Marlene (@gebauerm) and Greg (@glambert) talk with Legal Rebel, Jae Um (@jaesunum), Founder & Executive Director at Six Parsecs, about her unique writing style (it involves the use of emojis), and her ideas behind her series on Legal Innovation Woes.
Greg breaks

down a conversation which amplified the idea of why it’s important to be seen as a driver for the firm’s bottom line, and how he deleted Facebook and twitters apps from his phone, as well as how didn’t melt while in Arizona over the weekend.

Marlene talks about CIVIL, a new cryptocurrency model helping to rebuild trust and integrity in journalism. Marlene also needs some suggestions on multi-player mobile games. Ones in which she can win.

Continue Reading Podcast Episode 11 – Jae Um on Legal Innovation, Emotions, and Emojis

By Lisa Salazar (@Lihsa)

I’ve wanted to compare generated photo books for a while now. I can now cross this off of my bucket list.

What I mean by “generated” is that the platform will perform an initial import, or selection from your batch of photos on your phone.

Today, I compare Google Photos Book and ReSnap, comparing platforms, pricing, editing and layouts.

Who did it better: Google Photo Books or ReSnap?

Google Photos Book

If you have a Google account, you have a Google Photos account. To take full advantage of Google Photos, my phone automatically backs up my photos so they are automatically saved to my little slice of the Google cloud.

Google Photos Book
Google Photos Book

Make sure that you adjust your camera settings so photos are taken at their highest resolution.  If you are planning on printing photos from your phone, this is critical.

Once home, I went to my Google Photo account and began assembling my book. A minimum of 20 photos must be selected, and a maximum of 100.

Google Photo Book – Pros

  • Generation: easy to pick multiple photos
  • Editing interface: Fast, simple GUI
  • Pricing: affordable

Google Photo Book – Cons

  • Photo source: photos are lifted straight from your camera roll. So if you like to enhance photos with any filters or editing, these won’t be available unless you do quite a bit of finagling.
  • Editing: Limited editing capabilities. Text captions are only available on the cover. Filtering is not available.
  • Page layout: Layouts are limited to one photo per page, then 3 size options on the page. 
  • Sizing: softcovers are 7″ square; hardcovers 9″ square.
  • Covers: Front cover can be customized. The back cover can not and bears the Google Photos logo.

Google Photo Book – Pricing

A softcover book with 20 images is $9.99, with additional pages at $.35 each. A hardcover book with 20 images is $19.99, with additional pages at $.65 each. The softcover book is 7 inches, square; the hardcover book is 9 inches square.

ReSnap

ReSnap Photo Book
ReSnap Photo Book

ReSnap can pull your photos from your Facebook or Instagram account. You can also directly upload photos from your computer or phone.

A minimum of 24 photos and maximum of 600 photos (!) can be selected.

ReSnap – Pros

  • Generation: the generation is superb, allowing for a smart selection by the GUI or a manual selection by you. The smart selection will auto-generate a complete layout, automatically determining which photos get a full page and which photos are laid out together. The auto-generation is fully editable to swap, add or delete photos.
  • Photo source: uploads filtered Instagram or Facebook photos (but not both, together) and not just from your camera roll.
  • Editing: Limited editing capabilities. It is better than Google Photos in that text captions can be added to the photos. However, the font selection is limited. Photos can also be moved about but cannot be transformed. There are no filtering capabilities.
  • Layout: Multiple options for layout on the page, holding 1 – 5 photos per page. Layouts can be adjusted to multiple variations and sizes customized.
  • Sizing options: there are three sizing options at portrait (A4, A5), landscape (A4, A5) and square (21, 14). 
  • Covers: Can customize the front and back cover. The ReSnap logo can be removed for an additional $9.95 charge.
  • Share-able: all of your books can also be shared virtually.

ReSnap – Cons

  • Filtering: No filtering capabilities. What you upload is what is displayed in the book.
  • Pricing: this is a higher-end book and it shows in the pricing.

ReSnap Pricing

Pricing is based upon the size of the book, a small (6″ x 6″) 24-photo book starts at $26.95–a large (8″ x 8″) 24-photo book bumps up to $39. The book pricing then bumps up in increments of 20 pages. So, a 40-page book starts at $34.95, a 60-page book starts at $42.95, an 80-page book at $52.95 and 100-page book at $63.95. 
As you can imagine, these books can get expensive and pricing will ramp up as photos and pages are added. You can also opt for high glossy paper for an additional $16.95.

