A blog within a blog
- 5 July 2020 – 260k cases published
- 4 July 2020 – Lots to report
- 13 July 2018 – Move to https
- 21 May 2018 – GDPR
- 27 May 2016
- 14 April 2016
- 21 December 2015
- 9 December 2015
- 1 December 2015
- 30 November 2015
- 30 August 2015
- 20 August 1915
- 14 August 2015
- 10 August 2015
- 3 August 2015
- 16 July 2015
- 9 July 2015
- 24 June 2015
- 22 June 2015
- 18 June 2015
- 15 June 2015
- 11 June 2015
- 1 January 2015
- 31 December 2014
- 29 December 2014
- 18 December 2014
My Intention is that we will move to using Python as the default data tool. A set of Python Scripts should, in general, leave me independent of operating systems. The key driver is that I have seen Windows 8, and have, for eighteen months been trying to get used to it. Every time I try it, I do not know whether to cry or spit in rage. Microsoft is making itself impossible of use. They should try to remember Wordperfect corporation.
- 15 December 2014
So – where are we just now? Our system works. Beyond that it is a mess. Historically, it began in about March 1992, with all entries being made into an early spreadsheet – Quattro from Borland – and ancient and insufficiently honoured software house. Entries were severely limited so that the name field and ratio had a maximum of 80 characters. We still have some entries from that period.
- 14 December 2014
This will be a blog within a blog.
I am considering major changes in the development of the web-site. In addition to the case law, want to keep myself motivated by providing an account of how I am getting on.
As we are, I have effectively been off-line for five days. My power supply for the Lenovo netbook – where I do all my work – disappeared in a puff of smoke. I had a small amount of charge left which I used to take a back up, but otherwise I had to await delivery of a new charger. At this time of year, it took a day or two.
That is quite a lot, and it means that there are depths to this website you may never discover. We have been adding cases at about 100a day, but given the change in layout, we may concentrate for the next few weeks on the process of updating those 260k cases to the new look. We have a system which outputs 200 at a time. And it takes the host computer about 15-20 minutes to process those amended cases. It is not a matter of complaint, but of knowing the reality of the task faced each time, and just living with it. I will give it about two weeks, and try to prioritise the more important cases.
First, and above all we have recently changed the ‘theme’ on which the site is based. I like it. It is much better. I will be rotating the images every few weeks. The first set all include assorted paths and woodlands. They reflect what I and my pals go through, over and under on our runs around this Eastern end of Calderdale (West Yorkshire).
It was inevitable that we make this move. We waited until the least busy time of our year, beginning of July, to take the big step. First of all a big thank you to the staff at 34sp, our hosts. They transformed a process into one with only very minor difficulties.
The immediate effect will be not so much to add to our efficacy, but will perhaps remove the temptation for search engines to undermine trust in us.
The only element left to be properly fettled is the Google search engine.
IN the medium term it should add to our money making capacity by allowing donations.
GDPR – We have made a lot of progress in GDPR compliance, and will be compliant by the necessary day. Several policies are in their near-final draft form and will be in place by the day.
We produce information which is at the same time sometimes incredibly sensitive, and on the other hand provides a partial statement of the law. It is a human right, and public necesssity that anyone considering an issue must be able to find a description of the law which applies to their situation. Decsriptions may be found in statutes and similar, and in law books, and in our case law. There are cleary many cases which have come to be seen as putting a considered and worthy statement of the law. We do however have to recognise that any person is free to look at such a decision. and to present an argument to another Court based upon that persons interpretation of that case. This will often mean referring to less well known judgments which may have looked at the so cold lead case, and which have qualified or extended it. Indeed a litigant is free to produce his own argument. It is therefore of the essence that there is no closed or complete list of leading cases. Any case which has come before the court it can be used to either argue for a new interpretation or to demonstrate a particular approach.
The difficulty therefore which we face is that where we reject any case as being uninformative, we make it impossible for other litigants with a different view, to take the rejected case and base his argument upon it. An example may be of help. When the decision was made back in 1995 to publish or case law to the web, at first very many cases were published, and then a more cautionary view was taken. Cases were published and then taken down. We had ourselves noted up some of these cases. |As time has gone on, where we find that a case has no longer been available in full text, we have tended to withdraw our own version and all records relating to that case. However in May of 2018 we were approached by a company or lawyers in Vancouver. We do not know the details, but anticipate that they were arguing about the potential liability of a contractor in the construction industry for the failings of a subcontractor. Our case notes included a reference to a case from 1997 which had been withdrawn from Bailii but were the case note on our site continued to exist. At the point where the enquiry began, the view was only that it was a lead worthy of being followed. The absence of the full text meant that that was not possible, and they were restricted in their ability to present the case. In fact we were able to have the case recalled to life and reinstated. It does not really matter what use was then made of the case, but it shows that a case which was otherwise unnoticed can be seen to have some relevance even after over 20 years old being unnoticed.
