Archive Your Tweets

Do you save your Twitter tweets? Maybe you don’t have a need to keep all your posts about your last meal or Foursquare check-ins or latest calamity. If you primarily tweet your own blog posts, there are other ways to save that content within your own CMS. But if you use your Twitter stream as a business development tool and frequently save or retweet valuable links, you might want to keep a record of the cool stuff you find and share.

Sure, Twitter has a search function and you can peruse your own profile page to see your latest tweets. But, did you know that Twitter does not store your tweets much past a few days to a couple weeks? If you are relying solely on Twitter, you are missing a great deal of your back story. Friendfeed, for as long as it lasts, offers a fantastic means of saving and searching your own content – simply feed your tweets into the service and use their awesome filter-able search to quickly pull your desired link.

But maybe you aren’t so sure that Friendfeed will be around for the long haul and you still want to be able to put your finger on your Twitter content. As I am always looking for the quick, simple way to store, I feed my tweets into Google Reader. You can find your own Twitter feed RSS towards the bottom right of your page. Anything with an RSS feed can be sucked into Reader. Simple, cloud-based storage that is also searchable within the Reader app.

There are other third party means of archiving your content – Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb has a great list of these tools (link here). The one I find most intriguing (but haven’t yet used) is Twistory (link here) an app that integrates with your calendar to show your tweets over the span of days, months and years. You can even use it to feed in other people’s tweet streams, if you are so interested. Another application, The Archivist (link here) offers a desktop option for saving and storing tweets generated by saved searches. Pretty cool!

If you are like me and share tons of articles, as well as retweet others’ great content, on a regular basis, you might want to consider implementing one of these back-up systems. You never know when an old tweet might contain the precise answer you are looking for.

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Searching Within Your Own Domain

I talk a lot about internet search here in the Studio. No surprise, really, since so much of what we do involves reaching outside to pull relevant information inside. But how do you locate and pull your own, internal information?

I got to thinking about this as I read this post at IHeartTech (link here) called 10 Critical Computer Skills Every Attorney Should Know. The information really pertains to anyone who stores more than a handful of files on their own system.

How do you access your own documents and pertinent information? If you are a professional, it is highly likely that you have hundreds of files containing valuable, mine-able data – data you can use so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel on a regular basis. I am aware that some people manually set up their own, digital filing system and use that system as their only organizational means. This is fine, provided you maintain the parameters and design that system on Day 1 so that it can fit your needs on Day 1,756. I do manually organize my information into folders and try very hard to maintain the conventions to facilitate my later attempts to retrieve information or otherwise perform analysis regarding data sets.

But what if you can’t find a document that you know is there. You can recall some of its attributes, but not its name or its file location? There are other automated ways to deal with MIA information and employing these tools can save you a fistful of headache.

In addition to the manual system, there are search and indexing tools built into your own operating system. Even Windows XP has a little known feature called the Indexing Service – my IT professionals didn’t even know what the Indexing Service was when I first told them about it years ago. Later OS, including Vista and Windows 7, as well as the Mac OS, include forms of universal search that also employ indexing features.

What is an indexing system? It is an application within the OS that scans all documents and files, mining for keywords and identifying terms, and creates a database of summaries of the data. The database may then be searched using keywords and, in the case of the old XP system, rudimentary Boolean search connectors. The old XP system, which resides within the Computer Management  function, allowed one to filter results by date, relevance, title, and path. The search function works quite quickly on a large set of data – I have nearly 2,000Word documents alone on my old XP machine. Although it hogs space and slows the computer slightly, I have come to rely on Indexing on that old clunker.

My newer Vista system has the search function built into the OS in a more organic way – it is integrated and  can pull keywords across applications, out of documents, emails, folders and internet favorites. Mac OS have a similar feature in Searchlight. The Windows integrated search can be added to XP systems, but I find it incredibly slow in XP, hence my reliance on the relatively more agile Indexing System on my older box. On my faster laptop, this search feature works fine and can pull my data quickly. I have yet to stump it.

If these built-in tools don’t quite do it for you, there are other options. Google has a free download, Google Desktop Search (link here), that works much like a Google Search on your own computer. It works on Windows, Linux and Mac. The beauty of this tool is that it can search networked or shared drives – a feature unavailable in the old Windows Indexing service. You can select whether to include both internal and external search and you can exclude folders from results. There are add-ons and widgets, and the ability to incorporate the tool within Outlook.

