Boston Bar Association – Advanced Social Media

Looking forward to my presentation along with Doug Cornelius of compliancebuilding.com on Tuesday at the Boston Bar Association’s Computer Law monthly luncheon. Our talk is on “advanced” social media tips and tricks, and is appropriately dubbed “Beyond LinkedIn.” Doug and I are going to focus on how to deal with the objections often raised by individuals and firms to jumping into the on-line networking fray, from managing the expense of time to avoiding the pitfalls of on-line publication.

Doug and I prepared a great Power Point presentation, which we will both be publishing on our respective blogs after the talk. So, even if you can’t make the talk, you can get the goods!

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The Business Card

Just past the outer boundaries of my short-term memory, I posted in the Studio about cutting-edge tools around the antiquated concept of the business card. While it is indeed a concept that has been around for more than a century – back in the very old day, people employed them for personal use as calling cards – recent developments have catapulted them past the present and straight into the future. I discussed some of that cool card tech in that earlier post (link here).

Rather than rehash that tech, I thought it might be interesting to share with you the apps / non-apps that I am currently using to pass my contact information. My tool belt holds three items: Bump; Cardreader; and, some beautiful, old-fashioned, paper cards.

Bump (site link here ) is an app that was suggested in the comments to my original post and I really love it. Until recently, its only limitation was that you needed another iPhone user to take advantage of it. With its most recent update, it works with Android phones too! And since Apple and Google will soon be taking over the world, Bump should become ubiquitous.

From their site, Bump:

is a quick and easy way to connect two phones by simply bumping them together. Exchange your phone number, photos, or compare friends with just a bump.

*       *       *

There are two parts to Bump: the app running on your device and a smart matching algorithm running on our servers in the cloud. The app on your phone uses the phone’s sensors to literally “feel” the bump, and it sends that info up to the cloud. The matching algorithm listens to the bumps from phones around the world and pairs up phones that felt the same bump. Then we just route information between the two phones in each pair.

It really does work! You can send your own contact information, or you can attach a contact from your phone and send it to someone else. So easy- with very few exceptions, Bump has worked perfectly for me. App store link here.

Check out the demo video below:

Next up is Cardreader (site link here). This is a recent download of mine. For people who still believe in the old-fashioned, paper-style contact herald, Cardreader can get that information into your iPhone with relatively little effort.

Cardreader is essentially a mobile scanner. It works best on an iPhone 3GS, as it makes full use of that phone’s auto-focus function. The tech employed is pretty impressive: it uses a real OCR engine – the ABBYY Mobile OCR Engine. It does not send the information to a web server for processing – all processing is done locally within the app so there are no worries about sensitive contact data being shared.

Open the Cardreader app, and it shows a list of contacts with images to the left. The little “i” at the bottom opens up the settings, where you can access FAQ and Instructions, set shake protections, set dictionaries, toggle image enhancement, camera lock, perspective card view, and reset settings. There is a little business card icon at the top right. Click on that icon and the camera opens. Camera view is overlaid with the words “top” and “bottom” so you can allign the card properly. Take a picture of the business card you want to import (you also can select one from your iPhone photo album). The data is read through the OCR processor and you are given the ability to edit and save. When done, the information and picture are synced with the address book and stored in contacts.

As if this wasn’t cool enough, you can browse visually through your address book using the built in 3D card view feature, which looks suspiciously like iTunes Cover Flow. This feature alone might make the app worth the $5.99 price.

I have taken several card pictures with it. The more challenging the card layout, the greater the likelihood of errors requiring correction. I have to say that I am mostly impressed with the results. Below is a picture of a card I took that sucked up the information flawlessly – no edits necessary:

My feeling on Cardreader is that it is a fantastic implementation of iPhone technology that serves a very useful purpose for business professionals. App store link here.

