Articles: eDiscovery and Social Media, 10 Tips for Getting Started with Open Source

June 17, 2011

Back in April, I had a couple articles published in two different publications.

Social Media and E-Discovery

Truth be told, I had forgotten about this article. I was reminded of it when I got a phone call from a lawyer in Texas. He had read the article and was looking for help in understanding social media for one of his cases.

Published in the April issue of the Texas Bar Journal, its main point is that lawyers need to understand how social media networks operate as social media will increasingly play a role in eDiscovery. Lawyers don’t need to spend hours tweeting or posting to Facebook, but they do need to understand how to setup an account, how posting to Twitter is different from posting to Facebook, LinkedIN, FourSquare or other networks and how the privacy settings vary from network to network. Knowing what is considered private v. public, and how a user has setup his or her account, is increasingly important. The courts have taken notice, so it is important for lawyers to do the same.

Social media isn’t a fad, and it’s time to start looking at it from a more case-specific perspective than the common marketing perspective.

10 Tips for Getting Starting with Open Source Software

Just in time for #abatechshow, in the March/April issue of Law Practice Magazine, I co-authored this article with Dennis Kennedy. Dennis and I have co-authored open source articles before, and this time, we thought it’d be helpful to provide a guide, or stepping stones, to open source. Take-aways, if you will, to coincide with Dennis and Rodney Dowell’s open source presentation at ABA TECHSHOW (PDF).

There are numerous options for open source software, it can sometimes be hard to figure out where to start. So we offered these tips:

  1. Get Familiar with the Philosophy and the Licenses
  2. Know Thyself
  3. Be Savvy about Support
  4. Make Reasonable Comparisons to Commercial Software
  5. Start Small
  6. Go to SourceForge
  7. Utilize Utilities
  8. Do Your Due Diligence
  9. Stay in Charted Territory
  10. Consider Contributing to the Community

It’s really awesome to see open source gain traction in the legal professional as a useful, practical tool instead of a form of intellectual property. And it’s fun to see lawyers realize they don’t need to fully switch to open source but can pick and choose and find the right combination for their offices. Be interesting to see what ABA TECHSHOW has in store for 2012.

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Small Firm Innovation Launched, and What I Learned. So Far.

June 9, 2011

I mentioned it once before in an #abatechshow post, practically in passing as it wasn’t ready for prime time yet. Odd conference to pick, perhaps, but it was a good testing ground. Having other eyeballs look at something you’ve been staring at for a couple months is incredibly helpful.

So, yesterday, Clio officially announced Small Firm Innovation: First-person accounts of small firm success.

It’s built on the WordPress platform (yay open source!), and the designer and programmer did a really nice job translating verbal, well, garbage, into an excellent template. I say “verbal garbage” as I didn’t have a clear visual image of the site, just its direction and focus. Turns out I’m not one to dictate color schemes, I just lob out some ideas and leave the final crafting to the masters. They did an excellent job. I’m quite pleased.

While color scheming may not be my thing, messing around with code is actually quite fun. I’m a total novice at PHP. What I know, of PHP, HTML, CSS and the like, I’ve picked up on the job elsewhere, viewing lots of source code from lots of sites and reading books, web tutorials and the like. Just like with the law, I know enough to be dangerous, but not deadly. And I discovered, over the past few months, that code is incredibly soothing. And it’s down right fun to dig in into a problem, and systematically work through it to find the solution. I was pretty proud of myself for accomplishing so much the weekend before #abatechshow started, and just kept working at it the last couple of months, having set a hard deadline of June 8. I’ll tell ya, that pesky “Older/Newer entries” problem was a real nuisance! For such a common problem, there is no simple fix.

A good looking site is pretty useless, though, without equally good content. And for that, I have to thank our current Contributors:

  • Russ Alexander
  • Robert Ambrogi
  • Andrew Barovick
  • Nicole Black
  • Chad Burton
  • Colin Cameron
  • Carolyn Elefant
  • David Gulbransen
  • Tom Haren
  • Rob Hyndman
  • Mallory Lynn
  • Mark C. Metzger
  • Phillip Millar
  • Edward Poll
  • Donna Seyle

Many of them…OK, practically all of them, I know via Twitter and have met in person at various conferences. Needless to say, they weren’t surprised when I sent a DM asking if they’d like to contribute. And I know I surprised a few when I followed up with an email longer than 140 characters describing Small Firm Innovation. String a few 140 character sentences together, turns out you get a paragraph. 😉

They’re a fantastic group, and there are others whom I’m eager to post what they’ve written as well. It’s developing in the direction I had envisioned, which is pretty exciting. I’m genetically programmed to set exceedingly high expectations for myself, which ultimately results in numerous recalibrations that I’ve often viewed as mini-defeats. Call it maturity, call it wisdom gained through experience: I’ve managed to set appropriate expectations from the start this time. Or such is my view, thinking back over the past few months. Didn’t overdo it like normal, didn’t underdo it as a means to compensate for overdoing.

