So, it was snowing in Houston today. My sister texted a photo full of snow at 6:30 am–a neighborhood once covered in Harvey now covered in snowflakes.

Just finished my analytics reports. Not sure how many of you use Google Analytics. It has changed a lot since I first started using it back in the good old days. Analytics is the favorite aspects of my job, probably because I like using Excel and running calculations.

Analytics are an important part of of monitoring a site to ensure that you are still on target and achieving your goals. Benchmarking–before and after shots prior to a launch–will help you better tell your success stories.

Google Analytics

I use GA to track web site and blog traffic, looking at visitors, sessions and pageviews over time. I’m able to tell what countries are viewing the site, what language they speak and even their age.

For social media, I usually prefer to go straight to the source. There are several tools that are available to help with this, like HootSuite, but I really do prefer digging through the data.

Why analytics?

Twitter analytics

Twitter Analytics, I think, does the best job of providing user analytics. Facebook comes in next, with LinkedIn next.

If you aren’t aware, Twitter provides every user with analytics on their account’s performance.

To access,  click on your Twitter profile pic and select analytics.

Twitter analytics top mentions

The Twitter Analytics landing page for your analytics page will display a monthly summary, in reverse chronological order, of your top tweet, follower, mention and media tweet. It also shows the total number of tweets, profile visits, followers, impressions and mentions for the month.

Twitter activity analytics

Behind sub pages include a full analysis of tweets, your account’s audience, events, conversion tracking and, soon, video analytics.
You can export all the metrics from your Twitter analytics, which provides a full list of all your tweets, the number of impressions, engagements and the engagement rate. You can download your Twitter data for a day, month, or a specific data range.

Twitter audience analytics

Your audience analytics will give you an idea of who is reading your tweets. I’m pleased to see that I am followed by whom I intended to be  followed: techie nerds, both male and female.
Analytics reports are like checking your pulse. You want to make sure your sites are still up and running.

Following the AALL conference Mark Gediman’s contentious stance on Google, made the rounds here on 3 Geeks and in various other places. In fact, Mark will be reprising his stance on the famous search engine next week on an SLA CI Webinar, titled “Is Google Enough?” You can register here, if you want to hear it all again or challenge him to a duel. And while the Google Debate is a good one, earlier this week, Greentarget and Zeughauser Group, released their Fifth Annual survey of In House Counsel on their use of Digital and Content Marketing. The results were unsurprising for the most part and suggested that the better the content the more often it will be read. The survey responses and by extension in house counsel, urge law firms to plan out a proper strategy for digital content rather than just writing blog posts for fun. That seems all pretty straight forward to me. Then, I read this nugget:

“Wikipedia is becoming more popular among IHCs; 71 percent said they used it to conduct company and industry research — up from 51 percent in 2012. “

The answer to that survey question scares me more than the potential repercussions of the Google debate. Why and how, are in house counsel relying on Wikipedia for anything, let alone company and industry research? Don’t get me wrong, I think Wikipedia *can* be a great starting point, and I use it often. But it is a starting point, a means to an end and certainly not to be relied upon. Can you imagine using Wikipedia for due diligence research? Crowd sourced information worries me, the way Big Data scares me. Anyone can publish anything to Wikipedia and it will stay there until someone else takes it down. I would rather see in house counsel relying on company websites, twitter feeds, government industry analysis or even editorials. I understand that unlike law firm lawyers, in house counsel often don’t have the luxury of staff Librarians, CI practitioners, corporate researchers or others who are skilled at and have the time for research, but surely there is a better (though not faster) source than Wikipedia.

It may be time we pull back from the ease of the internet and think about artisanal research, bespoke industry analysis and custom reporting. The tools and technology available to us today, make research accessible and easy, if budgets allow there are plenty of SAS products out there that can help bring all your vetted sources into one newsletter or portal to make that type of research Wikipedia-fast but factually accurate and integral too. I won’t belabour the point, I think 3 Geeks readers are savvy enough to know where I am heading with this rant. Instead, in true collaborative fashion, I will urge all in house CI researchers, librarians, information professionals, marketing research or social media folks to reach out to their legal teams and provide them with alternatives to Wikipedia, establish some kind of information pipeline that has integrity and depth and that can be shared via RSS to intranets and other portals. And I will ask those in the same roles in firms to think about what value added services we can provide to clients that might be better than Wikipedia and help mitigate the risk of bad information as well. As I always say…information is quick, intelligence takes time. You can decide which you prefer to provide and use.

