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from late 1998 - 1999 Extensive work with "rationalising" the design and maintenance of the site - close to 90% of the site as a result is automatically generated from various perl scripts that identify what to do with each text. Optimisation for more recent versions of the browsers: Opera; Internet Explorer; and Netscape (in roughly that order). Scripts do large batches. Finally an easy/convenient way to handle tables.

February 1999 Decision made Linux identified as the most attractive way forward. Perl works as it should on the platform. I have had a good time with NT but it is resource hungry. (more recently I hear MS has plans to do something to address its shortcomings in the perl department).

Linux - a better way
a better way

March 1999 Site down. Critical hard disk failure. Have been working on a new site - all texts being generated by perl scripts, which greatly improve the ease of maintenance. A trip to Norway is called for. Question is whether to get the old site back up, or push on to have the new site ready as soon as possible.

March 8, 1999 Ralph Amissah was made a Fellow of the Institute of International Commercial Law, Pace University School of Law.

May 17, 1999 New site is ready, planned hosting in Norway and the US as detailed in the credits at the bottom of the pages.
More efficient techniques used in creating the site.
Those of you who remember the old site will notice the major overhaul.
Time to concentrate on substantive updating and to explore the way forward. (and to do necessary bug fixes.)

May 27-29, 1999 We are (glad to be) back on the air and grateful to the Law Faculty of the University of Oslo for hosting the site. Somewhat streamlined, possibly slightly smaller than we were and for the time being, but technically superior to anything that we have been (construction of the site is fully automated with only one page being manually constructed) and with the potential to become better yet. Wish us well and help the site if you can. Our two home pages are the familiar Lex Mercatoria / International Trade/Commercial Law Monitor - home page (now the only manually created page) and the Lex Mercatoria - auto-generated home page. The site is once again hosted on a UNIX platform (Sun Solaris running Apache) which happens to be what the University of Oslo uses.

June 2, 1999 Site regenerated with first set of "bugs" cleared most documents should now have titles, which are required for meaningful query results from the search engine. (any fresh bugs will be corrected in next update) Also, mail sent to Mail e-mail Ralph.Amissah@lexmercatoria.org appears to have been disappearing into the ether. For the time being this is corrected by use of the mail address Ralph@Amissah.com Mail Ralph@Amissah.com" > e-mail href="mailto:Ralph@Amissah.com">Ralph@Amissah.com >. Other lesser bugs have also been dealt with, though a number remain.

July 9, 1999 Lex Mercatoria will be collaborating with the Australasian Legal Institute (AustLII) in the development of their trade pages for their World Law index and search facility and will be making use of the AustLII search facility. AustLII

July 11. 1999 A new logo / icon for the site Lex Mercatoria

July 12, 1999 Since 1997 the description of the site as "international trade monitor" no longer adequately encompassed the scope of its interest as represented by the links maintained and accordingly adjustments have been made in the description of the site. This site though primarily a legal one is interested in the wider implications of the Net for global commerce. We now describe Lex Mercatoria more appropriately as "an international commercial law and e-commerce monitor" which though still not all-encompassing, better describes the scope of our interest. Of particular interest are uniform rules and open standards. We try to make it easier for you to find useful information related to these themes on the Net. There it is, however we describe it the contents of the site Lex Mercatoria are a polymorphous set, from which we hope you are able to derive some benefit. We will continue building the site and we will continue to evaluate what we provide.

July 14, 1999 There has been quite an extensive update of the site though much remains to be done. For a trial period of three weeks we will try to wean you off our old home page and trust you will be able to find your way about our new one. If your browser supports redirection, you will be redirected to the auto-generated page one minute after the old home page has been fully loaded. Unless there is good reason to reconsider we are likely to phase out the old home page, in time.

Download times for the site would speed up considerably if we dropped the use of tables on long documents, and we are considering this. This is particularly noticeable if you (like myself at present) are not amongst the privileged with broadband Net access.
There are bound to be a few bugs. Not all files have yet been transferred from the old site to the new, though the new site contains a more up to date set of documents. Our old file system was insensitive to case, the new file system is case sensitive, some links may not yet be fully compliant. Patience, these and any other issues will be addressed.

August 16, 1999 Description of the site, extract from description prepared for the CISG Moot Alumni Association Newsletter:

"Lex Mercatoria was begun in 1993 at the Law Faculty of the University of Troms? in Northern Norway. It was originally named Ananse and then the International Trade Law Monitor. It was the first legal website devoted to a particular subject area (admittedly a general and broad one) namely, international trade and commercial law. Lex Mercatoria provides the text of some of the more important treaties, conventions, model laws, rules aimed at harmonizing international trade/commerce, and sets of links to sites that are of interest for (the working of) international commerce. Lex Mercatoria has continued in its original spirit to grow its independent and egalitarian set of link collections in response to a continuous exploration of the use and implications of the Net for international commercial law, international commerce and publishing. Recognising the problems for information management resulting from the glut of information available on the web an attempt is made to organise and restrict the links provided to those that are likely to be most useful in the area targeted.

