Interested in algorithmic justice? Here are ways LLNE members can help!

Don’t forget to register for the June 11th (this Friday!) screening and discussion of the acclaimed documentary Coded Bias. The event starts at 7pm EST: tinyurl.com/xr5dm9wf. The filmmaker, Shalini Kantayya, has also compiled an activist toolkit for those interested in becoming advocates for “algorithmic justice.” If any LLNE members would like to get involved, page 24 of the toolkit lists recommended organizations to which you can subscribe and make donations.

Another way to get involved is by signing the Universal Declaration of Data Rights as Human Rights, which was developed by the Coded Bias team. Upon signature, your name and zip code are sent to US elected officials. The committee is encouraging members to sign the declaration if they are interested in further supporting this cause.

We hope to see you on Friday!

LLNE Service Committee

Coded Bias Screening and Discussion

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We have another event coming your way this week! After the 2021 LLNE Virtual Spring Meeting, join us THIS Friday June 11 at 7pm EST for a screening and discussion of the documentary Coded Bias. See below for more information and to register.

Coded Bias Screening and Discussion
Friday, June 11th at 7pm ET/ 6pm CT/ 5pm MT/ 4pm PT

CODED BIAS explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces accurately, and her journey to push for the first-ever legislation in the U.S. to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all. Join us for a screening of this acclaimed documentary followed by a discussion featuring:

  • Nicole Dyszlewski (moderator), Head of Reference, Instruction, & Engagement, Roger Williams University School of Law
  • Sarah Lamdan, Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law
  • Susan Nevelow Mart, Professor and Director of the Law Library, University of Colorado Law School

To register visit: tinyurl.com/xr5dm9wf

Sponsored by the Legal Information Services to the Public Special Interest Section, the Law Librarians of New England, and the Research Crits Caucus.

A Day in the Life of a LLNE.org co-webmaster (Technology Committee)

Morning:

I log into my work email for the first time today and am greeted by several emails from familiar LLNE names. With an ever expanding subject line that includes as least 4 “RE: [EXT]s,” my eyes scan the email in the hopes of seeing a resolution from my co-webmaster. Absent any such resolution, I start from the beginning and identify that this is not a crisis email like the ones that we’ve gotten for our hacked website or after I broke the website while trying to update plugins. This time, it’s just a request to help build a form for facilitating registration and payment for the upcoming Legal Research Instruction Program. Since I have a busy morning reference shift ahead of me, I email the concerned parties that we will work on this request later in the day.

In the meantime, I email my co-webmaster to see if he is able to address this today. He’s too busy with real job duties, so I offer to take this one.

Afternoon:

After reviewing the specific needs of the registration form, I log into Jotform to see if I can recycle a similar form that we’ve used in the past. Luckily, the previous form is still there. I duplicate the old version, tweak some dates, and give it a test drive. Once it passes the test drive, I email the co-webmaster to check my work. Since he created the original form, I want to make sure that the form will link with Paypal correctly. After a brief Zoom meeting, I respond to the original email thread with a direct link to the form. Proud of myself for finishing this task without breaking a sweat, I close my work laptop for the day.

Night:

The latest episode of WandaVision just wrapped up and I check at my work email, hoping to get a jumpstart on weeding out spam email before my busy morning tomorrow. The unusual amount of new “RE: [EXT]” subject lines is alarming. With a swift touch of a button, my work laptop fires up. It appears that I prematurely patted myself on the back for a job well done this afternoon. While I had correctly created a new registration form, the old form was still linked online and causing confusion. I quickly reassure the interested parties, deactivate the old form, and send out the current link again.

Another bullet dodged on LLNE.org.

