Cool Tools Café is always one of my favorite events at AALL. I enjoy giving demos as well as learning about new tools. Here, I’ll recap the tools I presented–Perma.cc and Page Vault, web page archiving tools that law schools, firms, and other legal organizations might find useful. I’ll also share a bit about some of the other interesting tools presented. To see handouts from other tools at the cafe, check out the CS-SIS website.
Debbie Ginsberg – Permanent Links with Perma.cc and Page Vault
Link rot occurs when scholars and other writers link to articles and other web resources that are later moved to another URL or removed altogether (see: In Supreme Court Opinions, Web Links to Nowhere). In a typical example, a footnote in Justice Alito’s concurrence cites “http://ssnat.com”–but that website no longer exists in the form that was cited (click the link to learn more).
What is Perma.cc?
Perma.cc is a free tool from Harvard that prevents link rot. Scholars, librarians, and journal editors use Pema.cc to create permanent links to permanent archives. If material is later altered, moved, or removed, the perma.cc link will allow users to read the original material.
Perma.cc links are short and are identified by a unique number, e.g. https://perma.cc/0Hg62eLdZ3T. The link goes to a page showing an archival view of the site. A screenshot view is also available, along with a link to the live site. In this example created by the Supreme Court of Michigan, it’s a good thing that the site was preserved because the live site no longer matches the archived site: https://perma.cc/Z992-2ZMQ.
Perma.cc is useful for preserving access to news articles, blogs, web pages, and PDFs.
Note, however, Perma.cc can’t save everything on a website (like databases or videos). Also, some news sites do not allow the material saved in Perma.cc to be made available to the public (it is available to the person who saved it).
There’s a lot more that Perma.cc can do, so check out my handout and further information on the Perma.cc website.
Page Vault – Archiving for Law Firms
Law firms may not be as concerned with link rot, but they need tools to reliably preserve the chain of custody for websites used as evidence during trial. Page Vault and similar software can assist with this process. Page Vault can preserve similar materials as Perma.cc (e.g. webpages but not databases) as well as metadata about what was saved and when. Page Vault takes a screenshot of the site that cannot be altered. This allows the site to be shared with others and used as evidence in court.
Jesse Bowman – Neota Logic
Need an automated form for your website, but don’t have time to create it by hand? Or maybe you’re looking for something that can describe a complex process but want to focus on the content, not the coding? Consider using an “expert system” platform like Neota–software designed to create complex question and answer (or branching) sites with just a few clicks.
Jessie describes Neota as “an expert systems platform used by law firms, general counsel, legal information publishers, nonprofits, and, increasingly, as part of experiential law school courses.” He further notes:
“The platform requires no knowledge of coding and allows users to develop tools that provide automated legal analysis, client intake, and document creation. At the heart of applications created using Neota Logic is an in-depth understanding of the law governing a particular situation, making the tool relevant for law librarians in all types of organizations.”
Becka Rich – Elucidat
Becka notes that “Elucidat is e-learning software designed to make the creation of online training materials easier, faster, and higher quality.” It can be used to add interactive activities to online and face-to-face learning. In her demo, Becka gave a tour this easy-to-use software, showing us how to create websites, quizzes, and more in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, while free trials are available, Elucidat is quite expensive for the academic market ($7500 for 2 authors/year), particularly when many of us already have access to similar (albeit not as intuitive) platforms.
Pablo Arredondo – Case Analysis Research Assistant (CARA) from CaseText
According to Pablo:
“CARA is a new brief-driven case discovery tool developed at Casetext that supplements traditional keyword query research tools by enabling an attorney to upload entire documents (e.g. briefs) as queries. The tool takes a brief as input and outputs a list of relevant decisions that are not cited in the brief itself. It does this through data-mining the brief and using the extracted information (citations, key terms, etc.) as a sort of ‘query’ to a case database.”
The tool is very intuitive–in my tests, it only took a minute to upload a sample brief. Shortly after, CARA presented me with a list of cases–some of which had been cited in the sample, but CARA provided additional information about those cases (such as subsequent citations). You can quickly limit the results by jurisdiction–federal or state. I would still use Lexis and Westlaw for much of my research, but I could see using CARA to do a final check to make sure I found everything that was relevant.