Using Common Sense On-Line

It has become apparent to me that this week is going to be dubbed the “Mind Your P’s & Q’s” week (punctuation and quotations, perhaps?) on the Studio. My last post was about challenging new methods of securing client referrals on-line and taking care to mind the reach of our archaic ethical rules. This post discusses a more personal subject: knowing when to employ the TMI filter or risk running afoul of the ethical rules.

It seems strange to me that professionals of any sort, and lawyers in particular, would not grasp what is appropriate and what is inappropriate to put down, in writing, in public, regarding themselves, their clients, or any other sensitive matters, for that matter. Are lawyers driven to communicate against their better judgment because of the medium? Or is it just another manifestation for the generally-accepted proposition that lawyers love to hear themselves talk and an erroneous belief that what they might consider to be private and protected might not actually be so?

Please let me clarify: there is nothing at all wrong with loving to hear oneself talk, particularly if the talk is valuable and if it contributes to the greater community of peers and potential clients. In fact, that is the beauty of on-line interconnectedness: we can reach and share rich content with a community of much larger scope than generally available via real world interactions, unless you are one of those guys wearing a sign near Times Square.  

However, if you are a professional seeking to enhance your practice through on-line endeavors, you should keep in mind the real world prohibitions against and implications of sharing information against your interest or the interests of your client. And then multiply those prohibitions times, oh, about, 3 – 5 decimal places.

The inspiration for this post comes from an ABA Journal blurb about blogging lawyers called to task for legal and ethical problems. I actually found myself alternating between scratching my head and chuckling about the problems lawyers have faced. There are lawsuits against lawyers who thought they were anonymously charging other lawyers with engaging in conspiracy, and firings and ethical probes of criminal lawyers who included “thinly veiled” references to clients and sharp criticisms of judges in blog posts. Lawyers who write contemporaneous blog posts about their experiences on a jury and lawyers who seek continuances for socially acceptable reasons, when their Facebook page shows otherwise (and the presiding judge is a FB friend!!!). 

Even judges can find themselves in hot water – remember Chief Judge Alex Kozinsky from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals who found himself explaining some off-color humor residing on a family  web server intended to be private (but apparently, not so much)?

The New York Times article cited in the ABA Journal article highlights these examples and provides interesting food for thought. Lawyers are under the same strict guidelines regarding professional conduct and client confidences on-line as they are in real life. These ethical rules collide with the “free-wheeling” environment of the Internet. Legal ethics scholars suggest that conflicts between ethical rules and on-line behavior will only increase as more youngsters reared in the age of Facebook complete law school and enter the profession.

I am not so naiive to think that similar breaches of confidence and perfidious-ness (is it a word? ;)) don’t happen in the real world. They most certainly do. However, there are two extra-hazardous facts that come into play on-line: the utterer’s mistaken sense that only his or her intended listeners are noticing and hearing the message; and, easy searchability. While nothing in this life is truly permanent, written words indexed and searchable on-line certainly echo much longer than their verbal counterparts.

Social networking should be social. There is no question in my mind that a stronger connection is achieved on-line if you show a little personality, a little of your personal background , along with that sense of the lean, mean, legal machine,  that you are, of course.  But lawyers, please use common sense: personality and defamatory criticisms are not coextensive. And remember, if you tell your Facebook friend, the judge, that you need more time to prepare for trial because of a funeral in the family, don’t be updating your Facebook page with drunken party pictures on days of the wake and funeral.

This might be an example where ethical rules should not be changed to accomodate our Brave New World.

Update: I jumped back in over here to add another link to a law.com article about how tweeting can land you in hot water. It’s public, people. Very, very public.

Feeding Your Quest for Shared Knowledge with Feedly

Image representing feedly as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Part two of an impromptu two-part series on my latest content browsing and sharing tools focuses on Feedly. Feedly is a Firefox add-on developed in 2008 and seemingly in a constant state of growth and innovation. Feedly aggregates your RSS and shared content and follows you around the web so that you can easily gauge the discussion from pretty much anywhere you go. Describing itself: “Feedly is a Firefox extension which weaves twitter and Google Reader into a magazine like experience.” The “win” part for content gathering is that Feedly will “read” your interests and attempt to float the cream to the top of the list for you.

Up front is a slick magazine-like interface that is easy to navigate, expand, share from and comment upon with real-time aspects. Feedly highlights material deemed most relevant based on your interests, reading patterns and recommendations from friends. It pulls articles from Google Reader, with the ability to add feeds directly into your Feedly. It pulls your friends and other information from other social sites, such as Twitter, Yahoo, Gmail and Friendfeed.

Feedly attempts to suggest and refine your information based on the data it can pull and the preferences you can enter. Along the left side of the home page are buttons to change the view – cover, digest and latest. Each show similar information in different aspects and focus. Cover offers the greatest breadth, with the top few stories from your various feed categories in a series of columns at the top, the number of new articles from your featured sources list, a video gallery based on your interests, your Twitter stream and mentions, your “karma” (more on that later), and a suggested Twitter search item. Flickr photos grace the bottom.

