I've seen a lot of comments on "what is next for Web 2.0" in the past few months, but most of those jump ahead to the "Web 3.0" stage of Cyberdyne's Skynet artificial intelligence stage. I wanted to bring the discussion back to a less scary (well, at least not "end of the world" scary) topic of the next stage in Web 2.0, which I'll call, "Web 2.1 - The Unsolicited Interloper."
Web 2.0's Controlled Discussion
The 2.0 stage moved us from a one-way online discussion into a method of two-way or multi-way discussion. Blogs allow us to comment; newspapers allow people to submit comments on just about any story they publish; and social media tools allow us to chat and connect with peers in a real-time environment. One of the things with the 2.0 world is that whoever writes, or manages the content usually has some type of control over the discussion that follows within the four walls of that content-even if the only recourse is to delete the discussion, or moderate the comments before allowing others to see them. The key to 2.0 is that you can have four walls around your content. However, the 2.1 stage could tear down those walls and allow interlopers in, and you'll have very little control over what they have to say.
Two Web 2.1 tools - Google's Sidewiki and DotSpots' "Distributed Objects of Thought"
Two of the leading contenders to usher in my version of Web 2.1 are Google Sidewiki (see video demo) and DotSpots (see video demo). Both of these are browser extensions that allow anyone to place unmoderated comments on any webpage and allows anyone with the same browser extensions to view those comments and add their own comments as well. Sidewiki does as its name suggests and puts comments into a sidebar, while DotSpot places the comment 'dot' right in the text of the blog. Now, neither of these actually does anything to the blog post itself... it is simply a feature of the browser extension that allows the modification on the side (sidewiki), or within the text of the browser page (DotSpot). If you haven't added the extension to your browser, then you wouldn't see the comments at all.
Free-flowing commentary versus Free-Flowing SPAM
The idea behind the Web 2.1 tools is noble. Using the wisdom of crowds, information can become free-flowing, and more informative by allowing those reading it to also add information. The DotSpot video is a prime example of what the developers of the product wish to do. Now an article can have comments pointing to additional information and the 'crowd' can begin interacting with each other and add additional content (maps, videos, etc.) making (or rather morphing) the original information into something dynamic. No longer is the 'crowd' limited by the restraints of the website's comments section. It is this freedom that is worrisome for most of us that develop original content on the web.
In the Web 2.0 world, I can delete comments that appear on my blog. In this new 2.1 world, I cannot. Instead, according to what I've read in the FAQ's for the two resources, I'd have to request that content be removed because it is SPAM or abusive in some manner. This is the part that I think most of us would find most troubling. It is one thing for another blogger to rip my posts to shreds on his or her own blog, but to essentially add any comments you want and have it show up through the extensions on my blog seems to be something that I'd rather not have to deal with. Yes, I know that it isn't "really" on my blog... it is on Google's Sidewiki or DotSpots databases (somewhere in the cloud), but if you have these extensions installed on your browser, it can sure look like it is.
The Benefit of the Unregulated Crowd
Maybe the inconvenience of the occasional spammer is outweighed by Web 2.1’s dynamic platform. We’ve grown accustomed to being the moderators of the conversations over our writings. Losing some of that control is not a comfortable thought for me. But, maybe it is not a bad thing to loosen some of that control. Most things I’ve read on the topic of crowds say that the ‘unregulated crowd’ creates a better result over one that is. Perhaps I should just take the good with the bad when it comes to the unsolicited interlopers that the Web 2.1 world brings.
Sitting here reflecting on the week in news, I am pondering the oncoming new technology: 3D TV. I must ask: do we really need this? Like I want to see "Judge Judy" in 3D. Or any of the variations of "CSI" or "Law and Order"--aren't they grizzly enough? What's next? 3D videos of our law conferences? I don't think anything could enliven some of those CLEs. Sorry, speaking for myself, I would rather have the opportunity to PhotoShop my photos rather than present myself in all of my 3Ded glory (note: I just made the first, documented use of 3D as a verb). I mean, really? Do we need 3D TV? Probably as much as those $300 Prada shoes that I have been keening over. I'm guessing a certain portion of our population is much more excited about the possibilities of 3D. May I interject the phrase "football fanatics"? I daresay one thing that has yet to be considered is the impact that 3D will have on sports and the ref calls? It is going to get brutal. I can see this train wreck coming and I don't even watch sports. Then, of course, you know what's following on the heels of all of this ... 3D internet. Just what we need: YouTubers 3Ding their every move. Oh, God, save me now.
