I am not ashamed to admit it that I am a fan of Facebook. I post pictures when I’m on the road (much to my wife’s chagrin) and it has been the way to keep up with what my family is doing, as we don’t seem to talk on the phone very much. One of my absolute favorite things about Facebook, however, is being able to track certain interests that I have, specifically music, and to keep those separate in an Interest Group page an off of my normal News Page. That is, until Facebook apparently broke something and now my Interest Pages are all broken. My ‘guess’ is that in one of Facebook’s frequent updates to their security (or lack there of), someone broke the ability to isolate your like pages to an Interest Group unless you also allow them on your News Feed. That’s a pain!!

I searched around the Facebook Help Page and found lots of others are having the same problem. I also found that Facebook has pretty much ignored this new ‘feature’ and is pretending the problem doesn’t exist. I really miss being able easily track my favorite bands, music magazines, and concert halls all in one place.

My first plea is to Facebook. “FIX IT!!

My second action was to take matters in my own hands and to create a work-around until Facebook “FIXES IT!!!” It involves a little bit of manual work up front, but I’ve found it to be pretty good in keeping me up to date on my 60+ Facebook pages that I used to follow in my Music Interest Page. It involves the following services/programs:

  1. Facebook2RSS
  2. Feedly
  3. Outlook (optional)

I’ve talked before about converting Facebook pages to RSS feeds on company information, but the same concept works for Interest Pages as well. The steps are easy (but as I said earlier, there is some manual processes up front to make it happen.)

  1. Take your list of Facebook Like pages and open the URL for each one.
  2. Copy that URL and go to Facebook2RSS, paste the URL in the text box and click the “Generate” button. This will give you the Facebook ID for that page that gets added to the RSS feed address. NOTE: the standard RSS feed for Facebook is this:
    http://www.facebook.com/feeds/page.php?format=rss20&id=[fbid]
  3. Go to your Feedly account and create a New Category under “Organize” and then Add Content into this category.
  4. Repeat (this is that dreaded manual process I’ve been talking about.)
  5. Once you have all of the feeds in the category, you can export the OPML file and import it into Outlook.

I have found that doing this has reinvigorated my interest in Feedly both on my smart phone, and within the Chrome or Firefox browser (because Feedly doesn’t work in IE for some reason). It has also been a good way for me to keep up with my interest in music, bands, and venues until Facebook FIXES THE INTEREST PAGES!!!

If you’ve found other workarounds for this problem, let me know.

You’ve all read/heard my take on aggregators here at 3 Geeks, and how there was a time when having access to information was in and of itself a competitive advantage. Simply knowing what your competitors or market were doing was currency. We all have more access to information today than any of us dreamed was possible even 15 or 20 years ago. Much of that information is readily available and free. In fact, information or data is so accessible that crowd sourcing and gathering of it online in places like Wikipedia is common place, even cited with growing integrity in university term papers and the like (ethics of which is not my topic, though I am sure many of you have ideas on that….feel free to guest post about it!)

I have suggested in previous posts that how we sort or filter the raw data is how we keep from contributing to information overload. Key to this process is determining what is good to know versus need to know versus interesting but maybe I don’t need to know that right now. Even when we’ve filtered that down, we still need to aggregate the relevant information by having Library or Intelligence teams sort and collate it into newsletters, alerts, RSS feeds or other helpful, readable tools. Finally, I’ve suggested that, depending up your resources, the process can be done manually or with any one of the commercially available tools available for purchase that can help us aggregate. You’ve read previous posts (hopefully), where I’ve asked, How Do We Make Them Read, and reviewed a series of aggregators a list that continues to grow and improve and then several months later, I suggested we are Almost There with a new series of product offering.

