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October 27, 2009

10 Tips for Safe Social Networking for Attorneys & Experts

LinkedIn. Facebook. Twitter. Blogs.  Bob Ambrogi, always on the forefront of web technologies and their impact, recently published two helpful "Top 10" articles - one each for attorneys and experts, with some great tips for those navigating online communities for networking and socializing.

One such tip is to separate professional and personal contacts into different networks.  However, don't fall prey to the myth of anonymity or that restricted social networks will necessarily protect you.  It isn't always clear which content is restricted to just your approved network contacts.  Others have been known to seek invitations or sign up for accounts solely for getting at the "good stuff".  As always, be ever mindful of what you post online.

Not surprisingly, the best and number one tip is to use good old fashioned common sense.  However, given some of the gaffes Bob used as examples, it's easy to agree with his observation that it "sometimes seems to be in short supply these days".

Definitely good fodder for any law school ethics curriculum, since these are among the modern day challenges lawyers face while building both their practices and professional reputation online.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Privacy & Security
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink

January 31, 2008

FeedDemon is Now Free -- Read Why

NewsGator is now giving away several of their RSS or news reader programs for free. These include FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, NewsGator Inbox, and NewsGator Go at the free download page.

Many of you know FeedDemon has been my preferred RSS reader since I started using it at least 4-5 years ago. I've also played around with other readers, both PC client and web-based, but kept going back to FeedDemon. I also chose FeedDemon as the best RSS reader or news aggregator for a prior Law Office Computing Shootout feature article. It packs a ton of useful features into a very intuitive, fast, and polished package. But rather than extoll upon its many great features and advantages, MediaBlab has already done a fine job of that.

Lest ye think NewsGator is abandoning their client-based software programs, it's just the opposite according to Nick Bradbury, the programming genius behind FeedDemon. In a nutshell, they're making it free to expand their client software users. Why? Because we humble human beings seem to make an effective relevance engine. You see, when using one of these now-free NewsGator programs, it sends back information when one flags an article, saves a clipping, or e-mails it to a friend. By these simple actions, we're signifying that particular item was important or relevant. I'm quite reminded of how Google was founded upon ranking relevance via tracking a site's inbound links. Nick gets it.

All this aggregated information helps NewsGator determine which RSS feeds and articles are more relevant than others, and helps them "bubble it up" to the surface for their enterprise customers. That's where NewsGator is refocusing their efforts and attention. So in exchange for getting the software free, users help them by doing nothing more than they are already -- reading, flagging, searching, etc. As Nick says, "Your attention is valuable." Sounds very Web 2.0 to me.

To their credit, both Nick and NewsGator recognized that we're just a little concerned about our privacy. Nick covers that in his post, and points us to NewsGator's FAQ so we can decide for ourselves. Apparently, we can choose to disable the data collection and reporting mechanisms, albeit at the loss of features like data synchronization.

Also, since many of their enterprise customers use these very same programs, Newsgator appears to have a vested interest in keeping them updated rather than abandoning them.

I give them credit. In a very innovative way, they're providing value in offering a first-rate RSS reader for free and enabling us to see what news is popular with others. NewsGator is gaining value in return while being fairly transparent about it. Of course, the new free FeedDemon 2.6 specifically contains more "phone home" mechanisms for "attention reporting". While I would normally suggest staying with an earlier version for privacy reasons, if their FAQ is accurate and we can indeed disable those tracking and communication methods, then there's probably little harm. Besides, even if they could still track my RSS reading habits, there's nothing there that would make me miss any sleep. But I'd still hold them accountable so that all users have a clean choice.

I also really like Nick's attitude and customer focus in his other blog post:

"Sure, I enjoy making money as much as the next guy or gal, but I'm really doing this because it's fun. I like writing software, and I'm going to keep writing it until my fingers break off.

There's no point in creating software in a vacuum - you've got to make it useful, make it scratch an itch, for it to be truly rewarding. And to do that, you've got to listen. You've got to pay attention to what people are asking for and what they're complaining about.

So, regardless of whether you've paid for FeedDemon in the past or you're a new user now that it's free, I'm not going to stop listening. It wouldn't be fun otherwise."

Now there's an attitude I wish more software developers would fervently adopt!

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Privacy & Security  |  Trick or Treat
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink

August 31, 2006

Refreshing Internet Explorer

While alternative browsers are all the rage, the practical reality is that many organizations use Internet Explorer as their main browser. One reason is wider compatibility with the plethora of web sites and their embedded multimedia. However, have you ever noticed that sometimes a particular web site just won't load or update properly, and doing a Refresh (F5 or Refresh button) just doesn't help?

You see, contrary to its plain meaning, the standard Refresh feature may not actually refresh content by pulling it down from the web site. Instead, it checks the temporary copy of the web site it just downloaded to your hard drive (the local "cache"). Sometimes the cache gets messed up ("corrupted"), and IE dutifully keeps trying to load that messed up copy. Also, most offices have a proxy server to allow shared Internet access to its users, which may also have a stored copy of the web page.

In some cases, it helps to delete your local browser cache on your hard drive, which takes six mouse clicks (Tools, Internet Options, Delete Files, Delete all offline content, OK, OK). Not difficult, but somewhat annoying. Another option is to force IE to do a full refresh by grabbing a fresh copy of the web site:

Simply press CTRL-F5 or hold down the CTRL key while clicking on the Refresh button in IE's toolbar.

In my experience, most people simply don't know about this second refresh feature. It's in the IE online help, but who reads that anymore? (Okay, I do.) Those who update web site content should also find this very helpful. There's been a number of times when I've updated LawTech Guru, pressed F5 to refresh, and nothing happened. CTRL-F5 did the trick. Quite refreshing.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Trick or Treat  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

August 20, 2006

Wisconsin Lawyer: Finding and Using RSS Feeds

A lot of legal professionals read blogs. However, except for the tech-savvy, many still don't know how to use RSS feeds and readers to make this task easier and more productive. So if you're relatively new to RSS feeds or would like to pick up more web resources for finding legal content in RSS subscription form, read on. Bonnie Shucha just published a good RSS primer in this month's Wisconsin Lawyer. She's the head of reference at the U.W. Law Library, Madison, and past president of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin.

Bonnie does a nice job of explaining RSS and how to use it in plain language, its pros and cons, and more. Some of the legal feeds mentioned have a Wisconsin flavor given its readership, but several others covered will have broader appeal. For instance, while many use Technorati to search the blogosphere, Bonnie tells us how to use Yahoo!'s Advanced Search for limiting its results to RSS feeds, very nice.

I found the link to Newspapers with RSS Feeds a worthwhile visit (courtesy of The Media Drop, but note there's an updated list). Also noteworthy is her mention of Current Law Journal Content from Washington & Lee Law School Library, which searches a whopping 1,236 law reviews and journals and has some RSS feed capabilities. Check out Bonnie's other links to make your search for online legal content a bit easier and fruitful. The WisBar site also republishes prior Technology articles from the bar magazine.

If information is power, then savvy use of RSS feeds is a must-have to tame the information overload beast.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (2)

January 28, 2006

Blog Software Smackdown

Whether you're new to blogging or an experienced blogger wondering if there's a better blogging system for your needs, check out the Blog Software Smackdown: The Big 3 Reviewed by Vinnie Garcia. It compares Movable Type, WordPress, and Textpattern for those who want to use a self-hosted solution, as opposed to hosted systems such as TypePad, Blogger, and LiveJournal.

There's an interesting comparison chart at the end, which rates the three by such factors as ease of installation, administration, portability across platforms and databases, support community, security and spam blocking, and more. Albeit any review is somewhat subjective, but it nicely emphasizes some of the strengths and weaknesses of each one -- which is indeed helpful when you need to select a system to best fit your needs and level of tech savvy.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (2)

November 18, 2005

Reflections on BlawgThink

Last weekend, I had the genuine pleasure of presenting with Dennis Kennedy at BlawgThink in Chicago. We covered more advanced topics such as tagging, ping services, Flickr, tag clouds, OPML, plugins, blog editors, and more in the Blogging 2.0 track. Dennis was intriguing as always, and it was a nice reunion for us as speakers (we first presented together at the '98 ABA TECHSHOW and quickly became good friends). We had fun brainstorming for the session, and ended up learning some cool new things from each other.

It was also interesting catching up with and meeting other blawgers. It's always great seeing Dennis and Matt who organized the event, along with Ernie, Tom, Rick, Sabrina, Carolyn, Jack, Kevin, and other thought leaders. If nothing else, blogging has led us into a group of highly creative and forward-thinking legal professionals, who also happen to be down-to-earth good people. Through blogging, I think we challenge each other to stay current, examine issues from different angles, try new ideas and technologies, and develop new approaches. I know it keeps me sharper than I would be on my own.

And that's probably one of the reasons why blogging has become such the phenomenon it has. It's as much about the social and professional connection as it is the new and unconventional ways of manipulating how we find, publish, and take in information. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but it's been a very worthwhile and rewarding experience for me.

BlawgThink definitely brought this home for me. While the first day had more structured sessions, the second day's use of OpenSpace encouraged much more innovative discussions. Because it involved interactive group discussions, we had a chance to "blog in person", as it were, contributing ideas in real-time. The fun part was not hearing that people were leaving with good ideas, but that we were trying to figure out how were going to find the time to try them all. Thanks again to Dennis and Matt for inviting me.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

September 15, 2005

Google Blog Search Beta Released

In the ever-expanding Google universe, they've just released the Google Blog Search Beta. Not surprising, given Google's general affinity for blogs in its regular search engine, and naturally they own Blogger, so what better way to boost both technologies?

While some speculate it will give services like Technorati a run for the money, I see it a bit differently. Yes, all of these services perform a search function, but some do a better job of tracking the pinging or links between them, which could be translated as discussion threads. Now remember, this is a beta, so Google could certainly add more features as they go.

There are a few different ways you can get to Google's Blog Search:

Per Google: "It's the same search in each place, no matter how you get to it. The Navbar, however, provides two buttons: one to search the blog you are currently viewing, and one to search all blogs."

More help and info is available at the Google Blog Search Help page, which is a list of FAQ's.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

July 06, 2005

Apple Adds Podcast Support to iTunes & iPods

If there was much doubt about the future of Podcasts, Apple has recognized their popularity. Beginning with the newly released Apple iTunes version 4.9, iTunes supports locating and downloading podcasts. To take full advantage of the new features, you'll likely also need to download the newest iPod firmware updater, which adds a Podcast category to your iPod's menus.

To give you a quick leg up on the new features, iPodlounge (the mecca of all things iPod) just published "The Complete Guide to iTunes 4.9, with Podcasts", and confirms the need to update your firmware as well.

Naturally, Apple is smart to integrate podcast support both in the software and devices. Easy downloading and management of podcasts is another good reason to buy an iPod. With Apple's official support, podcasts move even more into the mainstream.

I also note with mixed feelings that Apple just streamlined their iPod line to eliminate the 30GB iPod Photo, which I felt was the sweet spot for balancing pricing, thickness, and capacity. To compensate, Apple added the color display and photo capabilities to the 20GB model, and dropped the price of the 60GB. I would have preferred them dropping the 20GB instead since storage is just getting cheaper.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

July 02, 2005

MP3s, Podcasts and Internet Audio Resources for Lawyers

This month's ABA Law Practice Today e-zine has perhaps one of their best "Strongest Links' column yet: Fellow bloggers and friends Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell have compiled an impressive list of "MP3s, Podcasts and Internet Audio Resources for Lawyers".

Whether you're just curious about finding and listening to podcasts, or want to create your own, Dennis and Tom have once again done a great job of saving your fingers from doing all the walking. Don't miss the sections on CLE Audio and Lawyer Podcasts. Another link not mentioned, but also useful, is Podscope, as a helpful reader posted here at LawTech Guru. PodScope is a search engine for finding podcasts, naturally.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
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June 29, 2005

More on Microsoft's RSS Strategy

Microsoft Watch has more on MS' big plans for RSS. The post includes a link to an MSDN Channel 9 video of Microsoft's RSS team.

The more interesting parts are in the latter half of the very informal video. From Channel 9, there are three demos in the video at the indicated time positions in the video:

Demo One, at about 23:19. RSS in IE 7 and synchronization with other aggregators (like RSS Bandit)
Demo Two, at about 34:00. Enclosures, calendar integration.
Demo Three, at about 49:50. Amazon integration.
I'd advise anyone interested in the near-future application of RSS to take a peek. This isn't likely something Microsoft just started, as they've been working in stealth mode until they had something to show for it. Very savvy.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

June 27, 2005

Microsoft to Incorporate RSS in Longhorn

Microsoft just announced that RSS will be incorporated into the forthcoming Longhorn (the next version of Windows) as a core technology. This has the potential of being really big, and I'll tell you why.

Right now, each RSS application (e.g., FeedDemon, NewsGator, etc.) has to maintain its own set of RSS feed addresses and XML data downloaded from your subscribed sites. The problems are many: Duplication of storage and data, no synchronization resulting in time-consuming import/exports of OPML files (or none at all), outdated RSS links in your lesser-used RSS readers, etc. Sure, you could use a web-based service such as Bloglines for central access, but I've never been satisfied with their watered-down features compared to FeedDemon. That's a key difference between fat and thin clients.

The OPML format makes transferring the RSS feed lists and groups easier between RSS apps and PCs, but what about the downloaded content itself? What if you like to maintain a year's worth of feeds (or more) for searching or creating watchlists within your RSS reader (Go FeedDemon!)? You likely can't merge the different data sets.