It is necessary also to acknowledge that this case only appeared to take on some significance just because the full text has disappeared. I have no way of quantifying just how many other cases which might appear to have disappeared into history has in fact been considered by lawyers and or litigants in person in their preparation of cases.
We must also recognise that life has changed in the courts system. Courts now have many more litigants in person appearing before them. A professional lawyer can be expected to approach case law in the way he has been taught. He will seek out the ratio decidendi, the factual basis and statutory background of the case, and in general exhibit a more structured and disciplined approach to his case law research. I suspect that many courts would quietly caution that not all lawyers will always achieve this a degree of discipline.
A litigant in person will approach his case law research in a different way. I suggest that that approach may often be that he will read a case which he understands to be similar to his own, and will simply read the case as an example of how a court might approach this. His reading of a case will not be confined to a purposive abstraction of a ratio decidendi, but will be a much broader reading. From our point of view, this changes the basis upon which we can make a decision about whether a case has continuing relevance.
The theme. First, an apology. Sorry. The page layout has varied over the last few weeks. We have been trying to settle on a theme. I am not convinced that we have yet got to where we want to be. I am content with the overall layout, but am not convinced that it responds properly on smaller screens, and I want better control over the footer.
I hope that if we do have to make a further change, it will only be to an acceptable theme.
We have today passed 100k cases published. This is a big moment.
We have (up to ) today managed to publish listings for 90,001 cases. It is important to understand what we do and how this translates into that number. We add cases by two main paths.
First, we identify new case listings as they come to be available on line. These are added to our off-line database. A few can be added immediately, but the majority require some additional, hands on, editing before being listed for publication. Often this editing will be minimal, but if a case is identified as of interest or significance it is marked for more extended analysis.
That further preparation of a case will often involve identifying which cases the case being edited itself cites, and links with those cases cited are created. That will very often also provide an opportunity to add that case cited or to upgrade its entry. This is the second main way in which cases are added, and to be frank is the one which so far has proved easily to be the most popular content on the site. That in turn is the encouragement we have to continue with such editing, however time consuming it can become.
The central database today reached 400,000 cases. Little did I expect there would ever be so many. Of that number (still) less than a quarter are published to this site – just yet.
I must find a way of publishing them to the swarb.co.uk site more quickly. The balance is that many remain (and always will be) merely a case name, a reference and a link to the full text. For those wanting a particular case (they know which they want) – that is enough.
Against that, I want to be able to guide people in a choice, so noting up cases is important. At a basic level this can be just allocation a case to a category of law, but can extend to a summary of the facts, and the law.
At the further extent, our real advantage is that we have large numbers of cases which are not properly reported elsewhere for free on the web.Typically there will be no full text version readily available. Here, we are ready to work harder on the case to identify the points of law and its proper position within the case law tradition.
Again 400k (now +2).
Yesterday we had our first day of pageviews over 20k (GA). Cheers – and at last.
We have closed the lawindexpro.co.uk web site. It barely covered the cost of the hosting, and certainly not of the additional work involved in maintaining it. It should have worked, but the decision to make all available for free through this site works to undermine the lawindexpro basis.
It is of course a matter of considerable regret, but we must just move on.
We are trying to make a small correction by allocation the date of the case to the date of the post. This will facilitate (a little) finding cases by date. All new cases added will be in the new format, but we have yet to work out how to update existing postings. We do have a system, but it seems to exclude the post date.
We have today gone over the 80k case mark. It is a substantial figure. The immediate change will be a reduction of the rate at which we publish cases, and a continuing process of tidying up whatever we have already published.
The improvement in stats is accelerating. WP provides an accessible monthly average of page views. In August 2013, the average was 1,331, in August 2014 the average was 3,047, and as of this morning, the average for August 2015 is 6,211.
The prospect is now emerging that we will have to upgrade our hosting arrangement. In May, we hit our all-time peak with just under 20k page views in one day. On the following day, WordPress upgraded itself (as it does), breaking our search facility/plugin. Figures began to tumble. It was approaching that time of the year when, in any event, we do the fairground style rush to the bottom. In the week commencing 5 May, we hit 115,322 page views in a week. By the 1st June, we were down to 53,455, and by July we were down to 27,351 – the bottom. That latter week was when we emptied the whole site, and began (quickly) to re-populate the site with the new, much improved, page style and the new search. The point is that in May we hit over two thirds of our monthly bandwidth limit. Had the search not broken, we might easily have hit the roof. Assuming that figures will increase from where we are as quickly as they have in previous years, we may easily find that the issue re-emerges quickly. We will just have to keep a close eye on the topic.