By: Alex Burnett

Technology Committee Update

The LLNE Technology Committee continues to maintain and develop the LLNE.org website, support the LLNE and Executive Board listservs, and implement and maintain automated membership tools. Specifically, over the last couple of years, Artie and Alex have implemented Memberpress, which is an automated membership tracking and payment tool, improved search engine optimization so that LLNE.org shows up higher in search engine result, and brought the website back online after a serious hack. We also reviewed several options and selected a new listserv platform, Mail-List, after AALL’s listserv became unfeasible as well as reviewing several video platforms and selecting Vimeo for LLNE’s hosted videos.

After the website was hacked, Artie and Alex took several steps to increase security, including changing a plethora of passwords, purging unused website plugins and updating out of date ones, and ensuring continuous backups of the entire site.

We work with many of the other LLNE committees to support their goals and Artie and Alex are always happy to help with anything relating to the website or listserv. Help can include training committee members on using the WordPress system, updating web pages on their behalf, or aiding them in finding technological solutions, such as Memberpress.

LLNE Technology Committee Report (October 2020)

The technology committee continues to maintain the website and listserv. Recent activities include, reverting website to previous version when updating a plug-in caused a crash, working with membership committee & treasurer to get memberships renewed, llne.org accounts updated, & mail-list updated.

The ABA Techshow: Teaching Technology for the Future of Law Practice

By Artie Berns

I recently attended the ABA Techshow in Chicago. The following are some of the highlights:

Prior to the actual event I attended a Dean’s Roundtable event, Teaching Technology in the Academy: Are We Finally at the Tipping Point. This event was hosted by Chicago Kent School of law and included a lively panel discussion about the modes and methods of teaching technology in the legal academy.  For me, the main take-away was that while we in the legal academy can theorize about what we should be teaching with regard to technology, a better indicator of what is needed is what the firms hiring our students want them to know when they arrive.  This event will be evolving into an actual academic track in next year’s Techshow. For more information about the upcoming academic track contact Michael Robak, robakm@umkc.edu.

More than one program I attended discussed the impact of expert systems on the practice of law.  In this context an expert system is one in which a computer conducts guided interviews to solve a particular legal problem, for instance in the program How to Hire a Robot – or Using Experts Systems in Today’s Law Firm an expert system was designed on the spot which would allow an end user to determine if they can obtain a divorce or annulment under Illinois law. Other expert systems are used to provide services for pro se litigants, for example Illinois Legal Aid Online (www.illinoislegalaidonline.org) uses A2J Author (http://www.a2jauthor.org) to help self-represented litigants to create legal forms for common legal problems.  Here in New England, the Massachusetts-based Committee for Public Counsel Services (https://www.publiccounsel.net/) uses QnA Markup (http://www.qnamarkup.org/) to help guide people to various legal resources. In the long term it is thought expert systems will be used for the automation of boring or repetitive tasks which will allow attorneys to spend their time addressing more complex and thought intensive tasks.

Several programs taught attendees to maximize the use of existing technologies such as Word, Excel, and Acrobat Pro.  Another very interesting program discussed the deep/dark web and how to conduct research there and why you would want to.  I discussed this program on the my law library’s blog, Spot-on Legal Research (http://wnelawlibrary.blogspot.com/2016/03/below-surface-web.html).  All told, I walked away from the ABA Techshow with a much better idea about what technologies we should be teaching to law students both today and in the future.

Legal Tech: Trello

By Carli Spina

Whether you are working on managing a solo project or coordinating the work of an entire team, organization is a key part of project management. But, it can be tough when you have your activities spread across multiple platforms and email accounts. Trello is designed to streamline and simplify this process.

Trello is designed to allow you to split your projects onto separate boards. You can then add “lists” to each board to represent the various stages of the project from planning to completion and put individual tasks on their own “cards.” Though the terminology of this system might seem foreign at first, this structure makes it easy to move tasks from start to finish by simply dragging the corresponding card to the proper list as each stage of the task is completed. Cards themselves can include a wealth of information, from tags to checklists to deadlines. If you have documents from outside Trello that are relevant to the task, you can even attach them to the card.