The IHeartTech article points out two paid software options: Copernic and X1. I have no personal experience with either of these systems, so I cannot comment in detail. I do understand that they can be employed throughout an enterprise, serving as a nifty knowledge management tool.

Consider how you store and retrieve your own information. Can you improve your tools? There is always something tech around the bend designed to make your life easier.

Social Media Cheat Sheet (Get Yr Mags Out)

This is downright crazy! The Next Web (link here) shared this Social Media Cheat Sheet by Drew McLellin (dailybloggr.com – link here) about a week ago. While it doesn’t really simplify the comparison process, it does include an awful lot of information. And you can always resort to the familiar green – good, yellow – proceed with caution, red – WATCH OUT! coding for a quick analysis. Because the Advocate is all about social media, even this crazy chart has its place.

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Revisiting Deep Web Search Resources

It’s been a while since I talked about getting to “hidden” web documents. I figured it was about time to hit it up again – I like search and just love a good mystery.

The Deep Web (also known as the Invisible Web), for those unfamiliar, is the huge expanse of resources lurking below the reach of traditional search engines. Google’s minions cannot access content protected by passwords, or unfamiliar document extensions, or privately stored information. Over half of the estimated amount of Web content out there is attributed to this relatively untapped Deep Web.

I was prompted by the good people at MakeUsOf, my favorite tech for dummies web site. They just ran this great article compiling some of the current Deep Web diving tools (link here). The tools include Infomine (link here), the product of a consortium of libraries that taps stuff stored in databases, electronic journals, electronic books, bulletin boards, mailing lists, online library card catalogs, articles, directories of researchers, and other resources. The WWW Virtual Library (link here) is a venerable collection started by Web Daddy Tim Berners-Lee. Intute (link here) is UK-based and university sponsored, with topical content and human-curated links. Cool add – Intute has 60 free online tutorials on how to improve your internet search skills! Complete Planet (link here) also organizes by topic, promising to uncover hidden web content with advance search filters. Infopedia (link here) should be considered as a curated alternative for Wikipedia – it accesses encyclopedias, almanacs and other reference materials. DeepPeep (link here) offers a deep but transient look at forms across a limited spectrum of subjects. IncyWincy (link here) is a metasearch engine for the Deep Web, with the ability to set alerts. DeepWeb Tech (link here) offers access to five search engines as well as plug-ins, for medicine, science and business information. Scirus (link here) meets your DeepWeb scientific needs. TechXtra (link here) is all about the math.

Go. Search. Find!

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Google Reader For The Video Generation

I woke to a pleasant surprise this morning. I opened my ever-faithful Google Reader and found an invitation to play. Google Reader Play, that is. Cognizant of complaints by internet denizens who are comfortable enough to get online but fearful of the complexities of a full-blown RSS reader experience, Google apparently sought to simplify the process with, what else, a picture show!

I love that Google is willing to experiment like this. Play is a bit rough around the edges and isn’t quite as full-featured as I would like. But I think it is a great way to make RSS feeds more accessible to the masses. Shifting the emphasis from the mountains of text to the images found within posts, Play creates a slideshow of your RSS items. Very CoolIris. Each central image is graced with an extra-large “like”, “share” and “star” button. Thumbnails of a series of smaller images are spread across the bottom. You can turn the slide show on or off, adjust your stream with very rudimentary settings, hide the thumbnail viewer, or toggle between original and magic layout. There is a “read more” button and a link included, along with the identity of the feed or person sharing the post in Reader.

Reader Play isn’t quite like the full-blown Reader in one major respect – it takes your control of your feeds out of the picture and will show you items it believes you want to see using the tools behind Reader’s “recommended” items section. It also places heavy emphasis on items from people you follow in Reader and tries to bring to the top items similar to those you have previously liked, starred or shared. Great for browsing and surfing, but not so great  for power users who want the ability to perform a surgical strike on specific feeds.

And that’s about it. Probably not very effective for a person like me with with about five hundred feeds and a post reading deficit that rival our national debt. But a great introduction to RSS reading, particularly with a relatively clean Reader and manageable number of posts.

If you have an existing Reader account, give it a try. Would love to hear what you think about it in the comments.

Extending The Chrome Experience

I remember when I first met Firefox. It was love at first type. I was bowled over by the “wow factor” of extensifying and customizing your browsing experience with add-ons and plug-ins. Firefox just seemed so very cool, especially to someone who, at that time, could chalk up their prior entire web browsing experience to Internet Explorer 6.