Last but not least, I want to show off my new paper cards. I performed some crowdsourced investigation of the opinions shared by my social media friends and came up with this fantastic on-line printing company, Moo Cards (U.S. site link here). Moo prints custom business cards, mini cards, post cards and greeting cards using your uploaded artwork or one of their scads of gorgeous designs. Speaking of gorgeous, let’s talk about their card stock and print quality. It is to die for. The web interface worked beautifully (that has not been my universal experience with online printers and photo production) and service was fast and perfect. And they are a very reasonable price for full-color, two-sided graphics.

I cannot rave enough about these cards. I created my information graphic and uploaded it. I then selected a series of 11 diferent backgrounds from their design library. My cards arrived with glorious color, each with a different design on the back. Although my image below does not do them justice, this will give you an idea of how beautiful they are:

My “card” arsenal is now complete!

What are you using?

Microsoft Bing Master Class – Still Feels Like Recreational Search

Computerworld has compiled an article it calls Microsoft Bing Master Class – Top Tips & Tricks. With a title like that, who could resist?

So, I hurriedly made my way over to the Master Class to grab up hot information on manipulating Bing to do my bidding.  And this is what I found.

Bing, as many are aware, does not rely on keywords, but instead applies its own internal processes to guess at what you are looking for based on the terms entered into the search box. This is still my big beef with Bing.  I want a more objective criteria in securing my results. Perhaps this is a relic-like by-product of my Boolean upbringing.

Much is made of its “colorful design” and splashy background with links to more information on the pictures displayed. Bing automatically displays certain links that it “thinks” you might find interesting. Seems these characteristics appeal to the Web surfer who is looking to be entertained rather than informed. By default, Bing will offer suggestions for your search as you type (this feature can be turned off, as Computerworld points out).

Results are shown based on popularity, although I am not sure how that is defined. There are advanced search settings, and here is what Computerworld says about those:

You can further refine your search using the Advanced Search button located to the right of the main window. This lets you search for results that include a specific phrase, web pages that are listed at a particular site, domain or country, or those written in a particular language. Alternatively, you can display UK-only results by typing loc:UK in the search bar.

The Related Searches box on the lefthand side of the search results window can be used for refining searches with other popular phrases. Click the Images category and a list of related people will be displayed on the lefthand side of the window.

These advanced parameters feel a bit thin to me. If you search intitle: and add a word, Bing will pull sites that only include that word in the site title. Typing maps in the title with a search term will display a tiny map of the area, with link to a bigger Bing  Map. Hovering over a blue arrow to the right of the search result will show a preview of the identified page. I do like the preview feature.

Depending on the terms you employ, Bing can serve as a calculator, a dictionary, a weather forecaster or a currency converter. Combined with Microsoft’s new Silverlight program, you can access enhanced map data with local weather, street view, and a compass. Finally, Photosynth allows you to view stitched digital images that combine to create a 3D effect of your location of interest. There are features that overlay local twitter activity and local blogs in certain specified areas.

While all of this is indeed interesting, none of this has convinced me that Bing is a viable competitor to Google when it comes to more academic web research. Bing’s bells and whistles appear designed to attract the web surfer seeking entertainment or simply passing the time.

To be fair, on my iPhone, I am alternating my searching between the Google Mobile and Bing apps. Of course, these search tasks are more of the recreational variety. In my own informal analysis, Google still appears superior to Bing in delivering the result I am looking for. In my most recent example, Google identified a restaurant I was looking for at the top of the results list, while the restaurant was nowhere to be found in Bing. While  Bing has managed to outshine Google a couple of times by a slight margin, overall Google still feels more reliable to me.

Hat tip to Resource Shelf on the Computerworld article.

And Something New From Fastcase: A Free iPhone App

Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites carried this post (link here) on Fastcase’s new iPhone application. What’s so special about it? Well, for one, free case law and statutes. Or is that two? Bob indicates that FastCase offers the largest, free, law library on the iPhone.  He does a comprehensive review of a pre-release version of what he describes as a fast and easy-to-use tool at the link above, complete with screenshots. I recommend you hit the link for the details – I haven’t my own copy yet to play with. However, this paragraph bears repeating:

As I noted at the outset, the app will be free to download and searching the Fastcase library using the app will also be free. First-time users will be required to register, but there will be no cost. Current Fastcase subscribers will be able to use their existing log-on and password.

