Texas statutes are online, updated daily

The date in this footnote is correct — we really did check this section earlier today. In addition to rolling out the Texas statutes, we’ve made Texas the first state in our new “Cloud”-based statute processing pipeline. This new platform retrieves, scans, and publishes changes to statutes on a daily basis. It finishes up by creating links to the sources so readers can “trust but verify”.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be migrating California, New York, and Oregon over to this new system. One note: although Texas is online, we have a lot more work to do for it to meet our standards for a usable, modern reference site. Coming soon are internal hyperlinks, an error checking review, “semantic” searching, and more.

Reference text web fonts: ITC vs. URW Baskerville vs. Buenard vs. Caslon

I spent a couple of hours today looking at web fonts for legible reference text. After reading the New York Times experiment finding that Baskerville is “the king of fonts”, I thought I’d give it a try, comparing it with a couple of others for legibility.

I first researched web fonts that I could test inexpensively. Then I tested them on a real web page. Here’s what I found. Currently, text (and nearly everything else) is Helvetica Neue. (All screenshots from a Mac. I’ll post IE tests soon.)

The sidebar is Trebuchet because I found that it’s more legible for small numbers. I like the way this looks, simply visually. But legibility-wise, I believe the text (“The presidential…”) is harder to scan with the eye than it ought to be.

Font of the Baskervilles?

While looking for Baskerville web fonts, I found Buenard via Google Web Fonts. It’s very close to Baskerville, and I find it amazingly legible:

Finally, all the fonts for comparison:

Helvetica Neue
ITC New Baskerville
URW++ Baskerville
Buenard
Caslon 540

My take: In Buenard, the words hold together the best. The letter spacing is tight and the font is heavy. I feel like it’s super-easy to read. In comparison, in Caslon and Helvetica Neue, the words don’t hold together as well. The fonts look good, but for web text to be read on a screen, I think that Buenard is the best here.

Related Posts

Counting to 10 in Californian

I’m working on getting the California Codes online, focussing on the user’s experience: reading, searching, and accessing. This weekend I thought I had found an error in the numbering in the state’s online version, and so I headed to the law library to open a real book and see what’s going on. I was surprised to see that the printed text is the same. (West’s annotated and non-annotated editions.)

Here are three examples from the Code of Civil Procedure. The first, sections 676 et. seq. are the way I’d expect, in so-called natural sort order:

But here, a mathematical decimal ordering is in use:

Weirder still, both kinds are used in this group of codes:

Making the California Laws Easy to Read

Screen Shot 2012-06-24 at 10.41.08 PMI’ve been doing a lot of work to get the California Codes online, and I now have something to show for it. This is a screenshot of Business & Professions Code Section 22947.4, an anti-spyware statute. (Which is pretty cool; I wonder if Oregon has something similar. Anyone know?)

For comparison, here’s the original code as its presented on the state’s website. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the fonts, white-space, outlining, and navigation. Ahead on my roadmap:

  • Print feature
  • Citations to sources
  • Legal news
  • Interlinked & related statutes
  • Smart search

John Gear Law Office LLC — New Sponsor

John Gear Law Office LLCWe’re pleased to introduce our second sponsor for OregonLaws.org, John Gear, of the John Gear Law Office, LLC.  John practices in Salem, where he specializes in consumer law, elder law, and nonprofit law. He’s flexible in accommodating clients’ needs: “On a typical day without appointments in court or at a client’s house, I arrive at the office late in the morning and stay into the evening. I am happy to modify my schedule to accommodate working families who need to see me in the evening or even on the weekend.”

John was awarded the Lawyer of the Year award for his pro bono work with Marion-Polk Legal Aid Services elder law clinic known as ELVIS (Elder Law Volunteers In Service).

If you’re interested in joining our sponsors, you can get started here.

Christmas present for New York: permalinks to the state laws

(Hanukkah fell during finals this year, so there was no way I could get it done in time.)

Up until now, authors had to resort to tortured instructions when linking to N.Y. laws.  Here’s how the Citizen Media Law Project does it in their excellent document, Forming a Corporation in New York:

. . . You can find the New York statute relating to the organizational meeting at N.Y. Bus. Corp. Law § 404 (link is to entire code, you need to click on the Business Corporation section, then choose Article 4 and locate the specific provision). . . .

