Monthly Archives: September 2009

Tuesday Two.Oh! Tools for Taking Control of Your Space.

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂

Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we’re going to take a look at a tool that could be useful to any professional or public citizen; basically anyone who might have a need to think about a space virtually will be able to use today’s website. Personally, I will be able to use if for many reasons- we’re buying a house, so I will be able to visualize the space virtually. Also, at work we are rethinking the Circulation area, and this will be a tool I will use in order to imagine the space- which is very restricted. Let’s take a look at Autodesk: Project DragonFly.

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Find them on Twitter.

I want to tell you that I have looked for room design tools before, and haven’t really come up with the most easy to use sites. The first thing that struck me about Project DragonFly was the apparent ease of use. The homepage of the site is clean, easy to understand and uncluttered. Right off the bat, you are provided with an easy-to-comprehend run down of what to expect from the site.

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From the homepage, click on

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to start designing.

I did like the fact that I was able to start designing immediately- without singing up for the website. The next few things I’ll show you won’t take much narration. The site has some clunky navigation while you’re flipping through room elements, but over all I found the process to be easy. On an amusing side note, while choosing furniture you have a lot of options, but none of the options really fit my own items. I suppose that the visual elements are a suggestion rather than finding the exact match.

The first thing you’ll see is a blank canvas.

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From here, you use the tool bar on the left to choose the room you would like to start from.

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Building your “space” can be a little tricky, and I was unable to full recreate my desired structure. However, I think that with a little practice I would likely be able to come up with a more clear representation of what I was trying to do. That said, once you have the basics in you will have something that looks like this.

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From this basic room outline, you can add doors and windows.

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You will be able to choose your elements easily using the side menu.

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You will have options as to which room elements you choose, but as I mentioned before the choices are somewhat limited. Though, not so limited as you won’t be able to choose something that is similar to your desired outcome.

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Once you have chosen all of your elements, you will have a finished project.

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This project, if you have not signed up for an account, can be printed. I clicked on “export” before I did anything else and was thusly prompted.

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Since I usually sign up for the sites I demo, I decided to go ahead and sign up. I have to admit, it could not have been easier.

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I was not even prompted to check my email for a confirmation link. With my account set up, I was able to use the right hand menu to share my room. My email was opened automatically with the information supplied in the body of the message.

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If you desire to save your room as a .jpeg, you have that option using the export feature.

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Another thing I enjoyed about the site is that if you create an account, you can save your designs in your own personal gallery. I have only one design to open currently, but as I know that I will have other projects in future I know this feature will be useful.

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If you’re curious to see what other people are doing with their designs, I suggest that you check out the public gallery.

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In closing, I thought this site was very useful. Though I did find some of the navigation clunky and at times confusing. The site is essentially an open book: it does what it says it is going to do. And it does it for free- which is always nice when you’re used to using programs like Visio. I did find myself wishing that the walls and door openings were a little easier to manipulate, but, again, I feel that I might be able to better tackle these things when I have used the tool for a little bit longer.

As always, I enjoy and welcome your thoughts and comments.

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Tuesday Two.Oh! Tools for Everybody.

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂

Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we’ll be talking about a tool I’ve actually been aware of for a long time. My husband really enjoyed this site when he first found it a few years ago, and though I found some kinks I wasn’t too happy with, over all I enjoyed the site. Let’s take a look at Instructables.

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Find them on Twitter.

From the site: “Despite the catchy title, this Instructable is more personal story than authoritative how-to: It chronicles how and why Squid Labs, Instructables, and our sister companies were started, and what we’ve learned along the way. Squid Labs is a research and design firm that did innovation consulting, and built prototypes for services and products, many of which have since spun-off into separate companies: Instructables, this project-sharing website; Potenco, which is making a hand-held generator for cell phones and laptops; Howtoons, comics showing kids of all ages how to do things; Makani, an energy company seeking to harness high-altitude wind; OptiOpia, a vision-correction business developing low-cost portable vision-testing and lens-fabricating devices; and MonkeyLectric, which makes LED lighting systems for bicycles.”

The site has a few levels, depending on what you want to pay for. A free account is pretty basic, but here are your options:

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I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t “favorite” an Instructable without having a paid account.

The site is easy to navigate, but I definitely got the feeling that there is a lot there. The main navigation is fairly easy:

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Instructables also supplements the main navigation links with sub categories that help the user narrow down the item they would like to build or make.

