9/2/08

More on LinkedIn and Lexis

After not seeing much value in the Martindale-Hubbell - LinkedIn deal and after waiting (and not alone) to see more value come from social networking, I admit Lexis may be on to something. What many of us have been waiting to see is some definable business value to come from social networking. There is some value in building up your network, but leveraging those connections into a business proposition has much greater value. LexisNexis owns the InterAction CRM software, having purchased Interface Software. They announced at the ILTA conference that the next release of InterAction (Version 5.6 SP1) will include LinkedIn functionality. Contacts within InterAction can include LinkedIn icons which will pull in the LinkedIn tools, focused on how you and those you know are connected to the contacts. This adds the power of social networks directly into a CRM application. This new connection between InterAction and LinkedIn equals business value. Some firms will be challenged by this value. Social Networks are not universally valued by firms, as they can threaten IT and data security. And they challenge the dogmatic hoarding of contacts by many lawyers. Whatever a firm's point-of-view, overlooking tools that bring value to your firm and clients is not good business.

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9/1/08

Google Chrome (Browser) Released Early

Of course, being a geek, I have to love the fact that Google releases a comic book to explain its new browser. Google Chrome, Google's new Internet Browser, is set for an early release tomorrow, due to the fact that some within Google leaked the information out a little earlier than planned.
From the comic book, and the blog release, it sounds like they are promising the same type of performance that IE 8.0 Beta is also promising. Tab functions that are "independant" (so if one crashes, it doesn't bring down the entire browser); more powerful JavaScript engine; make it work on all operating systems (you know those other than Windows!); and the ultimate promise of faster and cleaner regardless of your operating system.
Now I get to try out IE 8.0 and Google Chrome and test them side-by-side!
NOTE:  I downloaded Chrome today, and so far, it is pretty tasty!!  The only thing I don't like so far is how it handles MS Outlook's Webmail.  The folders are not displayed like they are in IE, and it is not very good to get from folder to folder very easily.  
However, it is very fast, and I love the tabs feature and the way it previews the nine most visited sites on a new tab.  There are also a few plug-ins (i.e., FLASH) that you'll need to get for Chrome to work right on most sites, but the downloads are quick and no reboot is necessary (unlike some browsers....)
I also thought it was funny that one of the Google Beta products called "Lively" will not work at all in Chrome.  You'd think they'd make their own products work right out of the box!

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8/29/08

"InPrivate" Browsing offered by New IE 8.0 -- Skewing Internet Browsing Stats??

[From our friends at Hogan & Hartson] "Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 InPrivate Browsing May Affect Online Activities." On August 25, 2008, Microsoft announced on its Internet Explorer Blog that Internet Explorer 8, for which Beta 2 was released on August 27, 2008, included a new suite of features designed to limit the information stored or shared when users browse the Internet. Collectively referred to as InPrivate and described in greater detail in Trustworthy Browsing – Guidance for Third Party Content Providers (rev. August 21, 2008), a whitepaper distributed by Microsoft to select web publishers and content providers, these new features include Deleting Browser History, InPrivate Browsing, InPrivate Blocking, and InPrivate Subscriptions. If these new features are successfully implemented as they are presently described in Microsoft’s documents, they may have a significant impact on a number of common Internet business practices, including online behavioral marketing and web traffic analytics. August 28, 2008 [View Article]

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8/28/08

LinkedIn Groups Enhanced on Friday!

LinkedIn is expanding the capabilities of its Group Networks by adding some enhancements. Here is the email that I got on Tuesday. NOTE: The enhancements are ready until FRIDAY!! (I missed that part of the message and started yelling at my computer screen when I couldn't find the enhancements.) Here's the announcement: First, thank you for managing your group on LinkedIn. We sincerely appreciate the time and effort you devote to your members, and we know they value it. Together you have made Groups one of the top features on LinkedIn.

This Friday, we will be adding several much-requested features to your group:

  • Discussion forums: Simple discussion spaces for you and your members. (You can turn discussions off in your management control panel if you like.)
  • Enhanced roster: Searchable list of group members.
  • Digest emails: Daily or weekly digests of new discussion topics which your members may choose to receive. (We will be turning digests on for all current group members soon, and prompting them to set to their own preference.)
  • Group home page: A private space for your members on LinkedIn.

