The Week for New (News) Aggregators

Seems there are a lot of "First To Market" believers running news aggregators. That became apparent when not one, not two, but three different news aggregators launched "beta" versions of their products to the public this week. I've been playing with two of the aggregators - Google News Timeline and NewsSift. The third product, SkyGrid, launched a media blitz (Scobleizer, Washington Post, and TechCrunch) about how they were opening up their product, but in my opinion fell flat on their face when you later learned that it was a private invite only, and apparently I couldn't get my invite in fast enough. If anyone at SkyGrid wants me to do a review of the aggregator, then send me one of those valuable private invites!!
Let's look at Google News Timeline:
Visually, this immediately appeals to me. I like the columns set-up, with each column representing a different date. Video and images are build right into the results, and it is pretty easy to see what information you have at your fingertips. The video pops right up on the screen and plays without having to launch to another webpage. I'd like to see the images do the same. Currently, the images are pretty small, and if you click on them, you launch to another page.
Search options seem to be consistent with typical Google News searches. You can search for keywords, phrases, etc. Plus, there are some advance search options that you can select -- such as specific news sources, dates, blogs, magazines or media type.
Google News Timeline is a great "start", but I'd like to see more. The very first thing I'd like is the ability for me to send a search result to someone. Currently, I could not find a way to send a link to a search result (but, if I'm wrong, please let me know.)
NewSift is a product from the folks at FT.com. Right away you can see what they are trying to do with the search tool by breaking down five different categories along with the search term text box. Enter in a term like "Banks", and you get some suggested categories to either use, or add to your search. I like that it is set up to be "suggestive" and that it doesn't actually take over my search by putting the additional categories in automatically. I'm hoping as the product matures, there will be more topics available based on the terms you enter. For example, I put in the term "lawyer" and I get no suggestions in Business Topic or Place categories.
The search results are very clean and easy to interpret. The results do not contain video or images like you see in the Google News Timeline, but do give you some pie chart information that breaks down the results by six different categories. The charts then give you an opportunity to narrow the results by clicking on individual categories. This type of post-results filtering reminds me of the way Factiva results work. You can also expand, refine, or remove portions of the search without having to recreate your search from the beginning.
NewsSift also allows you to send a results link by copying and pasting the results URL. So, a researcher can do a search and send it on to the requester pretty easily. There isn't an RSS option, but I'm hoping that they add that at a later date.
As for SkyGrid:
There's a section set aside for a review here ______________. (Although, Martha Sperry did a review of the product over on The Advocate's Studio.
Go out and test them! If you have any other aggregators that you use, please list some of them in the comment section below.

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Brand Obama: A Marketing Machine

Most presidents of this country have tons of media exposure, of course, around election time, at the inauguration and State of the Union Address. Usually it trails off afterwards except for sporadic events in history, exciting legislation or regularly scheduled press conferences. Not with Obama—he seems to be on television many times a day along with a spattering of talk shows form Jay Leno’s Tonight Show to 60 Minutes. Haven’t found stats on the number of press conferences he has held but it is probably staggering and more than any other President, to date. Plus, he has a weekly White House video address, a White House blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Let’s not forget the merchandise. John F. Kennedy has a watch, coin, bookmark, etc. And all presidents have books and videos. But President Obama has more merchandise than any other president we have seen: An Obama Chia planter, bobbleheads, iPhone case, shirts, stickers, posters, watches—the list goes on to even a collector series Obama Hot Sauce. Obama mania! While I understand the allure of the new President of change, one can’t help but wonder is he over exposed? With only a few months under his belt, it is hard to say where this exposure will lead. Will the media and merchandising mania continue over his term? Is this a tactic of his White House staff? Unfortunately, with all this marketing and public relations, he is being analyzed and scrutinized more than ever at every turn. When you put yourself in the media spotlight, you are open to everyone’s opinion&emdash;president or not. K. DeLia is responsible for the marketing and public relations activities for professional services firm to the energy industry. With 15 years of strategic marketing and business development execution, she has successfully marketed both small and large businesses in a variety of industries. Follow her: www.twitter.com/katdelia.

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Does Web 2.0 Dilute a Presenter's Message?

While monitoring Canada's LegalIT 3.0 conference, I noticed something -- I've seen all of this before.
Let me start from the beginning...
I'm a conference "lurker". By this, I mean that I try to find out what's being said at conferences that I'm not physically attending. I'm able to do this because those people that are actually attending the conferences are nice enough to pre-plan a Twitter Hashtag for the event, and they 'tweet' the highlights throughout the day. The "hashtag of the day" today is #legalit. (note: the link goes to the TwitterFall website which has a very, very cool method of following these types of hashtag or keyword searches -- check them out!!)
I'm all excited about learning what , , and are going to tell us about social media and Web 2.0. Then the hashtaged tweets start coming in, and I see the same information I got while monitoring LegalTech #ltny or Legal Marketing Association #LMA, or the ABA TechShow #techshow.
This isn't to say that the message is wrong, but if I'm seeing the repeat of the same message at each conference, chances are, the people attending the conferences are also seeing the same message. The presenters are facing an audience that ranges from social media novice, to social media experts. Judging from what I've seen through the monitoring of hashtags, they are keeping the message focused on the social media novices.
After some thought on the subject of presenting to the bottom vs. presenting to the top vs. presenting to the middle, I've decided that probably presenting to the bottom is the right approach (with some carrots thrown in from time to time for the middle and top tier.) But, the present should now assume that he or she will need to have a more informal meeting with the middle and top group after the session. Not only does this give people a chance to go grab a coffee (or, my preference, a beer) at the end of the day, it presents a great opportunity to network with social media peers in a Web 0.0 way (you remember face-to-face, right??)
There are two obvious advantages of having the two-phased presentation approach, and a third no-so-obvious reason. First of all, it helps educate those new to the social media concept and encourages them to stick their toes in the water. Secondly, it gives both the presenter and the experts in the audience a chance to bounce ideas off of one another in an informal setting. And lastly, it makes lurkers like myself get off the hashtag monitoring, and actually attend one of these from time to time.

