4/17/14

Getting Google Glass All Wrong

Image [cc] - Tedeytan
Last year it seemed everyone was gaga for Google Glass.
"Ooooooh, it's a computer for your face!  It's got a camera and can give you directions! It's just like your phone was permanently positioned 3 feet in front of your right eye! Woo hoo! I can't wait to get one!"
I wasn't so sure. I didn't jump on board. I just didn't see the utility. Yes, it's a cool concept, but the functionality wasn't there. Maybe in a few years it would become something functional and interesting, but I certainly wasn't going to waste my money on something that was little more than a half-baked concept.

A week ago Google announced that they were opening up Glass sales for one day only. On Tuesday, if you were willing to shell out $1500 dollars, this pre-beta, sub-functional, ugly cyborg technology could be yours! The one day sale was met with a barrage of negative press. Journalists and bloggers across the world almost universally decried this Google foray into wearable tech as not yet ready for prime time, or elitist technology, or as little more than a toy for wealthy geeks. One Business Insider journalist told his harrowing tale of being assaulted on the streets of San Francisco for wearing his Glass in public. Glass has been banned in some coffee shops and bars. Most tellingly, the term Glasshole has graduated from Silicon Valley/Northern California in-joke to official entry in the American Lexicon. I even heard Michael Strahan say it on Live! (Kelly was aghast.) Boy, when the pendulum swings, that sucker swings hard! By Tuesday morning, it was clear to me that everyone in the world finally agreed with my original assessment of Google Glass. So, I bought one.

You've heard the phrase "that many people can't be wrong"? Well, any time consensus holds that I am that right about something, you can be sure I'm going to seriously question that assessment. The "wisdom of the crowds" does not refer to the crowd's purchasing prowess after all. If that many people, most of whom have never tried or even seen the technology, hate it with such a viciousness, that is a sure sign that there is something there worth exploring.

So Hello World! I am about to become a Glasshole.

Now, I don't intend to wear the damn thing around all the time.  Mostly because I don't want to be beaten up by the poor disadvantaged proletarian children carrying their 1970s-era super computers in their pockets instead of wearing them on their face. ("Down with the face computers, long live the pocket!") But also because, I suspect they will make me look even dorkier than usual. And also, in a nod to all of my privacy lawyer friends who just crossed me off their Christmas Card list, because there are some real, gray area, privacy concerns surrounding wearable technology in public. Our social norms, let alone our laws, have not yet assimilated wearable, always-on, camera computers.

That said, this is happening people! Wearable computing is here. It will only become more prevalent, and we have to learn to live with it.  More to the point, we will have to learn to work with it. While I can imagine any number of futures for Google Glass and its like - everything from laws preventing its use in public, to public distribution for all school children - I have no doubt that one day I will start my working day, not by logging into my desktop computer, but by physically putting my computer on my body. And I would bet that that day is closer to 2020 than it is to 2030.

I understand that Google has a 30 day money back guarantee, so if it turns out that my original assessment (and the rest of the world's since Tuesday) is right, maybe I'll ship it back to Mountain View in the next month. In the meantime, please don't worry about people calling me a Glasshole, I've been called something very similar for most of my life and I probably won't even notice.


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4/15/14

So, What Is Wrong With Law Firm Libraries Today?

There was an interesting question asked on Twitter this morning by Patrick DiDomenico (apparently preparing for an ITLA presentation on the topic.) At first blush, it seemed to be phrased a bit on the negative side, but it really is something that those of us in law firm libraries do need to ask from time to time. "Tell me what's wrong with law firm libraries today."

This isn't about bashing Patrick for asking the question, quite the opposite actually. It is a legitimate question to ask. This is more about addressing what is wrong, while also addressing what is right in law firm libraries today. After batting the question around with some of my law library and law firm administrative colleagues, we thought that this question could be asked of any of the law firm administrative departments. The Library and the Knowledge Management (KM) groups are probably the most venerable to this issue, but all departments, including IT, Marketing, Accounting, Human Resources, Records, and others are under constant scrutiny from law firm leadership to prove our worth to the firm. If we aren't challenged, we become complacent. If we come complacent, we fail to see those changes we need to make until it is too late. It could be asked of any department, but this morning, it was asked of us in the law firm library. So, let's address it.

In defense of those of us that lead law firm libraries, as with most law firm administrative problems, there tends to be a lack of direction in the library as to where it fits in the overall strategy of the firm. For example, the push to "go online" has been the biggest issue for the past 15-20 years, and it has put the library leaders and staff in a situation that is unclear, and quite frankly, unobtainable without 100% of the partners all agreeing to go in one direction. We suffer from the “one-veto” effect of the partnership in that everyone can agree to go with or without a service, but if one partner votes the other way, we tend to get stuck supporting a service that is expensive, time consuming, and duplicate.
 