We're confident that these new features will spur communication, promote collaboration, and make your group more valuable to you and your members. We hope you can come by LinkedIn on Friday morning to check out the new functionality and get a group discussion going by posting a welcome message.

Sincerely, The LinkedIn Groups Team

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8/27/08

I'm Skipping 7... going straight to (IE) 8

Well, it looks like I'm going to skip over another one of the Microsoft upgrades. Although I've used Internet Explorer almost exclusively since 1996, I somehow didn't get to use the 7.0 version at work because of the amount of "customizations" that we made on the IE 6 platform.
Now it is time for IE 8. I'm going to run home tonight and install it on my personal computer, and then see how many of my apps don't work on it either!! There is a good review of the product on the NY Times blog today.
I'm pretty sure if IE 7 didn't play nice with my 'work' apps, then 8 surely can't plug all the holes! So, now I'm going to have to have an "over-under" bet with some of my IT friends to see how many more months I'll have to stay on IE 6. If it is '12', then I'm taking the over!

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8/25/08

CI Oversight - Paranoia and Limits

Wow... there is a great "conversation" going on in the Competitive Intelligence world over the ethical requirements that law firms should require their CI professionals to uphold. Melissa Ruman Steward, Shareholder in Winstead's Dallas office, penned a NLJ article this week as a response to Ann Lee Gibson's article on 45 CI Tips for Law Firms. Steward suggests that law firms need to step up and proactively create a code of CI Conduct, or even go as far as having the state bar association create the code of CI conduct. Gibson has already come back with a pretty strong rebuttal to Steward's article. I blogged earlier about whether a CI professional could actually be brought up on criminal charges using 18 USC §1030, and discussed the ethical vs. illegal line that CI pros come up against. I think that Steward seems to be a little behind the curve on what is involved in Competitive Intelligence gathering, but she's not without merit in her arguments either. Lawyers don't exactly have the greatest of reputations when it comes to "ethics" (after all, ethics is the shortest class we take in law school). Therefore, her argument that law firms should hold themselves to a higher level of "ethical" competitive intelligence gathering is a legitimate argument. In my opinion, the shifting of this "code of CI ethics" to a regulatory body such as the state bar association seems to be a little bit of an overreaction at this point. Again, we talked about the fact that CI professionals in the legal environment usually hit the "ethical" line long before they hit the "legal" line when it comes to CI information gathering. But, it wouldn't take too many cases of law firms arguing that "what we did was perfectly legal" to start blurring the lines and causing CI professionals to become insensitive to the "ethical" line. Taking arguments like Stewart's too lightly could backfire in the end. My suggestion: It wouldn't hurt for firms to have a CI Ethics Code for their organization and make it understood that CI professionals should be very conscious of the firm's ethical line, and make sure that it is never crossed.

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8/23/08

Back to The Future

You here something once - you notice it. You here it twice and it catches your attention. You start hearing it everywhere and you better pay attention. This is the case with virtualization (a.k.a. Virtual Private Server). This 80's mainframe concept is back and back in a big way. So much that it's even touching the legal technology world. The concept is very simple. Virtualization means creating multiple virtual servers on a single piece of hardware. The technology has evolved to the point that one physical server can host many different servers. Different to the point of having distinct operating systems and the ability to separately reboot. For law firms and anyone else, this means a sharp reduction in server hardware. And it means a firm can set up a server for any number of reasons (e.g. testing, demo's, etc.) very easily. As might be expected, not all software providers fully support virtualization, but most are there or headed there soon. To give an idea of the potential impact of virtualization, the State Bar of California plans on cutting its power bill by $60,000 per year by taking this approach. Needless to say, I strongly suggest you check into virtualization and explore how your organization, be it small, medium or large, can best benefit from it.

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8/22/08

"Completely Electronic Case Law System", Or "Putting Lipstick On A Pig"

My hat is off to the library at Thompson Coburn in St. Louis for putting a spin on getting rid of their entire National Reporter Set (you know those tan books with all the cases in them....) I had to read this article twice when I read how they announced that they had a "completely electronic case law system," and that they "freed up 1,500 linear feet of shelving" in the library so that attorneys could "access [the cases] through their terminals." Now that is some impressive marketing phraseology!!

Don't get me wrong, I've been saying that we are moving to a completely electronic case law system all the way back in 2001 when I talked about it in the AALL publication Beyond the Boundaries. But, we called it by it's less popular name of "getting rid of the books" and "moving the attorneys to Westlaw/Lexis case law searching only." If only I had such a turn of the phrase that some of my colleagues have, I could have put that lipstick on the pig years ago!!

