October 28, 2003
LawTech Guru Blog Is Netlawtools' MVP Site for October
Ah, the power of Movable Type TrackBacks, which is how I discovered the news. Thanks Jerry.
As a tribute to Jerry Lawson, and other early blawg visionaries who inspired me, I thought I'd pass along this anecdote and some personal observations on why blogging is breaking the rules of convention and is wildly succeeding:
For as long as I can remember, a Google search for Jeff Beard always returned and ranked the same-named Vice President of Business Development at Targus at #1. I always presumed it was because the Targus site was so heavily linked to, given that they sell so much tech-related gear. So his page on the site probably inherited Targus' status in Google's link-voting and ranking model. Thus it was one of my goals to see if I could stage a little Google "coup" and displace him someday. Not through any search engine trickery, mind you, but on merit (i.e., content) alone. Call it a personal challenge if you will.
Well, "someday" came much, much sooner than I ever expected. In the first week after going live with this blog, Google ranked me at #5 for the phrase Jeff Beard. Somewhere between 5 - 6 weeks, Google moved me up from #2 to #1, and moved him down to #2. I actually did nothing on a purely technological level to boost my rankings, other than to submit this site to Google and a handful of other search engines via the normal "submit" method. Socially speaking, however, now that's another matter altogether, which I'll come to in a minute. I don't know if the top position will be maintained or not, but it definitely and instantly convinced me about the sheer power of blogs, as this was most definitely an example of "disruptive technology" in action. No, in case you're wondering, it's not the ego thing (although I have to admit it's pretty cool) for why I mention this, but instead, it was the incredibly short period of time it took for the desired change to occur that impressed me.
This never would have happened if I set up a traditional web site -- how could a small web site of legal technology articles and tips compete with Targus in the search rankings? Instead, I have the pleasure to thank Jerry and several other visionaries for their influence upon my decision to blog. Between the ABA Techshow 2003 blog presentation by Tom Mighell and Sabrina Pacifici, Dennis Kennedy's and Jerry Lawson's great Internet Roundtable article series on LLRX, and Jerry's provocative article about Ernie The Attorney's blog link count, I was sold.
However, perhaps the most important thing I've learned since I've started blogging is this: When it comes to "web presence", compared with traditional web sites, blogging is not necessarily technologically superior, even with all the extra content management, trackback, and RSS feed bells and whistles. A number of web sites are using content management systems, talkback comments, forums, and RSS news feeds. Those are just the enablers, the means to an end in building the bridges. You can build all the bridges you want, but people won't travel them unless they want to or feel compelled to in some manner.
Thus the real revelation, at least to me, is that blogging is socially superior in effectiveness on the web, in terms of the reaction that it causes in other web presences, which in turn link to, feed, and reward the originating blogger for his or her contributions. Thus the blogosphere is a huge, special social and viral network, and that is what some traditional web users and designers are having difficulty understanding -- because that is not technical in nature at all, and they can't get their heads or hands around it.
For example, Jerry posted the MVP award on his blog, and his blog automatically pinged my blog. While Jerry hadn't e-mailed me, I found out about his post from my blog the next day (my blog also sends me e-mail notifications of comments and TrackBacks as well). Technological means? Okay, yes. But the result was social -- meaningful communication. Also consider Rick Klau's impressive and effective networking success with his political blog endeavors.
At least that's my take on it from today's perspective. Call it lessons learned about the human experience, if you will. We are indeed social creatures, and blogging just seems to break down a number of barriers and makes it easier to cross those bridges.
October 27, 2003
Travelers Up In Arms About Knee Defender
Today's travel debate: Knee Defender. It's a small $10 block of plastic that claims to prevent the seat in front of you from reclining on an airliner. Flight attendants, airlines, and some passengers are not too happy that people are buying and using it. In essence you wedge it between the tray arm and seatback to prevent it from tilting backward. Sounds like a great idea if you're in the back.
The heart of the debate: On one hand, laptop users should be able to use their computers in-flight when allowed by the flight crew, and those with long legs shouldn't have them crunched by the seat in front of them. On the other hand, weary travelers also should be able to recline to rest. Airlines are concerned that a forced seat movement could break the tray, causing an in-flight hazard.
An FAA spokesperson stated the product did not violate any FAA regulations, so it's up to each airline to ban it. Flight attendants don't want to have to police passenger disputes over who wins, the passenger in front or the one in back. Sounds like a call for Air Marshalls with ADR experience -- job creation in action.
It's interesting how much controversy a simple block of plastic is able to generate... At least there's a seatback to separate the combatants. Heaven help us if the Elbow Defender is ever invented. That kind of "arms race" I could do without -- the battle for armrest supremacy would never be the same.
[via Detod Technology News]
October 25, 2003
Why I've All But Dumped IE As My Web Browser
When I first launched this blog, I discussed both the Mozilla and MYIE2 web browsers. I've since added Mozilla Firebird to my arsenal. Along with IE, this gives me four web browsers to choose and use.
Guess which browser I now use the least? That's right, IE 6.0. It just doesn't have the feature diversity I need for my high performance surfing needs. Here's the breakdown of which browsers I use, why I use them, and how often:
My #1 Browser by Usage: MyIE2
This browser, based upon the IE rendering engine, is my number one "go to" browser due to its vast array of features. While it's not as fast at rendering pages as Firebird or even Mozilla, I'm much more productive with it, and that makes me faster. MyIE2's superb handling of browser tabs surpasses even Mozilla and Firebird. The tabs are tiny and don't take up precious display space like those in Mozilla and Firebird. I can easily save and manage groups of browser tabs -- perfect for saving those research sessions and Google searches. Simply put, MyIE2's tab implementation lets me browse the way I want to browse. I can easily rearrange browser tabs by dragging, and can open or close tabs in the blink of an eye with the mouse. When I want to blog, in two clicks I can open a group of browser tabs which display my blog, my Movable Type login page, and any desired additional sources, such as news sites or my blog's web traffic stats analysis. Between the tabbed browsing, saved tab groups, and minimize to system tray features, MyIE2 never clutters my task bar like IE.
