Aaron Kirschenfeld

Short thoughts on topics that interest me combined with selected link-sharing. And because having one blog really isn't enough.

Our kitten is famous on the Internet

See for yourself:, a post from the fine folks at Purina Pro Plan.

Mitch is throwin' shade!!

Google Play Books is now a lot better for reading nonfiction titles like textbooks

By now, you're likely quite familiar with the concept of reading an ebook, whether on a tablet or dedicated e-reader: you load it up with as many books as you can, tap or flip your way through the pages, and maybe highlight a few favorite passages or look up some word definitions along the way.

What Is Time?

St Augustine, the theologian and philosopher, famously posed the question ‘What is time?’ in The Confessions. After waxing on for a bit about what he can say about time he admits (that he’s in a) “sorry state, for I do not even know what I do not know!”. Augustine is not alone.

Abortion ultrasound case before the Fourth Circuit

Doctors and other health care providers challenging the state’s 2011 pre-abortion ultrasound requirement will make their case before the 4th U.S.

Put Together a Productive Team with Jeff Bezos's "Two Pizza Rule"

When you're heading a collaboration of any kind, the number of people you bring on board can change how effective your team's output is. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, suggests employing the "two pizza rule" to help keep yourself from including too many people.

If you only understand one era of U.S. history, understand the Colonies and the Revolution

And Jack Rakove will help you. Take the time to listen to his lectures, available free on iTunesU, from his course Colonial and Revolutionary America.

Things you will learn about -- the re-peopling of America, race slavery, religion, bases of our political history, and the Constitution. You'll also learn that Jack Rakove is a hilarious, knowledgeable, and grumpy man.

I've studied the history and law of this country and the legal history of the country as well. So, trust me on this.


#LinkRot Panel 2 - Scoping the Problem - @rodwittenberg and Raizel Liebler

Rod Wittenberg, Reed Tech:

There is a huge commercial impact on Lexis because of the impermanence of the Web. (I’m not sure if the slide deck will be available — but there is some very interesting data.)

The business is to consult with organizations to determine how bad the link rot problem is.

Raizel Liebler, John Marshall Law School:

New research on SCOTUS opinions from last term. List of agencies cited included in conference information packet.

The type of rot is not always easy to classify. (Reference Rot and Link Rot are the two advanced by Zittrain.) But, what about:

- Typos in the links. It happened. 404 error, but does that mean the link qua link doesn't work?

- .do links -- internal sites that won't resolve without a login.

- Quality of sources selected by the justices is questionable to say the least. This is probably the most difficult of all. Is there a role for law librarians to “correct" poor source choices (WebMD, Wikipedia, etc.)?


Q: Difference in citation importance. Is it in dicta? Essential to the holding? In a dissent?

Liebler: Certainly link rot in a majority opinion would be worse. Interesting distinction to make -- should you link to a resource that also exists in other formats?

Wittenberg: We have no idea what links will be important in the future, so all should be treated as significant now. This is very much the pro-preservation argument.

Q: Can we afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the possible?

Liebler: No way. Just get started.

#LinkRot Panel 1 - Whose Problem is This - @EJWalters, Eltis, and Walls

Professor Eltis:

This is an "unwanted forgetting" (while some forgetting, such as publication of private and sensitive information, is certainly wanted).

We must have public access to the reasons and though processes behind judicial decisions. Sources leading to this reasoning therefore must be available.

Mr. Walls:

GPO. Regrets from Mary Alice, the SuDoc, who couldn't make it today.

Mission, of course, is to provide permanent public access to government information.

Interesting that they faced these challenges with so much and such diverse information so early. It's definitely been a learning process. And now we have FDSys (which I've always appreciated).

Next focus is to have some sort of catalog record for Gov Docs. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, but learning about docs this semester makes me skeptical.

Ed Walters (I think I'm entitled to use his given name):

What does link rot look like to a small publisher as opposed to a government agency or educational entity.

Hyperlink is formatted as text. The company does not create a hyperlink where one is intended. On reason they didn't do this was link rot.

To this point, they didn't want to divert resources to a problem that didn't yet have a solution, or at least no process in place.

More than 12,000 hyperlinks in 2013 caselaw.

Problems -- permanence, versioning, authentication. All noted in the Keele and Pearse article. Also, volume issue. Hard to hand tag the links. It would take forever.

The real problem as Ed sees it is with the creator. Judge or clerk should just make a link. Side note, I think that judges should also include simple descriptive metadata with their decisions... which people (ok, me and a few others) are calling metadicta. You're welcome.

Educate the courts. Educate the courts. Educate the courts.


To Ed: Very difficult decision not to include links. But the idea is to do no harm.

#LinkRot Keynote - Jonathan Zittrain (@zittrain)

I have seen Prof. Zittrain speak before, probably six years ago at Duke. In fact, I think his talk made me begin thinking about pursuing information science and law as a vocation. So here I am, getting ready to graduate with the JD / MSIS IN May. On to notes and impressions from the Zittrain keynote,

There is strength in numbers w/r/t preservation. Distributed networking. Mirroring servers.

We are lucky to be at this point with link rot. We can actually solve these problems, and soon.

Is there anything really wrong with the library-as-fortress mentality? Well, no. But libraries must be more than mere archives, obviously.

But mere conduit? Not good enough either.

So, we direct patrons to resources in their interest. Our principles and practices can be a little more explicit than, say, a search algorithm's.

What is the core purpose of the law library's enterprise and legal scholarship:

- skill development
- access to world's information
- free dissemination of what we know
- develop free information platform

Elsevier has a 40% profit margin. So what are the vendors adding?

There really is a "spam" or SEO of academic journals. ISI, impact factor. Publishing yourself is giving up. But it makes sense.

Free distrubution: But, locate things worth finding

(H2O - casebook generation and flexibility. An interesting project I hadn't heard about.)

Integrity of the information is the key problem. Is what we're reading really what was written.

There is a great deal of potential for beyond merely warehousing sources, though I'd say the primary mission is tough enough, especially when we're talking about institutional buy-in.

Caselaw is Set Free, What Next?

Thomas Bruce, Director, Legal Information Institute, CornellA lawyer story Google Scholar’s caselaw collection is a victory for open access to legal information and the democratization of law. It would be more than worthy of celebration from that standpoint alone.