Simply Starred

So simple, cute and effective. I know. I said cute. Heavy duty Gmail users know about starring important messages. With a sweet little Mac app called Starred, you can get a menu bar button that organizes your starred Gmails into a drop-down to-do list. This is exciting to me – I use my email inbox as a to-do list of sorts already. Click an entry and get a pop out of the message. Completely great, and totally free.

Get it here in the Mac App store. 

Thanks Lifehacker for the tip.


When You Need To Dig Deeper In Your Search

I was asked earlier today to find something that Google couldn’t find, at least for free anyway. So what did I do? I did the deep dive, of course.

I haven’t touched on this topic recently here in the Studio, so the time is ripe. I am talking about the “deep web”, the “invisible web” of data and documents hosted on the Internet that traditional search bots and crawlers of Google and similar ilk can’t seem to index. It is estimated that the invisible web is 500 times larger than the searchable portion of the Web, which we all know is pretty freaking big to begin with. Sometimes, you won’t be able to find what you are looking for using traditional search engines, so what do you do? You use some tricks to access those hidden databases, of course – you are more than 500 times more likely to find the goods.

If you are looking for a search engine tuned to deep web searching, check out this great list (over 100!) broken down by topic, curated by the Online Education Database.

If you are looking for information that is more geared towards the legal profession, you can do no better than this great list of invisible web resources over at LLRX curated by Marcus Zillman.

Wondering what I was looking for? A current list of legislation across the 50 states pertaining to medical malpractice, particularly tort damages caps. I found it in a database maintained by the National Association of State Legislatures. I didn’t have to pay a cent for it. Thanks guys! Sorry Westlaw.



Sharing (The Web) With

Browsing is more fun with friends. That is the concept behind This browser based tool will allow you to visit a website, open a channel to invite a friend and review and collaborate with each other. Start at’s site and enter the desired URL. You can then send your Channel invitation by Facebook, email or phone. You will be notified when your friend connects to the channel. You will see the same page and even each other’s mouse movements. Use the chat box to the right of the screen to talk about the site or anything you might want to discuss. Or add notes to specific spots on the page to spur discussion.

Clearly a single purpose tool, but one that fills an interesting niche. You and your colleagues can search together on Google at the same time, or discuss web-based content. Nice one to add to the tool box.

Highlight The Web!

Chrome users (and note takers) rejoice! Yellow Highlighter Pen extension for Chrome allows you to mark up your web from the comfort of your own browser. Load up the extension, click the button, highlight the text, and send a link to it to someone else for review. Highlight multiple clips, use different colors, and share. Recipients don’t need the extension to see your handiwork. Nice way to easily mark and share snippets with others (or keep them for yourself).

Mergely – Browser-Based Text Merge Tool

Simple, but GOOD! Mergely offers a great little tool for comparing / merging two sets of text within your browser. Like the merge function in Word, but a LOT easier to manage. Head over to their site and you will be greeted with two side by side text editor windows. There aren’t a lot of buttons to mess with. Differences in text between the two panes are shown in red with a line through on the left and in blue on the right. Left is the original document and right is the “changed” document. Paste two different sets of text into each window, or type up text right into the boxes. No username or password required. Save your files, and send the link to the page to others for their input. The few buttons at the top allow you to replace left / right, swap left / right, clear text box, download file or search. The text is removed immediately after use, unless you save it.

Clearly this is directed at developers and can compare different sets of HTML coding for variations easily in the browser. It’s free, but requires and HTML5 friendly browser. It appears the creators have more plans for it, including multiple file, drag and drop, and cross browser file uploading, font and style settings and three way merging. Sweet!

Lesson Learned

I have been thinking about this topic for a while now and finally decided to publish my thoughts. Ultimately, I think it is worth doing so. At the very least, maybe it can serve as a cautionary tale for anyone interested in sharing online about the very real, very unanticipated perils such interaction can bring.

Studio readers may recall a post I wrote back on April 11, 2011, which was entitled: Tip of The Day: Don’t Mix Legal Incompetence with Social Media. It was about an article I read in the Washington Post published on April 1, 2011 about a young attorney, Joseph Rakofsky, and his first murder trial. In retrospect, that date is rather appropriate. The short of it is that Mr. Rakofsky encountered difficulties while representing the defendant, who is now awaiting a new trial with a new attorney.

Don’t bother looking for my post, I took it down.