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Why Ask Why: Building Law Firm Web Sites

Online marketing for professional services, and in particular law firms, is a difficult proposition. Not only do legal online marketers have the challenge of overcoming lawyers' sensibilities about legal advertising, we have to contend with 50 states bar's advertising rules. Then after dodging these two bullets, we are called to measure what may, at first blush, seem to be immeasurable: reputation, influence and persuasiveness. Neil Mason's ClickZ article, "Metrics for Non-Transactional Web Sites" brought me back to the early days of my web's development when I would ask lawyers, "why do you want a web site?" In those days of yore (!), law firm web sites appeared to be knee-jerk reaction to what their peers were doing. But, if lawyers wanted a successful web site (or in this day and age, a successful blog), we had to decide where we were going. If there is no end-game in mind, we will just be wandering around. This is even more true in the vast wasteland of the web. Many law firms and lawyers struggle with this question: why do we have a web site? In a nutshell, the answer is one, or a combination, of the following:
  1. Sell a product
  2. Display an online brochure
  3. Generate leads

Once the decision, it will color a site's lay-out, design and content. And it will determine how we measure a site's success.

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Ashton Kutcher v. CNN: Social Media Lessons from Celebritude

I am in awe of Ashton Kutcher.

Ok, yeah, he's cute. I admit it; I was charmed by his dopey good looks in That '70s Show.

But after watching the 31-year old Ashton Kutcher on Twitter and the sway he has, I now believe that man is a marketing genius.

Yet another very successful college drop-out, Ashton Kutcher has managed to leverage his own cult of personality into a social media sensation. Right now, Ashton (@aplusk) and CNN (@cnnbrk) are in a race to reach one million Twitter followers.

Followers are basically Twitter subscribers who are tracking Kutcher's own Twitter entries. In the first place, both Ashton and his wife Demi Moore are both on Twitter. Ashton, going by user id @aplusk, and Demi, going by user id @mrskutcher, have made their own little reality show on Twitter.

Every day, Twitter followers watch them interact with each other, their family, friends and, if you are lucky, a Twitter follower. Ashton and Demi are, as @glambert once said, their own paparazzi. But it gets better: Every Twitter profile has the opportunity to link to your web site of choice.

Most people choose to link to their blog or company. Actors will often link to their filmography.

But Ashton, who I believe is at heart an entrepreneur, links to BlahGirls.com. What's Blah Girls? A portal to "an interactive, animated web video series and celebrity gossip blog." Blah Girls is owned by Blah KL-DG, LLC, which is co-owned by Katalyst Media and David & Goliath, Inc. Katalyst, founded by Kutcher and his production partner Jason Goldberg, create original content for digital media, tv and films.

The company has produced the FaceBook Video series "(Kat)al+yst HQ", tv shows "Punk'd", "Beauty and The Geek", "True Beauty" (a co-production with Tyra Banks), as well as the movies "The Butterfly Effect" and "Guess Who." David & Goliath, Inc. founded by artist-entrepreneur Todd Goldman, is a $90+ million teen apparel line.

Kutcher spotted his Twitter opportunity when he noticed that: 1) he was fast approaching on one million followers, and 2) he and CNN were neck and neck. In the fashion of his personna of slacker/football player, Kutcher looked us straight in the eye and promised that if he beat CNN to the race, he would "ding dong ditch" Ted Turner.

Last night I watched as Ashton gained 1,000 followers in 15 minutes, then 10,000 in an hour. So what does one million Twitter followers mean to Ashton and CNN? Two million sets of eyes. Both "entities"--because Ashton is but a brand--are in the media business.

Both Ashton and CNN want you to watch them. Because, as all of Hollywood knows, eyeballs equal dollars. So what can we as legal marketers learn from Krutcher's social media wizardry?

First, social media is about interaction: Twitter is much more interesting when watching two people interact online than a lone person shouting out into the vast TwitterSea.

Second, personality matters.

Third, we, as individuals, make the web interesting. And, as Ashton suggests, in the arena of social marketing, "we actually become the source of the news, and the broadcasters of the news and the consumers of the news."

What Ashton demonstrates with his Twitter War with CNN is that "Social media and social news outlets can become as powerful as the major news outlets." We have the power.

NOTE: (from @glambert): At 10:42 I checked the stats, and was temporarily amazed that Kutcher had not only passed the 1 million mark, but was actually approaching the 2 million mark.

But, then I realized this was another one of the Twitter glitches.

