Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Facebook: From Site To Platform

I have not made much progress with Facebook after my previous post: Facebook for the Enterprise. I edited my profile and added a few friends.

With the arrival of a huge class of summer associates, I am planning to gauge their use and poke them for ideas on how it could be used to improve the enterprise.

Since my previous post, Facebook has announced that they are opening the site as a platform for developers. So far they have six applications labeled as business. None of them seem particularly useful for the enterprise.

See more:
Collaborative Thinking: Facebook: From Site To Platform

Tech Crunch story

Are blogs a 'parasitic' medium?

Robert Niles, editor of Online Journalism Review, questions: Are blogs a 'parasitic' medium?
"Could the blogosphere survive without the reporting provided by newspapers and TV networks?"

Nicholas Carr in his Rough Type blog responds: In praise of the parasitic blogger. "I think sets blogs apart, as a literary rather than a technical form, is that they offer the opportunity for a writer to document his immediate responses to his day-to-day reading."

What is missing from both posts is how blogging, and especially the "parasitic" blogging of referring to news articles from "real" news sites, affects searching and search results.

Google is built on popularity. The more links to a website, the higher it appears in search results. The more blogs that refer to an article, the higher that article will appear in search results. The "parasitic" blogging referrals drive attention to the article.

As to my "parasitic behavior, " I post references to articles and news because I want to put them in context and be able to find them. In so doing, I am able to communicate them to the readers of the blog, including me.

I think the same reasons and impact carry over to blogs inside the enterprise. Bloggers in the enterprise would post references to articles, documents and ideas inside and outside the enterprise so they can find the material and they can communicate the findings to others in the enterprise. Some of the content would be original thoughts to provoke discussion and communicate new ideas. My guess is that the bulk of the blog posts would be "parasitic" referrals to other sources of original material. Either way, the ideas are being communicated to the enterprise.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What is Enterprise2.0? Meet Charlie

Scott Gavin (Enterprise 2.0 Evangelist) put together a slide show: Meet Charlie - what is Enterprise2.0?

It is a nice, glossy overview of Enterprise 2.0 technologies and their uses, but very light on how they work and fit in the organization. It certainly has enough pizazz to attract the attention of those who do not know much about the Enterprise 2.0 technologies and how they fit into an organization.

Why Wiki? - Using a wiki for an intranet

Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson Publishers announced that they have redesigned their intranet to be a wiki: From Where I Sit: A Practical Tool for Collaboration.

The wiki was put in place because the intranet was static; you had to go through IT to get a change.

As James Dellow pointed out [Marching the intranet retreat], using a wiki may just be a cheap web content management system.

The flaw in the Thomas Nelson intranet was the inability of a user to contribute content. An intranet should be about viewing content contributed by users. Although an IT group may be really interesting, they should not be the gatekeeper of user content.

The Thomas Nelson intranet must have been very static for it to be replaceable by a wiki. I imagine it was like my firm's first generation intranet that consisted almost exclusively of html pages that you had to edit with FrontPage.

Our current intranet is now much more of a portal, pulling information from other systems and displaying it for the user through the web interface. The most popular tool on our intranet is our photobook application (which is true for most intranets). The photobook information pulls information from the HR database. I would hate to have to maintain the phone directory on a wiki.

Using only a wiki for your intranet prevents you from incorporating other systems into the intranet. You can link to another system that is acting as a portal, but that would propel you right out of the wiki.

We are currently redesigning our intranet, moving it from Sharepoint 2003 to Sharepoint 2007, and trying to figure out how to include wikis in the new design. DO we have one big wiki for legal content or do we have several wikis focused on different areas of legal practice and administrative areas.

Why Blog? - Applications for Blogs

Scott Neisen of Attensa pointed out a post by Mike Gotta: Getting Over "Fear-of-Blogs".

Mr. Gotta proposed four categories for the application of Blogs: Internal Communication, Project Management, Community Building and Business Process.

Internal Communication.
In a previous post, I pointed out the virtues of using a blog for internal communication: Better Communication through Blogs, Wikis and RSS. I have focused on this category in the past because I think it would be an easy transition for the communicators. I see the challenge in weaning the communication consumers from getting all of their information in their inbox.