Which is it: Google Photos or ReSnap?

Google Photos Book - interior
Google Photo Book – interior

If you want to put together a quick collection of photos for documentation journaling purposes, Google Photos is the way to  go. Overall, the Google Photo Book is easy to use but rather simplistic with very little editing abilities. 

Last November, I went to Italy, passing through France on the way.  I took hundreds of photos on my phone, then went home and created a Google Photo Book for about $40. Because I couldn’t add text captions, I’m going to take a pen to it to add notes; otherwise, I’ll forget where I was when I took the photo.
If you enjoy fiddling with Instagram filters or creating stories about your photo collections, then ReSnap is the way to go. ReSnap’s interface is very easy to use and I love the smart generating. Editing was fun but I would have liked a little more flexibility with the font sizing and selection.
With ReSnap, I imported my 2017 Facebook photos. I enjoyed fiddling with photos and playing with the layout. All in all, I had just over 80 photos. With the promo code, my hardback book cost $90. 
In the end, I recommend ReSnap as it has the most flexibility in capabilities and pricing.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 2.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545} p.p3 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 2.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #454545; min-height: 17.0px}

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.

Watching YouTube with purpose by Lihsa

How many of you out there regularly watch YouTube videos? Mostly people randomly watch videos. But it is possible to follow YouTube in much the same way you follow a podcast.

I’ve been a YouTube subscriber for about 7 years and really active for the last 4 – 5 years.

It is a great way to learn the learn new skills, follow a hobby or even catch up with cable TV shows. Many times, I’ll go straight to the government agency to watch speeches that I might have missed on TV.

How to subscribe to YouTube videos for CLE self-study, watch news and learn new skills

Not to mention that if you really get into YouTube, you can opt into YouTube Red for $9.99 a month and have an ad-free experience.

YouTube perks and channels

Another perk is that any movies that you bought through GooglePlay for Android will be accessible through your YouTube account.

I am currently subscribed to around 50 channels like the New York TimesVanity Fair, BookTVMayor Sylvester TurnerFood WishesTexas State BarHarris County Law LibraryThe Financial Diet, Last Week Tonight, ExcelIsFun and car mechanic Chris Fix. I also have a lot of guilty pleasures that I won’t divulge here (did anyone say make-up or home decor?).

UPDATE: Since posting this blog, @NYT notified me of a new Museum of Modern Art docu-series, At The Museum. At this time, it is only available for streaming on YouTube.

How to subscribe to a YouTube channel

Let me show you how to subscribe to a channel. You want to subscribe to at least 20 because not everyone consistently produces content and there can be large gaps between videos.

To subscribe, search for the channel in the YouTube search box, then hit the red “Subscribe” button either to the right of the channel search result or underneath the channel’s masthead. There is also a similar button within every video.

How to subscribe to YouTube videos to earn CLE self-study, watch news and learn new skills

Now, when you log into YouTube, you can access your subscriptions and watch the latest videos by moving into the left navigation and select “Subscription.” Plus, the latest videos will display in the center pane.

How to subscribe to YouTube videos to earn CLE self-study, watch news and learn new skills

How to get notified of new YouTube videos

If you want to be notified more quickly when your subscribed channel posts its latest videos, you can opt to get “notified.” Within a selected video, click on the bell icon to the right of the “Subscribe” button  on the YouTube video. The bell icon also appears next to the subscribe button in a YouTube channel search result.

Channel listing in a search result:

Video display:

How to subscribe to YouTube videos to earn CLE self-study, watch news and learn new skills

This will then push a notification via YouTube or, if you opt in, via email. To set this, go to “Settings” > “Notifications” and then scroll down to “Channel subscriptions” and select “Occasionally notify me … .” You can then choose to either get a push notification or an email notification.

How to subscribe to YouTube videos to earn CLE self-study, watch news and learn new skills

YouTube subscriptions and auto-play

The biggest drawback I have with YouTube subscriptions is that YouTube subscriptions don’t autoplay one right after the other. I have to actively go in and select the next video.

The only way I can get my subscriptions to auto-run is if I am watching a savvy YouTuber who has playlisted his/her videos. But even this is quite right–what happens is that if I am watching a Food Wishes post roast video, the next auto-play video will be another Food Wish’s beef recipe from his beef recipes playlist.

However, I’m confident that YouTube will soon fix this glitch.

Let me know if you are as avid as YouTuber as I am and if you have any favorite channels that you enjoy watching.

