Friday, November 30, 2007

RSS Feed Readers

The most popular RSS Feedreader in October of 2007 was Google Reader in October of 2007. It had the most feeds being added to it during that month. It had 37.4% of all feeds added to a feed reader, according to

Google keeps its crown for another month, continuing to grow its share. This growth looks to be due mostly to losses by Bloglines and NewsGator. Based on the year to date trend, Google continues to grow its market share.

Why Use Facebook?

I have been using Facebook for a few months now. I had heard that millions of people found something interesting in there. So why not try it out. After all it is free, so I all it will cost me is a few minutes of time to set up an account.

I was surprised to find that Facebook is all about communication and sending information. Facebook aggregates and dis-aggregates information in several ways. In your personal mini-feed, there is a history of what you have done with Facebook (although you can suppress items if you want). You mini-feed is aggregated out and combined with other mini-feeds. So your Facebook friends see your updated combined with the updates from their other friends. Updates and notifications have RSS feeds associated with them, so you can get updated in your feed reader, rather than having to go back into Facebook. Essentially, you are mini-blogging.

With the wide range in age of users in Facebook, you get a wide range of information. Those college students really like to put up drunken pictures and say silly things. My fellow knowledge management professionals, attorneys, legal technologists and enterprise 2.0 evangelists put up some really great content. And gives me some insight into what they are doing.

As C. G. Lynch posted in his story on Why CIOs Should Be On Facebook as more "adult" users join and the Facebookers join the workforce, they may start cleaning up their act.

Facebook turned out to be a great tool. Why not try it out. It won't cost you anything except a few minutes.

Register for Facebook
Add me as a friend

Why Blog? - Blogs in Plain English

The crew at Common Craft has come out with a great new video: Blogs in Plain English.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How Does Bill Gates Use Office 2007 and SharePoint

In my feed from SharePointPedia, I came across a post from Bill Gates on how he uses Office 2007 and SharePoint. Yes, it is a pretty fluffy post about how wonderful Office 2007 is to use.

Mr. Gates points out the ability to use SharePoint as an expertise locater. He also talks about creating internal websites, collaboration and discussions in SharePoint, but never uses the terms "blog" or "wiki" or "RSS." I find it interesting that he is playing up the social networking features of SharePoint.

In a related note, Mr. Gates talks about using email and outlook as his primary communications tool. Again, he leaves out blogs, wikis and RSS.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sharepoint and Extranets's Legal Technology section has an article by Mark Gerow of Fenwick & West: Implementing Large-Scale Extranets.

Like Fenwick & West we also use Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 as our extranet platform. The trouble with using it as extranet is finding an attorney and finding a client with a matter they want to share information by using an extranet. Although there is a lot of talk about clients wanting extranets, I find it to be more talk than need or desire.

I was surprised to find that we have more extranets for litigation matters than transactional matters. I think the problem is the database style of presenting and holding information in Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 . The great thing is that Sharepoint gives you the flexibility to organize and display documents. The bad thing is that Sharepoint gives you the flexibility to organize and display documents. I believe the chronological display of litigation filings breaks the barrier of having to figure out how you want to display the documents.

One way I found to leverage the Sharepoint structure was to host the contracts be transferred under an asset acquisition agreement. Representing the seller, we published each of the contracts to the extranet site and tagged each entry with the corresponding item reference on the disclosure schedule to the asset purchase agreement. When looking at the schedule you could see a lease referenced as item 12 on schedule 1 of the disclosure schedule. You could then turn to the extranet site, quickly browse to the schedule 1 section and look on the list for item number 12. Then you can pull up the contract. The extranet was a great tool for use to organize the documents for our client and allowed the purchaser easy access to the documents.

I was surprised to hear that Fenwick & West automatically creates an extranet for each matter opened. Granted, the information for a blank Sharepoint site takes up little memory and space. Unless their extranets are widely used (and I have found few firms that widely use extranets) you end up with lots of dead extranet sites.

