Durham, higher education, and me

I’ll be in Durham this weekend; I’m not sure how much time I have free, but drop me a note if you’d like to grab a meal or beverage of choice.

The formal reason I’ll be in Durham is to give a guest appearance at CompSci 82, Technical and Social Foundations of the Internet. I have been involved in academia previously (TAing a couple times, lecturing at the Sloan School of Business at MIT, and moderating a panel at Harvard Law School) but I’m pretty sure this is the first time anyone has been quizzed on the content of my blog. I am terrified at what this indicates for the future of our civilization. :)

Before anyone asks, I don’t know whether guests are welcome to sit in, and I also don’t actually know the time and location of the class. But if I figure those out, I’ll post here.

(Informally, I have tickets to blue/white and the football game and extensive eating plans. But really, the class appearance was scheduled first.)

what I have been up to

Lots of people I saw in Boston were asking ‘what have you been up to’ instead of the usual ‘sounds like things are good from your blog’ :) I guess I’ve been a little quiet here about me, personally. So some updates:

  • School is generally good; the first two years ended up being very successful (low honors first year; high honors last year.) This year I planned to throttle back to have more time for outside projects, so I am taking fewer credits than ever. Unfortunately, I seem to have chosen those credits poorly so I am doing more work than ever. Hence, not much time for outside projects :/
  • Will spend the summer studying for the bar; location TBD (since Columbia throws me out of housing a few days after graduation.) Yes, the bar is hard. Not that hard- Columbia alums pass the California bar at a 90+% rate. But obviously no one wants to be in that 6-8% so of course everyone studies like crazy. That will be me.
  • Have accepted a job at Orrick Herrington Sutcliffe starting early fall ’09 in their Silicon Valley office. I look forward to it- excellent firm, excellent people, probably will not implode in the next year. :) Current plan is to work about 50-50 on startups and technology licensing, but obviously the economy may dictate a different balance. Silver lining of the economy may be more time for pro bono projects, of which I obviously have a long list I’d like to work on.
  • Am not getting married at GUADEC. ;) Probably a low-key family-only affair followed by big, fun parties in Miami and Boston (or New York?)
  • Krissa and I are trying to enjoy NY as much as possible before leaving, which includes lots of live performances (Jazz at Lincoln Center, ‘In The Heights’, Deblois, Nutcracker), lots of eating (Caracas Arepas, dinner at a not-so-expensive place with Steve Martin and a guy who looked a lot like Paul Simon at the next table), and lots of family visits and East Coast travel (I’m in week two of a six week stretch with family or travel every weekend- all four-plus parents, Summit, and a lecture at Duke.)
  • Krissa is good- loving her job still; enjoying NY; looking forward to going home to California. Currently in Turkey biking with her mom, else she’d have been in Boston and in Durham next weekend.

So yeah, life is good. Crazy, but good. Not sure I’d have it any other way.

Apologies to everyone who I said I’d see this morning at Summit; unfortunately I had to change my train to a pretty early train and overslept, so pretty much ran from hotel to train. Next year…

posting at Freedom To Tinker for a few weeks

I was recently invited to guest-post at Freedom to Tinker, formerly Ed Felten’s group blog and now officially hosted by Ed’s Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton. Ed’s been a hero for ages (dating back to at least his voting machine work, if not to his Microsoft work) and so the invite was very flattering. I’ll be there through mid-November, and cross-posting headlines and snippets here.

My first post at FTK is on a topic that got interesting to me after I saw Clay Shirky speak at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference: Political Information Overload and the New Filtering. In a nutshell, I look at some of the new filtering mechanisms that are (or aren’t) helping us deal with the deluge of political information- information that was always being created, but is only now being distributed so widely that it feels overwhelming. Sadly, I’ve got no great insight, but I think it is an area that deserves more thought and design instead of the ad hoc evolution that is creating it right now.

notes on ‘the slacker’s guide to law school’ by Juan Doria

Disclaimer: at some point my email address got added to a list of ‘people to email if you want to pimp your law-related product.’ Most of the solicitations I get that way I ignore, but every once in a while something looks interesting. This is one of them. I’ve received nothing from the author except a free copy of the book (necessary if you’re going to, you know, ‘review it’ ;)

The Slacker’s Guide to Law School‘, as both the foreword and introduction seem to admit, is a little mistitled. You can’t really be a slacker and go to law school. You can, though, make it through law school with either tons and tons of stress, or… less so. You can come out feeling like a failure, or… not. I think two things have helped me with these problems: one, having a lot of pre-law-school experience and therefore a clear idea of why I was going to law school. Two, I had Krissa around to force me to get out of my shell. Both of these things helped me keep everything in perspective, and helped me focus on what was actually important.

For those who don’t have Krissa or a lot of experience, this is a pretty decent book. It isn’t the end-all be-all of law school prep books. (I’d recommend Law School Confidential as a more serious and methodical counterbalance.) But it is a good start, and one with a fairly unique spin in my limited experience. The focus here is perspective- how to do well enough that you can get a solid job, pay your loans, live where you want to live, etc., without killing yourself. In this the author recognizes something that too few new law students grasp- if you’re stressing yourself to death, odds are good you’re going to do worse, not better.

