session and the economy still in its rut, most students are sharing a similar concern.  How on earth are they going to be able to afford those pricey textbooks?  From living in closets to subsisting on ramen noodles, folks are desperate to lessen the pain of textbook buying.  Luckily, they have an ally in the fight.  Have you been to Book.ly?

Book.ly tags itself as “The Better Way to Buy Textbooks”.  They are certainly onto something hot and useful.  Using Book.ly, students can buy, rent, and even sell textbooks without the painful markup  of college bookstores.  In fact, the site currenty estimates that its users are saving about 60% on their book purchases!  That adds up to a VERY healthy savings when you consider how many books the average student purchases in just one school year!

Using Book.ly can hardly be easier.  You simply go to the site and search for either the book title or your school.  In it’s databanks, Book.ly has up-to-date syllabus information from over 1,500 colleges and universities!  Students can actually buy their books before they even have their syllabi in hand.  At the end of the semester, students can then use Book.ly to sell their books back for top dollar.  Talk about a total solution!

Book.ly is barely a year old, but has already attracted a huge fan base.  You can look at the main page to see just how much the students at particular colleges and universities have saved.  The leader board is impressive!  Best of all . . . it is not just for students.  Anyone can use Book.ly and reap its rewards.

Scheduling a mess? Untangle it with Tungle.me!

In today’s global society, scheduling meetings can be a real pain.  Technology has managed to make the world smaller thanks to video conferencing, virtual meeting spaces, and VoIP calling.  One thing it has not done is make it that much easier to get people together at one time, across time zones.  Luckily, Tungle.me is trying to change that.

What is Tungle.me?  Well, to quote their own tagline, Tungle.me is “scheduling made easy”.  Need to set up a conference call with colleagues in Caracas, besties in Beijing, and allies in Adelaide?  Don’t get tangled up trying to figure out time differences, let Tungle.me do it for you.  This site litreally makes scheduling meetings with folks far and wide a snap.  It accounts for time differences and brings diverse schedules together for you.  How?  By syncing with most major calendar applications.

An account on Tungle.me is free and easy to set up.  Once you sign up, you simply sync it with your calendar.  Tungle.me is currently compatible with Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple iCal, Entourage (Mac) and Lotus Notes.  It notes times that you are busy and available and displays them as such on your personal Tungle.me calendar page.  The details of your busy times remain comfortingly private.  Whether you are looking to plan or meeting or others are looking to propose one to you, it is simply a matter of choosing several open and available slots.  Tungle.me handles the communication, syncing of participants calendars, and sharing of details.  Talk about a time saver!  There are even Tungle.me apps for iPhone and Blackberry.  So it’s mobile too.

Tungle.me is not your typical calendar application.  In fact, it is not meant to be a calendar at all.  Rather it is designed to enhance “your existing calendar, giving it the flexibility and agility you need to easily schedule meetings with anyone, inside or outside your company, no matter what calendar type they’re using”.  Tungle.me puts your calendar on steroids and gets it to do some of the legwork for you.  The iBraryGuy team has tried it out and we were impressed.  Who says the best things in life aren’t free?

Google’s new URL shortener not short on features!

As if there were not already enough choices for shortening those long URLs, another one has launched.  And if it was not for the company launching it, we would probably not be paying it much attention.  But this is no run-of-the-mail-under-the-radar kind of unveiling.  This is Google’s new URL shortener, Goo.gl and it is not the least bit short on sweet features.

As we said, there are plenty of URL shorteners already on the market.  From the uber popular Bit.ly to the simple, yet customizable Doiop, they are a true godsend to anyone looking to save space and improve the aesthetic of long, complicated, and ugly URLs.  For tweeters especially, these tools are becoming ubiquitous.  To play in the URL shortening game today, a start-up has to bring something big to the table.  What the new Goo.gl brings is the backing of search behemoth Google, its bag of innovations and tricks, and a pretty tall promise to be the “stablest, most secure, and fastest URL shortener on the web.”  Can it live up the hype?

Released to the public today, Goo.glis easy to use.  Just like the other URL shorteners, you simply type or paste a long URL into the form and click on the “shorten” button.  Goo.gl will then compress that long link into something much shorter and more easily manageable.  In this respect, it is not much different than its myriad of competitors.  However, this is Google offspring we are talking about.  So you know that the features do not end there.

