The SLD – what did I expect?

I’ve just submitted my feedeback to the SPO on the Statute Law Database as a Public Pilot Phase 2 user. It’s premature to comment publicly in any detail, but here are the substantial points.


Some 75 Acts – many substantial – remain to be loaded on the SLD. Further, the effects of much 2002 to 2005 legislation and all 2006 legislation are not yet consolidated. Nor are pre-2001 SIs yet loaded. It is understood this work will be completed by the end of the year when the SLD will be launched. It is not essential that the SLD is complete before launch as it already delivers far more value than the free public access alternatives available. However, if it is significantly incomplete, it is likely to be compared unfavourably with the commercial alternatives.


An important part of statute law research is the following up of references to other legislation. The SLD links only a few such cross-references in the annotations (and the criteria for those selected for markup is not clear). It would be a huge improvement if every reference to another piece of legislation were hyperlinked. This need not be a burdensome task: hard-coded links are not required; as demonstrated by a number of publishers (including ourselves), it is possible with a good degree of accuracy to recognise statutory citations and mark them up on the fly.


As it stands one can go to the SLD site and find what one is looking for reasonably quickly. However, one of the fundamental principles of the web (one of Engelbart’s Requirements) is that “every object that someone might validly want/need to cite should have an unambiguous address (capable of being portrayed in a manner as to be human readable and interpretable)”. In the context of the SLD such an address would be constructed from the legislation type, year and number. It is currently only possible to address a piece of legislation by its system ID (the Active Text Document ID). So in order to link to a piece of legislation one needs to find the appropriate provision on the SLD and cut and paste the URL including the document ID. But the system can readily map a query for a particular type-year-number to its document ID, and such a system of addressing should be implemented. Then anyone wishing to link to the SLD could do so “blind”.



Don’t you think eBay is wasting its money here?