It's an amazing world. People and companies compete to provide me with valuable services for free. For example, I use Firefox for my web browser because I think the fine folks at Mozilla give me more value for free than does Microsoft with its Internet Explorer.
The Skeptical Juror web presence relies heavily on the free services provided by others. The site itself is hosted by Blogger. It should be pretty obvious to the casual viewer that I'm using the blogging tool to create a web presence that falls somewhere between a blog and a conventional, more static, web site.
The photos are hosted by Picasa. I have no idea how to post to Picasa. Blogger performs the interaction for me, effortlessly. If Picasa weren't available to me, I guess I would be forced into using Flikr, or some other free photo hosting service.
The many large documents I need to store and make readily available are taken care of by Scribd. Scribd wants to be the YouTube of documents. When you click on a link to a document, and the document opens in the beautiful and useful iPaper format, you are viewing the document on Scribd.
Not only does Scribd store and manage my documents, it allows me to download reference works. While working on the ballistics portion of Byron Case, I relied heavily on Gunshot Wounds by Vincent Di Maio. I guess I could have purchased it in a bookstore for the list price of $134.95, or I could have purchased it new from Amazon for only $107.96. If I was really cheap, I could have bought it used from Amazon for as little as $58.20. Instead I downloaded the book, all 424 pages, as a PDF from Scribd, for free. (Unfortunately for all you late-comers, Di Maio's book is no longer available for free download at Scribd.)
From Scribd, I also downloaded, Forensic Pathology of Trauma by Michael J. Shrum and David A. Ramsay. There is one paragraph in particular I wanted to reference from that book. It has to do with corneal cloudiness and the significance it might have with respect to Missouri v. Case. That book is 648 pages long and retails for $199. I have no idea why these authors are making their books available as free Scribd downloads, since they can charge if they wish, but I certainly appreciate the free material.
And speaking of YouTube, I hope to be putting together a few musically based videos for the site. I've never posted to YouTube, but I suspect they'll go out of their way to make it convenient for me to have them store and manage all my videos.
I touch base with Wikipedia frequently for a first look at a subject new to me. It's the free online encyclopedia. I use Dictionary.com frequently to see if I am using a word properly, or to find a synonym. I've used UrbanDictionary.com just to keep current and ward off old-fogeyism.
The most valuable reference tool is of course Google. I realize that Ask.com and Bing.com want me to use their search engines for free, but they are going to have to up their game considerably to compete with Google.
And don't get me started on Google Maps. It allows me to walk down the streets outside the courthouse building where my trial is going to take place.
One of the new search engines that I have found useful is WolframAlpha. It's mathematically oriented, and probably not for everyone. However, navigate there and enter the following in the search field:
October 22, 1997, Kansas City, Missouri
Then hit the "=" sign to execute the search. WolframAlpha will then tell you many things you might want to know about Kansas City on October 22, 1997. That's how I learned about the hourly temperature, the hourly cloud cover, the time of sunset (by various definitions) and the phase of the moon. Turns out that information is important in Missouri v. Case. Let's see you find that information on Google.
Also I opened a free gmail account, so that you can contact me. It's email@example.com. Actually, the gmail accounts were so reasonably priced, I took two. You can, if you prefer, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Google will automatically forward all the mail sent to that free account to my other free account. So helpful.
The look and feel of the site didn't come for free, however. I contracted with my friend and collegue Ed Lewis to put together a web presence I would be able to manage on my own. Though I paid him promptly, I remain indebted to him for his professional contribution. To see more typical examples of his work, visit him at The Leucadia Project.