Infographic: Apps Programmed for Consumption

Another great infographic from my friend Sarah Wenger on smartphones, mobile apps and just how integrated they have and will become in our lives. Sometimes numbers can be frightening, but Sarah makes them quite visually appealing. How many apps do you have on YOUR smartphone?

Apps: Programmed for Consumption
Created by: www.OnlineBachelorDegreePrograms.com

Cool Conference Alert: LII’s Law Via The Internet 2012

Got tipped by one of my favorite sources for online legal information, the Legal Information Institute (“LII”) at Cornell Law School about what promises to be a very interesting conference scheduled for October 7-9. 2012 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. It’s titled Law Via The Internet 2012 and it celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Free Access to Law Institute (can I get an Amen?). If you are unfamiliar with LII, it was the first legal website on the Internet, and it’s quite popular too – serving over 14 million unique visitors each year. It’s mission is to provide free and open access to the laws that govern us. Laudable goal.

To celebrate, the conference will be held here in the U.S. for the first time, with a star-studded line-up, including legal technology innovator Richard Susskind and social media visionary Clay Shirky. Headline speakers also include GovLoop.com founder Steve Ressler, legal information analyst David Curle, head of the United Nations project on Information Technology in Legislatures Gherardo Casini, GovTrack.us founder Joshua Tauberer, and Google Scholar founding engineer Anurag Acharya. More than 75 speakers from 25 countries are slated to speak, covering a broad range of topics within the realm of  legal information technology and the free-access-to-law movement. There will be social networking opportunities and galas – all in all a legal-geeky-good time.

If you are interested, and who wouldn’t be, you can register at this link here.

WiseStamp and Outlook.com – So Cool

Do you like the new Outlook.com? Do you love your WiseStamp plug-in? Very soon, you will be able to use the WiseStamp Chrome extension for Outlook.com email! WiseStamp is one of my favorite extensions – it allows me to create interactive, constantly updating app-centric email signatures for my various Gmail accounts. I have a business email signature with my logo, latest blog post and twitter updates, as well as a personal email signature with corresponding personal, art-based content. Add QR cards, Pinterest boards, your blog, your Facebook Page, even charities you believe in. It is a fantastic application. And, with the addition of Outlook.com as a supported provider, you will be able to get that same awesome signature block on your Outlook.com email. Check out how here.

 

WiseStamp is free for the basic service, and offers three other tiers of service offering more signatures, less WiseStamp branding, and more / better support.  It’s a great app, made better with Outlook! Sign up at the link above to be notified when Outlook integration becomes available.

State – A Roll-Your-Own Streaming App

There is a new kid on the block in the game of stream-management and that kid is State. Similar tools  have come before, with Friendfeed the most notable – apps that allow you to take your content from other applications and combine it into a single application much like braiding strands of hair into a single coil. The benefit to the user is a one-stop location at which the user’s own content can be managed and viewed, as well as a single vantage point for that user to view and interact with the streams of his or her follows. This was the point behind the popular Friendfeed, which has lost its luster in the wake of a talent sale to Facebook, and appears to be the driving force behind State.

It is not a clone, however. For example, your content isn’t just passively pushed into the service. You connect your services (five at the moment for bringing in content – Twitter, App.net, Instagram and, very interestingly, Dropbox, as well as Instapaper for sending out content), and build out your stream manually. When you add content using the icons on a “workspace” page, which you can rename with a better description of your page, you can select the incoming stream, then the resource – in other words the filter of content by filters that are meaningful to the service, including home timeline, mentions, user, place, tag, search, list, location, favorite, etc. Then fiddle with the content box dimensions containing the stream content and create a boxy-magazine like look. You can have several workspaces accessible by dropdown arrow.

You will also be able to follow others streams if users choose to make them public, and you can choose to make yours public or keep them private. Thus, when State really gets going (and hopefully hooks up more services), you will be able to use it as a content discovery tool and a personal content curation tool. The interface is unique and interesting. I can see the benefit as more services are added – and can definitely see the utility from both sides (managing your own and viewing others content) of the content coin.

You can ask for access to the private beta at the link above, and check out a demo of how State works. Can’t wait to see how this tool develops.

Why Are Pinterest & Instagram So Popular?

And why should you care?

Niche social networks Pinterest and Instagram have captured and maintained the attention of the tech elite and the mainstream far past the honeymoon, probationary period. And the numbers are compelling. A recent report from Experian shows that in the past year, Pinterest’s share of the social media market rose more than 5,000 percent in North America. It is a top 20 social network in North America, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Instagram’s share of the social market increased more than 17,000 percent in North America during that same period.

