On The Road Again …

… just can’t wait to get on the road again. After some hectic business travel, I have a couple of days to deal with the backlash / frontlash and then I am going to hit the road again. What this means for Studio readers is that there is not going to be a whole lot of choice tech / legal content for a week or so more in the Studio. What this means for me is that, eventually, I am going to end up at a place that looks a lot like this:

Adieu until August.

Tour Du Jour: StumbleUpon

I think it is high time to revisit a web application from my very early days of poking around in web applications. StumbleUpon is and has always been one of my fav cool tools and, if nothing else, an incredibly entertaining way to spend time on the Web. If you don’t already know what StumbleUpon is, it is an online community that promotes discovery and rating of Web pages, photos, and videos. To do this, it offers, via the touch of a few buttons, the ability to secure personalized recommendations, using peer reviews and social-networking principles. In a word, its tons of fun.

Some of my early blog posts were the product of successful Stumbleupon jaunts. After setting up my profile and selecting some preferred topics of interests, I would sit at my computer, press the cute little blue and green button and be magically transported to cool pages and information I had never heard of or seen before. The more your rate the results, the better the results get. In a word, the ultimate on-line surfing engine for just about any kind of web content you can imagine.

Stumbleupon is fun, sure, but it is no slouch for professional use, if you are interested in such concepts as increasing web site traffic. I regularly get Stumblers from articles that have gotten posted up on Stumbleupon. And that is no fluke. Recent reports show that StumbleUpon  was the biggest driver of traffic among social media websites during the month of June, 2011, beating even sharing titan Facebook. And just a couple of weeks ago, Stumbleupon started making available a publishing widget for websites and blogs designed to keep readers on the site by offering curated, related article suggestions, much like Outbrain.

And today, in an effort to stay in touch with the cutting edge shiny, it has updated its iPad app with new features that reemphasize the social aspects of the site: there is now a “social bar” at the top of each stumbled page that highlights friends or other users who also liked the page, with the option to to visit their profile and connect.  If you haven’t used StumbleUpon on the iPad, you should – the device and the app are made for each other when it comes to entertaining web consumption on the ultimate consumption device.

So, let’s hear it for StumbleUpon – a great information service with social aspects and the ability to power your on-line campaigns. Oh, and a great way to blow an evening finding cool stuff.

 

Comparing Google+ & Facebook by the Features

PC Mag has a useful infographic that compares the features sets on Google+ and Facebook, side by side. It is valuable to see the features this way, provided you can get past a subtle Google+ preference and some spelling and grammar difficulties. It is also a bit premature to compare the very mature Facebook platform with the still beta, fresh from the lab Google+ – I anticipate seeing scores of more features in + in the ensuing months. Nonetheless, thanks to PC Mag and the creator Technobombs.com for the work on the status of these two platforms at present.

What A Milestone!

I am not quite sure how it happened, but this week I passed the 1,000 post mark here in the Studio. This post will make 1,005th, to be exact. That is a lot of posts. And even more words. 1,000 POV’s on law, research, writing and technology. I knew I was wordy, but sheesh!

I guess when you enjoy writing, 1,000 posts can sail out of your keyboard without a great deal of sweat. I hope that Studio readers have enjoyed reading my content as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Periodically, the Interwebs get all aswarm with debate on whether blogging is dead. The introduction of shiny new tools like Google+ definitely shift attention and emphasis from traditional blogging to the novel ways of communicating and sharing content. However, you have to stop and think about how much of the content shared on these news sites comes from blog posts or articles by amateur journalists. In my mind, blogging is still a solid part of the backbone of the Web and I am as dedicated to my RSS feeds as I am to creating blog-based content for myself and others to share.

If you only read, but have thought about writing your own blog, why not? There are so many great and free tools to help you on your way.  Check out Blogger, WordPress.com, Posterous, and Tumblr, to name a few. You will get a great deal of satisfaction out of the simple process of writing, and even more when you are lucky enough to garner feedback or even spark a conversation.

Write a Blog Post. Help make the Web a Better Place. And thank you for reading here. I really appreciate it.

Ten Big Adds for Google + (Updated)

I have been seeing scores of posts with peoples’ opinions on what Google + needs to make it better and, for the most part, I find I disagree with them. But Martin Bryant’s post over at The Next Web  has the first list that actually notes improvements that make sense. To me, anyway. I really don’t care whether I can watch a TV program with my virtual friends on the + network.

