A Little Late To The WestLawNext Party

But, better late than never, so they say. After boning up on everything WLN hot on the heels of the rumors and ultimate announcement of the revolutionary new legal database search interface earlier this year, I came away with the impression of “cool, but not worth the extra change.”

Just the other day, as I was hopping onto Westlaw for my daily visit, I noticed a little orange link at the top with admonishment that, for a limited time, I could try WLN free of charge. I am not one to turn up any chance to play with a new toy, particularly a free chance, so I decided to run my rather arcane inquiry in WLN instead of the old interface.

I am not going to do a full blown review of WLN here – there are scores of great posts and articles out there that lovingly list out every feature and improvement.

All I want to say is this: that new search algorithm West has outfitted WLN with really does improve your results. My query was on a very fine point of insurance law – I was having some difficulty even understanding the question, let alone formulating a tight search for an answer (after this many years in the biz, it takes something else entirely to make me scratch my head). So I entered my mostly unformed inquiry into the search box and, to my surprise, the very first hit was directly on point. I can only imagine what WLN would do with one of my familiar searches.

The bottom line question for me on the issue of WLN has always been: is it worth the money? Before I would have responded, unequivocally, no way, Jose, I can get what I need just fine from the old interface. Now, I must qualify with the further response that, if you have matters requiring turbo-charged research in unfamiliar waters or cases where the stakes are higher and mistakes more expensive, then WLN may be a reasonable cost of doing business.

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Build Your PDF Library As You Browse Google Reader

Now that I have an iPad, with lots of great PDF reader applications, including iBooks, I am a lot more interested in collecting PDFs to read on that fantastic facilitator of information consumption. Joliprint (link here) has made the process of making web content, particularly Google Reader more readable, by dropping it into your PDF reader with the ease of a bookmarklet.

All you have to do is grab the bookmarklet via the link above. Then, while you are browsing through Google Reader, select the desired post, hit the bookmarklet in your Favorites bar and voila! Instant PDF. Great for printing and reading. Once you have it, simply email it to yourself, open the attachment on your iPad and select the reader you want your PDF sent to.

That’s easy!

Curated.by – Revisited

Remember Curated.by? That other Twitter curation tool I talked about here in the Studio a while back? If not, don’t worry – just hit the link right here. Curated.by is an awesomely ingenious web app that allows you to collect, curate, share, embed and otherwise work with tweets around bundles – groupings that you tag or label. Curated.by has its own community and stream – you can subscribe to others’ bundles and create your own, which others can subscribe to.

Curated.by is still in invite-only beta. I finally got my invite and started playing with it today. Check out my bundle below.

If you like what you see, the fine folks at Curated.by gave me three invites to share. Drop me an email on my contact page and the first three to do so can join in the fun.

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Keepstream: Keeping Tabs On Your Stream

Content curation. I can’t say it enough. I love when someone else does the expert curating for me, but sometimes if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. Keepstream (link here) helps you do just that with a particularly untame-able source – Twitter and social liking activity. Keepstream, a free web app – simply sign up and authorize your Twitter, allows you to create collections of favorite tweets. But it doesn’t just work for tweets. It grabs Facebook likes, Twitter retweets, and more (soon will be automatic, now manually). Use the bookmarklet to collect web pages as you browse. View and manage your collections from a single, simple dashboard interface.

And here is the cool: share or EMBED them in a blog post or web page. You can gussy up your own content with relevant, related content created by others, updated as you update your collection! Great way to show the conversation around a topic of interest. Just click the embed button and use the associated widget to present the content. It currently works with Blogger, Squarespace, Typepad and WordPress self-hosted blogs, but more are on the way. Wow – such promise, you say, but how do I use it? Founder Tim Gaspar has his own suggestions – check them out:

  1. Showcase positive feedback or mentions of your brand.  An example – http://keepstream.com/TimGasper/keepstream-chatter
  2. Grab highlights from an event hashtag!  Or just from any hashtag.  An example – http://keepstream.com/TimGasper/-blogathonatx-highlights Another example (we got to high-five Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead!) – http://keepstream.com/JimEngland/edgar-wright-visited-alamo-drafthouse
  3. Integrate some tweets you’ve posted lately into you blog.  That way, even if your blog readers aren’t following you on Twitter, they can still see some of the best posts!  An example – http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2010/09/tw.html
  4. Add some related links of interest to the end of blog post – so that your readers can see some additional resources!  Readers love it and other bloggers appreciate being linked to.  An example (scroll down to the bottom :-D) – http://blog.keepstream.com/2010/09/what-do-apple-the-guggenheim-and-forbes-have-in-common-curation/
  5. Posted a bunch of photos, videos, and tweets during an event?  You can put all the links in one place – in a Keepstream collection – to make it easier for you friends or followers to view them.
  6. Collect links around a topic – either for personal research, or to share with your network.  An example – http://keepstream.com/JimEngland/marketing-and-pr-for-startups
  7. Do a tweet chat or a Twitter interview!  Check out this awesome interview of Adrian Grenier, the actor in Entourage –http://keepstream.com/mediatwit/twitter-q-a-with-adrian-grenier
  8. You have to admit, making sense of the morass of web content and sharing is a top priority for anyone seeking to use the Web to its full potential. Check out Keepstream, as well as my own curated list of tech tweets below:

Create AND Read PDFs for Free with Nitro

Nitro is at it again. Way back I reported on their great, free, PDF to Word conversion tool. If you find yourself in need of an application that can both read and write to PDF, then Nitro has you covered there too. Nitro PDF Reader is a free tool that allows you to create PDF files, comment and review those files, save PDF forms, extract text and images from PDFs into separate files, type text directly onto the page and even create a signature “stamp” to insert in your PDFs.