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I really did enjoy the browsing option under explore. The pictures are often interesting, and draw you in and make browsing fun.

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I really do think that’s one of the most interesting things about this site- you can literally find anything to make or create. If you are creative, you can upload directions and pictures of your own projects. The projects range from practical to wildly impractical, but are fun and interesting to sift through. We won’t be talking today about how to upload your projects, but it is an option to keep in mind if you find this site interesting.

If you’re browsing under one of the main topic categories, for instance art, you’ll find the most popular, recent, zeitgeist, and recent.

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Once you have found something you’re interested in creating, click on the picture or title to get to the actual instructions.

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Often the main page is an overview of the item. I chose bubble tea, since I tried this for the first time the other week. A very interesting experience, by the way.

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The main page will also give you a good idea as to how many steps the item will take to create.

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From there you click on each step to follow the directions, almost exactly as if you were following a recipe.

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The page which you are looking at will also give you related items and ratings of other users that have tried to create the item.

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The feature of Instructables we won’t be going into depths on tonight is uploading your own set of directions. Briefly, however, the first thing you’ll do is click on the submit link.

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First time users will get an overview:

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And then a template to upload:

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In closing, I found this site both fun and completely useless. It’s interesting insofar as there are a lot of interesting things that people create, but when I searched for something practical (e.g. book shelves and cabinets) I came back with few results that satisfied my need. That said, there are a lot of interesting projects that I would consider trying that I probably didn’t even know existed before stumbling upon them on this site.

I do realize that this site has been around for awhile, but I figured it was time for a little bit of a fun, if mildly educational, diversion.

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Tuesday Two.Oh! More Tools for Lawyers and Law Students.

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂

Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we’ll be continuing our lawyer and law student theme. Today we’ll examine a site that acts as a “Law Library” and research tool. As many of us in the library business know, databases and other digital research tools can be extremely pricey. With excellent resources like Westlaw and Lexis Nexis on the radar, it’s interesting to find a relatively low-cost law research tool on the market. Let’s take a look at FastCase.

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Find them on Twitter.

From the site
: “Fastcase is a comprehensive online law library with all federal cases going back to 1 U.S. 1, 1 F.2d 1, 1 F.Supp. 1, and 1 B.R. 1, not to mention state and appellate cases going back to 1950 or earlier, for all 50 states. We also offer access to federal and state statutes, as well as adminstrative codes.”

In order to gain access to this tool, I used their free 24 hour trial access. It’s very easy to sign up for, and requires email confirmation.

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The free trial will give you complete access to the site.

Once you have access to FastCase you’ll be able to conduct searching. FastCase provides the user with many search aides- and I find this imperative when doing research in the law. Law can be very confusing to the novice, and a guide to any tool is welcome. I would even go so far as to saw beginning law students and lawyers would benefit from the tutorials provided.

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Once you have chosen a tutorial to watch, you will be taken to a screen that gives you video as well as chapter titles for the tutorial, so if you have a specific need you can choose that option from the menu.

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If you do run into problems, live help is available via an online chat interface.

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I did end up signing on for this chat service, and a rep was on the line quickly. This is a good way to ensure that questions are being answered quickly, and the FastCase potentially has the service to back up their site.

Once you feel confident in your ability to search the site, the search screen will provide you with all of your options.

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One thing that I noticed was that Boolean searching is the acceptable norm on FastCase, and as a librarian I am comfortable with this method of searching. That said, other searchers might not be so comfortable, and will be provided with a natural language searching option.

I conducted a very simple search using the terms “slavery” and “property.”

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The search results are linked cases with brief descriptions.

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Once you click on a case you will be taken to the case text.

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This is very similar to the searching capabilities of Westlaw, and the result layout is also similar. Above the text of the case there is a toolbar. The options on this toolbar include KeyCite information, saving options, and links to WestLaw and Lexis (for a price). I wonder if your IP has Westlaw or Lexis access you will be able to link for no cost- and, if so, what FastCase offers that doesn’t make it redundant to these other services.

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One thing that I liked was the appearance of my search results to the side of the case that I was currently looking at. This gives the user the ability to browse the text of a case while keeping in mind the other search result options.

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I would like to just take a second to expose you to one of the other search features of FastCase. There are a lot of options here, and I just don’t have the time to cover them all, but I do know that State Statute searching is a popular thing in a law library, so I’ll examine the procedure here. The option to search statutes is linked from the search page. The first thing you do is choose the state in which you would like to search:

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Again, you enter your search terms.