NOTE: I talked with a couple of the "Project Cobalt" team members who told me that there were a number of inaccuracies in my post (such as the name of the product won't be called "West Next" or that Boolean searching isn't available.)
Although most of these comments came from inside West, it looks like it was a lot of "guessing" on their part. So, I'm pulling this post off the blog.
As soon as I get more information from the Project Cobalt team, I'll post more information (more accurate information, that is!!) on the new release.
Thanks to the West Project Cobalt team for pointing out some of the errors and promising me more direct information in the next couple of weeks. So... stay tuned!!
I mentioned in my 10 predictions for 2010 that both Westlaw and Lexis would have new interfaces for their research products by the end of the year. In reality, I was kind of hedging my bets on this one because I actually knew these changes were already coming. Last month I was talking with a consultant who casually said something like "Boy, people are going to be scrambling when Westlaw comes out with its `Project Cobalt` next year." At that point I immediately knocked him out of the way and did a quick Google search for "Project Cobalt" AND Westlaw. I found some subtle hints about Project Cobalt in an investor's meeting, and in a Financial Times analyst comment. So, change is afoot at Thomson Reuters!!
As I was trying to find out more, I contacted some friends and found out that Lexis is also working on a new interface for its legal research product. Not only that, but rumor has it that Lexis is also working to help firms create interactive pages within the firm's Intranet that will help access Lexis resources without leaving the look and feel of the firm's Intranet page. I haven't seen the "code name" for this project yet, but I'm really hoping they go with something called "Project Diablo Rojo"!!
Jason Wilson has a very good breakdown of what information is currently available on West's (or as Jason now calls them "Thomson Reuters Legal" or "TRL") Project. Also, Joe Hodnicki mentioned it a few days ago. I'm also supposed to meet with Westlaw's Andy Martens (VP of Product Development) sometime soon to discuss (and hopefully demo) the Project Cobalt product. Apparently, there was an in-house demo of the new project yesterday, and the test engineers at TR said it will be released in February, probably at LegalTech according to West's new teaser website.
If any of you know more about Lexis' planned changes for this year, please let me know and I'll start pestering the Lexis folks for more information.
Rumors are floating that
half a third (5 of 15) of the West Library Relations Team will laid off by the end of January. Apparently, those being dismissed from the Thomson Reuters group were given notice back in December (so, kudos for keeping it a secret this long!) Those that I've talked to say that the layoffs affect those Library Relations Managers in the small to mid-size regions of the country. I emailed Anne Ellis, Executive Director of the West Library Relations Team, but did not get a response.
UPDATE: Anne Ellis did respond to my email confirming that 5 Library Relations Managers were laid off (so, not quite half as the rumor had it.) Here's Anne's response:
For those of you that are unfamiliar with West's Library Relations Team, they are typically law librarians themselves, and are the liaisons between the behemoth Thomson Reuters and us law librarians. It was this team that had to clean up the mess last summer when Thomson Reuters released an ad campaign that many librarians found insulting. They are the conduits that we law librarians currently have to relay our opinions to those within Thomson Reuters, and they are Thomson Reuters direct conduit back to the profession. This team has worked to not only build key relationships, but also introduce new product lines, take feedback from librarians back to the development team, and provided platforms for law librarians to disseminate information across the profession.
I've been pretty critical of this team in the past, and they have been gracious enough to contact me about those issues. Since the Thomson Reuters merger though, there has been a noticeable change in how the "West" side of the house fits under the big umbrella of Thomson Reuters. I still stand by my prediction that what we knew as "Westlaw" will slowly be integrated into the "Reuters" side of the business. The first step to that integration seems to have been taken with these layoffs.
