I didn't realize those wireless mics you use in office conference centers, churches, etc. could become illegal soon if they are broadcasting in the 700MHz band. I posted the details over at the Friends in Tech blog.
Being the avid social networker that I am, as well as an iPhone owner, of course I was excited to see that both the LinkedIn and Facebook apps were introducing features that let you sync information from those networks to your phone's address book. However, after I got both updates, downloaded my LinkedIn contacts to my phone and turned on "syncing" in the Facebook app, a curious thing happened.
I noticed that some folks I am connected with on LinkedIn, who don't happen to have a photo on their profile, and who I wasn't even aware were on Facebook, suddenly had photos along with their contact information on my phone. It seems that the Facebook app was grabbing their publicly available information, which now includes the profile photo, by matching up the LinkedIn email address, even if I'm not connected to them on Facebook.
So, if you've got a somehwat questionable profile photo on Facebook, you might want to be aware that it may be getting attached to your LinkedIn info, and sent to folks you connect with there, despite your best attempts to keep your Facebook profile a secret from them! Consider this your warning. :)
I ran across this post about ReadTwit over the weekend and was immediately intrigued. I've watched as Twitter has become a source of interesting links being passed around by the folks I follow, I'm missing some really great information.
Now, as I've said before, I have no desire, nor the time, to try and read every tweet from the people I follow, nor do I have any expectation that I'm going to check out anything close to 100% of the links they are sharing, but I sure would like a way to see more than the 10%, less when I'm too busy to really check my twitter stream at all, that I currently see.
The other downside to trying to follow links to things shared on Twitter, is that most times you just get a link, with maybe a brief description, or the title. It's a lot of work to decide what's worth the click and what isn't, and again, when pressed for time, the title better be darned good to get me to click!
Readtwit filters your twitter feed to links only, resolves link destinations and publishes the content as an RSS feed. You can then use any feed reading software / service to read twitter posted content along with the rest of your feeds. Duplicate links in the same time-frame are grouped together. No more retweets overwhelming your link browsing activity.
Naturally, I went to check it out, and added my ReadTwit feed to Google Reader right away. The next morning, I had 97 items waiting for me in that feed, stuff I normally wouldn't have seen as it got tweeted while I slept, with 2000 characters of available items as a preview instead of 140, and the ability to filter out certain hashtags or users. I was able to skim through it right along with the other things I normally browse through in Reader. I haven't started using the filters yet, but I can see where I will start filtering users who send a lot of links to a subject that isn't highly relevant to me. I don't know, it's sort of an experiment at this point, to see just what kind of ReadTwit feed I can come up with that allows me to see more of the links people I'm following are sharing, without having to spend all of my free time catching up with Twitter!
However it ends up, I'm willing to bet it helps me see more links to good information than I'm seeing now.
I also wonder if this doesn't help, at least a little, with the security risks involved with shortened URLs, and not always knowing where they are leading you? Not sure if it's a cure-all for that, but can't see where it would hurt either.
Last week, while my niece was visiting, we took her to the local Mall to visit Santa. Now, normally this wouldn't be something that I wrote about on this blog, but I noticed something going on while I was there that I found interesting.
The Santa area was setup so that you would have had to walk all the way around the far end of the display to actually see where Santa was. I assume this was done to limit the opportunities for you to take your own photos of your kid on Santa's lap, as you had a small area to watch from, and someone was there making sure you didn't even try to take a photo from there. I can't blame them, selling those photos is how they make their money, but the interesting thing was, that as my niece was getting to the front of the line, and I was standing in this little area, I happened to be responding to an email on my iPhone while I waited. This elicited a rather loud reminder that I wasn't allowed to take photos from there, and a request to put it away. Of course, I wasn't even trying to take a photo at that moment, I was using my phone for one of the many, many other tasks it's designed for. Still, rather than create a problem for my niece, I did put it away and responded to the email later.
It does create an interesting situation, at least to me. There are plenty of times where we might have a few minutes to kill, and pick up our smartphone to look at email or Twitter, or Facebook, where it would also be inappropriate to try and take a photo or video. (In a movie theater, on the way out of a restroom, in a locker room, around other people's children, etc.) Is it ok for people to assume you're trying to take a photo and ask you to put it away, or are we all going to have to get used to the idea what someone using a cell phone around us may just be taking photos and there's nothing we can do about it?
Looking at my own Google Wave account, and the folks I follow on Twitter, it seems that Google has opened up the floodgates a little bit, and has given out quite a few more invites. That's a good thing, because the first thing I realized when I started was that there weren't very many people who I could actually collaborate with. That limits the usefulness of a collaboration tool.
So now that I have some invites to give out, perhaps I can get some of the people I would normally collaborate with to use it and really see how it works, as opposed to forcing collaboration with people I don't work with as closely just because they are on Google Wave too!
We'll see if that changes my initial impressions of Google Wave. I'm still underwhelmed at this point, but maybe if Angela and I plan our next party using it, I'll feel differently. :)
If you need an invite, let me know and I'll try and hook you up.
Since I was in Indianapolis this weekend, for my niece's birthday, a stop at Fry's was on order before heading home. Turns out they were running a special on a Western Digital 1.5TB external hard drives. Until Nov. 19 they are $99.99. Naturally, I picked one up while we were in town, and immediately made plans for rearranging my backup workflow over the long Thanksgiving weekend.
A 1.5TB drive should allow me to take my current dual 250GB drives that currently act as two copies of our photos and other documents, into just the first copy, with the backups being on the 1.5TB, along with my Time Machine backup of my Macbook Pro, and perhaps some video storage. Not a bad pickup for a hundred bucks.
Of course, that was my first impression. My second thought was, of course, about the e-discovery implications of having that much storage available that cheaply. Not that I'm all that worried about being sued myself, but for small business, we've surely reached the point where the temptation to simply keep everything is going to be overwhelming. You can keep a lot of stuff on a 1TB drive, more than a typical 5-10 person office is currently using up, and then you can double that storage for very little by buying a new 1TB drive cheaply. Creating a retention policy is much more work, and maybe even much more cost, right up until they get served with a discovery request for the first time and have to try and find relevant documents.
After all, with storage that available, the days of an attorney coming in and reviewing documents without doing any sort of in-depth search, are gone. There's simply no way to look at everything that might be stored on a 1TB drive, let alone a few of them, at a reasonable cost in a reasonable time.
Good search is definitely the future, at least I hope so! ;)
So I managed to get an invite to Google Wave over the weekend (Thanks Kreg!), and started poking around with it last night. Not enough time to have any well-thought out opinions, but enough to have an instant reaction:
I'm optimistically underwhelmed at this point. Do I think there's some potential here for collaboration, especially among teams? Yes, absolutely. However, in it's current capacity, I have yet to find any feature that I can't use a Wiki, or even a private discussion forum, for. I'm optimistic that Google knows this and has features in the pipeline that will blow away anything we can currently do with those sorts of tools. They certainly have the resources to develop it. We shall see if it comes to fruition!
From a professional perspective, of course my mind immediately goes to the e-discovery complications that come from this tool. Yeah, it's a bit difficult to wrap your head around how you would collect, preserve and produce any of these real-time Web tools. On the other hand, they are here to stay, the industry, and the law, will just have to adjust! It usually does, eventually, and as with every technology advance, the legal world will get adapt to it, slowly. :)
In the meantime, if you're in Google Wave and want to test it out, look me up mike.mcbride at googlewave.com. I don't have any invites to give out yet, so I can't help you out there, but I'll let you know when I do!
I know I said that I loved the entire post I pointed you to earlier from Stop Blocking, but there's one line that really resonates outside of this particular issue.
Who died and put CIOs in charge of worker productivity anyway? Iím not sure when supervisors and HR abdicated this responsibility to IT, but IT is simply not qualified to address employee productivity.
It immediately reminded me of something that I hear often from the Manager Tools guys, that there are so few people in management who really understand and work at being a good manager. This task of addressing productivity fell to IT because no one else has any idea of how to address productivity. Actually taking the time to set the expectations to the people who work for you, figuring out how to measure their performance and holding them accountable for meeting the goals you set out for them is quite a bit of work. I know, as a new manager I'm still struggling with figuring out how to do it! So, it's awfully tempting as management to start blocking things that would cause distraction, as if you could block every potential distraction!
"Then how do you know if your associates are working?"