Digest offers a long list of articles with a blurb in a single column, with your featured sources and less Twitter information along the right side, as well as the video and Flickr gallery. Latest looks a whole lot like Google Reader showing the titles only of posts in reverse chronological order, but with a cleaner interface and pretty much nothing else.

Here is a screen shot showing the top portion of my Cover view:

feedly cover

Setting changes are made from your dashboard, via the access button at the top of the home page. Feedly strongly suggests grouping and organizing your feeds in categories to maximize the experience. Changes made in Feedly will be applied to Google Reader and vice versa. My Google Reader categories were sucked into Feedly automatically.

Use the “favorite” button – a star next to a feed title – to mark your best sources so that these items can be highlighted on your page. You can even assign views for each feed, depending on how you prefer to see the information from a particular source: titles only; title and summary; picture grid; video grid; and, entire content inlined. Much of the housekeeping in Feedly can be easily accomplished with drag-and-drop, so it is easy to set up and subsequently change your viewing experience, albeit a somewhat time-consuming process.

The articles are equipped with buttons to like and share. This adds value to your own experience by tailoring subsequent information coming to you and adds value to your social network by offering articles of interest to them. When you expand an article by clicking on its title, you will see more of the article, as well as buttons for keeping the article unread, highlighting semantic metadata, previewing and copying the link. The semantic metadata button will highlight semantic concepts in the article, providing background information in a pop-up on the concept and offer  a link out to more fully explore that particular concept in Feedly from your sources, news, Twitter + Friendfeed and across the web. You will also see how many recommendations the article has and a list of buttons to share on Twitter, Delicious, Friendfeed, Gmail, Facebook and in both Feedly and Google Reader with a note. At the bottom of the expanded article, you will see the how many times it was clicked on in the Tweet stream, Friendfeed conversations, and the likes and comments the article has garnered in Google Reader and Feedly.

You can keep track of what your friends are sharing and what they are saying about the articles you share in your Feedly. Karma is a section of the cover that shows you how people react to the material that you share. It shows what you have liked and shared. It also shows the number of clicks on the item and where else it has been shared.

You can find all of your shared and saved items easily from a button on the left of the main screen. You also can pull your recent history. All of these are great features to help you track where you have been and what you are doing and where you might like to return in the future.

Another VERY cool feature of Feedly is Ubiquity integration. I have written about Ubiquity on the Studio before, praising it for streamlining and integrating web services with quick keyboard clicks. Just install the latest version of Feedly and the latest version of Ubiquity to start using and generating your own commands. Feedly also integrates Google search, via a bar at the top of the your home screen.

Feedly can shadow your wanderings as well. As you work your way around the web, a little Feedly mini bar shows up at the bottom of the screen showing how many times the site has been shared on other sites, like Friendfeed and allowing you to share or save the article in Feedly or Google Reader, share on Twitter, email using Gmail and navigate to another article that Feedly will suggest based on your interests and prior likes and shares. Here is a great image diagramming the mini tool-bar from Sarah Perez’s article on the subject at ReadWriteWeb:

Feedly Mini (ReadWriteWeb)(edited)The Feedly mini toolbar knows if an article has been a popular subject on Friendfeed. If so, a pop-up will show up with a bit of the conversation, allowing you to jump over to the conversation on Friendfeed and join in. All of these features can be selected / deselected.

Your personalized Feedly can be accessed from multiple machines, provided they also are running Firefox.

Feedly is all about tailoring your news sources and making them easier to scan, read and share. To say it is an all-encompassing experience might be an understatement. I find that Feedly has completely supplanted my Google Reader-ing with its easier-to-review look and NASCAR pit crew-sized box of tools. And Feedly seems ravenous about evolving and becoming more, better, faster, stronger, able to leap tall buildings in single bounds, etc.  If you don’t have Feedly or Firefox, you definitely owe it to yourself to make the switch!

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More Legal Goodness from JD Supra – Law Centers

Image representing JD Supra as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Not content to merely offer a repository of free on-line legal documents benefiting both legal practitioners offering quality content and searchers seeking that content, JD Supra has just announced its new Law Centers. Law Centers are pages on the JD Supra site that organize and aggregate the uploaded documents by subject matter: business law; personal law; government law; and, law practice. Within these broad categories are narrower topics such as real estate and construction, immigration, bankruptcy and many other common legal subjects. The Centers will feature top news, recent articles and top contributors to the particular subject area. Searchers will find both the relevant documents and articles and blurbs highlighting the practitioners offering the documents and articles. Coming soon, you will be able to subscribe to a Law Center feed by RSS to keep track of what practitioners in a particular subject are are contributing.

Once again, JD Supra gives up the goods to lawyers and Web-izens interested in all things legal!

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