Lex Mercatoria is particularly interested in uses made of the Net (both in international commercial law and in technology related to electronic commerce) for the provision and development of: open (and harmonizing) standards; and for readily available deep and accurate information.

Apart from the Law Faculties of the University of Troms? and the University of Oslo which kindly hosts the site, Lex Mercatoria collaborates with: the Institute of International Commercial Law of Pace University School of Law, which provides the premier example of the Web being used by an academic institution to research and assist in the promulgation of a harmonizing standard for the international sale of goods through the building of the most comprehensive information available anywhere on the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG); and, the Australasian Legal Information Institute, which has become a legend for revolutionising legal publishing on a continent. We hope to see further positive developments result from our collaboration. Visit the site at http://lexmercatoria.net"

December 01, 1999 Without much attempt at additional promotion or marketing, the site, (modestly sized and for the time being relatively static and hopelessly funded), gets on average about 5000 hits daily, which translates to over 3 million hits annually.

December 06, 1999 Another new interface for the site is under test, the result of another generation of improvement in our site building tools (collectively fondly nicknamed Sisu). Endnote1  Information on the text presentations and navigation is available here. There is much greater consistency in presentation and viewing should have been enhanced and (for most part) made faster, across most graphical browsers and platforms. What we unfortunately do not provide examples of and so you will not see is that it is particularly well suited to the electronic publication of books, and has been tested on several legal academic and practitioners texts of over 500 pages. In parts of the site there are likely to be some "bugs", these however bad they look, should from a technical standpoint be minor to correct.

December 27, 1999 Fine tuning of the site's interface. Reduction of categories on the home page, without cutting down on the information presented on the site. Some relatively minor structural reorganisation of contents and updating of pages. Also corrections affecting numbering of WTA 1994 including addition of plurilaterals and a few other documents on the Free Trade page, thanks to Kazuo Chujo. Numbering of the WTA may change again, (especially likely if corrections need to be made to the plurilaterals). Numbering system changed from using electronic paragraphs { #ep } to text objects { #to }, see the updated site presentation and navigation page. Further refinement of the interrelationship between page generation scripts.

Status as of year end 1999 The document providing information on the text presentations and navigation contains a summary of the year from that perspective which is copied below:

  The site has undergone a facelift for the Millennium, but in most respects our focus with regard to the presentation of documents has remained the same. We hope it results in an improved user experience.

  In 1993 we boldly set out amongst other things:

  "To explore, utilize and demonstrate the potential of the new IT mediums insofar as they pertain to our chosen subject area."

  our top pick We have largely achieved this goal in demonstrating how various complicated legal (and other) documents of different content, structures and sizes can be can be presented on the Net using simple HTML.

  If we have been limited in the possibilities that we have explored and utilized, our path has been selected by figuring out what could be achieved most effectively/ successfully with limited resources. We have stuck to a few basic tools and rules of thumb, and have gained considerable experience in: getting the most out of the basic text markup language of the Web, HTML, without frills; efficient site management; the selection and effective use of basic tools (an editor, markup languages, scripting languages); and how to efficiently maintain cross platform (server and browser) compatibility in our product, through the selection and careful use of interoperable and preferably open standards, and focus of effort on (few of) what we determine to be key complementary technologies. Our approach has been to identify simple, effective and efficient tools and solutions and to get the most out of them. In effect we have been exploring what can be made of technologies that are available to anyone on the Net. We have also kept an eye on other IT technologies that we do not necessarily use but provide for your perusal and benefit through the maintenance of an information technology compendium.

  In the construction of this site our primary focus has remained since the outset (1993) been on presenting texts using HTML in a convenient manner. It has in part represented an experiment in how best this might be done for our purposes. The results remain as good as can be found anywhere for publications using HTML 4.0.

  Our aim has been to be able to provide and create and maintain efficiently high quality usable presentations of texts (legal, academic, practitioner's, & including conventions, rules, contracts) whilst avoiding unnecessary complexity, indeed, so far it has been achieved using the most basic of markup languages on the Net, plain HTML with the help of Perl scripts Endnote2  for its transformation Endnote3  from ASCII.

  our top pick Our 1996 list of design criterion for text presentations has now been met and implemented consistently throughout the site [though a few bugs may still remain]. Whilst most individual requirements set were met as early as 1997, presentations have been continuously improved upon. The rationalisation of how best to achieve consistent presentation across various types of text, and its implementation is a feature of the 1999. Endnote4  An idea of these criterion may be gleaned from the contents of this document.

  The year's changes improve the site and to provide greater utility from text presentations, including: greater consistency between different types of presentation; improved navigation of the site and individual texts; faster loading and better rendition of texts across different types of browser, the main ones we support being Opera, Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, (and we expect Konquerer).

  our top pick The programs that generate the site have been tested on several books (academic and practitioner's texts) of over 500 pages, and the results are particularly well suited for their electronic presentation. The text navigation and presentation features (generated by the site generation program) come to their own on these longer texts, in which it is easy to appreciate the utility of the resulting document presentations.

  our top pick So on the technical front we are now, in a sense, free to set new goals, and indeed may look in a number of additional directions. The site has concentrated on making the most of HTML presentations across most modern browsers, and without making concession to having different presentations for different types of browser. In future we may also present texts as in RTF and possibly PDF, but our primary additional focus will be on XML our top pick and we will look at XHTML. PHP our top pick being open source and designed for cross-platform functionality is of interest. We may if requested go back to having (in addition) HTML presentations without our paragraph numbering. In mentioning these possibilities we perhaps run a bit ahead of ourselves, as far as this text is concerned.

