I Have a Good One For You: Google Wave Resurrected – Rizzoma

So here I am, minding my own business, checking out the notifications filter folder in my Gmail box and all of a sudden, I get mention of a new comment on a Google Wave conversation I had participated in oh, about a million years ago. Naturally, my interest was piqued and I, of course, much like the proverbial cat smitten by curiousity, followed the link. To Rizzoma.

Rizzoma was an existing Russian company but, in 2010, they too became smitten with Wave and started work on improving it. They started private beta of their site in January 2012. Apparently, they began allowing import of existing Google Waves in February, 2012. And, to make it more Google-like, you can sign in with your Google ID, or a Facebook ID.

If you hadn’t moved your waves over by April 30, 2012, you are out of luck in saving that matter. But, you can certainly head over to Rizzoma and start a new wave if you are hankering for that old not-sure-whether-it’s-email-chat-text-messaging-social-network-sharepoint-bulletin-board experience of Wave. The interface is quite similar, but seems stable more stable, something Wave really wasn’t. Right now it is totally free and it’s open source – let’s hope they find a way to make money or they may be going the way of the Wave. Rizzoma did their research and found that Wave users were using it for business purposes, and have directed their efforts at becoming a decent business tool. Some other cool features of Rizzoma: the ability to @mention like Twitter; the ability to open access to any link, and the ability to reply and correct a message in any place of a document. Rizzoma sports a clean interface, with a navigation pane on the left divided into Topics, @Mentions and Public, a shortcut window on the bottom left. and  a larger content pane on the right. There are also sharing buttons for sharing topics from Rizzoma to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

In all seriousness, I always liked Wave and thought it could be a very effective collaboration tool, particularly for business users. I think Rizzoma might be onto something here – taking the best parts of Wave, making it more stable and usable and keeping the vibe going. Good luck to them for sure.

If you want to see a use case in action, check out the Rizzoma video – don’t mind the robo-voice, the video started out in Russian, but I thought viewers here might prefer the English version:

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I'm Gonna Be A Google Power-Searcher!

Summertime – the best time to go back to school! I just enrolled in Google Search Education’s upcoming free Power Searching with Google Course. So, what is it about? Here’s the description:

 

Google Search makes it amazingly easy to find information. Come learn about the powerful advanced tools we provide to help you find just the right information when the stakes are high.

 

The stakes are ALWAYS high, whether I am looking for a very recent agency alert or the best Chinese food in Northern Maine. So, naturally, I enrolled.  Here’s the Schedule:

 

Schedule

  • Pre-class assessment
  • Class 1 – Introduction [ available July 10 ]
  • Class 2 – Interpreting results [ available July 11 ]
  • Class 3 – Advanced techniques [ available July 12 ]
  • Mid-class assessment
  • Class 4 – Find facts faster [ available July 17 ]
  • Class 5 – Checking your facts [ available July 18 ]
  • Class 6 – Putting it all together [ available July 19 ]
  • Post-class assessment

 

The class starts July 10th. If you care to join me, sign up with your Google account at the registration page here. It is six 50 minute classes – take them over a two week window. There will be traditional exercises, interactive searching, Google+ Hangouts, and Google Groups in which you can talk to other students from around the world and Google Search team members. How freaking cool is that? Bring your own search and they can give you hints and tips.

 

Signups are open until July 16th. Course starts on the 10th, so run, don’t walk. And, you’ll get a nifty Certificate when you are done. Professional “High Stakes” Searcher or something like that. I’m all in on this one.

Shop For a New Lawyer By Video Chat, via LawZam

 

Back when online video chat was just starting to break, with apps like Seesmic and 6Rounds, and later with Google+ Hangouts and even mobile Facetime on iOS (and now on OSX), I recall discussion in the legal community about the utility of such applications for legal professionals, and questioning whether video chat could be useful at all. As someone who is always looking for a way to find the fit for new tech, I firmly believed that such applications could serve a useful professional purpose.

Enter, LawZam. I heard about it over at Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog and, frankly, I am intrigued. Bob quotes founder Claudio Dunkelman who describes his site as “speed dating for the legal world.” As long as we are not talking about “Chatroulette for the Legal Profession”, this is an eyebrow-raising, but not altogether inappropriate mash-up of concepts, LawZam offers a platform for video consultations and two-way chat between lawyer and potential client. If a match is not made, then the client can initiate chats with other attorneys until he or she achieves the right fit. All this with no cost to attorneys or clients – revenues will come from advertising and an as yet undisclosed premium service.

 

The site allows the consumer to “ask a lawyer”, “post a job” or submit a query to “review my case” and promises that the consumer will receive a response from an attorney within minutes. You can also search for lawyers by area of law, location or name. Right now, the front page shows available lawyers from California and Florida, with a bit of detail about the lawyer and/or firm. I dug a bit deeper and found some lawyers from Texas and New York as well.

 

From LawZam’s about page:

LawZam is committed to increasing access to legal assistance by providing a platform for the public to receive free legal consultations by videoconference. Finding a lawyer can be a frustrating process for many people. LawZam seeks to address that problem by enabling people to find lawyers quickly, and conduct face-to-face video consultations with lawyers online.