Sign in with your Gmail / iGoogle account information, and Goo.glbecomes your own URL shortening space.  It keeps track of all of the shortened URLs you create, complete with the original link, date created, and even the number of clicks it has spawned.  Sure, you are probably thinking that other shorteners do this too.  But let’s be honest.  None of them integrate with your Google presence.  If you are already using Gmail, Google Docs, or any of the growing suite of Google applications, this is just another feather in your cap.  Not to mention, there is already talk of Google integrating its new shortener with the power of its Analytics programs.  To be sure, ste standalone Goo.gl site is probably just the tip of the iceberg here.  You can bet that the competition is already be taking notice!

In the months ahead, it will be interesting to see what comes of Google’s latest offering.  In our opinion, it is already a more auspicious debut than that of Google Wave or even Buzz.  Give Goo.gl a try and let us know what you think!

Historious is bookmarking magic!

Bookmarking.  We all do it and it can be quite a burden.  For most of us, it is a constant process of selecting, organizing, tagging, reorganizing, retagging . . . well, you get the picture.  Bookmarking for most of us has been a great deal of work.  Thanks to Historious, it no longer has to be such a bear.

Historious is nothing short of bookmarking magic.  A few easy steps are all that stand between you and a searchable archive of your favorite sites.  It works something like this:

  • You find a site you like.
  • You bookmark it to Historious using a bookmarklet or browser extension.
  • You use Historious’ built-in search to recall the sites you have bookmarked.

Voila!  It could hardly be any easier.  Historious saves a copy of the site exactly as it exists when you bookmarked it.  This is perfect for those of us who like to bookmark particular stories.  You do not need to organize or tag your bookmarks as Historious takes care of all the indexing in the background.  It actually allows you to search the full text of the site you bookmarked.  So you may only a remember a few words or part of the title, but Historious will still find your site.  Try that with standard bookmarking applications!

Accounts on Historious are free.  You just need to register.  The bookmarklet is easy to install.  If you are using Google’s Chrome browser, there is a Historious extension that you can add to it.  You can even add Historious to your browser’s list of search sites.  Simple, elegant and powerful.  That is Historious.  We love it!

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Google Follow Finder help you find the right tweeps!

There are many ways to find folks worth following on Twitter.  You can use any of the Twitter search engines to find people using specific hashtags or words, such as “#libraries” or librarianship.  You can follow specific Twitter lists, such as our own “Librariana” (http://twitter.com/iBraryGuy/librariana).  There are even sites such as WeFollow.com that are dedicated to classifying and ranking Twitter users.  Perhaps one of the easiest means of finding tweeters worth following, however, is to simply look at who is following the tweeps you already know and trust.  Google’s new Follow Finder aims to make that method of finding folks to follow even easier.

Using Follow Finder is as easy as entering the name of anyone Twitter.  For instance, you could search for “iBraryGuy” (no “@” required).  Click the search button and you will get results in two columns.  The first column, labeled “Tweeps You Might Like”, is a list of recommended Twitterers based on the tweeps whom the person you searched follows.  The second column, “Tweeps with Similar Followers”, actually looks at the relationships between the person searched and folks with similar lists of followers.  Sound confusing?  Follow along . . .

How Google arrives at that first list is interesting. Follow Finder compares the list of people the person for whom you searched follows, finds others with similar lists, and then identifies accounts you might also want to follow based on that comparison.  These are the “Tweeps You Might Want to Follow”.  In other words, if iBraryGuy follows Resource Shelf and other folks who also follow Resource Shelf additionally follow Read Write Web, Follow Finder will recommend Read Write Web to you.

The second list, “Tweeps with Similar Followers”, involves a similar comparison.  Only here Google is looking at the users who are following the person you searched.  So if you search iBraryGuy, Follow Finder looks at who is following us and then compares their lists of followers and makes recommendations to you based on recurring names.  Think of it as the flip side of the social coin.  When you enter a name into Follow Finder, it looks at both the folks whom that user follows and the folks that are following that user.

Google’s Follow Finder is a quick  and easy way to run a two-dimensional search for new Twitter users  worth following.  When we say quick, we literally mean that it takes split seconds to get your results.  And when we say easy, we might as well point out that Follow Finder even provides you with links under each name that allow you to simply click and follow.  It doesn’t get much easier!

Still in Google Labs, we look forward to seeing where this new search tool ends up in the long run!