Suffice to say, it’s been a learning process and, well, fun. Yes, fun! I’m convinced I was a programmer in another life, or will return as one. There’s just something intensely soothing, and gratifying, about tinkering and creating something others find useful. Whatever “it” is, being it messing with code, finding images, talking to current and potential Contributors, Twitter, Facebook…perhaps the whole process, just seems natural to me. And it comes so naturally to me. Who knew?

Well, go have a look around, go poke around and let me know what you think. There’s bound to be something you want to see or know about. Definitely give the LiveFyre commenting tool a try. It’s pretty awesome. And like I said, it’s incredibly useful to have other eyes on things. Like this blog, Small Firm Innovation is a “work in progress.” I’d wager it’ll progress a heck of a lot faster than this blog, though.

And I just realized #jeopardy is on. Squirrel!


Twitter: Underutilized Tool at Conferences?

May 31, 2011

I read Carolyn Elefant’s nice post on Nolo, For Conferences, Nothing Beats Tweets, and remembered that, a couple years ago, I was so incredibly annoyed at how underutilized Twitter was used at conference, I  bought the domain TweetMyConference with the intent of using as a way to demonstrate the usefulness of Twitter at conferences. I just put a couple windows up to start while I worked on it locally, my head filling with more useful functionality than I had programming knowledge to achieve. Today, I’m still shocked no one else has done something similar. Or maybe they have but it isn’t well known.

Part of the problem, I think, is that those charged with organizing conferences, perhaps even attendees, still aren’t sure of the usefulness of Twitter. Twitter still has that “what I’m eating for lunch today” label attached to it. That seems to only be further strengthened by its use of celebrities in promotional videos, demonstrating a total lack of understanding for its users, but alas, I digress.

Carolyn offers some good pointers on using Twitter while at a conference. I’ve employed those myself with a fair amount of success. And while #abatechshow is the most obvious example, there’s a better one: #MILOfest.

MILOfest (pronounces my-lo) is short of Macs In Law Offices and is put on by Victor Medina. As you can guess, it’s a conference devoted to all things Mac in a law office setting. I don’t remember how I heard of it, probably by following Victor on Twitter, but I remember thinking of it as a worthwhile conference to attend. So I did, and, of course, I tweeted from the event. My Twitter reputation proceeded me, which I’ve kind of gotten used to now but, none-the-less, still find surprising.

The thing that struck me, and that I remember now after reading Carolyn’s post, are the inquiries, via Twitter, from other Mac-using attorneys who hadn’t heard of MILOfest, and wanted to know more. I directed them to the website, and responded to their tweets as I best I could since it was my first time at MILOfest. They were excited, and pleased, that there was a conference strictly on Macs in law offices. They weren’t alone!

So just by tweeting from a conference, other people, not at the conference, learned something. And at least one expressed interest in attending MILOfest 2011.

And it’s that sharing of information that is the important, yet underutilized component of Twitter at conferences. I’d wager that’s due to so few tweeters attending (and tweeting from!) conferences. Perhaps conference organizers will reach out to tweeters as they reach out to journalists, or tweeters will reach out to conference organizers, and we’ll all learn something new.


You can tell a lot from Community Manager Job Descriptions

May 25, 2011

Not that long ago, I posted some thoughts on Latham & Watkins hiring a Social Media Specialist, and how the job description started with the position’s compensation and also observed that “job description implies they’ve given some thought to the Social Media Specialist position.” Having read quite a few job descriptions, I’ve come to the conclusion that you can tell a lot about what a company thinks of Community Management by its Community Manager job description.

Ones that are cookie-cutter, use all the write keywords, like “content strategy,” “actively engage,” “build brand visibility” and pretty much any others you’ve read in other marketing or communications-related job descriptions. The differentiating factor between “community manager” and “communications manager” seems to be the use of social media. Heavy use of social media, to be more precise. I’ve come to use The New Community Manager Profile, from Edelman Digital, as the yard stick for evaluating Community Manager positions before forwarding such openings to friends or people I know, still out of work and for whom there might be a good fit.