Connectbeam Redux – Tagging Appliance for the Enterprise

As a follow up to my post on Connectbeam, Chuck Pendell VP of Sales and Puneet Gupta CEO and Founder of Connectbeam spent some time showing me their product in more detail.

They are positioning the product as a social software application for information access and discovery. The goal is to provide good content by adding attributes to make the information more useful. It ends up being a blend of, Facebook and LinkedIn within the enterprise.

The Connectbeam appliance combines social bookmarking with social networking. It uses bookmarking as a proxy for expertise and information interest. So if I have a bunch of bookmarks on "knowledge management," I presumably have some expertise in knowledge management or at least have some interest in knowledge management.

The product is an appliance so it should be easy to deploy and setup. It allows each user to import bookmarks from or a web browser. When you add a bookmark, you can decide to make it open, publish it to an open community, publish it to a restricted community or keep it private. They provide a toolbar with the button to create the bookmark and add the tags.

They also allow an integration into an internet and/or intranet search. Then the tagging from Connectbeam is combined with the search results. In the demo they used their Google appliance search, combining intranet and internet web search into a single result set. The bookmarked websites with the tags that matched the search terms were presented first in the search results, pushing those sites that were bookmarked the most to the top of the search results.

The community aspect of Connectbeam allows you to create ad hoc communities that are either open or restricted. I could create a community for my knowledge management team and publish bookmarks to that community. I could keep the community open so that anyone in firm interested in knowledge management could see the bookmarks published to that community. Or I could keep it restricted so that only certain invited people could join the community and see that community of bookmarks and their tags.

Connectbeam associates each person's bookmarks and communities and produces a user profile based on that information. I really like the concept of the tagging information being added into the profile for a person.

I see a tremendous value in adding the bookmarks and tags to enhance search results. It is a great way to cull out good content. If someone went through the trouble of bookmarking and tagging a site, it has some higher value for them. By combining multiple users bookmarks and tags, the better content bubbles to the top of the search results. In return, each person has a catalog of their bookmarks to browse and search through.

With Connectbeam the bookmarking and tagging enhance the findability of information used by the enterprise and the findability of expertise within the enterprise.

The weakness of the Connectbeam system is that it relies on bookmarking. Therefore you need a discoverable, unique URL to create the bookmark. For my firm, that ends up leaving out our document management system. Without being able to pull in documents it ends up not being a good solution for my firm. Maybe they can create an integration with Interwoven, but in the meantime the value proposition for Connectbeam is less apparent for my firm.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Minstrel of BU Law School

The Law Blog on posted a story on Mark Pettit at the Boston University School of Law: The Minstrel of BU Law School. I am a big fan of Professor Pettit. His contracts class was my first class in law school.

I was nervous about the Socratic method and what I had gotten myself into. Contracts was the first class on the first day of law school. The first case was Hawkins v. McGee. Professor Pettit was quizzing my classmate about what went wrong with the plaintiff that they ended up in court and suing their doctor. My classmate was stumbling. Professor Pettit reached into his desk and pulled out a plastic hand with a piece of thick fur attached:
"Dr. McGee promised Mr. Hawkins that he would make the hand a hundred percent perfect hand using skin grafting. But instead Mr. Hawkins ended up with a hairy hand that looked like this."
The prop was a great icebreaker for a classroom full of nervous students. With the sometimes (oftentimes) boring caselaw study of contracts, his songs always livened up class and got us to focus on the substance of the case.

The lesson for knowledge management is the power of being able to wrap more information around the subject, giving it more meaning for the viewer. Professor Pettit's songs and props were all metadata we could wrap around the caselaw in helping us to understand it and put it into context.

Video Game Halftime Show

I cracked up when I saw this video:

Did you recognize all of the video games?

Thanks to Gaming with Baby: Coolest. Halftime. Ever. for pointing it out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

DocStoc Disaster

I saw DocStoc a few weeks ago and dismissed it. It seems to gathered a little more traction since the post by Matt Homann on the [non]billable hour: A You-Tube for Legal Docs? Check out DocStock.

