Blawg Review #42

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Blawgosphere

Welcome to Blawg Review #42, the answer to life, the universe and everything! In his memory, the theme for Blawg Review #42 revolves around the most famous work of the sorely missed Douglas Adams. [1952-2001].

Douglas Adams with the Answer

About Douglas
Douglas Adams loved computers. He once said that they completely changed the way he wrote — he went from avoiding writing by finding food to eat, to avoiding writing by reconfiguring his Macintosh’s operating system. Hitchhiker’s has been many things, from a radio serial, a series of books [a trilogy in five books], a TV series, now a movie, but it was also a wildly successful computer game back in the text adventure days. As a kid, I spent many hours figuring out how to hold “Tea” and “No Tea” at the same time. :-) In addition to his science fiction humor writing, Douglas was an outstanding naturalist. His book Last Chance to See is about our disappearing endangered species. In his memory, contributions can still be made to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Save the Rhino.

About the Guide
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a small electronic book that contains the authoritative reference material on the galaxy. I’m not going to give away the entire plot of the books, but essentially an Englishman named Arthur Dent discovers that his best friend, Ford Prefect, is really a space alien from Betelgeuse. Ford’s been sent to Earth to edit the Guide’s entry for Earth. Arthur is disturbed to discover that it merely reads “Harmless.” Ford advises him that space in the guide is at a premium, but he did manage to get his editor to change the listing in the next version. It now reads as “Mostly Harmless.” Arthur discovers this while the Earth is being destroyed by the Vogon Constructor Fleet to make way for an interstellar bypass. Arthur’s adventures have only just begun…

Arthur Dent
The hero, Arthur Dent, is an everyday man who does his best to deal with having his house, his planet, and his view of his place in the universe all destroyed in a matter of about 15 minutes. Dressed only in his pajamas and bathrobe, he sets forth with his towel on a quest to find some tea. Normal readers of this blog are familiar with Internet issues, so keeping with the theme I’ve put interesting posts on computer and internet law issues here.

  • - Evan Brown, of InternetCases.com, posted a summary of the interesting case U.S. v. Millot. Millot worked for a large pharmaceutical company, but before he left he figured out a way to keep a backdoor to the servers. He used that access to cause about $20,000.00 of damage. Millot was sued under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The independent contractor hired to fix the damage was considered a “victim” under the Act and was therefore entitled to be compensated.
  • - Todd Lewis Mayover, blogging at the IP Counsel Blog, has a great post on whether in-house attorneys should sign noncompete agreements, entitled “Don’t Sign That Non-Compete Agreement, At least Not Yet Anyway”.
  • - Next week’s host of Blawg Review is Diane Levin. Of particular interest to me is her recent post on Julian Dibbell’s recent effort to figure out the tax implications of selling virtual goods on Ebay, in particular the items he won from playing Ultima Online, entitled “When Worlds Collide.” I agree with her – who wants to be the one to set that kind of precedent with tax officials?
  • - Be sure to check out Andrew Raff’s podcasts on the Senate indecency hearings, they’re really well done with great production values. At the time of this writing, only Parts 1 and Part 2 are online. Andrew, you’ve earned a spot in my podcatcher.
  • Babel Fish
    The most common problem in Science Fiction is how to get everybody to speak the same language? Douglas’ solution was, shall we say, unique. A fish called the Babel Fish goes into your ear and it translates for you. It’s such an endearing tribute to Douglas that Alta Vista’s free translation service is still called Babel Fish. Turning now to language in the Blawgosphere, there has been a great debate by linguists over the use of the word “Blawg” to describe a legal blog.

  • - Be sure to read Denise Howell’s response to the linguists that she calls “I, Sandwich Dominatrix.” (The title will make sense once you review the post she’s responding to.)
  • - Another post by Mark Lieberman, a linguist, is well worth reading.
  • - Dennis Kennedy has a good post providing an introductory list of legal blogs in Europe. Interestingly, he notes that the term “blawg” has taken hold there, so the genie may be out of the bottle.
  • Marvin the Paranoid Android
    Marvin is the ship’s robot from the Heart of Gold. Despite his name, he isn’t paranoid, he’s really just depressed and bored. Really, really depressed. Marvin has some of the best lines in the books, and certainly is a very popular character. Google is a company that depends on its robots, or bots, to carry out its searching. These bots scour the web for changes in web sites. In the last week, Google has received lots of press, some of it over its bots.