And you can get a good sense of a company’s take on strategic, social and project management experience for a Community Manager, and whether the company sees it as a long-term endeavor or is merely looking to capitalize on the latest craze. I’ve noticed that most of the Community Manager job descriptions follow the same template, as it were. Do a search on Monster or CareerBuilder, and you’ll find a number of “Community Manager” openings that, except for the company name, sound an awful lot alike.  They all make an assumption, too: you either know the market, or can quickly learn the nuances of the audience. And that is where companies that take community management, and Community Managers, seriously, distinguish themselves.

One example is a Community Manager position with salesforce.com. It reads, in part:

This position stewards any content that’s thought-leadership and social media industry related and oversees the blog, webinars, podcasts, ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, client profiles – anything that helps contribute valuable, educational content to our community and customers around the social media space.

Thought-leadership. Social media industry related. Valuable, education content to its community. Its community of cloud-based users. It sets the expectation parameters of the position, and spells out exactly its audience and audience expectations. And then it says:

This position also has a limited Community Manager role and does plenty of participation in the community to understand what questions and issues folks are talking about around social media, and writes/manages content contributors to ensure Salesforce has stocked and current resource library. This positions answers questions, contributes to the larger dialogue through blog comments, and participates in Salesforce outpost communities (mainly Twitter, blogs, and LinkedIn).

Translation: active engagement. Instead of using the buzzword, salesforce.com actually describes what that means! But wait, there’s more!

This role is dedicated to manning the main monitoring post for the Salesforce brand, and ensuring that those posts get to the right members of the team for engagement and response. This person’s job is to filter the posts as they come in using the Radian6 engagement console and workflow, properly tag, classify, and assign them according to our engagement playbook (which they also maintain and keep up to date to ensure consistent practices among our team). This role also includes analysis of activity in the form of reports on team activities and trends, and some direct engagement for specific types of requests for information that come in. It’s a pivotal role on the Community team, and ensures that we are always timely and present with our responses.

Translation: teamwork (cue The Wonder Pets). Another buzzword described!

Community Management is not necessarily a one person show. There are times when you simply can’t answer a question or handle a situation because you are not equipped to do so, and you are not supposed to be equipped to do so. Such situations can be anything from technical issues to sales inquiries to something random or unexpected that requires putting heads together for a solution. Companies that take community management, and Community Managers, seriously, understand this. Community Managers can be the touch point for the greater community (read: user base), and it’s important that both Community Managers and the rest of the company understand this, and the importance of the role. As the Community Manager becomes educated on the finer points of the company, product(s), etc., more of the load, be it Support, tech, sales, etc., can be shared. That 30-second “click the Export button” question can be answered by the Community Manager, saving the Support team 30-seconds it can then devote to a more complicated question.

So if you’re looking for a Community Manager position or are responsible for writing the job description, keep these things in mind. As a job candidate, asking questions during the interview might be able to help fill in the gaps from the job description. And if you’re responsible for writing the job description, asking questions ahead of time might help make the hiring process a little easier.

From either side, clarity and direction for community management can help find the best match, and ensure the community remains engaged and continues to grow.


6 months of one, 3 years since the other. Looking like that thing called a career?

May 24, 2011

Historic moments. Something I kept coming back to while in Florida for the Endeavor space shuttle launch. Its final voyage before it ends up in a museum, a piece of “remember when” for future generations.

It’s something I keep coming back to lately. Another “remember when” or, perhaps more appropriately, “remember how” I heard the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden: Twitter.

There are some dates that get etched in our memories, ones we share with many, like 9/11/01 and 5/1/11. Others are more family oriented, like birthdays. Holidays we remember because they’re always on the calendar. Christmas. New Year’s. Thanksgiving. Memorial Day. Fourth of July. Yet other dates are unique to the individual, in my case, 4/30/08. And 10/12/10.

4/30/08

Three years ago and some days now. It was the date I got laid off.

I still remember it. Quite clearly. Stressing out of integrating automated return labels, skipping lunch to try and resolve the problem only to get called into my boss’s office. An HR rep was already there, and I politely knocked and waited. Then the sinking feeling when he motioned me inside and to have a seat. I didn’t need an explanation; I had predicted this moment in January when there had been a definite shift in company mood with a new CFO. I never met the man, but what I heard made me think he sat in an office and looked over spreadsheets with names and numbers. Salary numbers. Sales figures. I wasn’t in sales; I was in corporate communications. I wasn’t responsible for taking, fulfilling or picking up orders.