By now you have a pretty good idea of the issues with using multiple RSS readers and computing platforms (Windows, Web, etc.).

Now let's talk about the OS: Remember those fond DOS days when each application needed its own modem, printer, and display drivers installed, configured, and tweaked? Centralizing those shared services into the OS usually made it a lot easier and cost-effective on both the application developers and the end users. Developers didn't have to write additional code for all these items, so they could either focus on coding additional features, or simply getting their application to market more quickly.

Fast-forwarding to RSS as a core piece of the OS: If Microsoft succeeds, RSS feeds and data could be stored as shared resources. Updated Longhorn-aware versions of your favorite RSS readers can access the shared info. So, for example, if you love using both FeedDemon for its watchlists but also SharpReader for its blog discussion threading, you can have your cake and eat it too (assuming the app developers support Longhorn).

Let's kick it up notch: Think of all the cool things we do on our PCs -- the integration of e-mail, web browsing, and RSS feeds (NewsGator is a good example at their intersection). How about music and video playlists and streaming? Movie listings? TV listings? Driving directions? These could all very well be RSS-driven. Driven where? Right into any number of RSS-aware applications: Browsers, e-mail, office suites, multimedia players, games, you name it. The entertainment and media center applications and extensions are particularly well suited to being RSS-enabled. Microsoft's RSS team surely already knows this. Microsoft also has a good track record of waiting until a technology begins to mature and then swarms it (think browsers, e-mail, office suites, and portals -- all of which could benefit from being RSS-aware).

With this said, all of this RSS "goodness" within Microsoft's control raises valid concerns:

  • Microsoft making proprietary changes to the RSS standards:
  • Remember those IE extensions to HTML tags, which only worked in the IE browser? Discussions are already underway by Microsoft to extend RSS to handle lists (e.g., music playlists, NY Times Bestseller list, SharePoint document lists -- aha!). However, there is a mitigating factor mentioned in the PC World Techlog: "Microsoft will make these extensions available through a Creative Commons license, which means that other developers can incorporate them into their services and software products."

    Keep in mind, though, that this still gives Microsoft an edge to begin subtle RSS morphing into their own image. The CC license, while laudable, also helps MS avoid some of the backlash and speeds adoption. Very savvy. Even Dave Winer sounds optimistic with the way MS is approaching RSS extension and new format development -- quite a turnaround from his previous battle over RSS vs. Atom.

  • Effect on the market:
  • Anyone who integrates with a key piece of Microsoft code is in danger of being displaced by a watered-down Microsoft replacement or MS acquiring them outright. Remember Stacker (disk compression) and certain Quarterdeck utilities (memory management)? More recently, consider the nifty Lookout add-in for Outlook (Microsoft actually acquired Lookout, but you get the idea).

    Now consider NewsGator's tight integration with Outlook. I'd be a little nervous if I were them, as IE and Outlook are two critical intersection points for RSS feeds. I'd bet NewsGator saw the writing on the wall over the last year or two and decided to diversify by offering addition services and integrations.

I've often said that RSS is fast becoming the "glue" that helps tie the web together from a content perspective. It crosses barriers and embeds content more seamlessly. If Microsoft approaches this with the right savvy, RSS may enjoy a critical step in its evolution.

I don't view this as a panacea to some of the other issues (syncing RSS feeds and/or content between PC's, for example). However, it doesn't take much imagination to see how RSS' capabilities can be extended and exploited with a little help from the OS as a common enabling platform. Definitely worth staying tuned.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

June 01, 2005

A Good Directory of RSS Readers (News Aggregators)

The dmoz open directory project has definitely grown their list of RSS readers. For instance, the list of Windows-based RSS readers has grown to a whopping 79. I note with interest that FeedDemon, my personal fave, is designated as the "cool site" at the top. But there are also 42 web-based readers. Mac users have 14 listed, although I expected to see more. Even handheld users have 12 readers listed for the various mobile platforms.

In other words, if you haven't found an RSS reader you like, odds are there is one here for you. Enjoy.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

May 27, 2005

Podcasting Gains Momentum -- Is It Here To Stay?

There are likely differing opinions regarding Podcasting: Is it just a fad or a disruptive technology with a bit more staying power?

Many of the same comments were said about blogging, and it's still expanding after its humble beginnings from around '98-'99. Well over five years in Net time isn't a fad, in my opinion -- it's a breakthrough. RSS feed technology helped blogging to skyrocket. Why? Because it vastly improved the delivery mechanism. No longer did we need to visit many sites manually to get our information fix. We subscribed to content, and it came to us. RSS readers allowed us to aggregate, slice, dice, clip, search, and organize it to our desire. It allowed us to reach larger audiences, and to integrate content across site barriers.

While podcasting is definitely a bit newer, I'm seeing the same types of discussions online -- both in blogs and in mainstream publications. For instance, check out BusinessWeek Online's recent slew of articles on podcasting. Big business has already gotten into the act, but some are discovering that the copyright laws haven't yet caught up with the technology, and are understandably skittish.

The misnomer of podcasting is that you don't need an iPod or even a portable MP3 player to listen. A software-based player such as Windows Media Player, Winamp, and numerous others do the job nicely. But taking that route is a bit more manual.

However, combine all the above, and you've got something, well, revolutionary. Take the RSS feed technology and use it to improve the delivery mechanism. Use a good RSS reader like FeedDemon, which includes a tool like FeedStation to automate the process: After you subscribe to a podcast RSS feed, FeedStation can automatically download the podcasts and transfer them to your iPod -- all while you sleep. Pick up your iPod for your morning jog or drive to work, and you have a convenient way to timeshift an audio broadcast. No wonder it's being compared as Tivo for radio.

Returning to the blogging corollary, blogging made both web publishing and reading easy -- really easy. It made web publishing and content management as easy as sending an e-mail to your web site. RSS feeds made it just as easy for consumers of the information. Right now, podcasting is easy on the end users as I described above. However, creating commercial-grade podcasts still takes significantly more effort, and requires a number of production tools. Basic blogger-talk podcasts are somewhat easier to produce. I've listened to both, and while content is still king, adding commercial-grade polish is definitely appreciated and easier on the ears.

It's still too soon to say where Podcasting will end up, particularly with respect to copyright issues when music is added to the mix. However, it's definitively picked up both momentum and a fairly large following within the past 6 months alone. By name, it carries the cachet and mystique of the iPod itself, which has definitely contributed to its popularity and ease of use. It's caught the attention of big business, has hit mainstream journalism, and can be a relatively low cost method of marketing. Indeed, it has the earmarks of another media revolution, much like internet and satellite radio have caught on.

There's a convergence factor at work here: Perhaps the best podcasting user experience occurs when all of the above blogging, RSS, music, and iPod revolutions are combined. In other words, perhaps Podcasting isn't all that revolutionary once one sees what it's built upon. It's the next piece of digital media evolution utilizing the tools of what came before, and extending them with new tools, such as iPodder. But give the innovators their due credit -- it's certainly a creative approach.

With all that said, like blogging, podcasting still has uncertain terrain to traverse. Unlike the text contained in RSS feeds, podcasts are audio content in typically MP3 format. As such, the consumer basically has to listen to it to benefit from the content. I've been waiting to see if anyone develops a podcast speech-to-text application for archiving the content in searchable form.

There are definitely first-mover advantages to be gained. Some podcasts will likely do well, and again, like blogging, some will not. There's room for both broad-podcasting and niche-podcasting. As something that's new and exciting, it will likely draw in the advertising dollars. It's still in search of a business model, which is why advertising is a quick win for podcasters. I've found some Podcasts a fair waste of my time, and others entertaining and/or informative. I'm intrigued where it's headed, but I'm going to reserve judgment for awhile yet. In the meantime, I find the momentum encouraging.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

April 10, 2005

The PR Impact of Blogs

BeSpacific has a great post with a link to this interesting whitepaper: "Trust 'MEdia' - How Real People Are Finally Being Heard", with the subtitle, "The 1.0 Guide to the Blogosphere for Marketers & Company Stakeholders".

It's a good guide for companies who are struggling to understand the blogging phenomenon. My advice: Read the paper, and learn from the many mistakes companies have made by trying to cash in on blogging, or trying to control something they did not understand. Read the statistics on bloggers. Many are extremely intelligent, well educated, tech-savvy, and long-term Internet veterans. The ones you want to approach are not the cranks and fanatics who like to rant. That's the first reality check. Next, read the section on "Blogs Gone Wrong".

My advice for any company looking to leverage the blogosphere: Lurk and learn before you do. Understand the individual blog sites and bloggers' perspectives and passions. Don't market to them -- engage them. Don't approach blogs as quick hit marketing stunts, but as a longer term strategy and investment.

Transparency, trustworthiness, and integrity are king. Anonymous and "shill" blogs are dangerous -- it's only a matter of time before you are found out. Reputation damage is more costly to recover from than most realize. Consider the following guidelines I've put together:

  1. Be yourself. If you forget or ignore all else mentioned here, be genuine. Integrity is everything in the blogosphere. Always take the high road, and you won't have anything to worry about -- no damage control, no back-peddling press releases, public apologies, rebates, etc. Bloggers can sniff out phoneys in a heartbeat.
  2. Engage bloggers as you would a valued business partner. While bloggers tend to be quite generous in helping others, don't engage them with a "something for nothing" approach. It's a huge turn-off. If you're going to benefit from visibility from a mention on someone else's blog, be prepared to contribute something of value in return. Make it worth their time.
  3. Many established bloggers greatly dislike the "reciprocal links" type of request. We have been inundated with them. We're already highly visible and highly placed on Google. Obviously, that's far more valuable to the link requestor than the established blogger. So what's so reciprocal about it?
  4. Consider what will make it worth the blogger's time and credibility risk by endorsing you with a mention. Can you pique their interest with something novel or useful, or provide them with a truly free sample of your product or service? Bloggers love freebies, and they'll likely disclose that fact to maintain their transparency and credibility. Don't be stingy -- the one demo unit you give up will likely pay for itself many times over in ways you couldn't have paid traditional marketing channels a handsome amount to accomplish. If the bloggers like the product or service, chances are they will continue to blog about it, other bloggers will pick up on the posts and blog about it, and the circle of exposure widens exponentially. If you require that they return the unit, you've greatly reduced your exposure by orders of magnitude. If it's really the better mousetrap, giving it up it will sell itself many times over.
  5. Take the time to read and understand the blogger's perspective you'd like to approach. It's easy to offend someone when you don't know who they are, what they do, and their passions.
  6. Bloggers love being part of the "in" crowd, being "in the know" before others. Find reputable and influential bloggers and make them one of the team. Make it a strategic alliance.
Naturally, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but you get the idea. Avoid the "get rich quick" approach, and you just might receive more than you anticipated.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

April 07, 2005

Better Text Messaging & A New Legal Tech Blog

Here's a great follow up tip to my recent post, "Doing E-Mail on Your Cell Phone":

Teleflip solves the problem of having to know all the different domain names for each wireless carrier's service. Regardless of which carrier your intended recipient is using, just send a text message or e-mail to the person's 10-digit phone number at teleflip.com, like this: 8005551234@teleflip.com Teleflip figures out who's on which service, and it gets there in a few seconds like magic. No registration required -- just send the message per above.

Per the site: "TeleflipTM started when the founder became increasingly frustrated at his inability to send text messages to friends' cell phones from his PC. It was of course possible, but you had to know the cell phone provider, the correct domain name and the correct syntax for the email address. There had to be an easier way....TeleflipTM was born."

The catches? Teleflip is a free service, but it adds "---- www.teleflip.com" to the end of messages as a form of advertising. Other free services such as Yahoo! Mail do something similar, just as a point of comparison. Per the site, Teleflip only works in "North America (Canada, US, Caribbean, Hawaii, Guam)", but they are working on adding more countries.

As a precaution, since you're sending your messages through their service, you may also want to check out Teleflip's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Many thanks to Barry Bayer for e-mailing me the Teleflip tip. Barry has been writing about legal technology for a long time in his "Law Office Technology Review" columns. He just started a new blog, the "Law Tech Review".

By the way, here's a very good example for new bloggers, regarding how to contact another blogger. Barry had seen my post about text messaging, and had come across a great alternative solution. He e-mailed me, asking if I'd tried Teleflip. He didn't even mention his blog, at least not overtly. It wasn't until I spotted his blog's address in his e-mail sig line that I got curious and headed over. Less is definitely more. Welcome to the Blawgosphere, Barry.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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March 31, 2005

Blogging About Blawgers at TECHSHOW

This is the really cool part about TECHSHOW -- sitting in a nice strong Intel-sponsored Wi-Fi cloud, and listening to Ernie, Rick, and Sabrina talk about blogging. Half of the room is full of blawgers, the other half are keenly interested in jumping in.

What is a blog and what is it good for? Ernie says it's a great way to trap a lot of fish -- people surfing around the web using Google who stumble across blogs. Rick aptly pointed out that Google loves fresh content and links as votes -- as a result, Google knows that blogs are updated more often. Here's a key point, that I've blogged previously: Google doesn't just index sites by their own content. Google also indexes content based upon content in other sites' links to your site. It's called Google Bombing, and it was used quite expertly to embarrass President Bush. Just Google for "miserable failure" to see what I mean.

The wild thing about blogs that Rick, Ernie, and I have all experienced is that some of our most "successful" posts are ones that haven't related directly to the legal world. In my case, I've seen my blog traffic spike over the RSS vs. Atom feed debate, and most recently over how to use your 3G cell phone to get free wireless Internet access. It made it within the top 10 results (the first page) for "free cell internet access", without the quotes, on Google.