Project Management.
I have thought about using a blog as a communication tool within a project team, but I have doubts about how successful this would be for a legal case. I thought of using a blog to keep track of key decisions and information for an ongoing legal matter. However, on most legal matters there is too much communication among the working group. Emails flow constantly. I think having a common location for lawyers to deposit, share and read email would be more effective and more easily adopted than using a blog. It would be great if that email repository had an RSS feed so the group would know when a new message is added.

Community Building.
Blogs can be effective as a personal knowledge management tool [See my previous post: Why Blog? My Reasons]. The question is how that carries over to an application within the enterprise. I see two options for deploying blogs in the enterprise:

Option One: Set up a blog for a practice area of lawyers, allowing any of them to post information and comment on the information.
Option Two: Set up a blog specific to each user.

I think option one would be better served with a wiki. Information could be more easily be connected with similar information. Information can be built upon rather than being restated. With a wiki you still have the benefit of an RSS feed so users can see changes so you still get the communication benefits.

I have given a lot of thought about option two and I just do not know how users will react. Since our platform will allow us to easily set up blogs, I think I may just give a blog to anyone who wants one and let them do what they want with it. This strategy is less about community building, and more about harnessing personal knowledge management in a way that can be easily leveraged across the enterprise. Assuming blogs get used by a large base of users, you would end up with some duplication of information: when that important case comes down, several people may blog about it.

Business Process.
I am not sold on using a blog to address a business process in the law firm. I have not encountered much of a need among the lawyers for a process that is conversational in nature.

There is one process that I have been am looking at for using a blog. Some of our transactional practice areas are sending out an email to the group that a transaction occurred and some details about the transaction. Then our knowledge management administrators harvest that information into our matter information database.

By using a blog to post information, it moves the communication out of the email and creates a searchable repository that can be tied into the matters database.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Knowledge Dump

Rube Goldberg. Wired magazine has a photo spread from the 2007 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Purdue University to design a machine that uses the most complex process to complete a simple task: Engineered Insanity: A Gallery of Wonderfully Useless Complexity
Does your knowledge management practice bear any resemblance to these contraptions?

Contract Drafting. I recently discovered Ken Adams blog on contract drafting. Mr. Adams is the author of a A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, published by the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association.

Dell in WalMart. Dell announced it is selling computers in WalMart. I bought my computer from Dell so that I could get the features I wanted and not pay for things that I did not want. Hopefully Dell can survive the experience. There is an interesting story in Fast Compnay about how Walmart and gallon-sized jar of pickles wrecked havoc on Vlasic.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why Blog? My Reasons.

I do not blog for fame or fortune. (There is none.)

I do not blog for you. (Although I do appreciate you taking the time to read my blog posts.)

I blog for me.

Not for narcissism, but for capturing knowledge.

Ken Adams points out in his post: Reflections on a Year of Blogging:

"To feed the blog beast, I’ve had to scour the online and paper worlds and the remote recesses of my brain, looking for issues that I hadn’t addressed previously or needed to revisit. I’ve then had to prepare analyses that would withstand scrutiny while being halfway engaging. It’s been rare for a day to go by without my doing some form of work related to the blog. ...
In particular, I have a second edition of MSCD to produce. Without the blog, working on the second edition would have seemed a looming and monumental task. But now I have a year’s worth of great material to work with, and it addresses a far broader range of topics than I would have dreamed up without a hungry blog to feed."

Matt mused in his post: Blogging: Why would I want to do that?! :

"If, like me, you’re a knowledge worker rather than a process worker, you use knowledge and information to get your work done. If you need to find information, clarify your thoughts and share them with others before you write that paper, maybe blogging is the way to help you get your proverbial ducks in a row. Maybe blogging will help you get comments from others, whether they’re peers, colleagues or people you don’t even know who are also doing the same sorta stuff as you."

Matt coined the term "thought incubator" in one of his comments on one of my posts.

This blog is primarily a personal knowledge management tool for me: A space where I can keep information, wrap context around it, categorize it and search for it.