I wasn’t responsible for ensuring computer systems worked properly or writing code. I was responsible for documenting policies and procedures for those tasks so they would completed the same way throughout the company. I was responsible for creating order. Though it can be quantified, it is not as easy to do as looking at sales figures. In the big scheme of things, at the time, I had no discernible impact on the bottom line and was thus expendable.

I remember the shock, of me and of other employees who found out. None of them thought I’d go, especially not in the first round. I thought I’d go, since my job was not as easy to quantify, but I didn’t think it’d be in the first round. And since I did, that meant the rest of them were just as vulnerable. A few really didn’t know what to make of it and were visibly unnerved.

My boss was as gracious as he could be, and though he didn’t need to say “it’s not you nor a reflection on your performance,” he did anyway. The reason was “corporate restructuring,” and I fully knew that. I’d heard enough grumbling to know there was much restructuring going on, and a whole lot more to come. All those books on business I’d read proved to be quite helpful.

The interceding months…OK…year, or two, is kind of a blur. Getting laid off is hard, whether you expect it or not. It’s incredibly demoralizing, and it takes some time to process. More time than you might think. I’m rather glad I had grad school to keep me company, and that I had gotten laid off so early, well ahead of the tidal wave. I finished my masters, landed what turned out to be a really good contract job and started thinking this whole “consulting”-entrepreneur thing. I seemed to have stumbled onto something with law, and open source. The accidental mixture of social media also seemed key as I landed my first couple of clients through Twitter.

And it is Twitter that brings me to the second date that sticks out.

10/12/10

The day I started working for Clio.

There’s a story here, though, that starts earlier, in August or September. I was biding my time, really, trying to figure out what exactly to do, what direction to take. Shadow Froggy Consulting was kind of languishing, no real direction. People told me I should make it a social media consulting company, but I found (and still find) the idea uninviting. Not to mention there were so many “social media consultants” touting one thing or another. I wasn’t interested. Open source, however, had my attention still. And since the economy tanked, there was a sudden interest in this idea of “free software.” There was something there, and I saw social media as merely a tool to educate. I’d developed a decent following by then, and my hankering of open source adoption in the legal profession was well known. The Texas Bar Journal article was out, as was the first article I co-authored with Dennis Kennedy for Law Practice Today. I just needed to hone the message and build a better website.

Or so I had been thinking until Grainger called, and I moved through the interview process. I was either in the midst of the interview process, or waiting for a final verdict, when I got a DM from Clio. Random.

I knew of Clio. I follow them on Twitter, and I’d seen a demo and met Jack and Rian at ABA TECHSHOW in 2009, and again in 2010. I briefly entertained the idea of approaching them about becoming a Clio Certified Consultant. I couldn’t quite rationalize that idea, and not being a lawyer seemed to be a strike against me. It was hard enough not being a lawyer talking to lawyers about open source, but I possessed knowledge on the topic already and had been published in well-respected legal publications. Two things I found carried some weight. A non-lawyer talking about cloud computing practice management? Struck me as a tougher sell.

That seems a little ridiculous now, no? Maybe. To be perfectly honest, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how I’ve ended up in a position that is too much fun to be work. Granted there are times when it seems like, and if you stop to think about it, it is, an awful lot of work, but it’s fun. And it’s fun because it is what I have been doing already: sharing information about technology and the law, which is why I got a Master of Sciences in IT and Privacy Law in the first place.

I’ve been fairly good at predicting things, but this wasn’t even on the radar.

Not only that, but the fit, the fit! Who knew I’d actually fit well with a company not my own? Message. Mission. Audience. Ideas. Direction. And from the most unconventional hiring process I have experienced.

Unconventional hiring, especially after going through several conventional hiring processes. Job duties that put to good use my education, social media, writing and strategic thinking skills. The pieces are starting to form that thing people often refer to as a career.

Six months. OK. Seven. It was a bit of a surprise when it dawned on me it’s been six months. I usually notice at three months, and some kind of internal clock orients itself as if it knows to start counting down to the point where boredom has been maximized. It says something I only took notice at 6 months, still the find the position fun and challenging, and haven’t gotten bored. Small Firm Innovation has played a role, no doubt, but so has the intersection of technology and the law.

It’s no secret the law moves like molasses, but when it moves, it is fascinating to watch it ripple across the industry.

I seem to have landed on a ripple moving across the industry, and we seem to be moving as one.

Suffice to say, it has been, and looks to remain, rather interesting.


First Mac, then #cloudcomputing so perhaps #opensource #abatechshow

April 20, 2011

OK. So I’ve been on a bit of a post-#abatechshow high. Small Firm Innovation launched, softly, to a warm reception. And I apologize to those of you who stopped by the Clio booth last Monday only to find me huddled on the floor, “wired in,” as they say. I’m known to acquire “tunnel vision” from time to time, and that was one of those times. Needless to say, I’m rather pleased with the initial result.