In his post the “Great Google Debate“, Mark Gediman suggested I was wise to not touch the debate on Google, and while I am happy to take the compliment, it also makes me wonder if somewhere down the road we (and by we, I mean those industry insiders, you know who you are) can’t create a Google equivalent to support the Legal industry. Imagine a single source that allows researchers to bridge the chasm between the business of law and the practice of law.  Let me explain.

On that same panel at AALL, I was asked where CI should report, my reaction drew a chuckle and was rapidly tweeted and retweeted. It was something to the effect of “I am tired of having this debate”. And I am, for a variety of reasons.  Where any of the research types or “information and analysis brokers” – Library, CI, KM, Research etc. – report is in my opinion, irrelevant and but an administrative imperative. How and where we add value to the firm and most importantly its bottom line/top line is what matters. I tweeted yesterday that information, intelligence, analysis when used effectively and systemically by firms could be the next disruptive factor, akin to the AFA.  Research, and the information professionals who undertake these tasks are embracing technology and are “to be congratulated for navigating really difficult times in the industry” according to Aric PressBig Law Is Here to Stay, and if its information professionals are going to continue to step up their game in this rapidly changing industry, they need proper tools, a collaborative environment and a checking of the proverbial egos (and related reporting structures) at the doors. 

Throughout the day, information professionals on the business side of the equation, search Google, subscription databases (what’s your favourite??), social media feeds, securities filings, traditional and  new media outlets and should be doing some kind of primary research i.e. talking to people and working the network (that’s a blog post for another time). On the practice side of the equation, legal researchers search corporate precedents, case law, filings, treaties, judgments, dockets, summaries, briefs, memos and other subscription databases. Imagine if you could put it all together, search one platform – a Googlesque type platform minus the paid SEO and get whatever research you needed in one place. How much more efficient, smart and focused on client and legal service could we and our firms be with one magnificent tool at our finger tips. 

Its pie in the sky, but that’s where dreams live, right? Here’s a use case. A proposed change in legislation relating to construction zoning in a particular jurisdiction is announced.  You  – Research Warrior/Maven/Guru  access the details of the proposed changes, and are able to fire it off to the relevant attorneys for an opinion, a LinkedIn Post, or a Client Update, while at the same time researching the number of public (and private, it’s a dream database, right?) companies in the jurisdiction who will be affected. You can also access which of those companies are your clients, your competitor clients, or prospects, and you can analyze the text of the proposed change to determine what the percentage of prior proposals with similar language were accepted, or rejected. With this data in hand, you can do a historiographic or timeline analysis to determine the likelihood of the proposal becoming law and using the same magic portal you can determine which other jurisdictions may adopt similar changes based on a cursory review of relevant local media and social media reactions and commentary.  And let’s not stop there, with a few clicks, you can output all the data into neatly branded reports complete with charts and graphs – a data visualization panacea. At that point, who really cares where you report? You just saved lawyers time, developed new leads, created an opportunity to demonstrate the firm’s value and demonstrated the information professional’s propensity for serial innovation.  Not bad in a day’s work!

Yes, there will be those that suggest it can’t be done, or those who won’t trust the data in a single platform even if it is pulling from multiple (triangulated and vetted) sources.  And course there will be a myriad of UX considerations, search/browse convergence discussions, taxonomy whoas and other finicky things to figure out.   But it would stop the where should we report and should we use Google debates….

I just returned from the AALL annual meeting in Philadelphia and had an interesting discussion with a colleague about Google.  First, let me set the scene: I was on a panel with Zena Applebaum and we had just answered a question about our favorite CI resources.  A member of the audience then asked why neither of us had included Google in our lists. As I began to answer, Zena wisely tweeted:

There is a debate going on, both within our institutions and in the research community.  Is Google a tool or a resource?  I feel that Google is just a tool, an excellent one that allows us to access a universe of information.  Unfortunately, the quality of the information is always in doubt.  Information from a fake website or a misleading post could be included in the search results, maybe even at the top of the list. The same reasons you don’t rely on Wikipedia apply even more to Google.  Google has never laid claim to delivering only quality, vetted information.  In fact, they have taken great pains to do the opposite.  Look at the disclaimer at the bottom of the page here and listen to the conversation Richard Leiter and Company had with Google Scholar’s Chief Engineer here.