I lean in, like I'm going to let them in on my secret formula.
"By managing them."
As I look down the list of reasons not to block social media, I'm struck by how many of them fit this very point. If you are effectively managing the people who work for you, they understand the consequences of failing to meet expectations and not being productive, they understand the appropriate ways to interact online, and what sorts of things are frowned upon by the organization. They know better than to disclose confidential information, and they know with certainty what will happen if they do. They understand that being careless with malware will hurt their productivity because they'll be without their PC while it's getting cleaned.
As I look back on 20 plus years of working myself, and all of the conversations I have had with others, there's something that really runs true here. There really aren't very many good managers. I find that many, not all, managers are in management just because they were the last one standing when others moved on (ed.- he says fully self-aware).
Most people are thrust into management because they've been good at a job, and a manager left, so they got the promotion. Not because they showed managerial skills, and they probably weren't given any managerial training either, they just happened to be good at one thing, so they got the spot. Is it any wonder then, that they surrender responsibilities to the IT Department? They don't know any other way to deal with the risks of something like social networking. They don't dare rock the boat by trying to be innovative, because being innovative requires confidence, and people who have never been groomed to be managers, yet find themselves in that position, lack the confidence to do things differently!
Seems to me that, instead of constantly worrying about what your people might do, with any tool, organizations might be better off training their managers to be effective, and innovative. That innovation will trickle down and take care of many of these issues. Right now, we're not seeing a lot of turnover in many industries, and it may be harder to spot bad management, but I guarantee you, when the economy shows signs of turning around, and people start to feel more confident in their job prospects, you'll see scores of unhappy, and very talented, people moving elsewhere. Finding quality and innovative management might keep a few of them around.
The opening paragraph of Kent Gibson's article rings so true to those of us who are asked to "improve" audio and video in the course of working with e-discovery. In the few short years I've worked in Litigation Support, there have already been a number of times where I'm presented with some audio or video tape and asked to "clean it up" in some way, and I don't have near the tools that a forensic audio engineer!
If only it were true, as the televised CSI seems to promise, that any audio recording could be made intelligible with a little bing from a computer. The realities of forensic audio may surprise you ó amazing things are possible, but not all things.
If only I could make all of our attorney's read the whole thing.
I saw this post over at Kevin O'Keefe's this morning and realized that there was one sentence that really jumped out at me about social networking, because it's something I don't think a lot of people realize.
Social media is not something to do 'when you have some time' - make time for it or you won't see the benefits.
This is something I see time and time again with people who are new to social networking. They sign up for a Twitter account, or a Facebook account, post a status along the lines of "Just checking this out", and connect to maybe a handful of people they already know. Then they forget about it. A couple of weeks, or a month later, they come back and post another update, something along the lines of "Still trying to see if this works for me", and go back to ignoring it again. Then, maybe they give it a third try a couple of months later. Eventually, they give up and declare the whole thing a waste of time.
It takes more than that. Just like in-person networking, it involves much more than simply showing up at a networking event, saying hello to two people, leaving, and awaiting all that great follow up you heard about. Good networking requires you to spend some time conversing with people, interacting with people, and following up with them. Online networking is no different. Making good connections requires interaction, it requires listening and it requires time and effort. Anything short of that will not lead to the best results.
The great thing about online networking tools, is that the time requirement is actually much less. I can pass along an interesting news item, blog post, or event to hundreds of people at the same time. I can skim through my Twitter stream or Facebook newsfeed and keep up to date on the happenings, and interesting things my connections are sharing, learning more about them and how I might be able to help them in the process, in very little time each day. It's remarkably efficient, and effective, when you take the time to figure out how to work with the tools, and how to really interact with the people you want to connect to.
Building relationships takes time. If you don't have the time to interact with me, why should I want to connect, let alone do business with, you?
Today was a first for me. I tuned in to my first "video" webinar, a webinar where you could actually see the presenter as they talked, and follow along with the slides in a separate area. It was ILTA and Orange Technology's Amazing Discoveries, Amazing Results webinar with Tom O'Connor and Brett Burney. (Hit the On Demand button in the player to find it.)
My gut reaction to it being a video webinar was, why bother? Look, before I get into criticizing the idea, I want to say that this has nothing at all to do with the content. Tom and Brett were great, and the information provided was excellent. But the addition of video brought no value whatsoever. In fact, due to the greater bandwidth demands brought about not only through the use of video, but the presentation being done as a scheduled webinar, with a large one-time audience, Orange introduced a number of hurdles to the viewer, with no value added to make the obstacles worth it.
For example, since this was a mid-day webinar (12 Noon EST), I assume many viewers were tuned in from their workplace network. Most workplaces struggle with having enough bandwidth available for everyone to use, and here I am trying to stream video on the internet. The added benefit to me for the use of all that bandwidth above and beyond a normal webinar? The chance to see Tom and Brett do their best Max Headroom impressions; jerky, delayed video of them sitting at a PC, and the joy of advancing the presentation slides myself. It's not like Tom or Brett were doing something hands-on where being able to watch them would add some real value, they were just there, in video format for the sake of being in video format. The content would have been just as good with just the typical audio/shared presentation screen format.
For that matter, the content would have been just as good whether you watched it live at noon today, or watch it later. In a classic example of another pet peeve of mine, there was no Q&A, no interaction with the speakers at all. Why bother with the scheduled webinar if you're not going to provide any way for the participants to ask questions or interact in any way? Tom and Brett could have just as easily recorded this as an audio podcast and had it available for download later. The content still would have been just as good, and the folks who wanted to hear what they had to say would be able to do so in their own time, and without battling the lag/buffering issues that are brought about trying to watch a live video feed. As it was, there were a couple of spots where bandwidth issues were so bad at my office, that I have no idea what they said! I'm going to have to go back to the on-demand version and watch it again to find out. I sort of wish I had just planned to do that from the beginning.
So here is my advice to folks who want to do video webinars. Use only the technology that adds value. If there's nothing hands-on to show, don't bother me with video. You're sucking up a lot of bandwidth, show me something worth that! Also, if there's no interaction or added benefit to attending live, don't make it a live event. There's nothing wrong with putting up audio/video material for me to consume on my own schedule, in fact I might just be more likely to do that, since I don't have to worry about schedule conflicts. It does neither of us any good to build a live audience and then do nothing with that audience.
Of course, who am I to argue against the use of bright shiny things? ;)
It's been around for awhile now, but I never knew about it. This approach does work, but it's clunky, and I would imagine, cumbersome to support. Still, one of the biggest complaints I get from users trying to use Remote Desktop to review documents in Summation is the fact that they have to limit themselves to one monitor. Doc review is, without question, more efficient with two. Could I get these instructions into something an attorney could actually use? Good question.
Anyone else found a solution for stretching a remote desktop connection across two monitors that is easy on the end user? Leave a suggestion!
I know I'm not the first person to write about this, but today I saw a couple of tweets sent in reply to me, from people I don't follow or know if any way, that contained links to, well, something. Now, being tech-savvy, naturally suspicious, and generally cautious, I didn't actually make any attempt to follow the links, but it does point out one of the huge security risks that Twitter use can bring into any organization.
It takes some education to get users to think twice before following a link to a shortened URL that could lead anywhere, and here are a few pointers I would give anyone who asked me.
First off, treat tweets like email. If it came from someone you don't know, don't click anything in it without doing some digging. Even if it does come from someone you know, if it just seems out of character (Suddenly your best friend from HS, or a coworker is sending you links about teeth whitening?), be suspicious. It may be that their account has been taken over.
Secondly, keeping with the email metaphor, make sure you know where a link is going before you follow it. In Tweetdeck, my Twitter client of choice, there's a setting to preview the long URL of any shortened URL. Use it. Make sure the URL to a "funny story" isn't actually going to big bad malware.com. I believe there's even some Firefox extensions that will do that as well for any shortened URL in the browser, but not having used any of them, I'll leave it to you guys for good recommendations on that.
Lastly, if it seems fishy to you, trust your gut. Don't blindly follow a shortened link. If you really want to see the link, confirm with the person through DM, Email or even an @ reply, that they really did send that, and if they could send you the long URL to access it. You know, just like your IT people have been telling you to do with strange email attachments for years now.