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War of the Words: News Corp & AP Buildings News Portals

Last night, at 10:17 PM EDT, the AP made formal its previously stated public announcement: they are going to start monetizing content by into a subscription package. New Venture Aims to Introduce Fees for Online News, AP press release. This morning, at 12:07 AM, News Corp announced that they are building a global content portal to join all of Murdoch's media together. News Corp to Launch Global Content Portal, FT.com. News Corp is stating it is collecting their massive group of reporters to streamline content sharing, it will also put them in a position to begin controling access to their content. Coupled with AP's announcement to create a subscriber-based news portal, it looks like both Rupert Murdoch and Tom Curley are making good on their promises. UPDATE: According to press release put out yesterday by Journalism Online, Steven Brill--media founder of Court TV, American Lawyer and Brill's Content--has joined up with former WSJ exec and former cable exec to create a news portal to facilitate content flow from newspapers to online mediums via licensing agreements. Did I call it or did I call it?

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BioTweeps - Biography Searching Hints and Tricks for Twitter

"Social" - (adjective) seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
"Networking" - (noun) A supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.
I've been getting a lot of questions lately on how to search the biographical information of people on Twitter.
Here are a couple of the types of questions that friends have asked me:
Q: Is there a way that I can search the bios of people that follow me so that I can find out which of my followers are from (insert bio fact here.)
Q: Is there a way that I can search the followers of someone else so that I can find additional people I would like to follow?
Although it would be very smart of Twitter to have a good biosearch tool (along with some good analytical tools, too - hint, hint), there isn't a built in search tool from Twitter that allows you to do it. Fortunately, it didn't take me very long to find a couple of great resources that let you search biographical information from Twitter users.
Twellow is still a great Twitter biosearch tool. See my previous Twellow review to see some of the great resources that Twellow lets you search. One additional resouce that I didn't mention, was that you can log into Twellow with your Twitter username/password, and find out additional information on your followers.
TweepSearch is a very good product that has taken upon itself to index the Twitter biographical information that Twitter should have done itself. Damon Cortesi is the brainchild behind TweepSearch, and he has some great services (like TweetStats) that he's created for Twitter analytics, too. TweepSearch allows you to search amost 2 million Twitter biographies. It also leverages that Twitter API to let you see which of your search results are following, or are not following you already.
So, let's say that I want to find out which of my followers are "lawyers OR attorneys OR barristers" but not in law school. This is a two-step process:
1. Put in the Twitter username you want to evaluate:
2. Now put in the search terms you want to locate within your friends or followers:
It doesn't have to just be those that follow you. It can be anyone on Twitter. So, if I want to run the same search on Kevin O'Keefe, I can do that too. Plus, I can also see which of those I'm following or not.
NOTE: Add "only:friends" or "only:followers" if you only want to search 'Friends' or only want to search 'Followers'.
There are a number of other advance searches that you can also do on TweepSearch:
  • Name Search: I want to find Twitter usernames that are "lawyer" related. (name:Esq. OR name:Lawyer OR name:Legal)
  • Location Search: Put "location:" and the name of the location (location:Houston librarian)
  • "But Not" Search: Put a minus sign "-" in front of words you want to exclude ("law firm" -lawyer)
  • Proximity Search: We librarians love this type of searching that allows you to find words within a few words of each other. However, in the 140 character world, this may have limited value ("security law"~3)
Bio Searching tools like Twellow and TweepSearch are great resources to help you find people on Twitter based on their biographical information. I also suggest for those of you on Twitter that put garbage in your bios (such as "I'm too complicated to explain in 140 characters"), it may be time to put something a little more meaningful in your bio if you want others to find you.
Happy Hunting!!

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Twitter versus Google: Link Endorsement

Scott Karp, co-founder & CEO of Publish2, Inc, recently published a blog on How Google Stole Control Over Content Distribution By Stealing Links. In the war between print and online content, he makes a valid point: Google's role is to not steal content but to promote links. Taking this point one step further, then, Twitter brings even more value to online search than Google. On Twitter, individuals--and more likely than not, experts in their fields--vet and identify relevant links. FOR FREE. For instance, I would more rely on my friend @Glambert’s recommendation to Karp's article than Google’s top search results for "Google stole links." Because I value @Glambert’s opinion, I believe his endorsement. On Twitter, those that I follow are my influencers. I have self-selected my own personal panel of experts that I choose to trust. They tell me a link is good and they prove it over and over again by continuously recommending good content, they are golden to me. This, in a nutshell, is the beauty of Twitter and the threat to Google.