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Trello

While this can be a useful tool for keeping a solo project organized, it becomes even more useful when you are working with a team. Each level of Trello’s organization from board to card can be shared with collaborators. Each individual can set their own preferences for how they will get updates on the status of the project, including the option to receive regular emails. Trello even supports @-mentions, so you can have targeted conversations with individuals within the platform if that fits your workflow. And, since each board can be private, public, or team viewable, you have significant control over who will have access to each of your projects. To keep your project under control while you are on the go, Trello also has apps for Kindle Fire, iOS, and Android devices.

Another one of Trello’s strong suits is its documentation. It has a detailed guide to help you get started, which includes videos and example boards, a blog with additional tips, and an Inspiration space. Trello is a strong tool for a wide range of types of projects, but if you want library-specific inspiration, Aaron Tay recently wrote a blog post about how Trello is being used in libraries, which highlights great examples of how libraries are using Trello for all sorts of work from website redesigns to vendor negotiations. I highly recommend checking out Aaron’s post for some ideas about how your library might use Trello to manage projects and streamline team collaboration.

TimelineJS

By Carli Spina

Interactive timelines can be eye-catching and educational additions to websites, presentations, and course materials, but they can seem overwhelming to create. Luckily, TimelineJS is a tool that makes it easy to create impressive interactive timelines that can include a wide range of media, such as images, videos, and maps. Your entire timeline is based on content added to a Google Spreadsheet, so the first step is creating a new spreadsheet using the provided template. From there, you can simply replace the existing content with your own text and media. Once you are happy that all of your information is in the spreadsheet, you can publish it to the web and use the resulting link in the timeline generator on the TimelineJS site. When generating your timeline, you have the option to further customize it by selecting a language or font for your project, amongst other options. This feature also includes an option to generate code for use in a WordPress site, which is a nice addition that many other online tools miss.

When you are satisfied with your project, you can preview your timeline and generate the code for it. You will also receive the code necessary to add it to a site via an iFrame (unless you have selected the WordPress-compatible option). This code can be added to any website that accepts iFrames, including LibGuides and many standard content management systems. The entire process is very quick and user-friendly and the result is a dynamic timeline that looks impressive on everything from a mobile phone to a desktop computer. TimelineJS offers options for a range of types of users: you can complete the project from start to finish without ever working with any code or you can get involved with improving the project’s code on GitHub.

If you feel that this doesn’t offer sufficient flexibility for your needs, or if you just enjoy adding all of the bells and whistles to your projects, the new version of TimelineJS, called TimelineJS 3, is currently available in beta. This version of the software offers more features, including integration for Dropbox content and support for even larger timescales. You can see examples of timelines made with this new version on the project’s website.

No matter which version of TimelineJS you pick, you will find that it streamlines the process of creating an interactive timeline. Whether you want to add this to your course materials or integrate a timeline onto your website, TimelineJS will meet your needs. For a great example of this tool in use, check out the timeline Mindy Kent, former LLNE President and Manager of Research Services at Harvard Law School Library, created for our current exhibit, One Text, 16 Manuscripts: Magna Carta at the Harvard Law School Library. You can also see how TimelineJS works in the video below:

Legal Tech: Firefox Hello

By Carli Spina

These days, our patrons are always on the move. Whether this means a lawyer who is traveling for a client or a law student who is studying abroad, law librarians increasingly are faced with providing high quality reference service over long distances. While this frequently means lots of emails, this isn’t always the best way to answer questions or demonstrate techniques. Moreover, email can’t reproduce the personal interaction of a face-to-face meeting. Many libraries have experimented with using video chat to improve these long distance interactions, but often these tools have required that both the librarian and the patron have software pre-installed on their computer, which can be difficult depending on the technological skills possessed by the patron among other variables. Firefox Hello, a new chat tool from Firefox addresses many of these issues and offers a nice way to connect more personally with patrons no matter where they may be.

One of the greatest advantages of Hello is that it requires no login or account. Anyone with the latest version of Firefox installed on their computer may start a Hello session by clicking on a chat bubble icon at the top of the browser window as seen below without having to create an account or install a separate application.