So, until Twitter figures out a way to either let us send full length URLs or builds in a preview feature, be careful out there. Not everyone on Twitter is as honest and trustworthy as you are. :)
Recently, I've had some conversation about the idea of whether a particular law firm is innovative or not. It's a tough question to answer, in my mind, because it really depends on how you define innovative. Just having innovative technology in place does not make a firm innovative, yet at the same time, even the most creative people can't be innovative without the proper tools.
To me, it involves having technology, culture, and the people willing to be innovative for a firm to be considered innovative.
So how do you determine whether you have the culture and people to make the investment in tools worthwhile? Is it enough to have conversations with various areas about how they work, or how they'd like to work? What kinds of questions would you ask of attorneys, paralegals and other staff to figure out how they would like to innovate, when they may not know much about the tools available to them? How do you get people talking about innovation, or how they use technology in an open, honest, and forward-looking way. How do you get past "Outlook runs too slow" as the form of IT feedback, and onto the much larger, strategic, questions? How do you get an attorney who's done the same thing, pretty much the same way, for 10 years, to consider how her clients might want them to be working differently, or how they could be more effective?
Right now, I'm not sure I have answers to those questions, but I'd like to hear from all of you, even if you don't work in a law firm. Attorneys are my primary focus, especially in dealing with Litigation Support tools, but the same questions would need to be addressed to sales people, accountants, engineers, customer service folks, and on down the line. What questions do you ask to get them to consider how innovative technology might help them do what they do more effectively? How have you gotten them involved in the IT strategic planning process?
Do share your successes, and even your failures, and what you've learned from them!
I saw their article today about the results of their annual survey of the Electronic Discovery market, and found a couple of striking statements:
While two years ago every copy shop in the land became an EDD provider, today law firms nationwide purport to harbor deep EDD expertise. Much of this is a convenient fiction, useful for marketing but of questionable veracity when it comes to client service; many participants estimated that no more than 100 to 200 hundred lawyers in the entire country really "get" EDD.
This is interesting, because truly, there have to be 1000 to 2000 lawyers marketing themselves as EDD "experts", but maybe only 10% of them are correct? Are the other 90% lying? Actually, I don't think they're lying, I think it's a case of them not knowing what they don't know. They may get the legal side of the equation, that you have to collect, review, produce in a usuable form, etc. but that does not an EDD expert make. I'd be willing to bet that many of the survey respondents have encountered one too many attorney who claimed to be the EDD "expert" and then didn't understand what a PST is, or who understood their need to hold and collect data, and then asked it to be emailed to their office.
Ok, ok maybe those examples are a bit extreme, but that's sort of what it can feel like if you're an in-house IT guy, asked to cooperate with the EDD expert attorney from Big Named Firm X, only to discover that while this guy may have written some articles on litigation holds, or spoken at a CLE about the Federal Rules covering e-discovery, he doesn't know the slightest thing about the technology.
Another interesting statement was this one about finding qualified people to work on EDD:
Hiring at corporations also has been difficult. Estimates are that by now maybe 20 to 30 companies have been about to acquire or develop respectable in-house expertise, but many others are hard pressed to find someone ó anyone ó competent, available and capable of taking the internal EDD helm.
Almost as quickly as those people are brought on board, others leave to join the provider ranks where they believe rewards will be greater and frustrations fewer.
I read this, and thought surely this applies to law firms as well, right? Of course, the obvious solution to keeping people in house is to offer greater rewards and fewer frustrations, but in legal departments, and law firms, I'm not sure that is possible. The culture is so "attorney-specific" in terms of giving senior attorney's all the decision making power, and the rewards that come with it, that I don't think it can be changed to give a technology expert, especially one that isn't an attorney, enough authority to feel like they are doing meaningful work.
For example, go to your local bar association's CLE seminars on EDD, how many IT people are speaking? How many non-lawyers are ever invited to speak about forensics, searching, deduplication, storage technology, etc.? If these topics are covered, it's typically one of those 100 or 200 attorneys. When was the last time they offered a CLE in data storage, or understanding the basic types of email storage, and how to effectively search an email store? Wouldn't it be great to have someone who knows this stuff talk to your IT people, whether it be from your legal department or outside firm? Sure would keep those IT folks from rolling their eyes as often as they do. (And they do, I've been on that side of the fence. It's not pretty.)
But instead, the legal industry keeps insisting that attorneys are the end all and be all of legal knowledge, when EDD requires a different approach completely. This survey shows it fairly obviously to me. Your clients are crying out for someone who really "gets" the technology involved with EDD, and you keep sending them lawyers who can recite the FRCP, all while keeping your technical staff far away from view, never getting the credit they deserve.
It's the legal departments and law firms that find a way to get cooperation between the IT experts, and the legal experts, and can recognize them both as equal parts of the EDD team, who will be the true "experts" in the field.
Things have been crazy, crazy busy, but in the midst of it all, it occurred to me that instead of trying to piece together some coherent thoughts from my addled brain, I'd share a few utilities I've found ever so useful in the last few days.
DiskDigger can recover files from any type of media that your computer can read. This includes USB flash drives, memory cards (SD, CompactFlash, Memory Stick, etc), and of course your hard drive. The types of files that it recovers include photos, videos, music, documents, and many other formats.
Hope all you Sys Admins out there are getting the appreciation you deserve. It's been awhile since I was in that sort of strictly IT position, but as someone who is currently using up network resources like nobody's business, I appreciate what these folks do.
All you Litigation Support people should be especially appreciative. Do you have any idea how many network resources it takes to import/export and otherwise move around and store e-discovery data? I do, and ironically enough, I'm doing a whole lot of that this week, so I'm laying low and keeping away from our networking people. ;)
We took a little trip to Dayton today, meeting up with the wife's brother and his family so we could take our niece to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. Between her parents her aunt, her day was more than well documented in photos, so I decided to just try and grab a few to see how the iPhone camera stacks up.
As you can see, for a cell phone camera, it's pretty decent. Now, don't get me wrong, I have no plans of ditching my Nikon D50 for this, but it's nice to know I can get the occasional good shot for those times when I don't have the D50 with me.
One big reason I wouldn't necessarily want to do a lot of shooting with the iPhone is the battery drain. I would guess I took a total of about 20 photos today, and checked on email every once in awhile, and took one phone call over the course of 5 hours. My battery went from a full charge when we left this morning, to 47% when we were heading home. Ouch!
When I saw that Twitter had released a Twitter 101 for Business today, I had to look at it, even as I dreaded what I might see. Lately, in the local Columbus Twitterverse, some companies are getting big kudos for running those "follow us and retweet this message to win" contests, and marketing folks are all abuzz with how "connected" the company is because they are giving away things to their customers.
Now, I don't have to tell you how much those things make me want to vomit. I've done that before. Though the latest buzz does make me question whether some of these self-proclaimed marketing/PR/social media gurus really care about how the company appears to people, or want to encourage them to continue to give them free stuff for talking about them even if it's not effective.
But I digress. Much to my delight, in looking over Twitter's own recommendations for how businesses could use the service to connect with their customers, there is nary a mention of using "retweet to win" contests. Maybe Twitter's founders get that there are some of us who really hate that? Here's hoping.
I had an interesting conversation with an attorney today, who is doing something rather interesting with our document review tool, Summation. He's gotten so used to reviewing documents in it, and searching in it, and come to rely on the OCR search especially, that he's pulled together a bunch of random emails, articles, white papers, etc. that he's always wanting to keep around to refer to as part of his practice, and is having us put them into Summation.
Once there, he goes in and codes a little summary, and maybe an "issue" to make a keyword, and can search there, instead of leaving through a box of stuff he printed off to keep around.
Now, granted, he needs me to put the data into Summation, but that's not very much work, and frankly, anything I can do to encourage our attorneys to use Summation is a good thing in my book!
I'm wondering if that might not be a bad way to handle electronic discovery research as well, though I do have many of the same features in Evernote in terms of search, but I wonder just how many documents I can cram into Evernote before it is too much, especially compared to something like Summation.
I feel like a test may be coming, if I can find some free time!
What do you think? Do you have folks using something like Summation for research data? Let me know!
Occasionally, I will go through the spam folder in my gmail account, just to make sure there's nothing in there that I actually want to see. It never fails that there's some subject line that makes me giggle, just a little. A few weeks ago, I had 6th grade flashbacks when I saw an email with the subject line "Read this email, or you're gay!".
