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.
In This Issue:
The Latest on Legal Research
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University of California’s Hastings College of Law has a searchable database of California ballot propositions ranging from 1911 until the present. The URL is
This database can be searched by proposition number or keywords. Searches can also be limited by year or pass/fail status. There are two search buttons
here, which can be a little confusing. The first search button says “search” and provides just the search count. The second button says “Display Search
Results,” which — aha! Displays the search results.
Results include the title of the proposition, the number, the year, whether it passed or failed, and a summary. There’s also a “more” button that provides
additional information, including popular results (count and percentage), proponents and opponents, and analysis. Lots of information here. Worth a look.
The Small Business Administration has launched a Web site for small businesses at http://www.businesslaw.gov/. It’s an informative site that uses wizards and guides in plain English to assist with getting into business all the way through to getting out of it.
Options for state and local information are listed in the left column. Select from the drop-down menu of states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. You’ll
get an outline of topics on the left side of the screen, including information like buying a franchise, selling to the government, and international trade. Click on one and more information will appear in the middle of the page. (Be sure to watch the outline on the left side of the page as it changes when you click on it.)
Another tool in the left column is a drop-down menu of Compliance Assistance topics ranging from Advertising to Transportation. Click it and you’ll get a (short, from what I saw) list of links.
News sub-headings are listed in the right column, as are various topics of Laws and Regulations. Additional guides in the right column include locating legal assistance and reference tools such as forms and a research site. And there is a link to e-mail your Congressional representative. Good resource.
We found a guide to British Law Dictionaries at http://lawdictionaries.com/. Resources are listed under the headings of General, Commercial, Crime,
Family and International. Clicking on a tab leads to the list of resources along with link and descriptive blurb.
A link to online translation tools is on the right. Languages range from Arabic to Yiddish and can be translated into, or from, English. Additional tools on
the left include general reference items and UK law news headlines.
Check this out. It’s a database of file extensions at http://filext.com/. File extensions are listed alphabetically and also by number and symbol.
Some of the files contain just a note about what they are (“.CDK Atari Calamus Document”) and some of them have definitions and hyperlinks (the ones I saw look like hyperlinks back to the original source.) Some extensions also have multiple definitions — .CDF has no less than five definitions listed. MS Visual C++ File leads back to Microsoft’s Visual C++ page.
William Matthews reports that while dot-gov sites have made progress in the six years they have been online, they are now beginning to recognize the need to be more user friendly. Just having the information on the site is not enough if the user cannot find it within two or three clicks.
As an example, IRS recently released a Web site that received rave reviews such as “hyper-hip.” However that site is going to be replaced next month, because even IRS executives could not locate information in less than 20 to 30 clicks.
The FBI site shows the need for greater urgency to increase usability. Since the events of September 11th, visits to its site have increased fivefold. The FBI site is also scheduled to be redesigned again soon, and the new design will give priority to the features that the readers are looking. Links to information
about the FBI will be at the bottom of the page, if it is on there at all. Check out the whole article — well worth a read! — at
Google today announced the expansion of their image search, Web search, and Usenet search.
Web Search — Google’s Web search now offers more than 2 billion documents, 25 percent of which they say are non- English Web pages. When I asked how many of the pages were non- HTML pages, Google representative Nate Tyler said, “There are more than 35 million non-HTML documents. These include numerous file formats such as PDF, Microsoft Office and Lotus documents.”
Google’s Web search seems to have expanded its news results — do a search for “Afghanistan” and you’ll see that news results pop up with source and time
(I’m guessing that’s time indexed.) It doesn’t seem to work for most proper names, though — “bin Laden” and “George Bush” got news results, but “Princess Masako” and “george clooney” didn’t.
Google Groups — Google Groups has both left beta and now includes a 20-year archive of Usenet conversations (all the way back to 1981.) That’s 700 million postings in 35,000 different categories.
Google Image Search — Google image search has been expanded to over 330 million images. It still seems to be restricted to JPEG and GIF, though — I can’t find any BMP or PNG files anywhere. (Is BMP even used anymore?)
xrefer has officially launched their xreferplus reference service for libraries at
http://www.xreferplus.com. The search engine consists of 100 reference books.
Subscription rates start at $1,500, or 1,800 euros, a year. Librarians can sign up for a free trial at http://www.xreferplus.com/trial/signup.jsp. A list of participating publishers is available at http://www.xreferplus.com/subs/subs.jsp?ss=3 and price calculation information is available at http://www.xreferplus.com/subs/subs.jsp?ss=10.