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Online Advertising: Caveat Vendor

I was listening to a podcast by some new Twitter friends' podcast last night, called the Extraordinary Everyday Lives Show, in which they were discussing online advertising. EEL, celebrating its third year online this month, is a regular podcast series run by Dave Wallace, Kent Newsome and Mike Seyfang, and covers all things technological. From blogging to mashups, they've got it covered. So I listened with great interest when they began discussing Eric Clemons' Tech Crunch article, Why Advertising Is Failing On The Internet last night. I don't disagree with several of EEL or Clemons' premises: ad revenues are down and, as a general rule, people don't trust advertising. But I think both EEL and Clemons are a little myopic in their argument. I counter that for advertising to be fully functional it must be done more holistically. Yes, I agree, online advertising is declining. But it is declining in a way that the gold rush declined. The internet was a new frontier ten years ago--it was free-for-all. Literally. Businesses would pay for ANY kind of online advertising to just be a part of the game. "Boy geniuses" were raking in adult dollars for posting hyperlinks on web sites and trading site names like baseball cards. But now the internet, and its audience, has matured and settled down. Buyers are more sophisticated and businesses are demanding more results for the dollars. Businesses are asking advertisers for metrics, measuring ROI and reading the analytics. Marketers, like me, are analyzing the productivity and effectiveness of their online marketing efforts and asking hard questions about how advertisers are measuring results. Marketers are seeing, with a mixture of amusement and weariness, that no one online advertiser measures online traffic the same way. Businesses have become more sophisticated and demanding better answers and advertisers are not able to coherently and intelligently respond. In fact, in true "Dan Draper" fashion, some of our online advertising channels are walking away from the sale because they cannot justify the ad spend to us. Business's naivete and wonderment at the internet is over. We still love the vibrancy of online art and flashy flash pages but know that when we started examining our own numbers these ads did not deliver the results we needed. So, now with 10 years of legal marketing under my belt, which thankfully has corresponded with the 10 years of internet pandemonium, the dust has cleared and I have a clearer vision of just what does online advertising mean. Online advertising is a channel. It is just another medium that exists alongside TV, radio, print and good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Any marketer worth their salt will never rely upon any one advertising medium. Because, think about it, marketing is war. Why do you think they call it a "marketing campaign"? To properly execute any campaign, there must be a a goal, a strategy, a task force, a plan, soldiers and ammunition. In a marketing plan, we will spend months developing and refining prior to execution, lining up our ads and educating our campaigners. And, marketing professional services and law firms is even more difficult: we don't even have a product to sell (by the way, this was an online business type that Clemons failed to cover). As legal advertisers, we have the unique challenge of marketing services that, prior to the 1980 Bates case, we couldn't, by law, even advertise. As it is, we still run the risk of violating ethics rules that are unique in 50 different states--let's not even mention the international legalities. And don't forget that we still, in this day and age, must persuade lawyers who still believe that any form of advertising or marketing is crass. So how do legal marketers promote our lawyers in today's marketplace? How do legal services fit into the online community? How do law firms position themselves online to maximize their exposure with out violating the market and their own sensibilities? For, remember, at the end of the day, the only thing that is of real value to a lawyer is his reputation. And the service that lawyers sell is that reputation because, potentially, his reputation can stop a case in its tracks. A lawyer's reputation, intelligence, personality and persuasiveness is what wins a negotiation, a trial and closes a deal. Try marketing THAT online. We, as legal marketers, learned very quickly that it "takes a village" to market a law firm. There is no one channel that will make a person think when trouble hits the door, "Oh, I better call Firm XYZ." Instead, legal marketing demands a consistent stream of a sophisticated blend of print, television, radio, online and face-to-face encounters. The ratio in that blend may change over time as measurements become more sophisticated and new ingredients, like Second Life or XML radio, may be added. But marketers will never stop using any one of these channels. Print is still viable; maybe not in the manner we are used to using it, but print will always have its place. Online is still viable. It is no longer the "free-for-all" it once was but it, too, has its place if an ad company has accurate metrics. Because, in the end, that is what is needed: consistent metrics for measuring ad traffic. Until all the web analytics tools and advertisers develop a consistent way to measure their ad rate, buying businesses will not trust them nor wish to invest ad dollars for services that don't deliver. So to turn a phrase, caveat vendor.

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Pricing Against the Market - How To

In the last segment on How To Alternative Bill - I focused on budgets and understanding your costs as they relate to alternative fees. Although related to pricing, that discussion was more about the ability to drive profitability. The market sets prices, but the costs of delivering your services under those prices determines your profits. So let's talk about pricing. Markets set prices through the interaction of buyers and sellers. But how does the market set prices for legal services? Last week I was researching two different subjects that brought this idea into focus for me. On one hand was a post about how law firms have just kept raising rates (a.k.a prices) each year and the other hand was an article talking about the controversy involved in "mark-to-market" practices. Mark-to-market is the practice of setting price by occasionally reaching out to a market and asking for buyer/seller interaction. Many markets set price continuously (beer and pretzels are two examples). Some markets need to take a more manual approach and set them when deals occur - thus the mark-to-market concept. So how are legal fee prices set in the market? The answer: they aren't. Billing rates are set in the market, but for the most part there is not a market mechanism for setting fees for most types of legal matters. The closest thing we have is the "gut" feeling mentioned in my prior post on budgets. So when you go to a client and ask them what they think is a fair market price, they generally shift the conversation to rates and hours. Because that is what the market has valued and priced. So what the legal market could use is some mark-to-market like benchmarks when it comes to pricing. First thought - I will be rich if I figure this out. Second thought - where does this market information exist? What would be nice is market information about the price of a trial or the price of discovery in a category of litigation. I know - most lawyers will say there are too many variables involved. More accurately there are a range of variables and thus a range of prices. This 'range' concept is not unique to law practice and as such is not an insurmountable problem. Ultimately we would benefit from some form of market to set prices on fees (versus rates). The old fashion method is offering up a sell price and seeing how buyers respond. There are some emerging examples of this. But until law firms offer up pricing by fees and clients can respond within some defined market (even a mark-to-market styled one), we will not have a pricing function. OK - so this post hasn't really solved the pricing problem since there isn't a market to set prices against. Hopefully it has provided a better definition of why the problem exists and one idea for addressing it.

