oTranscribe: Free, Open Source, Easy Transcription Web Tool

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Recording your thoughts, lectures, or other audio sources is all well and good, but maybe you want to memorialize those sounds in written word. There are plenty of tools out there to accomplish this, but thought I would mention here one that recently came to my attention. oTranscribe, developed by journalist Elliot Bentley, is a web app that allows you to import an audio file, open a word processor and type while the audio plays. It will play whatever formats your particular browser can process and has a built-in file converter. Controls are found on your keyboard, which makes it easier to stop, rewind, etc. You can insert time stamps with Ctrl + J or Cmd + J, which will allow you to jump to the insert points. The transcription is stored locally in your browser’s cache, nothing is uploaded. While this means you can’t access the goods from another computer, you also enjoy greater security with respect to your data. 

The keyboard stroke controls include the following:

Audio playback

  • Esc: Play/pause
  • F1: Rewind
  • F2: Fast-forward
  • F3: Slow down
  • F4: Speed up

Text editing

  • Ctrl+B: Bold
  • Ctrl+I: Italics
  • Ctrl+J: Insert timestamp

Note: On OS X, using Cmd instead of Ctrl.

Chromebook / Chrome OS alternative controls

  • Ctrl+1: Rewind
  • Ctrl+2: Fast-forward
  • Ctrl+3: Slow down
  • Ctrl+4: Speed up

Pretty cool. Thanks Elliot!

Do Lawyers Have Their Heads In the Clouds?

cloud

Sometimes, as a heavy duty user of cloud tools and a vocal advocate of same, I take for granted that others have the same awareness of and comfort level with them as I do. Not necessarily so, it appears. Less than a year ago, Citrix published a study that revealed that most people were a bit confused about the topic. Their blog post reporting on the study posted a few somewhat humorous highlights, such as:

  • 95% of those who think they’re not using the cloud, actually are
  • 3 in 5 (59%) believe the “workplace of the future” will exist entirely in the cloud
  • 40% believe accessing work information at home in their “birthday suit” would be an advantage
  • More than 1/3 agree that the cloud allows them to share information with people they’d rather not be interacting with in person
  • After being provided with the definition of the cloud, 68% recognized its economic benefits
  • 14% have pretended to know what the cloud is during a job interview

So, how do lawyers measure up against the more general population of cloudless masses? The ABA conducts a Legal Tech survey every year, the actual results of which I admittedly don’t read because the multi-volume set is a bit pricier than I would like to fork over. So I tend to depend on the reviews and reports by those more in the legal tech know than I, such as bloggers Bob Ambrogi and Nikki Black.  I encourage you to hit the links to get more details on the results of the latest survey. But I can summarize for you that attorneys’ use of the cloud has grown significantly over the past year, with the  larger percentage of respondents assigning the greatest importance to time and billing and case management applications. Interestingly, though, the top four most used applications by lawyers are not legal-specific apps but are consumer apps – Dropbox, Google Docs, iCloud and Evernote, in that order.  As it appears, lawyers are ahead of the curve on cloud awareness and adoption. Yay, us.

But maybe you need a bit more information and guidance on the cloud and what it means to you as a lawyer. Well, I have the goods for you. Or, rather, MyCase – a cloud-based case management software company – has them, in the form of a nice slideshow. Check it out and be informed!

Casetext’s Wikipedia-Style Resource for Legal Research

casetext

An eBay for lawyers? How about a Wikipedia for legal research? They’re mashing up social media with the legal profession left and right these days. Casetext is an interesting, um, case, particularly here in the Studio where I am all about the free and cheap and the big Two Three have been a target of mine for years. Imagine. Making all that money off publicly available information.

Casetext is clearly intended to disrupt some of that. The hurdle that  free and cheap access to legal research materials has had to overcome is the value-add that comes from annotations and citation treatment. Lexis and Westlaw have certainly spent a lot of effort honing and promoting that value-add. Casetext’s angle is to get that value-add through crowd-sourced case annotations, much like Wikipedia does with its articles or Quora does with its Q/A format.

Casetext is the creation of two former law review heads from Stanford and Harvard.  Users of the service are encouraged to add tags and text to cases, link to other cases and generally provide similar data to that provided by the attorney editors at the big paid legal data companies. Contributors can provide  analysis of a document or of a paragraph within a document, link to their own articles or other related sources, add related cases and up-vote useful related sources. Contributions are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, permitting commercial use with proper attribution.