Although it is not completely a surprise that the Library Relations team is being cut in half, it does worry me as to the effect that this will have across the legal publishing world. If the West team is cut this month, how long before Lexis and other major publishers follows their lead? We law librarians should start preparing for the day where sales representatives are our only line of communication between us and the vendors.
UPDATE: Anne Ellis did respond to my email confirming that 5 Library Relations Managers were laid off (so, not quite half as the rumor had it.) Here's Anne's response:
In yesterday's post, I predicted that 2010 would be the year the Knowledge Management (KM) thrived or died. In its current state, KM has turned into a mechanism that attempts to capture explicit knowledge in a way that is seamless to the person creating that knowledge. The results turn out to be databases filled with retrievable information presented as contributed knowledge from someone within the firm. So, we end up with CRM databases, document management systems, research capturing tools and expertise databases. All of which are simply ways that KM has attempted to capture the explicit knowledge of those within the firm as it written down in order to be retrieved at a later time by others in the firm. Unfortunately, this has become the classical KM routine, and the resulting product turns out to be a rarely used resource because the data is either 'dirty', obsolete or irrelevant to the current needs of those within the firm. It is this type classical KM strategy of capturing explicit knowledge and supporting the resources that store and display this explicit knowledge that is killing KM. So, how can KM break away from this classical approach?
In their blog post "Networking Reconsidered", John Hagel III and John Seely Brown discuss networking and how the most important knowledge is tacit knowledge - "the knowledge that we have all accumulated from our experiences" - the type of knowledge that cannot be written or captured in an easy way. While I was reading the posting, I started viewing it from a KM perspective. Some of the same issues that Hagel and Brown discuss have real application in the KM world. For example, bring up the phrase "networking" and many KM professionals picture "images of classical networking and schmoozing, driven by individuals intent upon prying business cards out of others and relentlessly expanding their contact lists, manipulatively using their contacts to advance their own interests." In fact, most attorneys conjure up this image as well, and it is one of the primary reasons that some attorneys do not share this knowledge in the KM resources. They think that if they do share, then it will give someone else in the firm a way to steal this information and use it for their own benefit.
Hagel and Brown suggest implementing a process that moves away from the classical approach of "manipulative exchange" of knowledge and create a new approach that focuses on understanding the current needs of those within the firm and aligning them with others that can help solve those current needs. They suggest that social networking as a way of creating this new approach. However, before you start rolling your eyes, let's take a look at their reasoning.
First of all, Hagel and Brown suggest that the goal of networking should be the building of long-term relationships. These long-term relationships are built by working on common issues, working together to solve these issues, and building a trust that everyone in the relationship is learning and contributing. By building long-term relationships, you build "trust", and by building "trust" you build in the reciprocity that becomes a powerful foundation for future needs.
Traditional KM and networking is designed to capture explicit knowledge and then use it to identify others within the firm that you should introduce yourself because they have handled a similar issue in the past. This type of "Push" technique is usually limited in value because that information may not be captured, thus "we cannot push if we do not yet know who we are pushing towards." Even when the "push" technique works, it usually creates a "one-way learning mindset" where one person is seeking to learn from another, "rather than creating the foundation for collaborative learning."
Hagel and Brown promote the idea that social networking creates the ability to collaborate on current issues (two-way learning) rather than attempting to identify past successes and apply them to the current issue (one-way learning). Because social networking exposes current needs rather than past successes, it creates a way to draw people together in a collaborative learning process. Instead of the traditional method of capturing knowledge, social networking allows us to "participate in the knowledge flows that matter the most" to the firm and exposes "our ability to master a new set of practices at a personal level.
Traditional KM practices are still important in capturing the explicit knowledge of the firm, but this should not be the overall mission. KM must attempt to expand its goals by creating methods to expose the "knowledge flows" of the firm as well. The goal is to expose the tacit knowledge, not simply capturing it. By exposing the tacit knowledge through social networking, KM can create a conduit for individuals to share current issues they are confronting and attract other individuals to collaborate in addressing and solving these issues.
