My Mobile Web Wish List

One of the predictions I shared with the fine folks at JD Supra and their readers is my belief that we are moving more towards a mobile web experience with our computing lives. I am no Nostradamus – I picked this vibe up from the heavy tech reading that I do and I also know my own personal computing habits and how they have changed over the past few years. Whether your “poison” is an iPhone, Android-based unit, Blackberry, Windows Mobile-enabled device, e-reader or one of those fabled tablet computers, we are pushing the little boxes to their limits and are looking for more.

So I thought I would put together my own mobile wish list for 2010. Things I would like to see happen with my own, personal experience and generally for all mobile computing whizzes out there.

First, and foremost, more voice-activated control over my device. Mobile means, well, mobile. Texting while driving is very very bad, we can all agree. So make the interface better – make it so we can easily, with the touch of a single button, start directing the phone with respect to search (already there), mapping, text messaging and emailing. And none of this half-assed voice control where you can get part of the task done but then have to hunt and peck, copy and paste. All this hullaballoo about a physical versus touch screen keyboard would all go away if we could get a better voice-based interface. Thanks, Dragon, for giving us iPhone users a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Next, location-based awareness. After a heavy-duty case of suspicious paranoia, I am growing to like the location-based applications. Obviously, common sense in using such applications goes a long way here. I would like to see more interactivity with these services. Granted there are lots of iPhone and a growing number of Android applications that employ them. But better integration and more features would be nice. I also see a great outlet for local business with these tools and hope to see more businesses employing the location services to encourage customers and clients. Integrating location awareness with your own Contacts list will push mobile communication further into the future – “gee, where is my client or brother-in-law right now? He should be here at our face to face.”

Mobile shopping – hooking up your payment information with your mobile phone so that you can use it to pay for goods and services. Its coming. We already have built-in bar code reader apps  that allow us to pull product and price information. There are a few companies working on mobile payment systems, most recently and notably, Square backed by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. This service will allow anyone to accept a card payment without pricey credit card arrangements with the swipe of a card through a dongle attached to a computer’s or phone’s audio jack. Pretty cool. Let’s see where it goes in 2010.

Let’s speed up the Web! While we already have 802.11 n out there, the iPhone is still using b / g. Why? Mobile means moving, which should mean fast. So let’s beef up the Wi/Fi and Bluetooth (3.0) in these little guys, so they can move with the best of ’em. And while “they” are at it, please, please, please, help those poor Blackberry users to get a better Web-browsing experience! I never use my Curve’s browser because it hurts far too much.

As more and more of the computing experience moves skyward, we will need the best access possible to the cloud through these mobile devices. Google, a heavy hitter in cloud-based tech, needs to do a better job making access to the cloud easier on platforms other than Android. Little, portable phones and tablets should be gateways to the cloud, offering free and easy ingress and egress.  Yet I still struggle with accessing Gmail, my reader subscriptions and cloud-based information on the iPhone. It needs to get better if cloud champions want to win the hearts and minds of the computing public.

The imminent Tablet explosion, heralded by the promised introduction of the highly-rumored Apple tablet, will certainly push the mobile computing envelope. It will be interesting to see what tricks hardware and software developers have up their sleeves to win the wallets and devotion of the tech masses. In short, I hope Apple makes its tablet affordable.

And, at least with respect to the iPhone, there must be a means for multi-tasking. The modern computing generation is not content with performing a single task at a time in a linear fashion. We need to have several jobs running, several irons getting hot in the fire, at any given moment. Why is it that the iPhone can’t or doesn’t provide the ability to do two or more things at once? I don’t buy the battery argument, as there are devices out there that can do it. Perhaps Apple is worried that multi-tasking would open the flood gates on the data-hoggish device and overwhelm poor, little ATT. But that still doesn’t explain why I can’t leave an app open and running while I compose an email. And, while I am at the rant, where the heck is my tethering, ATT??????

Maybe this last one is an impossible dream, but I am sick and tired of getting tied to multi-year contracts when I agree to buy a phone and use a service. Maybe 2010 will see some inroads in this regard. Maybe Google will shake things up a bit with its imminent Nexus One phone. Unlocked cell phones may become the new black of the tech world.

One can dream, can’t one?