Attorneys registered with our service do not charge fees for initial consultations, and users of our website have no obligation to hire the lawyers they meet. LawZam does not get involved or receive any fees from agreements between lawyers and clients. Simply put, LawZam is a venue for communication–not a law firm.

We hope to facilitate the communication of helpful information to people seeking legal assistance, so people can make informed decisions and protect their legal rights. If you have any questions or suggestions to improve our service, please feel free to contact us at support@lawzam.com.

 

There is also an extensive terms of use and privacy policy, along with repeated assurances that this is not a referral service and that no attorney client relationship is created via the video chatting interface. For those interested – attorneys and consumers – there is a registration link on the front page.

 

I have not actually tried the service out, so I cannot speak to the fit and feel of the experience, but I do very much like the idea. In keeping with our brave new economic world, in which consumers take it upon themselves to go online and “do the research” and are savvy enough not to commit without some understanding of the potential value, services like LawZam may be very beneficial to attorneys. Video chat offers a means for lawyers to get out in front of that process with an actual personal, moving presence — far more compelling than a static website, or even a tweet stream or Facebook page.  For those attorneys that speak better than they write – and I know you are out there – then LawZam might be the modern advertising answer for you.

PlagTracker – A Free Plagiarism Checker

 

Not that any of the attorneys I know would EVER do this, but just to be sure that your document or paper is free of any surreptitiously lifted content, you can always turn to PlagTracker. It’s an online tool that will scan your document, compare the language to its own database of papers as well as website content (like Wikipedia for example), and will return a redlined version pointing out the problems.

 

Simply enter the content of your paper in the text box. The report back includes information about the portions of the content that need citations and a list of the sources to be cited.

 

I read through their privacy policy and can’t really vouch for security based on what I read, so consider that when entering content. But, for a run of the mill research paper, concerns should not be too overwhelming. The site also references a “premium subscription”, but I couldn’t find an adequate explanation of what that entails. Better security, perhaps?

 

All in all, as long as you keep these concerns in mind, it never hurts to have a free option for checking your content for originality and attribution.

Compare Two PDFs for Differences

 

Probably familiar with the Compare feature in your Word program, but have you ever tried to compare for differences between two PDFs? Not the easiest task, usually. But, as usually is the case, someone has ridden to the rescue with a very cool application called DiffPDF. Open source and available for both Windows and OSX. Once you load up your two docs, you can specify whether you want the application to scan for appearance, characters or words. Differences will then be highlighted in the dual doc window. Compare particular pages or page ranges, or the entire document.

 

 

Local and not web-based, so upload security is not an issue. Very handy to have when you need it. Thanks, Lifehacker and QTrac!

 

Lucky Android Now Has Fastcase App

 

I have been a fan of Fastcase on iOS for more than two years and now I have some great news for Android toting lawyers – Fastcase is now available on your Android-powered device! It has a similar interface and feature set as the iOS app; most notably FREE access to case law and available statutes as well as synchronization of research between mobile and desktop. Results come back to you with case name and the most relevant paragraph, with results listed by relevancy ranking. Search terms are highlighted. Using Mobile Sync and desktop access, you can go back on your desktop to stuff you’ve found and saved on your mobile so that you can more easily read and print your results.

 

Bottom line, though, is that these features come to you for free on your mobile. I can think of no other legal mobile app that offers such a great research alternative for so little money. Go, Fastcase!

An RSS Feed for Legal Apps

 

Back in the day, specialized applications for law were few. Not so much anymore. If you want to stay on top of the latest and greatest applications to support your legal practice, check out Mobile Apps for Law’s site and RSS feed. The site promises legal research and utility apps for all devices. In addition to the RSS feed, which delivers new inclusions straight to your RSS reader of choice, the site itself is searchable. Using boolean search, keywords and fields, you can find by application subject and/or device, and limit to recently updated apps. You will need to subscribe to the to see full search results, though.

Or, you can use the new RSS feed. The free feed provides information on the latest mobile apps releases for legal research and utilities. The feed gives information on each app that is newly added to the database, which apparently includes over 900 mobile apps. Click the app title and view the full information on the app maintained in the database. Not a bad way to stay up to date on the latest legal-mobile tech.

When You Need A Fast Business Plan, Fast

Do you need a business plan for your new venture? Writing a business plan is a specialized form of communication resulting in a document encompassing certain expectations, much like a résumé. To do it well, you could invest money into how-to books, not to mention the hours spent adding, subtracting and tweaking your text as you polish the piece to a sheen.

Of course, there are apps for that too. One such app is Enloop, a free for starters, and paid for more, online tool for creating a credible business plan.  The app creates a plan from scratch, and supplies to more difficult information sought out by bankers, investors and financial types. Enloop states that the system is developed by MBAs, accountants, and software developers. Not only do you get the text for each section, you get an explanation in basic English explaining each section. You can modify parts and Enloop will update the whole. Makes refining the plan a lot easier. Enloop also generates customized financial forecasts, including Sales, Profit & Loss, Cash Flow and Balance Sheet forecasts. You can adjust the complexity of the plan and forecasts up to 36-month inputs.