But lately, I have found Firefox to be slow and glitchy. I am sure it has much to do with the many extensions I have added to the browser. On several occasions, I have gone in and purged extensions I never or rarely use. But Firefox still struggles sometimes with the weight of the load.

About two or so months ago, I began spending more time with Google Chrome. Although it is not the fastest browser out there (apparently Opera is – and I use it as well), Chrome is far slicker and speedier than Firefox. And lately, it has beefed up its library of extensions and add-ons, so that you can approximate your “pimp my ride” Firefox experience.

I figured it might be high time to tout Chrome and list some cool extensions (link here) that might make you forget about those “other” browsers. Or at least encourage you to explore the other side of internet life for a little while.

I bet you can guess my very first Chrome extension. That’s right, Feedly (link here). That great magazine start page that translates your Google feeds into a relevance-weighted, easy to read and share format.  Another cool add-on for heavy Google users is OneNumber (link here)- it collects within a button all of your Google (‘cept Buzz) sources with quick links to compose for Gmail and new post / mail counts. If you are constantly searching and have a need to hop to your search terms quickly, try Google Quick Scroll (link here) – it adds a button to the bottom of a page within  your Google search results allowing you to jump right to the place where your search terms show up.

Do you love Twitter? Try Chromed Bird (link here) which pops out a Twitter window within the browser, offering many of the Twitter web features. Manage passwords and fill forms with Last Pass (link here). If you Wave with Google, check out the Google Wave Notifier (link here), so you can glance at your Wave activity in the browser bar. Make Gmail your default email with Send Using Gmail (link here). Make Gmail better with Better Gmail (link here) and lose ads, chat, invites and footers.

Select foreign language text on a site and have it automatically translated via Google Translate with the Auto-Translate add-on (link here). Access your Google Voice inbox in a pop up window with Google Voice Dialer (link here) or get a quick call box with Google Voice (by Google) (link here).

If you like Remember The Milk (not personally a huge fan), you can gussy it up with A Bit Better RTM (link here). Or, you can keep track of tasks with the Google Task extension (link here).

Are you sick of extensions and want one that does absolutely nothing? Well, son, there’s an app for that too. Nothing (link here).

Do you have any favorite Chrome extensions? Would love some suggestions in the comments!

WestlawNext Preview: The Recap

So, how about WestlawNext? That new evolution in legal research? Is there really something to be excited about here?

As regular readers know, I attended the Preview breakfast today. The Preview consisted of an opportunity to watch various Westlaw rep put the product through its paces at stations and a keynote speech by a West VP of Sales. The speech was accompanied by a slide deck with moving graphics and screenshots.

Ever the geeky researcher, I took copious notes. I asked some questions during the individual previews, which were answered to varying degrees of completeness. There were no meaningful opportunities to ask questions during the presentation. So I figured I would share both my notes and my questions here.

Remembering that West intends to charge an undisclosed premium for this next evolution, this Preview was an attempt by West to argue why such a charge makes sense. There were three main talking points to this end: major search improvements improved organization and visual display; and, new work flow tools.

I was particularly interested in the search. The individual reps were unable to give me a satisfactory answer as to how the new “plain” language search is an improvement over the old “natural” language search. The main presenter highlighted West’s search goals: to improve search by accessing a broader array of databases automatically; to bring deep, relevant results higher in the list and bring them faster; to do the analytical evaluation encompassed within KeyCite, Results Plus and other tools behind the scenes automatically; and, to crowdsource the results of other professional searchers.

The new search language has no constraints with respect to format. The new algorithm takes into account 57 different points. In pursuit of relevancy, it accesses the more than 40,000 West databases without manual selection (although you can identify preferred databases). It examines terms used in key numbers associated with point of law suggested by the search. It will look countrywide for relevant related cases and common threads, and then employ concepts gleaned from this analysis within your specified jurisdiction. The same treatment is applied to Key Cite results – citing cases are examined for common threads, which are then run back through the selected databases. Finally, West taps into the searches run by other professional (not student) legal researchers – more than 500,000 transactions per day – to determine the documents yielded by searches employing the same terms and whether the researchers engaged in “meaningful transactions” with respect to those documents. In other words, did they print, Key Cite, email or copy with citation. Then the algorithm goes one step further and pulls other documents that are most frequently related to the documents treated by other researchers. The results are shown, by default in order of decreasing relevance.