  • - A district court in Nevada ruled that Google’s web cache constitutes fair use under copyright law. A post by Fred Von Lohmann does a good job in summarizing the case. Further, Lawrence Lessig started an interesting discussion of the case in the comments to his post.
  • - Ron Coleman, at Likelihood of Confusion, posts an analysis and update regarding the Jews for Jesus v. Google case. He’s got a unique perspective since he was on the losing side of the last Jews for Jesus case.
  • - At the Video Game Law Blog, a recent post wonders what implications searching for items relating to a Navy Seals game using Google would have – Could the search and any identifying IP address be required to be turned over to the government?
  • - Michael Geist discusses the recent 9th Circuit Yahoo case and its implications on personal jurisdiction on the Internet here in this post.
  • - Colin Samuels, blogging at Infamy or Praise, looks at the recent announcement that Google News is no longer in beta. It’s only taken four years. He wonders if the reason there still is no advertising is due to copyright concerns.
  • - Chris Geidner, at Law Dork, and David Giacalone at f/k/a, both look at the Google suboena issue. David provides the text of the letter he intends to send to the Justice Department explaining how inadvertent searchers could be led to his content. Both are really interesting takes on the case.
  • - Rick Georges, the Futurelawyer, has a discussion of Google’s decision to censor searches in China. As a result, its help note statement that it doesn’t censor searches has been removed. Personally, I know Google had a hard choice to make, there were no easy answers. At least users in China will be told that their searches were censored.
  • Last Chance to See
    As mentioned above, although he joked about destroying the world, Douglas was a naturalist. He’d be interested, though, over the fight J. Craig Williams discussed in his post regarding cell phone towers disguised as trees. (Douglas’s interest would likely be in how to make a good joke out of it.) The city of La Cañada Flintridge in California disapproved some cell phone towers because of their lack of aesthetics. The 9th Circuit reversed, holding that the state law does not allow aesthetics to be taken into account.

    Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster
    According to the Guide, the best drink in existence is the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, the effect of which is “like having your brain smashed out with a slice of lemon… wrapped ’round a large gold brick.” Speaking of drinks, I was hoping this week to find out more details about Lexthink’s next event, a “Salon in a Saloon,” as Matt Homann has hinted at here. As a happy attendee of Blawgthink 2005, I’m curious to see what’s up next for them.

    Magrathea
    In the Hitchhikers universe, a good example of branding is the planet Magrathea. Everybody has heard of it, but nobody knows where to find it. Accordingly, I’ve put posts dealing with marketing, client development, and customer service here.

  • - Patrick Lamb, at In Search of Perfect Client Service, discusses law firm branding in his recent post. The gist is that bad branding doesn’t work, but good branding is the key to a successful business. Read the article for more insights and links to others on the topic.
  • - David Swanner, at the South Carolina Trial Law Blog, has a great post this week entitled “What cases do you refuse?” David is also notable for one of his marketing ideas, putting together a CD with over 100 Powerpoint examples, see here how to get one.
  • - Check out Wankettes, written by the Editor of Blawg Review, looking at the current job of David Lat, now a writer with Wonkette. Curiously, some of the guest writers on Wonkette have been lawyers. [Is this a good place to mention that I'm not the anonymous Editor, either?]
  • - Another similar post written by Andrew Raff also looks at the self-outing of Melissa Lafsky of Opinionista fame. Book deals are in place! In this case, it’s well deserved – I can attest that Lafsky writes well, I’ve been following her blog for a while wondering how long it would be before she outed herself.
  • - At Concurring Opinions, a recent post looks at the current use of the original Blogpsot address used for the Volokh Conspiracy in a post called “Being Eugene Volokh.” Eugene Volokh may have some claims for the use of his name!
  • - Rob Hyndman has an interesting post here on the democratization of advertising.
  • The Vogons
    Douglas liked to poke fun at management and bureaucracy wherever he could. The Vogons were a race of the ultimate bureaucrats, refusing to do anything unless the orders were signed in triplicate, cross referenced, returned three times for corrections, and so forth. Oh, and a word of advice – avoid their poetry whenever possible. Keeping with the theme, I’ve put posts relating to management here. Keep in mind that the category name may be silly, but these are seriously great articles.