Hmmm.... I wonder how I could spin the outsourcing of legal jobs to India in such a positive light?? Anyone have a suggestion??

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8/21/08

NING-A-LING-A-LING

Well, I've been testing the waters of online social networking and have decided to start my first NING site (but not my last!)
If you haven't used a NING before, the concept behind it is really simple: An online resource that allows you to post messages, events, build sub-groups, and generally share information with others that have similar interests. With my interests being Law Libraries, I joined the lawlibraires ning. This NING was set up by Jim Milles of Buffalo (who is one of the true braintrusts of law librarianship.) And currently, it has over 300 members.
So, borrowing Jim's idea of using a NING for bringing librarians together, I decided to build a NING for my Texas Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. A few minutes (okay, maybe a couple of hours) later, I have the SLATexas NING!! I sent out my invites to my list of members, and within 24 hours, we have 60+ members, 5 or 6 subgroups, and a number of other messages flowing between the members. Not too shabby!! Of course, I drafted Barbara Fullerton in on the whole mess so that she could point out the do's and don'ts of an online community.
I think this is going to be a pretty good tool!!

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8/19/08

Search is as Search Does

Legal KM, like all KM, has two major aspects: 1) Capturing knowledge well, and 2) Making that knowledge easy to access. I found a blog recently that help put #2 into a new light. The blog is called Search Done Right and is produced by Vivisimo, the maker of search engine Velocity. Self-serving as the concept may be, this is a great blog with practical hands-on search tips. These tips are more for KM professionals than users. The light that went off for me as this relates to KM, is that searching is an art as much as a science. Having great KM systems is part of the formula, but adding in the eye of a search guru makes sense. My thought is as a good KM system comes together, it will make sense to bring in a search expert to give input and advice on balancing simplicity with results (a.k.a Google vs. a good librarian). The E-Discovery World is suffering from a lack of search genius by it's own admission. In this example, just using key-words to search is coming up well short of the need to obtain focused search results. I'll be keeping an eye on this blog and watching for further search technique learning opportunities. In the meantime, check out the blog.

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8/18/08

Survey 2.0 -- Telling a Story

I always get inspired whenever I watch a presentation from the TED website. After watching a presentation by Johnathan Harris on collecting and telling stories, I feel that there is a great opportunity for changing the way we collect information. Specifically, I was thinking of how to change the way we do surveys and come back with a way to really tell a story from the results of the survey. You'll have to forgive me for my stream of consciousness here, but I'll try to at least bullet-point my thoughts.
  • Create a list of questions just like you would any other survey -- say a generic survey on available online resources provided by the library
  • Have the participant create an avatar -- no restrictions on the avatar, just point them to a webpage or software that allows them to create an avatar (I'm still trying to find a free/no-registration avatar website... )
  • Instead of rating things on a scale from 1 - 5, create a slider bar that represents the scale of the response. For example, a question could ask "How happy are you with the current set of online resources?" And the scale could start off at "highly depressed" and go to "I'm so happy I nearly wet my pants!"... (or perhaps something more professional if you feel.) If possible, the range should also have a color variation going from blue to red (based on a rainbow scale.)
  • Depending upon the anonymity needed for the survey, you could also track such things as the city, state, and/or region of the respondent. Maybe see if you can capture the environmental variables -- hot/cold; cloudy/sunny; day/night etc...

The results of the survey should do at least two things:

  1. Tell a story
  2. Allow the reader of the story to interact

To see a sample of what I mean, you can visit another Jonathan Harris site called We Feel Fine. I'm hoping that I'm just scratching the surface of this idea, and can actually come up with a prototype of this survey method -- and then sell it to a big vendor like Thomson Reuters or LexisNexis!!.

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8/13/08

Lawyer Referral - Classic Outsourcing

With all the talk of outsourcing these days, it's easy to overlook a tried and true outsourcing opportunity: Lawyer Referral. Marketing is a hot, and becoming hotter, topic for lawyers everywhere. So when looking for a solid marketing idea, I suggest your first look should be with your local lawyer referral service. Well-run lawyer referral programs bring screened and eager clients right to your door. Generally, they advertise in some fashion to clients, screen client calls that come in and then refer these clients to the lawyers on the appropriate panel. The result: you get high value referrals. Good luck finding another marketing opportunity that offers that kind of value. The ABA provides a map-based directory of the better programs from around the country - which makes it very easy to find a lawyer referral in your area. If you're looking for great value for your marketing dollar, check out lawyer referral.