Interestingly, there were little to no examples comparing a traditional Westlaw search with a WestlawNext search. Just a few conclusory statements that the WestlawNext search would yield a better result faster. Boolean is not gone, but one of the reps advised that WestlawNext is working behind the scenes on the broader connectors, so it is not a completely Boolean application.

New organizational tools include a foldering system that is fully searchable and automatically updated via Key Cite. The look is cleaner and more modern, with more white space and the ability to control formatting to optimize your viewing experience. When you click on a particular case, other Related Topics from the case are displayed in paragraph form along the right margin – you can access other results on those topics via clickable links. KeyCite is tabbed on the cases, and the results are filter-able.Results also can be filtered by relevancy, recency and other facets.

Workflow is improved as well. Docs can be downloaded, sent via email and, most recently added, sent to your Kindle. You can establish favorite databases. I am not sure whether these favorites affect the relevancy measure within results. There is also a link for “KM” – it accesses the firm’s own documents. an eyeglass symbol on a document means that the document had been previously viewed within the last 30 days for the same client ID. A folder icon on a case shows that the case has already been read and saved in a folder. You can access foldered documents without charge. Search history is now saved for a year (previously 14 days).

Editing tools allow the researcher to notate, highlight and save sections of cases with citations, with these edits saved online indefinitely. Coming soon: the ability to export folders of research content, with annotations, to others on the research team.

For what it is worth, as an experienced researcher delving regularly into similar areas of law, I know how to formulate both a boolean and natural language search and I am well aware of the databases I need. It is a rare occasion that I am plumbing an entirely new area of law. Furthermore, I already have adopted workarounds for the new foldering and annotating system – I save my downloaded docs in topic-specific folders and use my word processor to highlight and mark comments in the margins.

While I still have little questions, the big question for me is price. I was directed to my sales rep. The email I sent to her following the preview in which I indicated I had price questions remains unanswered. I know enough from my reading that there is a premium for WestlawNext, but no one seems to have a firm grasp on the amount of that premium. I imagine there are different premiums depending upon the size and nature of the existing contract and type of client. Hardly seems fair.

I know I am not the first commenter to say this, but I think that West is well off the track and making a huge marketing mistake. In my early days as a law student and lawyer, the only meaningful choice in legal research was Westlaw or Lexis. The Internet had not broken into the mainstream. Early web search was clumsy compared to West’s access to its own curated content. It made sense to pay extra for the service and we all paid dearly for it.

Now, internet search has met and exceeded Westlaw’s current search methodology. In a time when major corporations, the likes of Google and Microsoft, and other minor web developers are regularly trotting out amazing search feats and features and charging absolutely nothing for these marvelous wonders, Westlaw deigns to bring its product in many respects up to modern “free” standards and charge an undisclosed premium for it. Unfortunately, West has not properly read its audience – lawyers are becoming more tech savvy and are getting quite accustomed to receiving new and better tools for free. I know I am.

While I can comprehend paying extra for a vastly improved search algorithm (I don’t know this for sure as I have not yet had a hands-on), I find it difficult to “buy” an improvement such as better site organization, more “white space” and formatting controls. Shouldn’t such “improvements” be par for the course in a product’s development? Barring inflationary increases, car manufacturers regularly change the visual design of their products to keep them modern and add options without charging for these changes. Is West so out of touch with its customers that it believes they feel bringing the site’s look up to modern standards justify a price hike?

When a free product is measured against a pricey one, the reviewer cannot help but consider compromising on features in favor of cost wherever possible. As the free tools improve, WestlawNext is going to be perceived as the poorer option when all factors are examined.

While West touts its upcoming iPhone version, I have been accessing the free Fastcase service on my phone for weeks. This is not charge-worthy innovation.

Oh, and for the record, I overheard a Westlaw rep tell an attendee today that Westlaw.com will be phased out. Thus, the WestlawNext premium will become the new standard (increased) price point for West’s products.

I am sure I will have more on the subject after I activate my free access password (I will get a whopping three days) and after I get some clarification on my outstanding questions from my rep. For now, I have said it before and I will say it again – the jury is still out deliberating.

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Live From WestlawNext Preview

So here I am, sitting at the Hyatt Regency Boston on Rue de Lafayette, getting wined, dined and coffee’d on West’s tab. Why am I here? To preview WestlawNext of course! As I walked in and attempted to get my bearings, I was deftly swallowed up by the Corporate trainer and Rep ( how did they know?) I received my own personal preview before I could even grab a yogurt – but not before I grabbed coffee.