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The True Measure of E-Mail Success

According to a 2009 Use of Analytics in Email Marketing Campaigns Report by the online marketing company eROI, 20% of the 500 e-mail marketers they surveyed do not track the results of their e-mail campaigns. I was struck by eROI's analysis of their survey results because they are the only e-mail metrics company that have said: Open rate, as mentioned earlier, is not a reliable metric. Click rate is better, but unless you can tie those clicks to dollars, campaign ROI can still be a little tough to prove. However, the ‘‘brand engagement value’’ of a click is extremely important and often discounted. Another major opportunity missed is conversion tracking (emphasis added). eROI suggests that companies should focus on conversion rates but, according to their survey resulsts, 1/8th of all companies engaging in online marketing don't even measure it. eROI got it right and it is something that we, as online marketers, need to drive home daily: did your e-mail cause the recipient to act upon the e-mail and respond to a call-to-action? When designing an e-mail campaign, ask yourself three questions:
  1. What is this e-mail's business goal?
  2. What activity do I want the reader to perform after they read my e-mail?
  3. How can I measure whether they performed this activity?

As my team knows that I am fond of saying, "all roads lead back to the web." Web traffic is the most measurable metric available. In my mind, every e-mail should push people to your web site. Whether you are establishing your brand, developing leads or selling a product, every online marketer's goal is to get e-mail readers to their web site.

Once on your site, depending upon the depth of your analytics tool, you can track their activity by looking at your web logs.

By the end of an e-mail campaign, we online marketers should be able to report, "we sent XXX number of e-mails. Of those, XX visited our web site."

That is the true measure of e-mail success.

Download eROI's full report.

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The War over Words: AP Announces "It Will Take All Actions Necessary"

The AP announced yesterday that it was going to take "all actions necessary" to stop ISPs from pirating news content and streaming it across their sites, raising copyright concerns about the terms of "fair use". In an attempt to save their tumbling profits, hold off bankruptcies and defend their current business models, the newspapers are going for the big guns/deep pockets. Its like watching dinosaurs fight with cockroaches. Did I just say that? This is the worst kind of defense in the war of survival of the fittest. Don't these newspapers realize that they are fighting for their existence? Its like the captain of the Titanic trying to use his compass to gain his bearings as his ship sinks down into the deep, icy waters. The AP is now reversing a decision they made 10 years ago that allowed ISPs to use their content for free. Now AP claims to be developing a rights-managed system that will rival Google and Yahoo's news channels. I think it is all too much a little too late. More than 14,000 journalists have been laid off over the last 2 years. Just where do the newspapers think these journalists went--perhaps online to write news content? The AP just announced war. Brave, perhaps, but misguided. Because someone is going offend them and then the AP is going to sue an ISP and waste what precious money they have left paying for lawyers, law firms, discovery, trial time and appeals. If all those laid off journalists were smart, they'd start their own, independent news source and sell their services to Google and Yahoo. Now there's using your noggin! Because you know that this war isn't going to end well.

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Move Over Gen X, Gen Y, and Millenials. The iPoders are Coming...

Professor Benjamin Akande, Webster University Dean of Business and Technology, describes the latest generation as "internet-savvy, phone-addicted, opportunistic and digitally conscious." Calling them iPoders, Akande says they number over 115 million and are the first generation to be raised exclusively on computers. They have never had to manually turn on a t.v. They have never had to wonder who was on the other end of a ringing phone. And they all know how to type. I work with this generation every day. They make up my staff. They are my nephews. And they are just now beginning to enter the work force. I have to agree with Akande's conclusions: the biggest lesson these kids have to learn is patience. Although I exist in a world where I have to know and do all things web, my approach to my work is markedly different: I know that some times things are best left for a better time, some decisions need more input to gain concensus. These work habits were learned from experience. Yes, some of the iPoders just need time to develop experience. But other generational differences exist purely based upon cultural shifts. My nephew and his one-time girlfriend spent an entire drive back from the movies in the back seat TEXTING (I bet you thought I was going to say something else). They didn't talk to each other, they texted each other. These kids have, literally, thousands of friends on FaceBook. Their whole idea of "friendship" is different from yours or mine. My idea of friendship is based upon shared time, experience and values. Instead, for iPoders, friendship is almost a tag game of, "I see you! You're my friend now." There is little sense of loyalty. If there is a disagreement, they just un-friend you. Which brings up the issue of trust: most iPoders seeing nothing unusual about developing meaningful relationships online. Face-to-face encounters aren't necessary. But what happens when trust crosses paths with cultural differences? Can we truly trust someone who does not share the same community-based beliefs? Or will we see new communities, and therefore, new beliefs, develop? My latest best example of the development of online community values is David Pogue's recent gaff. A NYTimes Technology columnist, he was a new twitter convert. One night, in all of his fumblings, he accidently twittered his mobile phone number to his 21,000 followers. Fearing mischief and mayhem, he sent out a "Please don't re-tweet!" Fearing the worst, he went to bed. Upon waking, he checked his phone. Not one person had called. So maybe this iPod generation knows a thing or two. Maybe my nephews will grow up to change the world. Maybe they will use their digital prowess for good, not evil.