Users have to use real names, which hopefully encourages a higher standard of contribution than the anonymous commenting model. LIke any good social model, there is a reward system. Casetext uses reputation points, measuring a user’s contribution to Casetext. Gain points for adding content, for categorizing cases, for upvoting, and for receiving upvotes on content you add. Lose points for being downvoted and pay points to downvote others. Interesting system of checks and balances. There are some decent contributors on the site already, including a law professor who annotated a case he had argued to SCOTUS.

There are Quick Facts and a Document Wiki, essential information at a glance and and free form document summaries, respectively. Related cases are citing sources. The record includes oral arguments to SCOTUS. Create a PDF of a case with the two column format you may be very familiar with from the other guys. You can create a bookmark list of cases to read later, and even a Heatmap which highlights the most cited passages – dark blue means most cited. There is also a “copy with cite” feature – one of the features the Westlaw rep proudly touted to me when she was up-selling me on WestlawNext.

Its free to use right now, but is promising a paid Pro premium model. Right now, the big challenge is scope: the databases only include all U.S. Supreme Court cases, federal circuit court cases from Volume 1 of F.2d, federal district court cases published in F.Supp. and F.Supp.2d from 1980, and Delaware cases published in A., A.2d, and A.3d from Volume 30 of A. It was last updated on June 14, 2013. Hopefully it will open up to new jurisdictions soon. Quite frankly, I think this is a very exciting development, with a whole lot of promise if enough people play along.

Check out Casetext in action in the video below. What do you think? Would you contribute your expertise? Does the good of the many outweigh the good of the few or the one? Let me know.

For Better Search, Get Creative With Your Search Engines

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In a world where the term “google” is verb synonymous with performing a web search, it is hard for the average person to think beyond the search giant. But, if you can interrupt that knee-jerk response to head to Google.com when you need to know something, you might find that you can get better information faster using a more specialized search tool. Here are some great options to expand you mind and your search capabilities.

 

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Chart created by Altered Insight Digital Marketing. Data from Comscore Dec 2012 Search Engine rankings.

 

USA.gov

Did you know that your favorite government web site is also a search engine? Well, in truth its a giant database, but coupled with a search front-end it is much like tapping into a government-specific search tool. On the site, the searcher has direct access to searchable information from the United States government, state governments, and local governments. When you need something government-related, then check out USA.gov.

Healthline

If medical information is more your target, check out Healthline. This resource is a search tool for medical information. It offers medically filtered results developed by trained medical personnel, so there is definitely a curated feel to the content.

National Geographic Map Search Engine

This resource is a very large collection of NatGeo maps in a searchable online database. Browse the categories and you can get a sense of what you can tap, including world maps, satellite maps of Mars, Globe Explorer aerial imagery, and other information.

Technorati

Technorati is a venerable blog search engine that offers real time results from over 22 million sites and a billion links. If you think your answer is out there in the blogosphere, check out Technorati’s tool.

CompletePlanet

For the deep web (remember that favorite Studio topic?) CompletePlanet offers a capable search tool. The deep web is essentially aspects of the vast universe of the internet that Google hasn’t yet or can’t tap. CompletePlanet offers specific, topical databases of information and the information can only be retrieved by a direct query, rather than from Google’s indirect route. According to the site, approximately 70,000+ of the estimated total 200,000 Deep Web sites and about 11,000 of the estimated total 45,000 “surface” Web search sites are  listed on CompletePlanet.

Quixey

How about a search engine for apps? I know you need one. Quixey offers just that – find apps based on what you want to do. It is a semantic search engine with backing from Eric Schmidt of Google fame – they know a little bit about search. It mines reviews, blogs, social media and other sources to retrieve hits.

FindTheBest

Are you looking for the very top option among options? I know I have started many a query in Google with “the best …” FindTheBest targets its search efforts at just that type of query. FindTheBest has collected retail data on a variety of  products and organized them under nine broad categories. Results are visual and you can filter them. Great way to hone right in on the best choice.

Attrakt

Want to collect and curate your own content? Attrakt will allow you to browse the web and collect links that you can then later search. It’s like Google’s custom search tool, but a bit easier to work with. At its core, its a  bookmarking tool with a far better search and organization interface. Great for topical research – save your projects in an Attrakt Box.

Metasearch Engines

There are search engines that search the search engines and these are called metasearch engines. Maybe you don’t want to search Google, then search Yahoo, then search Bing, or whathaveyou, and risk repetitive stress injury. Maybe you want to search all of them at once. If you do, then check out the likes of ZuulaIxquick and Dogpile Web Search, as well as my personal favorite and previous Studio-star DuckDuckGo.

That’s Just Not Enough Search Engines

If that’s the case, then check out the following list of alternatives I pulled off of DMOZ. I didn’t check all the links so I can’t guarantee that they all work, but this should still offer up some fun browsing opportunities. If you have some favorite alternatives, please feel free to drop them in the comments so others can enjoy the benefits.

