Last Minute Predictions for 2011

‘Tis the time of year for predictions and resolutions. As I am not a New Year’s resolutions kind of gal (I try to resolve at will during the course of the year), I will try my hand at a few predictions. As this is a tech blog, I will focus on a few predictions on tech developments to come in 2011. Bear in mind that I am by no means a tech “expert”, but I am very well read on the subject – as my tech blogs and social connects keep me pretty informed on what is happening. Couple my voracious reading with a penchant for pattern recognition, and maybe I might get a few of these right.

Over the past year, web interaction, particularly social web interaction, has moved increasingly to our mobile devices. If you consider the iPad and its tablet progeny mobile (many tend to run mobile OS, although not exclusively), then I predict mobile computing will only rise significantly in 2011. Cutting edge adopters are leading the way in exhibiting what can be accomplished with smartphones and tablets. The justifications for preferring a traditional laptop to these more pocketable devices are dwindling. I see the real driving factor behind the trend to be professional adoption of these devices. I myself have stopped carrying my keypad mobile devices in favor of ‘Phone and ‘Pad for business and personal use. As the options increase (read: Blackberry’s Playbook and the myriad Android and Windows-powered units, as well as a possible WebOS device or two from HP), these form factors will likely take over for mobile users. And mobile use itself will only increase as devices become more able. Sort of like a feedback loop, with each end feeding the other. More devices and users, more uses and better apps. Breeding more users and more devices. Etc.

Another trend I predict in 2011 is the rise of niche social networks. This is not to say that Twitter and Facebook will fade away, nothing of the sort. These giants will continue to be giants but a sizable piece of the action will shift to niche networks for specific purposes. Sites like Amplify for reblogging, communication and conversation, Storify and curated.by for curation, apps like Instagram for photo sharing, and communities like Quora for (mostly) knowledgable questions, answers and information gathering are becoming hot properties and will only get hotter. Lawyers – take note. If you are interested in sharing your expertise, don’t get left out of the opportunities that sites like Amplify and Quora offer – a ready audience lurks there looking for information, particularly of the intelligent variety.

And consider the lure of group buying – it is hard to ignore the success of Groupon. Why? Well, my sense of it is that the same motivations that are driving Groupon to unprecedented valuation are behind the forced changes in the legal industry. Every one loves a deal, and a deal usually represents the marriage of value and price. If the buyer believes he or she is getting the best value for the best price, its a winner. Group buying via the social net offers just that – a tangible cut in price on valued items. Look for more group buying apps and communities and consider how you can leverage these sorts of opportunities in your own professional pursuits. And keep an eye out for more interesting e-commerce developments in the near future.

I foresee even more migration to the cloud, objections and security concerns notwithstanding. It just makes sense. While not everything may become cloudworthy in the immediate or near future, I believe that professionals and non-professionals will move more and more of their data to that unified location, accessible from anywhere and not necessarily limited by the size of your local storage. This will be facilitated by the integration of unique applications to cloud storage sites, making your data more maleable and useable in unique ways. And SAAS will become more attractive as the tech behind web applications improves.

Finally, like the exponential increase in tech wonders that have rolled out across the latter part of the twentieth century, the convex tangent curve of tech development over the next year + promises to rise more sharply still – keeping people like me glued to their favorite news delivery sources.  Whatever comes, I have no doubt it will keep us wide-eyed with wonder. Happy 2011!

Merry Christmas 2010

I am between putting my kids to bed and heading off to put the finishing touches on Christmas 2010. So, while I am waiting for the golden moment, I thought I might share a few thoughts with Studio readers and friends. Reflecting back, as I often do at this time of year, I am always struck by how curious the events of the year seem in retrospect. There is often irony, much comedy, and, invariably, some tragedy to mull over. This is true for both my real and virtual experiences. The virtual world and the cutting edge of tech development are a bit of a microcosm mirroring the strangeness of real life. I believe it is this strangeness, this almost science fiction-like quality, that keeps me peeling my eyes for the newest developments, the latest triumphs and foolhardy foibles that are nearly certain to grace the headlines in my feed reader on a weekly, if not daily basis.

And, since Christmas is all about the giving, I must point out that writing this blog arises, in part, out of a compulsion to share what I uncover with others, in the hopes that they might find some usefulness in the discovery. I wouldn’t write this blog if I didn’t enjoy writing, but I think it is the sense that I might actually help someone else find a new, more efficient way of tackling an issue or thinking about a problem that really keeps me coming back. In truth, though, I’ll settle for a simple “Whoa, that’s cool!”

The past two years of blogging have been a great experience for me, in large part because of the positive feedback and conversation with you, the readers. While the virtual world should never overtake the tangible social context, blogging and on-line connecting has enriched, rather than hindered, my experience. I hope that Advocate’s Studio has been a beneficial part of your on-line experience as well.