There may be a few who wonder why I would do such a thing. Approximately three months ago, I learned I had been named as a defendant in a defamation lawsuit in New York Supreme court. Me and approximately 70 or 80 other defendants, who all apparently made some hay of the Washington Post story. The suit qua suit didn’t bother me – Mr. Rakofsky did have some serious jurisdictional problems naming me in the New York litigation and probably wouldn’t survive a rule 3211 Motion To Dismiss. What did catch my eye and gave me some pause was the fact that Mr. Rakofsky had his own version of what had happened down in D.C during that trial. And guess what? From a pure proof perspective, at the time I wrote that post, I had no more hard evidence supporting the conclusions of the Washington Post writer than I do the conclusions of Mr. Rakofsky himself in his lawsuit.

Around the time of the initial post and in the days that followed my learning of the suit, I saw a lot of harpooning and lampooning of Mr. Rakofsky across the Internet. He was a hot topic, to say the least. Make no mistake here – I was upset by the original story and thoroughly angered and frustrated about being named in this suit, for something which I felt was not a legal wrong. But I have to recognize that it could be a different sort of wrong.

Now that there is a suit, I know that the real place for battle is in the courtroom, during pre-trial motion, discovery and, if it gets that far, trial. Not on Twitter, in the blogs, or in the court of popular opinion, where the popular will rule the day. I guess that is our Brave New World and that traditional notions of public and private certainly have undergone dramatic change. I know I would have been pretty horrified if my early missteps in court were shared across the Interwebs for all to see. I am sure Mr. Rakofsky did not undertake this trial and then phone up the Washington Post and all the legal bloggers inviting them to watch and critique his first trial. I guess it is my supreme luck that I graduated law school before email was mainstream and back in the day that the Walt II ruled the online research world. Only a select few were there to witness my early days at Motion practice, and thankfully for me, they aren’t talking.

Mr. Rakofsky’s first trial and the subsequent civil suit did get me thinking about my early days as an attorney. I had the benefit of a very large law firm to serve as my training ground, loaded with resources, dripping with prestige, and stocked with plenty of senior associates to offer assistance on the finer points. Despite these benefits, there also were plenty of opportunities to make a wrong move and suffer correction. It often felt like hazing. I will spare you my personal stories. Suffice to say I can only imagine the challenges a solo faces fresh out of law school, let alone one taking on a felony murder case as his first trial. And let alone having his mistakes trumpeted across the Internet for all to see. Judgment by public ridicule? I am not sure this is a positive direction.

While Mr. Rakofsky’s travails certainly can be viewed as an example of the pitfalls of early practice especially on particularly challenging cases, another lesson to be learned here is to, in fact, learn a lesson, rather than reveling in the fine sport of shooting fish in a barrel. And I see a lesson for everyone.

For Mr. Rakofsky: there are resources out there and I sincerely hope that he considers availing himself of them. That is, once he is done with restoring his name, if he can via this mega-suit or, perhaps, more effectively, by going back into the trenches and showing his worth to his clients through zealous, principled representation.

For myself: I regret my part in this. My mistake was taking as truth the Washington Post article without checking further. Without contacting Mr. Rakofsky himself. My post was about him, wasn’t it? Shouldn’t I, as a responsible blogger, check all sides of a story before reporting on that story, particularly a negative story about a person and his livelihood? Call me crazy. I am not usually one to take any assertion at face value, and prefer to perform my own research. Generally speaking, one can usually rely on the veracity of a story in a major newspaper. However, there are never guarantees – papers print retractions every day. And when it comes to an attorney’s reputation and livelihood, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to think twice. If there is another side to this account, then Mr. Rakofsky will undoubtedly press that side and the New York Supreme Court will enlighten us all as to whether defamation occurred or whether the truth is a defense. That is not for me to say, nor the Post to say, nor the blogosphere to say.

And for the rest: think before you write. Consider your message. Is it of so great a value that it is worth the potential fall out? Will it put someone else in a compromised position? Is the benefit of that compromise worth the cost to you or the person you target? Sometimes, it is better to pass up the ripe, low hanging fruit and save yourself the inevitable stomach ache. We certainly could expound on the lesson to be learned from Mr. Rakofsky’s situation without naming names and casting judgments in a court of popular opinion.

I wish everyone involved in this the best and trust that the whole truth will come out. One truth already is available for consideration: reporting requires investigation. Always one to look for the lemonade in the lemon, I am now wiser about my subject matter and think I will stick to the law, research, writing and technology. And leave the attorney-bashing to those with greater skill and thicker skins and stronger stomachs.