Then, as if they figured out that it's 2009 and I'm not 11, the spammers upped the anty on me a week or so later, "Read this email, or catch a disease!".
I'm not exactly sure that kind of disease you can get from not reading an email. Maybe the email had the secret cure to swine flu, or safe sex tips. Either way, I didn't read it and thus far, no diseases! :)
Here's the scenario. We've got trial transcripts, in ASCII text format. We've got an attorney writing up a Word document in which he wants to reference certain parts of the testimony from the transcripts. He would like to use hyperlinks within his Word document, and he would really like the link to go directly to that line/page in the transcript.
So far I've found two somewhat difficult ways to do that, one to convert the ASCII files to Word documents and create bookmarks in the Word doc where I want to link to, or create PDF's of the ASCII files and convert the Word doc to HTML and follow the instructions here for creating destinations within the PDF and writing up the proper link.
Those were the only 2 ways I could get it to work, given the tools at my disposal. I assume there's actually some way to do something similar in Summation, but not necessarily in a format that could be used by someone else, who doesn't have Summation, at least in my mind.
Naturally, when I've had a few spare moments this week, I've been toying around with apps and experimenting with other things on the iPhone. Tonight, while logged in to work and waiting on some documents to load into Summation, I started looking at my options for ringtones.
Thanks to the information on this message board topic, I was able to grab 30 seconds of a song that is near and dear to my wife and I, and make it my ringtone for her calls, without the need for downloading any software, or paying for a ringtone.
Also, while I'm sharing my iPhone info, the wife picked me up a Case-Mate naked case for my iPhone and I'm loving it. The phone is still completely operational in every way, but is almost completely encased all the time as well. That's not bad!
So, given the way the new iPhone 3g S release brought in a couple of features I had always thought were lacking in the iPhone (copy/paste chiefly), and happened to coincide with both my birthday this weekend and our AT&T cell phone contract being up for renewal, and upgraded equipments, I couldn't help but assume that getting an iPhone was simply fate!
So, today my iPhone was delivered. It's been activated, and I've downloaded a couple of apps that I already knew I'd be grabbing, like Evernote, Tweetdeck, Google Mobile App, Facebook and Tripit.
What else should I be downloading? What free apps do I need to try out, what pay apps do you find were well worth the price? All suggestions welcome!
Well, yes, technically speaking any festival that gathers thousands of people in the same place on the same weekend is social in nature. But, I'm specifically talking about an interesting use of online social networking.
If you look at the Entertainment Schedule for the Dublin Irish Festival coming up July 31-Aug 2, you'll see the option to not only create your own agenda and either print it or save it so you can access it on a mobile device, but also an option to share it with others. If I were to create one, for example, it would show me hanging around the Celtic Rock stage from 4ish Saturday afternoon on. Since that's not exactly complicated, and I'm lazy, I didn't actually create one, but if you were doing something more complicated and hitting different shows at different stages, I could see where this would be helpful not only to keep your plans straight, but to also let other folks know where to find you.
It appears that they are using a paid service, sched.org, to provide this functionality, and I would think it's a good idea for some events. Certainly multi-stage musical events, but also multi-track conferences like TechShow or ILTA09 would be interesting places to have a similar functionality, if the budget allowed for it. You could let folks know, well ahead of time, which sessions you're planning on attending so they could find you to say hello, speakers could have a small idea of who will actually be in the audience ahead of time, and I could use it to stalk e-discovery experts. ;-)
So when @wyliemac asked last night if anyone had a webcam to stream the Ignite Columbus 3 presentations tonight, I said I did, and would be glad to help out, thinking I could pop my Macbook up there and use the built in webcam, if that's all we could come up with.
As I considered it last night, and through this morning, I decided on a different track. I borrowed a video camera from work (I'm the one who normally uses it, and in fact I'll be using it Monday morning, so it's not like it's missing from work or anything.). It's an old Panasonic that normally records to tape, but which has a firewire connector. Running the firewire through to my Macbook Pro at lunch today and then going out to Ustream and creating an account allowed me to fire on the video camera, and send the video out to the web. My test worked perfectly, so that's the gear I packed up to go to Ignite tonight.
Once on site, it was just a matter of finding good spot to capture the presentations from, a power source, and getting connected to the OSU wireless. Ran into a bit of a problem with Safari crashing, but discovered that as long as I had the Ustream set to DV Audio, it would crash when I tried to connect, but if I had it set to another audio source when it connected and switched it to DV audio, it worked fine. Go figure! Anyway, it took me about 5 minutes to figure that out, and that was really the last hiccup I had. I think, for a first effort, it turned out rather well, but you can see for yourself at the Ustream archive.
Even if you don't really care about my adventures in live streaming, the presentations were pretty darn good and are worth your while as well!
They've also added the ability to be logged in to multiple Twitter accounts. Both are very, very welcome additions. Now if they can just get customizable column widths, I might actually have everything I want from the application, at least until I find something else to complain about. :)
There are some good recommendations in this article about privacy settings you can use to keep your less than professional friends from messing up your more professional appearance in this article. For myself, a few of them go a little too far, and might raise the suspicion that you have something to hide to those who would have such limited access to your profile, but then again, I don't tend to have hundreds of contacts who would do the sorts of things I would want to hide from view in such a public space. You might. :)
Personally, since I know I'm dealing with a smaller group of people, and people I generally trust, I depend more on the ability to remove things others add to my Wall, or photos they might tag of me. It's relatively easy for me to keep up with, there's not a lot. If I were a younger person with lots of college friends, for example, I might take more of the advice in the article. Still, it's good to be aware of what privacy steps you can take, if you feel the need to!
Craig Ball has a review of a small tool called the WiebeTech Drive eRazer , which is a relatively small, easy to use, device that wipes a hard drive and overwrites it with zeroes. While there are better, and even free, tools available to accomplish the same result when you want to wipe a drive before giving it away, or other situations, most of them do require a bit more technical know-how than the typical home user has. The Drive eRazer, though, is pretty straightforward, even if it does have it's own issues, as Craig points out.
Makes me wonder though, if there isn't a market for something like this, that can simply take a hard drive, connect it to a small device, and wipe it, without the need for a full PC setup, or any disk wiping tools? Possibly. I could see it being pretty useful for someone who would need to wipe drives on a semi regular basis, without the expense of having a spare machine just for that purpose, especially a small business that is replacing drives as they go bad, or something similar? What do you think, would you recommend it to anyone you know?
The article itself really doesn't shed much light on why, it just throws out some numbers about the number of IT departments that block them, etc. The comments, on the other hand, are a treasure trove of why people hate their IT departments.
A sampling (with my comments in bold):
Social networking needs to be banned in the business environment. -Because connecting with other people serves no business purpose, right?
I am always amazed how many supposedly employed people have so much time to spend on these distractions. - And IT's role in that situation is.....?Again, if people (stress PEOPLE) are wasting time and not getting their job done, that is not a technology problem!And that's assuming they are wasting time, maybe they're discussing a great idea and how it was implemented at another organization, or following an expert in their field and learning how to be more efficent. Do your server logs tell you this?
Facebook and Twitter and the likes should be banned at work. You are paid to work not play.- And interacting with peers in your field couldn't possibly be work if it's happening online, right?
And my favorite, when someone pointed out the irony of people commenting on a blog about other people wasting time with social networking:
Well played. I justify my participation as professional interaction, at least when I'm responding to the professional topics.That said, I don't see a use for social apps outside those departments that work directly with the public or customers - Marketing, customer and shareholder relations, HR. - His wording implies that it's not always just professional topics that he replies to, but even so, he works in IT, his interactions online are professional even though they aren't with customers, yours are not, period! The high holy IT Director has spoken!
I'm contemplating putting together a series of posts over the next few days/weeks fully exploring the ideas of social networking, personal and professional time, productivity, etc. I've hinted at a number of my own ideas, and I think maybe it's time to put them in a manifesto, so to speak, about how I view the knowledge workers role in a wired business world, and how I think management should view it. I realize that my comments in this and other recent posts hint at a worldview that I may not have ever fully explained, or even thought out completely to myself. Now that I am a manager, albeit a very low level one, I want to do that. You'll get to be the sounding board. :)
A global survey undertaken by HP found that less than half of business decision-makers have a high confidence level in the quality and accessibility of information within their organisations.