And then there was the #opensource session with Dennis Kennedy and Rodney Dowell. Outstanding.

Truth be told, despite my incessant tweets (ask Ben Schorr) and blogging, I thought it’d be surprising if five, maybe seven, people attended. I mean, really. It was slotted at the same time as 60 iPhone/iPad Apps in 60 minutes. Did you see all the iPads and iPhones at #abatechshow?! How can you compete with that? Not to mention the rumors of the BlackBerry tablet, the PlayBook. The session was already at a disadvantage, and despite the fact that people seem to think my Twitter feed moves mountains, I wasn’t convinced more than seven people would show up. And that was OK. That’s seven more people who might not have known about open source applications in a law office setting. After all, how can one resist the allure, if not the cosmic pull, of iPads and iPhones?

So imagine my shear delight when more than seven people showed up to the open source session! There more like 12-15 people, I think. Maybe a few more. A good mix of IT folks and solo/small firm lawyers. And Dennis and Rodney did not disappoint. They made a point of covering some basics, like what “open source” means in a literal, and figurative sense, before delving into actual law office uses. I especially liked the example of recycling an old computer or laptop by setting it up as an Internet station in a waiting room or lobby. They made good use of the 10 tips framework, starting small and gave some actionable tips to the attendees.

As if the presentation wasn’t enough, there were audience questions! How to find answers (search forums), stay informed on updates, security issues, etc (email list signup). The audience was not only paying attention, but actively engaged! They really wanted to know what to look for so they could start. It was fantastic.

It got me thinking: there was a Mac session or two, then a whole track and then a Taste of TechShow dinner. There was a cloud computing session or two, then a track and then a Taste of TechShow dinner. Now there’s been an open source session. Perhaps a track, and a Taste of TechShow dinner are soon to follow.

A big thanks to Paul Unger, TechShow 2011 chair, Ben Schorr and the whole planning board and everyone who had a hand in making the 25th Anniversary so awesome. Without their help, and that of Dennis Kennedy and Rodney Dowell, open source would remain off the law firm radar.


#abatechshow Meetups oughta be a Party Crawl

April 5, 2011

There are five days until #ignitelaw and six days until #abatechshow.

So it makes sense that the Twitterverse, not to mention blogs and emails, are lighting up with meetup invitations. They are all good you almost wish it was just a party crawl!

Here are ones I know about:

  • Beer for Bloggers. Co-hosted (my bad) by LexBlog (@kevinokeefe) and ABA Journal (@edadams)on April 12 at 5:30pm. How I forgot about this one, I don’t know. Always a good time, and usually held at the hotel bar. (Thanks Andrea!)
  • The Sociable Lawyer Meetup. See. Told you more would crop up! This one is hosted by Rocket Lawyer on April 11 from 5-7pm at Kitty O’Sheas, which is really convenient as it is right inside the Hilton Chicago. Good place to hold a meetup. Spent a few St. Patrick’s Days there as a Shannon Rover, and you can pretty much find anyone connected to #abatechshow there at just about any time during the conference.
  • #cliomeetup. Hosted by Clio on April 11 at Sushi Samba rio from 8-11pm. Clio, I’m told, is a bit famous for its TechShow parties…er…meetups. There is almost always a story to be told the next day. I confess I have not had the pleasure of experiencing a Clio TechShow party first hand. Perhaps that will change this year.
  • NextPoint Spring Release Party. Hosted by NextPoint at Buddy Guy’s Legends on April 12 from 9-11pm. Local company hosting a meetup at one of Chicago’s best blues clubs. What’s not to like?
  • Chicago Tweetup #413meet.  Hosted by Andrea Cannavina (@legaltypist) and Erin Russell (@legallyerin) on April 13 at Three Aces from 7-9pm. FYI: not just a TechShow meetup, it’s a Chicago Tweetup! Some cool Chicago tweeters will be in attendance, like @SeanMcGinnis and @gizmodesign. I’ve never been to Three Aces myself, but after experiencing a Kamakazi Burger at a Taste of TechShow dinner last year, I’m keen on the Hammer of the Gods burger for comparative reasons.

So far, that’s one post-Taste of TechShow party each night. It’s only Tuesday, though. Meetups/parties have a way of popping up as the conference gets started. Overlapping events is expected. If you hear of others, feel free to post them in the comments, or ping me on Twitter.

There oughta be a Party Crawl!