NILM Bug Tracker

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I have a guest post coming out next week in the Legal Information Institute’s VoxPopuLII that discusses the culture clashes between librarians and other players in the legal information game.  (I’ll link to it when it’s published.)  Without giving away too much, it’s sort of a broad think piece that doesn’t really go into specifics, but talks about some the general issues that are arising when librarians and others work together and ends with a plea to work together better.

In light of recent events, I feel like I need to go into specifics now.

Carl Malamud today announced the Legal Bug Tracker, which is a way for law librarians and other interested parties to report problems they find with law that various government entities post on the web.   It’s a great idea.   Initially my only concern was that it was called a “bug tracker“, which is a bit of a technological term of art and might be confusing to some law librarians.  Then I took a closer look…

In no particular order, here are some problems I find with it:

  1. It’s labeled as the “National Inventory of Legal Materials.”  AALL is also currently working on a National Inventory of Legal Materials.  I know…I’m the chair of the Indiana State Working Group.   I mean, this really isn’t a horrible problem, it’s just awkward as Hell that here we have two similar inventories that almost seem to be pretending that the other doesn’t exist.  Which leads me to problem two..
  2. Upon closer examination of the the Bug Tracker form, it doesn’t seem to be collecting information that wildly different from what the AALL Inventory is collecting.  It’s absolutely mind-boggling that we are duplicating effort like this.  And speaking as the chair of the Indiana State Working Group, it is not easy to get people to find and enter this information.  I’m very annoyed that we’re spreading an already thin manpower base even thinner.   I will give it to the Bug Tracker, though…I like that the information is immediately viewable. Slick.
  3. The announcement gives the following plan of action for the Bug Tracker entries: “As bugs get entered and developed, we’re going to send letters to the relevant jurisdiction calling to their attention the violation of Best Current Practices and any Recommended Corrective Actions. If no response is received, Second Notices and then Third and Final Notices will be transmitted in the hope of providing motivation. Needless to say, we will followup with phone calls and offers to come in and chat and help the clerks and reporters understand how they can make their systems more relevant to the publics they serve.”  Again, what the Hell do you think AALL has been doing?  Although, who knows…maybe getting a letter from something as quasi-official looking as “” may scare some of the less informed civil servants into action.

Come on, folks…this is such an important project that it’s heartbreaking to see all of the players in it not working as a team.  Get it together.

Again, I have some more eloquent thoughts about similar issues coming out next week in Vox Populii.  I just couldn’t hold my tongue any longer.


  4 comments for “NILM Bug Tracker

  1. December 9, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Hi Sarah –

    I come from a world where each person tries to do the best they can and they don’t try to stop other people from doing the best they can. Who cares if lots of people are doing an inventory? This is a huge ocean to boil. It shouldn’t be about turf grabs and stopping other people, it should be about each individual doing the best they can.

    You seem upset because AALL is already doing this work. But, I haven’t seen anything come out of that effort. Don’t you want more people helping you out? Isn’t that really, really great?


    P.S. I’m not an AALL member, so I hope you’re willing to post this comment. I know outsiders are an issue.

  2. Sarah
    December 9, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Hi Carl,

    I think you may be misinterpreting me. I actually am advocating for more collaboration and communication between the various entities involved in I care that many different groups are working on inventories, for example, because we may be duplicating effort. It would have been more ideal for AALL Working Groups to be using your awesome software and that way each government entity is only reviewed once.

    I can’t speak for AALL. I know their inventory is still continuing so that may be one reason that it hasn’t been released.

    Also, I would never not post a comment just because someone isn’t an AALL member. I am all for a free exchange of ideas and open communication. The only comments I refuse to publish are the ones are that are abusive or otherwise violate my pre-stated terms.

  3. December 9, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I didn’t even know who Carl was until today. Here’s what I know about him now: He’s intellectually dishonest.

    Sarah’s point had no ambiguity, so I can only assume that Carl is willfully “misinterpreting” instead of actually addressing Sarah’s wholly rational and clearly-stated concerns.

    Honest disagreement is fine. Intellectual dishonesty is deplorable. At least now I know who Carl is.

  4. Susanna Leers
    December 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I am confused. I was under the impression that the AALL project IS collaborating with I think I got that impression from both the meeting last spring at Chicago Kent where Carl spoke (and Sarah and I gave brief presentations) and also the lunchtime meeting we had at CALI in Camden with Erika Wayne of Stanford leading the discussion on the AALL legal materials inventory (can’t remember if Sarah was there). At that CALI discussion Erika was handing out the same state flag cards that Carl had handed out at Chicago.
    But after reading this post, and Carl’s comment, and the law librarian blogpost on the same topic I’m scratching my head. I’m hard at work on the AALL’s legal materials inventory as a member of the Pennsylvania group. I totally agree, Sarah, with your closing line “Come on, folks…this is such an important project that it’s heartbreaking to see all of the players in it not working as a team. Get it together.” I would only add that we are all part of the project and I for one would gladly work on doing whatever it takes to make it a well-coordinated team.

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