Hopefully this sets up the stage for a list of (very generalized) things that are wrong with law firm libraries today:
  • We are still debating formats within the library and keeping outdated formats in support of a minority of attorneys (example: formats now include print, e-books, online, databases, and on-demand… each with its own individual cost and demands from individuals within the firm.)
  • Law Firms have not decided how to bring the law library into the modern day structure of a 21st Century firm
  • The primary demands on librarians are to keep costs low, client costs low, and to watch out for the firm’s best interest
  • Librarians are not given the final word on what to buy and what to keep (that causes problems with the previous point)
  • Librarians tend to be the first to feel the cuts when times are bad, and the last to feel the benefits when times are good
  • Librarians tend to be team players and are willing to take a larger percentage of “taking one for the team” than other departments, this leads to libraries becoming easy targets
  • Librarians tend to be very tough on each other (publicly), yet very defensive when attacked from outside (think of it as “I can call my sister a name, but if you call her that, we’re going to fight!)
  • The current Directors of law libraries failed miserably in succession planning. We’ve been waiting for 25 years for the next group of leaders to bring in fresh perspectives and what resulted was the whole library structure got tossed out with the bathwater
  • Libraries (and Librarians) generally have a problem when it comes to the Return on Investment (ROI) piece of justifying their existence
What’s right with Law Firm Libraries?
  • Librarians are constantly looking out for the best interest of the firm
  • Librarians have kept very good control on overall costs (most libraries are less than 2% of revenue, some are less than 1%)
  • Librarians keep costs down to the client (usually by assisting attorneys that forget about those costs until they see it on the bill and have to write it off.)
  • Librarians are constantly looking for less expensive, or better resources that fit the needs of the firm’s practices.
  • Librarians are extremely good at risk analysis for the firm and help save the firm from itself (costs, copyright, access, correct resources, etc.)
  • Librarians share their experiences with each other. Most librarians do not have to trail blaze into a new product or mission or strategy, as we can stand on the shoulders of others that have tested the waters before and are willing to share those experiences (without exposing anything confidential, of course.)
Someone told me the other day that Librarians have a fear of strategy. Perhaps that is true of some, but no one that I would associate in the law library world is afraid of being strategic. I responded to this person that they were painting with a very broad brush and that the librarians I associate with have no fear, whatsoever, of strategy. However, I think we tend to be easy targets from other departments and law firm leadership, and that we roll over too easily at times. We’re at the end of a cycle where those in charge of libraries for the past 25 years are rotating out and failed to create an effective succession for the library to bring in those with the experience needed to understand the library structure, but with the fresh new ideas of where it needs to go from here. This left the door open for those outside the library to come in and have to start from scratch and think that the library needs to be rebuilt from the ground up rather than expand those processes that work, rework or remove those that don’t, and begin building new processes that make the library and the firm better prepared for the future.

So, what's wrong with today's law firm libraries? It's a question you have to answer and supplement with what's right. If you don't, someone else will come in and answer it for you, and they will not be nearly as aggressive on defending what the law firm libraries are doing well.

Thanks, Patrick, for asking the question. I hope this gives you a few ideas to process.

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4/1/14

Six New Geeks!

Before reading this post, please take note of the date it was published. :-)

You have probably noticed that for the last several years, the 3 Geeks have actually been 4 regular geeks and a slew of occasional contributors.  When Ryan came on as a regular geek, we briefly considered changing the name of the site to 4 Geeks and a Law Blog, or maybe just The Geek Law Blog. One of us, and I'm not naming names, lobbied pretty hard for Toby Brown and the 3 Geeks Blog.  Needless to say, we decided that 3 Geeks was a successful brand on its own and we would keep the name no matter how many geeks we ended up with.

Today we are announcing a number of new contributors to our little blog! Yay! We have had extensive conversations with each of them and you will be seeing those complete interviews in the coming weeks, but right now we want to introduce you to your new Geeks and to share a few excerpts from our initial conversations. 

First up is our new feature editor and archivist, Jeffrey Brandt!  In addition to his other duties, Jeffrey will be editing a new newsletter called, Geek Law Stuff You Might Have Missed. GLSYMHM will be a weekly digest highlighting the best of 3 Geeks and whatever Nick Milton writes at Knoco Stories. So, it's pretty much the same as his previous job at PinHawk.