How a football game and a hurricane played a part in baseball by @Lihsa

Forgive me, but I have to say this more for myself: my hometown team, the Houston Astros, are the 2017 World Series Champions.

I know, I know, if my sister’s reading this, she’ll tell you that I’m not much of a sports fan.

But this series. This season. This year. Incredible.

Watching the 2017 World Series on social media

I watched the game on Twitter. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do cable. I do Roku. And despite YouTube’s sponsorship by its YouTube TV, YouTube wasn’t really live-streaming the game. I did watch a few minutes of the game on YouTube Live through a Mexican TV channel. But I don’t speak Spanish very well, so I gave up after 10 minutes. And, frankly, my heart couldn’t handle the stress.

Instead, I followed the World Series’ Twitter Moment, which kept a live score of all the games. It was pretty slick—a top bar, just under the Twitter navigation, kept a live scoreboard. Tweets ran below it. And you should have seen the live stream—a river ran through it. I wasn’t scrolling, I was spinning through 100s of tweets per minute.

In fact, Ad Age reported that 62,000 tweets were generated at the final out of the seventh game. It was the most tweeted moment of the seven-game series. If you want to see all of the Twitter stats—sorry, Twitter isn’t giving up any hard data, just lists and posts—check out the Twitter blog.

World Series data usage

Details are still coming in on data usage in the respective team stadiums. Several sites solely dedicated to stadium communication networks have not yet posted the latest results. The Houston Chronicle did report that during Astros’ home games 3 and 4, fans at Minute Maid Park burned up 2 TB of mobile data on AT&T’s network.

2017 World Series, the Houston Astros, social media and data usage - @Lihsa - 3 Geeks

2017 LI Super Bowl network upgrades

Luckily this year, Houston made significant upgrades to its networks for February’s Super Bowl. In the past, Houston stadiums had abysmal coverage and way too many dead zones.

The Broadcast Bridge reported that, to prepare for the Super Bowl, T-Mobile permanently increased 4G LTE by nearly 20 times its previous strength. Sprint bumped up by 500 percent. ATT added 749 antennas and 549 cell towers. Verizon added 783 antennas. Plus, temporary boosters were added to the areas surrounding all 3 Houston arenas and conference centers. So the arenas were ready when Super Bowl LI broke the 37 TB wireless mark.

Hurricane Harvey prepared Houston for digital congestion

Thank God, because Houston needed it for Harvey.

CNET reported that AT&T and Verizon ran the traps during Hurricane Preparedness Season, running drills and tests. Before Harvey made landfall, both communication networks reported “ready” for Harvey.

When cell towers did go down—a reported 5 percent were disabled—COWS were deployed. COWS are cell sites on wheels, which can be transported to damaged towers. Houstonians—more fortunate than its coastal neighbors—were able to maintain stable communication networks through out the hurricane.

Which brings us to the 2017 World Series

Three years after Sports Illustrated cover prediction and in an odd statistical coincidence, the Houston Astros won the seventh game of the series with a 5 – 1 victory, after the city fought back 51 inches of rain.

The Houston Astros, with one of the most diverse teams in the league, beat out New York and Los Angeles.

Houston showed why the fourth largest city in the US, down on the third coast, is the real force to be reckoned with. We are, after all, #HoustonStrong.

Communication and meeting people where they’re at by @Lihsa

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the following conversation.

“Have you heard about that new Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn post about … ?”

“No,” followed by a bland stare. “I don’t want to know—there’s too much going on and I just can’t be bothered.”

Social media and a lawyer’s duty of technology competence - Lihsa - 3 Geeks

Oh, yes, I think to myself. And I bet your grandfather made that equally prescient comment in the previous century. “Oh, no, you won’t catch me getting on that plane / train / automobile—it’s a death trap signaling the end of civilization.”

Sentimentality and social media

I don’t think it is any small coincidence that I am JUST RIGHT NOW listening to Pandora streaming Twenty One Pilots:

Wish we could turn back time
To the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but
Now we’re stressed out.
      Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots (2015)

One thing I’ve learned is that if I want to get my message across, I have to communicate with people from where they are at and not from where I am at. Because, right now, I’m sitting here by myself with two cats at my heels. And they certainly aren’t listening to me.

Communication crisis of 2009

In 2009, trying to stay in touch with people was at its most problematic.

It was crazy. People were using everything and anything: landlines, faxes, cell phones, text messages, Eudora, AOL, IM, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, MySpace, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Instagram was coming in 2010. Snapchat was still on the horizon.