Enloop will even score your plan using its own Enloop Performance Score or EPS. The better the plan, the higher the score. You can invite colleagues to view and edit your plan, and download, share and print on the fly. In addition to the EPS, Enloop also gives a report card that evaluates forecasted performance based on overall score, three important financial metrics, and a cash-flow positive status. Enloop can also generate ratios.

That’s a lot for free. With paid, you get more ratios, better customer support, a PDF of your plan without the Enloop logo, more business plans, and more detailed financials. Still, though, for a quick free option, it’s hard to beat their basic functionality.

For something different, you can also try out Plan Cruncher, another free business plan service. This one looks to condense your business plan into a single page summary using symbols for shorthand. Plan Cruncher’s icons remind which questions your business plan must answer.

  1. Are you ambitious? Can you build a business?
  2. Do you have the skills to build the product or service?
  3. Can you already demo the product?
  4. Have you worked out how to monetize the product?
  5. How much investment capital do you need?
  6. Do you have a revenue forecast?
  7. How long will it take to reach profitability?

The quality of the executive summary affects how quickly and well Plan Cruncher can summarize your plan. The resulting plan summary will look like this:

The idea here is to get a summary into the hands of a potential investor that can give them the good information right away. Because time is money, you know.

Another great quick tool can be found at the $100 Startup – a one page business plan PDF with essentially 10 questions, the answers to which form the basis of the plan.

Whatever your need, these tools should get you well on your way to forming up your next amazing venture.

More Appealing Conference Calls With Uberconference

 

If you are the inventor of Google Voice, what exactly do you do for an encore? Well, fix the marginally tolerable conference call process, of course. Craig Walker of GrandCentral which morphed into Google Voice and now of Firespotter Labs has a very nice solution to some of the irksome issues surrounding the traditional multi-party teleconference. Uberconference allows fast and easy entrance to conference calls, with nice management tools to substantially smooth the process.

 
Gone are the PINs and the question marks as to who is on or off the call at any given moment. Gone is the annoying noise in the background. When you are invited to an Uberconference, you get an email with a call in number and a text message. When you call that number from your identified phone number, you are automatically authenticated.  Or you can choose to have the conference call you once it starts. Furthermore, you can see a visual dashboard on your computer sceren which identifies the speaker and even serves personal background information culled from public social media profiles. The app also allows the organizer to identify the noisy participant and mute the line.

 

It’s also free, but you may have to wait after submitting your email and requesting an invitation. U.S. only right now, and iPhone and iPad apps are on the way (presumably Android too since Firespotter Labs is a Google Incubator project). There also will be a premium service and it appears the added features may be dial-ins from local numbers, the ability to make outbound calls, capacity for larger conference groups, the ability to pay for a number, larger conference sizes and maybe transcription.

 

Did I mention it’s free? Have you looked at what ATT or Verizon charge for their crappy service? Are you interested? I thought so.

 

HatchedIt – For The Domestic CEO

You manage your law firm with high tech tools, why not your family? If you already subscribe to the thought that high tech means high efficiency, then you might be interested in this calendar-based white board / web tool for family management called HatchedIt. What caught my eye was this blurb at the top of the About Us page:

 

According to Salary.com the job of family CEO should pay $134,121.00 per year.   It is an executive-level position that entails managing multiple schedules within tight budgetary constraints, while staying focused on the emotional and physical needs of others.

 

I’ll buy that. Anyway, it’s primarily a calendar app, but it is also more than that. Along with the calendar, you get an address book, a tool for sharing family news, a notebook tool and even a household blog. The idea is that HatchedIt can serve as your personal Sharepoint +  a place to keep important information vital to the whole family, as well as a hub for the social sharing we are all familiar with in our more mainstream web dealings. While your immediate family- connected group may be small, HatchedIt allows you to connect with a larger group of HatchedIt users via permissions. Use email from the app to communicate with non-HatchedIt individuals. You can set up personal news and blog feeds, and easily share interesting content within the app to your family. Guess I won’t need to email my son with cool YouTube videos anymore. No more complaining that you didn’t know about that dinner date on the calendar – HatchedIt lets you share the information in one space with personal log-ins and passwords for members. View all or individual calendars. Group chat with other members, share select information with members, sitters, grandparents, or parents of your kid’s best friends. Send event invitations. Use it for organizing private family events to organizing class parents at schools, hobby groups, and volunteer efforts. Privacy controls let you share as much or as little as you want.  That is a lot of organization, all for free.

 

You can access this web app from any computer, as well as via free mobile apps for iOS and Android. It goes where you go.

 

These days, I primarily turn to Google’s suite of applications to handle my co-calendaring and personal home management. But there is something to be said for an application that is dedicated to the family. Well thought out and executed, Kirstin Bischoff and Megan Brown.