Santi Siri asked about “understanding.”  He said it appears that Prose Objects solve the issue of legal codification, but how to scale understanding by non-experts?  The short answer might be that codification allows the inexperienced to follow paths beaten by the more expert crowd.  Here is a longer answer:

Codified legal text is only one layer in the ecosystem. Prose Objects provide a comprehensive approach to legal text and allow development of object models for relationships, but they are not a comprehensive solution.

Other layers include:

Presentation:  Visual clarity.  E.g., Helena Haapio (Finland and IACCM.com) and Margaret Hagan (Stanford) work on visual approaches to comprehension.  Helena and her colleagues have done some very good work that ends up halfway between text formatting and flow diagrams, with visual markers.

Code:  Code is likely to be what we call Smart Contracts in the Ricardian paradigm.   It includes decision trees and the like. The parking ticket systems, or the app made for Syrian refugees to navigate the German aid and immigration process.  Or David Colarusso’s http://www.qnamarkup.org/

Commentary and recommendations:  User feedback and expert commentary. Like Airbnb ratings for quasi-hotels and Uber for quasi-taxis.  Also like product reviews in journals and like formal legal commentary and recommendations from advocacy, trade and bar groups.  At the most formal, this commentary can be like Creative Commons licenses, with a “human readable” layer.  These can be integrated into CommonAccord data or be external. Hashed term URLs based on IPFS or similar would make external commentary very easy to find via search.

Model documents, Restatements, legislated terms:   The recommendations of Y Combinator, the NVCA.org and others for startup are an example – http://source.commonaccord.org/index.php?action=list&file=F/US/00/Agt/Startup/.  The INCO Terms are an another end.  And there are thousands of similar projects.  This is a very old, very incomplete list of a few: https://github.com/CommonAccord/Model_Document_Projects/blob/master/List.md

Measurement:  Ratings and weighting.  How often is something used, updated, forked, etc. This probably has two parts.  One part can be done on Github or like on Github.  That is the public part.  Another, equally valuable part could work like Waze or other graph weighting systems.  The difference is that uses will largely be confidential and so aggregations of the activity will have to be done by communities rather than system-wide.

Interface and Integration:  It will be really helpful to have apps that allow good handling of the transaction interactions.  That includes all of the current contract management systems (CMS), ordering systems, payment systems, merchant and bank websites, etc.  Each of these has an interaction model and produces one or more records of the transaction.  These records should be shared with both parties, and the Ricardian paradigm and CommonAccord Prose Object is an approach that allows that kind of sharing.   Much of this interface work will start from existing systems.   Organizations using these systems might use CommonAccord only as a way to share legal text, instead of each organization creating and maintaining its own.  Users would get the benefit of existing integration and knowledge management, but the legal part could be codified.

Interface and integration work can also start from Prose Objects as additions to the CommonAccord code (pull requests gratefully entertained).  At one end, the “Xray” view that we had in a prior version allowed a very good editing experience, and let the user go right to the origin of text.  Cmacc Transact is also doing work on code.  https://github.com/cmacclang.  Integration of Prose Objects with Smart Contracts, for instance with the Hyperledger Project seems a royal path to full P2P.

Analytics:  Machine learning allows extraction of practices, best and otherwise, from collections of documents. In the public or in private. E.g. Ravn.co.uk, KMStandards.com.

A bullet-point view of layers might be:

  • Interface – how the user interacts with others in transacting.
    • This includes the choice of information to present to the user, the organization of that information, the work flow and similar interactions.
  • Integration – with other parts of the transacting environment, including systems for ordering, payments, CRM, etc.
  • Prose:
    • The “lawyer readable” codified legal text;
    • Short form “human readable” explanations
    • Icons and other graphic aids (while not “prose,” these symbols are handled as prose.
    • Official Commentary – “official” means merely that is is by the authors
    • Commentary by others
    • Annotations – examples of uses, including court and arbitrator decisions
  • Code:
    • Abstract Smart Contract Language – needed in order to integrate with systems such as payments, CMS, etc.  Individuals and organizations need to be able to manage their transaction histories offline.
    • Smart Contract implementations – in the various languages and platforms.
    • Integrations with transaction systems.
  • Measurement – conclusions drawn from use of the Ricardian system.  Feedback.
  • Analytics – conclusions drawn from transaction activity outside the Ricardian eco-system.  Notably, the kind of rapid codification that can come from an organization’s or a communities actual contracting forms.