As a researcher, I know the importance of confirming anything I find on Google and noting if the information is suspect and cannot be verified.  In CI as in law, it is important to have a high degree of confidence in the information that your analysis and recommendations are based on.  Google alone does not instill that confidence. 

There is a reason we pay for services like Lexis Advance and WestlawNext.  These services ensure that their subscribers have access to current and vetted content, often with editorial review.  I’m not saying Google isn’t useful.  I am on Google several hours each day.  However, it is for these reasons I don’t conduct legal research on Google when I have these services and others like them at my fingertips.  Just like any tool, a thorough understanding of its limitations is necessary to get the most out of it.

I knew that July 1st would be its final day, but I hoped that someone at the “Don’t Be Evil” Empire of Google would call upon the leaders of the company and give it a last minute reprieve. No call was made, and no last minute stay of execution was issued. Sometime last night my good friend and companion, Google Reader, ceased to be. A switch somewhere in Mountain View, California was flipped and the sparkling lights that flickered on some piece of hardware went dim and was replaced by a cold, stern message that pointed me to alternative friends and companions that could be just as good. But, we all know that it is not true.

Like many of you that I know, Google Reader wasn’t just a place to pull all of your blogs and websites together for easy navigation. It was a launching point for passing that information along to others, or building upon the results in ways that made the sum of the whole greater than all of the little RSS feed parts. It was sent to things like Flipboard, or on to Twitter feeds. It was linked to portal pages and into databases. It was more than a simple RSS feed, it was a conduit to passing and pursuing more information. It was a touchstone that pulled so many different pieces of information together and made it all make sense, at least in my head.

As with most disaster relief plans, you hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. We’ve all pulled our data out of Google Reader and went on to the next best thing, but it still doesn’t replace the old companion we’ve known for so long. I understand Google’s reasoning for killing off a great product (they are, after all, about revenues and profits), but I don’t agree with their rationale. The push for their Google+ product could have brought Reader into that fold, and brought many of us along with it. However, that logic never played out.

Reader was great. Reader was reliable. Reader was a constant that was swallowed up by the constant change that faces us these days. I’ll survive. I’ll move on. I’ll find another. Eventually the habit of checking my various Reader outlets will be replaced by other habits. But, just like my old Mustang I had as a teenager, I will remember Reader with a fondness.

Goodbye.



I usually put some of the non-legal (but fun) things on Friday posts, but today I am leaning toward more of the “Geeks” side of the blog than the “Law” side. Last week I saw a tweet fly by that mentioned GeoGuessr, so I had a few free moments to go try it out. I’ve probably spend a good couple of hours playing it over the weekend with the family, and found it to be a really fun (and somewhat educational) game to play.

The concept is pretty simple, yet very challenging at the same time. The game puts you on a Google Street View somewhere in the world. You get to move around on the street view, and attempt to figure out where you are based on the landmarks and other visual clues you see. Once you think you know where you are, you zoom in on the inset map and plunk down a marker. The closer you are, the more points you score. The game lasts five places, and you combine the scores for all five guesses.

I usually have three windows open at the same time to help me along:

  1. GeoGuessr
  2. Google
  3. Google Maps

There are times when it is really easy to figure out your location. Last night, GeoGuessr placed me between a What-A-Burger and the South Padre Island Water Tower. Other times it is very difficult to find out where you are. The Outback in Australia is pretty non-descript, and there aren’t a lot of road signs to help you out either!

The game uses a lot of deductive reasoning. For example, are the cars driving on the left or right side of the road? Are the signs in English or Japanese? Is it an arid climate, or are the Royal Palm Trees lining the boulevard? You use anything you can find to help you isolate where you are. For example, there are times when all the signs are in Tamil, but the phone numbers are still Arabic, so I have Googled the prefix to isolate what area code it falls in. I’ve seen delivery trucks with company logos on them and found where those companies are located in order to narrow down where I am. It is like a mix of being Doctor Who stepping out of the Tardis in the wrong location, and Sherlock Holmes using visual clues to determine where I might actually be.

If you’ve got a few free minutes, go try out GeoGuessr for yourself. However, remember it is Monday, so you probably need to quit after one game if you plan on getting any work completed.