I blog as a way to capture information on the internet and wrap some context around it. I bookmark sites in my browser and bookmark sites with (Feel free to check out my tags). [The bookmarks in my browser are for sites I visit regularly. The bookmarks in are for sites that I found interesting and may need to turn back to one day.] But bookmarks do not have much context. You can wrap some metadata around them by giving them tags or putting them into folders. But you really do not have much of an opportunity to say why they interested you.

I blog to write my thoughts down on knowledge management in a way that I can reuse them and adapt them.

I blog to highlight information for future knowledge management projects that I may want to start or to highlight future goals for existing projects.

The search feature of this blog allows me to quickly find the post I was looking for, even if I forgot the name of the post or when I published it.

The label feature allows we to review my thoughts, along the lines of Matt's "thought incubator" concept and Ken Adams "material generation" concept.

Why blog? Why not blog!

Blogger and many of its competitors are free, easy to set up and learn. If you are shy, Blogger allows you to keep your blog private. (Sorry if that sounds like an ad for Blogger, but I did not know how easy it could be to setup and run a blog.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

RSS for the enterprise

Tom Dunlap wrote a piece on the Intranet Journal: RSS Slowly Gains Momentum in the Enterprise. It reads more like an advertisement for NewsGator, but has a few interesting quotes from Todd Berkowitz of NewsGator.

"Everyone gets too much email."
"Information workers are drowning in content -- email, newsletters, press releases, and spam. . ."

I am currently using two RSS readers.

I have been using Bloglines as an web-based RSS feed reader for many months. The benefit of a web-based reader is that I can use at work, at home or when traveling. All I have to do is logon.

I also installed an Outlook based RSS feed reader from Attensa. I am running this against some external blogs and sources. More importantly, I am also running it against the RSS feeds in our Sharepoint2007 development site. I see lots of potential in using the enterprise based RSS reader to improve internal communication and knowledge sharing.

With an enterprise based RSS reader, you can force certain RSS feeds on groups of users. So everyone can notified of HR updates, but it is moved out of the email inbox and into the RSS feed. With an Outlook add-on, there is a flag for a new message. But the flag and the message is in a separate folder, instead of my inbox. Even better, it does not set off my blackberry.

My goal would be to have actionable messages from the firm to go to my email inbox and non-actionable messages go to an RSS feed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Facebook for the Enterprise?

Andrew McAfee has joined Facebook: The Teenybopper Network. Here is his profile.

His post showed the possibility of somehow leveraging Facebook or porting over some its features into an Enterprise. There is only one way to find out how it works, so I joined: My Facebook Profile.

Now what do I do?

It seems there is a lot of networking and information sharing potential. I need to build up my network and see how some people use it.

Having been out of university life for so many years, I did not find many friends in the few minutes I spent searching. I did find a paralegal, so I am going to drop in on her and see how she uses it. Maybe I can get some of the insight that Professor McAfee got from his undergraduate guest speakers.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Loopholes - Articles on the Business of Law

Some articles on the business of law:
  • Explaining the Value of Transactional Lawyering. Steven L. Schwarcz.
    An academic look at trying to find how transactional lawyers add value in their role in the transactional process. I was surprised that academics thought that lawyers add value by "renting" their good reputation to clients. The results of the study behind this paper debunk that theory.

  • Women Lawyers and Obstacles to Leadership. Mona Harrington and Helen Hsi, MIT Workplace Center.
    The report is based a study of the surveys that show that women and men enter law firms in essentially equal numbers but women leave firm practice at every pre-partner level at a far higher rate than men. The primary reason is the need for more time for family than the firms support. Nearly 80% women who leave the law firm environment move to workplaces that do allow the time they need, even if they are working fulltime.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Friday Knowledge Dump

Visualization. My colleague, David Hobbie, sent me this site: A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. A great sampling of different charts and ways to show information.

Contract Drafting. Mike Dillon, the General Counsel of Sun Microsystems, had a great post on lawyers and drafting contracts: Contracts with Clarity.

RSS Readers. Simple Help .net published this review: 20 Free RSS Readers Reviewed

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Why Blog?

Ron Friedmann of Prism Consulting put together an excellent presentation on why law firms should use blogs: Blogging: Why the Fuss?