I love MyIE2's plugin tools, particularly the text highlighter. On any web page, it instantly highlights all occurrences of the words I type or highlight -- perfect for showing keywords in context, so it's a researcher's and author's dream. It's very similar to viewing a cached Google page, except that it's the live one. The auto-hide button bar is handy so I don't have to keep toggling between full screen and the button bar. Its mouse gestures are occasionally useful when I'm in a hurry. Even though I have a 5-button Microsoft optical wheel mouse, it can't do everything (mostly just the "back", "forward", and wheel buttons assist in browsing). Maybe I'm just used to the gesture concept from all the writing I've done on my PDA, but it just feels natural.
Its integrated Ad Hunter (pop-up and ad blocking) features works well, and as a result, commercial web pages load reasonably fast. Since it's built on IE, it seamlessly uses all of my IE bookmarks (favorites), and it works with my previously-installed IE add-ons (e.g., Flash, RealOne, Windows Media, and QuickTime players, and the Acrobat reader). Gecko-based browsers such as Mozilla and Firebird sometimes need separate plugins installed, which is a hassle and duplicative work. Therefore, MyIE2 is my research, news reading, blogging, media and business browser. It is particularly well-suited for my blogging, authoring, and presenting needs. When I need to access a lot of varied and discrete information, keep it from running amok on my desktop, and save it in a tidy bundle for later, MyIE2 works like a dream. Its many buttons and features take a little time to master, but it's well worth it.
This spot used to be occupied by Mozilla 1.4. I had looked at Firebird many moons ago in its first low version releases and it was unstable, so I used Mozilla for any high-speed surfing and mission critical download projects. Frankly, the Mozilla-based browsers are notably faster in graphic rendering on news, photo, and desktop artwork sites (such as The Artwork of Greg Martin, absolutely stunning), than is IE.
Firebird addresses one huge productivity pet peeve I had of Mozilla 1.4: IE and Firebird let you type the domain name and press Ctrl-Enter to have the browser complete it with the prefix and ".com" suffix. In contrast, Mozilla either makes me type the additional ".com" or I can just enter "yahoo" and press Enter, but then I have to wait for the name resolution to fail by design before Mozilla appends the .com suffix and tries again, all of which just slows me down. I don't use Firebird for my main browser, because of the plugin and bookmark non-compatibility issues. Yes, I could use a browser-agnostic bookmark manager program (which I've been heavily considering, by the way), but it's just so much easier having my bookmarks in one place, instantly and seamlessly integrated into my main browser of choice (MyIE2) while still maintaining full IE compatibility.
Last, but not least, the integrated Google search field in Firebird's navigation toolbar is a huge timesaver and a stroke of genius. I just type in my search and press Enter. It's like having part of the Google Toolbar already installed, without it taking up yet another toolbar row in my browser window.
So Firebird is my "go to" browser when I simply need a fast and nimble bare bones session. When I really want to see my pages jump on the screen, Firebird rules for sheer performance, and its browser tab handling and overall navigation ease is second only to MyIE2 in my collection. It's a lean, mean browsing machine.
Simply put, while IE and Firebird have caches, when file downloads get interrupted, it's Russian roulette whether you can resume from the middle or have to start over again. While there are many download manager programs available, many of them are ad- or spyware based, so they track and report which files you've been downloading. Also, have you ever downloaded a file to what you thought was one directory, but then you couldn't find it there upon completion? Mozilla's integrated download manager is superb in that it tracks concurrent downloads, gives a lot of additional information, and even shows the you file's true location after download. It also lets you launch the saved file without having to open Windows Explorer, navigate to the desired directory, and double-click the file. Mozilla does the equivalent with one button.
I also use Mozilla when Firebird can't properly render a page. Firebird is still a 0.7 release, so it's not perfect. That's when Mozilla gives me nearly the same speed and features, and it just seems to be more compatible with various web pages than Firebird.
Conspicuously missing from my round-up is Opera, for the simple reason that all of the above browsers are free and otherwise meet my needs. I know there are many satisfied Opera users, and I've tried it at one point as well with no major complaints. Perhaps I'm just used to having free web browsers, but I've found MyIE2 to be the best match so far for my style and needs, with Mozilla-based browsers filling in several gaps on occasion. While Microsoft would have us use their hammer for everything, I prefer choosing between the hammer, screwdriver, pliers, and wrench. It's incredibly satisfying when one has the right tool for the right job.
October 24, 2003
EMC/Documentum Head Scratching
Several days ago, I made a post about the consolidation moves in the document management and content management provider markets. As I mentioned, the iManage/Interwoven deal made immediate sense to me. Only time will tell if it's financially successful, but the strategic importance is self-evident.
However, EMC's acquisition of Documentum left me scratching my head. Would acquiring a software company make a large impact on increasing demand or achieving market growth for EMC's hardware storage solutions? Thus I originally decided to decline commenting on the situation while I considered it. Was it a desperate move, or is EMC being crazy like a fox in getting a jump ahead? Since I first read the announcement, frankly, my money has been leaning more on the former interpretation.
Well, at least I now have some company. Rick Klau, a fellow visionary and tech-savvy attorney, has saved me the blogging exercise. He recently posted many of the same thoughts that likewise made me say, "Huh?" about the deal. Nice job, Rick.
October 23, 2003
Antispam Bill Passes Senate Approval
CNET News reports the unanimous approval of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, S. 877 with 97-0 votes in the Senate, which leaves the House of Representatives to hammer out their differences. The CNET article gives the highlights and examples of how the bill applies to and criminalizes certain spamming techniques.