According to the Washington Post, the Justices on the US Supreme Court are big fans of Googling facts not presented to the court in briefs or oral arguments. Although the practice of in-house fact finding is not prohibited by any rules, the practice does raise some questions about how Justices research the issues presented before it and the resources they use to conduct those in-house fact finding missions. Since this is probably a trend that won’t go away anytime soon, may I suggest that while all of the Justices are out until October, that they seriously consider taking Google’s online course called “Power Searching With Google … a short course on becoming a great internet searcher.”

Now, the Justices will need to hurry, because registration ends on July 16th, and you’re already too late to beat the suggestion that “you register before the first class is released on July 10, 2012.” So, hurry!! If you finish the six 50-minute classes, they’ll send you a link to a printable Certificate of Completion that you can hang next to your Law School Diploma!!

Since I’m pretty sure that SCOTUS Justices search like many lawyers, this course may be one of the best ways to spend their summer and be better prepared for all those voters’ rights issues that will probably be landing on their steps this Fall. Perhaps they’ll teach you a few more tricks to finding facts other than simply searching the words ‘Voter’ and ‘Rights’ in the Google text box. In the course description, they state that they will cover:

search techniques and HOW TO USE THEM TO SOLVE REAL, EVERYDAY PROBLEMS!!  [emphasis added]

That sounds like exactly what the Court needs!!

In addition, the Justices could also learn how to set up their own Google Groups, Google+ and use video conferencing with Google Hangouts – it would be interesting to see if Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito will put Chief Justice Roberts in their “circles” in those groups.

I think this would be a great use of free time for all the Justices while they are vacationing at the ‘Impregnable island Fortresses’ this summer. I’d give the Justices a link to the course, but I’ll go ahead and just let them Google it… since apparently, they have used it to find things much more important than a power searching course.

Remember my 2011 rant on fax machines? Well, it looks like someone finally figured out an electronic solution: HelloFax.

Super-easy to set up, I was able to get an account up and running in about five minutes. The hardest part was importing a photograph of my signature. For that, I signed a piece of white paper, snapped a photo of it with my Droid, emailed it to myself, downloaded the image to my desktop then import the image to HelloFax.

Easy-peasy.

HelloFax choice 5 account tiers:

  1. Free: 5 free faxes, then $.99/fax, and 5 signature requests
  2. $4.99/Month: 50 faxes, 30-day free trial, and 10 signature requests
  3. $9.99/Month: 500 fax pages, 
    30-day free trial, fax multiple recipients, and unlimited signature requests
  4. $69.99/Month: 
    2000 fax pages,  30-day free trial, fax multiple recipients, and unlimited signature requests  

They’ve got some really nice features: a super-easy cover sheet; integration with DropBox, GoogleDrive and Box; and a way to integrate the system with your already existing fax number. HelloFax also sends a link with a  code to access a full-color, high resolution copy of the fax.

Also of note, back in April when GoogleDrive launched, HelloFax was its most installed app. I’m a little late to the launch party but that doesn’t dilute my enthusiasm!

Image [cc] HorsePunchKid

[Guest Post from Jason Wilson, VP at Jones McClure Publishing, and blogger at rethinck.]

On her blog, Dewey B. Strategic, Jean O’Grady took direct aim at large legal publishers—Thomson Reuters, Reed Elsevier, Bloomberg, and Wolters Kluwer—and urged them to customize their database offerings at the practice-group level rather than taking a firm-wide approach to content access. She cautions that the approach—trying to be all things to all practice groups—will only lead to misery. To survive the “sole provider wars,” she says one must be willing to be flexible.

I understand her point, but it isn’t modern. Flexibility isn’t where data is headed, whether you’re a large legal publisher or a small one. Flexibility is actually just another word for siloed data.

Think of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets compared to the universe of Harry Potter writings, including fan fiction), and data isn’t supposed to be siloed any longer. All of the current thinking about the matter suggests so.

Think of Jeff Jonas’ “data finds the data” line? Siloed data makes discoverability too difficult, and we (legal researchers) don’t like difficult.

Think of WestlawNext as an example. The whole point to the system is to pour everything into one container so you can find it all; no assumption can be made that any one thing will answer your question, so the system must search it all and show it to you.

In fact, the publishers can argue that they themselves don’t know the relevancy of all data within their possession, so it only seems logical to display it all, with facets, of course, and excellent algorithms to parse the data. Lexis is headed in this direction as well, although taking an entirely different approach with HPCC. I can’t say that Bloomberg or Wolters Kluwer is, but they may be.