Happy searching!

  • Alternative.to – A search engine for alternatives, meaning it can search for existing opposites on any given subject.
  • AlternativeTo – Alternatives to software applications are organized into categories and can also be searched according to platforms and tags.
  • Best Similar Sites – Finds similar, related, or alternative websites.
  • Clusterpat.com – Search engine for US and European patents. Results from several sources are merged in a single list or in clusters. Order by relevance or date.
  • ColorOf – A color search engine meant to find items in defined colors.
  • Creative Commons Search – Powered by Nutch, it searches for content which can be re-used (for some uses) without having to pay or ask permission.
  • Crwlr.net – Finds active web servers and receives whatever information those servers disclose. Some of the features require free registration.
  • Dooblet – Find the alternatives to a broad range of subjects.
  • Dukten – A product information database searchable by the UPC or EAN that appears in the barcode of a product. Pictures, details, specifications.
  • Ecofreek – Searches the web for free and ‘for swap/trade’ items people no longer need.
  • Eyje – The latest comments on any topic such as people, events, ideas, categorized by various criteria. Registered users can add topics and comments.
  • FindHow – A “how-to” search engine for finding answers to common questions.
  • GetMeSubs – Search for subtitles based on the file name or the release name.
  • Globalogiq HTML Code Search Engine – Searches within HTML source code and http headers. Free demo requires registration.
  • Google minus Google – Search with Google without getting results from Google sites such as Knol, Blogger and YouTube.
  • GrantVine – Searchable grants database and assistance programs for individuals.
  • Green Maven – Green Search Engine which provides environmentally aware results, includes news and products.
  • Harpish – Designed to find files of a wide range of formats.
  • IFAC net – Global accountancy search engine, provides industry articles, guidelines and management tools.
  • Jamespot – RSS feeds search engine indexing blogs posts, news sites stories, audio and video podcast in 33 languages.
  • Jumobi – Searches for mobile-friendly websites by keyword or category.
  • Kurrently – A real-time search engine for Facebook and Twitter.
  • Lionseek – A search engine that scans the ‘for sale’ sections of online forums and organizes the data to make the search experience more efficient.
  • Lullar – Searches for profiles on social networking sites by e-mail, first, last name and username.
  • NiSearch – Finds documents in .pdf, .doc, .ppt, .xls, .rtf and html format. Requires registration.
  • Online Webpage Image Downloader and ImageInfo Grabber – Grabs and lists image content and information from websites with filtering options. It also offers downloading of grabbed images and social network sharing of grabbed images.
  • Oolone – Provides images of result sites instead of text snippets.
  • OpenBDB – The Open Book Database provides help to find books published since 1966.
  • Panjoy – Searches for recipes by ingredients, title, celebrity chefs.
  • PeekYou – Searches for names and usernames across a variety of social networking sites and even among Wikipedia editors, registers users of SourceForge, Launchpad and My Opera. Searching can be refined by location and age.
  • QueryCAT – Searches the web for FAQs, automatically extracting questions and ranking the answers to facilitate finding the relevant piece of information.
  • Quicko – Presents a search results page from which relevant results can easily be selected then browsed sequentially without opening new tabs or windows.
  • RSSsearchhub – Search for RSS, Rdf and Atom feeds or search the feeds.
  • Roozzy – A search engine to find mobile friendly websites.
  • Roysearch – Provides access to the Roysearch Knowledge Base of over 10 million concepts and 25 million semantic relations. Demonstrates how the knowledge base can be used for search refinement.
  • SHODAN – Search for computers based on software, geography, operating system, IP address and more. For example, it can find servers running Apache 2.2.3 on Windows 2000 in Switzerland.
  • Search IM – Offers search for users of Skype, Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, Google Talk and MSN messenger by their hobbies, work/profession, interests and anything else they include in their ‘about me’ pages.
  • SearchIRC – Search Internet Relay Chat rooms and networks.
  • Search – A code specific search engine. API documentation, code snippets and open-source repositories are indexed and searchable.
  • SeeSources.com – A service to check papers for passages plagiarized from the web.
  • Similar Pages – A search engine for finding similar and alternatives websites. Works on a dataset of about 200 million sites.
  • Similar Site Search – Helps to find similar, related, or alternative websites. Based on user generated tags.
  • Similar Site Search – Helps to find similar, related, or alternative websites. Based on user generated tags.
  • SimilarSites – Finds alternatives to popular websites.
  • Similarkind – Helps users find new alternatives or similar content.
  • Simply Hired – Provides a sizeable database of jobs, collates material from several businesses.
  • Sites Like Search – Helps to find similar or alternative websites.
  • SkillPages – SkillPages is creating new opportunities for everyone everywhere.
  • SlideFinder – Search engine for finding PowerPoint presentations and slides. The results include previews. The interface is available in several languages.
  • Social Search – Search for someone’s status and shares on Facebook, Twitter & Google Buzz.
  • Social Searcher – Facebook search without logging in. Finds images, pages, posts by keywords.
  • Stinky Teddy – Combines results from several sources to present the latest user-generated content. Its “buzz-o-meter” measures the current level of activity concerning the topic on Twitter.
  • Stylig – Collaborative fashion content search engine, indexes selected fashion blogs and online magazines.
  • Sysoon – Dead people search engine. Search by name, year or social security number (reverse lookup).
  • Taggl – Searches various applications, including del.icio.us, flickr, Scribd, YouTube, for tags.
  • The Internet Spec List – Search engine for Request For Comments (RFC). Also organized according to topic.
  • TopicDash – Tracks the latest popular content on the web: Facebook, Twitter etc.
  • Topsy – Searches content published on Twitter and the web, sorted by relevance or date.
  • Twitority – Authority based Twitter search, find Twitter postings by number of followers.
  • Vertical Search – Vertical search engine with many categories and a directory of the searched sites.
  • VideoStep – Indexes video files that can be embedded and makes them available to publishers and website owners.
  • Wolfram|Alpha – Computational knowledge engine that draws on multiple sources to answer user queries directly.
  • Yummly – Search for recipes by ingredient, diet, allergy, nutrition, taste, calories, fat, price, cuisine, time, course and source.
  • Zanran – A search engine for finding data and statistics. The search results will be graphs, charts and tables.
  • ZoomInfo – A business information search engine, providing company search, people search and job search. It constructs profiles on people and companies, drawn from the Web, or created by individuals and companies for themselves.
  • sengine.info – Searches sites by domain name, title, keywords and IP address.

