Caution: iPhone at Work

iPhone Apps Screen

Screen Shot of One of my Productivity Pages

Now that I have one of them fancy schmancy 3GS phones with a veritable McMansion’s worth of space, I have been browsing, loading and testing lots of new applications. I am not going to provide a review yet, because I am still “experiencing” them all. Instead, I will point you to a slick site called Best iPhone Apps. It doesn’t have hundreds of offerings, but it pares down the throng to some of the best in category.

Hit this link to see their recommendations for best applications for taking your work on the go. One of their choices, is intriguing: Jaadu VNC, which recreates your desktop and offers remote access to it. VERY cool, indeed.

With so many choices, it is good to be able to rely on sites that cut those down and offer reviews. Or, if you want the choices to come to you, there is an app for that too – Macworld recently released an app called App Gems, which offers a daily featured app, access to Macworld’s Essentials collection, and Top Rated by category.

With all the resources out there, it shouldn’t be difficult to find the stars in the more than 75,000 choices!

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You Don't Need To Hack Into MIT's Library

You can just point your mobile browser at  http://m.mit.edu and get a page optimized for iPhone (with other phone optimization on the way) offering access to many of the library’s services. You can view library hours and locations, pose questions or set up a meeting with a librarian, and read news about the library on the MIT Library blog.

Whether or not you have a Student ID, you have to appreciate MIT’s steps towards connecting library resources with the mobile mob. Great example to follow for other reference and content providers.

Hat tip to Resource shelf.

You Don’t Need To Hack Into MIT’s Library

You can just point your mobile browser at  http://m.mit.edu and get a page optimized for iPhone (with other phone optimization on the way) offering access to many of the library’s services. You can view library hours and locations, pose questions or set up a meeting with a librarian, and read news about the library on the MIT Library blog.

Whether or not you have a Student ID, you have to appreciate MIT’s steps towards connecting library resources with the mobile mob. Great example to follow for other reference and content providers.

Hat tip to Resource shelf.

How Social IS Your Government?

Have you ever wondered just how social and popular on-line your favorite government agency is? Check out this list from Government Computer News of the top ten agencies with the most Facebook fans. The White House is far and away the winner, which comes as no surprise. Number ten on the list is the Environmental Protection Agency. Hit the jump above, check out the list and add yourself to the throngs of adoring, screaming fans of the Library of Congress!

Or, if you are an agency looking to leverage the power of the Web to promote your cause, check out the new Facebook page launched by Facebook called, aptly enough “Facebook and Government“, with tips and inspiration for setting up agency pages. This page also offers a collection of links to existing government agency pages.

Hat tip to Resource Shelf.

Decompress. And De-Stress

The work is coming in fast and furious. So are the telephone calls and conferences. Your Blackberry (or iPhone) is permanently fixed to your midsection, like some sort of “office”-arrest ankle bracelet. You are trying to keep up with your real world and on-line social obligations and networking efforts. Blogs to write, documents to draft, files to read, offices to manage, hearings to attend. How can one human being juggle all of this? I didn’t even add family and personal obligations into the mix, and it STILL sounds overwhelming!

Aside from responding with the slightly flippant answer of “you need a vacation”, I point you to this excellent article by Julie Fleming at Life at the Bar called “Top Ten Tips to Overcome Overwhelm.”  Based on her own experience and feedback she has collected, Julie publishes a useful list of suggestions for placing short-term patches on your leaky ship. Thanks, Julie, for the great insights!

Using Common Sense On-Line

It has become apparent to me that this week is going to be dubbed the “Mind Your P’s & Q’s” week (punctuation and quotations, perhaps?) on the Studio. My last post was about challenging new methods of securing client referrals on-line and taking care to mind the reach of our archaic ethical rules. This post discusses a more personal subject: knowing when to employ the TMI filter or risk running afoul of the ethical rules.

It seems strange to me that professionals of any sort, and lawyers in particular, would not grasp what is appropriate and what is inappropriate to put down, in writing, in public, regarding themselves, their clients, or any other sensitive matters, for that matter. Are lawyers driven to communicate against their better judgment because of the medium? Or is it just another manifestation for the generally-accepted proposition that lawyers love to hear themselves talk and an erroneous belief that what they might consider to be private and protected might not actually be so?

Please let me clarify: there is nothing at all wrong with loving to hear oneself talk, particularly if the talk is valuable and if it contributes to the greater community of peers and potential clients. In fact, that is the beauty of on-line interconnectedness: we can reach and share rich content with a community of much larger scope than generally available via real world interactions, unless you are one of those guys wearing a sign near Times Square.  