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BigLaw Lawyers and Paralegals To Get Kindle 2 - Loaded with National Reporter Sets and US Code

Breaking News: All 800 attorneys and 200 Paralegals at an undisclosed BigLaw firm are to receive Kindle 2's. The Kindles will all come preloaded with the entire National Reporter Sets, US Code, CFR and Federal Register.

"It just makes more sense to enable our attorneys with a portable library at their fingertips" says the firm's press spokesman. "We're taking out most of the compact shelving in the firm's library and converting that space into trial prep rooms. So, it is a win-win for the attorneys."

When asked if attorneys can also download the latest novels to the Kindle, the firm's spokes person merely shrugged and said that the attorneys would have to use their discretion on what would be appropriate. On follow-up, the spokes person said that the "Twilight" series was requested by a group of attorneys as standard issue on Kindles, but the request was rejected by the Kindle committee.

Now armed with Whisper-Sync, the Kindles will have up-to-date case law and statutes, and the attorneys can also download the new iPhone Kindle App so they can pick up the case right where they left off.

One of the associates from the firm commented that he was going to buy the Kindle belt holster so that he could have ready access to his new Kindle whenever he needed it. "Although it looks a little bulky under my suit jacket, it is actually quite comfortable. Plus, my girlfriend thinks I look really sexy with the bulge on my hip."

The firm's spokesman also discussed the affects on staffing. "We're excited about is that all of the attorney's journals are going to be sent to their Kindles, rather than routed to them in inter-office mail. We're hoping this means we can layoff some of our mail room staff and cover the costs of the Kindles through staff reductions."

The firm is hoping that the IT staff can figure out a way to synchronize email to the Kindle by using the Kindles cell wifi service. "This could save the firm millions in BlackBerry subscription if we could just piggy-back onto the free service that comes with the Kindle. It could also mean reducing IT staffing if everything works out. At this point, it doesn't look like it is possible, but we have another committee working on that issue."

It will be interesting to see how this Kindle experiment works in a large law firm setting. The firm is hoping that its initial investment of $370,000 for new Kindle 2's, plus the subscription costs for each unit will end up saving them millions in print and labor costs.

April Fools.

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Product Review: HootSuite & OW.LY - Do The Benefits Outweigh The Problems?

