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Tagging legal content : Future of legal scholarship is open-source

Joe Miller, an associate professor at Lewis & Clark Law School posts at The Conglomerate about the buzz generated by The Yale Law Journal’s launch of a bloglike ‘online companion’ for the Journal, called The Pocket Part. Other scholars already joining the discussion include Stephen Bainbridge, Ben Barros, Heidi Bond, Orin Kerr, Dan Markel, and Larry Solum.

Joe nails what could well be the future for law commentary and legal scholarship.

…[I]nternet-based technologies that lower the costs of collaboration could spark new socially-produced scholarship or scholarship tools … in short, how the scholarship’s social layer may grow. …..Existing social tagging technology and practice, on sites such as Flickr (for photos) and del.icio.us (for web bookmarks), show the power of letting users grow a social layer to comment on the content layer in a way that organizes the content.

Now that others (besides Westlaw and Lexis) present electronic versions of scholarly articles, I start to wonder:  Can we bring social tagging to legal scholarship?  …..Why?  What’s the point?  Well, my own motivation is that I think keyword searching within the text of an article is far too crude a search tool, but it is all that Westlaw and Lexis offer.  Social tagging strikes me as a much more nuanced and powerful search tool.  And I know that I would add tags, sharing with my colleagues in the hope they would share with me, to make my research time far more productive as the social layer grows.

Joe wonders whether Westlaw or Lexis will roll out a user-based social tagging system at some point. I’m not betting on it. If LexisNexis Martindale will not even allow Google to index their online directory, I doubt those companies are going to allow a democratic open-source approach such as tagging threaten their profitable monopoly on legal knowledge.

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