The page-views figures are slowly climbing back. For the last few months we have been a little less than twice last year’s figures. Why I find this disappointing, I am not quite sure. But I do. There is still time in August for the figures to double those of last year, since they seem to be climbing fairly steadily, and are already not far short.
We have been adding just under three hundred cases a day. Believe it or not this requires quite a bit of work. My view is that when we reach 80,000 cases (quite soon), the daily additions will be reduced to make sure that the quality of what is added is as good as it can be.
July is always our quietist month of the year, and come August the figures just begin to climb back. Thus it was and thus, it seems, it still is. The simple thing is that the higher courts close in July, lawyers are on holiday before the school holiday rush, and of course law students are long gone.
Joy, as always, can only be short lived, and you (yes, you) must return to case law. We have it and are doing what we can to make sure that whatever you need is here.
We are now well beyond where we were before the upgrade. We have added back just about all the cases we had and have another 20k on top. There remains a lot of programmatic tidying up to do, which will happen over the next few weeks.
It is nice to get back to some content creation.
We have almost done it. All the old cases were removed, and the cases re-einstalled in the new format. There is still an element of tidying up to do, but the extent is minimal. We have added another 10,000 cases, and several thousand more will be added over the next few days.
We are getting much closer. Sometime within the next week, all the posts here will disappear for a short time. We will have pre-printed the csv files for the recreation of the posts, so that the interruption should be only for a very short time. We presently have some 50k cases online. When we come back, I hope we will have over 100k cases. The layout will have changed also – but, I trust, only for the better. There should be less white space, with more space for the text.
And again, progress is being made. I think we now have nearly all the components we will need to create the new style posts. It looks good. There remain processes of testing and collection tgether of the various bits to create a post in a format which can be imported directly.
There are still several bits to clear, but I sense that the difficult stuff has gone, and that it is now a question of sticking at it.
Progress is being made. The search engine provided by Google does do the job. You will be able to search by, for example a case citation or a judge’s name.
We also do now know what the site will look like on the upgrade. A test site – with very few facilities but at least looking as we might is available at casefinder.co.uk. Comments are welcome.
I am rewriting the whole thing, to provide a major upgrade. It does mean that the existing search difficulties will remain for a few days at least, but that at the same time, the resulting site will be an immense improvement – and, I think, better than anything else available on line.
Please, please do bear with us.
A recent upgrade in WordPress ‘broke’ our search engine. After some time (too long – sorry), we have upgraded the standard WordPress search to use one which has access to our custom fields.
Part of the reason for this delay is the severe thoughts provoked by the breaking of the search. We did put a lot of effort into designing a system which would provide a strong search system – the ability to search out case references and statutes. We have always known that in practice people use very simple searches – well over 90% are on case names only.
The result is that we do now have an effective search, and even though it may not look as advanced, in practice it is only very slightly less effective. the truth is that we made a mistake. It was not a huge one, but it does mean that we will have a considerable amount of tidying up to do. It may well be that as we get to our quietest period of the year, we will be offline for a day or so whilst all is re-organised.
What we provide by way of content is not necessarily what a lawyer would anticipate. Traditionally – well for the last 100 years or so, a law report would be prepared by a barrister attending court, receiving or accurately noting down the judgment, and then preparing a summary and lists of, for example, cases cited. The case would normally be the full judgment. You see one report from WLR or ALL ER and you know what to expect from the next. It is important however that there have been additional services whereby a summary only is provided.
That was then, this is now. Things have changed very substantially. Nearly all judgments of significance are now made available online in full and for free. Many judgments which are frankly of very little significance
It seems to me therefore that there is very little point in adding to that pile of full judgments. What should be happening is to add value to that pile. We do so in two ways. First we are trying to provide a relatively full index. There will always be omissions, and to be frank, we are quite unable to read every judgment. there must be a throughput of unexamined (by us) judgments. It should be acknowledged or remembered that it is not always easy to predict which judgments will later be required.
My biggest anticipated difficulty is in recreating, outside of MS Access, appropriate input forms. The most obvious choice is, I think, Office Libre/OpenOffice and the associated ‘Base’ database system. It clearly promises the necessary GUI in readily accessible form, but I do not yet know whether it will manage creation of sufficiently complicated forms, readily managing edits of several interlinked tables at the same time. It should not be difficult, but I will trust it properly when I see it.
I am having a few days away. I never want to when asked, but confess to enjoying it when given the chance – much like the rest of life. I will be back on Wednesday, hopeful of making proper progress
My most recent decision has been to use PYODBC as my preferred database connection. I can use it to read and write MSAccess .mdb files, which is the first test. I need to set up routines which export the content on the current database. Each routine needs to run on the basis that it will read and or write to the database in use.
That requires a few decisions initially about what fields I wish to preserve, and which fields need amending. There will also be a certain amount of dumbing down of the fields so that only equivalent fields will appear in the assorted databases, and all using the same table structures and names – so far as ever possible.