Why? It would be easy to point to the fact that Pinterest is full of food, design and products, which appeal to the pleasure zone for sure, but that would discount Instagram’s broader subject matter. The common feature is the image-centric nature of the content. People  respond to gorgeous images and layout. Simple design that doesn’t get in the way of the eye-candy. This is what the online world wants to see  – something pretty.

Pictures, still or moving, are the best means of engagement in an otherwise still, online world. This explains why YouTube is so popular – we would prefer to “see” than “read.” Reading is work – it leaves much to the imagination. Seeing is a more immediately gratifying experience. The image conveys information that the written word cannot.

So, why should you the lawyer, or online professional, care? Do you want to attract attention? Do you want to hold someone’s interest? Are you trying to connect online? If you have and do, then you owe it to your content to bring it alive with design and color. Pay attention to your site layout, your blog theme and your presence on visual networks. Add images, and good ones, to your blog posts. Maybe use video to give your presence some animated personality. With some creativity, you can build a presence on sites like Pinterest and Instagram for your professional interests. Pinterest boards dedicated to law firm design or courtroom illustrations. Instagram accounts with portraits of coworkers or your “shot of the day.”

The nameplate sites like Zerply, About.me, Flavors.me, and others, also understand this. That is why their templated profiles look great – they spend time on that aspect of the design because it will encourage others to spend time on the profiles hosted on the site. Why are infographics so popular? They are far more fun to look at than an encyclopedia page full of text and tables.

I will readily admit that I tend to spend more time on a site that is easier to “see” – crowded, text-heavy pages tend to turn me off. There is a reason why people are spending time on this image-centric sites. It’s worth considering them and taking a cue from their design sense while setting up your content.

The Law Office of Lando Calrissian

A little humor for your Wednesday, and my Wednesday definitely needed some. Ever seen a commercial like THIS on your late night station?

 

 

From Geeks are Sexy.

Twenty-First Century Blue Book

 

Might sound a bit like an oxymoron, but it's not. Thanks to Bob Ambrogi's LawSites, I learned the the Uniform System of Citation, a/k/a the Blue Book, which has been haunting law students (mostly) since 1926, is going mobile-digital. Instead of carrying that dogeared, spiral bound little monster in your briefcase, you can now tote it on your iPad. You can get your “copy” via the rulebook application for iPhone and iPad. Rulebook allows you to purchase and download federal and state rules and now the Blue Book. Like its web subscription form that has been around since 2008, you can do some trick you can't with the paper version, like click on hyperlinks, do full text searches and such.

 

Such convenience does not come cheap. In fact, purchasing the Blue Book through rulebook costs more than purchasing the paper or subscribing to the web version. But, for $39.99, you can have your trusty citation companion with you wherever you go and you won't suffer torn pages.

 

According to Bob, rulebook is running a special on Wednesday, August 22 for existing users of the Rulebook app – you can download the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Bankruptcy Procedure, Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure and Evidence at no charge. This will save you $10 off the normal price, which is nice. Thanks Bob for the tip

 

Need It Simpler? Simple English Wikipedia Is For You

I know what you’re thinking. Simpler Wikipedia? If you find yourself struggling with the language in some of the more technically challenging Wikipedia articles, then maybe you see the utility. Simple English Wikipedia is a version of Wikipedia, indeed a Wikimedia property, that contains simple, straightforward and to the point articles on various topics. Unfortunately, not quite as many topics as the big cousin, English Wikipedia. 86,169 compared to 4,032,663. CTangent, an Admin for Wikmedia’s “simple” cousin, explains it thusly on Reddit:

 

SEWiki was designed for non-native speakers of English that are hoping to improve their command of the language. SEWikipedia, unfortunately, has been used as a political platform at the cost of the integrity of the project. For aspiring administrators of the full English Wikipedia, being an admin of the SEWikipedia is a nice thing to put on the resume. Many of these people would make very terrible administrators for various reasons. However, since SEWikipedia is so small, they can often gain adminship on this smaller wiki and use it to slingshot to a position of power on the English Wikipedia. In fact, when I was there, one of the founding members was de-adminned and banned by the other admins (including me) because he was using the SEWikipedia to prove a political point to the members of the English Wikipedia, who had banned him before. In principle, though, it’s a good idea. Technical articles are simplified for the layman, and non-technical articles are written so that non-native speakers can learn the language. There was a simple english Wiktionary too, but I think that got killed by the powers that be in Wikimedia.

 

I get it. Power struggle. All machinations aside, I can see why it could be useful even for English-speakers, particularly on highly technical articles. Some of the scientific articles I have read have left me bleary-eyed and cotton-brained. And I practice insurance law and read policies for a living. Having a simple English explanation for string theory would, at the very least, make me sound like I sort of know what I am talking about when my child asks me for help with his science homework.