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8/12/08

MySpace... Suicide... Competitive Intelligence?

  • Can a suicide lead to restrictions on using the Internet for Competitive Intelligence?
  • Could a 'click-through' agreement on a company website prevent competitors from using information found on that website?
  • Is Prosecutors' Discretion the only thing that is keeping CI analysts out of the courtroom?

One of my favorite things to do is to monitor the top law firms' websites to see what are the current "hot-button" issues of the day. Kind of my own personal competitive intelligence gathering. I ran across one last week that really caught my eye because it seemed to hit on two different areas that I like, and talked about how a suicide in one area, could cause a ripple effect in the other.

Jim Eiszner, a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, authored an article that tackled the idea of how broadly could 18 U.S.C. § 1030(e)(2)(B) be interpreted if a prosecutor wanted to come after a company's competitive intelligence operations. Eiszner looked at the current criminal litigation surrounding the infamous MySpace suicide case of US v. Drew, where the ultimate "meanie-mom" (Lori Drew) posed as a teenage boy in order to harass a neighborhood girl. The prank ultimately lead to the girl committing suicide, and the federal government bringing criminal charges against Ms. Drew under a statute originally intended to be used against computer hackers.

Eiszner raises three issues that a company should consider in protecting its company and competitive intelligence personnel against criminal liability:
  1. Whenever an employee retrieves information from a website containing a 'click-through' agreement, should you have your attorneys review that agreement before obtaining any information?
  2. Would the posted policies of a website (absent a 'click-through' agreement) cause potential liability on behalf of an employee obtaining information from the website?
  3. Is ignorance truly bliss? Would it be better for your employees to not be aware of the scope of authorization of a website, thus keeping them in the gray area of "inadvertent or careless" access?

One of the first things you will hear when discussing competitive intelligence, is that CI is the ethical gathering of intelligence. There is an ongoing debate on where the ethical line is drawn, and where the legal line is drawn. Usually, the ethical line is reached before you get to the legal line. However, the bringing up of the Drew case may move the legal line so far in that what you think is "ethical" may turn out to be "illegal." And that is a concept that many of us may find hard to follow.

We've all followed cases where prosecutors use RICO statutes, originally intended for organized crime activity, to go after executives; and, using Tax statutes to go after organized crime bosses; so, it shouldn't be a surprise to see a computer hacking statute being used to punish a prank-gone-wrong by a soccer mom. Now that the seal has been broken on § 1030, could we see it being used against someone gathering competitive intelligence?

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8/11/08

A Sign?

Last week I presented for the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC). This is the group that disciplines lawyers across the US. At the invitation of Bob Hawley from the State Bar of California, I have presented a number of times before this group, in what has evolved into a series of sort on going paperless. At the NOBC meeting last year, we focused more on getting rid of paper. This year we talked about living without paper, specifically, using case and document management systems. What struck me this year was the change in attitude of the audience. Last year some attendees were downright disagreeable, wanting to argue the futility of giving up paper. This year, it was all about 'how.' The questions and dialogue were very focused on getting good technology, while preserving the duties and responsibilities of discipline counsel. At the top of this dialogue were numerous questions focused on policy. Which is where the conversation should be. One of my mantras is having policy drive technology - and not vice versa. So it was refreshing and encouraging to see such a shift in such a short time. So in addition to having a great time in NYC, I came away encouraged and re-energized about the possibility for change in the legal profession.

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8/8/08

Hearding E-Mail - Its Better Than Cats....