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The results are then displayed with a brief explaination and link to statute text.

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In closing, this tool seems like a viable alternative to the powerhouses in the business of law research if you are a small firm or single lawyer. For a monthly fee of less than $100 I could see this being useful to many people. And, if the need arises to supplement Fastcase, the site links to WestLaw and Lexis Nexis.

I enjoyed the interface, and found the tutorials helpful.

As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts.

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Tuesday Two.Oh! Tools for Legal Research and Lawyers.

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂

First of all, let me thank everyone out there- you have been very patient with me during my transition to my new job and my new city. I’m glad to be back, and in honor of my new position in a law library, today I’ll be taking you through a legal research tool.

Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we’ll be taking a look at a site that will not only allow you to rate your lawyer, but search for one, ask questions (for free) that will be answered by professionals, and read through legal guides authored by site members. Let’s take a look at Avvo:

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Find them on Twitter.

From the site: “Avvo rates and profiles every attorney, so that people can choose the right attorney. Lawyer profiles contain helpful information including a lawyer’s experience, areas of practice, disciplinary history, and ratings from clients. Profile data comes from many sources, including state courts and bar associations, lawyer websites, and information provided by lawyers. Information meets guidance in the Avvo Rating—our effort to evaluate a lawyer’s background using a mathematical model that considers the information we know about a lawyer. This information is shown in the lawyer’s profile, including a lawyer’s years in practice, disciplinary history, professional achievements, and industry recognition—all factors that, in our opinion, are relevant to assessing a lawyer’s qualifications.”

Signing up for an account on Avvo will provide you with monthly news updates and is quite easy to do.

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However, you should know that you do not have to sign up for an account on Avvo in order to post questions. Answers are given by Lawyers only, and Avvo checks with the Bar in each state to ensure that the Lawyers advising on Avvo are who they say they are. That said, no real indepth advice is given, and from what I’ve seen most answers refer the questioner to lawyers in their specific research field.

You can use the site to search for lawyers in a specific geographical area.

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This is where I ran into the first limitation of Avvo: there were not lawyers listed in Oklahoma City. So my search returned like this:

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So, I decided to try to search for lawyers in a more populous city, Boston Mass.

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What you see above is the search results for lawyers in Boston. Each lawyer in the results list has a detailed profile, and you really will get a good idea as to the caliber of lawyer. I couldn’t snap the whole profile for display here, but here’s a taste of what you will see when you’re looking at a profile on Avvo:

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You can quickly see how the lawyer in question has been rated by his clients- in this case the lawyer has been rated very well. Also, reminiscent of LinkedIn, colleagues can leave recommendations for the lawyer, and those will also appear on his page. Also, you can look at their references and their resume.

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The profile will also indicated legal guides authored by the lawyer, and answers he has given to other site users. In addition, one of the things that I found very impressive about the profile pages was the list of cases tried by each lawyer, and the outcome.

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Avvo does offer more than just provide lawyer searches and profiles. As I’ve alluded to above, there are legal guides available as well as a question-and-answer forum.

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The questions-and-answer section is open to all, though only lawyers can answer questions.

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There are also legal resources.

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In the news:

Regarding the First Amendment:

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Regarding the need for foreclosure lawyers during this recession:

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Regarding lawyer reactions to public ratings:

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In closing Avvo, though controversial, is a real asset to the general public. The law, for novices, if very difficult to traverse and understand, but with the input and guidance of other clients a person can feel confident in their choice of lawyer. One thing I wonder about is if high ratings equal higher fees for the client. From what I have read on the open web, bad ratings have cost lawyers customers.

But, in this day and age a degree does not ensure your popularity, and I personally feel positively about a site that will publicly rate lawyers. In such a complicated world, this kind of site will ensure that the client will be able to trust and have confidence in their choice, and perhaps guard from choosing a lawyer that may not work as hard to win the case. Or, it would alert the potential client to other problems surrounding the lawyer- their profiles do point out instances of “misconduct.”

Overall, I do feel that this site is a positive thing, but I can see how a lawyer might be wary of the site. My advice would be to take control of your profile, and web presence. As with any professional, taking control of your web presence is very important. At very least, be aware of what is being said about you on the web. Pretending the web isn’t there won’t stop other people from using it, and when you preform a public service you have to maintain your public reputation.

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