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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Not Quite the Wiki-Treatise, But...

Remember my post about the idea of a legal Wiki-Treatise?  (No, of course you don't.  You have a life.  You date, you enjoy hiking, you teach, you enjoy collecting stamps.  But pretend, for my sake.  Or go back and read the post.)  Well, now, courtesy of Dan Solove at Concurring Opinions, I have learned that Cornell's Legal Information Institute has launched WEX, "the first collaboratively edited legal encyclopedia and dictionary on the web, aimed specifically at law novices." 

Now, this is not the same as the Wiki-Treatise proposal.  According to Solove, it's currently anonymous, which reduces the incentives of many professors to participate; and to the extent it's more of a dictionary or encyclopedia than a treatise, its function is perhaps somewhat different from the function of a treatise, which collates information but also aims somewhat to advance analysis, and which of course is more subject-specific.  But it's an interesting start.  Best of luck to the LII in this project.  Folks who want to launch a Wiki-Treatise are, of course, always welcome to contact me, when they get back from their hiking trips and philatelists' conventions.

Posted by Paul Horwitz on November 19, 2005 at 11:38 AM in Information and Technology | Permalink


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I think a wiki-treatise is an excellent idea. There is one glaring limitations that must be addressed: the relatively select number of academics and/or practioners who would be able to edit the work. (maybe you would require registration, unlike the current anonymous systems).

Wiki's work because only with large community of contributors, who can ensure that errors remain shallow, information is verified, and guard again trolling.

If fully functioning with a robust community of users, I think such a site would be a huge success.

I would propse the following structure for the site, a broad site--www.wikitreatise.org.

The wiki would list hundreds of treatises which would be in "production" for various aspects of the law, i.e., wikitreatis on constitutional law, wikitreatis on elder law, wikitreatis on copyright law, etc.

I would also recommend the "progress" boxes that http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page currently uses.

Posted by: Aaron Wright | Nov 20, 2005 4:34:59 PM

Wikipedia's Mediawiki engine is pretty easy to set up and is free (as long as you comply with their Copyleft license). There are web hosting sites that allow you to easily set up the Mediawiki engine and set up your own wiki, much like a blog. . . if your interested.

Posted by: Aaron Wright | Nov 20, 2005 4:24:17 PM

I'm pretty sure that the "the first collaboratively edited legal encyclopedia and dictionary on the web" was actually the Public Legal Intellectual Glossary. If I were smart enough to comment in html, I'd link to this address: http://plig.schtuff.com/?action=index

Posted by: Ex Greedy Clerk | Nov 19, 2005 8:55:33 PM

I appreciate the comment. I agree that the best treatises have a personal voice. But I guess my vision of the wiki-treatise is a little different. Call it a wiki-Talmud. I don't envision a series of cooks spoiling the same meal, but some central piece of organizing text with a variety of voices, on the page and off the page via hyperlink, adding their own grace notes, commentary, and so forth.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Nov 19, 2005 7:28:39 PM

Well thanks for the sort of hat tip. :)

The problem I (continue to have) with the wiki-treatise idea is that the best treatises have a personal, vibrant voice (Farnsworth, Tribe, Cox). Wiki entries on the whole do not. In that way, Wex seems directly on point - it promises to be a massively cross-referenced legal encyclopedia.

Posted by: Dave Hoffman | Nov 19, 2005 6:20:23 PM

This is good stuff, but the link to the Concurring Opinions post is wrong. It should be http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2005/11/wex.html.

Plus, it would be helpful to link directly to WEX: http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/index.php/Main_Page.

Posted by: TRL | Nov 19, 2005 5:36:19 PM

Sorry! You can always balance the ledger by thanking Dan Markel for the link.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Nov 19, 2005 3:35:58 PM

The WEX post at Concurring Opinions is Dave Hoffman's, not mine. It's a good post, however, so I don't mind getting the credit.

Posted by: Daniel J. Solove | Nov 19, 2005 3:25:52 PM

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