While I applaud the Senate's action, in all practicality this can only be marginally effective at best. My opinion is that this will probably be the "feel good legislation" of the year. The FCC Do Not Call Registry has a much better chance at curbing telemarketers than any antispam legislation will have on spam. The simple reason is that spam is much more of a global problem. Spammers are also much more adept at trickery and covering their tracks than telemarketers, simply because the internet technology is more advanced, and prone to abuse.
In addition, the FCC Do Not Call Registry and separate state "do not call" laws are driving the blocked telemarketers over to spamming techniques to make up for the lost call opportunities. Thus U.S.-based legislation alone cannot be effective globally. Now, a world treaty coupled with advanced spam origination discovery tools might make a larger bite, but still wouldn't be as effective as desired. The problem is that spammers are teaming up with hackers and together they will stay at least a step ahead of the game for the forseeable future.
Again, I heartily applaud the Senate's approval, but I'm not even cautiously optimistic about its ultimate effect at curbing spam. I certainly hope I'm mistaken in this, but in my humble opinion, self-help and anti-spam/prevention education is going to make more of an immediate impact on a particular person's or organization's spam situation. Only we can prevent spam, by what we do and don't do online and even offline, such as in answering telephone questions and filling out application forms with e-mail addresses.
IMSecure Pro: A Firewall for Instant Messaging
Besides the clever name, IMSecure Pro (and its free basic sibling, IMSecure) sounds like the right product at the right time. More and more people have been tuning into Instant Messaging, but IT departments have rightfully been concerned when their users download and install the free and insecure consumer-level IM clients -- which is why a fair number of organizations have already banned IM. Likewise, even home and laptop use of these programs introduces the definite possibility of malware and other undesirables (such IM-borne scripts, buffer overflow attacks, and IM spam) being transmitted along IM channels.
In comparison to ZoneLabs' well-known ZoneAlarm firewall, IMSecure Pro is best described as a firewall for IM clients. It works with most IM programs, even the multi-network Trillian IM client, but there are a few exceptions per the review (apparently it doesn't work with ICQ or IRC).
What makes this different from a regular personal firewall like ZoneAlarm? A regular personal firewall lets you control web access by port number and program name, but it usually doesn't have the finer control over individual features within a program. Consider this: What is one of the first things you need to do after installing an Instant Messaging program on a PC with a personal or network firewall installed? That's right: If it's not already open, you need to open a hole in the firewall so your IM program can talk to all of your buddies' IM programs -- potentially a hole that a savvy hacker can drive a truck through.
That's where IMSecure comes in: IMSecure Pro allows you to block certain IM features, such as file transfers and voice and video chats. The program also supports encryption for messages sent between between different IM programs, as long as they communicate over the same service. Its "ID Lock" feature can also prevent the inadvertent release of private data over IM channels and exploits. What I like is that ZoneLabs included a similar lockout feature from ZoneAlarm, called "IM Lock" in IMSecure Pro, so that you can take ultimate control over instant messaging in case of IM misuse or extreme IM security.
Now I haven't had a chance to try IMSecure yet, and I've oversimplified this discussion to get the points across in relatively plain language. However, if you use one or more of the popular consumer-based (read: very insecure) IM programs, this sounds like a must-try program.
October 22, 2003
First Linux-Based Tablet PC Needs Work
PCWorld has a short review on the first Linux-based tablet PC, Desktop Evolution's $1900 De-Tablet. According to the review, Desktop Evolution took a 1.33-GHz mobile Pentium III-driven Toshiba Portégé 3500 and added Lycoris' Linux distribution, Lycoris Desktop/LX Tablet Edition.
While it sports some nice features (integrated Wi-Fi, ethernet, V.92 modem, and SD and CompactFlash memory card slots), I was amazed to read that this tablet PC couldn't do handwriting recognition nor portrait mode. Considering that one of the major uses, if not the top use, of a tablet PC is to take notes, these are glaring omissions. The review states they are expected in the next release, but I have to question a company's "got it" savvy when they release a $1900 model that can't do what most people want a tablet PC to do. I applaud the next evolution of mobile computing with Linux, but I have to agree with the reviewer's appraisal that it isn't yet ready for prime time in this incarnation.
Overall, it will be interesting to see if Linux-based tablets fare any better than the Linux-based PDA's, such as the Sharp Zaurus. While the Zaurus received many accolades upon its release due to its innovative design, it hasn't exactly soared in market share. I like the open source approach, but mainstream business users are going to need seamless integration with their everyday business apps for it to fly.
October 21, 2003
Document Management Consolidation and Evolution
Ron Friedmann has an insightful post on his Strategic Legal Technology blog outlining some of the recent developments (i.e., consolidations) in the DMS developer community. I've been watching these with more than a little interest. The iManage/Interwoven merger sends a clear signal that portalizing your DMS with a content management system is one big enabler and business driver for firms and clients alike (think of the collaboration and KM implications alone). This is a key trend which bears watching, and in my humble opinion, participation from law firms who want to keep their edge in the market.
Ron offered several comments which struck a chord with my thoughts on the matter:
"The business dynamics of the DMS space may be changing and law firm technology managers - both operational and strategic - should keep an eye on the market."
I've recently commented on Longhorn's anticipated storage capabilities and how Microsoft's combination of NTFS, SQL Server, and XML data labeling could be an important single storage solution if it lives up to the hype.
Document management isn't going away, but how documents are managed, secured, shared, and presented is evolving at a quicker pace. Add to this the fact that Microsoft's Office 2003 suite's main feature improvement is the addition of digital rights management, and you can see how important this trend has become.
While you're at Ron's site, I highly recommend reading his immediately prior post on "Knowledge Management and Law Firm Compensation". Ron aptly describes why firms with "lock step" partner compensation are perceived to better able support significant KM initiatives over competitors with "eat what you kill" compensation. However, he uses UK firm Clifford Chance's recent partner defections to suggest that pressures may be developing against UK firms maintaining their primarily lock step systems. It will be interesting to see the impact on KM initiatives moving forward.