The survey, and the linked article seem very focused on the need to retrieve information as part of an e-discovery request, or compliance measure, but the concept that this many organizations don't really know what data they have or how to get it also dovetailed nicely with an article my boss had sent me earlier in the week about the software company Autonomy. Specifically, this quote:
"Look at the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that are driving a lot of this compliance business. That goes back to Roman law and is the basis of the discovery process and it makes sense, particularly in simpler times," Lynch said. "But imagine today the role of IT in trying to track and store and catalog and find every voice mail, every Word doc, text message, etc. It often leads to a type of legal lockdown where companies feel paralyzed because they just don't know how to get started or how to ensure they have all that unstructured data and can index it and find it.
"And we think our potential is that once companies have done that type of work for legal indexing, then they can use it afterward for many other things, primarily to get a richer and more-complete view of customers. For example, on average, large corporations today have 9,000 systems across the enterprise, and all of those represent some sort of architectural silos that resist or confound efforts to see and interact with customers in a unified way."
Solid information management isn't just about compliance and e-discovery, even if that is the primary motivation right now. It's about imagining all the things you could use that data for if you knew what it was and how to analyze it. So maybe e-discovery readiness isn't just about the costs versus risk of litigation, maybe e-discovery readiness can also be about getting to data that can grow your business? Turning a cost center into a revenue center? Priceless... ;-)
On the e-discovery 2.0 blog yesterday at least, he gets what I've been saying about social media in regards to legal risks, there's not much that's new here:
Thereís talk of intellectual property being cast out, irrevocably, onto the Internet for all to see. Or slanderous things being uttered for which your company may be held liable. But, hold on a second: is there really anything new here? Anyone heard of e-mail? Web pages? Peer-to-peer? Google? Instant messaging?
I'd actually go further, anyone heard of the telephone, or face to face conversations in public places? (Not to mention cell phone conversations on a commuter train, *cough*)
Any time one of the people who work for your organization is talking to someone outside of the organization, there's a risk they'll say something they shouldn't about their workplace, and yet we still actually let them do it! Shocking!
I don't know how business has survived this long, surely it's time to start requiring your workforce to live in company camps and only interact with coworkers, isn't it? I mean if you let them go out to dinner, or to a ball game, you have no idea who they might be sitting next to and who they might strike up a conversation with. Surely you can't risk them complaining about their job, or leaking confidential information, can you? These communications must be blocked! Or at the very least we should have strongly worded and specific policies regarding any and all such possibilities. Just giving employees general guidelines that apply to all such situations can't possibly be enough. We need a new policy for every new possibility!
Some of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen that I worked late a couple of days last week as some sort of epidemic has swept the help desk area of our firm, leaving them quite short-handed. In fact, they were left with no one available between the regular folks who work there, and the couple of usual backups to cover the phones until 6PM each evening, which is the customary procedure. Not having any immediate plans after work, I stepped in and covered them.
While I was down there, another one of our IS folks and I were discussing how much tech support has changed. Time was when he, and everyone in the IT department where he worked, had the help desk line on their phones and we expected to answer it when the regular folks were tied up, but that was when all you had to support was PC hardware and maybe MS Office apps. Now, there are dozens of apps in use, in a variety of specialties, that he doesn't even know how to use, much less support.
As we talked, I realized how much that is true. The folks who were brought in as specialists, like for Networking, Telecommunications, and DBA, simply don't have the knowledge to do general end-user support. Our firm is a little luckier than most, because some of the other IT specialist positions are folks who started out working at the help desk, like myself, and can step in. On the other hand, it's only been a bit more than 2 years since I worked there fulltime, and there have been some applications added that I don't use, and couldn't possibly support. (Luckily no one called with a question about those while I was flying solo down there!) The others who've been away for even longer, have even more apps where that is the case.
We came to realize, not just that we really only had a limited number of people who could effective backup the help desk folks, but that we had very limited backup for any of our positions. When our telecomunications guy is on vacation, there is an official "backup" person, but what can be handled in his absence is very limited. A major telephone system meltdown during his vacation is going to result in a serious problem. Now with our Litigation Support Department consisting of me, and one other person working remotely 4 days a week, on that 5th day, if I get sick, and there's someone needing trial prep work done, there's no one to do it. Same goes for our one web developer. If something needs done, and she's not there to do it, what happens?
As more and more firms try to "do more with less" in this economy, how many IT people are having to be "on call" even when they're on vacation, or over weekends, or when they're sick, because they're the only one's who can handle some tasks? What does your organization do to try and prevent this, or do you simply require them to live with this expectation? Are your IT people expected to always be reachable? Are they therefore limited in where they can go on vacation, because of this expectation that they will always be able to log in remotely and work on something at a moment's notice? Is that really fair?
Personally, I don't think it is. More importantly, if there's only one person at your firm who can fix certain issues, what do you do when that person gets hit by a bus? Or leaves? Aren't you asking for trouble if you simply ignore the fact that skills and knowledge haven't been shared among the whole team and you've simply laid these expectations at the feet of your folks as your "solution"?
So as technology gets more specialized, and budgets get tighter, what do you do to have a backup plan?
I had a rather scary, and odd, experience while we were on the road back to Columbus yesterday. I have my blackberry setup to get email from my main Gmail account as well as my work email account, and as we were driving up Route 23 in Kentucky, I noticed an email to that Gmail account, from my other, much less frequently used, Gmail account that was spam. When I went ahead and logged in to that account, I also spotted 3 autoresponses to the spam email from addresses I was vaguely familiar with, as opposed to the random unfamiliar addresses you usually see when your email address is spoofed.
Sure enough, the spam was in my sent box. Obviously, someone had accessed the account in order to send that email. So, I changed my password immediately and my security question later, when I wasn't working on my blackberry. That account wasn't tied to any other Google services, as I said, it isn't my main account, but I also went ahead and changed the password on that one to be safe, and any other service that I thought might have sent an email to that account. I'm slightly befudded as to how that account got compromised. I don't even log in to it very often, let alone on a public PC or insecure wireless network. Since we were out of town, my immediate thought was that someone had sniffed the password on the hotel wireless, but I don't think I even logged in to that account. Perhaps there's some Gmail notified or other service on my iGoogle page that logs in to it and checks for email, and the password got sniffed there, it's hard to say.
Of course, a little research shows me that this has happened before to others, and it's something that's been happening for awhile now. Still it appears no one has a definite answer as to how the account got compromised, so if anyone has more info on that, I'd love to hear it!
So, I was in a Sam's Club the other day with the wife, and found myself wandering over to the PC aisle, mostly to lust after the 24 or 25 inch monitors. (I need a bigger desk before I get bigger monitors, how sad is that?)
Anyway, this was the first time I had noticed that all of the PCs that were for sale there, were 64-bit versions of Windows Vista. When did 64-bit become the standard OS for home users? Aside from the increased RAM capacities (these had 6-7GB of RAM generally), what is the big benefit to using 64 bit for the kinds of folks who buy PC's from a non-tech store? What kinds of weird incompatibilities are they risking by buying a 64 bit version of Vista?
I don't own a 64-bit version of Windows myself, and I'm not really in the market for a new PC, so I really haven't been paying attention at all. I figure I might want to ask some questions about the up and downsides before someone asks me about picking up a new PC with Vista Home Premium 64 bit and I steer them wrong!
Ran across this idea from a local Blogger/Tweeter, @wyliemac, and I think it has some real intriguing possibility. I've often seen local events that I might want to help out, but because of other commitments I couldn't volunteer, or attend, and even the lowest sponsorship levels are out of the question for an individual, so I wind up not doing anything.
And other than Startup Weekend, the big institutional investors seem reluctant to sponsor small niche tech events like the ones I put on. As a thank you to my sponsors, Iíd like to give back by helping tech events in Columbus find sponsors. Little sponsors. You and I. The ones with ďpersonal brandsĒ.
I want to put together a syndicate of people that give a little to pool their money for sponsorship. The event will have a link to a landing page with all of the individual sponsors and weíll also set up individual pages so you can get some Google juice.
As I said, an interesting idea for local events, which are pretty niche events by their nature most of the time, especially the first event he's trying this with, which is a Ruby developer's conference. Since I'm not a developer, I'll just be watching to see how this works more than being directly involved, but I do wonder if this sort of model might work in the Legal Tech industry. Obviously, with all the vendors in the Litigation Support and e-Discovery space, there's usually pretty good sponsorship, but I wonder if we couldn't get a group of bloggers to create a cooperative effort like this? Maybe not for national events, but perhaps for some regional and local events?