However, if you are a professional seeking to enhance your practice through on-line endeavors, you should keep in mind the real world prohibitions against and implications of sharing information against your interest or the interests of your client. And then multiply those prohibitions times, oh, about, 3 – 5 decimal places.

The inspiration for this post comes from an ABA Journal blurb about blogging lawyers called to task for legal and ethical problems. I actually found myself alternating between scratching my head and chuckling about the problems lawyers have faced. There are lawsuits against lawyers who thought they were anonymously charging other lawyers with engaging in conspiracy, and firings and ethical probes of criminal lawyers who included “thinly veiled” references to clients and sharp criticisms of judges in blog posts. Lawyers who write contemporaneous blog posts about their experiences on a jury and lawyers who seek continuances for socially acceptable reasons, when their Facebook page shows otherwise (and the presiding judge is a FB friend!!!). 

Even judges can find themselves in hot water – remember Chief Judge Alex Kozinsky from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals who found himself explaining some off-color humor residing on a family  web server intended to be private (but apparently, not so much)?

The New York Times article cited in the ABA Journal article highlights these examples and provides interesting food for thought. Lawyers are under the same strict guidelines regarding professional conduct and client confidences on-line as they are in real life. These ethical rules collide with the “free-wheeling” environment of the Internet. Legal ethics scholars suggest that conflicts between ethical rules and on-line behavior will only increase as more youngsters reared in the age of Facebook complete law school and enter the profession.

I am not so naiive to think that similar breaches of confidence and perfidious-ness (is it a word? ;)) don’t happen in the real world. They most certainly do. However, there are two extra-hazardous facts that come into play on-line: the utterer’s mistaken sense that only his or her intended listeners are noticing and hearing the message; and, easy searchability. While nothing in this life is truly permanent, written words indexed and searchable on-line certainly echo much longer than their verbal counterparts.

Social networking should be social. There is no question in my mind that a stronger connection is achieved on-line if you show a little personality, a little of your personal background , along with that sense of the lean, mean, legal machine,  that you are, of course.  But lawyers, please use common sense: personality and defamatory criticisms are not coextensive. And remember, if you tell your Facebook friend, the judge, that you need more time to prepare for trial because of a funeral in the family, don’t be updating your Facebook page with drunken party pictures on days of the wake and funeral.

This might be an example where ethical rules should not be changed to accomodate our Brave New World.

Update: I jumped back in over here to add another link to a law.com article about how tweeting can land you in hot water. It’s public, people. Very, very public.

An Advocate Against On-Line Referrals


Image via Wikipedia

Interesting piece in the Boston Globe today: Zenas Zelotes, a bankruptcy lawyer in Connecticut is “fighting the good fight” against for-profit lawyer referrals through on-line services, like Total Attorneys, Inc. of Chicago. Apparently, the ethics counsel in some of the 47 states Mr. Zelotas has filed his more than 550 ethics complaints agree – Chief Disciplinary Counsel in Connecticut, Mark DuBois, has found probable cause against 5 of 12 attorneys named by Zelotes.

Some may view Zelotes’ actions and DuBois’ move a blow to innovating in the on-line realm, and DuBois communicates his ambivalence in the article about enforcing existing rules in our Brave New World.

On the other side of the feud is Attorney Kevin Chern, the Chicago Lawyer who developed Total Attorneys, Inc. Chern merely states in the article that Zelote’s actions are “anticompetitive.”

New means of advertising, packaging and delivering legal product undoubtedly clash with our “traditional” legal practice, an industry that moves at the speed of dinosaur on many levels. But is that a problem here? Do the ethical rules developed in the context of a vastly different economy make sense in the wake of game-changing global financial crises and rocketing technological developments or are they a necessary check to Chern’s 200-mph sports car product? I am not sure, but I do know these questions merit review of the benefits and drawbacks of innovation. I do know that our profession needs to examine change, and that includes the ethical rules that purport to guide the profession and ensure protection of client interests. Clients need to be heard as well, and I have no question in my mind that dollars and cents will play a role in their answers to these questions.

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Eight Years Ago

NEW YORK - JUNE 01:  Gianna Frederique of Silv...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

As I write this, my kitchen clock strikes 12:00 p.m. EST. On this day, one of those anniversaries, I have stopped my work on all fronts to pen my own, personal remembrance.