A Treasure Trove of RSS Feeds
A bit of serendipity from my blog's referrer logs, just as I was looking to expand my daily RSS intake: Jenny Levine runs the Shifted Librarian blog, where she hosts a cumulative list of "Sites I Read in My Aggregator". There are well over 100 blogs' and web sites' RSS feeds, many of which pertain to technology, information sources, mobile computing, and you name it. As both the site and RSS links are listed, you can easily preview them before adding the RSS link to your collection.
Kudos to Jenny for taking the time to post them. A feast for info junkies, to be sure.
October 20, 2003
The Year of the Incredibly Shrinking CIO
CIO.com has this disturbing analysis of how the CIO position is being diluted and dumbed down in corporate America. In terms of corporate reporting, CIO reports "The percentage of CIOs reporting to CFOs doubled this year from last year [22% vs. 11%], according to CIO's "The State of the CIO 2003" survey. Reporting to the CFO rather than the CEO or COO is almost always a sign of diminished clout." This also sets up an inherent shortfall in vision, resulting in conflicting and counterproductive goals, as a sidebar points out: "CFOs think in terms of quarterly earnings. IT is best managed as a long-term investment."
Some CIOs are being kicked out of the boardroom level. According to the aforementioned survey, 84 percent of CIOs said their IT function is currently being budgeted as a cost center that generates expenses rather than an investment center that generates new business capabilities. The article goes on to say many CIOs are just holding on for dear life, and being in survival mode means taking less chances and doing what they're told to do, and reporting to whom they're told to report.
One former CIO heard the same story over and over during interviews: "We're looking for a new CIO because IT projects never deliver on time and they cost more than we expect and they don't deliver what we want. All our systems need to be replaced. Oh, and we're reducing the amount of money we're allocating for IT."
But all is not lost. The article provides a number of very good suggestions for CIO's to improve their chances for redemption. Be proactive, run IT like any other business unit, put fiscal controls in place, etc. However, the "social engineering" and relationship-building aspects mentioned are just as important. Get out of your office, work the relationships both horizontally across departments and vertically with the CxOs to regain credibility, and then argue against the weakening of the CIO role from a position of strength and successes.
The linked article, "The Six Best Practices: What Leading CIOs Do", summed this up very succinctly:
As I posted a few days ago, the successful CIOs will be the ones who effectively partner with management and aren't afraid to bring new ideas to the table. But even good ideas aren't enough anymore. In the current climate, firms want to see their IT solutions directly benefit the bottom line in one form or another. The good ideas ultimately have to turn into timely and cost-effective business drivers, without the bloat. As in golf, taking a good swing at the ball requires an equally good follow-through.
October 19, 2003
Tracking RSS Readership
Along the same lines, Marketing Wonk discusses whether RSS feeds will replace e-mail newsletters. In essence, advertisers may not warm up to the idea until RSS readership can be tracked. That's where Saved By Zero's post on RSS Readership Tracking comes in. Just as HTML-formatted e-mail newsletters use web bugs to track readership, so can RSS Feeds. The Saved By Zero post even includes a sample HTML image tag and methodology used to track IP addresses.
This isn't true authentication, such as requiring a login, but it's a start. Marketing Wonk's latest post also links to 8 prior posts on the pros and cons of RSS advertising, and the likelihood of RSS feeds replacing e-mail newsletters. Good stuff on the subject if you're looking to beef up your RSS readership tracking or "go commercial" with your feeds.
October 17, 2003
Killer Combo: Treo 600 & RSS Reader for Palm OS
The Connected PDA has some nice feedback on the Treo 600 after the person's first 24 hours with it. It was given very high marks on the processor speed, 5-way navigation control and especially on the updated Blazer browser (which has been my Palm-based browser of choice as well for several years). He also comments that it's a better phone than the Treo 300, particularly that the 600 is dual-band so it roams, and experiences better signal strength in the same areas than his Treo 300.
However, on the more practical side, with all the great things the Treo 600 has going for it, I've come across two negatives: The first is that it only includes a low-res 160×160 display (320×320 is soooo much nicer), and its internal battery is not user swappable. Apparently Handspring chose this route to keep the Treo's size and weight down. Oh well, perhaps they'll finally get it right on the Treo 900, or whatever Palm deigns to name it after the merger. In the meantime, let the technolust begin...
Last but certainly not least, that post provided me with the holy grail for which I was seeking -- a commercial grade RSS news feed reader for the Palm OS. Head on over to Stand Alone, Inc. to check out their Hand/RSS for Palm OS® v.1.05 There's a downloadable 30-day free trial, and it's only $14.95 to purchase it. It's feature set claims to download news feeds via either a HotSync or using a direct internet connection on your Palm-based PDA for reading later. So non-wireless Palms can benefit as well, similar to an AvantGo approach. For illustrative purposes above, I overlaid Hand/RSS' screenshot onto a Treo 600 photo from Handspring's Press Center.
One caution: The Connected PDA reported an initial screen rendering problem with Hand/RSS on the Treo 600, but Stand Alone sent an immediate fix via e-mail. Now that kind of support is worthy of giving a hand.
October 16, 2003
Microsoft's Sneek Peek at Longhorn Storage Transition
Microsoft unpacks details of Longhorn storage "The Longhorn edition of Microsoft's Windows operating system is at least two years away--but the company is revealing some details on how it intends to create a smooth transition from today's Windows PCs."
"One of the most significant enhancements to Longhorn is a data storage system called WinFS, technology designed to make information easier to find and view. Clearing up long-standing confusion, a Microsoft senior vice president said that WinFS will work with--not replace--the existing file system in Windows, called NTFS, when WinFS debuts in late 2005 or 2006.
WinFS "uses NTFS," Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's enterprise storage and enterprise management divisions, told CNET News.com. "We built on top. NTFS does what it does incredibly well."