Now that the awful year of 2009 is over, let's take a guess at what to expect for 2010. My initial thoughts are that we really need to hit the "Refresh" button [F5] and look at how we operate our business processes. Here are my predictions for 2010:
- Google will release a new application every business day This isn't a big stretch. Toward the end of '09, Google released new products about 3 times a week. Hint for Google -- Don't hype any of your new products like you did for Google Wave. Instead, let the people using your new products do the hyping (good or bad).
- Westlaw and Lexis will revamp their legal research interfaces Just as they did in the middle of the decade with their proprietary software, the big two legal research vendors are poised to completely restructure their legal research interfaces to allow researchers to be more specific in how they conduct research, as well as integrating Web 2.0 strategies into search results. Instead of being a one-way research tool, you will be able to add information to the data held by West and Lexis, and share that within your firm. [Note: I happened to catch this new "See Westlaw" site that is talking about the new Westlaw interface.]
- Bloomberg Law will be a flop I really hope this projection doesn't happen, but after talking with a number of other legal researchers, I don't think this product will get a lot of buy-in from law firms. The biggest reason for Bloomberg Law failure -- PRICE. No firms are going to want to pay a premium price for an untested product, and from the murmurs I'm hearing, Bloomberg Law is going to be very expensive. Hint to Bloomberg -- Come in low on your initial pricing (very low); get the firms "hooked" on the product; after about 3 years you can start increasing the price to match West and Lexis. If Mike can drop a $100 million on a mayoral race, he can stand to loose a few million on this product to get it in the door of a lot of firms.
- The "Westlaw" brand becomes more "Reuterish" The writing seems to be on the wall for Westlaw. It appears that the big players within the Thomson Reuters part of the company are looking toward narrowing their products under one umbrella. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that Thomson Reuters will eventually do to Westlaw what it did to GSI and that is consolidate it under one name. I suspect that the Reuters side of the house will look to place Westlaw under its business news umbrella and create a Reuters Legal product. Hint for Westlaw -- you'd better get ahead of this one, otherwise you're going to find that you will be in the same position as the Bancroft-Whitney people found themselves in during the 90's.
- Lexis reorganizes... again Anyone that has dealt with Lexis reps knows that a "reorg" is always around the corner. It appears that the leadership in Dayton embraces the term "change" because they seem to "change" how they organize their people about once a year. It is hard to build a relationship with a rep when you only get them for a year at a time. Hint for Lexis -- Get a mission statement with clear objectives and STICK TO THEM!
- BigLaw firms survive, but are forever changed Again, probably not a big stretch here either. BigLaw will probably begin dropping the Summer Associate programs and begins a more selective route of how it brings in associates. There will be more acceptance of alternative fee arrangements (that'll keep Toby posting). There will be a lot of talk on the topic of "Training" lawyers to be more efficient and effective, but probably very little action on that topic. Hint for BigLaw -- most of you are going to survive this little recessionary period, but if you don't become more efficient and effective in how you conduct business, you'll never see the profit margins you had in the middle of the decade.
- What a great year to be a consultant! With change, comes the need for people to manage that change. Firms will need to tap consultants for a number of issues ranging from implementing alternative fee agreements to bringing in project managers to handle workload in a changing revenue structure. Hint for Consultants -- gear up!!
- A year of social media acceptance in the legal field We've talked and blogged ad nauseum about social media tools. In 2010, there will be a lot more firms and individual attorneys that accept social media as a viable forum to express views and get recognition for their expertise. Whether it is blogging, twitter or enterprise social media tools, more people will join in. Hint about Social Media -- For all you firms that are blocking these resources, you'll find yourself behind the curve in 2010. So, stop blocking them!
- Knowledge Management either thrives or dies It is time for KM to hit the F5 button. If KM continues to be seen as an Information Technology (IT) resource, then it will wither and die a slow painful death. This is the year that KM needs to take risks, introduce new resources, and get out in front of the changes occurring within law firms. When Partners talk with consultants on how to implement change within the firm, the KM folks need to be at the table listening and pointing out opportunities where KM can help during the transition. Hint for KM -- stop thinking of KM as a product support department and start thinking of KM as an idea department that helps the firm accomplish the processes to be make the firm more efficient and effective.