From a lawyer’s perspective, Bryant’s suggestions would make the service a lot more business-friendly. His first, search, is a necessity. There is no way to search posts within Google +, which seems odd coming from a search giant. Why not? Wouldn’t it be great to search within Google + to find others discussing the same issues of interest to you, or sharing content you want to see? The second, improved sharing, is also needed – I struggle with sharing from the mobile applications. I am using + on both Android and iOS, and while the dedicated Android app is better, it still lacks the ability to reshare another post or get the full “link” sharing experience of the desktop. Since people seem to spend more time on their mobiles these days, improved sharing with a mobile bent would be most welcome.

Shared circles – like Groups in Friendfeed for those familiar with the concept – would be a great place for like-minded professionals to read, share AND comment on industry-related topics. And, of course, document collaboration is high on the list of most workers. Wave had it, why not +? Combine the document collaboration feature with the Hangout group video chat feature, and I think you would have a real business winner on your hands.

Instant translation and a log of your activity would also serve + well – I would like to be able to go back over the actions I have taken on + to track stuff that I liked or commented on and translation seems vital in our internationally connected world. While I am less concerned with connecting + with Twitter and Facebook, it might help initially to stave off the sense on + that it is completely unconnected to your family and friends (most of my tech friends are on + already).

It’s great that you can edit posts once you post them, but how about being able to save posts as drafts in order to prevent loss on system failures? This would make + a more effective “blogging” platform – a one-stop shop that could challenge Tumblr, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Integrating audio and maps into + would also be a, well, plus. But if you are going to get into some of the less business-worthy adds, I have one that Bryant doesn’t mention – how about getting Google Music incorporated into +? Two great services that would DEFINITELY taste great together.

Thanks Martin for the very nice list. Google, are you listening?

UPDATED: If you use Chrome (and you should) and need translation help right away, consider using the Helper for Google+ extension created by Misha M. Kupriyanov – you can get it at http://bit.ly/gplushelper . You’re welcome.

5 Out Of 7 Lawyers Choose iPads

In an interesting article over at InfoWorld, Tom Kanishige documents the massive rollout by New York firm Proskauer Rose of iPad 2s to its attorneys. Whoa. iPad 2s for attorneys on a firm-wide scale? It might be the largest enterprise roll-out of iPads to lawyers to date. Wait. What about the cloud? What about the apps? What about the lack of a keyboard?

Apparently, Proskauer, in a very forward thinking move, decided to give its lawyers the choice between either a laptop computer or an iPad 2 / desktop combination and 500 out of 700 took the latter option. As one could imagine, the decision to offer the option and attendant IT support for the rollout was no simple process. IT management had to determine the “rules of engagement” for iPad use, ultimately deciding to permit personal use of the device along with business use (who could resist showing off their shiny new tablet to family and friends?) and prohibiting use of cloud apps like DropBox (these are sensitive legal documents, after all). A lengthy internal user manual was produced and MobileIron was tasked with managing and securing the iPads remotely. Proskauer agreed to permit lawyers to expense two of my personal favorite iOS apps Goodreader and DocsToGo Premium, the latter for its ability to show tracked changes. The remaining applications will cost the lawyers themselves (nice money save for the firm there) but Proskauer has compiled a list of “recommended” business applications.

Sounds pretty cool, right? I would LOVE my company to present me with an iPad 2 (it could keep my original iPad company). But Proskauer really can’t simply sit on its laurels on this one – with all the documented changes to the iOS platform coming in the near future (and undocumented ones that are certain to follow in the not so near future), Proskauer’s IT people will have to be quite nimble. Take iCloud for example – with the prohibition against using cloud services, what will happen when iCloud becomes baked into the entire iPad OS?

I am sure they are on it. In the meantime, welcome to the Shiny, Proskauer!

Yes You Can Take It With You – On Google, Anyway

One of the real benefits of Google+ is the fact that your content is yours and you can move it out of + if you decide to vacate the premises. Not so much on Facebook, which makes it virtually impossible, or in TwitPic for that matter, which retains rights to share your photos with media outlets.

The means for pulling your content out of Google is aptly called Takeout and it doesn’t just apply to Google+. It can be used to export contacts, Google Buzz messages, Picasa Web photos and Profile data. The resulting data file is open and portable and, thus, usable. With one click, you can get the goods from Buzz, Contacts and Circles, Picasa Web Albums and Profiles.