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A Search Engine For Documents

Latest PDF File Icon
Image via Wikipedia

Now this is an interesting find: a search engine for PDFs, DOCs and PPTs. Hat tip to Simon Fodden over at Slaw for this gem, called Osun Document SearchThe stipped-down, Google-like search page has a search box with buttons for PDFs, DOCs and PPTs. Results pages also look suspiciously similar to a Google page, except that they are populated exclusively with documents. Popular “hot docs” are listed on the right.

Mr. Fodden has devoted some time and energy into getting the back story on Osun and believes that it may be relying on Google’s own document search capabilities, and then merely re-packaging them into a document-only results format. In any event, the site is of value even if only for its format of cutting out the websites when you are only interested in documents.

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Semantic Research For The Rest of Us

Popego
Image by magerleagues via Flickr

While stumbling through the reader tonight, I tripped upon an article by Dana Oshiro at ReadWriteWeb about a new semantic search engine called Meaningtool and a semantically-inclined feed generator called Popego.

These tools will help you cut down the noise and pull in the signal based on your interests and intended targets. After completing a profile, Popego provides you with semantic recommendations based on your on-line activity and social circles. Once you generate what Popego calls your “interest platform”, you can find more quickly relevant content and connect more readily with others based on your interests. Popego’s customized feeds can be widgetized and shared on your other sites and blogs.

Meaningtool will analyze any website, pull out the relevant terms and create categories based on these terms, generating a tag cloud. You can click on any of the categorizes and further refine and “tree” the resulting information. Meaningtool recognizes most of the popular Western languages. Meaningtool’s Category Manager allows you to “train” your semantic feed via relevant RSS feeds to get better results.

Meaningtool is currently being used by marketing firms to better target customers with advertising campaigns, publishers looking to improve their search engine ranking, and semantic Web developers.

Like my6sense, the iPhone tool that pulls the cream from your streams to the top, you need to train Popego and Meaningtool to get the most out of them. With the dizzyingly large amount of content on the Web, a little training goes a long way to bringing you want you want to see.

For laughs, I fed my own website’s URL into Meaningtool to see what would happen. After the engine finished thinking, it showed this graphic:

Scrolling down, the results expanded to a tag cloud and suggestions to improve my SEO (which desperately needs improving):

Finally, the bottom of the screen showed the most relevant terms according to the listed classifiers from services like the New York Times, LA Times, Reuters, and Digg:

For certain applications, I can see this being a very effective tool.

Check out the Meaningtool video here:

Popego’s demo video follows:

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Have You Heard The News? Google Living Stories

Image representing Google Labs as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

Google brings forth yet another interesting way to view and follow news and it is called Google Living Stories. It is a collaboration between Google, The New York Time and The Washington Post. GLS builds on articles found in these papers, providing information related to the stories as it develops on a single web page devoted to the story. If you navigate to the Google Labs GLS page here, you will see links to the included stories. Click on a link and see a very slick page with its own URL that includes an overview of the main article, a time line of developments pertaining to the story, interactive tables showing related information (in the case of health care reform, costs and impact on the deficit), links to related stories and pertinent background information, pictures, video, graphics, opinions, and all sorts of goodies fleshing out the various dimensions of a news article.

Updates are highlighted when you return to the page and older stories are summarized. There is a link for comments, as well as email or RSS subscription to the particular story’s new developments. What a great alternative to other collected resources on newsworthy topics! Do I wish I had a resource like this when I was still a school girl writing current events reports!

Check out the quick vid from Google describing Living Stories:

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To The Google Scholar User: Buyer Beware

Image representing Google Scholar as depicted ...
Image via CrunchBase

Here is a bit of common sense from real life example: when using Google Scholar for your legal research, use care in making sure that versions of a case match. Legal Writing Prof Blog has a post about an attorney preparing a brief for filing who noted a discrepancy in the footnote numbering between the official Wisconsin Reporter version of a case and the Google Scholar version. The Blog quotes the attorney’s findings as follows:

The source of the discrepancy quickly became apparent.  In the official version of the case (as in all official versions of Wisconsin cases), the filing of a petition for review in the Wisconsin Supreme Court gets noted in the caption with a footnote placed at the end of the name of the party that filed the petition.  The symbol for this footnote is a dagger, not a number.  Google Scholar, however, designates this footnote with a number (in this instance, the dagger became “1”) and renumbers the remaining footnotes accordingly.  Where there’s more than one footnote attached to the caption – e.g., Ellsworth v. Schelbrock, 229 Wis. 2d 542, 600 N.W.2d 247 (Ct. App. 1999) – Google Scholar shifts the footnote numbers even more:  in Ellsworth, the caption has two footnotes, so the numbered footnotes shifted by two as well, making footnote 1 in the official version into footnote 3 in the Google Scholar version.