If I wanted to talk to my grandmother, I had to call her landline. If I wanted to get a hold of one sister, she only responded to Facebook Messenger. If I needed my other sister, she only responded to text messages. My mom would talk on mobile, but only if she was sitting down. A friend told me that she could only get in touch with her sister through the app Words with Friends’ chat feature.

Businesses were better. My firm has always used Outlook but didn’t have instant messaging yet. One colleague was at a very large consulting firm, which shall remain nameless. Said firm was just starting to phase out Eudora, so setting calendar appointments with her was problematic.

Some friends were in the throes of starting their own firms. While adept at social media, they were still using free email services. Other friends at small boutique firms trying to grow their business were opening fledgling social media accounts.

Today, things have evened out, thank goodness. Eudora, MySpace, AOL, and faxes are sunsetting, if not “midnighted.” Landlines are almost obsolete.

Just the social media facts, m’am

But some lawyers still refuse to meet people where they are at, “virtually” turning their backs on a third of the world population. Really.

If you recall, I’ve previously written about social media audiences by age—your clients and newest GCs are likely online.

And here are a few more facts:

  1. In 2017, 81 percent of US Americans have a social media profile, a five percent increase from 2016.
  2. There are 1.96 billion social media users worldwide.
  3. In 2018, it is predicted that 2.5 billion people will be on social media. Percentage of US population with a social media profile from 2008 to 2017.

Right now there are 7.4 billion people living on this blue planet. That means that one-third of the population will be on social media in 2018—let’s just say that all working adults will have a social media account of some form.

Duty of technology competence

And as for your ethical obligations, lawyers now have a duty of technology competence in 28 states. ABA Rule 1.1.

For lawyers, the duty of technology competence goes even further; it isn’t just about knowing how to use a social media account. It’s about understanding what needs to be turned over in discovery, what is admissible as evidence, what kind of relationships you can and cannot have with opposing counsel, the jury and the judge. It’s about being aware of what is being said online about you, your client, the opposing party and your expert.

Robert Ambrogi (@bobambrogi) discusses this most recently in his 2017 article, Another State Adopts Duty of Technology Competence, Bringing total to 28.

And he also keeps a running list of all of the states that have adopted the ABA Rule 1.1.

So, sure, if you are in one of the 22 remaining states, no worries. Just don’t take any cases in the other half of the US.

Writing, posting and sharing blogs by @Lihsa

I’ve been blogging for over ten years now. And during that time, I’ve learned a thing or two about the craft.

Blogging has quite a distinctive style. There are a couple of ways I could go with this post: talk about the art of writing, posting techniques or ways to share your post. How about all three?

Blogging better: how to not write a like a lawyer

Writing a blog post

Writing a blog post is as simple as writing an email. Literally. It should be just as conversational, just as casual and just as succinct.

Not even my grandmother wants to wade through 50 densely written paragraphs about my opinions on whatever is on my mind. Never mind that no one’s grandmother would ever need to see a list of footnotes and citations to further codify my thoughts.

I try to keep paragraphs to three to four lines—not sentences—lines. And, yes, to a lawyer, a sentence-long paragraph seems ridiculous. But have you seen the length of a lawyer’s sentence? A typical sentence, written by a lawyer, is usually three lines long. Full of dependent and subordinate clauses, a diagramed lawyer’s sentence looks like an oak tree.

In blogs, we are aspiring for palm trees: a long trunk, a few frothy fronds and maybe a couple of coconuts.

In short: keep it simple. If you can’t explain your topic to your grandmother, you need to try again.

Post a blog post

Think about posting a blog like drawing a map. There are certain elements in a blog post that signal to Google where your post is located. You need to drop cookie crumbs to lead Google to your blog.

Think of these as sign posts, guiding Google: “come this way: my blog post is exactly what you’re searching for.”

What are these signposts? On this allegorical map called Google, you want to include:

1. Title: it acts like the city name on a map

2. Headings: these are the city’s sites and restaurants

3. Hyperlinks: these are the addresses to your coolest friends’ homes

If you don’t use these signposts, your blog post will be lost in the vastness of Google tundra, with a mere pinprick flagging Google to your page.

But when you add these signposts, you not only drop a pin to your post, you are adding billboards, neon arrows and flashing lights. Google is then directed to your post because you have signaled that your post is exactly what Google is searching for.

Which brings me to the all-important keyword. Think of keywords this way: how would you explain your blog post to your grandmother? If your post is about the constitutionality of the freedom of speech, then these key phrases should, in some part, be a part of your post’s title, headings and hyperlinks. Again, if you can’t explain it to you grandmother, try again.

