Thoughts on JDSupra’s Legal Updates LinkedIn App

July 29, 2010

In case you haven’t heard, JDSupra and LinkedIn have partnered to bring you Legal Updates.

Basically, it’s another way to showcase your JDSupra profile, and another way for people to find legal information a little faster. Generally speaking, outside legal circles, JDSupra is relatively unknown. And there has been a fair amount of debate about whether or not it is useful for lawyers or marketers catering to the legal profession. I’d wager it is useful to both, and like any other online medium, it is more about how you use it than if you use it. For example, I post more decisions or pleadings to my JDSupra profile than I post my own stuff. Like my tweeting habits, I prefer to post information that others will find useful, or even helpful. If there was a way to post and answer questions on JDSupra, I’d do that too. But then JDSupra would be more like LinkedIN, or some other integrated platform like martindale.com Connected, and that is unnecessary.

Speaking of such platforms, JDSupra’s Legal Updates reminds me of a post I wrote in December of 2009 about a dashboard for the Web. I talked about the number of browser tabs, and the number of browser windows, I have open at any given time in order to access a multitude of applications. And now I’ve taken to using different browsers as well. There are a couple of companies that have created solutions for specific applications, like Meebo for the myriad of IM clients, and shortcuts.in for keyboard shortcuts. Aaron Raddon left a comment pointing out Raindrop from Mozilla, and now there is Legal Updates.

Legal Updates lets you hook your JDSupra profile to your LinkedIn profile, so you can access and upload documents from one place. That makes it convenient, but the app also lets you manage your JDSupra profile from LinkedIn, too. In a way, I like that. I’m not on JDSupra all the time, but LinkedIN is almost always open, so having to remember one less login credential is nice. I can easily browse, or set up feeds, which makes more inclined to check back often. It’s easy to recommend, mark as favorite or share. There is not a comments function, but there is a JDSupra group so comments might be unnecessary, or overkill, depending on your perspective. However, I wonder what impact that will have on the JDSupra site. Will more people install the Legal Updates app, and thus search, view and manage JDSupra info from LinkedIn instead of the JDSupra site? Does that mean there is the possibility that you only need on User Interface, say LinkedIn for the sake of simplicity, and the rest is all back end?

Are separate websites, then, really necessary? Puts a new spin on the Dashboard for the Web idea, no?

Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how Meebo operates. It uses your credentials from whatever IM clients you give it, and lets you access buddy lists and what not from a single UI, the Meebo UI. Makes you wonder what else can be filtered and accessed that way, which also brings up the question: do you really want so much information concentrated in one spot? Sure, it would be convenient. But if there is a breach of some kind, your very well might be SOL.

In any case, Legal Updates seems a step closer to a Web dashboard, or another example of melding two platforms together. It will be interesting to see what others do as this whole idea of “convergence” becomes more appealing. Not just appealing, really, but actionable. And, of course, fraught with challenges, which makes it interesting.

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Facebook’s Open Graph: Beating Google to the Punch?

May 1, 2010

A complaint about the Web has been that there is so much information, and though Google makes it considerably easier to find information, it isn’t perfect. Many have thought that the rise of the semantic web, or the ability of computers to better predict the thoughts behind humans searching for information.

While reading Red Eye’s cover story on Facebook’s new “open graph” platform, a thought struck me:

Facebook is beating Google to the punch.

Its new “like” feature on partner sites lets you not only personalize the Web for you, but for others as well. It builds a collection of information that is automatically shared with your friends, who in turn can share it with their friends with the click of a button. At some point, it may be possible to find information faster by using Facebook than using Google. If you know a particular friend always shares information related to cooking recipes, it may be faster, and easier, to get a recipe from Facebook than by searching Google.

That seems in line with Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and his assertion that the open graph “helps to create a smarter, personalized Web that gets better with every action taken.” He talks about having more personalized experiences on the Web, implying that it is not simply a collection of information, but a connection of information.

On the one hand, this is good news. As search has evolved, and as we have become more accustomed to it, the challenge has been how to deliver a better experience. There are a number of players at work, from algorithms to data storage to search engine marketers, all trying to figure out what the algorithm wants. And the algorithm, or rather the people behind the algorithm, are in a constant struggle to deliver relevant content while keeping out spam, or people more inclined to game the system for profit rather than providing content people want.

Facebook’s new “like” button and its “open graph” platform has the ability to deliver the better experience without involving all the middle men. Instead of leaving it up to computer scientists to figure out how to improve search, Facebook has decided to crowd source the effort.

Crowd sourcing, however, presumes everyone wants to share everything with everyone. According to a post over on the Security Blog in January of this year, 35% of people checked their Facebook privacy settings, but the industry standard is about five to ten percent. The Electronic Frontier Foundation posted an outline of Facebook’s privacy policy changes, illuminating the erosion of privacy settings with which we have all become too familiar. It is difficult to see the continuing erosion as anything more than benefiting Facebook’s bottom line. Remember, though, that people thought the same thing of Google AdWords. It seemed like Google was now reading your email, and businesses could track your movements on websites once you clicked their ad. What we initially perceived as an invasion of privacy has become the standard. We’re accustomed to those ads in Gmail and in Google. And we like them. Why? Because they’re tailored to use by our search terms.

Facebook is now building on that idea, and taking it to the next level. Since Facebook collects so much data about us already, data we often freely volunteer, making it public seems the next logical step. Allowing us to more easily compile and share stuff we find online is the next logical step.

I posted earlier about an idea I’ve had, a dashboard for the Web. Perhaps Facebook is the on its way to becoming just that.