Robert Ambrogi's LawSites
fillTracking new and intriguing Web sites for the legal profession.

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Robert Ambrogi,
a lawyer
in Rockport, MA, is vice president for editorial services at Jaffe Associates and director of WritersForLawyers.

He is author of the book, The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web

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Friday, May 14, 2004
Visualizing Search Results
Is anything to be gained by searching across multiple sites? If you have any doubt about the answer, visit Thumbshots Ranking, a tool that graphically compares search results on different search engines. It shows you how results compare in ranking and position on each site. You can elect to highlight your own or some other site and get a clear picture of how it rates.

I searched for "rockport lawyer" and compared the results on Google and Yahoo. Out of the top 100 links from each site, only 10 overlapped, meaning that each had 90 links that the other did not. The same comparison between Google and AltaVista brought similar results.

Now that you are convinced of the need to query multiple search engines, here is another new meta-search tool to try: ZapMeta. Separating it from the pack are several options for quickly viewing the sites that match your search results.

ZapMeta submits your query to seven major search engines (although Google is not one of them) and sorts the results by relevance. Many of the results include a "snapshot" image of the Web page along with the usual text excerpt. Each search result also has three other unusual viewing options.

"Quick View" opens a window directly on the results page that displays the listed site. Click again to close the window. "Past Versions" sends a search to the Internet Archive, and displays any older versions of the page stored there. As with most search engines, clicking on a result takes you to that page. But ZapMeta lets you instead click on a small window icon to open the page in a new browser window, with the results still displayed in the first window.

Thursday, May 13, 2004
Search engines take the stand
Declan McCullagh writes about judges turning to search engines to check facts, look up information about companies in litigation, and challenge statistics presented by attorneys in court. Are judges making their own evidentiary records? If so, is this permitted? The answers are less clear than you might expect, the article suggests. (Thanks to Steve Fuchs of LawTek Media Group for the pointer.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Soople is Google for dummies
As a word, soople is said to derive from an early English dialect and mean to soften or make supple. As a Web site, Soople is Google for dummies. Google has a front page so Spartan that the casual user might never suspect that it is home to an array of search power tools. Even going to Google's advanced-search page fails to reveal the site's full power.

Soople offers a more forthright approach, providing explicit gateways to Google's advanced search features. Soople's creator calls it "easy expert search," and says he did it for his mother. From Soople's front page, you can conduct a normal Google search, or choose more narrow inquiries. Limit your search to sites that focus on particular topics. Search for specific types of files, such as a Word document or a GIF image. Search only within a specified Web site or domain. Even search by courier tracking number or patent registration number.

Soople devotes a second page to Google's little-known calculator functions. Perform simple calculations and conversions, or use more-advanced trigonometric and logarithmic functions. Calculate percentages and square roots, or determine the number of possibilities within a set of variables. A third Soople page provides entrée to Google's tools for finding people, places, phone numbers and addresses. Taking a road trip? Use this tool to search for a sushi restaurant in Chicago or a movie theater in Minneapolis. Soople also provides an interface to Google's translation tools and its "superfilter," combining multiple filters in a single search.