I haven’t gone through the entire dog and pony show yet – it is still technically breakfast. But my cursory initial impression is that West has gussied up, reformatted and reorganized the experience. The rep made much of the improved viewing experience and the search-before-data-base-selection orientation. It IS improved and better organized. Folders are a nice add and keeping a research trail tied to your client ID for a year (as compared to 14 days) are also plusses.

But unless the new “plain” search algorithm (formerly natural search) is a whole lot slicker, I am not sure the refinements will be worth the cost. I have been using my own work-arounds for folders and notation. Sharing by email is not a major leap forward. The demonstrator could not give me a reasonable explanation of how the new search function is improved, directing me online to find out more (but not everything because of “copyright protection” ?!)

And what is the cost? I have yet to find a West person who can tell me. But they were happy to take my number down so that the cashier can give me a call.

But my time has not been completely lost. I am the proud owner of a new iPod Shuffle courtesy of West. And a yogurt and coffee. Good times.

To be continued …

Smart Tools Are Free Tools

If you hadn’t already noticed, I am always sniffing out cool tools on the Web. I am particularly fond of free ones. That is why I jumped all over this great guest article by Lifehacker writer Adam Pash over at PCWorld, titled 19 Freebies for Smart Web Browsing, Social Networking (link here). There were quite a few I actually hadn’t yet heard of. Not all were exciting, but a few of my favs are listed here. Or hit the jump above to get the full list.

I like CeeVee (link here), an online resume builder. There are tools to share it with Twitter, Facebook or a custom web address.

Lazarus (link here) is a Firefox add-on that records your key strokes. This is particularly useful when blogging in your on-line editor and you find yourself without an undo function. Just right click and hit Recover Text.

Mailbrowsr (link here) offers great added functionality to Gmail. It is a beta Firefox and IE add-on. Offers Calendar integration and organizational filters lacking from the basic application.

My Brainshark (link here) allows you to add audio to a PowerPoint presentation by simply uploading your slidedeck, calling a special number and talking.

Use Outsync (link here) to incorporate Facebook photos with your Outlook contacts. And manage Twitter from Outlook with Twinbox (link here).

Handle two Twitter feeds at once with SplitTweet (link here). Allows basic functionality and search across multiple accounts.

This should keep you busy for a little while. Have fun!

Facebook for Bloggers

Twitter tends to be touted as the number one place to promote a blog. But what about Facebook? Wouldn’t your friends and any number of the over 400 million users be interested in your content? Why not leverage Facebook to get your blog noticed?

There are plenty of applications within Facebook to help you toward this end. My personal favorite is Networked Blogs (link here)  – you can see my widget in the right-hand sidebar on this blog. My Networked Blogs app is also promoted on my Facebook Profile and on the AdvantageAdvocates’ business page. You can list your own blog within the application, people can subscribe to your blog and receive news feed updates when new posts are generated and you can subscribe to other interesting blogs. Comment, like and share using Facebook functionality. Easy way to stay up to date on your favorite feeds right within the Facebook environment.

But there are other applications. Facebook Notes (link here) was my original tool for feeding my blog into Facebook. You can set up Notes to accept your RSS feed from your blog and every time a new post is generated, it will create a new Note within Facebook for all of your friends to see. Downside is that it is limited to your friends, while Networked Blogs allows subscription by anyone. But, Notes is indeed a quick, simple method for showcasing your blog posts.

If you are already feeding your blog entries into Twitter and Friendfeed, you can take advantage of Facebook’s Twitter (link here) and Friendfeed (link here) applications to auto-update your feed or status with the new entries.  The upside is that these syncs are great tools for automating and streamlining your content publication. Downside is the potential for annoying your Facebook friends with excessive entries if you are a heavy-duty Twitter or Friendfeed user.

Although it appears not to be a fully active feature, just Tuesday the tech pundits were all a-Buzz (or a-Twitter depending upon your soc-med of choice) about a new feature on Facebook called “Promote This Post.” It appears to be a spot advertising option whereby you can pay to have a particular post promoted within the Facebook ad scheme.

Clicks are measured and payments are based on clicks. It appears to have been directed at Facebook Page admins and was not universally rolled out. If it ever does roll out, however, it could serve as a very effective means of targeting your message to a potentially interested audience. You can find out more about this feature over at WebProNews (link here).