But let’s draw this down a bit and focus on analytical content, which is what I think O’Grady’s post was driving at.

“There are lawyers who conjure apocalyptic consequences at the thought of losing their favorite resource. I suspect that this is generational characteristic.
Older lawyers who started out conducting legal research in print treatises and then moved online tend to have a stronger sense of a legal publisher’s brand and the reputation of specific products which I don’t see in the post-Google generation of lawyers.”

Her observation here, I think, is meant to scare publishers into customization. A sort of, “hey, if you think your analytical brand is sacred, think again, because the post-Google generation doesn’t care.” But if this is what she means to do, I think it misses the mark.

Legal publishing is counting on the post-Google generation of lawyers to free the market place of selling individual titles, jurisdictional packages, product groups, and the like. The lawyers aren’t after Chisum on Patents. They’re after “the answer,” which in their world can only come from everything (or at least a lot of different resources). Large legal publishing is moving in the direction of becoming the Comcasts, U-Verses, and Direct TVs of the world. You will be offered packages of programming, which will include things you watch and things you don’t (how else to do you fund indie titles?).

You will choose a sole provider, and it may be by region or firm size, but it will happen because the differentiator will be what I call “The Triple A’s”:

  • the applications
  • the algorithms, and 
  • the answer

That’s how legal publishing is going to compete for the next decade or so, because right now, there are no Hulus, Netflixes, or Google TVs that are capable of competing with them. There are no alternative channels, unless you actually start talking about how the small legal publishers (the Ganns, James Publishings, Jones McClures, and the like) do compete, and how firms should utilize them.

I look at the web now, and all the interests divvying up the properties and not letting anyone else in: Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, to name a few. These aren’t companies who want to share, or if they do, it will be on their terms and the price will be steep. There is no reason to think the legal publishing market will be any different.  And why should it be? If Thomson Reuters believes it can build a better sandbox for you to play in, then it will take the risk because the upside is enormous. And it did. The post-Google generation seems to agree with the decision as well. Whether they are willing to pay for it post-graduation is, however,  a different question.

All of this sounds bad for the consumer, but I would actually argue that it isn’t, at least if it is implemented properly. Flattening analytical content and charging a single monthly or yearly rate will actually be better for the consumer in a few important ways. First, you’ll be exposed to more content and more possible answers to your questions than if you were buying by the slice. The system is designed to avoid your ignorance of sources. Sure, you may be really smart and know which one you want, but not everyone is you, and in O’Grady’s post-Google generation scenario, the lawyers don’t know or don’t care to. Second, publishers will recognize that “data” means up-to-date data, and editorial processes will evolve to make sure the content is accurate at the time you look at it. Print titles and most electronic titles don’t reflect this temporal correctness now, but they will, and it will be more than colored flags or stop signs by cases; it will be an accurate answer. Finally, publishers will recognize that a key feature of digital content is the ability to add material because there are no longer restrictions—what we used to call book bindings and PPI (pages per inch)—to limit growth of the content. And we can do this without an additional cost to the end user. Everything is geared toward more and better answers, which is really just a way of saying we want to make you feel smarter, sooner.

I wish I had a suggestion for how you might approach the future, but I don’t. The next three years are going to be ugly, particularly as large legal publishing tries to figure out how to satisfy you and the great unwashed (i.e., non-legal) masses. But that’s a subject for another post.

The Google Zeitgeist 2011 has a list of the top ten search results by region. Luckily, my home city of Houston was included.

Or maybe not so luckily, actually.

Our search results are as follows:

  1. Houston Rodeo – an annual cowboy event
  2. Memorial Hermann – a hospital
  3. HCAD – the county appraisal district
  4. Houston Workforce Commission – unemployment office
  5. San Jacinto College – local junior college
  6. Klein ISD – school district in a northwest suburb
  7. Greensheet – classified ads
  8. Harris Country Jail – no clarification required
  9. Katy ISD – a school district in a western suburb
  10. HAR – an online site for Houston real estate
Johanna Wright, Google’s Director of Product Management, writes “Searches for school districts, universities and local libraries made the list in ten states . . .  .”

I will let the readers draw their own conclusions from Houston’s list.  May I just say that I grew up in Ohio? 

Maybe I should move to Minneapolis. The county library made it to number 3 on their list.