What benefits, aside from the cooperative web page linked and promoted by the event, would make you consider donating $25 towards a sponsorship? What events do you want to support in that way, even without further benefit, if the opportunity was available?
Now that I'm in management, I've been thinking about how many hours I can get people to work...
No, not really. I have, however, been thinking a bit about the idea of working extra hours though, and not just because I was doing a little bit of that getting things ready for trials. It started when I read Jenn Steele's post On Human Sustainability:
There is a perception that human sustainability is too expensive, that we're needed to be "on" at all times for the good of our company or family. This is completely false. Why? Well, I call it "working stupid". If I'm not giving my body and mind its basic needs, it will take me much longer to do any given task, and I'm much more likely to make a mistake and have to re-do the task later.
Then, I heard a similar take during a Fios webcast about Project Managemet and Litigation, as covered by Paul Easton:
One bit of wisdom shared at the very end is that for a legal project manager, time management includes the ability to manage yourself as a resource and knowing what your personal constraints are.
I found this one to be really interesting, because I know how very easy it is to just keep going, wanting to just be done with a project. I also know there are limitations to that but we don't really think about them in regards to ourselves, usually it's about how much to ask of others. Tired people work slower, and are much more likely to make a mistake. Even in Construction cases that I've been involved in you hear about how you can't simply have everyone work 12 hour days to get a project done in 50% less time, because they don't work as effectively at hour 10-11 as they do at hour 3-4. Knowledge workers maybe don't have the physical demands, but there is definitely that same point of diminshing returns for an hour of labor.
How many of us can tell story after story of the all-nighter we pulled in order to install a new server in an emergency, and the mistakes we've made in those situations. I know I can. Configuring something at 2AM on the weekend, after being in the office for 14 hours does not lead to the most careful testing of the configuration. I've overlooked simple problems when I've worked too long, I've created problems that slowed me down when I've been rushing to finish something and go home, and I've made boneheaded choices that required me to redo a lot of work later on. I'm sure you all have similar stories. Mostly we sit around drinking a beer and laugh about them. Heck, us IT folks wear those stories of grueling hours working on a project like a badge of honor! It's all part of the job, and you know, some times I absolutely agree. Stuff happens, and every once in awhile you have to do what needs to be done, but I do wonder sometimes if it would go a lot smoother, and with less glitches, if we could get some rest too!
I went to the first Wordcamp Columbus today, and while I thought there were some great sessions, and the organizers did a great job of putting the details together for a good day, I'm still going to give the day a mixed review.
First the plusses,
The opening keynote, by Jane Wells, was a great "here's what's coming up in the new Wordpress 2.8 beta release" session. It was great to hear the details and I look forward to seeing some of those in action.
The next session I attended was Legal Issues for Bloggers, which was also very good. (And no, I'm not just saying that because the presenters, Alex Brown and Vladimir Belo, are attorneys at the same firm I work in!) It turned into quite an interesting discussion about copyright, and employment concerns. There were lots of questions and useful, real life, information for bloggers, whether they use Wordpress or not.
The last three afternoon sessions in the main hall were also nice, brief, presentations filled with real life information and advice you could use right then and there. Cheryl Harrison on using social networking to spread the word about your blog, Noel Jackson on designing themes and some of the theory behind his design ideas, and Brian Lockrey on Internet security as it relates to blogs and podcasts. Again, they all did a good job giving you something to think about, and some advice on things you could do that maybe you didn't know about before.
The venue was great, the wireless was a challenge, but then again, where isn't the wireless a challenge? (For the record, I had no problem with the wireless, but I know some folks did.) The power available under each table in the main hall was well-used, the breakout rooms were actually fairly sizable, no cramming in and sitting along the walls, etc., and it was easy to get to, with plenty of available parking. Can't complain about that!
Now, the "not so plusses":
There was a "session" of sorts right before lunch that, frankly, was a little bizarre. A couple of folks with some ties to Automattic, the company behind Wordpress, showed a video presentation called "How Wordpress has Changed my Life" that was slightly over the top. From there it turned into a full-on tent revival, asking for testimonials about how Wordpress has changed your life, and what you are doing to give back to Wordpress and the community of Wordpress. As some of you are well aware, I'm not real tolerant of fanboys, of any stripe, and this seemed even far out there on the fanboy scale of things.
Look, Wordpress is a great web/CMS tool. I use it on my other site, and love some of what it can do. But it's still just a tool. The change in my life comes through because of the Internet backbone, and the people I connect with by using the different tools at my disposal, not simply because of the tool itself. It's ok to simply let it stand on its own.
The second disappointment to me is somewhat of a disappointment that I've had about the Columbus tech community in general, and this event was a good demonstration of it. It seems that the "tech" community of Columbus is less "tech" and more marketing and entrepreneurs. It's more business than it is about actual technology work. Thus, while there were a couple of good sessions about marketing yourself and your business, I'm not exactly sure what they had to do with Wordcamp.
Don't get me wrong, I've met a bunch of great people through the local tech community, and I have nothing against what they do for a living. We all need startup companies and marketing gurus! But, sometimes that dominance means those of us who are just geeky and want to learn about the technology, don't always get that at conferences. (To be fair, I did not stop by any of the unconference sessions, where there may have been more hands-on tech stuff, though the themes seemed more aimed toward beginners.)
So, if I had a suggestion for the organizers for sessions, it would be less business/marketing school, more "what kinds of cool things have I not even thought about using Wordpress to do yet?" Alas, I already know that I'm probably in the minority on that. There's too many other people trying to use the tools to make their fortune. I wish them well on that.
Still it was an interesting day, I learned some things, just wish I had managed to get around to more folks!
What, You Mean There's a Downside to Cloud Computing?
Yes Virginia, Cloud Computing isn't Santa Claus, there are risks, and they've been pointed out pretty clearly this week.
The first risk, of course, is what happens when your storage provider up and disappears? In this economy, companies increasingly don't make it and close the doors. It happens to huge companies and small. I know this fear well, as I was once using a hosting company for this site that shut down and disappeared, leaving many of us in the lurch and scrambling to find new hosting solutions, as well as making sure we had all our pages, and that was in a pretty good economy compared to what we have now!
Secondly, even a company as big as Google isn't immune to network outages. Personally, I didn't have any problems, but apparently there was some sort of network outage that kept a whle lot of people from being able to access Gmail, Google Docs and many other Google services. Cloud computing, for all the great benefits, still depends entirely on the "cloud" infrastructure working properly. When it doesn't, you've got problems.
As with any technology, you have to weigh the benefits and the risks to your business or personal use, and make the appropriate choice. As much as I love the idea of cloud computing, and online storage, we need to be aware of the potential downsides and be prepared to deal with them.
Heh, who knew the Boy Scout Motto would be so relevant to technology? ;)
Neville Hobson noticed this last week, and now after having spent a few days watching my Outlook 2007 install after installing SP2, I totally agree that it is running so much snappier than it ever has.
Back when I first tested Outlook 2007, I decided that there were a couple of things I didn't like. One being the inconsistent use of the Ribbon UI, it's on the individual email view, but not the inbox view. That remains, though I understand the next version of Office promises to move toward using the Ribbon UI everywhere in Outlook. The other issue was purely a matter of performance. Typically, it is simply very slow to open, slow to do a check for new mail, slow to close, and just generally slow.
Not any more. SP2, in my experience, has definitely brought back some of the speed that's been missing. Got to love that!
Not only can I vouch for the fact that the instructions in this blog post about moving Tweetdeck settings between two PC's work, but I can also tell you that it works between a Windows desktop and a Macbook as well. :-)
There's one adjustment, obviously. Instead of finding these in Documents and Settings\username\applicationdata (or Appdata on Vista)\Tweetdeck.... you'll find them in Username\Library\Preferences\Tweetdeck....
So nice to have all those groups and searches available to me on any machine!
So 60% of Twitter users quit after one month or less? Actually, that doesn't surprise me at all. I don;t think Twitter is necessarily for everyone first off, and more than that, it's actually kind of difficult to figure out at first, and takes quite a bit of work before you see the benefits. Most of the world simply never gets past the need for instant gratification and takes to the time to find the benefits.