Sabrina enlightened us with how blogging has evolved into internal use, behind the firewall. It's difficult to gain inertia, to be sure. Sabrina urged that we have to plead, beg, and keep at it. As Ernie added, while we see the power of this use, the problem is that people within an organization are often too busy and don't like to share. It's ironic, and something I've experienced, that people outside the organization are more responsive and gratified by the information than those within. However, sooner or later, the word gets out, and pockets of folks start to realize its benefits.

Sabrina adds that you need Informational Omnivores within your organization -- people hungry for taking in, processing, organizing and sharing information. Many bloggers fall squarely in this category, myself included.

Rick and Sabrina covered why RSS feeds are so important, but had different experiences: Rick's blog gets twice as much RSS feed traffic than web pages served. Sabrina's is exactly the opposite. Some of it has to do with the differences in their audiences. Rick's is more tech-focused, whereas Sabrina's is more legal-focused and probably attracts more web browser-centric users than RSS feedreader users.

The discussion turned to blogging platforms for those interested in starting one today. TypePad clearly came up as the winner for newbies, based upon the number of people here who made various recommendations. While Movable Type is great, it requires a much higher level of geekiness. Monica Bay stood up and raved about TypePad, even though "it sucks on a Mac". (You gotta love Monica's style.)

Monica's pearls of wisdom:

  • Find your voice

  • Be yourself

  • Find the 4 - 5 themes that are your signature issues
Rick enlightened us on Podcasting. After you create the MP3 sound file, you need to have a way to get this delivered to others. Rick uses Doppler, and mentioned iPodder.org. Rick predicts that Apple will probably find a way to incorporate this function into iTunes, and given its runaway success, I'd say that's a fair bet. Enrico Schaefer mentioned that he uses Audioblogger.com.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

March 07, 2005

Get Your Google Page Rank

If you have a blog or web site, and you're curious to know your Google Page Rank, try these two sites:

GoogleRankings.com
Google PageRank Calculator

Both sites are helpful in different ways, and neither seems to be affiliated with Google. While the latter is good for returning a general GPR, I like GoogleRankings.com because it returns the Page Rank relative to various keywords. So you can run a number of queries to determine where your site is doing well, and where it might need a boost.

Disclaimer: I'm not a Google algorithm expert, so take from this what you will, as this is merely my general understanding of how this stuff works. Google's inner workings are constantly being tweaked.

Basically, Google's algorithm assigns each web site a Page Rank from 0-10, with 10 being best. In reading some of the search engine watch sites, exactly how Google arrives at the score seems to be a moving target. I wouldn't be surprised if this scale wasn't linear, as I suspect it's much more difficult to move from a "9" to a "10" than it is to move from a "1" to a "2".

After all, per the Google PankRank Calculator site, the 10's are the massively popular sites like Google and Yahoo!. Even usatoday.com ranks a "9", while nytimes.com and cnn.com only rank an "8". So I'm pretty darn satisfied with a "6". Some of the most popular blawgs seem to rank between 5 and 7 (although I only ran the query for a half dozen of them, so it's not statistically significant). Precious few got a 7, such as Bag and Baggage. Most of the well-known blawgs are at 5 or 6.

Some general rules of thumb seem to play out with Google SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for earning a higher Page Rank: Sites that update content regularly, and that are more heavily linked to (inbound links) from other sites generally receive a higher Page Rank.

So why are Google Page Ranks relevant? The raw score doesn't mean much by itself. When combined with a Google keyword or phrase search, in context, that's when the page rank makes a difference. For example, LawTech Guru is the number one result returned when searching for Jeff Beard or lawtech, but is nowhere in the top 1,000 results for the word "tomato" -- probably because I've never used "tomato" in a post before today. Now, the interesting thing will be to see if and how that tomato page rank changes within a week, since I've now changed the status quo by this post. (In scientific terms, I've changed the environment by the act of studying it.)

So Page Rank scores, by themselves, probably won't get you new business. But what they may get you, in the right context, is increased visibility in Google search results. But which results? Some of my highest rankings are from posts that have nothing to do with legal technology, at least not directly. I suspect those got there by others linking to them.

What's important to take away from this is that if you want your blog or web site to be found for various keyword or phrase searches, it's helpful to know where you're starting from, and which words you need to add to your content on a regular basis. To get a bigger boost, you'll want those pages to be linked to by other high-ranking sites, as that will help to elevate your ranking, and potentially, your online visibility. I can tell you firsthand that while I don't sell anything here, not even services, professional visibility is quite valuable.

Now with that said, don't get caught in the trap that you must be found on Google or other major search engines to be found online. Yes, it's very important, but it's not the whole enchilada. Again, I'll use this blog as an example. According to GoogleRankings.com, this site currently ranks as 29 to the keyword search for "legal technology" using lawtechguru.com as the URL pattern. That gets knocked down to 49 when using www.lawtechguru.com as the URL pattern. Which means that I'm not on the first two pages of Google results for legal technology. But you know what? Thanks to the collegiality of my fellow blawgers, I'm linked on many of their blogrolls and vice versa. Which means that when they get found via search engines and their sites are read, some of those readers will invariably stumble onto my blog -- it's how the blogosphere works.

So, when the dust and smoke clears, while Google Page Ranks are important to understand and leverage, they are only one piece of the overall solution for online marketing and visibility. Rather than an end, they are an important means to achieving an overall plan.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

March 06, 2005

NextGen Blogging: Podcasting at a Glance

iPod, You Pod, We all Pod for Podcasts. (Or something like that.)

Remember the first song ever played on MTV? Yup, it was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by Buggles. Well, no one can say that Podcasting will kill the radio or even Internet Radio. But it's one heck of an enhancement, and yet another way to draw audiences to your RSS feed, especially if you have a good broadcast personality. So what is Podcasting? Think of it as Blogging meets Internet Radio.

To better answer that question, Wired Magazine has two great Podcasting articles this month. First, there's the feature article about Adam Curry, the ex-MTV VJ who's a key player in the development and promotion of Podcasting via iPodder. From MTV to MP3, talk about first mover advantage.

If you're new to Podcasting, or just curious about how it works, check out Wired's "Podcasting at a Glance." This short guide covers:

  • How It Works
  • How To Get It
  • How To Make Your Own Podcast
  • What's Next
For more examples and information, check out iPodder.org.

No one says you have to be a Howard Stern to push the media envelope. But I think it's fair to say that people are hungry for media. People with iPods and MP3 players -- even more so. Combining audio broadcasts through the simplicity of RSS feeds is a powerful combination.

While not every Podcaster is going to make it big (just like bloggers), there's still time to get in on it during the first wave. But just like blogging, a commitment to Podcasting should not just be a knee-jerk impulse. A good theme/market is helpful (whether it be mainstream or niche), as is the ability to keep it going after you start. Consider the additional time it takes to provide both text and audio feeds. It's also helpful to have a certain broadcast quality. Here's a thought: If you don't feel you've got "the right stuff", consider a Tonight Show format. Bring on lots of guests over time and let them tell their story or share their expertise and guidance.

Will your blog wither away if you don't Podcast? If you're providing compelling content, I seriously doubt it. So don't feel bad if you're not Podcasting (I'm not). Remember, while iPods are all the craze, far from everyone has one. Everyone with a PC has a browser, so that's a much, much larger audience. However, Podcasts can be used to draw in new audiences in this "nichestream" (as opposed to mainstream), simply because you're offering it. Now once it gets saturated, the dynamics could change a bit. Again, there's a LOT to be said for first mover advantage in this space.

Compelling blogs + compelling Podcasts = One powerful media streaming source. It's another value add if done well. As to what format or content you should provide, that's what you'll need to figure out. The best blogs are the ones that come from the heart -- what that person or group is passionate about. I'd say that goes double for podcasting. Also, I think this is an area where big business can redeem itself in the blogosphere. Remember all those publicity-stunt blogs that were started just as a gimmick and fizzled overnight? Well, putting some value-added commercial grade broadcasts (not just fluff) into a Podcast is likely to gain a much more positive reception.

Perhaps it's just me, but Podcasting gives bloggers and others a much more intimate connection with their audience. It's one thing to read what I've written. But consider how much more powerful it is when you listen to what I say.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

February 11, 2005

Most Common Mistakes by New Legal Bloggers

There's lotsa blogging about blawging going on around here:

If you're new to blogging or are considering blogging, Dennis Kennedy's recent post is required reading. Dennis is one of the few people I know who breaks down a complex socio-technological issue like blogging into easily understood advice.

Likewise, Kevin O'Keefe came across 10 tips for better blogging. Kevin and legal marketing guru Larry Bodine are also offering a blogging webinar on Feb. 17th.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

January 12, 2005

FeedDemon 1.5 Beta Available

I chose FeedDemon as the best RSS Reader or News Aggregator for a prior Law Office Computing Shootout. It packs a ton of useful features into a very intuitive, fast, and polished package. One of the drawbacks of the version 1.1x series was the lack of synchronization between your PC-based FeedDemon channels and online RSS reader services. Thus moving between PCs caused certain challenges with maintaining your feed lists and syndicated content.

If you're an existing FeedDemon user, you just might want to check out the long list of new features and fixes in the current 1.5 beta release, officially designated the "FeedDemon 1.5 Release Candidate 1a (RC1a)". First, there's new integration with Bloglines for feed synchronization, including instructions. Synchronization support for NewsGator Online Services was also added in a similar fashion.

Other new features include an "Export All Groups to OPML File" item added to the File menu. This will create a single, categorized OPML file containing all of your subscriptions, so you don't have to manually export each channel group separately. Starting FeedDemon with the command line option "/ua" performs an "Update all groups" as soon as FeedDemon starts. Now you don't have to wait for each group to update individually nor invoke the "Update all groups" feature manually. New styles were also added, so you have more choices in finding a display format more to your liking.

These are evolutionary refinements to make a great RSS reader even better. Keep in mind this is a pre-release or beta, so expect some glitches. Given the relative tech edge of many of this blog's audience, somehow I don't think this will deter you much.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

January 03, 2005

A Hearty Welcome for Jim Calloway's Blog

Now here's a great way to start the new year in blog style: "Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog" was just launched yesterday. Jim is a Law Practice Management veteran: He's the Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program, current Chair of the ABA TECHSHOW Board, frequent presenter and author, and more.

I've enjoyed the privilege of working with Jim when I served with him on the TECHSHOW Board. He's wanted to do this for some time, so I expect he'll have plenty of tips raring to go. Jim excels with his common-sense approach, and breaks down practice management and technology topics into plain language. Thus I have no doubt his blog will be another great resource for law practice tips, management ideas, and other insights. Welcome to the Blogosphere, Jim!

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Law Practice Management  |  Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

December 10, 2004

New Releases of Zempt & w.bloggar Blogging Clients

Bloggers may want to check out the latest releases of the Zempt and w.bloggar blogging clients. Both version updates have been long in coming and add some much-needed features. Either one is a welcome tool in addition to the native blog entry interface found in most online blogging systems. In particular, they add much-needed HTML and spell-checking features.

Zempt 0.4 provides a more refined GUI and toolbar interface than its quirkier 0.3 release, several new features, and fixes a number of other peculiarities and bugs. Overall, it's a welcome set of refinements. I've used Zempt for over a year despite of its numerous rough edges because it supported all of Movable Type's fields and features. In comparison, w.bloggar 3.03 only had support for Movable Type's Main and Extended Entry fields (and the latter only through a proprietary HTML tag). It did not support MT's other fields and especially MT's multiple category selection. Zempt was developed specifically to support Movable Type. Zempt 0.4 also has improved support for TypePad posts. Be aware that most, if not all, of the new Zempt download mirror links are broken. However, Zempt's support forum posted this SourceForge download link to provide access.

With all that said, w.bloggar wins hands down for having a well-polished GUI interface for quite some time. It has excellent HTML and other editing features, and has great support for uploading and coding images into your blog posts. Whenever I have a post with an associated image, I automatically turn to w.bloggar because it's just so easy to use for this task. It also supports a large number of blogging systems. Up to now, the trade-off has been the lack of full MT field and category support. w.bloggar 4.00 Release Candidate 2 (RC2) is available for download, and has added much of the missing Movable Type feature support to finally bring it on par with Zempt for MT users. While I haven't experienced any problems with RC2, be aware that it's not a final release -- more like a late beta. The final version 4.00 release is slated for December 16th.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

December 02, 2004

LawTech Guru Goes Platinum

Upon returning from the long, snowy drive from the 2004 Midwest Law & Technology Conference in Chicago, I was pleasantly surprised to see my blog surpassed the one million hits mark for the year.

The jury is still out on the statistical reliance on site hits, especially since some of them are caused by web bots, spiders, crawlers, and the like. However, as this site intentionally has very few graphic files, the vast majority of the hits relate to the substantive content. While it may not be a perfect measuring stick, surpassing a million hits is a noteworthy accomplishment, especially on a non-commercial site run by a single person. So say what you will about hits, but I'm pretty excited.

Looking back, what a difference a year makes. For me, the real "sparking moment" for LawTech Guru came during Tom Mighell's and Sabrina Pacifici's incredible blog presentation at the ABA TECHSHOW 2003 -- talk about a valuable take-away. It felt like a 60,000 watt light bulb went on in my head. I already had the domain name, but was seeking something much more dynamic than a conventional web site.

Seeing Rick Klau blog live from TECHSHOW via Wi-Fi clearly illustrated this was a giant leap forward from what came before. Updating a web site was now as easy as sending a lightly HTML-formatted e-mail from any location and device with Internet access. I discovered early on that RSS news feeds added tremendous reach. I think most bloggers will agree that when the heart of a passionate writer meshes with an enabling technology, the result is a quantum leap. That, and it definitely helps to have fantastic colleagues like Dennis Kennedy, Jerry Lawson, Larry Bodine, and Rick Klau. They let me bounce a number of ideas and blog designs off them, gave me plenty of food for thought and a nice introduction into the blogosphere. Thanks guys.

In addition, thanks to all of you who've stopped by this site or downloaded an RSS feed. It's very satisfying for me to give something back through this blog, and I'm glad to see so many are finding it interesting and useful.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Other Musings
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

October 22, 2004

New Blawg Looks Promising: Feedmelegal

There are so many new blogs springing up that I rarely, if ever, mention them. While acknowledging some are quite good, it seems that an increasing number seem to be in it just for the quick hits, asking for links, some fizzle out, and some just don't post compelling enough content for me.

So when I see good content on a topic that interests me, it's worth mentioning:

If you like reading Kevin O'Keefe's Real Lawyers Have Blogs (he's also the founder of LexBlog), then you'll probably like Feedmelegal. It's a brand new blawg dedicated to "webfeeds, weblogs and the legal profession".

In its short time online, Feedmelegal has already posted about "Weblogs for newly qualified lawyers?", "Weblogs: A primer for lawyers", and "The significance of webfeeds for lawyers".

He's even broached the subject of which international law firm will deploy weblogs/webfeeds first? and blogs in corporate legal departments.

Which again raises the question, why haven't more law firms embraced blogging, which is something that has bothered me for nearly two years. Besides the obvious knowledge sharing through an easy publishing system, we bloggers enjoy many benefits from blogging that most law firm marketing officers and partners would kill for: Heavy site traffic, numerous inbound site links, very high search results rankings, name recognition, and perhaps most importantly, being included in interesting and visible professional opportunities due our willingness to share and contribute. Thus I'm left wondering whether it's the time, money, legal issues, and/or just plain inertia that are holding most firms back from client-facing blogs. Granted, it's definitely not for everyone, but I've got to believe that every large firm has at least several dynamic individuals who are well spoken and have a passion for writing and sharing information.

Thus far Feedmelegal has been a micro-aggregator of legal blogging facets (as have Real Lawyers Have Blogs, NetLawBlog, and others -- apologies if I haven't mentioned you specifically). In any event, while the masked blogger behind Feedmelegal hasn't yet revealed him/herself (even the domain name was registered by proxy to protect his/her privacy), it's off to a strong start. Here's hoping for more of the same.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

August 30, 2004

21 Blogs of Interest for a Law Firm CIO / IT Director

Hot on the heels of LawNet 2004, here's an interesting find for Legal CIO's:

Ed Schembor's Blog looks relatively new and has a new article listing and discussing suggested blogs for Law Firm CIO / IT Directors to read. He's picked a number of legal technology blogs, many of which I've read and listed here in my blogroll. Welcome to the blogosphere Ed.

Ed states: "The list of blogs I have put together below covers the ones which I have found are ideally suited to the knowledge needs of a senior project manager, director of technology or CIO at a medium to large size law firm. These blogs generally cover strategic aspects of technology of interest to law offices, and may also cover more tactical and technical subjects."

Ed, you're off to a great start, but I'd add the following blogs to your list, as they tend to have either a compelling strategic or legal IT flavor, or both:

I'm sure there's even a few I'm forgetting, with apologies to my fellow blawgers.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (2)

August 04, 2004

Blogging Abuses are Escalating

First there was comment spam: Spammers artificially boosted various web sites' Google page rankings by embedding links to those sites in blog comments. Google rankings favor sites that have a lot of inbound links, especially from highly ranked sites.

Then there was trackback spam: Blogs supporting trackbacks (i.e., the ability of blogs to learn which other blogs are linking to them) were nailed by artificial trackback pings containing spam web site links -- and they were harder to remove than comment spam. Luckily, I only received a couple of those.

Regular blog sites ended up being used to increase Google page rankings for various online pharmacies, casinos, porn sites, and more. I've personally had to clean this dreck from my blog. Usually it wasn't too bad -- just a couple a day, easily deleted. I've always resisted the urge to curtail commenting as I truly wanted to encourage a lively discussion. Then, just last month, I suddenly got hit by over 1,600 spam comments in a single week (no, that's not a typo), and they were increasing each day after. Since the comments were always made to older posts where there were virtually no new comments, the easy solution was to run a script that closes comments older than "x" number of days. It's a pretty good compromise so far, as most comments are made within a few days after posting, and I still want to have commenting enabled. (I've known about the MT-Blacklist plugin for a while, but I didn't have the time nor the inclination to upgrade my blog software just for that alone.)

Over the past six months, I've seen an increase in "me too" blogs -- ones in which the overall motivating factor was to have a site which ranked highly on Google. Then I started receiving link exchange e-mails from commercial services that had nothing to do with this blog's topics. Naturally, I ignored them the same as any spam e-mail.

Now, according to Wired News, the online porn industry is at it once again. But for the very first time, it seems they're not touching my blog, nor others. No, they've figured out they can better directly manipulate Google rankings by setting up their own set of blogs and then cross-linking between themselves. This part isn't all that novel, as many bloggers know you need to exchange links to benefit in page rankings.

But this time around, the pornsters are using Google's technology against itself. Google owns Blogger. So they've set up dozens of free Blogger sites and are using them to create the necessary inbound links to manipulate Google. Ironic, isn't it?

Here's the money quote from Wired: "It's just like (when) the first couple of people who got the idea to try to manipulate the meta-keyword thing might have been successful, but then everyone jumped all over it.... These things run their natural evolutionary course after awhile."

Note that a number of search engines don't use metatags for that very reason. Because of abuses like this and "Google bombing" (hint: do a Google search for "miserable failure" to see how anyone can be targeted), Google has been under increasing criticism due to these manipulations' effects on the integrity of the results. Like metatags, I expect that the abuses will go the normal route of getting worse before they get better. Eventually, when a particular abuse hits critical mass, then the search engine companies attempt to adapt their technology to preclude or ignore it (much like metatags are now ignored). Since Google's core technology has always focused on the link factor, this should prove interesting indeed.

That is, until the next exploit is discovered, and then we get to repeat the cycle. Get ready...

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

July 15, 2004

Blogger Burnout on Wired News

If you're a blogger or considering starting your own blog, here's something to consider, courtesy of Wired News: "Bloggers Suffer Burnout". At times, I've felt it too -- that weird feeling after a few days of not posting anything, that I should be blogging, that I'm somehow "behind" in putting content out there. I've considered my options which mainly boil down into the following categories: 1) Post smaller but more frequent posts just to put something up without taking much of my time, 2) Find material in advance, and pre-post it to my blog to "get ahead" of the game, 3) cloning myself, and 4) just cutting back at times.

Speaking of which, one of the reasons why you haven't seen as many postings here lately is that I've been preoccupied with other things, such as getting settled into my new job and living space, getting my home office network set up with broadband and Wi-Fi (which if you haven't done yet, you don't know what you're missing as long as you take the time to reasonably secure it), working on other writing projects for the ABA LPM section, and naturally trying to fit in some free time to enjoy the summer with my family before I wake up one day and wonder where all my kids went.

I don't like options one and two above, because I've never been a fan of fluff or filler on a regular basis. Cloning myself just raises too many issues (which one of us gets to stay home to surf and blog, spend time with my family, and which one has to go to work. Not to mention that I'd have to deal with myself, now that's a scary thought -- rent "Multiplicity" with Michael Keaton for the whole story).

So, I'm heeding the advice of this and other articles on the subject. I've also considered how I'll be delivering the new "Trick or Treat" category. It takes some time to pull together a quality group of useful tips and documenting same. So rather than have just a single post full of many tips for the week, I'm going to try posting just a single tip or two at time, or perhaps a few more if they're short and simple. In keeping with the title, consider it a light snack that will be quick to read and easy to try. Also, I welcome good tips and tricks, and would be happy to post them here with full attribution. Or just post them as comments -- which is one of the reasons I still have open commenting here, despite the spam comment challenges. The latter is good fodder for tips too, i.e., which third-party comment spam plugin did you use, and how easy was it to set up?

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
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July 08, 2004

The EDDix 50: Another Great Resource for Legal Blogs

If there's one thing you've probably noticed about blogs and bloggers: we like useful lists with links. Thus you'll probably want to add the EDDix 50 to your collection.

This is a great resource, because the blawgs listed (and the blawgers behind them) are among the best resources for insightful, creative, savvy, and cutting edge information and discussions relating to the legal market. With all due respect to legal publishers, if you've ever watched "Men in Black", I consider blawgs to be the "Hot Sheets" of the legal world. To adapt Tommy Lee Jones' line: "Best damn legal practice commentary on the planet. But hey, go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes." Per EDDix, "...the bLAWgs listed below -- the EDDix 50 -- are different."

The "value add" is EDDix 50's additional editorial features. Besides offering a savvy capsule review for each, it clearly indicates whether each blawg features an RSS feed, is listed on the Daily Whirl site (see below), and/or features an e-mail newsletter subscription. In addition, the EDDix 50 editors have coded select blawgs with a blue- or red-bordered box. It's marked blue if the "bLAWg being reviewed covers EDD topics", and red to signify that "regardless of focus, [EDDix] thinks this bLAWg or blog is MUST READING". Nice job.

You've also got to love an EDD site that doesn't take itself too seriously: "The EDDix 50 is dynamic because the world's dynamic and, quite frankly, we're fickle." Amen. If you haven't come across EDDix (Electronic Data Discovery Information eXchange) yet, that's because they're still in their site's beta launch. EDDix's niche is attempting to provide independent research, analysis and reporting on the EDD marketplace, and their mission is to make sense of EDD so you can make the right decisions.

Thus I'm truly honored to be included on the EDDix 50, and it's long been my goal to make this techie stuff more understandable and useful for others, as well as pointing out savvy ways to bake it into the practice and improving how we ultimately serve our clients. It also doesn't hurt to poke light fun at ourselves in the process. (I sometimes share with a wink that I'm a "recovering attorney" -- and it's a 47 step process.) Per EDDix: "We like people who make sense out of nonsense. In legal tech, JB's our man." Thanks. It's also important to point out that there are many other great blogs (legal and otherwise) available online, so these are not the end-all. They are, however, a good starting point to find information of interest and then finding others via their blogrolls and other links.

Other good legal tech lists and links that I HIGHLY recommend:

  • Dennis Kennedy's "The Strongest Links" column on the ABA LPM's Law Practice TODAY e-zine.

    Each issue, the column provides a crème de la crème list of web links on a particular topic. While there's no separate link to his columns, they appear to be archived under the e-zine's "Technology Articles" category -- which is another great resource for legal tech info and tips. I recall reading that Tom Mighell (of Inter Alia, another EDDix 50 blawg) will also be contributing to the column, so it's in great hands.

  • Ernie the Attorney's list of legal feeds.

    If you're new to reading RSS feeds, read his post first. Otherwise, all you really need is his list of blawgs in the standard OPML format, which you can easily import into your favorite news aggregator/RSS reader.

Finding other blawgs:

On the subject of EDD, another good web resource is DiscoveryResources, which provides "up-to-date information, resources and news available about electronic discovery." There are a ton of free articles written by savvy experts on a variety of EDD, case law, and legal technology issues and developments.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Electronic Discovery
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

June 11, 2004

Google Reconsiders RSS Support

CNet reports that Google is once again looking at supporting the RSS standard for their Blogger line. As you probably know, after Google acquired Blogger, it dropped RSS 1.0 and 2.0 support for its feeds in complete favor of Atom. This sparked off a huge debate regarding the two formats, and how Google's dominance would affect the "balance of power".

As CNet reports, "According to an internal Google e-mail seen by CNET News.com, the company has been considering the change and last month assigned at least one staffer to write a memo summarizing technical details relating to RSS. The request came amid a broader discussion touching on extending RSS support for new Blogger subscribers and Google Groups, which supports Atom but not RSS in a test version of the service."

Like many others, I'd like to see Google remain neutral and support both RSS and Atom for several good reasons. First, it would give Blogger customers and their readership the freedeom to choose what they want to use. In turn, this laissez faire approach will let the market develop more naturally according to the needs, rather than having a few big players artificially skewing it.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

June 09, 2004

Extensive RSS Reader Review & Compilation

[Via beSpacific:] PCWorld has a very good review on the current RSS reader (news aggregator) offerings. While the review focuses on only five programs, the real gem is the expanded chart that covers 18 news aggregators, including information on the price, Atom feed support, pros, cons, comments, and overall ratings (up to 5 stars) for each. As I've looked at most of the readers listed at some point or another, consider it your one-stop RSS reader shopping list -- it includes both PC- and web-based readers. Whether you're new to RSS feeds or a veteran looking for a better reader, there's something listed for everyone.

By the way, I completely agree with FeedDemon as the Editor's Pick -- definitely my favorite for PC-based readers. If I could add two features to FeedDemon, it would be an expandable/collapsible Outlook folder interface (presently under consideration by the developer), and SharpReader's ability to thread posts to show common links between blogs and therefore inter-blog discussions. So far, that seems to be SharpReader's claim to fame, because otherwise it's a fairly basic reader which also requires the large .NET Framework installation to run.

If you prefer web-based readers for ease of use and central storage of your feeds (so you don't have to try to keep all your PC's synchronized), then Bloglines is worth serious consideration. The downside with free web-based readers (thin clients) is that they tend to run a little slower than the PC-based fat clients, even with broadband connections -- mainly this is due to the page refresh latency inherent in web browsing, reliance upon scripts, etc.

Also, the web-based services need to make money somehow, so it's probably only a matter of time before they morph into various tiered free/pay service models, adopt advertising, or some other form of revenue generation. Thus once they have a critical mass of users and their feed lists, the service can change. In the meantime, it's not a bad place to start and kick the tires. As long as they offer an OPML* file export feature, you are free to take your accumulated feed list elsewhere. It's also a good idea to back up your web-based feed list on a fairly regular basis, since you never know when the service could be down, or worse, out of business.

(*OPML = "Outline Processor Markup Language", and it's an XML-based format that's used to exchange outline-type information between applications running on different operating systems and environments. In plain English, since your list of feeds can be formatted as an outline, the OPML file format makes them portable between most RSS readers via their Import/Export features. Very cool if you ask me.)

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
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June 02, 2004

LawTech Guru RSS Feed Changes

Some good news for those of you subscribing to LawTech Guru via RSS feeds:

1) I recently made time to distinguish my RSS feeds, since it didn't make much sense to have the same content syndicated in redundant RSS 1.0 and 2.0 feeds (most RSS readers handle both anyway):

CURRENT RSS SUBSCRIBERS, PLEASE NOTE: The RSS feed filenames have not changed at all, so you will continue to receive them automatically. Thus you do not need to make any RSS subscription changes unless you desire different RSS feed content:

If you prefer a bandwidth-friendly, excerpts-only feed, subscribe to the "RSS 1.0 - EXCERPTS" feed button on the home page. Perfect for dial-up users with numerous RSS feed subscriptions. The excerpt size was increased to send the first 100 characters, which is still compact.

If you prefer to receive the complete body of the posts in your RSS reader, subscribe to the "RSS 2.0 - FULL" feed button on the home page.

Full feeds are advantageous because you don't have to do the news aggregator "two-step" (i.e., read the partial feed text, then click through to the blog to get the rest of the post and embedded links). Also, if you're using a threaded news aggregator, such as SharpReader, receiving full feeds enables the reader to do its job to show you the inter-blog postings. Enjoy.

2) RSS 2.0 Feed Format Fixed:

Those of you receiving my RSS 2.0 feed (featured in Ernie the Attorney's "Legal News" blog listing) may have noticed that all of the paragraphs mysteriously ran together and the hyperlinks were removed. Not a good thing, and I've chalked it up to a Movable Type glitch. I'm happy to say it was easily corrected once I had a chance to look at it.

It's always satisfying to fix problems while adding enhancements at the same time. From the very beginning, the layout and format of this blog was designed with you, the reader, in mind. It's PDA browser-friendly, appears virtually identical in all popular browsers (no small coding feat, I assure you), and all of the useful tools are located at the top for easy reference: Search, e-mail, RSS feed buttons, categories, etc. Also, the body font size is adjustable in various browsers (particularly IE) so you can make it easier on your eyes. While my goal was to keep things simple in appearance, this is no ordinary blog under the hood.

Lastly, thanks to Rick Klau for providing the know-how for distinguishing feed content, and Dennis Kennedy for reminding me of it recently.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
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May 18, 2004

Plogging for Fun and Profit

You've heard about Blogs (web logs) and possibly even Wikis (collaborative blogs). Both are finding their way behind the firewalls at large companies and law firms. CIO.com just published a provocative article on Plogs (project logs), "The Virtues of Chitchat", by Michael Schrage, codirector of the MIT Media Lab's eMarkets Initiative.

Along the way, he asks:

"Why wouldn't it make sense for an IT project manager to post a blog—or "plog" (project log)—to keep her team and its constituents up-to-date on project issues and concerns? Is it inherently inappropriate for an individual to post constructive observations about a project's progress? IT organizations that can effectively use blogs as managerial tools (or communication resources) are probably development environments that take both people and their ideas seriously. [,,,] Whether management should explicitly encourage, authorize, endorse or simply allow plogs to emerge is a judgment call best left up to the culture of the company and character of the individuals."
If a company wishes to utilize such a tool, he adds:
"Inevitably, companies will need to establish guidelines—legal, ethical, editorial and otherwise—about linking to plogs and who should be able to access them. Formalizing the informal is always risky. In fact, perhaps pushing for plog precepts may undermine the very openness and spontaneity that makes the idea seem so potentially powerful and appealing. But that's the nature of the organizational beast. The simple truth is, many organizations may need plogs to discover their own simple truths about how well (or how poorly) their projects are going."

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Law Practice Management
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

May 13, 2004

Movable Type 3.0 Developer Edition Released

Six Apart has just released Movable Type 3.0 Developer Edition as the latest version of their blogging software. Please note this is not the general release, which is forthcoming.

Along with new features, there's a new pricing and licensing structure that upgraders should review. You'll also want to read Mena Trott's post today regarding their commitment to offering a free MT 3.0 version and the changes in their licensing structure. Some of the heated comments to her post, such as the one on Derek's Rantings and Musings discuss the financial hardship caused by limiting the free version to a single author, three blogs, and a single CPU, (licensing as opposed to physical software restriction?) and the commercial licenses are somewhat more expensive than previously. However, the Personal Licenses are more reasonably priced, especially if one takes advantage of the current introductory pricing offer.

As much as I like to see good free software, I'm also keenly aware of the value good systems like Movable Type provide, and I'd rather see them progress than stagnate or hobble along. I anticipated that as Movable Type matured and succeeded, we would be seeing a more limited approach to the free version for non-commercial use. After all, they have expenses and need to generate revenue to stay in business. However, I too was hoping to see more flexibility on non-commercial blogs that are personal endeavors -- where the blog sites are not generating revenue to cover the blog software expense.

According to Mena's post, right now it appears that only the Developer Edition is being released, and Six Apart will not be offering their paid installation service for it, so it's really only for the die-hard Movable Type users. Six Apart will then be offering the general release with more support. So I'd recommend holding off on any upgrades for now.

However, for new bloggers, I still highly recommend their hosted TypePad service as perhaps the easiest way to put up a nicely featured and professionally-looking blog with little effort and cost.

[Update: TechDirt has a critical post on the new MT pricing structure, and it will be interesting to see how Six Apart responds to the numerous noisy negative posts surrounding their change in pricing structure. Single author MT blogs may not be as directly affected as the multiple-author blogs, but the drastic change in licensing and pricing has many of the latter feeling betrayed by a bait and switch tactic. However, I feel compelled to point out that it appears so far that the previous versions are still free, and that the change in pricing affects version 3.0.]

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (2)

May 11, 2004

Examining How Information Travels Around the Blogosphere

In case you've ever wondered how bloggers seem to be "in the know", you might find the Wired News article, "How the Word Gets Around" to be illuminating.

Sam Arbesman, a Brandeis University senior, "had been reading various studies that looked at historical data on the way information works its way across the Internet. But he was more interested in seeing if he could figure out, in real time, the trajectory of a meme once it hits the blogosphere. So he came up with a plan to find out. He called it the Memespread Project."

The Wired News article recounts what happened to his meme, and how and where spikes in traffic occurred after he posted it to several well-known sites. As the article mentions, the study itself is a bit tainted because the participants knew it was a study and its novelty factor could have substantially influenced others. However, with that said, it's an interesting read to see how viral the information became, with references to cross-infection between sites, people linking to it merely because others already had, etc.

New and unconventional communication methods are, to some extent, supplanting more traditional methods -- thus qualifying as "disruptive technologies". Case in point: Also at Wired News, "Text Messages Killing Radio Star" discusses how "nontraditional communications -- such as cell phone text messages -- are rapidly outflanking radio, television, and print media because of their immediacy and proximity to the public."

It's a new electronic world out there, yet information is still power. Thus finding new ways to obtain reliable information more quickly, and more importantly, having it make sense and getting use out of it while it's still relevant (and thus valuable), are all going to be very beneficial. For example, using a very simple free service like Google News Alerts (Beta) can quickly change how one receives relevant information with virtually little effort required. I fully expect that we're seeing just the tiny tip of the iceberg, and early adopters will reap competitive advantages.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Other Musings
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April 21, 2004

Blawgers in the Wisconsin Law Journal

I'm pleased to be able to post a set of TechLink articles, "Blogs" by Jane Pribek, and a related piece, "The Future of Law Firm Internet Marketing" by Hank Brigman.

Both are courtesy of the Wisconsin Law Journal, which graciously granted me reprint permission. "Blogs" features commentary by none other than Ernest Svenson ("Ernie the Attorney"), Wisconsin attorney Frank Pasternak, University of Wisconsin Law School Professor D. Gordon Smith, and yours truly on the blogging phenomenon.

We collectively discuss why we blog, marketing impact, our personal experiences, and a provide number of tips for others who might be considering blogging. It came out when I was the new blawg on the block, so it's a nice mix of perspectives across the board. Since then I've definitely learned volumes, and met a lot of incredibly sharp and creative people in the blogosphere along the way.

Hank's Internet marketing article should be of interest to any attorney or firm running a web site. After examining the sites of 30 leading law firms, his firm asked their marketing executives what they are seeking to add during their next site redesign. The result is the included Top Ten Web Site Strategies for Building Your Law Firm.

The TechLink section initially ran as a supplement to the Wisconsin Law Journal in October 2003. The PDF file is just under 1MB in size, so it's an easy download.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (2)

April 20, 2004

10 Rules for Blogs and Wikis

MarketingProfs.com recently published "10 Rules for Corporate Blogs and Wikis". While it's focused somewhat on corporate America and branding issues, there are also some gems included regarding knowledge management, online collaboration, content strategy, search engine ranking, and more.

One of the best suggestions is to be "authentic": Don't make up contrived posts. It's one thing to post hypothetical or composite accounts for discussion and/or education. It's another to blog with a phoney baloney PR campaign without any substance. One of the first rules of writing, to which I adhere, is to write about what you know. Due to the popularity of blogging, along with folks like me doing a certain amount of evangelizing about its benefits, I'm seeing a new wave of blogs popping up that appear to be predicated on capitalizing upon the search engine ranking results and increased traffic, than in providing content of true value to the reader.

I think these "me too" bloggers will fail dismally in their efforts, simply because they don't "get it". To me, among other things, blogging is a social and information-sharing endeavor, and as a result it's one in which people are compelled to read one's content and even, I daresay, participate. Think about wikis, which are basically described as collaborative blogs. Yes, there are definitely business implications and benefits, but those should be leveraged secondarily to keep the underlying driving force intact. It's fairly obvious that I'm talking about integrity. If the focus is primarily on the commercial benefits, I think the message will get lost, people will see right through it, and simply move on to other things. There has be a value-add to the reader/participant.

I strongly believe in giving your readers credit for being intelligent -- after all, they're reading blogs and using RSS readers far in advance of its adoption by the general public. This ought to tell us something. If you've read LawTech Guru for any period of time, you know I'm not afraid to post some highly technical how-to's from time to time. While I try to make it easier for everyone to understand and use, some of this stuff is fairly advanced. However, I know many of you are not newbies and are able to implement the solutions you find useful. Many times, you offer comments and suggestions for alternative solutions and things I hadn't considered on first blush. Thus I've learned a lot in return.

In this regard, I'd probably add two "rules" to the above article, which are "know your intended (and unintended) audience", and "don't be afraid to engage them". Blogging -- and online collaboration in general -- is not a spectator sport. Even if someone has never posted a comment here, I know they are mentally in the game or they wouldn't continue reading my posts.

All in all, the MarketingProfs article is a recommended quick read, and there are other good articles available there. [Link courtesy of MarketingVox, another great resource.]

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

April 16, 2004

Get Started With Legal RSS News Feeds from Ernie

Ernie Svenson just did the blawg reading community a nice service: He posted instructions on how to get started using a news aggregator and even better, provided his list of legal blawgs and news sites in the standard OPML file format, which just about every decent aggregator can import. I'm honored to be included in his list, and nice going Ernie! So if you're relatively new to blawg reading and want to start with a respectable list of blawgs and legal news feeds without having to search the blogosphere, here you go.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
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April 12, 2004

Finding Related Blogs of Interest

If you're looking for blogs that match your interests and/or blogs that cover similar topics between them, then check out BlogMatcher.

The interface is basically a Google knockoff, which makes it drop-dead easy to use. Simply enter the URL of a weblog (called the "Reference Blog") that interests you, and it finds other blogs that appear to discuss similar topics. In a way, it's a little like LinkedIn for bloggers. While Technorati examines which blogs link directly to each other, BlogMatcher examines who's communally linking to the same things.

From BlogMatcher:

"It's all really simple. The basic premise of BlogMatcher is that two blogs that link to the same sites share some sort of topical commonality. If you link to an article in your blog, then the chances are, you'll be interested in reading other people's opinions about the same article."

"How does the scoring work?

Here's the basics:
1. Deep links score higher
2. Common links (links you share with many sites) score lower
3. Uncommon links score higher

Scores are generated dynamically for each search. Scores for the same link will differ depending on the reference blog and even when you do the search."

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
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April 07, 2004

What's Your Favorite News Aggregator?

Here's an experiment: It's an open-ended, down-and-dirty survey: If you're using a news aggregator, whether it's PC- or web-based, I'd love to hear about it. I'm not looking for statistical significance, but rather, an indication as to what we're really using. I'm currently writing an article about news aggregators, and I'm curious to see which ones are most popular in the legal market and generally elsewhere as this cuts across all markets really.

If you would be so kind, please take a moment to add a quick comment on this post with the aggregator you use most often. This way we can all see the results in real time. If you'd like to include a link to the service or program, even better. And if the mood strikes you, I'm sure it would be helpful to include a few reasons why you prefer it over others. There are many new aggregators popping up all over the place, and I thought it would be interesting to see what people are really using, what you really like. I appreciate your time, and I think this would provide some very useful feedback for everyone. Thanks!

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (21)

Blogging is Big

Via beSpacific: "Blogging is Blooming". "And so is the potential for smart marketers who embrace this high-traffic phenomenon."

While many blogs are still personal diaries, a small but growing percentage are hitting the big time -- with site traffic surpassing some of the big commercial sites.

Rather than recap the entire article, take a look for yourself. I agree with Rick Bruner, the author, that trying to pinpoint exact numbers is pointless. Rather, "[t]he real question such numbers help answer is, 'Is it bigger than a bread box? Are we talking small, medium or large?' " He provides some exciting examples and winds up the article with a comparison chart illustrating some interesting characteristics of weblog readers from a survey performed last summer.

All of which dovetails nicely into my recent piece: "Online Presence: Considering Blogs Instead of Web Sites", which I believe has struck a nerve as I've noticed it's attracting more inbound links than usual.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
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April 02, 2004

Query to Blawgers: Do You Censor Reader Comments?

I'm faced with a case of first impression for my blog. This week, one of my prior posts attracted an informative and on-topic comment from someone I don't know, which in of itself is nothing out of the ordinary. However, it also had a most pejorative tone and use of questionable verbiage. I counted five such terms.

I usually get professional-sounding comments or the run-of-the-mill spam comments for drug and sex sites. Naturally I delete the latter as a matter of course, and am planning to do some upgrades to prevent them from getting through. But this one post troubled me, being in the gray area, being neither drastically foul but hardly professional-sounding either. On one hand, I'd like to encourage free and spirited feedback on everything I post here, and support freedom of speech. On the other, is it too much to expect people to articulate their ideas in a professional way, particularly on a blog devoted to furthering the development of the legal profession? It's not like this was a bar & grill blog now, is it? There is a certain level of netiquette that should be observed, at least in my humble opinion. And to put a finer point on it, it's my blog.

Since the comment was directly on topic and quite informative with a real-world experience, I don't believe that deletion is the best solution. So, would you (a) leave the comment posted as-is, (b) re-word or (c) delete the few offending words, or (d) convert them to asterisks or similar characters (e.g., **** or #@$%)? Another thought was to turn off the commenting feature X number of days after each post, which would eliminate many of the spam and questionable posts. I've noticed the most on-topic comments were posted within the first week or so after I've posted new material.

Have you encountered this, and if so, how did you approach it?

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (4)

March 31, 2004

Online Presence: Considering Blogs Instead of Web Sites

I posted this today in response to a sole practitioner's query on the ABA Lawtech list. He wanted to develop a simple web presence with the ability to expand in the future. He needed easy-to-use software as he preferred to do it himself, and did not have significant time to invest. To him, the cost of the software is less significant than his time in implementing it.

I just had a number of solo and small firm attorneys ask me virtually identical questions at Techshow, so I thought I'd reproduce my response here:

If you don't have any web presence yet, and can devote several hours per week to providing content updates (as opposed to spending a lot of it on web formatting for the initial design and on each content update), then seriously consider a blog format.

Check out the TypePad service. It's based on the popular Movable Type technology, without all of the hardcore techie hassles of most other blog systems. The blog design tools are all web-based, so you make the layout and design selections through your browser (e.g., choosing a 2-column vs. 3-column design, which content section goes where, colors, etc.). I recommended TypePad to a colleague when it was first released. He signed up one evening and showed me his finished blog the next day -- it was that easy. Implementation time is very little with TypePad in comparison to many other services and tools.

TypePad is a hosted service that has several service levels so you choose the amount of needed features you need for the price. If you have a registered domain name for your firm, I'm pretty sure that TypePad will let you point it towards their service, so you have a professional-looking URL. It's also chock-full of blogging features.

Lastly, the main reasons I mention a blog is that it really amounts to guerrilla marketing for solos for the following reasons:

1) Search Engines Love Blogs:

Search engines like Google give much higher results ranking to sites having (a) frequently updated content and (b) lots of inbound links from other web sites and blogs. Blogs meet these criteria big time. Bloggers love linking to other bloggers if they find the content compelling.

For instance, while your mileage may vary, a mere 5 weeks after releasing my blog, a search for Jeff Beard placed me at the number one hit in Google (I was already in the top 10 results within the first 2 - 3 weeks). Metatags don't matter much for some engines like Google, so I haven't even gotten around to adding any yet (although I should probably add them for other engines that may still use this method). But since most of the world loves and uses Google, it's not at the top of my blog To Do list.

2) Instant "Expertability":

If you feel comfortable posting new content several times a week about new developments in particular areas and topics (i.e., "The Niche"), you are perceived as being an expert on the subject almost overnight -- as long as your posts are professional and are reasonably reliable. Also, don't discount the social engineering factor of blogs. That is where the real presence power and results derive from. Blogs leverage what you know with who you know (or conversely, who knows you from your blog).

3) Super Easy Updating:

Posting content to a blog is very similar to being able to send an HTML-formatted e-mail. You fill out a few fields of text (subject, category, body, etc.), add in some light HTML formatting (web links, bold, underline, etc.), and click on Submit. Boom -- you're done for the day. The text gets automatically published to your blog in the exact look and feel you've pre-selected when you set up the blog.

4) RSS News Feeds = Extended Reach = Larger Audience = More Hits

I won't go into a long discussion of Really Simple Syndication other than to say it allows people to read more of your content in less time and with less effort than manually visiting each site on their daily or weekly mental list. It's a convenience and time management feature that appeals to an initially small percentage of the population, but which is growing at a good rate. Consider this: As people's list of sites in their aggregator is growing quickly, you want to be one of the first ones added so you're near the top of the heap. Early adopters have first mover advantages here.

5) Built-in Search and Content Management Features

Blogs are database-driven web sites. In other words, all of the textual posts on this blog are stored in a database on my web server. The blogging software automatically merges the appropriate text from the database with all of the web-formatted templates created when the blog was initially set up. Having a database on the back end also makes it very easy to search my prior content and categorize posts into one or multiple categories. These features are built into the better blogging systems. Likewise, my blog is set to display the last ten posts on the home page. When I post the eleventh item, the home page is automatically republished to remove the oldest prior post and add it to an archive page that is likewise categorized and fully searchable. Thus I don't have to lift a finger to move content in this fashion, and the cycle repeats for each post I make thereafter. The amazing thing is that this effective content management system is already included as a feature with some blog systems. I've seen law firms spend thousands of dollars on obtaining third party content management systems for their existing web sites. If you're starting from scratch on your web site, you just might want to take this into account.

Now with that said, blogging is not for everyone. If you just want a low-maintenance static or "brochure" web site (which in my humble opinion is of decreasing and limited value these days), and can't devote the time to post new things, then no one is going to visit your blog after the dust settles on it. Of course, don't expect people to return to your static web site either -- which is why I equate it to a simple phone book entry for the web, i.e., a placeholder. Content is King.

Likewise, if your public postings, comments, analysis, etc. can come back to bite you, then extra care is warranted. In a solo situation, you typically have much less of these concerns than if you were in a large firm or corporation -- but they could still exist in some situations.

If you'd like to see a good example of a small firm site leveraged by blogging, check out Erik Heels' site at http://www.lawlawlaw.com.

[Updated 04.01.04 to add section five on search and content management features.]

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (8)

March 10, 2004

Do You Want Additional LawTech Guru News Feeds?

To my many readers: Thank you for your continued patronage, and I thought I'd give something back. This is your chance to get what you want. For some time I've been considering adding an Atom news feed as well as a dedicated mobile device feed (for PDA's, etc.) which would streamline it a bit (less is definitely more when reading information on a PDA).

Adding an Atom feed to Movable Type 2.65 and above is rather easy. However, I haven't upgraded from MT 2.64 for the simple reason that it's been working beautifully ("If it ain't broke...). So I'd just need to upgrade MT first. Regarding the mobile feed, while this blog is already PDA-friendly, I've come across something else that may work better in this regard, but I haven't tested it yet. Basically, before investing the time for either project, I wanted to know if it's something that would add value, and that you would want and would actually use.

So please let me know by leaving a comment or contact me via . Also, if there's something else regarding this blog that you'd like to see offered, this is your chance. I can't promise that I'll be able to deliver on all requests, but I'm definitely open to suggestions. Thank you in advance for your time.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

Dave Winer's RFC for Merging RSS and Atom

This week, Dave Winer graciously made a constructive offer to the Atom camp to find a way to merge the RSS and Atom specifications for content syndication, along with assigning it to a more neutral and open standards group for management.

Given how the RSS vs. Atom debate has splintered and polarized the web community, I see this as a good first step. While Dave's offer leans toward working from RSS 2.0 as the base, he stated he is open to comments and counteroffers. Given the harsh comments I've seen posted both on this blog and elsewhere, I commend Dave for taking this step to help bridge the gap between the camps. Obviously there is much work ahead for them, but having a unified specification that adopts the best of both standards while maintaining backwards compatibility is an incredibly good idea in my book, if feasible. I've commented previously how much I greatly dislike dual or splintered standards, since the consumers always bear the brunt of it in the end.

[Many thanks to Tom Mighell of Inter Alia for the link.]

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

March 09, 2004

Update on RSS Readers for Palm OS-based PDAs

Back in September I mentioned the BlogPuck/Plucker combination for an offline RSS reader solution for Palm users. Then in October I came across Hand/RSS for Palm OS. Today, PalmInfocenter posted a summary of Palm RSS readers that includes these and a few more such as:

  • Ticker (an RSS news ticker)
  • JPluck X* (a Java-based solution which converts RSS feeds into the Plucker document format, for viewing in the open source Plucker reader), and
  • NewsMac 3 for Mac users (which borrows a page from these Plucker solutions to convert feeds into the iSilo document format).

    *Please note that JPluck X has replaced BlogPuck from the same developer.

It's been disappointing that given the wildfire adoption of RSS feeds all over the planet, there are still only a tiny handful of PDA RSS reader programs available. For my purposes, I prefer a solution which allows content updating via both a HotSync and direct Internet connection for the most flexibility. With cached content stored on the PDA, one can download the latest news headlines and blog summaries for reading when there may not be a Net connection available (e.g., in-flight or if your PDA simply lacks Internet connectivity).

AvantGo is still useful for viewing mainstream sites and as a PDA web browser. However, it's not an RSS reader, and their expensive upfront channel charges for site operators means it naturally excludes feeds from a large number of webmasters and bloggers who can't afford it or don't wish to republish their content into AvantGo's different format. These are some of the reasons why RSS has taken off so well -- cross-platform compatibility and it's already baked into popular blogging systems like Movable Type, TypePad, etc. No extra work required.

Of the solutions listed above, Hand/RSS appears to be the most elegant solution if you are accustomed to a PC-based news aggregator. Yes, several others are free. However, I often marvel how people using $500+ top-end PDAs often balk at a $15 solution if it truly is the most enabling and productive solution. Hand/RSS allows one to update RSS content via either a HotSync with a PC or through a direct Internet connection on your PDA if you have it (e.g., modem, cellular, Wi-Fi, etc.)

If you prefer the open source (read "free") route, then the Palm document reader conversion tools are worth a look -- especially if you already use Plucker (or iSilo for the Mac option above). However, this latter approach has some potential downsides. Take a good look to see if you are limited to updating RSS feeds during a HotSync, which requires a connection to a PC. Unless one also travels with a laptop, a HotSync-only option won't work well for longer trips as your handheld content will remain stagnant. Regardless of the Hand/RSS vs. open source choice, you'll also want to make sure it includes a feature for automatically expiring content. Otherwise, you'll need to waste unproductive time with manual content maintenance on your PDA. Hand/RSS nicely includes several choices for hiding or deleting content to give you even more control.

Lastly, if you are fortunate to have a PDA with a modem or wireless connectivity, another option is using a web-based news aggregator service to view updated content. One of the advantages is that you don't have to maintain separate news feed subscriptions between your PC-based aggregator and your handheld program. If you have multiple PCs, then a web-based aggregator makes even more sense. Since all your subscription information is maintained on the web site, you get the same feed subscriptions wherever you go, through whatever browser and Net connection is available.

However, there's a downside to web-based aggregators when viewed on PDAs. While some next-gen PDA web browsers finally support active content like javascript, others do not. So what may work beautifully on your PC's browser may be inaccessible or somewhat crippled on the PDA. Thus you'll definitely need to test your particular PDA web browser with the aggregator site well before leaving on that trip -- just to make sure they're compatible.

Another issue is the Great RSS vs. Atom syndication format debate (with additional discussion and observations). All of the above solutions should support RSS feeds, but Atom is relatively new. For example, JPluck X supports Atom feeds, but Atom support is nowhere to be found in Hand/RSS' online documentation or version history notes. Thus if you normally subscribe to an online source that only provides Atom feeds (e.g., Google's revamped Blogger offerings), this is yet another issue for consideration.

Overall, at least there's been some progress. A year ago, there were virtually no "easy" RSS solutions for PDAs short of hacking together your own -- which required a much higher level of tech savvy. However, compared to the glut of Palm program offerings in other categories, and the wide variety of news aggregator programs for PCs, this is still a very small range of solutions for avid Palm users, sad to say. The good news is that we have several options now.

I'd love to hear from fellow PDA users who've taken the plunge and access RSS feeds from their handhelds: What are you using, and why? How has it met your particular needs? All constructive comments welcomed.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

February 27, 2004

Getting More Out of RSS Feeds

Whether you're new to RSS feeds (RSS = Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary), or have been using them for awhile, there is a huge universe of information out there. Whether you're an RSS consumer or active content producer, there are many useful tools of which you're probably unaware.

On the consuming end, both AbbeNormal and Weblogs Compendium have compiled large lists of news aggregators. These include online web services and a host of programs listed for Windows, Linux, PDAs (including iPods), Mac, and even Tivo platforms. The AbbeNormal list even includes many feed converters (e.g., eBay-to-RSS, RSS-to-E-mail, etc.).

For RSS publishing (e.g., we bloggers), Robin Good has published an extensive list of Best Blog Directory And RSS Submission Sites. While entitled the "RSSTop55", it currently lists over 60 sites for aspiring syndicators to use. Just as one traditionally submits a new web site or blog to the popular search engines, these are generally sites at which you submit your RSS news feeds in the hopes of expanding your reach.

Now if you really want to dive deep into the potential and "next gen" use for RSS feeds, then I recommend "The Birth Of The NewsMaster: The Network Starts To Organize Itself", which discusses how RSS can be utilized to create a NewsMaster, a function of being able to find and aggregate desired information and manage it more completely. Put in his words, it is "the ability to concert, orchestrate, edit, and refine quality search formulas that tap into the whole RSS universe and beyond, and that filter out relevant content based on selected keywords, sources, type of content, ranking and many other possible criteria."

Now I'd say that's something of value in this infoglut world we've created.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

February 18, 2004

Some RSS & Atom Observations

First, I'd really like to thank the many people who took the time to post both the original comments and a lot more over the past few days. My intent in posting was to summarize and help inform fellow blawgers as to the issues relating to RSS and/or Atom news feeds -- and why this is important.

From all this, I have the following impressions, observations, and suggestions on the subject, which of course are purely subjective on my part:

1) RSS has been and is working well for bloggers, especially if your blog only has one author per post (i.e., the "Simple" in Really Simple Syndication). However, from the examples given, it appears to me that RSS may not be as smooth a fit in some collaborative authoring and commercial settings due to the need for more advanced features.

2) RSS is perhaps best described as a "de facto" standard by virtue of its wide adoption and use.

3) Freezing the RSS core has probably helped its adoption as a de facto standard, as it's easier to hit a stationary target. It also has contributed to much concern about moving forward with it.

4) It sounds like RSS features can be added in extensions, at least to some extent, although this is one of the hottest areas in debate.

5) Atom development sounds like its trying to be more things to more people, compared to my observation #1 above re: RSS. However, its rapid change and perceived increased complexity are also hurting its mind share. In this regard, it has the opposite problems of RSS as mentioned in observation #3.

6) Atom is aggressively attempting to be RSS with the extra bells and whistles, or at least the next evolution. In other words, its developers seem to want it to be the "One Ring", for better or worse, to supplant RSS. Having just one standard is preferable from my perspective, but right now it's very difficult to say which one that should be.

7) Given the rate of Atom support among many popular news aggregators, it's definitely something to keep an eye on.

8) Not having an RSS feed today means one is missing out on some very substantial opportunities to extend a site's traffic and/or reach.

9) At present, I'm still foggy on the tangible benefits gained from including an Atom feed on a typical blog that already has one or more RSS feeds (i.e., "typical blog" defined for this purpose as one maintained by a single author, although I realize this is debatable in of itself). Other than appearing more technically savvy and "with it", I'm not seeing how adding an Atom feed by itself will translate to more traffic or reach. Eventually, it may translate to providing a better "reader experience" by offering more choices to one's visitors, but that remains to be seen. On a larger or more collaborative blog or web site, it appears that Atom brings some additional features to the table worth exploring.

10) RSS and Atom developers/supporters need to focus on overcoming their current challenges and not the personalities and personal attacks. Neither format is perfect, and neither bloggers nor their readers want to be caught in the middle of another standards jihad, akin to the Betamax/VHS and DVD -/+ format wars. I'll generally agree that competition is a good thing, but splintering of standards is not.

I'm not opposed to the Atom format development. However, I really need to see the significant benefits it would add today in exchange for my investment of time and effort. In other words, what's the ROI for the average blogger or web site operator? This is where Atom developers need to spend considerable time to get the word out in plain English and gain the necessary mind share. Many bloggers, while ahead of the curve, are not going to understand what a namespace is. Put it in terms and context of how it will affect them where they live, and get this out into the mainstream media channels.

Again, I very much appreciate everyone's participation on the subject, and additional comments are welcomed. RSS technology has made it far easier to both obtain and control our daily information overload. In this regard, it's a useful but double-edged sword, and it remains to be seen which path it should cut.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

February 16, 2004

RSS vs. Atom Continues

You know you've struck a nerve in the community when your blog traffic spikes tremendously, Dave Winer chimes in with comments, and even quotes you on his blog, Scripting News.

Dave also posted a link to an Atom translator to RSS. So, here's my question: If, as its supporters are saying, Atom is the way to go for news feeds, why would one need to translate it back to RSS 2.0? The only answer that immediately came to my mind is that RSS is so much more prevalent currently. Following this line of reasoning, an Atom-only site would be missing out on distribution opportunities if it didn't provide an RSS feed. I noticed that several comments mentioned that Atom is a moving target. To me, this seems to be both its greatest weakness and strength, and as a result I have a better understanding of this hotly contested debate.

Again, I'm not choosing sides, but I understand Dave Winer's reasons for freezing RSS -- it's easier to implement a stationary target, especially if it's already working for the masses. On the other hand, what happens eventually when a new need comes along? As we've all seen, web technology doesn't stand still. Will RSS be sufficiently extensible and open to change as new needs pop up? I certainly don't have the answers, but I'm pretty good at asking some of the tough questions.

I do think that some form of news feeds is here to stay for awhile yet. A month after I launched this blog, I noticed that over 42% of the hits were by RSS readers. Since RSS feeds don't authenticate (at least not here), the net effect on end readership was something less than that. Nevertheless, it is practically relevant.

Both camps obviously recognize that news feeds add value and readership. In their latest versions, a number of popular news aggregators are now supporting both RSS and Atom. So other than Atom supporters stating that Atom is more "open source" and not frozen, what are the benefits to us bloggers? Why should we choose to implement Atom on our blogs right now, or perhaps later down the road? In other words, if we do it, will they come?

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (30)

February 13, 2004

The Great RSS vs. Atom News Feed Debate

CNET News.com reports that "Google's Blogger service is bypassing Really Simple Syndication in favor of an alternative technology, a move that has sparked more discord in a bitter dispute over Web log syndication formats." Instead of the RSS feed capability previously offered in Blogger Pro, Blogger is now exclusively supporting Atom for blog content syndication. Goodbye RSS for new Blogger users. While there are similarities between RSS and Atom, the developer community is getting pretty heated up about the debate between these two specifications.

Last year, CNET's special report on "Battle of the Blogs" provided a good explanation of the underlying debate. Basically, Dave Winer, who is credited with much of the development behind RSS 2.0, had frozen its core development "to keep the developers from screwing with it," so that it was kept "simple". This didn't sit well with others, so they decided to come up with their own flavor of blog content syndication, which along the way has been named Pie, Echo, and now Atom.

The problem is that while RSS and Atom are more alike than not, they are competing specs that could splinter the market. A number of bloggers have posted that RSS was really for web site content syndication, while Atom is geared toward blog syndication. There are many news aggregator programs and web site services that work with RSS, but very few will read Atom at the moment. Upon doing a quick Google search, I discovered that BottomFeeder is an open source news aggregator client that runs on many different operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix, etc.) and supports news feeds in both RSS and Atom formats.

While RSS isn't going away (at least not any time soon), Atom is trying to be more things to more people. RSS proponents are concerned as to what a competing standard may do to splinter the marketplace. After all, for quite a few years, if you wanted to burn DVDs, you had to choose between buying a DVD-R/W or DVD+R/W drive and cross your fingers that the DVDs would work on all of your equipment (e.g., DVD player, laptop DVD drive, desktop DVD-ROM drive, etc.). Only fairly recently have dual-format burners become popular to ensure consumers could use their burned DVD's in the way they were expecting to use them. Thus I foresee that if Atom picks up more momentum, we may see more dual-format news aggregators like BottomFeeder on the market.

Atom proponents are stymied by the freeze on the RSS core, because they see that there is much more that RSS is capable of doing and becoming. Some say that on one hand, the ability to further develop RSS in the Atom format (rather than stagnation) is a good thing, but it also adds to its complexity. That is precisely why some RSS proponents want to keep RSS frozen -- to keep it simple so that it doesn't take expensive consultants and programmers to deploy it. In other words, it may not be perfect, but right now it's simple enough and works well enough that the masses can use it. It's not hard to see the logic on both sides of the debate, but unfortunately, it's become personal for some of the key players. There's been name calling and other less-than-productive approaches taken, which only serve to cloud the issues.

Even before I created this blog, I saw the unique value that RSS news feeds bring to both content providers and their reader audience. Now I and many other bloggers are faced with the decision whether or not to add and support Atom-based news feeds. If the blogging software vendors start including Atom support out-of-the-box similar to the way that Movable Type included RSS support, this may not be so bad. With any luck, it should just be another button link on my blog pages. However, right now I just don't have the time to go out of my way and manually integrate Atom support -- especially since Atom isn't all that prevalent yet. However, its backers are working very hard on a proposal for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to assume responsibility for Atom, which would in effect make it a standard. If Movable Type and other mainstream blogger developers add seamless Atom support in an upgrade, that could be doable.

Google's recent decision is interesting in of itself. For a long time, the standard Blogger software didn't include any RSS support, which is why they lost bloggers to other systems like Radio Userland, Movable Type, and TypePad. Now, after Google's acquisition, they've gone exclusively with Atom support. Is Google crazy, or crazy like a fox? I certainly haven't chosen any side yet, but I have to admit my concern over RSS being frozen. Emerging technologies have a hard time emerging when they're not allowed to evolve. Apple tried to keep tight rein over their specifications, and it made them the market leader of a 10% market for many years, while the PC platform flourished. Notice that I'm not saying that one was "better" than the other, but rather notice the effect that strict control had on its adoption.

In the interim, these developments bear watching to see which syndication standards are appropriate to support on one's web site or blog. While RSS is the clear leader right now, I still remember the days when most people thought Betamax would be around forever as the clearly superior format to VHS. Such is the nature of emerging technologies. The moral of the story is that it's definitely too soon to tell, and there may be room for both standards as long as the context is appropriately set. Given the intensity of the debate so far, I think it's safe to say we're in for more colorful developments before it's over.

[2.13.04, 11:51am - Correction: A number of newsreaders are now compatible with Atom feeds. The AtomEnabled beta site lists the following: NewsMonster, NewsGator, FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, MacroMedia Central, NewzCrawler, BottomFeeder, Shrook, Feeds on Feeds, Bloglines, WinRSS and Pears.

The trick is that you may need to download one of the latest versions to find Atom support included. For example, NewzCrawler didn't add support for the Atom 0.3 specification until version 1.6 Beta 3, which was released on January 23, 2004, and only recently added "improved Atom 0.3 support" in version 1.6 Beta 4, which was just released last week on February 5, 2004.

Many thanks to Bob Ambrogi for pointing this out via e-mail and on his LawSites blog. He also provided me with Blogger's explanation as to why they chose to support Atom. This is one of the things I like best about blogging -- within hours of posting this, a savvy person like Bob appropriately pointed me to the source, and as a result I was able to post more accurate information the same day.]

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (13)

December 18, 2003

New and Redesigned Legal Technology Blogs

First, Ron Friedmann has recently redesigned his web site, Prism Legal Consulting, and integrated his blog, Strategic Legal Technology. Ron has consistently authored some of the most insightful and topical posts I've read on the strategic issues facing firms today. With the redesign, he added an RSS news feed so you can add it to your favorite news aggregator. Well worth the visit in my humble opinion.

Next, Mike Arkfeld has added not one, but two blogs which correspond to the books he's written: Digital Practice of Law is his "daily digest of cases, comments and practical references for applying technology to the practice of law." Electronic Discovery and Evidence covers "cases, comments and other matters relating to electronic discovery and evidence." Both blogs also have an RSS feed.

A little over a month ago, I ran into both Ron and Mike at the Chicago LegalTech conference -- two of the nicest and most intelligent guys I know in the legal technology corner. It was my first opportunity to meet Ron who I chanced to sit next to during the keynote. As you may have guessed, with blogging in common the introductions were seamless. In fact, the main reason I recognized Ron was that I had seen his web site photo which I found via his blog -- so web sites and blogs do work. During my conversation with Mike, I mentioned to him that he might want to consider starting a blog to tie in his books. I had just launched this blog back in September, and was simply amazed at the traffic it generated compared to a conventional web site. Plus, anyone who knows Mike also knows how much useful information he can contribute. However, I can't claim any originality on the book blog, as I was inspired by Rick Klau when he marketed the second edition of "The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet".

In any event, if you should have the opportunity to see either Ron or Mike present on legal technology and/or strategic planning issues, my advice is take advantage of it. In the meantime, there's gold in them thar blogs. ;^)

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Electronic Discovery
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

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.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

October 21, 2003

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.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

October 19, 2003

Tracking RSS Readership

Via Trackbacks, Rick Klau and I have debated how RSS feeds can increase traffic to a blog, but were difficult to measure if not authenticated.

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.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

October 17, 2003

Killer Combo: Treo 600 & RSS Reader for Palm OS

Treo 600 with Hand/RSS News Feed ReaderThe 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.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

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.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

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.

Top 15 of 399 Total User Agents
# Hits User Agent
1 24.28% NewsGator/1.3
2 10.92% Feedreader
3 7.78% Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; MyIE2)
4 7.23% Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0)
5 6.35% Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5)
6 3.29% Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0)
7 2.65% Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0)
8 2.29% Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0)
9 1.52% Straw/0.19
10 1.47% Radio UserLand/8.0.8 (WinNT)
11 1.46% Desktop Sidebar v1, 04, 52, 0
12 1.21% FeedDemon/1.0 Beta 5a
13 1.17% Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Newz Crawler 1.5)
14 1.16% Googlebot/2.1
15 1.15% Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5)

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.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (5)

September 23, 2003

LawTech Guru Available via My Detod's Front Page

I'm pleased to announce that the LawTech Guru Blog is now available on the default or front page of My Detod's blawg and news aggregator -- no customization required.

Chad Williamson, its founder, has provided a great resource to the legal and larger online community, and is planning to add even more news feeds soon. Even though I use various Windows-based news aggregator programs, I still find My Detod's visual layout convenient for quickly scanning multiple news and blawg sites when I just have a few minutes to spare. The associated Blawg Search is particularly handy when looking for prior posts in the blawgosphere. Combined, it's a juggernaut that keeps getting better -- highly recommended.

The LawTech Guru Blog is also available from many online sources, including The Daily Whirl, Bloglines, and Feedster, just to name a few, via any program or source capable of using an RSS news feed, and naturally from lawtechguru.com. My goal is to enable you to read LawTech Guru in the manner that's most convenient for you.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

September 22, 2003

The Great Blog Client Roundup

Tired of your blog's default entry method? There's a great assortment of Blogging Clients for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and more, just waiting to be downloaded. What's a "blog client"? It's a program that lets you create, edit, format, and post blog entries remotely, without having to use your blog's normal interface. In some cases they give you additional and easier HTML formatting tools, to take some of the drudgery out of blog posting and generate more professional-looking results.

Many clients support a range of blogging systems and are freeware or open source. However, just as many are pre-1.0 version betas, which usually means that not all desired features are fully implemented and/or stable yet. Even so, they can make blogging easier. Read on to find a suitable client for you.

There's usually one main prerequisite of your blogging system: You'll find that many blog clients work through the Blogger API (a/k/a "XML-RPC"), which the de facto standard for remote blog access. Blogger, Movable Type, and TypePad are good examples of blogs supporting this, but I've read numerous reports that Blogger's system is having many problems in this regard.

Before I list them, there's one main problem most Movable Type bloggers have with these clients: When attempting to save a post with "draft" status, Movable Type's default "publish" behavior overrides this status and publishes it anyway -- thus serving the wine before its time. That's a problem for bloggers who like to upload their blog entries in advance for later editing and publishing.

The best answer is to set all of your MT default post preferences to "Draft" (both in the MT control panel and in any blogging client) and you must add the following line to the MT.CFG file: NoPublishMeansDraft 1 This may not work for all blog clients, but I've found it works for some, like w.Bloggar and Zempt, as long as you pay close attention to the "post status" setting before you submit it. You'll also want to verify the operating system requirements and blog software supported before installing any of them.

Without further ado, here's a list of blogging clients I've found. It's still a nascent software category and I don't claim it's a complete list. However, I verified that each site was there and had software available to download:

For Windows:

For Mac OS X:
For Linux:
Cross-Platform:

The LawTech Guru's Experience:

As you can tell from my blog, I use Movable Type (MT). For Windows, I felt that BlogBuddy just didn't add much functionality beyond MT's own online interface. However, it was much more difficult to pick a clear winner between w.Bloggar and Zempt.

w.Bloggar's interface is clean, polished, and allows me to add numerous custom HTML tag sets. w.Bloggar amply tries to be all things to all bloggers, and comes very close. However, while it supports MT's Main Entry and Extended Entry fields (the latter supported indirectly by inserting the <more_text> tag around the extended text), it lacks support for other MT features I need.

That's where Zempt comes in. Zempt allows me to remotely enter text in the Main Entry, Extended Entry, Excerpt, and Keyword fields, and even lets me specify multiple categories per post -- something that many other blog clients can't do. Since I make extensive use of multiple categories and these extra fields, this is a big plus for me. Zempt's interface is not as polished as w.Bloggar, nor does it give me even half of w.Bloggar's convenient HTML editing features. For instance, when Zempt is set to display all of the MT entry fields, it becomes very cramped to enter text on the screen. Turning off a few fields gives me some much-needed working room, and I can then toggle the additional fields when needed. It's a little clunky, but it works.

So while Zempt is more dedicated for MT posting, w.Bloggar is the more robust and ergonomic formatting tool. As such, I find myself using w.Bloggar for more complex posts with subsequent multiple-category and excerpt field touch-up in MT. In contrast, Zempt is great for the simple posts as it give me access to better MT field and category support.

As I said, this is a budding software category, and none of the Windows and Palm clients I've tried have met all of my needs. As blogging grows in popularity, I expect we'll see even more competition and more robust blogging clients. But for now, these tools are definitely worth trying, and the price of admission is irresistable.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (1)

September 11, 2003

Moblogging From Your Palm (Part 2 of 2)

As promised yesterday, there's a better way to post and edit Movable Type entries from your Palm. It's a free Palm program I found called Azure.

2) Azure: A Movable Type Blog Client for your Palm (and Other Devices)

LawTech Guru Rating: **** (out of 5)  Azure's Web Site

In concept it's similar to what w.Bloggar does on your PC by being a remote blogging client, and it's only somewhat scaled down in features by comparison. If you're not familiar with w.Bloggar, both of these programs allow you to create, edit, and publish blog entries without having to log into Movable Type's more limited control panel. They add a host of additional editing tools to make drafting posts and embedding HTML markup a breeze.

Azure is a J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) program that runs on Palm OS devices and J2ME-enabled cell phones. Yes, I said cell phones, if you're that driven to blog, although the Nokia 6800 would probably work quite nicely here.

It wasn't mentioned on Azure's list of tested devices, but the newer Blackberries are J2ME-based as well. So I'm thinking -- you guessed it -- that Azure might even run on a Blackberry. With their thumbpad keys, they could become interesting mobile blogging devices if you subscribe to the optional internet service feature.

Pretty versatile for a tiny 120K program, eh?

I've been using Azure's version 0.3 and 0.4 betas, which have worked surprisingly well over my 56K dial-up modem in my Visor. As long as your Palm can access the Internet with a full connection (i.e., not web-clipping), it'll probably work with a cell phone data connection or Wi-Fi. By the way, those version numbers are not typos -- these are beta releases, which brings me to the next point:

IMPORTANT TIP #1: Always hotsync your PDA to back it up *before* installing any new program.

As the hotync process installs programs first and backs it up last in the sequence, do two separate hotsyncs (one to backup, one to install, but disable the backup conduit for just this second hotsync) -- don't combine them. And please don't blame me if your Palm doesn't like the new software, I didn't write it. That's what backups are for. For which I heavily and heartily recommend using BackupBuddy from Bluenomad.com.
IMPORTANT TIP #2: Make sure your Palm has sufficient free availalble memory:

The Palm Java "engine" listed below has these minimum prerequisites for running on a Palm:

1) Palm OS version 3.5 and above.

If your Palm is running OS 3.3 or lower, don't try this. If you don't know how to determine your Palm OS version, don't try this. (Seriously though, you can easily find the OS version in the Palm Launcher: Tap on its pull-down menu, then tap on "Info" and then tap on "Version" at the bottom of the screen.)

2) Palms with at least 4 MB total memory.

Add to these requirements the fact that Azure takes up 120K, and the Sun Java "engine" for your Palm takes up 590K, so you'll need a minimum total of 710K free on your palm just to install it. You should leave some additional free memory to run it. New Palm devices should have enough memory to burn for this, but if you have an older device, try having at least 1 MB of free memory before you start.


INSTALLATION AND USE:

For general Palm use, you'll need to do the following. I've created this guide because there's not much installation documentation "out there" when I looked:

1) Download the Sun Java MIDP for PalmOS v1.0

You first have to install this Java engine on your Palm, before Azure, or Java apps like Azure won't run. It does for your Palm what the Java VM (virtual machine) download does for your PC -- it lets you run Java apps on it. In that Zip file, you only need to install the MIDP.PRC file on your Palm via the normal Palm Install Tool route. This installs the JavaHQ app on your Palm, so you can run J2ME apps on it.

The only preference setting I changed in the MIDP app was to enable the "Network" setting since I was going online with Azure. Leave the rest alone unless you encounter any serious problems.

You shouldn't have to run JavaHQ again by itself, as all other J2ME apps should be run by launching their own icons from the Palm launcher. Just think: You now have a Java-enabled Palm.

You can ignore the rest of the files in the downloaded zip file, unless you want to run the sample programs or need the included Java JAR/JAD converter for installing other Java programs from that format.


2) Download Azure for your Palm OS-based device and click on the Download link on the left side of the web page.

You only need the single AZURE_0-4.PRC file from the "Download PalmOS PRC" link. Install it on your Palm per the usual Install Tool method.

Launch Azure on your Palm. You'll need to tap on the "Add Blog" screen button and enter the following:

1) The complete web path to your mt-xmlrpc.cgi file on your blog site. (FYI, this is also known as the Blogger API, which is now a de facto standard for third-party software programs to interface with blog sites. This is how Azure and w.Bloggar talk to Movable Type.)

You'd want to enter something similar to this in Azure's "Weblog address" field, just like you would with any other remote blogging app:

http://www.yourdomain.com/cgi-bin/mt-xmlrpc.cgi

Note: You'll probably need to substitute "scgi-bin" for "cgi-bin" if you're running MT with cgi-wrap (aka "CGI Wrapper" in some hosts' CPanel app). I did this to increase my blog's security level. (As you may have guessed, this is no ordinary blog.)

2) Now just enter your MT username and password to login, connect to the Net and you're able to blog from your Palm. Very slick.

Personally, I was thrilled to see it work, as it definitely has that "wow" factor to blog from your Palm. And it made me very happy that I chose a widely supported blogging system like Movable Type -- there are tons of add-ons and plugins for it. This level of third-party support made all the extra web design effort bearable, and it reminded me very much of the Palm community -- if there's something you'd like to do with your MT blog or Palm, chances are that someone has already written a program or plug-in for it.

Enjoy your moblogging, and please leave me a comment if you found this useful or have additional tips to share.

Jeff

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (2)

September 10, 2003

Moblogging From Your Palm (Part 1 of 2)

Wouldn't it be useful to post new or edit existing Movable Type blog entries from a Palm OS-based PDA, smartphone, etc., while traveling?

If you have a Palm with Internet access (via modem, Wi-Fi, cell phone connection, etc.), there are several ways you can post blog entries from it.

1) The PDA Web Browser Approach

LawTech Guru Rating: ** (out of 5)
(Limited results for now, but stay tuned)

I've successfully entered new and edited existing posts to my Movable Type blog database from my Visor using the AvantGo browser (v. 4.2) and the Handspring Blazer 2.0. I say entered, but not published, for a reason.

Both browsers hang when I tap on the "Rebuild" button, with a message at the bottom of the screen that it's rebuilding the page. However, the modem is idle and nothing happens after that. Here's why: The Rebuild web button normally pops open a new browser window, and it's probably a javascript feature. The problem is that many Palm-based browsers can't run java or javascript commands.

So I can add new entries but they never can get rendered to the visible blog page if all I use are these browsers (can't rebuild).

Lesson Learned: Your Palm browser needs to be compatible with the data entry method of your blog. Many pared-down Palm browsers don't support scripting and more advanced HTML coding methods. Why? Because most of them are proxy-based. In essence, the PDA browser doesn't fetch web site content directly from the source. Instead, the browser first contacts a separate proxy server (usually run by the browser developer or PDA manufacturer). Then, that server goes out and fetches the web site content, strips out the advanced features, and sends it down to your PDA browser. This keeps the pages small in size so they load faster and use less of your PDA's limited memory.

So why did I mention this? Supposedly Palm's newest browser, Web Browser Pro, is much improved in these areas. It's advertised to handle javascript and even CSS (cascading style sheet) formatting. So there's still hope for the browser moblogging method for Movable Type. However, the downside is that it's only bundled with three models of the Palm Tungsten line: Tungsten T, T2 and W. But why not the "C" model? It's ready to surf the web via the built in Wi-Fi. Instead, they bundled the AvantGo browser, which as you can see, is limited. I guess we'll have to wait for "C2", coming next summer to a theater, er, Best Buy near you.

Here's some good news on this front: Palm Infocenter has some updates on both the Palm Web Browser Pro and the upcoming Handspring Blazer 3.0 browser.

No news so far on whether either browser will run on older Palms running OS 4 and lower. Seeing as Palm OS 5 devices run on a completely different processor than all of their predecessors, I'm not holding my breath.

As I said, for now this is "so-so" at best. However, the very good news is that I've found a much more elegant and free solution for Palm moblogging. It really works, and I'll share it tomorrow. See you then.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)