Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Digital Ontario Reports (Fail)

I received this morning's email with great anticipation.

The inaugural, digital edition of the Ontario Reports was, after numerous calls by bloggers, parody-video-makers and concerned environmentalists alike, at long last in my inbox.

It went downhill from there.

To my surprise, the email notice itself did not feature an index, with links, of the cases reported in the edition. No headnote summaries. No information at all, in fact. And not a single utilization of the advanced functionality offered by the new, long-awaited digital environment.

The email does, however, feature an advertisement for LexisNexis - along with a link to the online O.R. edition - 98 O.R. (3d) Part 8 Pages 561-640 -itself.

Clicking through, we arrive at a cumbersome, awkward effort to mimic the stodgy look and feel of the old paper version of the O.R.'s.

It is difficult to read. The pages require ongoing zoom adjustments. It was necessary to use a page-format selection to change the default, two-pages-at-once view, which rendered the text virtually unintelligible.

The case text cannot be selected, copied and pasted. It is difficult to view an entire page on one screen in a font size large enough to read.

An attempt to use the Reports' social media sharing function to post the O.R. cover to Facebook resulted in an error message.

And then there were those pages and pages of ads.

Easy to flip through en-masse in paper-form, but a labourious succession of repeated clicks was required to proceed through the advertisement section, until I simply had enough, and used the contents index to skip the ads altogether (as I suspect most readers will).

Ultimately, it is a case of a good idea gone bad. Poorly conceived, poorly implemented.

Which is a shame - what we need is not that complicated.

Lawyers would benefit from a weekly Ontario Reports email containing:
  1. An index of the cases reported, with subject area, concise summary of the ruling, and links to the complete text of each ruling, whether on CanLii or elsewhere;
  2. A listing of the other key O.R. sections - Law Society news, careers, practise resources, tribunal decisions, etc., including highlights of key items.
  3. An O.R. that is current, and does not simply regurgitate cases that have been reported by blogs and the major press months prior. As an example, the Tauber decision, found in this week's O.R.'s, has been available online at CanLii since it was decided on December 23, 2009, and was covered in the National Post on January 11, 2010 - nearly three months ago.
Beyond that, the O.R.'s ads section just won't work in the digital format and needs a complete rethink.

As does the entire format of the, new digital O.R. era.

The Canadian Legal Newswire (subscribe here) provides an excellent model of a legal update newsletter that works. By comparison, the digital O.R.'s take a disappointing step backward in time.

While we applaud the intentions behind the effort, we frankly give this digital incarnation of the Ontario Reports a major thumbs down.

Bottom line is that hard to read, outdated materials will not cut it in 2010.

Even if there are lots of Lexis-Nexis ads.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto


Also see comments today from Slaw, David Canton and Michael Carabash on the digital O.R's.


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