  The preparation of the site is a bit like working with an electronic printing press, it should be possible to correct problems in presentation quite quickly, Endnote5  please report any such problems and annoyances to www@lexmercatoria.net Mail www@lexmercatoria.net" > e-mail href="mailto:www@lexmercatoria.net">www@lexmercatoria.net >

  We hope that this document is for the most part unnecessary and that you find the site useful and easy to navigate without it.

  Always remembering that we remain a small unit and will continue to do what we can. our top pick

Turn of the decade, Century, Millennium Here to end the decade (century and millennium), i indulge myself by providing (with much gratitude), a list of personal heroes for the decade past, for the empowering technologies that each of them has offered and what these have taught me (which are of relevance to the history of this site, and thus at least tangentially to the page that you are visiting):

  * Tim Berners-Lee our top pick (for the www, w3.org),

  * Larry Wall our top pick (for Perl a post modernistic linguists' gift of a written language of non-mystical incantations to perform conjuring tricks on suitably digitized words, - without needing to be a wiz., & as with most of the best things being pretty open ended at the top), &

  * Linus Torvalds our top pick (for Linux)

Linux for hearts and minds our top pick For providing the most worthy and practical example to demonstrate (contrary to the intuition and suggestions of many) how these memes generate a thriving new paradigm: (a) "Open Source" (of Eric Steven Raymond Cathedral and the Bazaar Endnote6  ) to be one of the best and most powerful ways develop and maintain key infrastructural software (in which many have a common interest), all code being available for peer review and improvement, (which not least ensures improved security); (b) Copyleft (of Richard Stallman) as providing an engine for the unification and development of Linux, through the incorporation into the central project of the best ideas; (c) Free Software, (of Richard Stallman) well free to boot, i guess it would not have happened otherwise... (d) Enjoying what you do (in this case Linus Torvalds). Sorry Richard Stallman that i put the Penguin before the Gnu, (& the Camel too) thanks for conceptually and practically making GNU/Linux (a bit of a mouthful) and other serious goodies possible. Many thanks also to the folks behind the Apache web server. We hear good things about PHP as well.

How far beyond key infrastructure, (which like the air we all breath, should, if it can, be free) though, is it possible to follow the Pied Piper? And what are the consequences of these ideas, if widely adopted, for society..? i'm sure i'll return to delete this question later. For those wishing to pursue this further: Open Sources : Voices from the Open Source Revolution - The Open Source Story and Gnu The Cathedral and the Bazaar (or to buy)

  Thank you also to Bill Gates (Microsoft In the early 80's for my first OS, actually we owe him a big one, for achieving the inter-operability of software across most desktops (perhaps we owe IBM a bit for that as well). (Incidentally this we now can and probably should ensure is achieved in other ways than reliance on any single proprietary OS). And i personally owe thanks for Windows NT 3.5 in 1994, the dos/windows series was already a bit tired then).

  Technology publishers

  O'Reilly our top pick (for "The Perl CD Bookshelf" (5+1 of the finest books on Perl on CD in html), Mastering Regular Expressions, Jeffrey E.F. Friedl and "Running Linux" (though isn't a Linux bookshelf (already) overdue?). And other texts too numerous to mention.
On the subject of Perl books Damian Conway's "Object Oriented Perl", 1999 Manning press is another useful addition.

  In the provision of legal information, confining myself to that which web access automatically makes available:

  * Albert Kritzer our top pick (CISG project)

  * Graham Greenleaf and Co. our top pick (Australasian Legal Information Institute - for freeing the dissemination of primary legal information on a continent, and for the repercussions it appears likely that this will have throughout the Commonwealth and (possibly) world.)

  Two projects that you will also find in the credits for this site.

  Meta Ideas/ concepts which may have reached (or impacted upon) me, over a decade late,

  Not sure who to ascribe this to... (Complexity/Chaos Theory)

  * Lotfi Zaddeh (Fuzzy Logic)

  * Richard Dawkin (Memes)

  For the century, this ranks high:

  * Karl Popper (Falsification)

  About all of which, more later, and the most influential book list will have to wait.


Lex Mercatoria -->
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Lex Mercatoria -->

( International Trade/Commercial Law & e-Commerce Monitor )

W3 since October 3 1993
1993 - 2009

started @The University of Tromsø, Norway
hosted by The University of Oslo, Norway
in fellowship with The Institute of International Commercial Law,
Pace University, White Plains, New York, U.S.A.


Ralph Amissah


© Ralph Amissah

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© Ralph Amissah 1997, current 2009, of SiSU www.jus.uio.no/sisu the program, the markup syntax, and exemplified resulting document presentations look and feel, including text object numbering system.
All Rights Reserved.

© Ralph Amissah
1993 - 2004
All Rights Reserved
w3 since October 3 1993

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