Archive for September 2008
I am a little sceptical about the possibility in the foreseeable future of a wiki-type ‘free legal web’, as envisaged by Nick Holmes (see the vision here), and also doubt whether there is sufficient impetus for the more fantastic-sounding vision of a Wikipedia of English law, as suggested by Richard Susskind (coincidentally, only a couple of months before the ukpatents wiki was born). After all, for such a resource to be realisable, the professional time of real people would be needed to create and maintain it, and those people really need to be trained lawyers specialist in their field, and not just technicians or students. Where is such a resource to be found?
I should point out that I have not myself suggested the Free Legal Web should be “a Wikipedia” nor that a wiki is necessarily the right platform.
The Free Legal Web will have to have authority and that will only accrue if – as David says – contributors are “trained lawyers, specialist in their field” and if their contributions cannot be hacked around by all and sundry. So, contributions and edits will need to be restricted via user permissions and attributed to their authors, with links to profiles and author websites to affirm their credentials.
Not only will this establish the necessary authority, but also it will encourage contributions. As Francis Davey comments on the IPKat post
A key difficulty with wikis is (inter alia) a lack of individual recognition. One of the drivers for many lawyers to write is just exactly the marketing/reputation that it affords. A wiki ends up submerging the author’s contributions to the extent that it is hard to gain that same reputation. Or at least I think that it is not sufficiently foregrounded.
If FLW articles are attributed to their authors and linked to their websites, contributors will gain the recognition and the Google juice they crave.
And I repeat my premise that we already have a substantial free legal web (no caps): there are already thousands of authoritative, free-access articles written by “trained lawyers, specialist in their field”. Surely we can secure many of those via CC for reuse on the Free Legal Web?
Clearly not much progress of late – in large part because, shortly after launching this initiative, I went off on holiday. Still there and still connected of course, but have found it difficult to work up the requisite impetus.
Thanks to those who have already signed up to the Barcamp and/or posted comments to the blog. But we do need more people to put their heads above the parapet, to express their views and hopefully to participate in the Barcamp.
I will be working on this on my return to normality, but it’s not all up to me folks; that won’t work. This is a group effort. Please do contact those who you know to have an interest in the agenda but who have not yet made themselves known on this blog. Check the Barcamp page and if you’re not already listed as a participant sign up to participate (if you can) via the comments. And please do comment on any of the posts so we get a better feel for divergent opinions on the issues.