Sharing a blog post

So you’ve finished your post and published it. I bet you think you’re done, right? Oh, no, mon frère.

You have to tell somebody about your blog post. You can’t just wait on some random cat to search on Google for you. You have to share it (which is a very nice way of saying publicize it).

The easiest way? Social media. Yes, that’s right. You have to post something about your blog on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or something. You could go the old fashioned route and email your post to a bunch of people but then you’ve just turned your blog post into an annoying emailed newsletter.

Social media is the natural sibling to blogging—there are a whole slew of legal bloggers that congregate on Twitter. Injecting yourself into that stream is great place to start to be known and engage like-minded people. My own blog sharing has led to recognition, speaking gigs and rewarding professional relationships (see @LawyerCoach , @StaceyEBurke , +Jan Rivers@beingkatie ‏ and @HaleyOdom, just to name a few).

And, who knows, you may find that when you share your post on Facebook, your grandma may share it with her Facebook friends. And one of those friends could very well lead to your next future client.

Sharing, clothes and looking the part of a lawyer by @Lihsa

I love social media. It’s a fascinating look into the minds of 2 billion people.

Admittedly, it can, at times, get pretty ugly in there. But then there are places of transcendence and valor; beauty and joy.

Social media is like wearing clothes: you can choose to wear a dirty t-shirt bearing a foul logo. Or you can choose to wear a Chanel evening gown. Your choice.

Being a lawyer and sharing on social media

Social media is the perfect democracy. Love it or hate it, it takes a lot of very, very bad behavior before you get banned.

I wouldn’t want to ever be in the position of @jack or @kevin and have to make a decision as to who gets kicked off of a social media site. What an ethical dilemma: do I have the right to shut somebody up on a forum that was built around the concept of free speech? Criminey; it’s all too darned close to playing god.

But I digress.

What not to post on social media

First, let’s talk about what not to post. I follow 3 rules:

  1. Is it kind?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it true?

Every time I talk about social media to lawyers, I remind them that as a lawyer, you are an officer of the court. Whether you like it or not, you are held to a higher standard. Even when you are off the clock. Where ever you go—to a party, to the grocery store, to the barbershop—you represent your client, your firm and the reputation of all lawyers. It can be a bit of a burden.

Of course, you have to bear in mind ethical rules. I would recommend reading the ABA (@ABAesq) article, 10 Tips for Avoiding Ethical Lapses when Using Social Media. Basically, don’t post anything that:

  1. breaches client (or would-be client) confidentiality
  2. breaks or creates attorney-client privilege 
  3. is false or misleading

So we’ve all learned to think before we share. Generally, I’d also advise that you stay away from any online controversy. It is too fraught with misinterpretation, misfires and can quickly turn ugly. Political statements are never going to add to any online conversation and run the risk of alienating friends and colleagues. I, personally, have never heard anyone say, “Yep, that incendiary post really got me to thinking. I’m going to change my entire position on the issue.” Never happens. So what’s the point?

I am not saying that you aren’t entitled to have an opinion and to speak your mind. But why put it on social media where it can come back to haunt you? It just isn’t worth it. I’ve found that sharing my opinions—especially online—isn’t that important. Opinions are like clothing; everybody wearing them.

What to post on social media

So what’s left? Rainbows and butterflies? Well, some days its seems that way. I remember there was a week where all I could post were pictures of Fiona the Hippo and the Gilmore Girls. Social media was not being very kind, necessary or true that week.

But that’s when I realized that it is my moral imperative to stand still in the social media storm and share. I never felt this more strongly than during Hurricane Harvey. I felt compelled to post and share on legal aid (@thehba), mayoral press conferences (@SylvesterTurner) and the flood district communique (@ReadyHarris). I certainly won’t sit here and say that I saved anyone’s life. But I do believe that I could do my part to quell the raucous rumors, distribute good information and push down the negativity.

Sometimes that’s all we can do: drown out the noise. And sometimes that takes the form of a cat post.

Sure, it is silly and may seem a bit goody-two-shoes. But that post did its job: it shoved someone else’s nasty comment down.

So pick a few things that you like: horses, cars, boat racing, history, art. And talk it up. Sprinkle in a few posts about a colleague’s speaking engagement. Talk about an organization’s good work. Genuinely fan-girl (or fan-boy) on one of your heroes. And every once in a while, talk about your own events and articles.