Essentially, Microsoft is trying to create a single storage solution that would work across various types of applications. Their WinFS strategy builds on NTFS while pulling together other technologies such as the querying capabilities of Microsoft's SQL Server relational database, and incorporating the data labeling capabilities of Extensible Markup Language (XML). It will be interesting to see if MS really pulls this off or whether it's just another MMP (Microsoft Marketing Ploy). In the meantime, we get to enjoy XP for several more years. Security issues aside, compared to prior Windows releases, living with XP isn't a bad 3-year sentence in my opinion.
October 14, 2003
Internal E-mail: Take Me to Your Leader
Researchers at Hewlett Packard have "developed a way to use e-mail exchanges to build a map of the structure of an organization. The map shows the teams in which people actually work, as opposed to those they are assigned to."
In other words, they're studying the flow of e-mail to learn how their organization really works -- who speaks to whom, who holds the real power, etc.
In essence, large organizations tend to divide into informal collaborative networks, called "communities of practice." Sound familiar? Large law firms formally divide themselves into practice groups, or formal silos. However, there's often a lot of cross-talk via e-mail, except that no one really knows who's talking to whom. That's why identifying the informal "communities of practice" is otherwise so elusive. This time around, e-mail provides a nice big bread crumb trail. Just as Google's results ranking algorithms make heavy use of inbound web site linkages, it seems that HP's methods are doing something along similar conceptual lines with internal e-mail.
With all the KM buzz, wouldn't it be handy to have a visual map of your organization's leaders "in the trenches", and perhaps even more importantly, determine who are the real influencers? My thinking is that if you consider an organization's people to be its brain cells, then the mapping the e-mail communication between them is akin to mapping that brain's neural network.
As firms create more virtual and cross-functional teams, the lines blur and having good information on how the organization truly functions can provide vital feedback for their leaders. Is it functioning efficiently, or is it having seizures and blockages instead, in which case vital segments are routing work around them to accomplish their projects?
By the way, the article references other such endeavors over the past several years. While this is probably too cerebral for most organizations, as well as a potential threat to some in formal management, it could be an emerging technology worth watching.
In fact, it occurs to me that something like this could be quite effective in electronic discovery cases. Imagine showing the jury a visual map illustrating how and when key e-mails were circulated throughout a company. No doubt you've heard of TimeMap for preparing timeline exhibits. How about MailMap? (In case any developers are reading this, I'll gladly accept royalty checks. ;^)
October 13, 2003
CIOs Need to Play Pivotal Innovator Role
This CIO.com article, "CIOs Poised to Play Pivotal Role in Creating an 'Innovator's Advantage'", is music to my ears and a must-read. Based upon an Accenture (f/k/a Andersen Consulting) survey and authored by Accenture partners, it sums up many of the points I've made over the past several years and is in sync with my philosophy regarding how law firms need to move ahead in an ever-increasingly competitive environment.
The first paragraph provides the current state of affairs for many organizations:
"Few would dispute that information technology (IT) is an important facilitator of innovation which, in turn, produces solid business benefits. Yet, paradoxically, the IT department is the least likely part of a business to be a primary source of innovation. That finding from a new Accenture study highlights the need for CIOs, not only to run effective IT operations, but also to be active participants in the development of the overall business strategy."
This part comes as no surprise to me whatsoever:
"It revealed that companies reporting a strong record of innovation also report that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of their recent IT investments were successful at meeting their strategic objectives. By contrast, less innovative companies reported only a 28 percent success rate for IT investments. Indeed, more innovative companies report getting more value for money from IT and are more likely to see IT as a source of competitive advantage.
In essence, no longer can IT just be considered the "infrastructure", a cost to be managed. Far too many opportunities are lost in that regime. Instead it must be cultivated. The firms that understand the concept that the synergies gained become much more valuable than the sum of its parts will ultimately be more successful on the whole.
This also ties in closely to my "enabler" construct. It is a fundamental shift in strategic and tactical thinking that requires shared commitment and responsibility by both the organization's top management and IT. CIOs need to be comfortable taking new ideas to management, who likewise need to be open-minded to encourage that level of trust so that the organization, as a whole, becomes more proactive and innovative. In other words, they need to become equal partners in their endeavors. A heading in the CIO.com article says it all: "Innovative Use of IT Raises Business Performance"
While all of this sounds great, cultivating the necessary change in culture is far from easy, especially in traditionally conservative organizations such as law firms. Some will be up to the challenge, and some will struggle only to see mediocre results.
Last, but not least, the CIO.com article provides a number of suggested approaches for IT departments. Bravo.
And So It Begins...
Just my personal musings on the impact of technology on our lives:
The Great Wireless Debate seems to be growing multiple branches. There are several new developments that have staunch proponents on either side, and they all seem to have genuinely good reasons for their positions. To put a finer point on it, it's a double-edged sword that cuts both ways.
First, there's the group of parents and students who are suing their local school district for installing a Wi-Fi network. They're seeking class action status and it stems from their concern about the effects of exposing their children to the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the transmitters. The root question to some would seem to be: Does the benefit of the Wi-Fi network outweigh the potential health risks to the children and others in the vicinity? What are those health risks, and what are the rights of people who want to opt-out of something than can most likely only be practically opted out by shutting it down, segregating it, or moving to a different school district?
Next, Wired News also reports that a Mexican company has launched a service to implant microchips in children as an anti-kidnapping device. One foundation estimates that 133,000 Mexican children have been abducted over the past five years. Likewise, I can certainly see both sides of this one. On one hand, it's certainly a worthy goal to increase the odds of finding an abducted child. On the other, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Device) is already a very controversial technology, due to the great potential for abuse at the loss of our personal privacy. Perhaps an Orwellian reference is a clichéd knee-jerk reaction, but it would be all to easy for Big Brother and others to be monitoring people's whereabouts at key access points (these devices generally have a short range due to the low power). I always have flashbacks to the Enemy of the State movie when I think about this. And then there's the entire debate about RFID transmitters incorporated in the very fabric of our existence -- quite literally, in our clothes. Monitoring and correlating consumer buying habits is just the tip of the iceberg.