Trying to put everything in perspective helps, and this book is strongest when doing that. For example, lots of people I’ve met recommend taking as many ‘bar prep’ courses – like Evidence – as possible. Evidence is on the bar- you can’t become a lawyer without knowing something about it. But you can graduate from law school without it, in most schools. So… should you take it? Or just learn it over the summer before the bar? There is no easy answer to this, but this book does the fair thing and points out that the decision has real pros and cons- which is more than I’ve seen elsewhere. And one of the cons is that every time you think about this, you’re stressing about a bar exam which is far, far away, instead of focusing on what you need to do Right Now. I like this approach. The section on exams is similarly pragmatic, stressing that showing up every single day, or not ever showing up, is completely irrelevant- the only thing that matters is the exam. Ditto for note taking, bar exam, etc. (though of course you’ll need to take the bar advice with a grain of salt- since the author didn’t pass :)

The editor in me thinks the book could have been shorter. For me, at least, it contained too much description, since the descriptions will frequently be repetitive to what other law school guides have covered. Similarly, while the book contained good advice, the slacker in me wanted more advice, in a more accessible fashion, and less of the other stuff. I wanted to do other things with my day (go slacker go!), so if the advice had been more distilled/focused/highlighted it would have fit the title a lot better.

At the end of the day, if you’re thinking about law school, I do recommend picking this up. It is frank and useful in a way that other law school guides aren’t. (And short! :) But don’t read just the Slacker’s Guide. Read it first, and then read something else. This will help you put that more ‘serious’ (and probably more complete) advice in the proper perspective- which is, at the end of the day, what it should be all about.

journaling in internet time?

Given that virtually all journal articles are published on SSRN, and read and discussed, before they hit actual journals, could journals seek to substantially shorten the amount of time between submission and publication, so that authors feel that journals are active contributors while the article is ‘hot’, rather than feeling that they are the finishing polishers of an already-cooling project? In particular, is journal work ‘parallelizable’? In other words, if you put four times as many people on it, would it get done four times as fast? Columbia Law Review publishes on the order of 40 pieces a year, and takes around 12 weeks off for summer break. So it averages out to a piece a week, but it is lumped together into eight issues. Could they be publishing one piece a week, and turning pieces around in 1-2 weeks, instead of every 5 weeks or so, turning them around in longer than that? I think that might be a bit ambitious- some parts of the publishing process do not get faster the more people you put on them- but it might not be. I’m curious if any journal is trying this model.

Speed by José Juan Figueroa. License:

I also have some thoughts on journaling at internet attention span (which pre-date, but are similar to, Berkman’s Publius Project) but they aren’t quite ready for prime time yet. (Caveat: they aren’t really my thoughts; something a friend shared with me instead, but I love them.)

integrity in software and law school, strike 58104

I’ve always been sort of morbidly fascinated by ExamSoft and SofTest, the combination of software products that, in theory, keep us from cheating during law school exams. There are a whole lot of things wrong with it (buggy, elevates books over computers, etc.), but probably the most irritating to me has always been the assumption that somehow using it meant that there was no cheating. This is silly- like all software not open to public inspection, I always assumed it would be easy to break if I wanted to.1 Turns out I was right- it is pretty darn trivial to break into. Go read the link, and ponder- we’re all under an honor code, and we’re entering into a profession that depends deeply on trusting our word. So why force us to use software that punishes those of us who are honest (by making our experience buggy and frustrating) while not stopping those who are dishonest? If we’ve got a real dishonesty problem in law school (which I agree may be the case) lousy software seems unlikely to fix it…

  1. To be clear, I have not broken into it and have no plans to. I’m just interested in security and the use of software architecture to replace real morality/honesty. []

second worst dialog I saw during a recent Ubuntu upgrade

This dialog gets points for being graphical, and loses many, many, many points for presenting no information that any reasonable user could possibly get any use from unless they already previously understand (1) what FUSE is (2) how to get FUSE plugins (3) who the ‘first user’ is (4) what the ‘fuse group’ is and (5) how to add users to the ‘fuse group.’ And if you know all those things, you didn’t need the dialog, so kudos for being both useless and intimidating.

The worst dialog was actually a terminal wrapped in the upgrader GUI which stalled my entire upgrade in order to ask me what my terminal encoding was, helpfully presenting a list of 28 possible encodings, of which UTF-8 was 27th and the default was some obscure encoding I’d never previously heard of. (The other times the upgrader stalled the upgrade to ask for input it told me I’d modified config files I’d never previously heard of, much less modified, but at least those had basically the same useful-ish debian config file dialog I’ve been used to for ages.)

Linux has come a long way (the upgrader helpfully offered to do a partial upgrade instead of complaining and dying like previous debian/ubuntu upgrades), but still has a long way to go too.

(These weren’t the only problems I saw; Gerv has a good list of some of the other ones, though I didn’t see all of the ones he did.)

good news/bad news, journal edition

Good news: I’ve been selected as Editor in Chief of the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review, 2008-2009 edition. I’m excited to be able to work with a great team to release a solid issue of the journal, and also to spend some time thinking about where journals might go next.

Bad news: Lots of work to be done, and big questions like these to be dealt with. I can already feel my hair getting greyer. ;)

Overall: very excited, I just hope I get to sleep some next year. :)

[This happened a couple weeks ago; I keep forgetting to blog it for the record, but with journal recruiting starting in earnest this week, it was hard to forget.]

good news/bad news, journal blogging edition

good news: a post from my journal’s blog team made it all the way to slashdot.

bad news: slashdot (more specifically, the blog we’re nominally affiliated with) called our writing ‘surprisingly readable.’ It’s sad that lawyers are supposed to be excellent communicators, and yet our training typically stilts our writing so much that it is surprising when our work can be read by the public.

spring break link blogging

Several weeks of backlog from my feed reader:

Enough for today, I’m going out in the sunshine.