- 3 Geeks and a Law Blog Cuts Multi-Million Dollar Deal and We All Retire to a Small Caribbean Island 'nuff said!!
For Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs) 2009 was a year of awareness. Although there are some clients and firms more involved in utilizing AFAs, the vast majority of lawyers are just getting their toes wet on this issue. All of the talk and debate has been over whether firms should use AFAs. At 3 Geeks we believe a general consensus is being reached on the fact that AFAs are here to stay and will only increase in use and application. Which brings us to 2010. Now that we’ve all agreed that AFAs have value, we need to understand where and how they fit into the business of law. Specifically we need to figure out: 1) Which types of AFAs are best applied to varies types of matters and cases, and 2) How do we re-structure and re-staff to make these engagements efficient (for the client) and profitable (for the law firm). For instance, at the beginning of a litigation there are numerous unknown variables. Fixed fees don’t make sense for a client or a firm in this situation. All of these unknowns create high risk. For clients there is a risk of paying too much. For firms, the risk is not charging enough. So clients and law firms will need to sit down and find or create AFAs that fit a given situation. It will be these conversations that bring understanding to the table. 2010 will be the year the legal industry does the heavy lifting on AFAs. We can move past the debate and get to work on developing pricing models that make sense for both sides. This will be the year we begin to understand AFAs and make them useful tools for clients and law firms.
I played with Foursquare over the long Christmas weekend and will continue to do so through out this week. I am determined to unlock its B-2-B potential. For the uninitiated, Foursquare was started by five New Yorkers who wanted to keep tabs on their bar-hopping friends. It combines friend-finding and gaming capabilities. Launched in February on Friday 13th at SXSW, Foursquare is a way to track friends and rack up points for moving from venue to venue. By checking in through Foursquare, the site tracks your movement throughout the day. Foursquare can report this info not only to Foursquare friends but also to Twitter and Facebook. For each new venue you add to Foursquare you get points. Each time you check in at a venue you get points. When you make consecutive visits you get points, with the possibility of becoming "mayor". I happen to be the proud mayor of 2 locales--I am on my way to an Houston monopoly. When you post on consecutive days you get points. Plus you unlock badges for accruing points--a "newbie" badge, an "adventurer" badge. You get the point (HA! I made a pun :) ). Now I can see why a retailer or consumer business would want to make sure that they were listed on Foursquare. Popularity translates into sales. Unlocked badges could lead to coupons. It makes sense for venues to make sure that their businesses are listed and its employees are engaged. But for B2B, I don't think businesses want other businesses to know who has been visiting them. Especially in light of corporate intelligence and espionage. Law firms would be even more adverse to displaying this sort of information. Now what could be interesting is to have an internal version of this technology available within the firm, showing where staff and attorneys are at any given time. But then it all begins to get a bit "big brother"-ish. But, then, this app is that way anyways. I am beginning to think that these "kids" have no sense of what privacy means. Of course, these are the kids that grew up with "Girls Gone Wild" and "Facebook". What was I thinking?