Fastcase & William S. Hein Publishing – Like a Reese’s Cup

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Just caught the news over a Slaw that my favorite cheap reasonably priced web-based legal research resource Fastcase has partnered with William S. Hein Publishing to offer inline hyperlinks to Hein subscribers that link to Fastcase  federal and state case law, while offering Fastcase users access to Hein’s historical state statutory data and law review collection in search results. Nice to see these well-respected resources partnering to offer more to subscribers. This is a benefit to those groups that is worth noting. Hein will get Fastcase’s primary coverage of SCOTUS opinions from 1754 to present, Federal Circuits 1924 to present, Board of Tax Appeals, Tax Court Memorandum Decisions, U.S. Customs Court, Board of Immigration Appeals 1996 to present, Federal District Courts 1924 to present, Federal Bankruptcy courts from volume one to present, as well as state case law from all 50 states, dating back from at least 1950. Fastcase will get Hein’s Law Journal Library, Seesion Laws Library, State Attorney General Reports and Opinions, and State Statutes: A Historical Archive. Hein gets Fastcase access at no charge and Fastcase gets Hein abstracts at no charge, but Fastcase subscribers will need the Hein subscription to get full access to Hein materials. These are the first secondary materials that Fastcase has sought to integrate, which is exciting news indeed. Anyone willing to take on the Big Two is o.k. in my book.

The Shodan Search Engine IS a Bit Scary

Shodan_logo

But it may be indicative of the lurking loss of privacy and security we seem to freely exchange for the convenience of connectivity.

There are search engines out there specializing in all sorts of online information. I have highlighted some here, for example search tools that delve into the deep web. Shodan is different. Shodan searches for devices connected to the Web. Like servers. Printers. Routers. Webcams. Security cameras. Control systems for water parks. Really? Yup, really. And it can see what is secured out there and what is unsecured. From a CNN Money article that ran the rounds yesterday:

A quick search for “default password” reveals countless printers, servers and system control devices that use “admin” as their user name and “1234” as their password. Many more connected systems require no credentials at all — all you need is a Web browser to connect to them.

Search parameters include location by city or county, latitude or longitude. Or search by hostname, operating system or IP address. It also allows you to export your search results by XML, so you can take it with you, with the IP and physical location associated with the result. And, if you don’t want to do the heavy lifting, let some other hackers users do the work for you with shared searches.

SHODAN   Computer Search Engine

Even scarier, use Shodan Exploits to search for known vulnerabilities and exploits lurking out there.