One of my favorite things to do is to test out new products.  And, last week, I gave a try at the Twitter tool "HootSuite".  At first glance, I thought this was one of the better Twitter tools out there because there were lots of value added resources available through the product.  But, once I jumped in and started testing it (on an unsuspecting group of followers), well, there were problems that were quickly pointed out to me.
First, a little background:
While having lunch with the other two geeks last week, Lisa mentioned that she was looking at HootSuite, and that she'd heard good things about it, and even folks like Guy Kawasaki were using it to help them Twitter throughout the day.  Although, I'm certainly no Guy Kawasaki, I too, like a good Twitter tool that will help me manage the moderate number of followers and friends I have.  So, I sat down Thursday night and gave it a go.
The Good:
HootSuite has a lot of nice features to help you manage one or more Twitter accounts.
  • Multiple Editors: If you're a Twitter Stud like Guy Kawasaki, you can add additional editors to your HootSuite Login, and still maintain privacy of your own Twitter password.  So, you can have people help feed to your Twitter followers, but still prevent they rouge editor from changing your password and hijacking your account.
  • Share a Business Twitter Account: With Multiple Editors, you can have a "business" Twitter account, and have your employees Tweet information as needed.  So, if your law firm has a Twitter account, you can share the responsibility of Tweeting and answering Tweets among the staff.  Perhaps having one person Tweeting your events and publications, while another answers any replies or Direct Messages you may receive.  Come to think of it, this would work really well for a Politician that has a Twitter account and needs to make sure he or she is on top of everything.
  • Manage Multiple Twitter Accounts: Got a personal and a business Twitter account?  HootSuite allows you to manage all of them in one place.  Switching back and forth, or posting to all of your Tweets via the HootSuite Dashboard.  This is a great convenience if you have ever had to go back and forth from one account to the other.  And, if you've ever accidentally posted a personal tweet on your business account by mistake, this could help save you that embarrassment in the future.
  • Schedule Tweets: I'm constantly finding a lot of good resources out there, but I don't want to necessarily Tweet all of them within a 10 minute period of time.  Or, I find them at 3:00 AM and I want to discuss them with my 10:00 AM Twitter friends (although, I still love all of my Aussie Twitter Mates.)  This also works if you are scheduling an event, and would like to send out periodic Tweets reminding people that the event is coming up.   There are lots of Twitter Elites out there that schedule their Tweets throughout the day.  HootSuite makes it pretty easy to set it up and send it out later.
  • Monitor Who Is Clicking on Your Tweet Links: NOTE:  I'll give the good on this one here, but be warned, there are a lot of folks out there that do not like this part. If you ever wonder if anyone ever really goes to the links you Tweet about, then HootSuite has a way to do that for you.  HootSuite uses "ow.ly" to shorten the URLs, but it also uses it as a monitor for click-thru's and feedback options.  On the surface, this sounds like a great tool.  It is nice being able to see that 83 people clicked on your link to the blog you mentioned.  In addition, people can vote their positive or negative reaction to the link in the OW.LY frame that surrounds the web page you Tweeted about.  So, in a way it is like a mini Google Analytics program for your Tweets.  You can even add your Google Adsense code to your HootSuite account, and generate revenue from your Tweet Links.
  • Save Keyword Searches: Got some key terms you like to search?  Well, HootSuite allows you to save some of those keyword searches and retrieve them at the click of a button.  This is pretty convenient to have included with all the other resources found on HootSuite.
  • Easy To Navigate Dashboard The HootSuite Dashboard is set up with tabs for you "Home", "@Replies", "DM's", etc.  Pretty easy to use, and similar looking to the Twitter.com homepage, so there's not a big learning curve involved.
The Bad:
  • Just Who Am I Tweeting To Anyway?? None of us like to be fooled, or made to believe we are communicating with one person, when in reality, it is someone else.  This goes for the fake Brittney Spears twit, as well as the big personalities on Twitter that use ghost writers to tweet for them.  So, if you are one of those folks that has the money to pay people to Tweet for you, just make sure that people understand that is how you set things up.  
  • The Whole "OW.LY" Thing.... Alright, this is the big one.   I barely got my first test Tweet out on HootSuite when someone called me out for "annoying" if not "illegal" framing of web content.  Now, I confess that I didn't realize what OW.LY was doing until after I had sent out the Tweet, so I was pretty ignorant of the drawbacks of using OW.LY as my URL shrinker.  At first glance, the frame is a little annoying, but also a little useful.  So, I had a nice little discussion with Doug Cornelius about the benefits.  Whereas I thought HootSuite's ability to gather statistics and feedback could be a benefit to the person Tweeting the link --  Doug thought it was something close to the incarnation of Satan himself (okay, I'm being a little over dramatic on Doug's response... but, not that far off!)   After looking at the positives and the negatives, I decided that framing of other people's content really isn't a great idea.  It is annoying for one, and it borders on the unethical for another.  I would ask the folks at HootSuite to give the users of their product an option to use a non-framing version of OW.LY that would still gather the metrics of who did the click-thru, without annoying the hell out of them!! As for the putting Google Adsense code on OW.LY to generate revenue from your Tweets, I'd have to say that would not be something that I would do, or recommend.  Some may argue that people would not have gone to these websites if it were not for your Tweets, but I'd have to say that there seems to be a certain sliminess about that type of revenue generating that I do not like.  
  • Good Lord!!  Are You Always on Twitter??? I mentioned to a friend of mine one day that it seems that people we knew are spending all of their time on Twitter.  He laughed and said, "No.  They only spend half of the day on Twitter.  The other half they are on LinkedIn trying to find more connections." Do I really need a scheduled tweet from you every 15 minutes?  Does the scheduling of Tweets take away from the "social" part of the social network platform?  Eh..  perhaps.  I'd say as long as you don't overdue it, use it.
HootSuite offers a lot of valuable Twitter resources for those of us that like to Tweet a lot or have multiple accounts.  The ability to get metrics out of our Tweets has value too, but we have to be cognizant of the problems that the frame method that OW.LY employs.  At this time, I don't think that framing is the way to go.  Again, if you can get some stats without the frames, that would be an excellent resource.
I still like the overall benefits that HootSuite gives you.  My suggestion would be to try it, but not use it in a way that would annoy or offend those that will see your tweets.
Got comments??  Put them below.  Or, you can follow me on Twitter at @glambert and let me know what you think about HootSuite or any other resource you'd like reviewed.

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Writing for the Web: A Lesson in Writing Small

I spotted a James Carville article in the FT.com op/ed (Daddy, tell me, what exactly is a derivative?) this morning that reminded me of how difficult it is to write for the web.

Carville was writing about Obama's "supposed communication breakdown during the financial crisis." Carville says the failure is not in Obama's ability to communicate but in the complexity of what he is trying to explain.

I can definitely relate.

I will never forget what my grizzly, old editor told me when I was interning for a small newspaper in Orange County, "Honey, you gotta write dumber. Most people can't read above a 4th grade level."

Writing dumb may sound easy, but it is not, especially if you are writing about a complex topic.

Granted, in the legal field, I am generally writing to a more sophisticated audience. But I run into another challenge: time.

My readers do not want to pour over paragraphs of analysis. They want to be able to read my story in less than 30 seconds.

So I have to be able to tell my story in a paragraph. And, no, that does not mean a 10-line paragraph. If you look at my writing, most of my paragraphs are only 1-2 sentences long. And my sentences are very short.

Here's another lesson that I learned from another grizzly old guy: look at your sentence and eliminate every fifth word.

Yeah, it is hard to write small. And just like I pointed out in my SEO post: you have 3-4 seconds to get their attention on the web.

So you better engage them fast!