How cool is that? I really can’t wait for this one to release.

Details on New Lexis (& WestlawNext)

The ABA Journal has more information (link here) on the Big Two’s new research interfaces, including a LOT more on the new Lexis, appropriately called New Lexis.  New Lexis is expected some time later this year (WestlawNext – the public name for Cobalt – is due February 1). The ABA appears to have gotten a hands-on with both. he article cites some of New Lexis’ features:

  • no more Boolean search; natural language only with an algorithm boosted by artificial intelligence to help get the most relevant information;
  • results broadened beyond Lexis’ own proprietary databases to include relevant open source legal information from across the Web;
  • results page is dramatically revamped, to include folders along the margins containing categories of relevant results, such as cases, statutes, and regulations;
  • pop-up preview panes containing summaries when you hover over a result and integrated Shepherd’s results for each case;
  • graphical presentation of Shepherd’s results and the history and timeline of cases;
  • collaboration tools and the ability to store results in folders for later use;
  • productivity tools to assist in evaluating the strength of a case, the costs, and potential value to lawyer and client.

WestlawNext will incorporate similar features. It employs a simple search box for a natural language query and does not require that you identify your desired database up front. West hasn’t decided yet whether it will kill Boolean (I sincerely hope that it doesn’t). You can filter results by jurisdiction, type of content and other factors. You will still see a results list, but there will also be windows collecting results by content type.  The service will allow bookmarking of favorite databases. KeyCite will also be incorporated directly into the results. There will be similar collaboration features, such as saving work in folders by client. Researchers can use these folders to review their own search history. West also will incorporate some editing features, such as highlighting and noting on cases, tasks that I already perform in Word on my downloaded Westlaw cases.

Then, of course, there is Bloomberg Law, mentioned here on the Studio several months back. It is in the process of being tested in a small number of law firms and schools. While there are noted limitations in the beta version with respect to the scope of accessible materials, testers are giving the product high marks for intuitiveness and ease of use. Plus, a docket search feature distinguishes Bloomberg from the Big Two in an enticing way.

The idea is that the legal research purveyors are seeking to marry their vast information resources with a slick, modern interface and productivity tools. Back in the day, inefficiency meant more money for these companies that billed by the amount of time spent on-line by the researcher. I am thinking they can’t really get away with that mindset anymore, in the face of cheap and free competition.  But there will still need to be a signficant value-add for these services to continue to show a profit – more than ever, professionals are looking to maximize tools while minimizing cost. And when free Google starts to look like a viable option, well, then …..

More on Cobalt (& Lexis' Mystery Project)

Logo of Westlaw.
Image via Wikipedia

The New York Times ran an article (link here) discussing “sweeping” changes to the Big Two, Westlaw and Lexis, in the pipeline. Project Cobalt, (previously discussed here), is slated for February 1. Lexis’ drop date has not yet been disclosed.

The Times article is an interesting read on the history of these giants and their motivations for change. You see, people are sick of paying huge amounts for a mediocre, 1980’s interface and functionality. Go figure.

West reps told the Times that it took 5 years to build the new service. Oh no. Does that mean the service is already 5 years out of date?  The article discusses relevancy by algorithm (second-guessing what the lawyer might actually be looking for) and a Google-like search interface. No mention of retaining Boolean search, though. Not 2010 enough, I suppose.

My jury remains out. It will reconvene on February 1.

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More e-Stats for Number Junkies

Internet Cafe - Image by Lee Jordan

Are you interested in how the internet is being used and by whom? Do you love numbers? Pingdom, a company that performs website monitoring, compiled a heavy-duty blog post containing tons of relevant (and somewhat west of relevant) numbers on internet usage during the year 2009. Now, I cannot really testify regarding the support for the numbers, because Pingdom does not list its sources. But, assuming a kernel of truth, these are still pretty impressive and there are some fascinating factoids, to be sure. Did you know that 90 trillion email were sent. I guess email isn’t dead, or at least no one has told it yet. There were 234 million web sites and 187 million domain names across the top-level domains. That is a lot of surfing. There were 173 billion internet users and they are NOT concentrated in North America (Asia wins).