I can hear you now – “Oh.Em.Gee. How long has this been out there?” Three years. When you search one of their shared searches for, say, video web servers, you will see results from 2010 forward. Shodan is celebrating its three year anniversary with a decent flurry of press activity. Great. Now more hackers users will know about this means of tapping stuff.

I totally understand that being fore-warned is to be fore-armed, and that the principle purpose of this is to enhance security rather than shake up that fragile concept, but my pessimistic self can’t help but consider all the nefarious uses such a tool could promote. It is all great if device owners take heed and actually start securing these devices. FWIW, SHODAN (Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network) apparently is a name used for a fictional AI antagonist in the cyberpunk action role-playing video games System Shock and System Shock 2. Take from that what you may/will.

Shodan invites you to register using your social logins, but I had no problem running some searches without registering. Check it out. And be chilled.

Still In Mourning Over Google Reader

GoogleReader

 

I have had an awful lot of loss recently. Some quite personal, and some smack in the public eye. Take, for instance, the untimely (although not unexpected) demise of perhaps my all time favorite web tool, my secret weapon in the pursuit of knowledge, my endless font of material for my beloved blog, my source of inspiration and enlightenment. Yes. I am talking about Google Reader.

First, a eulogy. Way back in the day, when I made the conscious decision to engage more on the Internet for professional and personal pursuits, one of the very first tools I stumbled on was the RSS feed and companion RSS feed reader. I believe it was in a webinar discussing how to use web tools for legal research. RSS was one of the items items discussed and it struck me right between the eyes as an absolutely brilliant proposition – rather than spend hours searching out news when there was a pending question and even more immediate deadline, why not have the news come to you whenever it was fresh and hot off the presses? You could make yourself look like a genius with very little effort. My first reader application was FeedDemon for Windows (NewNewsWire for Mac / iOS users). It allowed me to easily subscribe and organize feeds. However, as I added more and more sources to my local program, I found that it would bog down and get so cumbersome, I could hardly load new articles. By the way, FeedDemon, which used to have its own sync engine, is going to join Google Reader in the crematory as it is now exclusively powered by Google Reader sync, unless they come up with a solution before July 1.

It was then that I discovered the joy of the cloud-based reading tool that is Google Reader. There, all my subscriptions sat, quietly updating whenever I opened the page, allowing me to folder and subscribe to all sorts of feeds, including custom feeds and alerts, Twitter feeds and social media updates. When I found a site I really liked, I could use Reader to suggest similar blogs and RSS feeds so that I could move deeper into a subject. It had awesome search functionality (no duh! – its Google). And all of this at the speed of virtually real time (or at least as fast as the news sources could update with PubSubHubBub). I would visit Reader daily, sometimes several times a day, watching the new items fill the screen, hungry for more hot-off-the-presses stories on my favorite subjects. And, with the click of a button, share my findings with the world.

615_Newspaper_NS Newsflash_Flickr

 

After discovering Feedly, the application that offers stories based on your interests built on your Google Reader subscriptions, I spent less direct time on the Reader app itself. However, I would still regularly visit to prune and add content, and read stories without the Feedly filter to prioritize based on its best guess on my interests.

And now, all of that is about to fly out the proverbial virtual window. As of July 1, 2013, Google Reader will be no more. The writing was scrawled upon the wall about a year or more ago as Google made it quite clear that the social aspects of Reader (yes, there were social aspects), were being handily addressed on its new social net Google+. And, the scuttlebutt around the Web is that Google didn’t want to commit resources to ensure the Reader team kept their product in compliance with privacy and other regulatory constraints.

Whatever the reason, the net effect for me (and it really is all about me) is the loss of a fantastic, well-designed, productivity tool. So, as the reality of the loss sinks in, one has to wonder: how to pick up the pieces and move on?

Fortunately, there are so many creative and effective minds on the web that the loss of something as fantastic as Google Reader has not gone unnoticed and unaddressed. There are plenty of options out there for subscribing, digesting and manipulating RSS feeds and news stories. As a public service to Studio readers, I thought I would include some here. As Kubler-Ross theorized, we all undoubtedly will proceed through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining (remember that petition to the White House?), depression, and acceptance. And I will have the goods here for when you have hit that “it’s time to move on” point in your own process.

I should offer a caveat – I have not tried many of these alternatives so can’t offer the hands on. I have collected many of them while reading the Web news via, you guessed it, Google Reader. However, if I have had a personal experience, I will mention where appropriate.