Happy holidays to you. Here is to 2011 and lots more interesting stuff to write about. I can hardly wait!

What Can YOU Do With Google Docs?

I know what I can’t do – this incredible 450 page slide deck that moves and grooves, thanks to three animators, Tu+, Metcalf and Namroc. But, if they can push the envelope this far out with Google’s free presentation tool, I am thinking you should be able to cobble together a decent, cloud-based presentation of your own.

Enjoy the show …

Twitter Versus Facebook – Cage Match

There has been a lot of press lately (link here) on which of the two sharing giants, Twitter or Facebook, is likely to net you the most valuable interaction. So it’s no surprise someone (Digital Surgeons to be precise) crafted a Facebook vs. Twitter infographic. For me, the biggest surprise was the similarity in demographics. Here it is, in all its staggering numerical glory:

Holiday Wishes, As Only Lawyers Can Bestow

Big time chuckle on this one for me, so I felt I should share it with you: perhaps the cutest animated law firm Holiday card this season. Check it out Manatt’s offering at the link below:

Warm Wishes

Thanks, Bob Ambrogi, for the chuckle this morning on this one!

Your Mobile-Social Inbox

On the move and moving on, mobile usage is on a steep rise. What a coincidence, so is social networking. With email, messaging, chat, Facebook, Twitter and other conduits of communication, you need to be ready 24-7 to read and respond.

I admit it. I do a lot of my virtual social interaction when I am in line at the grocery checkout, waiting for my kids, between meetings or hanging out in waiting rooms. On my phone. Why not? My phone is pretty smart.

Well, for social addicts with iPhones, the phone is getting even smarter. Two new apps have brought the social inbox to your phone, organizing your friends messages and status updates in ways that improve efficiencies and interactions.

One such app, Twezr (link here), I have been using for more than a month now. The second, Friends, I just learned about a few days ago, but have yet to try.

What exactly is a social inbox? Think about your email inbox, add layers of social connections and provide the means to reach out to your contacts via any of those social conduits from one place.

Twezr combines your social media and your email in a single interface. It supports a lot of different email addresses, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail. You can also access Twitter and Facebook, including multiple accounts. The value-add to Twezr is its automatic prioritization – your contacts and their messages and status updates (which are organized in separate tabs) are ranked based on the frequency of your interactions. Twezr applies this ranking to the messages as well as the Facebook and Twitter updates. Twezr also matches your iPhone contacts with your social lists to create unified contacts – when I click on a friend’s Facebook or Twitter status update, I am given buttons to communicate with her by phone call, SMS or email.  Talk about a communications mash-up! If I happen on a particular friend’s status update on Facebook in Twezr, but I know she is an SMS kind of gal, I can respond to her update via SMS within the app, rather than send a Facebook message from within the Facebook app. Very, very cool indeed. THe built in Twitter and Facebook clients are not bad either, you won’t find yourself insanely frustrated by a poor feature set – the necessary functions are all there.

Twezr also allows you to run full-text searches across e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. So if you remember your friend pinging you about a particular event, but you can’t remember which email account or social network you saw the info on, just search in Twezr and you hit all the major hiding places in one fell swoop. Best of all, Twezr is free.  It has become a regular go-to app on my phone to get the latest info and messages from my growing list of contacts. Note, though, that it takes Twezr a while to get up and running, particularly if you have a lot of contacts. It needs to pull your data, analyze it and spit it back out, Twezr style and that can take a while. I initially thought the app was defective. Lo and behold, three days later, I had the full-on Twezr experience.

Next up, Friends (link here). Like Twezr, Friends offers contact management across your phone’s address book, Twitter and Facebook, but adds LinkedIn, and MySpace. Like Twezr, Friends allows you to also see your social streams and update your social status within the Friends app.  Although I do not have the app yet, screenshots show a very pretty user interface, might snazzier than the free Twezr. Oh, I should mention that Friends costs a whopping $1.99, which they clearly put into the visuals. It is a super way to browse shared content, with comments and commenting within the app as well. Of course, you can place calls within the app too, which then leverages the iPhone’s own phone functions.

Essentially, these apps bring an experience to the mobile phone that Threadsy (link here) brings to your browser and Xobni (link here) brings to your Outlook inbox and what Facebook is hoping to do with its new social inbox product that it intends to roll out soon – one stop shopping for your social and communications needs. And with the quickening pace of life, you really can’t have too many shortcuts.

Two More Ways to Move Up With Google Docs

Looking for cool new ways to interact with Google Docs? Check out these two little apps I found, one from Digital Inspiration Technology blog and one from 40Tech.