The All New Google Presentations

Google Docs, the cloud suite of productivity tools offered by Google for free, has always been a favorite of mine. I have used Presentations, the slide deck creation tool, to make visuals and collaborate with others. I have always found Presentations to be more than serviceable, and definitely useful.

Google has just made Presentations even more useful with a dramatic feature roll out. The changes focus on improving collaboration by including presence markers to show where collaborators are working, allowing simultaneous editing by team members, showing a use revision history to see who made changes or to revert to an earlier version, and a building in a chat feature to permit dialogue between collaborators while working on the document. There are more than 50 other new features , including better transitions and “spicier” (their word, not mine) 3D effects, new animations, new themes, drawings within presentations, and rich tables.

The new stuff is rolling out slowly but you can help it along – just click on the gear in the document list, select Document Settings, hit the editing tab, check the box to “create new presentations using the latest version of the presentation editor” and voila!, you’re in. But don’t bother if you are running an older browser: the new Presentations is optimized to work with the latest browser editions, so update one of those first before trying this at home, kids. Check this link for what works.

I love shiny new playthings from Google!

Digital Omnivores & How They Are Changing Consumption

Very interesting report from comScore, published this month, entitled Digital Omnivores: How Tablets, Smartphones and Connected Devices are Changing U.S. Digital Media Consumption Habits. If you hadn’t already figured out that mobile / tablet usage was driving the Internet, this report should fully inform of that fact. Digital omnivores is the term comScore uses to distinguish modern consumers of a vast variety of digital content across a number of different devices from traditional users who interact solely with their desktop or laptop computer. Contrary to the impression created by the title, the report discusses device usage in markets other than the U.S. Across the markets queried, web traffic from non-computer devices ranged from 5 to over 7%. Devices include mobile phones, tablets, gaming consoles and media players.

There are many interesting findings, and I encourage you to peruse the report. I found particularly interesting the fact that the iOS platform has the largest share of connected devices and smartphones in use in the U.S. and accounts for the largest share of Internet traffic in the U.S. Main uses include consuming news, communicating and engaging in real-time social networking. Mobile devices are being used to purchase goods and services, play games, listen to music, check the weather, and search the Internet.

I think the big message is for device manufacturers and content providers. The better these devices get, the more responsive and slick applications become, the more consumers will move from the traditional desktop / laptop experience to the mobile experience. Content providers will need to craft their presentation to meet the needs of many different devices and the casual, fairly constant engagement of consumers with those devices. Content will need to be fresh and easily accessible. This applies to content creation tools as well – the more familiar users become with these “unusual” interfaces, the more willing they will be to push the usage boundaries on these devices.

I regularly use desktops, laptops, Android & iOS based smartphones and tablets, and find I am very comfortable across all of these platforms. And I am by no means a digital native. It will be interesting to see how devices change to meet the changing usage patterns and user needs, particularly as the younger generation adapts and innovates. Digital omnivores? There is no question about it.



iOS5 – Down & Dirty

Of course I updated my iPhone 4 to iOS 5 as soon as it became available yesterday. Damn the torpedos, and claims of borked iPhones, full speed ahead! With only a few little glitches, my newly outfitted phone seems to be running pretty smoothly.

I have figured out many of the new features already, like double pressing the home button when the phone is asleep to pull up the camera – woot! But I have also been fielding quite a few questions from other new iOS 5-ers about how to set up the many new bells and whistles.

Rather than build it from scratch, I thought I would share this decent Lifehacker post that outlines the set up on some of the new features, and certainly the most important ones, including how to set up: wifi sync; iCloud; Notification center; and, Text Expansion. The post also has a quick overview video and screen tour highlighting the best features.

Check out the first few set up screens and what they are all about with this Mac Observer article – if you haven’t updated your phone yet, don’t be shocked – you will have to do some initial set up before you can even check to see if you phone is still intact.

Here are articles from TUAW that go in depth on the very helpful Reminders appCalendar app updates, changes to Camera and Photos, and Twitter integration.

Also, if you would like to take a look at a list of 200 new iOS 5 features, check out this International Business Times post, with a short description of each.

Thanks guys for the leg up!

More On-Line Court Opinions

“More” might be a bit of a misnomer, but USCOURTS is off and running. This pilot project between the Government Printing Office and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has just launched with opinions from April, 2004 from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida. Free public access with search functionality, and the secure transfer protocol employed by the agencies allows for authentication of the files with digital signatures. Also, once you find the opinion you are looking for, all associated opinions within the same case can be accessed from the opinion’s More Information page.

It’s a nice start, with great promise. Let’s all hope the pilot goes prime time.