  • - Bruce MacEwen’s Adam Smith, Esq. has an insightful look at a consensus survey of 6,000 top executives that led to an article listing thirty “top trends.” Bruce does a good job of summarizing and condensing the survey into a truly insightful article. Bruce is skeptical of the value of most articles that put forth “top trends”, and rightfully so. He also describes the problems of implementing knowledge management. I would hope regular readers of my blog would also read Adam Smith – I certainly do.
  • - David Maister, an authority on management for professional services firms, blogs at Passion, People and Principles. In his recent post entitled Warlords and Dickensian Factory Owners, he compares the practice of law to those two bleak examples. It’s really thought provoking, especially this part:

    “Why do law firms find it so hard to understand that a feudal warlord system forcing everyone to work harder is not the height of mankind’s achievement in civilization? I have spent twenty years trying to say all professions look similar and can learn from each other, but I’m finally prepared to concede that lawyers are different – and it has nothing to do with economics.”

  • - Patrick Cormier, who normally blogs at Information Management Now, has an article at Slaw entitled “The Uneasy Lawyer and IT Dialogue.” In the article, Patrick makes a great argument for having a buffer between lawyers and IT personnel, an IM (Information Management) person.
  • Ford Prefect
    Ford is Arthur’s best friend who happens to be from the planet Betelgeuse. He serves as Arthur’s guide to the wacky universe around him. In that vein, there are two great posts by Charley Foster at The State of the Beehive in which he discusses and explains the fourth and the ninth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

    The Ravenous Bug Blatter Beast of Traal
    The Ravenous Bug Blatter Beast of Traal is the most ferocious carnivore in the galaxy, but it’s also the stupidest animal around. It thinks if you can’t see it, then it can’t see you, which is why the smartest hitchhikers carry a towel to wrap around their heads just in case they come across the beast. Our fellow bloggers have found some outstanding examples of stupidity in action this week.

  • - Overlawyered reports on the third class action lawsuit from readers of the James Frey memoir ‘A Million Little Pieces.’ The claim? Lost time from reading the book.
  • - Madeleine Kane gets some jabs in on the Republicans involved in the Alito nomination in her satirical look at the nomination process.
  • - William Patry, at his Copyright Blog, points out some really bad judicial reasoning by a Tennesee appellate court in the recent case over Hank Williams Sr’s recordings, in a post entitled “There’s Hole in Your Opinion, Partner.
  • Douglas Adams and 42

    Zaphod Beeblebrox
    Zaphod Beeblebrox is the coolest, slickest dude in the galaxy. He’s got two heads, three arms, and his title is President of the Galaxy until he steals the ship the Heart of Gold with its infinite improbability drive. He can sweet talk anybody out of anything. Speaking of mouths, the Greatest American Lawyer brags that he can speak faster than he can type in his post called “Leveraging a Lawyers Greatest Asset, Their Mouth.” By his logic, Zaphod would make the ultimate lawyer because he’s got twice as many mouths!

    Trillian
    Trillian is the really smart woman that Arthur once met at a costume party, but lost to a mysterious slick talking stranger with a birdcage on one shoulder. (Zaphod’s idea of a good costume.) Arthur is reunited with her on the Heart of Gold. She’s the only one who really understands how to work the ship and its infinite improbability drive.

  • - Patent Barristas (Host of last week’s Carnival of the Capitalists #120) has a post by Stephen Albainy-Jenei on the proper way of documenting inventions using a laboratory notebook.
  • - Russ Krajec, author of the Anything Under the Sun Made by Man blog, has a good post on inventing while writing patent applications that I found quite interesting.
  • - From the world of Knowledge Management, Jack Vinson blogs at Knowledge Jolt with Jack. He’s got a great post called “Why Most Published Research Findings are False.” If you get data from data mining, you should find out a way to confirm its validity before depending on it.
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
    A restaurant that can only be visited by means of time travel, guests can watch the universe ending all around them as they finish their meal. Bills are paid by depositing one penny in the diner’s real time, by the time of the meal compound interest will be enough to pay the extremely large bill. Speaking of endings, some miscellaneous entries are listed here as we finish our Review.