Now, such a device could not physically prevent an abduction, as it is purely a tracking mechanism -- LoJack for kids. Like most technology, it has the potential for doing great good. It also has the potential to further erode our expectation of privacy. Extending this to its worst use, perhaps it could even be used by pedophiles to seek out children who are left alone and vulnerable? Thus enabling the very thing it was created to combat? And are we prepared to start "tagging" the population?
Both of the "disagreements" above stem from people's desire to provide something of benefit to others. The school is trying to provide advanced computing services, for better efficiency and more flexibility in education -- in essence, to provide a better education to the students. The Mexican company is offering a device to help make it easier to locate abducted children. Again, both are certainly worthy and admirable goals.
And yet, somehow, I sense a disturbing path of choices that lay before us. Perhaps I've seen too many science fiction movies, but doesn't it always start with technology being developed for noble means that is somehow either subverted for more insidious means or ends, or provides a negative result that no one foresaw? Perhaps it's rather ironic that I just watched Johnny Mnemonic again this weekend (I hadn't seen it since I watched its 1995 theatrical release). If you haven't seen it, it's based on a William Gibson story that portrays a future society where masses suffer from NAS (Nerve Attenuation Syndrome), a severe neurological disease/condition which is caused by all of the technology upon which people have become dependent. With the rise of electromagnetic radiation caused by microwaves, computers, cordless phones, cell phones, cell towers, Wi-Fi networks, etc., one can only wonder at what the cumulative effect will be after several generations. I would really like to see some empirical data on this, and from studies funded independently from either side of these debates.
However, more to the present, it seems that a Wi-Fi network emits far lower electromagnetic radiation than home cordless phones, at least according to the Wi-Fi Alliance spokesman. Of course, the argument here is that no one has no choice when located in a Wi-Fi cloud.
The RFID implant definitely has a choice aspect, and it sounds like the subcutaneous device could be more or less easily removed from the person later, say when the person is no longer a child or desires more privacy. Since they are generally low power devices, I'll take an educated guess that the medical risk is low. The main risk here is to one's privacy. Along the same lines, I for one am not thrilled with the prospect of having numerous transmitters incorporated into my clothing, particularly my under-apparel. Is nothing sacred anymore? Again, on the flip side, if it could help save my life in a medical emergency, then it's worthy of consideration, as strange as it may sound.
Without a doubt, one thing is clear: There are profound arguments to be made on both sides of these debates, and there are no easy answers. However, in our rush to improve the human condition, it is my fervent hope that our haste to find solutions does not result in the converse. Is it just me, or do the ultimate ramifications boggle the mind?
October 10, 2003
Crazy Week: Exploding Cell Phones, Stealth Spammers, & Suit Over Shift Key
Is it just me, or are technology and lawsuits getting just a little bit out of hand here?
First there are reports of exploding Nokia and Kyocera cell phones. I can just see the next Verizon commercial: "Can you hear me now?" Kaboom! Slashdot posters have provided many more jabs, many of them quite good if you enjoy the bent humor.
Seriously though, while everyone else is concerned about the well-being of the victims (as am I), Nokia is furiously finding any way to point the finger at someone else -- according to them, it must be the aftermarket batteries, it just has to be (even though one incident involved a brand new Nokia phone and Nokia battery). Some are theorizing that it could be the internal phone batteries are overheating when the phone's metal contacts touch other metallic objects in a person's pocket, like coins and keys. I've had my camera's lithium battery get super hot that way on a business trip once, so it's not that farfetched.
Next, Wired reports how crackers are teaming up with spammers to the tune of $1,500 per month to provide stealthed web sites for spammers. Among other means, the crackers achieved this feat by infecting over 450,000 PC's with trojans. I agree with the quote at the end of the article -- these "people" (and I use that term loosely) need to spend some nice quality time in jail.
Lastly, the Internet is just buzzing over the Princeton student who discovered how to circumvent SunnComm's self-proclaimed "robust and effective" audio CD anti-piracy system. He reported that to bypass it, just hold down the Shift key when inserting the protected CD into a Windows-based PC -- this bypasses any "autorun" feature on any CD. Naturally, SunnComm is suing the student for violating the DMCA and harming the company. In my humble opinion, the only thing that harmed the company was the wingnuts who designed the weak system in the first place.
This ranks right up there with the last audio CD copy protection scheme that was thwarted with a 59-cents felt-tip marker pen. These guys just don't get it: The Shift key thing is a feature of Windows, and I can even set my CD reader or burner to never autorun a CD if I wish via the "auto insert notification" setting. I'd love to see a malicious prosecution claim prevail against SunnComm with nice big punis. Even better, let's see SunComm sue Microsoft for creating a feature "'in a manner which facilitates infringement' in violation of the DMCA or other applicable law." That'll fly like a boat anchor.
After a tech week like this, TGIF.
[10/10/03 11:30 p.m. Update:]
SunnComm has reconsidered and will not sue the Princeton student. Their press release states: "According to SunnComm CEO, legal action would not repair the damage done and could potentially cause a "chilling effect" on the type of research that faculty, staff, and students of institutions of higher learning elect to pursue in the future."
Nice spin doctoring, but who do they think they're kidding? It's very difficult to believe that a litigious-minded DRM developer has suddenly become altruistic overnight. Probable translation for SunnComm: They don't want to make the situation worse by earning the ire and backlash of the general and Internet population, who already despise the RIAA and their file-sharing lawsuits. They also strongly dislike the idea of DRM-controlled audio CD's (which, technically, are not "Compact Discs", if they violate the CD standard). Besides, who wants to buy an audio disc that installs unwanted DRM software on their PC? Remember the Great TurboTax Disaster of 2003? Message to the industry: Windows already has enough problems of its own, we don't need more just for your benefit.