Check out these social media numbers (taken from the post):

  • 126 million – The number of blogs on the Internet (as tracked by BlogPulse).
  • 84% – Percent of social network sites with more women than men.
  • 27.3 million – Number of tweets on Twitter per day (November, 2009)
  • 57% – Percentage of Twitter’s user base located in the United States.
  • 4.25 million – People following @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher, Twitter’s most followed user).
  • 350 million – People on Facebook.
  • 50% – Percentage of Facebook users that log in every day.
  • 500,000 – The number of active Facebook applications.

Guess blogs aren’t dead yet either.

Check out the entire list of stats at Pingdom’s blog (link here). Thanks, Resource Shelf, for the tip.

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Advocate Speaks: Advanced Social Media for Lawyers / Boston Bar Association

Next week, on February 2, 2010, I will be speaking on the topic Beyond LinkedIn / Advanced Social Media for Lawyers at the Boston Bar Association Computer Law Group’s Brown Bag Lunch meeting. Doug Cornelius (Compliance Building) and I will be tag-teaming the topic. We will be breaking down barriers to engagement and discussing tips for making on-line engagement as smooth and simple as possible.

Looking forward to it!

Microsoft Seeking Stronger Laws Regarding Cloud Computing

No doubt spurred in part by the ongoing federal FCC/ FTC hearings on bringing the internet into the 21st century and dealing with security gaps in the cloud, Microsoft put in its request to Congress and state governments to firm up the legal framework for ensuring stratospheric privacy and protection. Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith addressed attendees on these issues at a keynote at the Brookings Institute on January 19, 2010.

Microsoft identified the primary concerns as privacy, security, transparency, and international sovereignty, the latter being a major issue in connection with storage server locations that know no boundaries. Transparency means that consumers and businesses should know whether and how their information will be accessed and used by service providers and how it will be protected online.

Smith is justifiably concerned with privacy protections and the fact that laws currently on the books do not take into account the heightened risk and the broader ramifications of hacking in the cloud. Smith proposed a new law, which he dubbed the Cloud Computing Advancement Act, and urged the revamping of an existing law,  the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, in order to address the spectrum of risks. He also proposed stronger sanctions under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: currently, cloud hackers face the same penalties as hackers that attack an individual PC.

I see mass movement into the cloud and, as a techie,  I understand the value of it. As attorneys, however, it pays to be aware of what our current technology can ensure with respect to privacy and security, be versed on the scope of the laws supporting cloud integrity, and choose cloud services accordingly. Lawyers, or course, have heightened responsibility with respect to privacy, security, and privilege. Perhaps this is one area of technology in which lawyers can afford to be slightly behind the curve – right behind security developments.

Hat tip to eWeek. For further reading on the topic, check out these articles:

The ABC’s of Cloud Based Practice Tools

 Seeding the Clouds: Key Infrastructure Elements of Cloud Computing

A Pragmatic and Effective Approach to Cloud Computing — Real Benefits From the

IBM Perspective on Cloud Computing

HIPAA and Beyond: Meeting New Healthcare Security Requirements for Email

More iPhone Fun For The Political Junkie

If you are all down with the Real Time Congress app I discussed back some days ago, but feel that there is a gaping hole in your ability to keep tabs on the Executive branch, now there is an app for that too. Armed with an iPhone and a new app called, appropriately, The White House(link here), you can tap into all things Presidential, including blogs, video, photos, newsroom briefs, and live broadcasts over 3G or Wi-Fi. The app shows summarized versions of the news found on the White House’s main website, Whitehouse.gov, but there are links to the site for those interested in the entire shebang. The live broadcasts include such gems as the upcoming State of the Union address, and the app includes a schedule of future broadcasts so you can stay right up to date.

All in all, a nice addition to your news tools.