Making Short Work Of Your Twitter Stream

I am on a Twitter roll today, apparently. I couldn’t help myself – I had to report on this new service called, of all things, Twitter For Busy People. According to Pete Cashmore at Mashable, TFBP is a new interface for Twitter that collects the latest tweet from your follows, so that you can quickly peruse the latest statuses of more people in less time. Recent history is still available with a click of the mouse.

Twitter For Busy People: when you are too damn busy to read 140 characters or less.

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Has Twitter Changed Our Usage? Ask Oxford University Press

Interesting factoids from a study being conducted by the Oxford University Press regarding Twitter and language usage: it is a hotbed for new word creation; hyper-abbreviations are rampant; participles ending in “ing” are popular; tweeters would much rather talk about the future than the past; intensives and strong adjectives densely populate; and, one of the most popular words on Twitter is, well “Twitter.”

OUP has been examining approximately 1.5 million tweets since January in an effort to explore Twitter’s impact. Read a synopsis of results to date here. Such language-tracking is not new: OUP already performs such studies in other media, such as newspapers, magazines and blogs. However, Twitter’s inherent length limitation has Tweeters going to new lengths to get their points across. Want more data? Check out the facts and numbers here.

Hat tip for both papers to Resource Shelf.

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Friendfeed for Lawyers

Image representing FriendFeed as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

I have had a love affair with Friendfeed for more than six months now. Upon joining the aggregator / streaming service, I immediately used its tools to find and follow the people I had already connected with on other services. One of my services, Twitter, utilizes a follow list that is 90% lawyers. So I was pleased to find that a healthy number of these tech-aware lawyers had found Friendfeed before me, opened an account and were feeding already. I followed them all.

I quickly learned that the lawyers I follow on Friendfeed primarily send in their Twitter tweets and, maybe, a blog entry and, if they are really avant-guarde, some Google Reader items. There was no interaction between these lawyers and others on Friendfeed and their material quickly sped through the feed and was soon forgotten. So, I asked myself, why are these lawyers on Friendfeed?

The better question is: why should these lawyers be on Friendfeed? Consider this humble post a primer on Friendfeed, what it is and and the value it represents.

A good place to start is an explanation of what Friendfeed is. At its heart, Friendfeed is indeed an aggregator of one’s on-line content, a place to feed into a single stream all of the material one creates and shares on-line. The list of shareable items is exhaustive – take a look at the screenshot below and remember that Friendfeed is adding services all the time.

Friendfeed services

Needless to say, one can paint a thorough picture of one’s on-line life using Friendfeed as an aggregator.

Why aggregate? You can use Friendfeed as a personal content scrapbook, a one-stop shopping destination for all of your on-line hang-outs. You can find all of your Delicious links, your blog posts, your Stumbles, your Twitter posts in one space. You can find your Amazon likes, your Facebook and Linkedin statuses, your Google reader items and even your Pandora favorites. You can post video likes from YouTube and personal video conversations from Seesmic.

With respect to Twitter posts, a key benefit of Friendfeed that beats Twitter is the ability to easily search or filter your Twitter entries with a simple click of a button and ALL of your tweets will appear. On Twitter, you have to rely on a semi-reliable search function and tweets are only archived for a few days.

Click on your Friendfeed name and you will see your entire stream of on-line activity. And, for most services, your on-line content shows up fairly quickly in the Friendfeed stream. Finally, it bears noting that Google searches like Friendfeed almost as much as they like Twitter: Hutch Carpenter explains his own experiment with the rankings that a Friendfeed entry can obtain in Google on his blog here.

But Friendfeed is far more than just aggregation of your own content. To truly dive into the Friendfeed experience, a Friendfeeder should seek out others to follow and, hopefully, encourage them to follow back. Sound Twitter-familiar? It is and it isn’t. Friendfeed is where the real conversations and information-sharing occur, once you convince others that you are a worthy conversation partner. It takes some time and definitely some effort to connect with other Friendfeeders. The experience, however, is vastly superior to Twitter and worth the effort.

Friendfeed has Twitter beat as a conversation station by virtue of its better organization and interface. Friendfeed on the Web offers the key features that Twitter users can only obtain through third party tools and resource-costly desktop applications. You can group your users and pay attention to certain portions of the feed, filtered by those groups. You also can filter topics through saved searches. Check out this awesome post by Bwana on what saved searches are and how you can use them effectively. You can join existing or form new “rooms” (topic-based Friendfeed accounts) and invite other Friendfeed users to join you in those rooms (either public or private) for targeted conversations about any topic imaginable.