A recent exercise in my own firm has lead to me understand that aggregating with the help of technology is not enough! I now understand that friends don’t let friends aggregate alone.
Borne out of necessity and fiscal responsibility, when three departments at my firm all asked for budget for an aggregator in 2013, it was suggested that we work together to find one that suits all of our needs rather than to aggregate content – possibly the same content – three times, in three different ways.
On the surface, it seems like an easy and smart solution. But when you start to get down to the specific needs of each department (in my case, Intelligence/Business Development, Knowledge Management and Library & Information Resources), it seemed an insurmountable ask. How each department engages with internal and external information and brokers that information, turning it into intelligence, practice efficiency, current awareness or a business development opportunity and combine those different points of view with the need for Systems and IT compatibility and you start to think that maybe this seemingly obvious task is actually impossible. The sheer volume of information alone is one problem. The rest of the problem is in acknowledging the mandates of the different departments will cause each one to consume and reuse the information in different ways.
Therefore each department needs its own set of tools and distribution methods. Right? Hence the three requests for three different products? Right? Once up on a time the answer would have been yes, but if the last three months has taught me anything, it is the fact that all law firm administration departments really all want the same thing.
We all want our lawyers to be smarter, better, and more efficient at delivering client service and value and for our own departments to be seen as contributing to the bottom line rather than being dreaded cost centres especially since 2008. How we each achieve this goal will be executionally unique, but asking for three sets of tools would be akin to a carpenter, a cabinet maker and mechanic suggesting that what they each describe as a hammer is specific and unique to their line of work. Not true. How they each use the hammer might differ and which type of hammer they use might differ from time to time but at the end of the day, a hammer is a hammer.
So can we find an aggregator that suits all of our needs? I believe the answer, despite our different methodologies and interactions, is yes. That answer does come with some challenges, however, the biggest of which is being open to learning and understanding of what each department needs, wants and is willing to let go. The discovery process will not be easy, nor will building a set of criteria for the “right” tool, but if you are willing to have the conversation, open yourself and your department up to scrutiny among friends, you will find that friends don’t let friends aggregate alone and you may find (as I did) that you can even learn a very useful thing or two about how the different departments think about and use information, which you can leverage toward successfully meeting your department’s goals. By sharing in the in discussions and finding one solution to work for all information providers, you can actually help move the agenda of smarter, better, more client focused lawyers along.
Last week, I had the privilege of presenting on “How Intelligence Accelerates New Client Acquisitions for Law Firms” as a part of the Intelligence Collaborative ( #intelcollab), an Aurora WDC project.  The presentation focused on how firms can leverage all of the intelligence floating around in firms to retain existing clients, get more work out of them, target and pitch new clients and embrace big data and all that it has to offer.  As always, the content delivered was only half of the presentation and the real value came from the question and answer period where I was asked and hopefully answered some very salient questions.  One of the questions I was asked was how sole practitioners can employ some of the tactics and strategies discussed in the presentation.  Sole practitioners are uniquely positioned in that they can to be more nimble than their counter parts in large law firms in responding to market conditions and opportunities, but are hindered in that resources, especially time to practice law and develop business at the same time without a full administrative staff can be a significant challenge. 

Yesterday, I saw a demo of a product that can make the life of a sole practitioner, whether as a legal professional, a librarian, an intelligence professional –  competitive, market or business, they are all the same to me, check out the recording of the IntelCollab presentation for a more fulsome explanation –  or other informational services provider that much easier.  The fact that the company is Canadian is just a colourful feather in its cap.  The product is called Spundge (@spundge) and it positions itself as having “Smarter Curation, Awesome Content”, which to me is just a fantastic tag line.  Similar to other aggregators of content I have reviewed here, I would describe Spundge from my vantage point as primarily a social and public media listening tool.   The curator allows you collect media across various platforms, and then for a tiny monthly subscription fee, create newsletters or in “stories” in Spudge language with that content once you have filtered it for your specific needs. The stories can then be syndicated and pushed out to clients as a value added service (using Spundge Pro), a business development tool and/or even to other Spundge subscribers. The product is terrific for the sole or solo practitioner for a variety of reasons including its low subscription fee, easy to navigate, low barrier to use.  Imagine, you are a solo librarian or intelligence professional, supporting a series of sole practitioner lawyers or small offices as a consultant.  You could log into Spundge, create customized notebooks for each of your lawyer clients, and publish a story to each of them with ease on a daily basis. Or if you were a sole practitioner lawyer, you could create a notebook for each client or industry you were covering, scan the headlines without the need for expensive subscriptions since arguably, social media often reports on events before traditional media and be up-to-date on targeted current awareness as it happens. If a new publicly available source needs to be added, you just log into your settings add the RSS feed and away you go.

Oh, and if you had social interests on top of your work interests, you could track those too in private notebooks and read them in all your spare time. 

Back in August, some of you may remember I blogged about the power of news aggregators, asking the question, How Do We Make Them Read? Since that time, I have been watching new aggregators come on to the scene, new products being offered, new interfaces introduced, new pricing models worked out and all the while, I still can’t help but wonder how we make them read. Though, three new trends I am seeing out there in the world of aggregators is getting making the job of getting attorneys to read the news just a bit easier.

  1. Several of the products on offer, have started to include robust back end analysis and metrics with the aggregators. Clients (especially people like me in the competitive intelligence community) want to know who is reading, when they read and what articles have my clients clicked all the way through to read the full text. What are the trending topics of interest with a particular practice. Then I can be a step closer to understanding the issues of interest and how can I turn that into action, or identify a lead. Library Services, meet Business Development.
  2. Semantic analysis, though it can never replicate the human element completely (more on this in item #3). Some of the aggregator out there such as Digimind are offering a semantic analysis with the tool. The accuracy can be hit or miss on the tone owing to the algorithms and taxonomy, but it is nice to have a baseline for what you are reading, coded right into the article and interface. Certainly when helps to know if all the press on a given client is negative, or even perceived as such even if it is only 60-75% of the time. Maybe some crisis management or litigation is in coming down the pipe….Public Relations, meet Business Development.
  3. The most intriguing offering to me at the moment is the pairing of aggregators with other industry professionals. There have been others, but the most recent to come to mind is that of ShiftCentral announcing earlier this month, that former lawyer turned law firm CMO Mark E. Young, has joined the aggregator to head up what they are calling an Intelligence Agency. Competitive Intelligence meets Marketing.