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Desktop Options

NewsBlur. NewsBlur is one of those reader applications that will offer news based on its best guess as to your interests, based on your past reading and liking / disliking behavior. Using the Intelligent Trainer tool, you can tailor each individual feed based on your interests. It looks pretty much like any other standard reader program, with folders in the left nav and articles in the main panel on the right. You can import your Google Reader subscriptions into NewsBlur. You can also import from desktop programs the OPML file containing your subscriptions. The problem for me is that NewsBlur’s free account accommodates 64 feeds, which is woefully inadequate for my existing library. But it is only $12 per year for unlimited feeds, which is pretty reasonable given my use of this particular type of service. There are a few different ways to view feeds as well, which is more dynamic than Reader’s approach.

Skimr. A stripped down approach to feeds, with the ability to import OPML subscription files, but no inbox daunting you with a mounting unread list. Access your feeds individual to view content.

Fever. How about a self-hosted RSS reader app that you host on your own server? That takes away the uncertainty of a free service getting pulled out from underneath you. Fever offers just that – simply upload 4 files via FTP, add a MySQL database, and create an account. There is a $30 one time fee to Fever’s developer, plus the cost of your own hosting, but if you already have that set up, you are good to go upon price of admission.

The Old Reader. It is what it says – a version of an RSS subscription tool that looks like the old Google Reader. You can transfer feeds in or upload your OPML file. It also has the old news sharing features and social aspects of Google Reader before they were stripped in lieu of Google+. Nice for those who prefer not to be too jarred in the upset of Reader’s demise.

Tiny Tiny RSS.  Another player and I can’t believe how much it resembles Reader in looks. Tiny Tiny RSS is an open source web-based news feed (RSS/Atom) reader and aggregator, designed to allow you to read news from any location, while feeling as close to a real desktop application as possible. Free, too.

NetVibes. A web-based reader alternative, among NetVibes toolset is a RSS subscription / reader function. Create a free account and then click the add button. You can import your feeds using the subscription.xml file and will see them in NetVibes in the same folders as in your Reader app. View your feeds in Reader or Widgets view. Search is lacking in the app, and you can really only use your built in browser search box. They call it a monitoring dashboard, but my sense is that its best free use is as a feed reader.

HiveMined. A relatively new player, HiveMined’s developer is sensitive to the post-mortem pain we are feeling about Reader and is working hard to replicate the best parts. There is not much to say about it right now, but the developer is working furiously and you can keep up to date via his Twitter account and  blog.

Feedly. This is my go to RSS reader right now, especially since the developers saw the writing on the wall for Reader a while ago and have cloned the Reader API. If you sync Feedly with Reader now (or have already done so), they claim the switch will be seamless. There are a lot of other reasons to love Feedly, with its awesome user interface, recommendations and learning engine, easy sharing, and great mobile applications. That, combined with the powerful back end of Reader, has been a winning combination for me.

Good Noows. Web only, which can be a bit of a detraction, but this is a nice looking easy to use Web-based reader. Add it via Chrome extension. Sign in with a preexisting social account. Easily add feeds. If this is what you need it for, then this is a nice alternative.

FeedaMail. Are you still reading your news via email? then FeedaMail might be your answer. Submit your favorite blogs, links and sites to the app, and get back digests and instant updates in your email. This is great for either web viewing or mobile viewing, but if you are like me and get antsy when your email inbox gets to full, you might opt for something else.

RSSOwl. A desktop option that claims to be platform independent. It looks a lot like a traditional reader program as well. There are lots of features, so head over to their site for more – you can search and organize, use the built in browser, create bins and labels and share the goods.

Rolio. If you like the real-time river of Twitter or other news feed type interfaces, Rolio will do that for you with your RSS feeds. But you aren’t limited to your RSS subscriptions – add in your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds as well. And, because this is all about the Google Reader loss, you can import your Google Reader feeds as well.

River2. If you need to get some real RSS cred, why not turn to the guy who invented the protocol in the first place? River2 is Dave Winer’s application offering another River of News (only new feeds showing, with newest first in descending order) take on the RSS reader. It runs in an OPML Editor that implementing a River of News aggregator. It will collect feeds, podcasts, photos, reading lists, and real time feed support. No doubt it is geeky, but for you geeks out there, this might be a cool tool to tinker with.

QuiteRSS. Notching it up with a bit more geek-appeal, check out QuiteRSS – an RSS/Atom feed reader built on Qt/C++. It’s a local desktop app, which might appeal more to some, less to others. But it is cross-platform. The interface is clean and simple. It has a built in browser that works nicely and there are lots of fine-grained viewing options. Add labels and custom icons and tear through your subscriptions with extensive keyboard shortcuts.