Friendfeed automatically “trees” conversations by allowing you to “like” and “comment” on entries that you view. Those readers who are on Facebook might recognize these features as part of Facebook’s latest overhaul – they were taken directly from Friendfeed’s model. It becomes far easier to enter and track a conversation and return for further discussion. It also becomes easier to forge connections when you can actually engage in a conversation that is so easily tracked.

How do you break into Friendfeed? First, complete your profile and import whatever services you are interested in sharing. Obviously, for a professional presence, some of your content may be less interesting or valuable than other content and your target reader should be kept in mind. Next, import your friends from other services. These include Facebook, Linkedin, Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. You also can find popular users and recommended users. Search out public groups that may be of interest to you based on your professional or personal bent and subscribe to them. Then jump into the conversation.

For some more detailed tips on getting the most out of Friendfeed, I heartily recommend this article from KnowtheNetwork.

Friendfeed is at that same place in the popularity arc that Twitter occupied  a few years back – it currently is populated mostly by technology-forward types, the shining lights among tech bloggers, hard-core programmers and coders and individuals who appreciate its initially-challenging but ultimately more rewarding interface.

I am writing this post now because I recently have seen more of my Twitter friends showing up on Friendfeed and subscribing to my feed. This jump seems to have coincided with debut of the new “real-time” interface  and the loud noise the tech press made heralding the change.

Why now? Undoubtedly, those of us who spend some time on-line, particularly in the news sources, hear about the next big thing and are eager to try it, even if we don’t understand it. And that is my sense of the reason for this next wave of Friendfeed users – they want to join in, but simply are not sure what to make of Friendfeed.

A few months back, I sought feedback from my Twitter lawyer friends as to why they were on Friendfeed when they were simply feeding in tweets and not fully exploiting its value. The short answer I received from those kind enough to respond was just that – these people were not sure what it was or how it could be used to their advantage.I just listened to a very recent podcast by two tech luminaries in the legal world discussing Friendfeed. These are people well-respected by other lawyers for their opinions on tech matters. I was only slightly surprised to hear that these individuals were themselves unsure of what Friendfeed was and what it could do for them and whether it really was worth it to spend time on yet another social site. They could sense that Friendfeed had value but could not precisely quantify what that value was.

I will not lie – Friendfeed’s learning curve is a bit steeper and longer than Twitter’s learning curve. Furthermore, with fewer people in the Friendfeed stable, it takes a bit more engagement to connect to others and achieve the level of sharing that makes Friendfeed so unique. I believe that Friendfeed will gain in prominence among professionals and the general population as more people discover and utilize its features. But those intrepid attorneys braving the uncharted waters need to engage to win here. If you only have so much time to spend on-line, don’t rule out Friendfeed – you can still track your Twitter peeps on Friendfeed and even reply to their threads on Twitter via Friendfeed with a simple setting adjustment.

Friendfeed as a marketing and business generating tool? You betcha! I have gotten the same number of leads for professional work from Friendfeed as I have from Twitter. Although the work has differed (undoubtedly due to the different audiences I follow on the two sites), the numbers read the same. Bear in mind that I am currently pushing close to 1,000 Twitter followers and have only just over 300 Friendfeed followers. You do the math. The quantity and quality of responses to my questions on Friendfeed far exceed the return from my Twitter follows. The only conclusion I can reach is that the higher the quality of connection, the better the chances that your networking will yield results. And Friendfeed offers the better connection.

You still want another benefit? Far less spammers than Twitter. Although I am sure even spammers will eventually discover it and figure out a way to break in.

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Keeping Tabs on the C-Suite, Twitter-Style

Here is an innovative real-time information filter for business-oriented Twitter-holics: ExecTweets. ExecTweets is a beta site offering the tweets of the movers and shakers, the captains of industry and the power play-makers across sectors. Backed by Microsoft (who else?), the site has this to say about itself:

ExecTweets is a resource to help you find and follow the top business executives on Twitter. Created by Federated Media, in partnership with Microsoft, ExecTweets is a platform that aggregates the tweets of top business execs and empowers the community to surface the most insightful, business-related tweets.

ExecTweets is also available as a  free iPhone application, offering organization by topic, popularity and industry. I was going to copy the list of participating executives, but the list truly is too long! Hit the jump to their site above to see the “wealth” of information. Instead, check out this list of hot topics on ExecTweets as of the time of publishing this post:

I notice a glaring absence of posts on MJ. How refreshing!
ExecTweets
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Expand Your Legal Knowledge for Free with On-Line Courses

Nice resource for lawyers:  MentorCLE offers free on-line courses on legal subjects for Illinois lawyers. Included is this course on Persuasive Writing For Lawyers by Helen Gunnarsson. You can pay $19.95 to convert your time into an hour of CLE credit.