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Clicking on the chat bubble reveals a dropdown menu as seen below. The menu includes your Hello history and the option to launch a new conversation. Each new conversation can be named and then you can email or copy the URL to share with anyone. To join the conversation, the recipient of the link need only be using a WebRTC-supported browser. This means anyone who has access to Firefox, Chrome, or Opera will be able to accept your conversation invitation simply by clicking on the link and then clicking on the join the conversation button in the resulting window.

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Once a chat has been initiated, participants will enter into a video chat window if they have a web camera enabled on their computer. However, at any point, a participant may choose to mute either the audio or the video on their side of the conversation.

While all of these features make Hello very useful and usable, what really sets it apart is the screensharing options that are integrated into this tool. Using this feature, either party can share either the tabs in their browser or any other window they have open on their computer. This makes Hello an invaluable tool for collaborating on projects, troubleshooting technical difficulties that patrons may encounter, or demonstrating tricky navigation or search techniques in databases.

Whether the patron is in another building on campus or in another country, Hello’s features can make online reference interactions more personal and effective. If this sounds like a tool that would be useful to your patrons, you can learn more about the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy or take a tour.

Law and Technology: Canva

By Carli Spina

No matter what your exact job title is, you probably find yourself working on design projects from time-to-time. Whether you are creating posters for an upcoming event, adding content to your library’s website or blog, or creating internal documentation for processes and workflows, graphic design is a feature of a huge array of different library projects. If you work on these sorts of projects every day, you probably have your favorite (and likely expensive) graphic design software installed on your computer. But, if you only work on these sorts of projects occasionally, you may find the steep costs and learning curves of this software daunting. Canva is a great tool for anyone in this situation. This web-based graphic design tool is free and quite easy to use and offers you the option to keep costs down by finding your own media to add to your project or to use premium Canva images and templates for a reasonable cost (usually $1 per item).

Canva1
When you first log onto Canva, you are given the option to create a design either based on your own custom dimensions or by using one of the available project types. These run the gamut from the dimensions needed for common types of social media posts to the dimensions needed to create slides for a presentation, so you will frequently find an option that meets your needs. Even if you don’t find the size you need, you can easily specify your own dimensions.

Canva2
Once you select your dimensions, your new project will automatically open and prompt you to select a layout. You can instead opt to create your own custom layout, but it is nice to have the option to use one of the included layouts as a starting point. Though not all of the available layouts are free, any that are not free are marked, as is true of all premium content in Canva. One of the nicest features offered by Canva is its integrated image search. This tool allows you to search for images from within Canva when you need them for your project. Some of the images that are returned will be premium images (most, if not all, of which cost $1 each), but generally you will also find free images this way. If you can’t find the right image for your project, you can also upload your own images, which allows you to maintain complete control over the final product. Canva also offers a number of fonts and logos that can help to give your project a professionally designed appearance.

Canva3

Your project will automatically save as you work on it. Drafts or completed projects can be shared using the unique URL given to each project and you can specify whether you want the shared project to be editable or not. By default, only you are able to edit the project. Canva also has an integrated option to share projects directly to Facebook, Twitter, or email if you want to solicit feedback on your design. You can also download your project as a PDF or PNG file, at which point you will be asked to pay for any of the premium content that you used.

If you are new to graphic design (or have patrons who are), Canva also offers a number of resources to help you get started. Canva users can opt to make their projects public and those projects all end up in the “Design Stream,” which is part gallery and part social network. This can be a great place to look to see what others have done with the tool and to get inspiration. Canva also offers tutorials that are designed to walk even someone who has no design experience through many of the basic principles of graphic design. If you are interested in offering classes to teach your patrons about graphic design, Canva also offers lesson plans that make it easy to integrate Canva into this type of programming. All of this content is free, which makes it a great perk for Canva users. I’ve been using Canva off and on for months and I think it is a great tool for library design projects.