SunnComm's music publishing clients probably also don't want the negative publicity as they're trying to push these non-standard CD's on a less-than-enthusiastic buying public. So they'll collectively let this one pass and lick their wounds. They probably also consulted with their attorneys and found out that their intended lawsuit was on shaky ground to begin with. They have more to lose than win here. In other words, even if they could win the legal battle, they'd lose the war because consumers would probably end up boycotting these audio discs in protest, and/or find even more ways to thwart the DRM protections en masse. Either way, it does their music publishing clients no good. SunnComm is now effectively caught between a rock and a hard place if they do anything overtly.
Please note this is my objective analysis of the situation, nothing more and nothing less.
October 09, 2003
The Premature Death of Handhelds?
I just read an interesting post on Fast Company's blog re: handhelds. There's some good comments attached to it that illustrate some handheld owners' malaise and disenchantment. The post sprang from this provocative eWeek article by Rob Enderle, "The Death of the Handheld Computer".
I agree with Rob's assessment of the three major mistakes. I've lost count of how many phone calls and e-mails I've received asking which model and syncing accessories people should buy. The lack of standards, particularly in the handhelds' connectivity ports, is a support nightmare. Having to buy a different Stowaway keyboard every time you switch handheld brands is expensive, and let's not even discuss the whole cell phone-to-handheld connectivity thing. For several years now, it's seemed that handheld manufacturers were just throwing on more and more features to compete, without asking us what we truly wanted.
As a result, and despite the fact that all of my dream handheld features are currently available on the market, no one device has incorporated them all. It's interesting that the one that comes closest, the Handspring Treo 600, is the only one Rob endorsed as coming closest to meeting the converged voice and data needs. But the price is quite high for a recovering economy. Handspring practically killed the company in bringing the Treos to market, and had to be bought up by PalmOne to survive.
In my conversations with people who are asking purchase advice, the first thing I ask is "What do you need it for?" The answer is almost uniformly, "For calendaring and contacts", and sometimes e-mail. Even to do's and note-taking are far down the list for most. It's hard to charge $500 or more (not to mention the enterprise server investments required for things like unified e-mail) for those simple needs and still keep customers satisfied.
Don't get me wrong: I think Palm has indeed reinvented itself over the past year. I also know that the handheld market is far from dead. It has definitely matured, and there's now a saturation challenge it needs to overcome. A number of handheld users are on anywhere between their second to fourth model, while others still use their first just for the basics.
As with the dot.com boom and bust, initially we've seen a number of varied manufacturers enter the market. A number of which have since left, and I suspect that cycle is not yet complete. There will be some continuing shakeout, and we'll be left with the survivors. But dead? No. And for one compelling reason that has nothing to do with pricing or perhaps even features: Size matters. As long as laptops and tablets can't fit in my pocket, I'll be carrying a handheld or smartphone. This market will continue to evolve and morph. Just look at the cell phone market. It's been around a lot longer, and there's definitely saturation issues, lack of standards (the U.S. has three different digital voice protocols) and decreasing sales volume, but it's still there.
As for handhelds, methinks the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.
Another Critical IE Cumulative Patch Released
Microsoft has recently released yet another cumulative patch for Internet Explorer 5.01 and later. This one is classified as critical, and Microsoft Security Bulletin MS03-040 describes it in more detail. To save you some time, here's the actual download link.
To sum up the Microsoftese: With the latest vulnerability, an attacker could run programs on your computer when you are viewing a Web page. An attacker could also craft an HTML–based e-mail, so you could be attacked by spam with teeth.
When visiting an attacker's Web site, it could be possible for the web site to exploit this vulnerability without any other action by you, and particularly if ActiveX is fully enabled in IE. Please see my post yesterday -- this is precisely the reason why I recommended setting IE's ActiveX controls to "prompt" nearly two years ago. While the prompts are annoying, it shifts the control back to you as to what is or isn't installed via the web browser. The most prudent course of action is to install the latest IE patch and change its ActiveX settings to "prompt" if you haven't already.
Per Microsoft, this vulnerability affects all computers that have Internet Explorer installed. You do not have to be using Internet Explorer as your web browser to be affected by this issue.
Several related caveats:
October 08, 2003
Practicing Safe Hex
To morph a phrase: Hey, don't put that in your computer! You don't know where it's been!
Jim Calloway, a good friend and Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program, authored "Computer Viruses to Spyware: Things You Don't Want to Pick up Online" in the October issue of Law Practice Today. This is a highly recommended read.
To Jim's savvy suggestions, I'll add my own, "Ten Steps to Online Privacy & Security".
I particularly liked these recent "Tips" articles, also on the recommended reading list:
Jim and Dennis are both serving on the TECHSHOW® Board this year, which as you can see, sums up the caliber of talent that puts this great conference together every year. (Full disclosure: I served on the TS planning board for 2002 and 2003, and am active in the ABA Law Practice Management section.)
From these gurus, perhaps the most important steps to highlight are:
1) Installing good defenses, keeping them updated and tested, and running scans frequently on your computer systems (firewall, antivirus, and pest-removers such as Spybot S&D, Ad-aware, PestPatrol, etc.). For example, test your firewall at Shields Up!
2) Patching your PC (operating system, browsers, office suite, e-mail programs, etc.).
4) Disable any automatic installation or launching features of your web browser (e.g., ActiveX) -- set them to prompt you instead.
5) Backup, Backup, Backup -- This is your first and last best defense against losing your valuable data and all the misery that accompanies it.
And the most important step:
6) Use your head: Many computer invaders get past all of these formidable defenses from the inside, using one powerful tool -- you. Jim's summary of the KRESV tests for identifying and avoiding spam on your own was very useful in this regard.