I have had some teary-eyed moments today. My thoughts have ranged from the general implications of the event eight years ago to the personal implications (I lost a close friend in the World Trade Towers, I nearly lost a close friend in the World Trade Towers, a close friend lost a dear sister-in-law on one of the flights, …). There are many events in our collective history for which I do not have either personal memory or personal experience. This one, I do. I will never forget where I was or how I felt eight years ago.

I spent a great deal of  time that day scared, with my heart firmly in my throat. I spent a great deal of time crying in disbelief. Then I spent a great deal of time immersed in sadness and numbness. I tried to get information, but my internet connection was down. I did not have a radio, but collected what I could from co-workers who did. I left my office very early that morning and, in fact, we had been told that we had to leave the Boston-based skyscraper, for fear of continuing attacks. I joined the slow progression of traffic leaving the Massachusetts capital lost in thought and sadness, unaware yet of the details or implications.

Over the next hours, I vainly struggled to locate my NYC-based friends, plagued by spotty phone and internet service. I kept at it until I ultimately connected with all but one of them. I listened to their own stories of terror, sadness and numbness over the next few hours, days and weeks.

I also received calls from friends and family both near and far, wanting and needing to reach out and “touch” someone else, to reassure that there could be a sense of normalcy in our new, crazy, upside-down reality. I remember, too, the strange effects of fear and suspicion close to home, at levels I had never seen or experienced before.

Ultimately, the strangeness did slow its frenetic pace. My friends, family, co-workers and I have all pretty much returned to what appears, for all intents and purposes, to be a state of normalcy. But can you ever really feel normal or ever return to your state of being prior to such a cataclysmic event? For my part, I don’t think I ever will. Every time I look at this Disney limited edition holiday ornament, a gift from a dear friend complete with tiny pewter Twin Towers below a Mickey Mouse-shaped inflatable, my heart skips a beat. Every time I read that children’s picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, I cannot stop my tears and the familiar hitch in my voice invariably returns by the last page with the drawing of the ghost towers’ outline.

I revisited all of these feelings when I attended our friend’s memorial service. However, I am no hero. I studiously try to avoid the horror of Ground Zero whenever I travel to New York and, to this day, I have never seen video of the event itself.

I do stop every September 11 to think again on what it felt like then and what it means to me now.

I have so many thoughts about 9-11. I do not have nearly enough time to write them all down. Maybe someday I will.

For now, I think it best to honor in my thoughts those who departed and those were left behind. I honor those who responded immediately and those who direct their efforts towards ameliorating the aftermath. I honor all that is good and kind in humanity and remain hopeful that we will never forget and always look upon 9-11 as supreme motivation for peace.

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All A-Glitter And Not Twitter? Welcome to The Facebook

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Twitter – the buzzword among the general populace for all things social media and social networking – also appears to be the measuring stick against which all other services are judged. This is not surprising when the likes of Oprah and CNN are extolling your benefits. The why of it has to reside, at least in part, in its novelty among services – a simple interface and easy-to-grasp concept – micro proclamations in 140 characters or less. There are few bells and whistles, practically none developed by Twitter itself. With the help of third party applications, Twitter can be experienced virtually real-time and offers a platform for broadcasting and a tool for fishing for new connections. Love it or hate it, Twitter has all the goods for expanding your on-line kingdom, in both a professional and personal sense.

Readers of the Studio will know how I feel about rival Friendfeed – a much smarter, better-equipped pipeline for aggregating in one space the social content developed elsewhere (as well as on Friendfeed itself). The news of Friendfeed’s sale to a bigger fish in the proverbial ocean brought to my mind images of Darwinism and feelings of cautious pessimism . Who was going to replace Friendfeed and offer a viable, attractive alternative to the rabble-ous din of the Twitter-verse?

Hello Facebook. Twitter-fast interaction and Facebook would not have been my word pair of choice in the association game even a week ago. But developments over the past few months, peaking with Friendfeed’s acquisition a little more than a month ago, and a trio of interesting announcements yesterday have given Facebook a game-changing presence.

Many presumed Facebook’s purchase of Friendfeed was about snaring its all-star team of developers responsible for its smart, real-time experience. Today it is clear that Facebook is rolling out changes that herald the duel and draw the line between the two giants of the on-line social world.