My thinking on the proper role of Google Scholar is this: the greatest cost in using the paid databases is the time spent poking around looking for the main cases on a point of law. Once you have identified those cases, the costs of pulling them down out of the paid databases is relatively inexpensive. I see Google Scholar as an effective (but not sole) tool for the former task. When writing an appellate brief to any court, I would not feel the slightest bit comfortable relying on Google Scholar’s version. At that point, I would be pulling the actual cases from the paid databases. While these sources are far from infallible, they do have a longer track record with respect to accuracy, as well as complete citations and the ability to Keycite or Shepardize, a must for briefs to be filed in any court.

So there you have it. Use the free resources with your eyes wide open to their possible shortcomings, and you should not go far wrong.

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Google Wave Review – GP Solo Technology eReport

I admit that I am a bit late on breaking the news on this one, but I do want to link to my article reviewing Google Wave that ran last month in the GP Solo Technology eReport published by the ABA. Already, the information appears a tiny bit dated, but that’s just the speed that the Web travels. Check out some of the other great articles too, you might recognize a few names and certainly will pick up some good information!

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Legally Sound Predictions for 2010

Lawyers are nothing if not chock-a-block full of opinions and predictions! Our fine friends at JDSupra elicited some of those from their friends in order to compile a compendium of viewpoints on what 2010 may hold for the contributors personally and globally. There are some interesting points and prognostications – check out the list here. I recap my three lines below:

Martha Sperry, principal, Advantage Advocates:

My prediction for 2010 is that developers will be emphasizing mobile platforms and applications, as well as focusing on manipulating the incredible flow of content into a more efficient, personalized and relevant experience. Social engagement on the web will become more commonplace and less scary for the mainstream, for personal and professional purposes. My hope is that the discussion surrounding web presence and e-networking becomes less about the ‘why’ and more about the ‘how’ and my tip for engagement is to remain authentic and willing to further the conversation at all times.

What do you think? What will 2010 hold for you personally and professionally?

Minding Your P's & Q's In Court

US Bankruptcy Court
Image by Andy Kiel via Flickr

If you practice in the Minnesota Bankruptcy Courts, you may want to pay some heed to Judge Robert Kressel’s rules of the road for proper Order writing. His PDF guide to writing Orders can be found here. Sure, there is a bit of common sense at play. Obviously Judge Kressel doesn’t believe in the concept “it goes without saying”, most likely due to his personal experience. Some practices to watch out for: proper use of articles; excessive capitalization; alternatives like “and/or” or (s) after singular nouns; banning the use of “undersigned”; making sure your nouns and verbs agree; proper use of “it’s” and “its”; and, making sure you actually ask for what you want. Seems simple enough in theory, but then there is that pesky practice …

Hat tip to Legal Writing Prof Blog.

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A Collection of Government Comics – At Your Service

Not so much law, but still exceedingly cool from the curated information perspective , is this fabulous tip from two of my fav research resources, ResearchBuzz and ResourceShelf – a digital archive of comics created by the U.S. Government about government-related topics. Hit the jump here to browse the collection. Everything from Sprocket Girl, to Captain America Goes To War on Drugs, from Snoopy to Blondie and L’il Abner. Comics are shown gallery style, with attributing information, prompting hours of time-wasting fun. You can even download the entire comic as a PDF!

Go ahead – waste a few hours. It is a holiday week, after all.

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There Has To Be A Better Source To Plagiarize From

The Australian Taxation Office (“ATO”) has a bit of egg on its face: they recently were caught plagiarizing large chunks of text from my favorite on-line crowd-manipulated repository of ever-changing information, Wikipedia. The offending document, a “draft taxation determination”, borrowed heavily on the topic of how private equity firms treat asset sales. The ATO’s defense? Well, apparently the great Wiki (often confused with the Great Pumpkin) provides a “commonly understood” description of private equity arrangements. Call me crazy, but I don’t think I would consider any description of private equity arrangements “commonly understood.” I would hope that they would be “expertly understood” and that ATO experts explaining them could do it on their own without some nameless Wiki-contributor’s help. Check out the article at the Sidney Morning Herald here. Hat tip to Resource Shelf.