Matt calls it the "You-Tube of legal documents." I think that it a correct assessment since I found it to be full of amateur information and copywritten materials.

For instance, I pulled up the Real Estate Purchase Contract. It is clearly stolen from the California Association of Realtors form of Purchase Agreement and Escrow Instructions. Copyright violation

I went on to the form Promissory Note. That one is embarrassingly bad.

Most of the posters are anonymous or an avatar. (I found the prolific FreeRealEstate person.) that does not give you any confidence in whether the agreement maybe good or bad. They are running a promotion that gives away an iPod Touch to the user who uploads the most documents each week. That is a great way to create quantity, not quality. I found an iPod winner in Farhan Khan who uploaded over 20,000 documents. It looks like he also just uploaded his hard drive. I do not know him, but I am not going assess any value to someone who uploaded that many "professional documents" and just finished his MS in computer science this year.

Document Assembly Update and Problems

Document assembly is a powerful tool that we are starting to deploy across my firm. Document assembly is a wonderful and powerful knowledge management tool. We recently deployed HotDocs Server.

I found the desktop version of HotDocs to be powerful, but a pain in the neck to install, maintain and train attorneys on how to use. Going the route of the server made deployment easy. Users just need a web browser to access the templates, answers the questions and assemble the documents.

The problem with HotDocs server was that they sold it without a front end, expecting the customer to custom-build the user interface. Last year, HotDocs came out with their Template Portal product to act as the user interface for the portal. This allowed us to open the box and deploy the server in a week. Most of that time was spent changing to the colors and graphics to match our intranet.

One issue I had with the Template Portal is that it presents all of the templates in a flat list. I wanted to seamlessly integrate it with our intranet and forms library. So instead of opening the form of deed in word, you get the HotDocs interview taking you through the conveyance process. We found a workaround. We found the Template Sets feature created a distinct URL for the template, allowing us to link directly to the HotDocs interview.

Barron Henley and Blair Janis wrote an article for the Best of ABA TECHSHOW: Abracadabra: Document Creation You Can Really Use. They do a great job of taking you through the process and touting the benefits of document assembly.

The problem I have is dealing with changes to the documents and managing the client. Any good form document should change as market conditions change, the law changes and client expectations change. Inevitably, the client wants to see the changes and approve them before they get into the form, or the client wants to send a set of forms out to a potential recipient to give them a flavor of the documents. The problem is that the form is full of the document coding, making it hard to understand what is happening with the document.

To counter this, I have starting setting up the templates with a form option. This option pre-selects some of the answers and produces a form for distribution. It is kind of kludgy but is solving the problem for now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Connectbeam For Social Computing in the Enterprise

Connectbeam has announced the launch of version 2.0 of their social computing appliance. It looks like an interesting approach to get social bookmarking and social networking inside the enterprise. They have a 5 minute tour of the product.

It is great that the Connectbeam tagging and social bookmarking includes websites both inside and outside the firewall. We need to increasingly be aware that lots of great content and information lives outside our firewalls and should be incorporated as part of an enterprise knowledge base/search.

The problem I have with Connectbeam is getting it integrated with our document management system. Without that content most of our firm's internal content would be missing from the Connectbeam system. They have connectors to Google's search appliance, FAST search and Transfer's FSP search engine. None of these have been shown to integrate well with our document management system

I do like their Live Profiles, that dynamically reflects a person's area of interest and expertise. As you tag information, those tags get reflected in your profile. As you join groups, that group information gets shown on your profile.

Knowledge Management and Having Children

On Thursday, we brought a new daughter into our family. (She is the cute one in the picture).

By we, I mean my wife did all the work while I stood around taking pictures.

In my idle time, I ran a Google search on knowledge management and children. I was stunned to see all of the children's books in Amazon on knowledge management. But that was about the extent I thought about work and knowledge management over the last few days.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Legal Ethics and Social Media's Legal Technology section has a great article by C.C. Holland to get you thinking about the ethical limitations on a lawyer's involvement in social media: Mind the Ethics of Online Networking. The article focuses mostly on Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn and lawyers use of these social media sites.