Facebook is the brainchild of Harvard alum Mark Zuckerberg. It started as student network, with a walled garden approach and invitation-only mechanism for connecting. In the early days, you had to be a member of a recognized school, with a valid e-mail ID associated with the institution. Facebook garnered impressive numbers nonetheless: in 2005, studies showed 85% of students had accounts with 60% of them logging in daily.

Fast-forward to 2009. Now, anyone age 13 and older can create a profile and join the fun and there are more than 250 million users doing just that, with more than a billion monthly visits across users.

So what is it that you do do on Facebook? You can join, connect with friends and peers and create groups. You can maintain your profile with information-building questions and ongoing content development, such as notes, photos, videos, and many other applications. You can join networks defined by school, geographic region, business, non-profit organizations, etc. There are plenty of places for interaction on Facebook, including the Wall (a bulletin board for posting notes, either by the user or others), photo albums, status updates, an email-like inbox and chat. The News Feed offers a rolling, real-time highlights reel of friends’ status updates, important events, profile changes and other information and often serves as the site’s main hang-out. Add to this gifts, games, quizzes, bizarre applications, the Marketplace, advertising, and the experience becomes quite jarring.

Facebook has been sensitive to this impression and, over the past year, has been making changes to the interface to clean up the look. The consolidation of feeds and Wall on a user’s profile, the introduction of real-time flow in the News Feed, the offering of URLs incorporating your user name have all improved the Facebook experience.

Facebook has quietly become a venue for business networking and development over the past year. A social media report I prepared for a client discussing the business applications and tools hosted on Facebook incorporates a healthy list of on-site features for improving relations and getting it done. A recent influx of legal professionals on Facebook extending invitations to connect tells me that people are noticing these changes.

Yesterday, Facebook started to roll out changes that give voice to its rationale for acquiring Friendfeed and its direction for the future. The most visible change is the introduction of Facebook Lite (www.lite.facebook.com), which streamlines the user experience immensely. Right now, it is only available in India and the United States. Apps and extras are gone from the page. The navigation and information along the left column of the News Feed are gone and the status box has been replaced with buttons. The new interface works on your profile page too. The only other options along the top are Events and Inbox. Four tabs along the left allow the user to select Wall, Info, Friends and Photos & Video.

The other announcements include a more obvious move: users can now “status-tag” other users with the familiar “@” symbol found on Twitter. Status tagging will allow you to link to a friend’s profile. From the Facebook blog:

Now, when you are writing a status update and want to add a friend’s name to something you are posting, just include the “@” symbol beforehand. As you type the name of what you would like to reference, a drop-down menu will appear that allows you to choose from your list of friends and other connections, including groups, events, applications, and (fan) pages.

The third change is Facebook’s announcement yesterday that it was open-sourcing Friendfeed’s real-time technology, called Tornado, bringing its stellar tech to the world in an open-sourcing move. In a geeky, but fascinating read, Bret Taylor, one of the main Friendfeed developers, describes Tornado and the move to open source in a post found here.

They can’t help it: the tech writers are throwing the Twitter comparisons around like so many feathers in the wind from an exploding pillow. Obviously, use of the “@” symbol is a direct shot across the bow. And Facebook Lite’s interface does resemble Twitter’s appearance, with its faster, cleaner, leaner, meaner look. Early reviewers seem to be positively embracing the new style and I count myself among them.

Tastes great? Less filling? More attractive to business networkers who cringed every time they were invited to take a quiz, quaff an imaginary beverage or don a “button”?

I think Twitter has much to think about in the wake of yesterday’s news.

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Pipeline to Ivy League Scholarship

Harvard University has launched an open access repository for the work of its faculty and research community at Digital Access to Scholarship (“DASH”) The site is brand new and Harvard is eager for your comments and feedback. There are two categories up: Faculty of Arts and Sciences, with 1,478 entries; and, Harvard Law School, with 64 entries. DASH also links to other Harvard sources, including:

  • HMScholar – Countway Library’s repository for Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Harvard School of Public Health
  • Open Collections Program – Harvard University Library’s open window into a selection of its unique digital collections
  • HKS Research Report Online – Faculty publication citations and select full-text from the Harvard Kennedy School of Goverment
  • Journal of Legal Analysis – The Journal of Legal Analysis aspires to publish the best legal scholarship from all disciplinary perspectives and in all styles, whether verbal, formal, or empirical.
  • Catalyst Profiles – Profiles is the social networking website of Harvard Catalyst. It lists publications for Harvard faculty members and illustrates how each person is connected to others in the broader research community.
  • Hat Tip to ResearchBuzz