Email Disclaimer Enforceable?

If you’ve received email from an attorney in the last five years, you’ve probably seen some version of a boilerplate warning/disclaimer in the message footer, indicating that the message may be privileged (or in some cases, asserting that the message is privileged!) and telling the receiver to destroy and/or return all copies if they are not the proper recipient. In the last couple of years, almost everyone has also added a statement to the effect that this email does not contain illegal tax advice (or if it does contain such advice, you shouldn’t use it!) Cumulatively, I’m sure we’ve used gigabytes if not terabytes of bandwidth attaching this text to every email sent.

My question to the world: is anyone aware of such an email disclaimer ever being enforced or held enforceable?

Search Keys For Google Patents

The Search Keys extension for Firefox is perhaps my favorite plugin. I tweaked it so it will work with Google Patent Search as well. The only additional code needed is in the searchkeys.js file:

name: "Google Patents",
test: function (uri) { return"google") != -1 && uri.path.substr(0,9) == "/patents?"; },
testLink: function (linkNode) { return (linkNode.className == "big"); }

I added a new minor version number and posted it here for download. Hopefully the patch will be adopted upstream.

More Medical Openness

Via UH: Another good example of the new blog-enabled openness in medicine that I’ve written about before: a local anesthesiologist provides an impassioned defense of her work.

Twitter’s Value

I’m still figuring out whether Twitter is more than a distraction. It occurs to me that it has perhaps the three most important design elements for a successful new web-based (and particularly social-networking) technology:

  1. Twitter works as a simple general-purpose tool with very little structure determining how, exactly, people are supposed to use it. Compare, for example, with the many social networking sites (Friendster, LinkedIn,, etc.), each of which have a fairly specific idea about how people should use it (dating, professonal networking, and, um, whatever they do on Tribe, respectively). The only limitations on how Twitter can be used are a few aspects that are defined by the medium — basically, messages short enough to fit into an unextended cell phone text message.
  2. Twitter doesn’t duplicate any existing system or medium for communication. Compare, again, the social networking sites, each of which has some version of “email” that is internal to the site. Would I ever want to “send someone a message through LinkedIn” if I actually had their email address? Twitter, on the other hand, doesn’t have an exact one-to-one correspondence with any existing email, text messaging, or instant messaging systems. It’s a sui generis form of communication.
  3. Twitter doesn’t require everyone to sign up to participate. Anyone can follow my Twitter feed without actually having their own Twitter account. This is essential to solving the “critical mass” problem. Of course there are benefits to establishing an account, but as far as I can tell, the only features that you don’t get without an account are those which necessarily would require an account. (Compare, again, most of the networking services mentioned above, where you need an account to view people’s profiles.)

(Add to this, of course, the now standard requirement that Twitter is free, at least as in beer.)

Now, I’m still not exactly sure how best to use Twitter, but there are some interesting commercial and non-commercial applications featured on the Twitter blog, e.g, this promotion from Dell, and this guy “Twittering My Diabetes.”

Craigslist Doesn’t Meet

Via tikirobot, an interesting interview with Craig Newmark. My favorite newly-learned fact: Craigslist never holds meetings.

On the Twitter Bandwagon

Just to prevent people from thinking I’ve gotten old and stodgy, I’ve joined the Twitter bandwagon. Here’s my feed, which also appears in my sidebar. I’m reminded of a Utah Phillips quote, from a different context:

Well, and I’m open to all those things. If you live in California, you’ve got to be open; if you’re not they pry you open.

I’m not sure whether I really agree with Twitter–it reminds me of this interesting collection of postmodern thoughts from n+1 magazine:

The Decivilizing Process

As the specific addressee of any set of remarks becomes less important, in the midst of more and more babble, it will become more and more difficult to remember the special status of listening human beings, in the confusion of shouted orders.

But, hey, it’s worth a try.

Lessig Shifting Gears

Highly newsworthy: Larry Lessig is changing channels.

Windows Tool of the Century

Okay, maybe “century” is overblown, but the True X-Mouse Gizmo for Windows is the best thing since sliced bread (if you use Windows):

Have you ever paid attention to striking difference in the thickness of forefingers in X11/Unix and MS Windows users, respectively? The latter have much more muscular forefingers that often suffer from chronic aches in their joints. They also much more often develop mouse arm, pain in the neck and shoulders, and other troubles known as Repetitive Stress Syndrome and associated with excessive usage of a pointing device. Why?

The Gizmo even solves the classic X copy/paste buffer problem where you want to select text to paste the contents of your copy buffer over it, only to replace your copy buffer with the newly selected text. Linux could use such a solution, as well!

Parmet on Public Health and Individualism

Via Jason, my brilliant former Constitutional Law professor Wendy Parmet weighs in on the XDR-TB scare. Unlike most coverage, Professor Parmet brings out the big picture of how the incident fits into a larger flawed public health policy:

…It is trite but true that in America we admire individual self-sufficiency and rugged individualism. Not only do we admire this “taking care of number 1” attitude, but public health has encouraged it. Over the last several decades, public health has emphasized the role that individuals can and should play in determining their own health. Indeed, every day of week, we are bombarded with messages about how we can do this or that to take care of ourselves. Sometimes the message extends to what we can do for our families. Seldom are we told what or how we can do for unnamed others.

Even infectious disease policies perpetuate this myth of self-control. We are told to vaccinate our children to protect them. We are told to help ourselves by getting a flu shot. And the federal government provides us with information about how we should prepare to help ourselves and our family in the event of an influenza pandemic.

This “privatization” of infectious disease control is even evident in the U.S. approach to quarantine. During the SARS epidemic, governments in Canada and in Asia quickly realized that quarantines would not be effective without income protection. So laws were passed to assure that people would receive compensation while under quarantine. In the United States, in contrast, despite all the efforts that have been made at public health preparedness and public health law modernization, income replacement remains off the table (the Family and Medical Leave Act only guarantees unpaid leaves for some ill employees). Perhaps even more astonishingly, in its proposed quarantine regulations, the CDC failed to ensure that it would provide all necessary health care to those it quarantined. …

Coulton on Mix-a-Lot

Via Digiphile, the inimitable Jonathan Coulton (mentioned here before) performs my new favorite version of Baby Got Back:

I hesitate to embed the original Sir Mix-a-Lot version. Instead, here’s a link. Potentially not safe for work.

Also via Digiphile, Love 2.0, perhaps the first variation on the 09F0 meme to make me laugh out loud.