  • - George Lenard, at George’s Employment Blawg, has written a detailed review of the software product, Thompson’s Employee Handbook Builder.
  • - An attorney named Mark blogs about the business and law of sports at Sportsbiz. In his post entitled “Is ‘So What?’ a defense?” he summarizes recent action in the court case over the naming of the Angels.
  • Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

    Thanks for reading! So long, and thanks for all the fish!

    15 Responses to Blawg Review #42

    1. Hello, Kevin. Thank you for pointing to my post blaming Google for all the unsavory and inadvertent visitors to my weblog. You’ve joined a long list of prominent webloggers who have misspelled my surname — Grandpa Giacalone is rolling over once again in his grave, and thus may be right-side-up this time. (Which reminds me, thanks for putting f/k/a on your short weblogroll!)

      Blawbel Fish: As I am one of the prime movers in the “make the word ‘blawg’ obsolete” movement — see http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/stories/storyReader$5803 — I wanted to point out how urban legends and false trends are spread on the internet. Dennis Kennedy, doing some spinning, wrote “Interestingly, I noticed in the post that legal blogs are apparently being called ‘blawgs’ around the world.” Upping the ante, you then paraphrase Dennis above, saying “he notes that the term ‘blawg has taken hold there, so the genie may be out of the bottle.”

      I’m not sure if Dennis will allow the Comment I left at Between Lawyers past his manual filter, so please let me repeat it here:

      Hi, Dennis. It seems to me that Edwin Jacobs shows very good taste in his post on European lawyer weblogs. He really only uses the term “blawg” to explain it (prudently doing that twice) and when it appears in the name of some entity he is citing. Otherwise, he says “lawyer blogs” or “law-related blogs”. I think Jacobs has voted with his brain and his fingers on this issue.

      Let’s be honest, “blawg” doesn’t translate very well, as law is “Gesetz” in German, “Droit” in French, “ley” in Spanish [a bleyg on all your houses!].

      The anti-trivialization league hasn’t given up the fight yet to get that skunk word back in its sack, doing our part to sway public opinion and make the word “blawg” obsolete.

      p.s. Love those French, with their “Droit-blogs” and “juristes blogueurs.”

    2. No worries, David. I don’t delete comments here, unless they’re hawking mortgage refinance, etc. I fixed your name, too. You’ve been on my blogroll for quite a while.

      Good response back, I don’t think the debate is over by any means.

    3. First, thanks for the comments on the article.
      Indeed, I prefer to use the term “blawg” to explain it and when it appears in the name of some site/blog I am citing. Otherwise, I use “lawyer blogs” or “law-related blogs”. The reason is that it better says what it really is, I think, i.e. a blog related to law or made by a lawyer in his capacity of a lawyer, e.g. not about his pet or hobby or whatever. I think it’s a simple matter of communication with the target audience and I don’t make a big issue about it. I don’t care which word is used, as long as it is clear what person A is communicating to person B. But I think in communicating with non-lawyers , or with non-tech savvy lawyers for that matter, it just makes more sense to talk about a “law related website, lawblog, …” instead of “blawg”. Frankly, even using the word “blog” is often complicating things. So, use whatever you want, but “keep it simple” for your target audience ;-))

    4. Edwin, thanks for your comments. There is room for both usages, in my opinion, depending on the context. I view the term “blawg” as more of an insider joke than the proper name. I write a legal blog, but I do not normally use the term “Blawg” outside of conversations with other legal bloggers.

    5. Don’t Panic!

      Blawg Review is an interesting blog carnival of some of the best law blog posts selected by a different host each week, often presented with a creative theme. This week’s Blawg Review #42 is an homage to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by the late great neologist Douglas Adams. The theme is inspired by the issue number 42, which is the answer to life, the universe and everything!

    6. [...] When I wrote Blawg Review #42, the comments revolved mainly around the whole BLAWG versus BLOG issue. I personally tell people I write a legal blog and reserve the use of BLAWG for within the legal blogging community. In my experience it’s hard enough to explain what a blog is without also having to explain the BLAWG in-joke at the same time. [...]

    7. wBlawg Review #144

      We don’t make a habit out of pointing out when the most recent edition of the Blawg Review has been posted. We figure that our readers probably go to Blawg Review to check on that. However, this week’s edition is hosted by one of our alltime favorite…

    Leave a reply