There are some fundamentals about online research notebooks. First, Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote seem to have sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the room. Second, people who clip and save information are putting it into online “cloud-based” notebooks. Assuming that most lawyers are saving text, links, images, and PDFs, Evernote and OneNote both offer plenty: free versions, PC and portable apps, lots of integration with your Web browser.
Zoho Notebook was new to me. It’s in beta – and has been for about 5 years – but seems to offer some new features that I haven’t seen in Evernote or Onenote. Zoho offers probably the widest online suite of productivity apps. It competes with Google Apps on typical business tools, but also has project management, customer relationship management, and many other services.
You can place free-form text and content onto a page. Each notebook can have multiple pages, tabbed down the right hand side. It would support the necessary organization for a trial notebook, enabling you to create notebooks (tabs across the top) with multiple pages within each tab to organize chronologies, summaries, and so on.
One of the interesting elements is the “Add RSS” feature. If you wanted to create a research page, for example, you could embed a search query so that matching cases or articles automatically appear on the research page in the notebook. Unfortunately, I tried a number of RSS feeds, including simple blogs feeds as well as more complicated ones from research databases, and this feature didn’t work. If this is fixed when it comes out of beta, it could be a powerful addition.
The ability to add documents from other parts of your Zoho universe, in particular documents and spreadsheets, makes this more powerful than most research notebooks. Normally, your notebook is in something of a silo and you need to place everything into it – or link to the information – but you’re not able to integrate external information. The sharing function also looks useful, where you can share just a page or an entire notebook with others using their e-mail addresses.
I’m going to keep an eye on this. The demise of Google Reader and the emergence of sites like Pinterest, never mind the power of Evernote, suggest a lot of people trying to organize their online information. It doesn’t look like Zoho is putting a lot of effort into this product but they may start to if there’s more demand for this sort of tool.
The legal profession is powered by words. I’ve discussed legal dictionaries on the Web before. Wolfram Alpha has been expanding its data-oriented search engine with 50,000 new words. If you’re a regular Wolfram Alpha user, this will be a great addition. You can still Google “define your-word” but the output is pretty meager compared to Wolfram Alpha. It has details about the words origins, frequency of usage, and even the Scrabble score!
The deep or “invisible” Web consists of those resources that, while accessible over the Web, are not subjected to search engine indexing. Imagine the sites you have visited that have a search box on them. If the search retrieves Web pages, those are probably in Google or Bing. But if it’s returning directory listings or other information that comes from a database, it may not be.
I came across Complete Planet in a list of “alternative” search engines. You can search Complete Planet’s directory of databases for relevant matches or you can browse by topic. The “Law” category has over 1100 entries. It contains common sites, like Findlaw or Lawyer.com, but not necessarily a lot of high quality ones. The site may only be a demo for its deep web search owner, BrightPlanet, as most entries in the legal category haven’t been indexed since 2004, and a number of the ones I clicked were no longer there. However, it may be worth noting since it covers a wide variety of topic areas and might help you to identify a source, even if the directory entry is no longer there.
This change in service from DeepDyve caught my eye. They have provided a method of reading “deep Web” content for awhile. Normally, you would do a search and pay to read the article it unearths. Now, you can search DeepDyve and you have five minutes to read.
DeepDyve is light on legal information but its depth in academic works offers a wealth of social science research that may be applicable to cases. Type in “law journal” or “law review” to see the short list of available titles. When you do a keyword search, you can immediately see which articles are rentable.
There has been some discussion about how researchers now skim research rather than read from end to end. This would seem to be a good match for that change, enabling people looking for information chunks to quickly see if they have found what they are looking for.