[ed. Unfortunately, the audio and our notes of Jeffrey's interview were destroyed in an ensuing kerfuffle, but trust us, Jeffrey is very "excited" to be joining 3 Geeks.]

Next is Jordan Furlong!
Greg: Jordan, you have been called "Canada's answer to Toby Brown". Now that you're going to be working with...
Jordan:  Wait, who calls me that?
Ryan: Uh...now that you mention it, I've only heard Toby say it. 
Toby: Yeah, I say that all the time.
Greg: I thought it was a thing. It's not a thing? 
Jordan: Definitely not a thing!
Greg: OK.  Never mind.  Moving on...
Next up is Ron Friedmann!  Ron is a long time friend of this blog. Ron will not be writing his own articles for 3 Geeks.  However, as Ron has proven himself to be one of the few people willing to call out Ryan for the stream of unfiltered BS he regularly spews, Ron will be given a counterpoint section at the end of each of Ryan's posts.
Toby: Ron, thanks so much for coming. 
Ron: I'm happy to be here and to do my part to help the Geeks in any way I can.
Ryan: Do we really need this guy?!
Greg: Ron, as you know, we're having trouble keeping Ryan's ego in check.  We would have probably kicked him off of the blog already if it hadn't been for your insightful and intelligent public take downs. We hate to get rid of him, because let's face it, he is the funniest geek.
Ryan: Damn straight!
Ron: Yeah, you probably shouldn't get rid of him. Even though he is very often wrong, Ryan is pretty funny. Without him, you guys would just be a less funny Above The Law.  On the other hand, even with him you're kind of a less funny Above The Law.
Speaking of ATL, we have also managed to convince Brian Tannebaum to end his hiatus from his Above The Law column and to become an honorary Geek.
Brian: Geek!? I'm not a #%@(& Geek! I'm a %$#* Lawyer, you #%^&)!@ moron. What the #%)*$ to you know about lawyering? I've been an attorney for twenty #(!)&@* years. I know what my clients want and they don't need any !$&%*# %#&!)~@!$ technology, they just need a...
We are hoping that Brian will bring a certain je ne sais quoi to 3 Geeks that has been missing from the beginning.


And finally, Bruce MacEwen and Kingsley Martin will be jointly contributing a regular column called, Over Your Head.
Bruce: In order to enhance equity investments, it is absolutely necessary to aggregate annual revenue on an economically sound platform to create unique quality vectors within the firm.
Kingsley: Obviously, I couldn't agree more, Bruce. If we objectively target focused synergies into progressively incentivized alternative supply chains, then we can empower firms to produce standardized products, thereby increasing efficiency and productivity.
Greg: ... I... I definitely understood that last phrase.  Could we just go back... for a moment...?
So please give a warm and Geeky welcome to our newest contributors! Be sure to visit their blogs and follow them on Twitter. It might be a few more weeks before you see any of their brand new contributions on 3 Geeks.

Jeffrey Brandt @jeffrey_brandt 
Legal IT Professionals & PinHawk Law Technology Daily Digest

Jordan Furlong @jordan_law21
Law21

Ron Friedmann @ronfriedmann
Prism Legal

Brian Tannebaum @btannebaum
Above The Law

Bruce MacEwen @BruceMacEwen
Adam Smith, Esq.

Kingsley Martin @Kingsley_Martin
KM Standards

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3/27/14

Congratulations NRF OCOTY!

As a general rule, we don't mention many law firms by name on this blog. On the rare occasions that we do, it's usually because they've done something stupid, or illegal, or they've gone out of business and it's plastered all over the main stream news sites and the rest of the blawgosphere. As a very specific, and very self-preserving rule, we NEVER mention our own firms by name. No one wants an irate CMO as their mortal nemesis.

But once in a great while (never before that I can recall), a firm does something so positive, so remarkable, so worthy of praise, that to not acknowledge it publicly would be to invite karmic retribution to rival the ire of any CMO. And when that firm is my own, the sense of pride I feel is strong enough to empower the breaking of even the most long-standing of taboos.

On Tuesday night, March 18th, the UK organization Music in Offices held the finals of it's biennial Office Choir of the Year competition. OCOTY is the "March Madness" of office choir competitions. Beginning in early February more than 20 office choirs compete in "heats" leading to a semi-final performance in late February and ultimately the finals in mid-March.  This year's final four office choirs were from Deloitte, Dunnhumby, BNP Paribas, and Norton Rose Fulbright.