As a lawyer who uses these tools and other social media tools, I am always cognizant of not soliciting for business and not directly answer legal questions. As the article points out, the various state bars do not have any bright-line rules on the use of these tools. To further muddy the waters, each state has its own rules on advertising and solicitation.

I use Facebook and LinkedIn as part of my professional brand. They are places where you can find more information about me. Hopefully, the information you find there and find on my blogs will give you a better understanding of my professional background and me as a person.

There are some basic principles that I adhere to and that other attorneys need to adhere to:

Be truthful. False or misleading communication about a lawyer or the services a lawyer provides are always going to be an ethical violation.

Put up a disclaimer. At the bottom of my page there is a notice that the blog may be considered advertising and that I am not rendering legal advice.

Be careful of direct communication. Posting on a blog is just making information available. Directly communicating with someone opens the door to the creation of an attorney-client relationship, even if you did not mean to create one. I posted a few months ago about the Massachusetts position on putting emails on a website: [Problem with Email on Law Firm Websites], [Problem with Email on Law Firm Websites] and [Problem with Email on Law Firm Websites].

None of this is a reason not use social media tools. If you are an attorney, you just need to remember that you are an attorney when using them.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Improvements to the Interwoven Document Management System

Some representatives of Interwoven gave my group a look at the new searching tools that are coming out in their 8.3 release in December. These upcoming changes look like they will transform their document management system into a powerful knowledge management tool.

We use Interwoven Worksite as our document management system, with the Desksite client application and Filesite Outlook integration. We are lawyers. We write lots of agreements, memos and briefs. So, the document management system has always been our largest knowledge repository.

It has worked well to store and manage the document, but it has never worked well at retrieving the knowledge from the system. As I mentioned in earlier posts, a document management system typically is great on the management side and less on the knowledge side. The key role of the document management system is controlling the drafting of documents. It makes it easier to identify particular documents, fetch them back from the system, and edit them. A document management system works great to recall particular sets of documents back from the system using profiled metadata, like client and matter designations.

The document management system usually comes up short in searching for a precedent or research. Interwoven is particularly hampered because the search engine in the product seemed to be underpowered for the multi-million number of documents in our system. The other problem was the scattering of information across the profile fields for a document. For example, I am looking for a purchase and sale agreement used by ABC Corp. to buy the Blackacre Shopping Center. The key terms in the search "purchase and sale agreement", "ABC Corp." and "Blackacre Shopping Center" may be in any number of metadata fields: the client name field, the matter name field, the document name field or the full text of the document itself. You would have to run multiple searches to deal with the multiple combinations of which fields may contain the search criteria.

Interwoven is planning to improve its performance in these types of searches with its new 8.3 release. The big change is adding in the Vivisimo Velocity search engine under the hood. This appears to give searches in the system a big boost in speed and responsiveness. This 8.3 release is separate from the Universal Search web-based product but uses some of the same hardware and indexing technology.

The first great change is Interwoven’s goal to give the user a single textbox to search. (Just like Google.) In giving the user one box to search, Interwoven combines that across all (or at least many) of the metadata fields. This new version should allow you to find my earlier example of the "purchase and sale agreement used by ABC Corp. to buy the Blackacre Shopping Center" just by typing into a single search box. The search will query the various metadata fields instead of the user having to guess which field may contain the information you need.

The next great change is that search results now come back based on relevancy, which is a huge boost to the usability of Interwoven for a research type of search. In its current version, Interwoven presents documents in a grid, sorted by one of the columns: title, last edit, date, document number, etc. That is useless when you are trying to find information on a subject. You want the deepest treatment presented first on the list, not the documents starting with the letter “A.”

We have been pouring our documents into the document management system for decades. We have been looking for better ways to better pull that information out and utilize it. This new release may finally allow us to release that.