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Mobile Options

There are a bunch of options that principally or only work on mobile devices, iOS, Android or both or others. They are all great in their own right for different reasons and you may want to use one or more of them to keep abreast of the latest news on the go. My favorite option above, Feedly, has awesome mobile apps. But here are others that shine or live only on mobile and they have much to offer as well.

Pulse. Like most of the mobile apps, the focus is on presentation. Pulse is no exception. It offers a nice social mag-like UI. You have to work a bit to create and maintain lists of blogs and sites. But, its free and glossy, so you can’t be disappointed by its value. iOS and Android.

Flipboard. Flipboard was the first and still still probably the best social magazine app on mobile. Create your own personal magazine using your Twitter feeds, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Soundcloud and, until this summer, Google Reader feeds. Gorgeous and free, if not deep. But if you need to glance fast across your feeds, this is a great tool.

Taptu. Driven by images, but it is indeed an RSS reader. Use one of your social accounts to log in and customize and sync feeds on iOS and Android, as well as a few other mobile devices.

Google Currents. With my new Nexus 4, I have been using this app more and more. It is a great news magazine style reader with amazing attention to detail (images on read items go from full color to black and white). I like the organization and find it easy to scan through a lot of news quickly. It works with any Google account and is available on iOS and Android.

Zite. I can’t rave enough about this great app – it not only pulls the stories it believes I would find the most interesting from my existing feed subscriptions, it offers similar stories of interest from across the Web. I have subscribed to more than one new feed because it was served up to me via Zite. And, the Zite team just announced  it has built a Google Reader replacement for its service. While it will only works with Zite, it syncs with Reader feeds and is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

Reeder. Reeder works on Mac and iOS, the latter is where I principally use it. It currently depends on Reader accounts as it is a true Google Reader interface app. But after the death knell sounded, Reeder’s developer suggested in Twitter that Reeder won’t die with Reader. What a relief!

I can’t guarantee an exhaustive list here, but as you can see, there are plenty of apps available to fill portions of the gigantic gap that will be left in the wake of Google Reader. Who knows, perhaps an eleventh hour reprieve will materialize? I would like to hope. But the pragmatist in me has my ducks all lined up for the eventual loss. Hope you do too – RSS is definitely not dead, if the massive outcry on the Web about Reader’s shuttering is any indication.

 

Little Bird is Your Avian-Robot-Web-Based Librarian

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I know. Quite a mouthful. But it is a title fit for the endless sea of information that is the Internet. And the depth and breadth is only growing. How do you target your time and resources effectively to get to the information you need quickly? Back in the day, you would go to your public library, school library, or law library and enlist the assistance of the librarian, skilled in the art of finding the needle in the haystack of stacks. She or he even knew how to use a card catalog! But, there is no librarian patiently standing at the entrance to the World Wide Web. Or is there?

Enter Little Bird. Little Bird “bills” itself as the Robot Librarian for the Web. But it is more than just a search engine for information. Little Bird’s creator, former ReadWriteWeb writer Marshall Kirkpatrick, clearly understands that there is more value in connecting with the people who know than simply finding the right bits and bytes. So Little Bird seems to be more about panning for the influencers and experts in a given field, seeking out the connections and interactions between these people and mining that information that passes from them for you.

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I poked around on Little Bird’s site, using a password that simply allows me to view what is going on, as it is still in private, invite-only beta. I could see that listings and profile cards lean heavily on Twitter, although the engine behind the site isn’t limited to Twitter activity as it also can tap blog posts and LinkedIn activity. The more connections between top influencers – both in the form of content creation and in amount of attention to creators – the higher the influencers rank in results on Little Bird. As a result, it would be difficult to artificially promote oneself in Little Bird results as the engine also measures the quality of the influencers followers – purchasers of followers need not apply.

So, how do you use it? You can either browse “reports” created by others on various topics, or create your own. The site suggests that you don’t search on too broad or too narrow a topic in order to maximize your results. Once you have a topic, Little Bird “seeds” your search with a few good people, which you can keep or discard. When you run your search, Little Bird will look for experts on your topic in Twitter’s stream, analyze who is following those experts, and automatically build an index of the community of connections between experts in your chosen field. Run the search and get back a “report” of the top 500 experts in the field, and from there explore their content.

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You can also compare two Twitter users and see overlap and connections between follows and followers. This information can offer insight into how the influencer interacts with his or her community. Use this information to map how you might engage with this influencer and build your own influence. Because, as web denizens know, it really is all about influence these days.

There is also more “generic” information that you can browse, such as “hot news”, magazines built from shared material from influencers, most highly linked blogs, and direct search of topic insiders blogs and other content.