I am extremely proud to report that Norton Rose Fulbright won the 2014 competition! Our choir, and the competition, is based in London and I'm in New York, so sadly my contribution was limited to cheering on friends and colleagues from afar and watching Twitter anxiously for the results. While I am thrilled that NRF won the competition, and I am very proud of my fellow NRF musicians, I am most excited to see professional services organizations, including banks, accountants, marketing, and, most happily, law firms supporting the arts within their organizations. Large corporate donations to professional arts organizations are great, but supporting your fellow employees who want to sing, or play, or create together, is a potentially transformational act. We expect law firms to have talented lawyers, but when employees are encouraged to express their artistic talents it can give your firm a tremendous boost to creativity and morale.

I have written before that The Arts Create Future Geeks, which is my way of saying creative, intelligent, focused, and capable people. Thank you to Music in Offices for surfacing the latent or  hidden artistic talents in the corporate world.

And congratulations to the Norton Rose Fulbright 2014 Office Choir of the Year!

(You can hear the NRF Choir at 2:00 & 3:27 in the video.  But watch the whole thing, it's only 4 minutes!)
 

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3/26/14

NoCALL Spring Institute Recap

Navigating Rough Seas: Charting a Course for Success

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the annual NoCALL Spring Institute. This year the event was held in San Francisco at a hotel right off Union Square. It was a great opportunity to network with colleagues and friends, as well as, learning from one another through the fabulous programs.
I usually tweet during conferences as a way to keep my notes organized and accessible, but I forgot my laptop power cord, so I had to go the old-fashioned route and take notes with pen and paper. Egad! I wanted to share some of my personal highlights, if I can decipher my notes.
  • Think “Different”—Karen Coyle
    • Karen’s presentation was extremely thought provoking. She is definitely challenging the status quo of the library catalog and how we organize information. As Karen pointed out, alphabetical is the cornerstone of library organization, however, Google isn’t alphabetical and neither is Amazon, yet people find what they need. As she stated, “meaning has replaced alphabetical order.”
    • Karen also showed us the kind of information that could be available using technology and analytics. She utilized WorldCat Identities to demonstrate how information could be presented to the end user. Here is a screenshot of a page for Neil Gaiman:
    • As you can see, there is information about the works authored by Gaiman, works written about him and if you slide down you can even see who is most often mentioned with him. This page is completely interactive. Karen believes in “making connections and surfacing the connections.”
    •  Karen closed with the mission of the library, “not to gather things into an inventory, but to organize things that have been inconveniently packaged”.
  • Context is Everything: Cost Recovery Models in Electronic Legal Research
    • This was a panel discussion with myself, Amy Wright from USF School of Law and Martha Campos from Morgan Lewis. A few of the highlights:
      • Amy detailed the USF placement statistics to help us understand why she focuses on cost recovery in a different way than others. USF sends a large portion of their graduates into public service work, and therefore, the overwhelming majority of students don't really need to understand how large law firms recover costs. I thought this was a tremendous example of "knowing your audience". Amy also stressed her constant refrain of "secondary sources", which I know everyone appreciated!
      • Martha recapped a cost recovery program presented at the AALL Conference last summer. What was most interesting to me was that each of the panel members at that presentation had completely different cost recovery programs at their firms; from none at all to striving for 100%. This says to me that one size does not fit all and it doesn't matter what someone else is doing, it only matters what works for your firm.
      • I spoke about the new research platforms and how the old cost recovery methodologies really don't fit anymore. Usage is measured in completely different ways between the old and new, and current methodologies will have to change as your users start to migrate to these new platforms. Getting ahead of this trend is a great opportunity for information professionals to demonstrate value that goes right to the bottom-line.
  • Law Library Management in Challenging Times
    • This was a panel discussion between Kathy Skinner from Morrison & Foerster, Ron Wheeler from USF and Eric Wade from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This diverse group had great insight into may of the challenges we face today. Here are some of my notes:
      • Kathy spoke about the usage of project management and utilizing the entire team to tackle the transition from a siloed organization to a virtual team that provides close to 24/7 access to services.
      • Eric and Ron both stressed their commitment to the people in their organizations over just about everything else. Ron highlighted professional development as a real priority even in the lean times. It was a good reminder that we are a profession made up of people who can bring great value into our organizations with the right leadership.
      • Kathy gave us a new term for the library coined by one of the partners in their LA office: the loungebrary. The library in that office is adjacent to a lounge/collaboration space, so it has become a integral part of the office.
I would also be remiss if I didn't also mention Loyd Auerbach and his guided chocolate tasting. Loyd is the proprietor of Haunted by Chocolate. In a past life, Loyd was a most excellent Lexis representative and law librarian. Thank you for teaching us so much about chocolate Loyd!

Colleen Cable is a Library Consultant for Profit Recovery Partners bringing the “consultant angle” to Three Geeks.

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