Here's a simple comparison, go sign up for a new Facebook account. It'll ask you to import your address book and look for folks you know. It'll ask you to fill out your profile information, and take the place you work, or the school you went to, and makes those links, so you're one click away from seeing the search results for other folks with that same information. So you can see your classmates and coworkers within 5, maybe 10, minutes of signing up. Then you can add photos, and fill in all sort of other interests, and information about yourself.
Now, go sign up for a new Twitter account. You might be able to figure out how to have Twitter import your email contacts, and identify contacts who are using Twitter, and you can fill out a short profile about yourself, link to a website, and upload one photo. Then what? On Twitter.com how do you find people you might want to follow? How do you identify people you already know from your work or school? You can't. If you heard about Twitter on TV or read about it in the paper, and decided to check it out, what do you do from here? So, you try it out, and then you decide it's a waste of time.
Now, of course, if you start Twittering because someone you already know who is a big user, showed it to you, got you signed up and got you connected to some people, Twitter starts to make sense, and the benefits are clear much sooner. I'm betting the quit rate for those folks is less than 60%, at least.
So, will Twitter do something to make it easier to connect, or continue to rely on third-parties to do so? It would help to have something obvious to new users on the site itself. It shouldn't require high level of web-savviness to use, that only limits the audience.
According to Mike Elgan, if they purchase Twitter, that'll be exactly what they are developing with Google Profiles.
Is it possible that is what Google is planning? Sure. Could they develop something absolutely, positively, useful? Obviously they know how to do that with other products. Will it "kill" Facebook? Eh, maybe.
This actually brings up an idea that I've been talking to many people about lately when it comes to using Social Networking tools, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Friendfeed, etc. It's not just about having a service that allows you to link up your websites, photos and adding a status update piece, it's about who else is there. The thing that makes Facebook attractive as either a personal or professional networking tool, is who's already there. For example, I don't hang around Facebook because it's such a high quality tool, I hang around there because I can keep u with familiy members, people I went to school with, people I work with, and many other folks. They are all on there, and using it to share news, photos, etc. with each other. On top of that, it's pretty easy to locate folks, by having your own High School/College information, work information, etc. entered on yojur profile.
As of right now, there's no impetus to create a Google profile, because there's just no one there, and no real way to find anyone. Will buying Twitter and integrating Blogger, Gmail, Calendar and other Google propertes turn Google Profiles into an impressive tool? Probably, but any social network is only as good as the people on it. I didn't join a single one of those networks until after I knew there were some folks using them who I wanted to connect with, and I'm a pretty early adopter. The rest of the non-tech geeks of the world aren't going to jump to Google just because it's there. They'll jump if there are enough people they know to make it compelling.
By the way, this is also why it's impossible to answer the "would you pay $ per month for Twitter" question. I would pay some amount for what I have right now with Twitter, but if 60-75% of the people I'm connected to decide they won't, then the value proposition changes dramatically for me, and maybe I wouldn't pay anything any more. The value is the people who are there, you can't remove that from the equation.
Tim, over at Daily Cup of Tech is at it again this morning, with a new 24 in 24 series covering Content Management Systems, only this time he's tripled the numbers, promising to give us 72 CMS links.
I had no idea there were that many, share your own thoughts on the good the bad and the ugly with your experiences with CMS products. There's no way any of us could test them all out and still have a life!
Over at Daily Cup of Tech, Tim Fehlman has spent today listing one cool free tech tool every hour. He calls the series 24 in 24, and though I've only taken a cursory glance at the free tools he's shared thus far in the series, it appears there are definitely some interesting things to look into further.
You should be able to scroll through using his category listing for 24 in 24, at least for now. Perhaps Tim will provide a link for the full listing once he's done?
Update: Tim did leave me a comment, below with the link to the Freebies Roundup. Thanks Tim!
One of the more interesting conversations I had in New York with the family was, oddly enough, about social networking. Mostly due to the fact that I had "connected" with some of the family I was seeing that day on Facebook, and was sharing my plans to be part of a Social Networking presentation later this year. The subject elicited a variety of opinions, as it always does in any group, let alone a multi-generational gathering like this.
Among this gathering was my father's cousin, Philly. Now, Philly is older than my father by a couple of years, and I'm 40, so that should give you some idea of Philly's age. He's always been a bit of a character, quick to share a story or an opinion. Like many, he couldn't understand "why anyone cares what you had for lunch". I agreed with him on that, but tried to point out that there is a lot more than that.
Later in the day, Philly was sharing some details about growing up in the neighborhood where we were that day. He detailed for us how most of the family lived in the same couple of neighborhoods in Brooklyn, let alone all in the larger metro area. Being basically the first generation born in the US my grandparents and their siblings pretty much stayed right in the area they'd known their whole lives and their kids all grew up together. Over the next generation though, as more people in the family accumulated a bit more wealth, they started moving away. Families grew larger, and eventually began to disperse, first around the Tri-State area, and eventually out to Ohio, Florida, etc. and lost touch. That sense of community around the family started to get lost, and as a result, here I was seeing people I hadn't seen in 20 years, meeting my college aged cousin for the very first time, and getting my first glimpse of other cousin's who now had kids of their own.
I'm sure the story is familiar to many of you, but I couldn't help but go back to the previous discussion about social networks as he was talking about the downside of the family becoming more wealthy and dispersed. When my family moved to Ohio in 1984, the options for keeping in touch with my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. were pretty limited. Frankly I have to admit, much to my embarrassment, it didn't really happen.
Yet here we are in 2009, and I am getting updates from cousins, looking at photos they post of their kids and photos my uncle posted of his trip to Italy, etc. Almost as if we were back in Brooklyn getting together with the family. It's not a full replacement, but it sure helps people stay connected more than they have been able to up until now.
Even Philly had to admit that maybe this would be a great reason to use social networking tools. It brings just a little bit of that old neighborhood feel to otherwise distant families.
I've seen a number of big names in the E-Discovery industry emphasizing the need for some basic technology education as part of the law school curriculum, especially as it relates to e-Discovery.
In the last couple of days, I've also seen a couple of articles that highlight a couple of areas where just a little bit of knowledge can help out in regards to an attorney managing e-discovery.
The first was a great overview of how virtualization can impact the process of locating relevant data. The attorney managing e-discovery doesn't need to be an expert in hardware virtualization tools, but needs to be aware enough to find out if it's being used, and realize that sitting down at a PC and doing a keyword search for documents isn't going to locate anything that might be stored in the VM. Jason Briody does a good job giving enough information so that any attorney can be a bit better educated, without getting into too much of the nitty gritty tech stuff.
The second is a post by Craig Ball about the impact of 1TB and larger hard drives being out in the wild now. Simply put, when it comes to forensic imaging, it means more time, and more cost due to the shear size of the drives. This is a concept that I find many non-techies, not just attorneys, have difficulty grasping. Larger drives take longer to image, just as larger files take longer to copy, and larger data sets take longer to process, etc. It's important to understand the size of what we're dealing with before you agree to deadlines or make promises to clients about the time/cost involved.
It might seem pretty simply to the tech folks reading, but these are important details that often get overlooked when dealing with e-discovery. Having an attorney who is educated on these somewhat simple items can make a big difference!
Normally, I respect what Preston Galla writes about over at Computerworld, but yesterday's article just seemed like a whole lot of FUD to me.
The BBC reports that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin were able to take completely anonymous data from Flickr and Twitter, run an algorithm on it, and from that reconstruct people's real names and addresses. They were able to do that to a third of the people who used both social networks.
Now add Google information to the mix, and you can imagine how easy it would be to personally identify people, and then match them not just to their interests and surfing habits, but actual conversations and what they do in their everyday lives, as revealed by Twitter.
First of all, just on first blush the fact that researchers could take anonymous data and match it to a real name a third of the time doesn't really surprise me at all. How many people link to their websites from Flickr and Twitter, thus giving easy access to anyone to figure out who they are from the information on those sites? I'd actually guess it's higher than a third! Seriously, if you took identifying information out of my Twitter and Flickr streams, you'd still be able to figure out how often photos from my stream show up on this site, and how often my Twitter stream links to this blog, right? It's almost as if I want you to know who I am!
