Proof of the Power of Permalinks

QUESTION

What do avid bicyclists and handgun owners have in common?

ANSWER

Probably more in common than not. Two things are a need to know the law, and a desire to discuss it.

Bicycle traffic law discussion on BikePortland.org

Bicycle law discussion on BikePortland.org

So I conclude that the ability to find, read, and share the law online is a good thing. It might even be the beginning of a more transparent and democratic era. These screenshots show people participating in exactly this way, who were helped out by this website. (Awesome!)

Forum discussion about concealed handgun license application procedures

Concealed handgun license discussion

This all might look easy, e.g., “So just make a website, and people can link to it … what’s the big deal?” In reality, though, it’s difficult to pull off, and so the status quo is, it doesn’t happen.

Engineering a working permalink system can be tricky

Engineering a working permalink system can be tricky

Just look around the web: most pages don’t have permalinks (“Persistent URLs”, “PURLs”) that people can use. And often, even if a web page does have a URL that seems good for linking, there are other show-stoppers: it may not stay working. Or if it does stay working, then it may not contain the same content in a few months’ time.

Discussion about landlord/tenant law on Reddit.

Discussion about landlord/tenant law on Reddit

Some great people have taken the story further, writing lighthearted web pages (Tim Berners-Lee), and creating videos (Citability.org).

Family law discussion on Reddit

Family law discussion on Reddit

Introducing the Law Robot

lawrobot-screenshotI’ve always wanted my own personal assistant.  But I’ll settle for a program I call a “robot”.

So here’s the idea: I usually have an IM window open, and I’ve got two classes where the professors will often call out an ORS section number for us to quickly turn to …

The law robot can be chatted up at Google Talk: the.law.robot@ gmail.com

This little program is a proof-of-concept of the application of “open APIs” and Open Source to open legal information.  The law robot connects to a web service that I’ll document soon.  But if you’re a software developer interested in working with this, drop me a line.