Nitro gives you a LOT for free.  The app utilizes a Microsoft Office-style Ribbon with tasks and tools separated into tabs, grouped by functionality, and represented graphically with easy-to-understand text labels. The interface is familiar, facilitating ease of use. The Quick Access Toolbar  promotes easy creation of an accessible group of shortcuts to your most frequently used tools. Nitro Reader incorporates navigation panes, including Pages, Bookmarks, Comments, Output, Signatures, and Attachments. You can navigate larger documents faster. Panes are context-intelligent, and appear or hide depending on the content within the file being opened — when you open a PDF file containing bookmarks, the Bookmarks pane automatically becomes visible.

Extended tooltips on mouse-overs provide fast help and learning for each tool and task in the app. PDF files with additional properties, like security restrictions, digital certificates, or form fields, result in immediate pop up notices. This option is switchable.

Tools include find, zoom in/out, rotate, undo/redo plus history, multiple PDF viewing, preview PDFs in email, PDF creation from over 300 file types, drag and drop creation of PDFs – simply drag any file onto the Nitro icon and get a PDF. Or create a PDF from the print dialog box. You can convert PDF files to plain text or use the Snapshot tool to grab an image or text to your clipboard. Add notes, markup text, and type text directly on the page or document anywhere. Fill in and save forms, even static forms.

This is not an exhaustive list of features. Hit the jump above to see for yourself. And then ask yourself: Why did I pay all that money for Adobe Acrobat? Go, Nitro Go!

Too Much of a Good Thing? You Bet!

File this one under “Study Results that State The Obvious.” Nathan Eddy at eWeek reports on a survey of Facebook users showing that people who tend to overuse the site are more likely to be unfriended. More than 1,500 people were polled, albeit a very small percentage of the over 500 million members. The primary reason for unfriending? Frequent, unimportant posts.

Posting about polarizing topics and crude or racists comments were the second and third most cited reasons.

The study comes from University of Colorado PhD student,  Christopher Sibona. Weeks reports that Sibona and others believe the results will have far-reaching implications for businesses on Facebook.

On one hand, I am not so sure. With the separation of business pages from personal pages, one can make an effective marketing use of Facebook without annoying friends and family. I also wonder whether the study examined “unfriending” behavior distinguished from “muting” behavior – Facebook users have the option of muting posts by friends who annoy without having to go to the Draconian level of unfriending.

On the other hand, I myself have unfriended voracious marketers who overstep the bounds of Facebook “friendship” and muted voracious posters who clutter the newsfeed. There is little question in my mind that sites like Facebook and Twitter can be overused and abused. While there is room in these social nets for originality, creativity and connection, the overmarketing employed by some users in this relatively novel stream of commerce will turn off other residents. And while Facebook “unfriending” is certainly easy to do, unfollowing on Twitter is even easier. Your message is lost if there is no one there to hear it.

I believe it pays to remember that the old rules of advertising and marketing do not apply in the social media sphere – people are attracted to those who actually offer, rather than promise to offer, something of value. Part of the value equation is knowing when to speak and knowing when to listen. Think before you post. With every post I make, I try to consider whether it might educate, assist, entertain or support someone else. Leave the intercom on and running your self-serving message at your own peril.

DooID – Another Virtual Biz Card Option

I really like Flavors.me (link here), a free virtual and visual web page containing a resume of your on-line life. Another option that combines the benefits of Flavors.me and Retaggr (link here) is DooID (link here).

DooID, still in beta, bills itself as an on-line business card, but shares more with Flavors.me’s landing page-type service and non-techy interface. Sign up for your account and you are presented with an easy to use dashboard with options for setting up links to your other web hangouts, contact information, formatting and layout, much like Flavors.me.

However, DooID does offer a couple of distinguishing features. For one, you can set your contact information to private, resulting in a pop up box for visitors seeking a password for access. You can privacy protect information that you might want to offer but not openly promote to the web at large.

Additionally, DooID has a few “add ons” – little widget-like boxes that give additional functionality, such as an email signature, video bio, and map. The paid version gives you more layout options and more add-ons. DooID also includes a VCard link so that visitors can download your information into their own address books. Of course, you can share your masterpiece with the web via the sharing tools:

 

The end result is a slick page containing your pertinent information and links. DooID expands your territory on-line and promotes your brand and content via yet another web connection. All the better because of its ease of use, even for the non-tech-savvy. Check it out and, if you set up a page, link it back here in the comments – would love to see the results.