I am not surprised Marshall is behind this effort. I used to really enjoy reading his posts about crafting ways to automate his search to find whatever information he might be looking for – going deep into the Web trenches to pull data and make connections between data. He has gotten a great deal of interest from investors and other influencers, so hopefully Little Bird can move from private beta to full blown public web tool soon. Congrats and best wishes to the Little Bird team – sounds like a fascinating new way to gain insights and connections on the web.

Congrats, Rocket Lawyer, on the LawPivot Acquisition

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Rocket Lawyer, the do it yourself legal document creation tool site, has just announced its purchase of LawPivot, the Quora Q&A site for legal advice. Seems a decent match. Rocket Lawyer leverages the mindset of the new Web – the belief  that anyone can leverage web-based information and tools to accomplish whatever the task at hand, in this case legal document drafting. Rocket Lawyer also taps into attraction of  a la carte legal services – when the drafting process gets onerous, Rocket Lawyer will connect you with legal counsel to help you with the details. However, the cost of admission to the document generating process is free. Rocket Lawyer is all about improving access and simplifying the process in an affordable way. For lawyers, Rocket Lawyer offers a place to build a profile and means to connect with clients who need more assistance than the free legal forms generator can provide.

LawPivot, on the other hand, takes a slightly different approach to matching lawyers with potential clients. Over 2,300 lawyers in 37 states, to be precise. Site visitors can ask confidential legal questions on the site. Attorneys will then message the visitors back with legal advice. Users can ask unlimited, free, follow up questions. LawPivot can assist with questions on corporate, intellectual property, contracts, employment, tax, and immigration law, among other areas. Like Rocket Lawyer, the lawyers on LawPivot can create profiles to provide some background to site visitors about the lawyer’s competencies. LawPivot also attempts to connect users with lawyers who are best suited to answer the particular question. The more a user interacts with LawPivot, the better the site can track usage trends and improve matching of lawyers and potential clients.

I definitely see the overlap between these two sites and it seems to me that a purchase / merger makes a great deal of sense. Between forms generation and Q&A legal advice for discrete legal questions, the combination of Rocket Lawyer and LawPivot can cover a great deal of legal need with agile on-line tools. It appears that Rocket Lawyer will build LawPivot into the Rocket Lawyer experience. It will certainly be interesting to see the end result of this marriage. Best of luck to both businesses in reforming the practice of law.

Introducing Facebook’s Graph Search

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It’s been a while since Facebook has done anything interesting enough for me to write about. The wait is over, apparently, as today Mr. Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s new Graph Search. What is Graph Search? No, it’s not a method for finding a visual for your business stats course. It is Facebook’s way of “giving back” to its users a little of that user data it has been hoarding for the past 6 or so years.

Introducing Graph Search

Graph Search is essentially a search engine of Facebook’s “social graph” – a network dataset which describes the connections between people, or in other terms “the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related” per Wikipedia. Apparently, Facebook has been developing this engine for years, and either has finally perfected it or has simply gotten to the point where there are enough datapoints to make such a search tool viable – there are more than 1 billion people, 240 billion photos and 1 trillion connections within the social graph.

How does it work? Users (it is only in limited beta preview for U.S. users only) will be able to search queries across this graph like “people who eat sushi” or “people who eat sushi who also live in Seattle.”  Or, you can search things like “TV shows that my friends watch” or “languages my friends speak.” Or maybe “places my friends visit.” The results that come up are culled from your Facebook friends, as well as other information made publicly available by others on Facebook. Scary? Perhaps a little, but Facebook assures that users will only be able to search the content that has been made available to them. The net effect is that everyone’s search results for the same query will be different and custom tailored to them and their own social graph.

When it rolls out, users will see a search box at the top of the Facebook site that invites you to “search for people, places and things.” It will predict your search as you type, offering options, and the results page can be further filtered and massaged. Results will be ranked with the highest hits being the ones with the most interactions, likes and comments. Web searches can also be run – Facebook has partnered with Bing to provide those results to you.

Obviously, you are thinking about privacy right now. And you are right to do so, particularly when Facebook rolls out something new. Facebook is moving preemptively to assuage concerns – check out the video below:

What about the business angle? Graph Search will work for business Pages too. Along with the organic results for business-related inquiries, Facebook has indicated it will include sponsored links in the results. Obviously, making sure your Page is up to date, adding new content and cultivating fans and interactions will be important in securing high spots in more searches.

No matter how one feels about privacy, Facebook, etc., there is no doubt that Facebook’s new Social Graph Search is a huge announcement. Google has no access to this wealth of personal data. Facebook clearly is positioning itself as a formidable search option when those personal connections are a priority. And, as the world becomes more and more impersonal, those connections are sure to gain importance.