 

So, how does Simple Wikipedia look and compare? Take the following two examples on the heading “Jurisdiction”, the first from Simple Wikipedia and the second from English Wikipedia. While I understand which version offers a better education on the topic, let’s be serious here,which would you rather read?:

 

 

 

 

Have You SEEN The New Outlook.com?

Wow. Really. This is not your father’s Microsoft Hotmail. At the end of July, Microsoft announced its new Metro-styled Outlook.com Preview, which you can upgrade to from your Live or Hotmail accounts. The look is fantastic. Even the animations are top-notch. Clean and easy to read and navigate, this new, free, web-based email client can really look Google and its venerable Gmail right in the eye.

 

The UI is impressive, while the layout is familiar – three columns containing your left navigation / folders and such, the main center panel with your message lists and open messages and a far right column with the new Command Bar that dynamically changes depending on the email you are looking at. When you connect your social accounts, that bar will show key information from those social sites pertaining to the message sender / recipients in the right column. That column also holds messaging activity, as well as Microsoft-served ads.

 

 

The top bar contains the key functions  – hover over “Outlook” in the far left corner and click the drop down arrow to see nav buttons to People, Calendar and SkyDrive.

 

 

“New” opens the email editor, which contains simple but effective formating tools, again in that clean interface. Because I created a new name for my Outlook account, I can select in this dialog whether I want to send the email from my new Outlook account or my old Windows Live account. You can send, save as draft, spell check, change from rich format to plain text to HTML, select high, normal or low priority, attach files or cancel the process entirely. Much is hidden in this interface but these tools are very intuitive and easy to figure out. Click on the dialog bubble to the right along the top bar and open a message box for instant messaging via Skype (coming soon), Facebook Chat or Windows Live Messenger. Click the gear to access the various options available to modify your mail settings and other details. Click on your name and picture at the far right to edit your account settings and availability for chat.

 

The default is for threaded conversations, again much like Gmail, which is new to Microsoft mail products. But much of the underlying Hotmail remains – simply right click on elements and you will get context menus that reveal those features. Another cool feature – web versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint are built in, and can be edited on the site. Currently no offline support, but hopefully this is something Microsoft will add down the road.

 

When you connect your social sites, Outlook will attempt to merge contact information for individuals from the various sites into one contact card. With the new look over at SkyDrive, switching between Mail, Contacts and SkyDrive will offer a seamless experience. Unfortunately, the Calendar app is still pure Hotmail, which looks a bit bizarre next to its shinier cousins. Mobile looks great – the simple interface works beautifully on phones and tablets. SkyDrive has just moved out of preview – along with the similar UI, you get a new desktop and tablet browser with instant search, contextual toolbar, thumbnail multi-select, drag-and-drop organization, and HTML5 sorting, desktop & OS X apps for faster uploads, SkyDrive for Android which allows access, uploading and sharing from Android phones. Together, Outlook.com and SkyDrive are building a credible competitor to Gmail, Docs and Google Drive. I will offer more detail on the new SkyDrive UI in a separate post, but take a look below at how great it looks:

 

 

The image above to the left in the docs pane looks blurry because I snapped the screenshot while the slideshow was rolling through the images – a really great feature.

 

I am very impressed with Microsoft’s direction here. Along with rumors about a $199 Surface Tablet, the press on Windows 8 and the great Metro interface and the new look and feel of Microsoft’s web applications, I believe they get the importance of modernizing the Office experience. I am excited to delve into Outlook.com and Skydrive and give these apps a run for their money. And, maybe, my next tablet may be a Windows-based slate. One never knows.

Master Time Like A Pro with TimeAndDate

 

There are plenty of tools that help with scheduling and such, but there are few tools that offer quite as much functionality as the web-based time-management dashboard TimeAndDate. There might even be too much functionality. Across the top, you get tabs for Home, World Clock, Time Zones, Calendar, Weather, Sun & Moon, Timers, Calculators, and other more mundane stuff. There are widget-like windows for the information on the home page.

 

 

When you hover over the tabs, you get several options under each of the categories. I particularly liked the World Clock Meeting Calendar that helps you pick the best time for meetings across time zones and the Countdown to any date calculator.

 

 

You can get a list for time zone abbreviations and a time zone difference calculator helps you figure out how far ahead or behind someone else is in a different zone. An interactive map shows which parts of the globe are in which time zone. And there is a whole page dedicated to my arch-nemesis, Daylight Savings Time. There are options for formatting and customizing your calendars. They even offer clock and countdown timer widgets to embed on your own website, as well as various time related iPad and iPhone and Android apps. And there is more.

 

Even if you use a few of the tools, this is a fantastic site, especially for free. Never be flummoxed by a date snafu again – just head to TimeAndDate.