After reading Don Crowther's blog, It's Nearly 2010, Why is the Mobile Web So Frustrating?, I just had to chime in with my own thoughts. In fact, I was just railing about this very matter at lunch with Toby, a/k/a @gnawledge. This week-end, I wanted to buy a pecan pie for my sister's dinner party. Knowing that Goode Co.'s pecan pie is the best one on the planet, I wanted to find the most convenient restaurant to my trans-Houston commute to Clear Lake. So, doing what I do, I pull out my blackberry and do a Google's voice search for "Goode Company". Note: if you don't know what I mean by voice search, go immediately to Google Mobile. Now. Your searching life will be changed for ever. Anyway, I find the Goode Company web site on my blackberry and open the site. Now I am trying to navigate on their web site to find a phone number--any phone number. I know enough to hit my blackberry's menu button to dial the number. Except what drives me bananas is that if the web site, in an attempt to be memorable, uses letters instead of numbers, I am screwed. Not only will my blackberry not read the telephone number, I can't manually dial it because the number pad does not show the corresponding letters and I have to remember that A=2, 7 has 4 letters and o does not equal 0. Once I have placed my call, the restaurant manager gives me the phone number to the store that I want. Now I have to memorize the number so I can punch in the number once I hang up phone. I dial the number to the restaurant I really want and he gives me directions. Which I have to memorize. Its a good thing I know my way around Houston because if I needed to punch in the address into Google Maps, I would be dead by now from a car wreck. Yes, I was texting and driving. Sue me. Its not illegal in Texas. Yet. ---- Note: 19 states have banned texting while driving: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois (eff. 1/10), Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire (eff. 1/10), New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon (eff. 1/10), Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia
I just finished reading a piece (PDF available here) by one of my favorite law firm Competitive Intelligence gurus, Shannon Kay Sankstone. Shannon and her co-worker Charlotte Graesser Henderson from Quarles & Brady explained the need for the Library/Research staff within a law firm to work in tandem with the Marketing department. I like how Shannon and Charlotte broke the issue down into four areas and identified what the library and marketing each brings to the table.
- Collaboration: Understand Marketing Team Pressures Law firm Marketing departments have probably never been under as much pressure to find new potential clients, respond to as many RFP's, and identify cross-selling opportunities as they are right now. Collaboration between the library and marketing teams is extremely important in order to get the best information in front of the right people, at the most critical time.
- Workflow: Anatomy of a Research Request For many firms, the Marketing department tends to be the "point-person" on questions being asked and the information that needs to be produced. However, the resources and expertise on how to answer the questions tends to be housed in the library. Just as with collaboration, there also needs to be communication between the researchers and the marketers. On top of that, the "deliverables" needed are very "marketing" focused, and are different than what library researchers are used to producing.
- Efficiency: The Real Definition There is a number of specific requests that the Marketing department may ask of the library. The key is to develop simple approaches, such as standard templates, that can get the best available information back to Marketing in a way that doesn't involve numerous back and forth emails. Once both Marketing and the Library have an understanding of what is expected from each department, the process becomes much more efficient.
- Moolah: The Budget Reality Check Both Marketing and the Library need to realize that the "business development" portion of what the firm does, is almost always considered "overhead". In many cases, though, the cost of the business development research charges gets passed along to the Library department. So, everyone needs to be aware of the true cost that the firm is paying for the business development project. The closer that the Marketers and the Librarians work together, the easier it is to understand what it will costs to deliver a final product. Librarians can point to alternative (lower-cost) research tools, and the Marketing team can determine when it is necessary to spend money versus when it isn't necessary.
Almost all of these issues are "communications" issues -- but then, when you think about it, almost all problems are "communication" problems. Take a look at the full PDF article as Shannon and Charlotte go into much better detail on how the two departments become an efficient and effective tandem.
Last week, I poked a little at some BigLaw blogs that had seemingly died from neglect. The posting got some attention around the Blogosphere, and over the next couple of days I got some phone calls and emails from some of the firms I listed as having "dead" or "dying" blogs. The general consensus from those that contacted me was "Crap!" and "Geez, Greg... you should see them scrambling around here to bring these blogs back to life!" So, I thought that after a week or so, I'd go back through the list to see which ones hit their blogs with the "defibrillator paddles" and brought them back to life. And -- viola -- there were a couple!!
- Blank Rome's Maryland Intellectual Property Law blog posted, not once, but twice since my list came out!
- Holland & Hart's Climate Change Law Blog found its way back from a 2 1/2 month hiatus and posted on December 10th.
As it turns out, neither of these blogs were from the people that contacted me right after the initial list came out. Hopefully, this means that there will be more that will come back from the grave.
Some other updates
- Nixon Peabody's Financial Recovery Blog is now a password protected site. Maybe they decided that it could only live if placed behind the protection of a firewall??
- Saul Ewing's Climate Change blog now points to one of those generic "we're sitting on your URL name, but will sell it to you for enough money if you want it back" sites. It was also removed from their list of publications from their website.