The Canada Trademarks Dataset

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I’m happy to announce the publication (on open-access terms) of a new dataset I’ve been constructing over the past few months. The Canada Trademarks Dataset is now available for download on Zenodo, and a pre-publication draft of the paper describing it (forthcoming in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies) is available on SSRN.

As I’m not the first to point out, doing any productive scholarly work during the pandemic has been hard, especially while caring for two young kids and teaching a combination of hastily-designed remote classes and in-person classes under disruptive public health restrictions. I have neglected other, more theoretical projects during the past year and a half because I simply could not find the sustained time for contemplation and working out of big, complex problems that such projects require. But building a dataset like this one is not a big complex problem so much as a thousand tiny puzzles, each of which can be worked out in a relatively short burst of effort. In other words, it was exactly the kind of project to take on when you could never be assured of having more than a 20 minute stretch of uninterrupted time to work. I’m very grateful to JELS for publishing the fruits of these fleeting windows of productivity.

More generally, the experience of having to prioritize certain research projects over others in the face of external constraints has made me grateful that I can count myself among the foxes rather than the hedgehogs of the legal academy. Methodological and ideological omnivorousness (or, perhaps, promiscuity) may not be the best way to make a big name for yourself as a scholar–to win followers and allies, to become the “go-to” person on a particular area of expertise, or to draw the attention of rivals and generate productive controversy. But it does help smooth out the peaks and troughs of professional life for those of us who just want to keep pushing our stone uphill using what skills we possess, hopeful that in the process we will leave behind knowledge from which others may benefit. That’s always been my preferred view of what I do for a living anyway: Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

Platforms, Interoperability, and Academic Workflow

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One of the things I do to feel productive (read: procrastinate) during periods of writer’s block is try to improve my workflow.  (Another is blogging, clearly.)  This largely entails seeking out and tinkering with various software tools to increase the usefulness and accessibility of the research materials I use to write and teach. An e-library of hundreds (thousands?) of articles and books doesn’t just organize itself, you know.  Plus, highlighting and annotating on my tablet is far easier and more flexible than reading on a laptop. And of course, I want to make sure I avoid duplicating or losing my research work no matter what device I’m using or where I’m using it, so I need good cloud storage/backup and synchronization tools too. So on days when the words aren’t flowing smoothly from my mind to the page, I often find myself in a situation something like this:

Workflow Automation, per xkcd

A propos: lately I’ve been tinkering with combinations of software to achieve three distinct goals:

  1. Organizing my library so old sources and notes are easy to find and new sources are easy to add, wherever I happen to be working on a particular day, without depending on an always-on high-speed Internet connection.
  2. Linking my library to my tablet for easier reading and annotation of new sources.
  3. Synchronization and backup storage to propagate any work I do on one device across the entire system and insure it against loss from hardware failures.

And the most satisfactory software solutions I’ve found for these problems are, respectively:

  1. Zotero
  2. GoodReader for iPad
  3. Dropbox

Of course, there’s a problem: two of these solutions will work together tolerably well, but getting all three of them to work together is a tremendous pain.  And this appears to be by design.  Let me explain.

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