There is a list of a number of great presentations on the site here. Got 15 minutes and a cup of coffee? Why not learn something new? Great job, MentorCLE!

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Save A Briefcase, Use A Kindle

I have long suspected that e-readers in general and the Amazon Kindle in particular could serve a higher purpose for lawyers. There is no doubt that we, as a profession, drown in paper. While we are in much better shape in this regard now than we were, say, 10 – 15 years ago, there is still a lot of paper wending its way through the practice. And, of course, lawyers by definition are avid readers, by both choice and necessity.

Many thanks to Justin Rebello at the Wisconsin Law Journal for his short list, of lawyer-specific reasons to grab a Kindle. Quoting from Justin:

  • Read depositions. The most common use for attorneys is exploring read-only versions of deposition transcripts.

    The Kindle allows the user to make notes on the screen or on the Web via an online content manager.

    There are also applications — such as Accureader — that can transfer a Kindle file (a .ptx file) into a PDF for text conversions, and have it e-mailed to a laptop.

    “It’s an easy way to keep track of the case no matter where you are,” said Finis Price, a personal injury lawyer in Louisville, Ky. “A laptop or other reader is too clunky for [converting files].”

  • Take private records home with you. The days of an attorney piling ultra-sensitive case documents into a brief case are over.

    The Kindle allows the user to upload documents onto the device using Amazon’s Digital Text Platform self-publishing tool.

  • Find new ways to release your own book. Speaking of self-publishing, the Kindle gives attorneys looking to release their own book more options.

    You can use the Digital Text Platform to upload, format and sell your book at the Kindle Store. Hundreds of law-related books are already available.

  • Keep up on blogs. If your Google Reader is constantly showing 1,000+ unread items, the Kindle can download a number of blogs so you can stay up to date while on the go, all without a web browser, says Price. [Yep, the Studio can even be loaded onto your device, via Amazon!]
  • Save on printing costs. The Kindle certainly isn’t cheap ($359 for the current iteration, $489 for the DX), but it can actually save law firms money in the long run.

    Firm policies and manuals can be uploaded in a read-only format. Web versions of magazines and newspapers can also be converted.

As more lawyers adopt this facile method for dealing with the mountains of paperwork (and email) that pervade their lives, briefcases and backs are certain to breathe a sigh of relief.

Hat tip to Legal Writing Prof Blog.

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'Notes On The Ropes: OneNote versus Evernote

Lifehacker’s been dancing around it and so have I: which desktop notetaking app should win the big prize? OneNote and Evernote are the clear contenders here and I personally use both. Lifehacker has a poll going on over there and I am finding the results very interesting.

Lifehacker prefaces its poll with a quick little synopsis of the differences and similarities. To quote Adam Pash:

OneNote integrates like a dream with every corner of your Windows desktop…. Both apps are serious about syncing your notes with the web and other computers with the software installed. Evernote wins the mobile war with support for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Palm Pre; OneNote, on the other hand supports only Windows Mobile devices. Both can perform optical character recognition (or OCR) for translating your handwriting into searchable notes…. We could go on, but ultimately both tools have a lot in common with subtle differences (the tablet PC-owner niche loves OneNote).

I have always thought this particular war is the victim of price-bias: advantage to Evernote available at the unbeatable price – free. Evernote premium is a paid application but costs only about 1/2 of OneNote’s retail price. Consequently the results, at the time I looked, were a bit surprising to me in spread rather than lead, and that was even BEFORE I voted.

So, which application do you think I favor? Which application do you favor? Enquiring minds want to know.

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‘Notes On The Ropes: OneNote versus Evernote

Lifehacker’s been dancing around it and so have I: which desktop notetaking app should win the big prize? OneNote and Evernote are the clear contenders here and I personally use both. Lifehacker has a poll going on over there and I am finding the results very interesting.

Lifehacker prefaces its poll with a quick little synopsis of the differences and similarities. To quote Adam Pash:

OneNote integrates like a dream with every corner of your Windows desktop…. Both apps are serious about syncing your notes with the web and other computers with the software installed. Evernote wins the mobile war with support for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Palm Pre; OneNote, on the other hand supports only Windows Mobile devices. Both can perform optical character recognition (or OCR) for translating your handwriting into searchable notes…. We could go on, but ultimately both tools have a lot in common with subtle differences (the tablet PC-owner niche loves OneNote).