As I sit with partners and watch their inboxes fill up with newsletters/bulletins/internals blogs and other informaton/intelligence items we have aggregated, I still can’t help but wonder how we’ll make the shift from better packaging and synthesis to action. News aggregators, like the ones reviewed in the past, or mentioned here today, certainly can take us part of the way. I think we are almost there…but the rest….

The saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The same could be said of information/media/current awareness in a law firm. We can lead our lawyers to the content but there is no way to ensure they read …or is there?

We are currently in the process of evaluating media and social media aggregators, some of which include very savvy dashboard platforms and delivery mechanisms. Others of which, include sophisticated social media analysis tools. Some of the products that we or others I have spoken to are considering include:

The evaluation criteria we have mashed-up includes but is not limited to:

  1. Easy to use interface for publishing/editing 
  2. Users (or their proxy) can manage own profiles
  3. Content can be pushed to email, RSS or Microsoft SharePoint
  4. Content is archived and searchable for later use
  5. Aggregators incorporate public info, paid subscriptions, social media and internal commentary
  6. Provides free content or access to content 
  7. Offers a trial 
  8. Price – is it by topic, by firm size, # of curator or another other mechanism 
  9. Provides training 
  10. Has a good industry reputation 
  11. Has other law firm clients 
  12. Provides on going support 

Firm needs will determine the weighting of these criteria but is there anything we’ve left out? Are there other products or issues to consider? And if we provide it, will they read it??

Yesterday, I had a Twitter alert that came through my “law firm search feed” that really stuck out to me. Someone was tweeting about an alert that my firm had written (and it wasn’t someone within the firm doing it.) So, I got curious to see who would be interested enough to mention the alert and discovered a site that I think may be one of the best legal information tools to come around in a long time.

@HRLegalAlerts

@Memorable_Hours
The name of the website is called “myCorporateResource.com“, but the name really doesn’t give it the true justice that it deserves. But, I guess “OhMyGodICanFinallyQuitCompilingTheseAlerts.com” would be too long a name for the site. But, when I saw it, that was the first thing that popped into my head.
myCorporateResource [mCR] compiles the client alerts published by AmLaw 100 firms, aggregates the the alerts into categories, reviews the alerts, sorts them and summarizes the content. mCR does all of this for FREE!! I’ve been doing a similar project in-house for a couple of years now (but, not for free!) In addition to the compilation of articles, mCR has also produced an RSS feed for each of their categories.
mCR points to the nine general themes of their website:
  1. Corporate Team: A distinct “portal” to topical legal alerts, regulatory press releases, rules announcements and industry insider blogs.
  2. Client Memoranda: Attorney written alerts and briefings split into industry, corporate roles, area of law and geography.
  3. RSS Feeds: Over 70 feeds set up by individual categories of industry, professional role, area of law and geography.
  4. 24 (Memo)rables Hours: A list of everything they’ve compiled in the last 24 hours.
  5. Lex Pop: mCR tracks which articles and alerts are being clicked on the most, and lets you know which ones they are.
  6. Hot Topics: When there is a “hot topic” in the legal field, there are dozens of attorneys writing on that topic. mCR compiles those articles and alerts in one place for easy browsing.
  7. The SEC: All those press releases, blogs and rules releases that the SEC produces, all in one place.
  8. Standout Material: Although I couldn’t get this link to work, I’m assuming what they are doing is highlighting what the mCR reviewers consider to be an outstanding article on a particular subject.
  9. Memo of the Week: One truly great article written that week.
I’ve contacted the folks at mCR and hope to have an interview with them at some point to discuss the how’s and why’s of mCR in a follow-up post.
I’m not sure how I’ve missed this site in my quest for finding good law firm articles and alerts aggregators, but I’m glad I found it. This is hands-down the best law firm articles and alerts aggregator that I’ve seen on the market, with Lexology being a close second.
The only criticism I have for mCR is that it would be nice to have a way to sign up for email alerts based on the same type of criteria you have with the RSS feed. And, the website itself looks a little amateurish and very busy with information. Neither of these critiques are major issues, however, as the content is really what I’m looking for.
Hats off to myCorporateResource.com for pulling all of this information together. Great Job!