First, try easily moving entire folders up into the cloud with an open source program for Windows called Cyberduck. Normally, you can only upload individual files in the upload dialog box. Cyberduck acts like an FTP server, allowing you transfer entire folders full of files. Cyberduck doesn’t only send to Google Docs – it is one of several destination options available. Once in the cloud, right click on the files or folders listed in the Cyberduck browser window to download them back to your desktop. You can reload files back up as well, with the option to rename or overwrite the existing file in GDocs.

Next up, how about syncing notes to Google Docs, Dropbox style? Using a little notepad app called Nocs, you can write and save notes locally or directly to Google Docs. Set up Nocs with your Google log in information, set up a folder in Google Docs to store you notes and then you can write, save, reopen and edit within the text editor pane notes that will be saved to Google Docs. You can enable autosave in the preferences setting to take all the brain rigor out of the process. Nice free little Windows-only tool.

Time to get writing!

Morph Your LinkedIn Profile Into A Resume

Why reinvent the wheel? If you don’t feel like tweaking your LinkedIn profile and then tweaking your resume, why not just turn your LinkedIn profile INTO a resume? Now you can – LinkedIn Labs has just released a new tool called Resume Builder (link here), which allows you to turn your profile into a resume.

Log in with your LinkedIn account and give the app access. The result is a nicely-laid out version of your profile, resume-style, in PDF, printable format. Choose from more then ten different templates and download the result or host it on LinkedIn’s site.
Easy-peezy. Takes all the fun (angst) out of resume-building.

Create Your Own Newspaper with Microsoft's Montage

News aggregators are all the rage. The options out there afford varying degrees of customization, but most take a feed and spit out a more visually appealing version of the links and information contained in the feed.

Microsoft Montage (link here) is a wee bit different. Starting with a search term, you can get your results spit back out you in a magazine-like layout, which in and of itself is easier to digest. But the really cool part is that your “front page” is highly customizable, allowing you to change the layout of each result, tweak animation,  delete or add result blurbs, add Twitter results, etc., until you are satisfied that your paper is a true expression of newsworthy reporting. The result is a page with news items and  relevant media, “picturing”  your subject from many angles. After you are satisfied with your page, you can save and share your “Montages” to your peeps on Facebook or Twitter, and publish it to its own URL.

The Web commentators are almost uniformly comparing Montage to Paper.li, the Twitter-based aggregator that selects tweet from your follows and presents them in a newspaper-like format. I don’t really see the comparison. Paper.li is limited to Twitter and does not involve the depth of editing that Montage does, and Montage does not automatically update – you have to manually keep your Montage’s content fresh via affirmative visit to your list of sites.

Mashable has a nice write up on Montage here. And you can check out this video for a more visual explanation of the service. Thanks to Microsoft’s Fuse Labs for this cool new way to cull and present web information and highlight expertise.

But, I do find Montage to be an interesting, web-based tool for purposes of collecting content and then sharing a very shiny version of it with your social net. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Apparently, Good Grammar Is Outdated And Optional

DISCLAIMER: I did not run this post through the AP Style Book’s Grammar Editor and my blog editor doesn’t have spell-check. I still read it a second time to make sure I crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s. I’m old-fashioned like that.

My spouse, who often goes by the self-annointed nickname “Conan the Grammarian”, forwarded this little gem to me this morning – Good Grammar Is Old Fashioned, Unecessary and Bad For Your Career. Leaving aside omission of the serial comma, I have a few nits to pick with this statement.

First, let’s talk about the author. Penelope Trunk’s bio reads as follows:

Penelope Trunk is the founder of three startups, most recently Brazen Careerist, a professional social network for young people. Previously she worked in marketing at Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hyundai. Her blog about career advice, blog.penelopetrunk.com, receives half a million visits a month and is syndicated in more than 200 newspapers. She frequently appears as a workplace commentator on CNN, 20/20 and FOX News. She’s also the author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, a bestselling career advice book for Generation Y.

Ms. Trunk “advertises” her blog post with the blurb:

The cost of perfect grammar — even spelling — is just too high. Learn to live with sloppiness. It just might help your career.

Next, I moved on to the post :

Why do so many people care about grammar and spelling? Seriously. There is very little in this world that warrants text-based perfection. Are you writing the copy for a billboard in Times Square that is only three words? Don’t have a typo.

Otherwise….

Let’s see. The second sentence is incomplete. In fact, it is an adverb. An adverb that means in a serious manner, to an alarmingly grave extent, or with genuine, earnest intent. But what in a serious manner, to an alarmingly grave extent or with genuine earnest intent? Adverbs are modifiers and I cannot tell from this single adverb sentence exactly what seriously is modifying here. When someone asks me to take something seriously, then I really need to know to what I am supposed to accord the weight. Is it the question that precedes the statement? Is it the sentence that follows? I can’t tell, so I think I will skip right over the seriously. It is seriously lacking in the action and object vital to conveying the point.