I've always had this dream that when you die, you get a statistical profile of your life when you arrive at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter hands you a notebook (although recently he hands me an Amazon Kindle), with all the things you've done while you were alive. How many times did your heart beat; How many hours did you spend typing at a computer; Just how often did you really think about sex. So, you can see, that I'm kind of a numbers guy. Recently, it seems that I'm not the only one that is thinking about sex, er... statistics. I've been following a thread on an ILTA listserv about an Outlook plugin called Xobni (pronounced Zob-nee). The initial comments were that it was cool, but that it slowed your computer down so much that it became too burdensome to maintain. But, one post mentioned that she had huge amounts of emails, and that Xobni worked fine. So, I thought I'd give it the once over and see what all the fuss was about. I watched all the demo videos of Xobni, and downloaded the Beta plugin (free, of course) and then let it index my Outlook folders over the weekend. I'm an Outlook Administrator's nightmare. Having about 100 subfolders and about 3 Gigs of email in my .pst file. (Sorry E-Mail Admin guy ... I'm cleaning it up, I promise!!). So, what I did was install it on a Friday afternoon, and left it to index over the weekend. When I came in Monday, it was indexed and ready to test. I did notice that Outlook seemed a little slower than normal at first. But, once I shutdown Outlook and restarted it, everything seemed back to normal (only a little slow.) One of the first things I liked about Xobni, was the fact that it indexed by "FileSite" DMS folders. So, all of those files which I actually did archive were indexed. This was a cool feature, and something that I couldn't figure out how to set up Google Desktop to do. And, the search was pretty fast, without having to open up a new window. So far, I'm impressed. Next I started looking at those statistics I love so much. Xobni has a feature called Xobni anayltics, which is supposed to tell me all the details of how I'm spending my time in Outlook. When I first try it, I can't even get the analytics to run. However, after a couple of times of closing and reopening Outlook, I get it to work. Once I start playing around with the tool, it becomes a pretty good resource in telling me a few traits of my email personality. For example, it seems that I get a lot of vendor emails at 4:00 AM. And, it seems that my two busiest parts of the email day is 11 AM and 4 PM for outgoing emails, and 9:00 AM and 2-3 PM for incoming.

Another feature of Xobni is that it uses the LinkedIn API to connect my contacts with their LinkedIn profile. This sounds like a great resource, and I email my results to some friends, and immediately, one of my 6 friends responds that her information is just flat wrong. It says she doesn't have a LinkedIn account (which she does), and the phone number that Xobni says is hers actually belongs to someone that posted a message to a list serv a few months ago. So, it isn't perfect. But, 5 out of 6 isn't too shabby, so I'm not uninstalling it yet. Although Xobni allows you to correct things like the contacts' phone number and other personal information, it does not allow you to correct a wrong LinkedIn match. I'm hoping that Xobni figures out a way to fix this part.

Besides analytics and LinkedIn API's, Xobni also tracks files you've shared via email to your contacts, and it also shows your contacts' contacts. This last part is a little "iffy" sometimes, and needs a little bit of tweaking to make it better (there seems to be a lot of false contacts.)

Although Xobni isn't the do-all to end-all, it does have some pretty nice features that can help you better understand your email habits. Once you've played around with it a bit, I think you'd find that it can be a useful tool. On a usefulness scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to give it a solid 7.

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8/5/08

The World is Phlat

With apologies to Thomas Friedman, I can't help but marvel at how connected the world is by technology. As I ponder KM and its applications to the practice of law, I keep stumbling upon incredible people with intriguing ideas. One example is the Green Chameleon blog on KM. I'm not sure how I first found this blog (information overload), but have truly enjoyed a number of posts there. I think law firms need to spend more time exploring ideas outside the legal market, and this blog gives great KM ideas well outside what law firms are doing or even thinking about. So in addition to being our first blog review, the Green Chameleon demonstrates how the world is only a few key strokes away. A Brit living in Singapore presents ideas a recovering Utardian with Texan Citizenship applies to a global law firm who then shares them here. Which leads to ...? I should already appreciate this connectedness. But one of the wonders of life for me is the great surprise of learning what I already know. I know ... sounds like another definition for KM. Whatever ... In any event, I suggest you check out the blog.

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8/4/08

KM in Action

I continue to hold out hope that alternative billing methods will gain a true foot-hold in the legal profession. Thus far, my hopes have been dashed. Yet the possibility of this type of change continues to intrigue me. From all that I hear, more sophisticated clients will have alternative billing as a key question on their list of questions. The recent economic troubles have even driven this question to be one of cost savings. As in 'what sort of alternative billing methods can you employ to lower our legal spend?' So what does KM have to do with Alternative Billing (AB)? Everything. The reason law firms always site for why AB won't work, is their inability to pre-determine the costs associated with a matter. "There are too many variables." "Clients will abuse this." "We don't know how to deliver under that kind of budget pressure." KM is the tool that will answer these questions. As I ponder where KM may have its best chances at a firm, mastering alternative billing is an enticing option.

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