Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Miscellany: Stuck in the Bluebook past

I'm writing my seminar paper for Advanced Patent Law, and that means citing sources - dozens of them, all using the Bluebook. The Bluebook is a system of legal citation promulgated by the law reviews of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Pennsylvania. It's the most widely used format, adopted almost verbatim by many jurisdictions.

What irks me about the Bluebook is its relative intransigence toward the inclusion of digital media. Other citation systems accept websites and web-published content without too much gruff (the MLA Style Manual, for instance), but the Bluebook's nagging insistence upon traditional print sources seems outdated in today's day and age. There's even a convoluted system for parallel citation of printed material, just in case you find out that the info you found in a web search is in dead tree form somewhere, anywhere.

The whole thing is premised on the notion that you can't believe what you read on the Web. To be fair, there's a lot of stuff you CAN'T believe (visit any webforum, whatever the topic, for example). You probably shouldn't cite Shangrila Towers for anything serious.

But there is also a lot of great information available on the web. How about citing a podcast created by a professional astronomer? Or a web magazine that counts actual game developers as contributors? Is there anything that makes the New York Times more accurate than a famous blogger?


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