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Alternative Fees: "How To" do The Budget

Although I see the appeal of the Just Do It crowd, there needs to be some performance metrics when it comes to Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs). And all paths on this subject point to The Budget. So for our next "How To" step towards AFAs, we need to dive in deeper on this subject. The Bottomless Budget The lawyer personality tends to want to eliminate risk (we have mentioned that before here on 3 Geeks). From this perspective, the best budget is the one that takes into account every possible task, the people who will work on it and the number of 6 minute increments each person will apply to these tasks. In a perfect world, this type of budget would be tremendously valuable. Unfortunately, we live here on earth. Besides - this type of budgeting approach allows lawyers to spend all their time analyzing instead of pricing and engaging with clients. In my experience, even when the effort is made to produce a budget like this - it is not a final product. Lawyers will step back (to yet again analyze instead of act) and consider how much resource is going to each task, phase or budget line item. From this larger perspective, it becomes apparent that adjustments must be made. The lawyer knows in his gut that too much resource or not enough is committed to different portions of the budget. So even this "get-down-in-the-weeds" approach to determining a budget and a firm's cost of production will not produce a perfect budget. In fact, this quest for the 'perfect budget' is a journey and not a destination. Which is another way of saying it allows lawyers to do what they like (analysis) and avoid what makes them uncomfortable (talking to clients about price). The Wafer Thin Budget "My gut tells me ... $." Although likely an accurate estimation, the "feels-right-in-my-gut" budget does not give enough information to measure performance. Although at the end of the matter you will see how well you did, a firm will benefit from gaining metrics through-out the representation. Theoretically, you could use the gut measure to estimate various phases of a budget (e.g. investigation, discovery, ...), but those sorts of numbers won't give you a solid profitability measure (a.k.a. leverage). Obviously we need to find some middle ground - somewhere between the "weeds" and "my gut." The Balanced Budget I propose a reasonable, middle-ground for building a matter budget. A seasoned lawyer's instincts on estimated fees are a great resource. We just need to focus them to the right level of detail. Let's start with the UTBMS task codes. I know - these are both universally vilified and praised. I say start with them because they are an existing (and accepted) standard and they are in use in most every e-billing system around. This means even though they may not be the most directly applicable division of tasks, they provide common ground. Another advantage they bring; they provide reasonable case phase definitions (L100, L200, and so on). Now take your seasoned partner's gut and point it at this structure. Get him/her to estimate fees per task code and phase. Take it a step further and have them estimate how each task code should be leveraged - partner to associate wise. Some codes or phases will be partner intensive - some associate. I suggest the resulting budget will be a good approximation of fees, arrived at in short-order and with enough information to serve as a performance metric benchmark. The "Balanced Budget" is one possible approach. There must be others. Whatever a firm or lawyer does for AFAs, they will need to understand the cost of providing services and be able to measure how each matter stacks up in terms of profitability. The Budget will play a central role in meeting both of those needs.

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Using FeeFieFoeFirm to Make My Search Idea a Reality

A friend of mine mentioned on Twitter that she was "loving" the FeeFieFoeFirm website this morning. I've looked at that site in the past, but never really took the time to do any serious searching on it. The timing of this reminder couldn't have been better. I just happened to be thinking of a project where I wanted a way to gather data on a particular legal topic, written by lawyers, and it turns out that FeeFieFoeFirm just may help me turn that into a reality.
Here's my idea: Compile a list of recent articles from law firms that discuss Electronic Discovery and (here's the hard part) keep the list up-to-date via RSS feed.
Well, I'm kind of a search whiz, and heck, I've even won awards in the past for creating these types of resources, but quite frankly, this particular idea was kicking my butt. I could easily set up a Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) to index the sites I wanted, but I couldn't set "time restrictions" on those results. Now, enter FeeFieFoeFirm.
Turns out that in January FeeFieFoeFirm figured out a way to put the date on the information they were indexing via Google CSE. This was the key piece I'd been missing. Now I could search for electronic discovery articles that had been written in the past 24 hours:
Very nice!!
But, not everything was peaches and cream in the land of e-discovery article searching. Alas, there was no RSS feed available to help me move the information from FeeFieFoeFirm to an RSS feed.
No problem!!
I turned to one of my favorite tools, Dapper Factory, to help create this step. For those of you that were with the 3 Geeks back in the beginning, you'll know that I reviewed Dapper Factory and found it to be a great resource in creating RSS feeds or widgets that housed the feeds.
By mashing FeeFieFoeFirm and Dapper Factory together, I found a way to put my idea to the test!! It still has a little tweaking to do, but then most of my ideas do. Go check them both out!!
If you know of other ways to do this type of search to RSS feed, feel free to comment below.

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Twitter, Writing for the Web and Life in General

@AngelaJames and I just had an epiphany. A little bit of background. @AngelaJames just made friends on Twitter. She's the executive editor at Samhain Publishing, specializing in digital books. Anywhoo, she was twittering with some of her peers about a book I didn't know--Blood and Chocolate--and I know a lot of books! So I asked her to give me a review. On Twitter. In 140 characters or less. Suddenly, we both saw the possibilities of Twitter. I held my breath. In less than a minute, she twittered back a succinct plot line with her critique.
Teenage female werewolf struggles to find acceptance in a world that doesn't know about the supernatural. Moody, dark and emotional.
We then both realized the beauty of Twitter. It teaches you to write better faster. As one of my favorite lines by AJ Liebling goes, "I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better." Tweets refine your thinking, creativity, wit and writing. And, if done well, a twitter can be repurposed for elevator pitches, bylines, resumes and queries. Twitter: helping the cause of literacy one character at a time.

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