Lately CanLII has been shaking things up. The new search interface, in beta for four more days, is due to replace the current one on September 17. Then there's the hackathon coming up this weekend in Ottawa, where you're invited to learn how to become developers of apps that make use of CanLII's API. And we learn from the recent blog post on CanLII that there's a new forum for CanLII users, where they can share tips and give CanLII feedback. (At the moment it's gathering spam, so that has to be cleaned out and blocked, if it's to work the way CanLII wants it to.)
Finally, I learn from CanLII's Twitter account that they've worked with researchers at http://www.autodeskresearch.com/ to cook up a sample of what you can do with the CanLII API. Genealogy of Supreme Court of Canada decisions – a visual and interactive experience shows you in one glance the linkages among SCC decisions that are created by citations. You need Java installed to work the demo — and, I learn, a 64-bit browser (Safari or Firefox, I on my Mac was told, but not Chrome). Here's the opening visual:
I was unclear about what sort of data other than a global impression I could extract from the demo. Hovering over portions gives you the year and a popup showing a particular judgment, but if there's more to be extracted a bit of instruction would help. Still, the point is, I think, that there are a great many ways you can now make CanLII data come to life and answer questions, ways that transcend the traditional (but useful) text search methods.