Not content to impress upon us that brevity is our friend with the single adverb sentence, Ms. Trunk then uses an even more nuclear tool, the single adverb paragraph. It is a complete sentence in that it is followed by a period and an ellipses. Lawyers are very familiar with the ellipses: we regularly quote from cases, statutes, and authorities, while attempting to fit within space constraints. In formal writing, ellipses are used to show places where words have been omitted from a quote. Where the omission is within a sentence, the reader will see three dots. Where the omission is at the end of a sentence, the reader will see a period in the normal place, followed by three dots. So, according to general understanding, “Otherwise….” is a complete sentence and, in this case, a complete paragraph.  

For the record, otherwise means under other circumstances, in another manner, in other respects. The implication is that, when you use “otherwise”, you will then find out what should happen in those other circumstances, manners, or respects.

In informal text, ellipses, which should be used sparingly, also can be employed to show uncertainty or a trailing off of the writer’s train of thought. I am guessing that is what Trunk is trying to do here. Functionally, she is making a point in her first paragraph about how outdated grammar is, but then suggests that she is faltering in her resolve with her uncertain “devil’s advocate” “otherwise….” standing alone in its own, tiny paragraph. Her point would have been much sharper if she made the “Times Square” statement the first sentence of the next paragraph, started the next sentence with “otherwise,” and then finished that sentence, explaining that “in other contexts, good grammar and punctuation is unecessary and potentially harmful.”

What is she trying to say here? I don’t know with certainty.  There is too much ambiguity arising out of her use of these terms and placement of the paragraph breaks for me to fully fathom her message. Presumably, in her first “two” paragraphs, Ms. Trunk believes that grammer is important for the three-word billboard in Times Square, but nowhere else. Especially not in blog posts attempting to make a point about the futility of grammar.

Is this true, lawyers? What about in drafting legislation? What about in writing a brief to be filed with a court? How about in a legally-binding agreement?

I clicked on a few links in her post to glean a greater understanding of her message. I believe her underlying point is that writing with rhythm and cadence is far more important than writing with clarity. And, by clarity, I mean following certain basic rules regarding grammar and usage so that the import of the message is not lost in creative innovation. How about in venues that depend heavily on that clarity.

She also seems to be saying that our limited energy should be spent writing, and not worrying about grammar. But that really does depend upon the audience and your purpose, doesn’t it? If you can attend to both your content and your structure, why wouldn’t you?

Ms. Trunk also believes that the real reason that people note grammar is to help them separate the well-educated from the riff-raff. She seems to believe that grammar rules are a snob’s best friend. Where has Ms. Trunk been hanging out?

Here is my take on grammar and usage. Examine your purpose and know your audience. Tailor your “perfectionism” to the setting. I concede that word choice and the grammar rules themselves are not black and white – take a look on the internet to see the disputes that abound concerning use of contractions and splitting infinitives. Nonetheless. whether Ms. Trunk likes it or not, bad grammar in almost any context muddies up the message and can even actively distract from it. There are many fora in which creative “rule-breaking” is permitted and even encouraged, but business writing is not one of them. In law, a mispelled word or misplaced punctuation mark can mean the difference between yes and no.

At its very core, language is a communication tool. We speak and write to ensure our message is heard. The grammar rules are meant to give us a framework upon which to lay our word choices, to encourage a foundation enabling us to reduce the guesswork that would prevail if there were no rules.

Do you remember that famous scene in the movie Airplane, when Barbara Billingsly steps forward to tell the flight attendent, I mean stewardess (see, I can accept change): “Oh Stewardess, I speak Jive”? Have you ever tried to “understand” the lyrics in a rap song?  Don’t get me wrong here, people. I love rap music. But I believe that the deviations in the language used in rap music or within other groups often may be intentionally difficult to parse chiefly due to the singer’s or speaker’s desire to target his message to that particular audience, and not to the larger group. What if you need to reach the larger group? Does rap work in that context? While there are those few examples of judges taking liberties with the language in their decisions, I know that I would not risk a client’s cause with taking those same liberties in a brief or contract.

I believe that, in order to use language to best effect, the writer should be mindful of both the rules of grammar and the meanings of words. Without a working understanding of both, the writer may be incapable of communicating his message to his audience. The code is there to help reduce misunderstandings. You can certainly break those rules, but you risk losing the message in the murk. Your gamble, I suppose.

I think it is easy for someone like Ms. Trunk to flaunt the rules of grammar with wild abandon: she is well-educated and knows the rules well enough to break them. But what about someone who is unwittingly or unknowingly breaking those rules? If language and grammar are not important, then why would Ms. Trunk suggest that it is a good idea to hire someone to help you write your resume?