The service is brought to you by the Data Liberation Front, an engineering team at Google who focused on the methods for moving data in and out of Google. Hit the jump to their page to get more information on how to get your stuff in and out of a host of other Google products. Now that’s pretty cool.

Google + = The Sum Of Its Parts

Well, that wasn’t long. O.k., in tech years, its like so 1965 to be two days after the first wave, but still. Definitely not as long as I had to wait for Wave. I have been playing around with Google + for a few hours now. And I am desperately hoping: (a) it catches on with the mainstream; (b) it maintains its clean, uncluttered look and feel; (c) it actually becomes a viable alternative to Facebook.

Reading the negative tech reviews will yield a bevy of criticisms for how + has been rolled out, the signup and invite process, the bugs with connecting this account or that account. But that is the stuff of beta / invite-burdened new apps. Once inside, it is a compelling mix indeed.

The social application is really a sum of many parts, some new, some old. Looking back over the past few months and the little upgrades Google has rolled out to Profiles, +1, and Gmail, you can really see the path to Google +. First, the new. Circles – a means of grouping friends, borrows public streams from Twitter, Friend Groups from Facebook, but adds something new – the ability to post only to the circle. This promotes privacy and more fine-grained sharing – you can freely share with friends circle that which you might not want to share with your family or work circles. The clever animations when you create and add to Circles and the ease of use of the system are nice tweaks. +1 to Google on its circle implementation.

Next, the stream. Think Facebook News Feed meets Friendfeed here. The stream is content created and shared by the people you follow (filtered by circles if you wish). The Friendfeed element comes from posts popping back to the top of the stream when new comments or +1’s are added to the post, as well as the ability to mute or hide a post in the stream. Some commenting edits can only be accomplished after the post is shared, which is tricky. But what do you expect from a beta?

Photos are integrated with Picasa. Tags can be applied by anyone, which isn’t great, but you have the ability to approve or reject a photo tag, which makes up for the privacy breach. The photo tab now includes both your own Picasa albums and photos shared by your friends on Google+.

Sparks assist you in starting a thread on a particular topic within a circle. Go to the Sparks tab and it gives you topics of general interest, which you can then follow. Sparks are private to you, unless of course you share them with your circle(s). I am following the Soccer spark.

Hangout is also new. It is a super-cool video chat that can pull in anyone in a particular circle. Great controls, plus the ability to watch YouTube videos as a group within the sub-app – very fun and, of course, social.

You going mobile? Well, your options are a native app on Android, or a very nicely executed web app on iOS. The mobile Google + incorporates a great group chat called Huddle, up to 50 people! That might get a bit unwieldy, but it could have worked well in the large conference / training session I ran today. 😉

How about the old? Well, your Google Profile, Picasa Web Albums as noted above, Google Chat and Gmail are all easily accessible and highly integrated with Google +. You can get notification of actions on posts and other information in Gmail, like Buzz. Or not. You can quickly shift to Google chat via a button in the left sidebar of Google +. Your home stream, pics, profile and circles are easily accessible from buttons right along the top and slightly to the left. And, like Android, notifications are obvious, but very unobtrusive – via a small red box in the brand new black bar at the top of Google’s various screens.

And the design is beautiful. Clean. Sparse. Gorgeous. Even Gmail is celebrating – check out the new Preview and Preview (Dense) themes in your Gmail settings and you can get a similar design applied to your Gmail. Clearly, Google has been thinking about this integration for a while now and has been carefully and slowly slipping out the pieces, letting us get familiar with small parts of the new system, before unrolling the meat of it.

One more thing: you can take it all with you. You can pull all the content you add into Google+ right back out of Google+. it’s yours after all, right? Not everyone thinks so. I’m looking at you, Facebook. Big plus for + on that one.

Is it perfect? Well, no. But few things are, especially when new. Facebook wasn’t. Twitter still isn’t. I think Google is further along the developmental curve than either of these were at inception, but Google also has the benefit of their errors in social, as well as their own. I think this is the most promising foray Google has made into social, a battleground that its new management deems to be vital. I wish them luck and longevity. And I wish for myself that more of my mainstream friends could get in and see what a great option the new Google+ really is for social sharing and integration. Big +1 ups, Google!