I have always thought this particular war is the victim of price-bias: advantage to Evernote available at the unbeatable price – free. Evernote premium is a paid application but costs only about 1/2 of OneNote’s retail price. Consequently the results, at the time I looked, were a bit surprising to me in spread rather than lead, and that was even BEFORE I voted.

So, which application do you think I favor? Which application do you favor? Enquiring minds want to know.

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Digital Immigrants Will Make Way For Digital Natives …

… or traditional institutions will suffer the consequences. Yasar Tonta at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey focuses his lense on libraries and stresses that they must “evolve or die” when it comes to digital technology and connectivity in his article Digital Natives and Virtual Libraries: What Does The Future Hold For Libraries?. Tonta initially explains the different styles exhibited by “digital natives” (those who were born and raised in a world surrounded by modern computing and technology) and “digital immigrants” (those who came to the digital realm from their previous analog existence). While recognizing that libraries must continue to cater to both groups, Tonta urges institutions to be mindful of the need to offer an experience catering to the digital native or risk “extinction.” Until such time as digital natives comprise 100% of the user base, librarians must run their show in both the real and virtual world.

To this end, Tanto suggests that libraries forge relationships with their patrons that represent a give-and-take: offering bi-directional service and information flow back and forth between institution and client. Tanto speaks in terms of “diffusing” and “concentrating” services. Diffusion entails building relationships between people, applications and data through services like blogs, wikis and social networking, while concentration involves pulling users into major hubs of information, such as Google and Amazon.

I found particularly compelling Tanto’s direction that libraries must move from being “resource-centric” towards becoming “relationship-centric”, emphasizing a more personalized service. Tanto also points out that technologies “converge” just as the facets of our lives converge – business, social, professional, personal. Thus, the library is tasked with effecting its own “convergence” by melding its own curated resources with the freely available resources of the Web and entering the on-line “hangouts” that digital natives inhabit. To survive, libraries must meet the more demanding needs of digital natives as they replace digital immigrants as clients.

Finally, more is required of institutions than merely becoming digital destinations. Libraries must actively seek to enter the actual networks of digital natives and meet them where they live. Tanto closes with this quote:

In libraries’ part, this requires “connectivity, communications, and content” (Social, 2009) so that library resources and services can be more visible and usable from within social networking systems. This seems to be the way forward for libraries if they are to tackle the impact of the convergence of technologies and the convergence of people’s social lives.

I daresay that the reader could insert the name of just about any institution for the word “library” in this article and the same conclusions still hold true. Consider the plight of law firms as they experience pain from this compulsion to effect major change and are forced to  learn how to deal with both clients and new hires firmly inhabiting the virtual space. Firms that cater to digital immigrants will soon be as obsolete as their client base. Firms catering to digital natives not only will learn how to speak the language, but also will understand how to walk the walk along the highways and byways of the on-line world, stopping to socialize at all the best hangouts.

Hat tip to Resource Shelf.

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The Talking Cubicle

Logitech Quickcam Pro 4000 webcam (without &qu...
Image via Wikipedia

Another interesting take on working remotely can be found at Smarterware’s post on Jonathan Wilson’s set-up – use Skype and VNC to create a “presence” in the office. In Jonathan’s words:

I still have my computer at work, in my office cube (right in the middle of things). I set up a webcam there along with speakers. I have second cam at home, and I simply Skype in to my own cube at work. Skype can be configured to auto-answer, if desired, so my ‘cube’ Skype simply picks up when I dial in … for hours at a time.

I also pipe my home desktop onto my cube’s monitor (using VNC). This combination is very close to actually being there in the cube. People walk right up to my cube and talk to me, just like they do when I’m in the office. Because my code’s up on the screen, we can work through issues there at my desk just like normal. Similarly, people glancing at my screen can see exactly what I’m doing (coding), so there’s never a question of whether I’m actually doing my work from home.

I can ‘overhear’ the dev conversations in the cubes around me (just like when I’m in the office), and even pipe in. My coworkers and managers are quite used to it and its become completely natural. After trying many different things, this is, by far, the best approach I’ve come across.

Jonathan works with very tech-savvy people (he is a software developer), so the warm-up period probably was shorter for his team than it would be in the average law firm or in-house counsel office. Nonetheless, it is a very interesting solution to the problem of collaborating with others over the distances. Cool work-around, Jonathan!

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