October 06, 2003
New Features Afoot at Detod.com
Detod.com, home of the My Detod customizable blawg aggregator and Blawg Search, appears determined to be the portal for blawgers. Chad Williamson, its founder, has added more AP news feeds, which are now organized into 4 main categories: "Top News", "Legal News", "Business News", and "Technology News".
Detod also features a Yahoo-esque Legal and Internet directories, which appears to be based on the Open Directory Project, which I've found to be an incredibly useful Internet directory.
Although, perhaps what I like best about the new AP feeds is that after you click to read a news story, there's a sidebar that ties it in with its Blawg Search service. Several of the story's keywords are listed, and clicking on any one link will immediately search its repository of blawg posts so you can see who's already blogged about those terms -- without first having to type in a search or navigate to the Blawg Search page. A nice touch with the integration, Chad, and a good value add over RSS readers that only let you search within your customized list of feeds. While the preselected search terms are fairly basic now, I'd like to see it evolve into something that's more dynamic over time.
There's potential here. I'm thinking of a "neural net" between news stories and associated commentary found in blogs and web sites featuring RSS feeds. Couple that with the "Trackback" feature found in more advanced blogging software, and think of the possibilities. Talk about Knowledge Management.
October 05, 2003
New Palms Released, Treo 600 Due Mid-Month, and Palm OS 6 Looming
Palm has released three new models this week, and officially retired the m100 and m500 series. Nearly all current Palm models are running Palm OS 5.2.1 (with the exception of the original Zire and Tungsten W). Palm Infocenter has some good reviews on the Tungsten 3 (T3), including 20 T3 screenshots, as well as an overview of all three new models (T3, Tungsten E, and Zire 21).
I particularly like the two new Tungstens. The T3 is loaded, and the Tungsten E will make a nice replacement for the Palm V/m500 line, which has been very popular with executives and attorneys. However, I would have preferred to see a hybrid of the Tungsten C with the T3 -- particularly due to the C's built-in Wi-Fi. That gives the device an cell-independent method of accessing the Internet for e-mail and web browsing. However, I strongly suspect Palm chose Bluetooth for its lower power requirements. Unless you have a Bluetooth-enabled phone, in my humble opinion the feature is practically useless when traveling.
If I were to choose the cell phone access route, then hands down the forthcoming Treo 600 would win in my book for data-intensive needs (as opposed to phone-centric users, in which case the Kyocera 7135 is probably a better fit). However, as compelling as the new Treo is, and even though I agree with Walt Mossberg's review, it still has a few warts, but overall is a welcome improvement. For example, it still retains a low-res, legacy 160 x 160 color display. This doesn't match up well when you consider that camera phones are all the rage, and the hi-res displays really make it easier on the eyes to read data on a small screen. At this point, it isn't clear if they kept the low-res screen to keep the cost down or to conserve battery life. Other than this, the new Treo looks like a winner. According to PalmInfocenter, it will be available from Sprint on October 13th for $399 with activation. Cingular should have it on sale around October 20th at the subsidized price of $449, and other carriers to follow.
As firms talk a lot about Knowledge Management, the focus is often first placed upon their internal documents, sometimes referred to as the low hanging fruit. However, as mobile informational demands are rising, firms sometimes fall short on the needs of their mobile professionals. With more solutions available than ever before for integrating with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Server, handling e-mail, attachments, and CRM needs, this is an area where firms can more fully enable their professionals with live access without the laptop bulk. Yes, some practices often require more computing power, such as running litigation support software. Nevertheless, many times the computing needs are much lighter, and that's where the new generation of devices fills the gaps.
However, Palm OS 5 still has its limitations, particularly in multitasking and graphics handling. That's where Palm OS 6 (code-named "Sahara" -- who thinks these up, anyway?) is being beefed up. PalmSource recently stated that Palm OS 6 should be released to Palm OS licensees on December 29th, which means that we should see some Palm OS 6 devices next year. With Palm focusing on making their OSes more cell phone-friendly, and their acquisition of Handspring, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where they're headed. I, for one, am applauding their decisions and an cautiously optimistic for the Treo line. The 600 is a compelling device, and if they can keep the pricing attractive, it just might do better in the market than its predecessors. The main barriers for these devices is that corporate IT departments have to invest in backend server and software solutions to tie it all together, and usually have an "approved list" of supported devices. The Treo needs to break through these barriers and make it onto their "A" list to succeed in this environment.
October 01, 2003
Holy RSS Batman!
If any blogger or web site owner isn't already including an RSS news feed, here's proof that you should:
Last evening I was reviewing my blog's Webalizer reports. Webalizer is a free service included in my web host package, which does statistical analysis of my raw web logs and gives me meaningful text and graphical usage reports.
This blog went live on Sept. 7th. After little more than 3 weeks, the following stats summed it up for the advantages of providing RSS feeds. (Disclosure: I edited the table's contents to remove a column, add highlighting, and truncate the User Agent descriptions -- the table was just too wide otherwise. The percentages have not been changed in any way.)
Bottom Line: Over 42% of the hits on this blog were by RSS readers, a/k/a News Aggregators or News Readers. Note that I arrived at this number by counting the PC-based readers listed, but not web bots or crawlers. As a side benefit, I learned there are several more RSS readers available, such as the Desktop Sidebar. This is not only a news aggregator, but is better described as a desktop aggregator.
Note that I've offered both RSS 1.0 and 2.0 feeds from the very first day and placed them prominently on the pages.
Would these people (perhaps you?) have visited this blog without the feeds? Hard to tell, but I'm sure that the number of hits overall would be much, much lower. The absence of RSS feeds would have forced them to make the extra effort to go outside their normal news reader routine and use a browser. For some people, visiting blogs individually is akin to slow water torture: "No, not the browser, not the browser!!!"
My goal is to enable all visitors to read this the way they want to -- be it via a PC-based browser, PC-based aggregator, web-based aggregator, wireless PDA, cell phone, or tablet connection, etc. A few less barriers is a good thing.