Oy. Reminds me of the problems linking to Thomas documents.  The issue here is that the state of New York doesn’t create permalinks to the statutes.  I gave this a lot of thought, and created permalinks that look like this:

weblaws.org/states/new_york/statutes/n.y._business_corporation_law_sec._404

Remaining Issues

I wasn’t quite sure exactly what format these should take.  The current scheme balances these competing concerns:

  • People blog and write web pages with many different citation formats:
    • A scheme that follows the Bluebook would start with N.Y. Bus. Corp. Law § 404. I saw this used by law review blog posts and the Citizen Media Law document, above.
    • I found a state source that would write NY Business Corporation Law 404
    • I found one law professor who’d write the equivalent of NY Business Corporation Law Section 404
    • I found another who’d write NY Business Corporation Law sec. 404
  • The URL is an interface between the website and search engines and web services, not just web authors.
  • I’m unsure about how often (1) the consolidated laws are updated and (2) how often the state’s website is updated.  I’ll add a date/revision notation to the permalink in a backwards-compatible way when I nail this down.

So the scheme above is what I settled on.  Why can’t every state be like wonderful, efficient Oregon? We’ve got ORS 163.095, and the Bluebook/ALWD Or. Rev. Stat. § 163.095, and that’s it, really.

EDIT: I’ve discovered the Tanbook.

First internally hyperlinked New York Laws online

I’m completing an internally hyperlinked version of the New York Laws.  I’ve looked hard, but I haven’t found any other sites that link the cross references in the text itself.  (Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.)  Why hasn’t this been done before?  Take a look at Abandoned Property Law § 1222:

The provisions of sections twelve hundred seven, twelve hundred eight, twelve hundred eleven and twelve hundred twelve of article twelve of this chapter shall apply to all escheat proceedings under this article.

Compare with a similar Oregon statute, ORS 98.304:

Unless otherwise provided in ORS 98.302 to 98.436 and 98.992 or by other statute of this state, intangible property is subject to the custody of this state…

The reason for the lack of a hyperlinked version looks obvious: We want to figure out which statute is being referred to.  That’s many times more difficult with text like “twelve hundred twelve of article twelve of this chapter” compared with “ORS 98.302″ — especially for a computer program.

Core computer science techniques can solve problems like this

A hyperlinked cross reference

A hyperlinked cross reference

I wrote a divide and conquer / recursive descent parser which interprets a legal citation and translates New York state’s idiomatic language into ordinary numbers.  A factory method controls access to the algorithm; this is one of the great design patterns for writing flexible code.  For example, software that changes its behavior depending on which state’s laws its displaying.

That’s the buzzword-laden summary.  If anybody would like more details, drop me a line.

New human-friendly “research trail”

The mini-view in the sidebar

The mini-view in the sidebar

A trail of links for re-tracing your steps which shows up in two places.  There’s an intuitive always-present sidebar view: for example, today’s research steps are simply marked “Today” — instead of cluttering the display with today’s date.

The second, more detailed view of the trail (see screenshot below), is under the “My Laws” tab.  The table is easy to sort by date or document name.

Infinitely long for a micro-fee

OregonLaws.org is at the point where it needs a small income to help pay for the cost of running the site:  the hosting fees, DNS registration, and SSL certificate fees are now a burden on my student budget.  I had a two-part idea: on one hand, all the current legal content will remain free and secure as a public service.  And on the other hand, the site will offer extra features that are useful for frequent visitors and serious researchers for the price of a cup of coffee per month.

And so back to the Research Trail:  I’m keeping it free for the current day’s trail, as public service.  But for those who become members for $2 per month, the first major benefit is unlimited access to their previous search history.  I haven’t seen any other research sites offer this at any price.

Please consider joining

In closing, I just wanted to write a personal note that I greatly appreciate the support of those who’ve become members.  I’ve just started this program, and so it’s only been a handful.  Although not close to the break-even point, these are a great help.  These small contributions are necessary to support a public service like OregonLaws.org.

Thank you,
Robb

The full research trail displayed in a table

The full research trail displayed in a table