You may think sharing is too personal and that it can expose you to criticism or make you look less professional. Meh. We are all living in this world. All of us have run into neighbors and colleagues at the grocery store. They’ve seen us with the pizza and ice cream in our carts. 

All we can do is own it and be sure that we’re wearing a clean shirt.

I’ve been a member of Facebook since, I don’t know, maybe 2009? I have always been cautious about Facebook. It was never my favorite social media tool. But, as they say, keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

I’m fairly adept at Facebook but I was slow to get on board and very selective about friendships, turning off political posts and avoiding sharing anything too personal. I tend to post a lot of cat, book, movie and, well, my slightly touchy church stuff. Yes, I go to church. Sometimes. (Fr. Adam, I’ll see you in Confession).

But I have to say, when Hurricane Harvey it, I was glued to Facebook.

Some background: it is just me and my cats. When the flooding started, I was an island. I couldn’t get out and no one could get in. Although I was high and dry–literally–my nerves were like very tiny, un-rubbery rubber bands. For 5 days, I was alone. Cabin fever was turned into cabin flu.

Another thing you need to know is I don’t do cable. I do have a TV but it is only used to stream Roku. So no live coverage. And from what I heard, that may have been a blessing–what little I saw afterwards was non-stop coverage that was PTSD-inducing.

So the only way I could find out was going on was to follow the Mayor, the Harris County Flood Control District, the Harris County Homeland Security, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook and Jeff Lindner on Twitter.

Sidebar: If you don’t know who Jeff Lindner is, follow him. The guy is now a demi-god here in Houston and is, to my knowledge, the first hero-meteorologist. This guy was so good, the public started a GoFundMe page to buy him a vacation after Harvey was over. And as the true Houstonian that he is, he donated all of it. He was calm, knowledgeable and seemed to never sleep. His hurricane and flood reporting probably saved thousands of lives.

Anyway, back to Facebook. Just by following these accounts, I watched every single press conference given by all of this government agencies on Facebook. Comparing notes with my family, who were glued to the TV, I was better informed and had more accurate knowledge, thanks to Facebook Live Streaming. I also had a front row seat to how our local government was functioning. Thanks to Harvey, I am on a first-name basis with all of my government officials–well I know them. They don’t know me. Here’s a great article on how to start using Facebook Live, if you aren’t familiar with it.

Mayor Sylvester Turner is a maestro at media. Whoever his PR team is, they did a stellar job. The entire team, from the Mayor on down, was on point. Upbeat with a can-do attitude, these folks set the tone and it came across loud and clear.

And the funny thing was, it trickled down. I saw it play out on Facebook. If you have never watched a live feed on Facebook, this is a curious forum. You can do a couple of things on a live stream. First, you can watch the video. You can also live comment on the video. Finally, people can “react” with emojis on a video. Below is a screen shot from a Lincoln Center jazz show I’m watching now.

Jazz at Lincoln Center, live at 7:00 pm Central on November 13, 2017

This is what was interesting: during Harvey press conferences, haters and trolls were regularly schooled by other commentators and, ultimately, silenced. It was fascinating to see swarms of hearts and thumbs-ups overwhelming those few angry faces. Commentators were just not having any of that, at all. I saw #HoustonStrong come alive and move into action.

The other great thing about Facebook during Harvey was that there was actually a safety check-in site. Facebook has had this capability for a while, using it first in the Nepal  earthquake in April 2015. You can not only mark yourself as safe, but if you hadn’t heard from someone, you could ping them and ask them to respond that they were safe. You could also offer or find help.

Facebook’s Hurricane Harvey Safety Check Site

And Facebook Messenger was indispensable. The first person to check on me was actually in the Arctic Circle. My Facebook friend was staying with her sister at a Canadian science lab and messaged me the Friday before to see if I was OK. I was in touch with hundreds of people over the course of Harvey, speaking to family, friends, long-lost friends and new acquaintances who just wanted to make sure I was OK. The group chat allowed me to stay in touch with my immediate family all through out–every morning we had roll call to make sure we were all safe. I had a video chat with my cousin in Los Angeles to let him know I was alright.

I won’t even talk about all of the groups and pages that were born during this period, dispensing advice, information, supplies and directions to the entire population of Houston. Many of these groups are still active, giving volunteer aid and support to Rockport, Baytown, Beaumont, Port Arthur and all of the other tiny towns surrounding Houston.

During that week-long period, Facebook became a lifeline for me and millions of people.

And just like any other tool, it cuts both ways.

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.