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.

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Hashtags: The Backbone Of The Modern Conference (For Better Or Worse)

A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.
Image via Wikipedia

Have you wondered where all the action lurks at legal conferences (or any conferences) these days? Check out this thorough description of the “hashtag” experience at the recent American Association of Law Library conference, July 24 – 29, 2009. If you are unclear on the hashtag concept, it is another long-standing Twitter convention hearkening back to the days when search was nearly non-existent. Marking a universally-accepted term with a hashtag at the front permitted the tweets containing the mark to be collected. See this earlier Studio post for more detail.

Roger Skalbeck and Meg Kribble provide an extraordinarily detailed account of how Twitter and hashtags were used to broad effect at the recent conference in their LLRX article here. The authors created tweet clouds from the tags to visualize the importance (or recurrence) of various topics. They discussed the fall out of anonymous attendees posting to a special account created just for the conference. Hashtag humor and conversation hijacking and blatant business promotion arose in the tagged tweets and accounts.

I am not sure the authors of the article are aware of all of the lessons that the AALL hashtag experience may offer for future legal conferences, from both the organizers’ and the attendees’ points of view. Can too much communication be a positive or negative? Hit the jump and read the account to reach your own conclusions.

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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Internet, In Statistical Form

Flipping the Charts 1
Image by photobunny via Flickr

Shirl Kennedy and ResourceShelf have compiled a GREAT list of resources for statistics on all things Internet, including participation in social networks and trends. While I encourage you to hit the jump to their site, I have copied their list and comments below for Studio reader convenience. There is sure to be some information of value to your on-line networking and ecommerce interests buried in these resources. Happy Hunting!

  • ClickZ Stats (”News and expert advice for the digital marketer”)

“Trends & statistics: the Web’s richest source”

Stats on social networks are important, but I’m going to need your help in creating a community archive, can you submit stats as you find them? I’m often asked, “What are the usage numbers for X social network” and I’ve received considerable traffic on my very old post (way back in Jan 08) of MySpace and Facebook stats, even months later. Decision makers, press, media, and users are hungry for numbers, so I’ll start to aggregate them as I see them.

comScore is a global leader in measuring the digital world and the preferred source of digital marketing intelligence.

The company also publishes a blog that is statistics-rich.

Welcome to Domain Tools’s daily domain statistics page. Our stats show how many domains are currently registered and how many domains used to be registered but are now deleted.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Internet site devoted exclusively to ‘Measuring the Electronic Economy.’ This site features recent and upcoming releases, information on methodology, and background papers.

The internet has permeated everything from buying to banking to bonking. So how big is it?

As a United Nations agency, the ITU has an obligation to identify, define, and produce statistics covering its sector – the telecommunication/ICT sector.

Browse a list of our latest reports, look through out infographic highlights, and check out our freqently updated trend data.

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The Law of Facebook

Facebook, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Or, more aptly titled, the Law ON Facebook. Sparked by a lively discussion on Twitter regarding Facebook fan pages for service providers like law firms generated by attorney / writter / blogger Nicole Black yesterday and fueled by stories in my RSS reader this morning, I thought I would share with you some of the breadth and depth of legal infiltration of this virtual cocktail party, ne college fraternity party, social site, as well as a few parting thoughts on the topic.

First, Bob Ambrogi at LawSites has compiled a list of State Bar Associations on Facebook here. Mr. Ambrogi is careful to qualify that the list includes State Bar Associations only, and does not reference either national or local associations, of which there certainly must be a few lurking. Hit the jump for his list of more than fifty such associations clamoring for friends and virtual fans.

Next, Aviva Cuyler at JD Scoop is compiling a list of lawyers and law firms on Facebook (as a follow-up to JD Scoop’s wildly popular Lawyers to Follow on Twitter list). I am very happy to report that Advantage Advocates is included, number ten on the quite-lengthy list. It is pretty impressive to see the range of practice and scope represented by this list, which most likely is not exhaustive (yet).

I am sensitive to the debate raised in the Twitter discussion, which addresses whether starting a business page and imploring your “friends” to become “fans” is overstepping the implied social mores of the FB platform. However, I fail to see a meaningful difference between promoting your work on FB and promoting your work on any other social network, even those targeted at professionals, or even promoting your work in the real world. Perhaps it comes down to how the individual views his or her personal and professional lives and how he or she approaches the various social sites. Promotion always runs the risk of offending someone. The recipient can always filter, block, engage, disengage, follow, unfollow, friend, unfriend or click any manner of button to tailor, limit or expand their engagement in response. I would imagine, though, that for every “friend” put off by a post from a law firm, there is another that might be interested in learning something new about the work of a friend, colleague or peer in another part of the country or even the world or willing to support the work of another. And it doesn’t hurt to remind our friends what we do professionally, in case the odd legal question should pop up in their lives.