I have been trying to convince my marketing group to convert some of publications into blogs. The hang up seems to be trying to put together a blogging policy and branding (beyond the typical concerns about learning a new technology and attorney concerns).

I set up an example blog using Blogger in a few minutes and transfered over a substantial amount of content in a few minutes. Since it was Blogger it was free.

Cheap and easy is my kind of project.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Wiki for the US court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reported that the 7th Circuit has launched the first federal judiciary Wiki.

It is focused around the practitioner's handbook and started off just by transplanting the text of the handbook.

The transformation from book to wiki looks a little rough to me. It has the regimented structure of book, complete with an outline.

User Types

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report: A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users [PIP_ICT_Typology.pdf]

From their press release: "Fully half of adults have a more distant or non-existent relationship to modern information technology. Some of this diffidence is driven by people’s concerns about information overload; some is related to people’s sense that their gadgets have more capacity than users can master; some is connected to people’s sense that things like blogging and creating home-brew videos for YouTube is not for them; and some is rooted in people’s inability to afford or their unwillingness to buy the gear that would bring them into the digital age."

They Came up with 10 separate groups:
  • Omnivores (8%)
  • Connectors (7%)
  • Lackluster Veterans (8%)
  • Productivity Enhancers (8%)
  • Mobile Centrics (10%)
  • Connected But Hassled (10%)
  • Inexperienced Experimenters (8%)
  • Light But Satisfied (15%)
  • Indifferents (11%)
  • Off the Network (15%)
I found this more interesting as to how it applies to users in the enterprise. Who will use the knowledge management tools and technology tools?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Obstacles to Enterprise 2.0 - Perception of Blogs

In my earlier postings on objections to Enterprise 2.0, I mentioned the perception of not being busy and privacy.

A very prevalent obstacle is the ordinary person's perception of what a blog is and what it can do. I was struck by this after the comment of Judge Kozinski highlighted on He called them "hateful" and narcissistic.

This perception of blogs will be big hurdle to overcome when introducing blogs to the enterprise.

Since everyone seems to already have a pre-conceived notion of what a "blog" is, I try not to use the word "blog."

As used in the enterprise, a blog coupled with a RSS feed aggregator, it is simply a "communication tool" or a "website." Post information on this website (don't say "blog") and those interested/subscribed to site will get an notice of the update and the text of the update without being interrupted by email.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

An RSS Aggregator is a River of News

Jack Vinson, in his Knowledge Jolt blog, used the metaphor of a "Streams of news" in describing an RSS aggregator.

Attensa has a feature called the "river of news" where they combine all of the RSS feed postings into one list to literally give you a river of news as a quick to scan headlines.

The river of news is similar to what people experience with email. It is as if someone were emailing you all of these stories for you to read. But instead of them clogging your email with more items that do not require your action, they are set to the side in the aggregator.

Below is an image of the river of news in my Attensa demo.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Better Communication Through Blogs, Wikis and RSS

E-mail comes and goes. We need a place to collect and build communication.

Email has become the principal means of business communication. My theory for its widespread adoption is that is just like typing a letter or making a phone call. Therefore, it was relatively easy for users to translate their existing communication processes to email. Although email has become widespread, it took years for it to get to that place.

Blogs and wikis are still in their infancy for business communication, but we should look ahead with their potential.

I find the key to enabling them as a communication tool is to tie them to the enterprise with an enterprise RSS feed aggregator. I recently looked at the Attensa product and tied it into the next generation of our intranet using Sharepoint 2007 .

The proverbial light went on over my head. I now see the intranet as a communication tool instead of a mere content repository.

The blog becomes the way to collect communication and distribute it. But the communication is no longer a disruptive email. It moves communication that is not actionable out of the email inbox. People do not need to save the email to later recall the message. The intranet search can easily retrieve the blog posting.

The wiki combines a document with the communication of changes to the document. Instead of drafting a substantive memo and circulating the memo by email, the user creates a wiki page. Those interested in/ subscribed to the wiki topic get a notice of the new wiki page. But the notice comes through the RSS aggregator instead of email. And the reader does not need to save the email and memo to retrieve the memo. The wiki moves an email and a bulky attachment out of the email traffic flow. The intranet search can easily retrieve the wiki page.