As I mentioned last week, I've agreed to write a short essay on how the Internet might affect legal scholarship, and now I have to find something interesting to say (beyond, of course, what I've already written in my Scholarship, Blogging and Trade-offs: On Discovering, Disseminating, and Doing paper). My tentative thinking is to try to limit the question to how the Internet may help the accuracy of legal scholarship -- not necessarily by a vast amount, but at least in some measure. (I define accuracy broadly to focus on helping readers get an accurate view of the world; this can be done by making each article more accurate, by making it easier for readers to see rebuttals to an article, by making it easier for readers to check the article's assertion, and more. I'd be happy to find a clearer term than "accuracy" for this.) Here are a few thoughts I had:
Unpublished sources can now be put online very easily, so readers of an article can check the sources themselves, and thus rely on the original sources rather than on the article's summary of the sources (which, even if accurate, is necessarily incomplete and often inherently misleading despite the author's best efforts). Perhaps law reviews should even insist on this, at least for most sources (setting aside occasional confidentiality or copyright worries), and make sure that the sources are kept in a fixed place so that readers won't need to worry about link rot.
If unpublished sources are indeed put online, this may make authors more careful in their characterizations of the sources.
A more ambitious idea: Now that articles are read mostly in printouts from online sources (whether WESTLAW and LEXIS, where they're just in text, or HeinOnline, where they look exactly like they do printed page), how about having those sources keep track of which later articles respond -- in whole or inpart -- to the article that's being printed or displayed, and link to those articles? Think of that as a Shepard's or a QuickCite for articles.
A related idea: How about trying to develop a norm in which law review editorial boards welcome both corrections and responses to existing articles (or more often parts of the articles), and publish them in a way that anyone reading the original article will see that commentary?
In any event, that's just what I'm playing around with in my head -- I'd love to hear more thoughts that some of you might have along those lines. Thanks!