And for us “older” folk, perhaps it comes down to squaring the established “in-real-life” definitions of the words “friends”, “fans” and “followers” with the unique meanings that these terms hold in our brave new on-line world. While it seems strange to be “friends” with someone you have never met, be a “fan” of a business as staid and stuffy as a law firm or to “follow” a taco truck in southern California, our new social hangouts have pushed the limits of the words to include such strange relationships.

Besides, I think it is really cool to have “fans.” I have my Sharpie handy in case anyone needs an autograph.

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BlackBerry Owners Are Social Too!

Image representing Research In Motion as depic...
Image via CrunchBase

Today marks the opening of MyBlackBerry, a new community site for BlackBerry owners offering a portal to online communication and collaboration among the pinstriped set. While it is not the first such site devoted to BlackBerry devotees, it is the first official site sanctioned by the BlackBerry bush, RIM. The “social” features of the site include individual profiles, community forums and application ratings and reviews.

Nice to see BlackBerry officially  getting hip to the online tip. If you need help deciding between that Blackberry Storm and Blackberry Bold, seems MyBlackBerry is the place to go.

Hat tip to ReadWriteWeb.

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More "Twitter" for Business: Obayoo

Another entrant in the professional micro-blogging field is offering its service for free: Obayoo is free over SaaS and available through the company e-mail address.

Twitter, in theory, sounds great for professional application but in practice generates too much noise to be an effective internal communications tool.  Tools like Obayoo limit the traffic and, accordingly, the noise, while still affording users the ability to provide real-time updates and engage in quick and timely comunication in micro-blog format. Obayoo also offers security that Twitter cannot ensure. Nonetheless, like Yammer, one of Obayoo’s competitors, contractors and clients can be invited into the mix and “share” what is happening at any given moment, so the system is not completely “closed.”

Obayoo provides some additional goods, such as user profiles and organization charts,file and media sharing and metrics. At its price-point (free), Obayoo offers excellent ease and added features, making it well worth the try in your firm or organization.

Hat tip to Read Write Web.

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More “Twitter” for Business: Obayoo

Another entrant in the professional micro-blogging field is offering its service for free: Obayoo is free over SaaS and available through the company e-mail address.

Twitter, in theory, sounds great for professional application but in practice generates too much noise to be an effective internal communications tool.  Tools like Obayoo limit the traffic and, accordingly, the noise, while still affording users the ability to provide real-time updates and engage in quick and timely comunication in micro-blog format. Obayoo also offers security that Twitter cannot ensure. Nonetheless, like Yammer, one of Obayoo’s competitors, contractors and clients can be invited into the mix and “share” what is happening at any given moment, so the system is not completely “closed.”

Obayoo provides some additional goods, such as user profiles and organization charts,file and media sharing and metrics. At its price-point (free), Obayoo offers excellent ease and added features, making it well worth the try in your firm or organization.

Hat tip to Read Write Web.

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Good News for Internet Rainmakers: Fortune 500 Social Media Adoption Like The Tortoise: Slow, Steady & Further Than Expected

Often viewed as somewhat ponderous and not very agile, the Fortune 500 and the proverbial tortoise have much in common. However, it pays to keep an eye on that tortoise. Nora Ganim Barnes, PhD and Eric Mattson of Financial Insite have published a study indicating that,while progress has been somewhat slow, the Fortune 500’s social media journey is further along than expected. The study measured progress primarily by the number of companies maintaining “public-facing” blogs.

The data for the study was collected in February and March, 2008, so it is already a year old and pre-dates the mainstream Twitter boom.

According to the report, 16% of the primary corporations listed had a public-facing blog with a post within the last 12 months, including three of the top five.

Although the percentage was somewhat surprising to me, the breakdown by industry was not. Blogging corporations are more readily found in tech and related industries. However I was heartened to see social media adoption among some decidedly non-tech industries, such as insurance and banks, with Progressive Insurance and New York Life among them.

And these blogs are interactive! Over 90% take comments and have RSS and subscription. Over 80% linked to a corporate Twitter account. Others had unconnected Twitter accounts. A sizeable percentage are using podcasting and video to enhance their content.

While the results pale in comparison to soc med activities at schools and the Inc. 500, it is heartening to see the big corporations make the leap into Twenty-first century marketing. This is good news for lawyers seeking to connect with clients on-line. There clearly is someone listening on the other end of the line!

