Sunday, August 28, 2011

Version 4.0: Powered by Cornell LII

Jureeka version 4.0 represents a significant milestone: Jureeka is now powered by Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute (LII).

The LII is a not-for-profit organization that believes everyone should be able to read and understand the laws that govern them, without cost. It publishes law online, for free; creates materials that help people understand law; and explores new technologies that make it easier for people to find the law.

These objectives mesh perfectly with Jureeka's, which is to help web users locate free legal source materials by citation with as little effort as possible.

The LII now hosts Jureeka's legal citation redirection service and has assumed primary responsibility for the development and maintenance of the Firefox add-on. This allows Jureeka to reach a wider audience, to have long-term institutional support, and to integrate tightly with the LII's existing web services.

For the time being, I'll remain the primary developer of the Google Chrome version (which will essentially parallel the Firefox version), and I'll assist the LII with future development and testing.

In terms of visible, functional changes to version 4, Jureeka now redirects to specific subsections of the U.S. Code and to specific sections of the Code of Federal Regulations, which is quite helpful. Version 4 also includes an improved toolbar, a number of minor bug fixes, improved citation recognition, and fewer "false positive" linkifications.

Note: Version 4 for Chrome will be released the first week in September (after my move to Cambridge, MA is complete).

Monday, July 18, 2011

New and Improved: Jureeka 3.3

I've been in between consulting contracts for the past couple of weeks, so I've had a fair amount of time to devote to updating Jureeka. I want to describe what's new and improved about it.

But first, I owe a big apology to my user base. Over the last couple of years, my attention has been diverted to other projects (including parenting) and I let maintenance on Jureeka lapse. So...I'm sorry. Hopefully, I can win some of you back.

Legal source material on the web is always changing. Sites go off-line, new sites emerge, and URL schemes change frequently. Jureeka has to keep up with all this change in order to redirect users to the proper legal source. Since I last updated Jureeka, Google Scholar published a massive amount of U.S. case law, and many more state statutes have become accessible.

My recent changes to Jureeka primarily involve: (1) redirecting existing citations to newly published material, (2) adding and refining the recognized citations to cover more material with better precision, and (3) abandoning recognized citations that are not case-specific or that are rarely used. I don't plan to document all of these changes in detail, but I think that Jureeka users will notice a drastic improvement in the add-on's utility. In particular, Jureeka now identifies:

  • Federal district court cases,
  • A slew of state supreme and appellate court cases, and
  • Section-specific redirects to the statutes of around 35 states.

In addition, I've retested and cleaned up the vast majority of the existing links (though I'm still working on this).

I've also spent a bit of time on performance improvements. Adding more recognized citations reduces performance, and I've tried to compensate for this with some minor tweaks in the text parsing. Overall, I'm happy with Jureeka's speed in transforming citations into links. The only time it's an issue is on extremely long pages, such as appropriations bills that run into hundreds of printed pages, where the linking can take up to 30 seconds (during which time there's a slight delay on page scrolling). I've noticed that Jureeka for Chrome is probably five times faster than Jureeka for Firefox (perhaps due to Google's JavaScript optimization).

I also made Jureeka available for Fennec, which is the mobile version of Firefox. However, since I don't have access to Fennec, I don't know how (or even if!) it works. If anyone tries it out, please let me know what you find.

With the 3.3 release, the version numbering is now synchronized between the Firefox and Chrome versions. That means that 3.3 has the same citation coverage in both versions. However, I'm able to release versions immediately for Chrome, whereas for Firefox they have to be reviewed by Mozilla editors and this approval process takes 1-2 weeks. (You can always install the pre-reviewed versions if you dare.)

A note about the Chrome version: The Chrome gallery says that this extension can access all of your files, use your webcam, etc. I would have no idea how to accomplish this even if I wanted to, and I'm not sure which aspects of the code are causing Google's automatic code analyzers to think that this is possible. Jureeka does not collect, store, or even know any information about you or your activities; it no longer even uses a database. At any rate, it's on my to do list to make whatever changes are necessary so that Jureeka is not a (real or apparent) threat to your privacy.

In the new batch of releases, I adopted the KISS philosophy. I want Jureeka to do one thing, and do it well. I eliminated all the half-baked bells and whistles I tried years ago, and kept only the core functionality that makes Jureeka magical: the automatic hyperlinking of legal citations. I am very happy with this decision. I want Jureeka to run silently in the background of your web browsing / legal research experience, connecting you seamlessly with the millions of pages of free material that's online. In short, I want you to forget about Jureeka completely until it pleasantly surprises you by leading you to something that you didn't know you wanted.

Jureeka is not perfect and, given its probabilistic nature, likely never will be. There's still a lot of work to be done but hopefully in its current state you will find it worthwhile.

Before & After

The legal web before installing Jureeka:

And after: