Advocate’s Studio’s 2012 in Review – Compliments of WordPress

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Not bad considering I didn’t return to WordPress.com as an active user until November 2012.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 44,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 10 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Why Are Pinterest & Instagram So Popular?

And why should you care?

Niche social networks Pinterest and Instagram have captured and maintained the attention of the tech elite and the mainstream far past the honeymoon, probationary period. And the numbers are compelling. A recent report from Experian shows that in the past year, Pinterest’s share of the social media market rose more than 5,000 percent in North America. It is a top 20 social network in North America, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Instagram’s share of the social market increased more than 17,000 percent in North America during that same period.

Why? It would be easy to point to the fact that Pinterest is full of food, design and products, which appeal to the pleasure zone for sure, but that would discount Instagram’s broader subject matter. The common feature is the image-centric nature of the content. People  respond to gorgeous images and layout. Simple design that doesn’t get in the way of the eye-candy. This is what the online world wants to see  - something pretty.

Pictures, still or moving, are the best means of engagement in an otherwise still, online world. This explains why YouTube is so popular – we would prefer to “see” than “read.” Reading is work – it leaves much to the imagination. Seeing is a more immediately gratifying experience. The image conveys information that the written word cannot.

So, why should you the lawyer, or online professional, care? Do you want to attract attention? Do you want to hold someone’s interest? Are you trying to connect online? If you have and do, then you owe it to your content to bring it alive with design and color. Pay attention to your site layout, your blog theme and your presence on visual networks. Add images, and good ones, to your blog posts. Maybe use video to give your presence some animated personality. With some creativity, you can build a presence on sites like Pinterest and Instagram for your professional interests. Pinterest boards dedicated to law firm design or courtroom illustrations. Instagram accounts with portraits of coworkers or your “shot of the day.”

The nameplate sites like Zerply, About.me, Flavors.me, and others, also understand this. That is why their templated profiles look great – they spend time on that aspect of the design because it will encourage others to spend time on the profiles hosted on the site. Why are infographics so popular? They are far more fun to look at than an encyclopedia page full of text and tables.

I will readily admit that I tend to spend more time on a site that is easier to “see” – crowded, text-heavy pages tend to turn me off. There is a reason why people are spending time on this image-centric sites. It’s worth considering them and taking a cue from their design sense while setting up your content.

Mobile Blogging Battle: Android or iOS

Little did you know it but my last two posts, Slapping Microsoft Word Into Shape and Evernote Clearly Improves Reading Experience across Platforms, Devices, were part of a grand experiment – a test of mobile blogging experience on my two smartphone, one iOS and one Android. I used the free WordPress app for this self-hosted WordPress blog for both posts. Slapping was written on my iPhone and Evernote was written on my Android powered LG. I started from scratch – finding my topics through my mobile reader program on the respective device, capturing images, and then writing and publishing the posts to see if there was a clear winner in the user experience area. And what did this mad scientist discover?

 

While I preferred the WordPress UI on the Android phone, the experience overall on the iPhone was smoother. This was mostly due to some glitchy performance on the Android phone, which I am generally accustomed to, but it did make the process longer and a bit more difficult. I find it easier to navigate in mobile Safari than I do on mobile Google. Image capture is simpler on the iPhone. But the WordPress Android app is a superior product: the post text and layout is easier to read and you can even access your WordPress Dashboard within the app – you can’t do that in the iOS app, and can only get there via the browser.

 

I have gotten use to typing on these tiny touch screens, so that aspect of the process isn’t a bother. However I have to add that the keyboard on the Android is not nearly as elegant as the iPhone’s keyboard – the Android feels pretty much like you are bludgeoning the language, relying heavily on a sketchy spell checker to fix the ham-handed errors.

 

But, when it is all said and done, the latest versions of these mobile apps are a huge improvement over my early mobile blogging experiences from two or more years ago. I am happy to report that mobile blogging is not the agonizing experience it used to be and is more than doable now, making posting one more time killing option while waiting for an oil change or Motion call. That is, if you can tear yourself away from Angry Birds. And WordPress isn’t your only option. Tumblr, Posterous, and Blogger all have their own mobile applications.

 

And, because I can, this blog post is being drafted on my iPad using the very robust cross platform app, Blogsy. Now. Go forth and write!

 

Scoop.It's Rich, Easy Curation Makes You Look Like A Pro

Scratching both the itch of discovery and creation, Scoop.it is an invite-only service that offers a slick, powerful tool focused on content. Within the rich interface, users can set up topic-based pages to fill with relevant content. Or, users can explore the pages created by other users. Or both.

Scoop.it makes the curation part VERY easy for you – along with the standard bookmarklet that will allow you to pull from all over the Web, you will also get a stream of recommended content from around the Web for each page you maintain right on the site. Recommendations are based on your own search terms and can be tweaked by source or term. With one click, that content is packaged into a nice little “box” showing the title with link to original article, image and a quote that sums up the article, enticing the reader in for further discovery. When you have curated enough content, your page starts to look like one of those magazine-themed apps like Flipboard or Pulse. Scoop.it also shows you stats for your page, so you can see how people are interacting with your content.

Of course, there are cool social features. In addition to the usual sharing options to other social sites, Scoop.it lets you follow other pages of interest, comment on material and even suggest material to topic curators. Check out the embed of my page on Pro Tech:

Scoop.it’s team likens itself to Tumblr without the blogging and Paper.li with more manual control over the content. Scoop.it isn’t stingy either: they are fine with you taking your Scoop.it page and embedding it elsewhere, anywhere – such as a Facebook page, WordPress blog or LinkedIn, with widgets and embeds. The Slideshare below talks about this new feature in greater detail.

Scoop.it is a total package for content curation, meeting many needs – particularly of those passionate or knowledgeable, but without the time to devote to a blog to impart that information to the public. Look like a content pro with Scoop.it.

Oyez! Quincy District Court Now in Session, Everywhere

A novel social media / legal experiment is taking place a few miles and minutes from where I am sitting. As of yesterday, anyone with an internet connection can “see” what is happening in the Quincy District Court. Cameras and microphones are operating in the court’s criminal session and proceedings are being streamed live over the Internet at the new website created solely for the project. The project is run by NPR local affiliate WBUR and is being funded by Knight Media and is called, appropriately enough, OpenCourt.us. The goal is to improve transparency and understanding of the judicial process and, hopefully, strengthen “ties” between the public and their courts.

These “ties” include court reporting. In the courtroom there is an operating Wi-Fi network and a space reserved for “citizen bloggers” to share the news with the Internet via blogs, tweets, even Facebook.

The project is not without limitations. The Judge can decide when to shut the camera off, when the need arises. Or to comply with existing court rules or maintain privacy in domestic violence cases. To protect attorney-client communications, there are “privacy” zones in the court room, free from electronic eyes and ears.

If matters proceed positively, the Project partners plan to extend it to other sessions, civil matters and small claims. Because everyone needs to know what is happening in small claims.

All sarcasm aside, I find this project fascinating. In an age where we are constantly admonished not to tweet or reach out where court is concerned (or even are barred from bringing smartphones and laptops into the court room in parts of New York), the Quincy Court’s about-face is somewhat startling. My short answer is that I am all for openness and transparency. But I do wonder what indirect effects the knowledge of constant, anonymous on-line viewing might have on the parties, their counsel and court personnel.

We shall see.

Getting Good Tech News Where You Like To Hang Out

I am happy to see that there has been lots of interest in my posts here lately in the Studio. Warms my heart to know that people are reading and [hopefully] enjoying tech tips I find during my archeological digs in the dusty corners of the Internet. I thought it might be useful to highlight the many ways you can find / read / share the material I post here. So many, in fact, that you can customize your Studio experience to your preferred hang outs.

The first choice, of course, is to simply visit my blog page on a daily basis. While I don’t usually post on the weekends (there have been some exceptions), most weekdays you can find something new here. Visiting the page is cool, because I have fitted out the blog with some extra material in the widgets and blog bar – you can get my Mobile App Of The Day reviews in the sidebar, as well as shares on Lazyfeed and Friendfeed and links to some of my other web profiles via my Retaggr card – I tend to spread my sharing out over many services, so that no one particular place has everything.

But, understandably, not everyone wants to have to manually visit a blog page every time they want to get the news. So, another option is, of course, to subscribe to Advocate’s Studio’s RSS feed and dump it into your feed reader of choice. I use several myself, including Google Reader, Feedly, Flud and Pulse for iPad, River of News, Reeder, etc. Some people like to get their feeds in the iGoogle home page. Usually, from within your reader app, you can star, share and comment, so it is a decent place to drop your tech news if you want to keep it all in one place.

Some people eschew old school RSS readers for the real-time fun of Twitter. All of Advocate’s Studio’s blog posts are published twice a day in my Twitter profile, which oddly enough is called @advocatesstudio. This is definitely a good place to get my tech news, as I feed this blog, Mobile App Of The Day and all of my Google Reader shares into this stream. Sometimes I throw some fun stuff in there, like pictures and thin attempts at humor. If you message me or @reply, I always respond, unless you are a stalker or a spammer (yes, Virginia, there are stalkers and spammers on the ‘nets).

If you like to hang out on Facebook (and who doesn’t?), there are a few different ways to consume my content. If you are interested in the biz and only the biz, I recommend that you “like” my business page AdvantageAdvocates. Here I send my blog posts, my mobile app reviews and Google Reader shares (the stuff I love but just don’t have time to write about) and there is a ton of great information in that feed, if I do say so myself. I would love to get more dialog going on there, so if you like to chat, please consider “liking” the page and comment away!

If you don’t want to “like” but you would prefer only to read my blog posts in Facebook’s news stream, you can always subscribe to Advocate’s Studio via the Networked Blogs application in Facebook. You can see the subscriptions in my sidebar here – click on the link to follow the blog and it will take you to the application, where you can subscribe and even rate the blog. Or you can simply click this link to get to my Networked Blogs profile on Facebook and see both Advocate’s Studio and my art blog Star Toe Studio, as well as some of the blogs that I follow.

Finally, you can always send a friend request to my Facebook personal profile here.

If you would rather hang with a smaller crew, you can always subscribe to my feed on Friendfeed. This has long been a favorite place for me. It also represents the widest mix of shares, as most of my social feeds feed into it and I post a lot of non-biz related stuff there.

If you want something completely different, I am trying out some new sharing locations, where I am not automatically feeding in the blog content, but working harder to collect and share unique stuff. One of those locations is Amplify and you can access that profile by clicking here.

One of the great strengths of the Web is the ability to choose your method of media consumption. There are nearly unlimited options for getting the same content precisely where you want to see it. Whether its Facebook, Twitter, your reader app or some other locale, consider subscribing, liking, “friending”, following or otherwise staying in touch by whatever means suits you best. And definitely say hello!

Lazyfeed Now Exercising BOTH Sides of Your Brain

Lazyfeed is a wonderful blog aggregator that effortlessly collects blog entries from across the Web on topics that you choose in a mesmerizing, scrolling, real-time display. No need to subscribe to individual feeds, just enter your topics of interest and get relevant content.I previously have extolled its virtues here in the Studio (link here).

Until recently, Lazyfeed was all about passive information consumption – you could sit back and watch the news filter in and, in the process, pick up a few cool new blogs to follow more closely. Or, for me, when I had exhausted my usual news sources, I would turn to Lazyfeed as my last resort for finding something new.

But all of that changed today with the arrival of a new email message in my inbox from the fine folk at Lazyfeed titled, curiously enough, “Follow Me On Lazyfeed.” Lazyfeed CEO Ethan Gahng piqued my curiosity with his cryptic message:

There’s a huge announcement for Lazyfeed today. Lazyfeed has transformed from a “Read” tool into a “Write” tool. Sounds like a drastic change, huh?
I don’t want to bore you by explaining all the details in this email, so you can visit our blog and check out the post where I talk about the update: http://blog.lazyfeed.com/2010/05/follow-me-on-lazyfeed.html
Or if you want to take a look right away, you can directly come check out Lazyfeed now: http://www.lazyfeed.com
This update is so big that the update itself is larger than the original Lazyfeed product. It took us quite a while to build this, so I hope you would like it. I would love your feedback!

Well, with an invitation like that, I could hardly say no. So, what is Lazyfeed up to?

Passive content consumption tool no more, Lazyfeed has now been equipped to bring out the curator in you, as explained in this simple graphic from their blog:

Through two new tools, “Channel” and “Post”, you can sub-aggregate your content from your topics of interest stream within Lazyfeed. These are called Channels. Populate your channel stream and then publish it to your Lazyfeed followers (that’s right, Lazyfeeds gone all social on us), your Twitter followers and your Facebook profile. You can create as many channels as you have interests and populate those channels with relevant blog content. Posting is super-simple: just click on a blog post of interest, add a comment if you wish and hit “post”. The blog entry will show in the left-hand column of your screen, which shows your Channel.

Follow other Lazyfeeders to get their updates. Find follows by plugging in your Facebook, Twitter and email accounts and matching your contacts with existing Lazyfeed profiles. It’s nice to have the option of getting the content curated by other users you know and trust.