As with any good fable, there is a moral. Slow and steady certainly fits here, but for rainmakers, the better moral might be “if you build it (your on-line presence) they (your corporate clients) will come.”

Read the report here

Hat tip to the Resource Shelf.

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The “Social” Gets More Social

Oh me oh my. So much to write about today and not enough time or space. So, for now, I am going to limit my rantings to updating my earlier blog about LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook and the social networking phenomenon.

Google has just announced plans to implement a service called “Friend Connect” to permit people to employ applications from their usual social networking haunts, like Facebook or Plaxo, while visiting other sites and, ultimately, across the Web. This announcement is hot on the heels of similar announcements by Facebook and MySpace pledging to permit members to utilize their personal profiles and applications on other websites. Google’s Director of Engineering David Glazer indicates that “[a]t the heart of Google’s service is the use of Open Social which will allow third parties to build and develop applications for the site.” Thus, by using Friend Connect, any website owner should be able to add code to his or her site to get a social interface feature without complicated programming. The former “walled garden” approach of the social networking sites, which encouraged interaction only between members of the individual sites, is crumbling and making way for a new social order permitting “socializing” across websites and the entire Internet. As David Glazer adds: “[s]ocial networking is going mainstream. It used to be proprietary, but now it’s going to be open and baked into the infrastructure of the net, not just one site or one source,…”

Damn straight its getting mainstream. Just check out who is maintaining a presence on the big three. Even hackers, the “ethical” ones anyway, have their very own social network, called, what else, House of Hackers.  For an up and coming social networking site that combines wiki’s with passionate discourse under “niche” communities, check out Wetpaint. And here is a top ten list of social networking sites for women. Ladies only, please!

But all is not an electronic bed of roses for the users of social networking sites. For a cautionary message with a legal bent aimed at social networking site users, check out this video at Findlaw.com. In the same vein as those oft-repeated warnings to business users to avoid including anything on these sites that one may not want a prospective employer or client to view, the applicable laws mandate that site users employ the same precautions against defamatory and/or infringing material generally applicable to traditional media in connection with on-line postings. These common sense limitations aside, however, the clear direction of the Internet and the Web 2.0 revolution is the organizing, simplifying and socializing of the vast information repository that has grown in the cyberspace soil. Wallflowers, beware. The future is NOW!

for more visit http://advantageadvocates.com

The "Social" Gets More Social

Oh me oh my. So much to write about today and not enough time or space. So, for now, I am going to limit my rantings to updating my earlier blog about LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook and the social networking phenomenon.

Google has just announced plans to implement a service called “Friend Connect” to permit people to employ applications from their usual social networking haunts, like Facebook or Plaxo, while visiting other sites and, ultimately, across the Web. This announcement is hot on the heels of similar announcements by Facebook and MySpace pledging to permit members to utilize their personal profiles and applications on other websites. Google’s Director of Engineering David Glazer indicates that “[a]t the heart of Google’s service is the use of Open Social which will allow third parties to build and develop applications for the site.” Thus, by using Friend Connect, any website owner should be able to add code to his or her site to get a social interface feature without complicated programming. The former “walled garden” approach of the social networking sites, which encouraged interaction only between members of the individual sites, is crumbling and making way for a new social order permitting “socializing” across websites and the entire Internet. As David Glazer adds: “[s]ocial networking is going mainstream. It used to be proprietary, but now it’s going to be open and baked into the infrastructure of the net, not just one site or one source,…”

Damn straight its getting mainstream. Just check out who is maintaining a presence on the big three. Even hackers, the “ethical” ones anyway, have their very own social network, called, what else, House of Hackers.  For an up and coming social networking site that combines wiki’s with passionate discourse under “niche” communities, check out Wetpaint. And here is a top ten list of social networking sites for women. Ladies only, please!

But all is not an electronic bed of roses for the users of social networking sites. For a cautionary message with a legal bent aimed at social networking site users, check out this video at Findlaw.com. In the same vein as those oft-repeated warnings to business users to avoid including anything on these sites that one may not want a prospective employer or client to view, the applicable laws mandate that site users employ the same precautions against defamatory and/or infringing material generally applicable to traditional media in connection with on-line postings. These common sense limitations aside, however, the clear direction of the Internet and the Web 2.0 revolution is the organizing, simplifying and socializing of the vast information repository that has grown in the cyberspace soil. Wallflowers, beware. The future is NOW!

for more visit http://advantageadvocates.com