I can’t say enough about the new interface. While the old scrolling page was mesmerizing, the new tools and accompanying tweaks are downright space-age! Hover over your own stream and see your comments pop up in little comment bubbles. And, with the addition of social features, Lazyfeed moves beyond simple news aggregation – it really distills content search, commenting, posting and sharing process down to its essential and efficient core. Sounds just like a blog, but lazier.

Check out my page (link here). Right now, I have one channel dedicated to law, technology, legal tech, and a lot of the subjects I already blog on, but I am hoping to expand to a broader topic set. I encourage you to come on over, build a profile and follow along – maybe we can discover some hot new content and share it!

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Outbrain: A Blog Recommendation Widget

I just added a fun, new plug-in to my WordPress-powered blog called Outbrain (link here). What is it, you ask? It’s a platform for blog, RSS content and news ratings and recommendations. The widget shows recommended additional reading and offers the reader the ability to rate and recommend articles on your blog site. As Outbrain crawls your blog, the recommendations coming into your pages get better and better. Most leading blogging/RSS platforms are supported, including Blogger.com, TypePad, WordPress.org, Drupal, FeedFlare, MoveableType, and others.

You can see Outbrain at work at the bottom of each of my individual posts. For me, Outbrain is free. But for the many large, syndicated news outlets availing themselves of its coolness, Outbrain is a paid service. Correction: Outbrain’s CEO stopped by and informed me that it is in fact a FREE service for all levels of business! Another plus!

You also can buy into an additional tool called Outloud, which actively promotes your content on other Outbrain sites for $10 per month.

Outbrain is no fly-by-night service: it has secured almost $20 million in investment funding over the last three years. And they really know what they are doing: it is the very first free service I have ever dealt with that has a live chat help center! Thank you, Jackie, for helping me get the widget to work on my site! Such a relief not to have to rely on that infuriating GetSatisfaction farce. Right on top of its game, Outbrain is.

If you want to get your content into the social interaction stream, check out Outbrain. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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Enhancing Your Blog with Apture

I saw Apture a few days ago and I am back here in the Studio today trying it out. What is Apture? For my purposes, Apture is a killer plug-in for my blog that nearly automates linking multi-media rich content into my blog posts. Apture’s sell is that the modern Web should be three-dimension, not flat, and that their plug-in allows for easy implementation of layers and depth in blog posts, encouraging readers to truly browse your content.

Apture is seeking to add context to the Web, to connect disparate elements that share a connection. That connection depends upon the relevance of the subject matter of your reading material. Apture will then open a window to access web-wide content and connect or embed it into your article or post. In essence, Apture allows web publishers to assist the process of semantically or contextually linking information across the airwaves. Plus it makes your blog posts really really cool to read.

How does it work? After downloading the plug-in and following the steps in the set-up wizard within your blog editor, you will see two new upload/insert buttons to the top right:

As you write your post, simply highlight text and click of the Apture link button. A window opens showing options:

As you can see, you can search by keywords (it automatically adds your highlighted text into the search box). You can then filter its recommendations by types. It also pulls your own prior posts for backlinking. You also can upload your own content to enhance the highlighted text. Items that can be added include video, images, reference articles, maps, audio, documents or books, person information, articles or web pages. Apture wants you to abandon the basic link button in your editor in favor of their “super link” button that connects with you a wider array of content within the blog editor itself.

Apture displays the links on the page in its “power browser” – readers explore linked content within a dynamic JavaScript-based windows without leaving the site.

You also can embed Apture links right into the blog post with the embed button to the right of the link button. It will create a similar javascript window that automatically shows within the post without a mouseover or click.

Apture links are preserved in RSS feeds and within RSS readers and are not blocked by pop-up blockers. While Apture does not currently support editing of content sources, you can still upload your own content or manually link to content via URL or embed code.

By now you are probably wondering, “how much for all this linking, multi-media goodness?” Well, guess what? Blogs or sites with less than five million page views per month can use Apture for free! The big players pay so us little guys can play! Apture is now prominently displayed on such media giants as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Lawrence Lessig and Techcrunch France. And now, you can display it too (link here).

Between Zemanta and Apture, I might never have to manually research and link a blog post again! Check out my links above and let me know what you think! I think it is pretty Jetsons.

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Louis Gray: Writing A Killer Blog Without Killing Yourself

I really don’t need to give any introduction here, other than to urge you to take a moment to read Mr. Gray’s outstanding Slideshare on how to manage your blog and social media interaction. Fantastic advice from a master!

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