Granted, I'm not overly familiar with the study, this is just a gut reaction not an overly informed opinion of the study's methodologies.
Speaking of which, Preston's last line that I quoted is downright confusing. as a commenter noted on the article:
I thought people used Twitter so people would know what they were doing? If you don't want people (including Google) to know then don't post. Problem solved.
Yes, it seems that Preston, in the midst of his privacy zeolousness, has forgotten that the point of social networking sites like Twitter, is to share information! If there's information I don't want Google, or anyone else, to know I don't post it to Twitter!
There are plenty of real privacy issues, with Google and many other areas of life, that people should be concerned about, let's not ruin that capital telling people how horrilbe it is that a site who's whole purpose is to share information you post, is actually sharing the information you post!
I've sat in on enough product demos now, and had my own experience test-driving some of the applications, to have noticed something of a theme. Further discussions, have led me to believe that there's something to this as well. Namely, that while using hosted document review tools may safe you some money on the backend, they inevitably cost you in one other area, bandwidth.
You see, I've noticed that every hosted review tool I've used is dog slow compared to our in house Summation databases when it comes to loading document images, and switching between documents, and that is all because our office internet bandwidth can't keep up.
I suppose that's to be expected, every office I've ever worked in has had issues with bandwidth getting used, that's actually one of the understandable reasons for having Internet use policies. You don't want people soaking up all the bandwidth listening to streaming audio and making it harder for others to do any work, but even with those, there are days when it's a struggle to stay afloat in the bandwidth race. As more and more businesses put out audio/video content that is job-related, and more firms start using the "cloud" to offset in house IT costs, how do you make sure you still have enough bandwidth for your attorneys connecting to a hosted review platform to be productive?
I can't say that I have an answer, if you do, I'd love to hear it. Maybe that'll make my next test drive include a little less waiting.
I read a quote in this article about Facebook Friend Collector's being pretty normal, that really sums up the value in social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook for me.
"You can ask somebody, 'Of your 300 Facebook friends how many are actually friends?' and people will say, 'Oh, 30 or 40 or 50,'" Professor Baym said.
"But what having a lot of weak-tie relationships is giving you access to are a lot of resources that you wouldn't otherwise have."
One of the common "complaints" I hear about people who use social networking, from those who don't, is that following, or friending, hundreds or thousands of people, doesn't mean anything becase you couldn't possibly "know" that many people. It's not about knowing everything about people, it's having access to them, and their ideas, even in a limited way.
I follow over 450 people on Twitter currently. There are only a handful that I follow closely enough to really consider them close friends. I assume over time that number will grow, as I meet up with new folks in person and develop relationships, but I can't imagine it'll ever be the majority of the people I follow. That doesn't mean that those other connections don't bring value. I'm following them precisely because they are people I want to be connected to, people in my field that I read and respect, people who are sharing useful tech information, or information on local events and news, etc. It's connecting me to people I wouldn't have any other way to connect to, and giving me opportunity to access more resources through those connections than I would have through any other medium.
Ain't nothing wrong with that, it might even give your employees access to more resources that make them better at their job, imagine that!
Besides, a new study even shows that a little Facebooking at work might actually increase productivity, but that's a discussion for another day.
Saw this one today while keeping an eye on tweets from ABA Techshow, proof positive that popular hashtags are easy targets. I suspect this will continue, and if it works for the spammers at all, it'll be out of control fairly soon!
I discovered this little bit of disappointment with Evernote while prepping for our trip to NYC late last week (pics to come, soon, I promise!). Apparently, at least on my blackberry, I am completely unable to login to the Evernote mobile website. I get an SSL error about the certificate not being allowed, even when I follow the directions in the error to change my TLS settings.
Has anyone else had that problem, or is it safe to assume it's specific to our BES setup at work? Anyway you look at it, this error causes Evernote to be slightly less useful than it would otherwise be. Not being able to access notes while having my BB be my only internet connection is a downer!
I know I just spent a lot of time recommending you look up Brett at Techshow, but today I was listening to the latest ESI Bytes podcast, and the more Craig Ball talked about forensics, e-discovery, and security, the more things I wanted to blog about.
In fact, there was so much good stuff in there, I decided to just tell you to go download it yourself.
Though, for highlights I love his CSI rant, the comparison of forensic requests to "If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail" , i.e. you don't always need it, explaining that requesting "all" metadata doesn't mean anything (I've seen those requests), and the warnings about unqualified forensic "experts". (Hmm, sorta reminds me of social media "experts")
Like I said, there's a lot to digest in there!
Then, if you're going to be at Techshow next week, check out Craig's presentations as well. Not only does he know his stuff, but he's a really entertaining speaker as well. (Though I don't see his E-Discovery Jeopardy on this year's schedule, that was a highlight of last year for me.)
I was catching up on some podcasts today, and came across an episode on Career Opportunities that was "pulled from the archives".
In A Tech in Every Meeting, Douglas calls for organizations to include a high-tech worker to be present at creative meetings. This would eliminate the need for your IT workers to come back to you after you've already gotten excited about an idea with the harsh reality of what is feasible. If they were there in the first place, they could be part of your planning, instead of getting branded as "negative".
I remembered actually hearing this podcast the first time Douglas released it. Mostly, I remember agreeing with him completely, thinking that IT folks get a bad reputation for being negative, when in fact they just got brought to the game late, after momentum had started up.
Today, when I listened to it again, I had a different thought. It's not that I don't agree with Douglas, I still absolutely agree that the tech folks should be brought in early on a project. I just wonder if there aren't some techs who have earned their reputation for being negative because, well, they are. They are afraid of losing their control with things like blogging, twitter or other Web 2.0 tools, and so they simply refuse to acknowledge how much these tools are enabling their users to be more efficient, and do more interesting work, for example. They misunderstand the balance between security and usability, or they refuse to look at providing information through a Facebook page, or other outlet, for fear of losing their website's importance, etc.
Unfortunately, my years of working in IT and chatting with people outside of my own organization about how their IT departments work, have proven to me that there simply are some techs who would be negative even if they were in the early planning meetings, and probably work to actively discourage creativity in the interest of maintaining their own power. So if you're going to be including your tech people to deal with the technical aspects of any project, make sure you get one who can be realistic, and work as part of the team. In other words, a "good" tech.
I'm sure many of you working in IT have seen Antivirus2009, or 2008 as the case may have been. It's a fake antivirus app that gets installed as malware and does who knows what all to an infected PC. A few weeks ago I hit a site that was serving that junk in an add, and noticed that the scren looked an awful lot like Windows Explorer. Might have even fooled me into thinking that's what it was for a moment if I wasn't using my Macbook at the time.
Bill Gardner has the screenshot, and some more info on this threat. Take a good look at it, and realize that clicking anywhere in that screen is going to cause the malware to download. (I seem to recall seeing a screen with only OK as my choice, and had to resport to killing Firefox..)
Now tell me, what training are you going to give a typical, non-techie, home user to avoid infection? How are they going to know this is a scam, and even if they do how are you going to get them to not click anywhere, but open Task Manager and kill the browser that way? See the problem with counting on user education as the "fix" for security? You can't teach everyone everything. So what do you do while waiting for more secure browsers and web hosts? Pray?
Personal and Professional Unavoidably Intersecting?
That's what Michelle Golden suggested last week, and I tend to agree. I see this most plainly trying to document the time I spend in the office. I'm an hourly employee, technically I'm supposed to do work in the office, and then stop. Except, in the era of constant connectivity, how am I really supposed to do that? Am I supposed to only read e-discovery or tech articles in Google Reader during work hours, and never at home? Am I supposed to plan a lunch meeting with a friend only during the evening hours, and hope we don't have to change plans after I leave the house that morning? Am I supposed to only look at the Twitter folks I follow who are directly related to my job function?
The whole concept is ridiculous for a knowledge worker. Do I stop trying to gain any knowledge about my field at 5 o'clock each day? Of course not, that's not good for me, and it's not good for the firm. Not to mention the fact that I was issued a blackberry, obviously someone has some expectation that I'll keep an eye on it and reply in an emergency.
Yet, at the other end of the spectrum, firms are constantly telling their employees not to spend too much time on the internet, or blocking sites that they deem "personal". Michelle makes some points that I've been saying for years now:
Iíll briefly touch on policies, too. Frankly, as much as companies have tried over the last decade to stifle employee access of third party email sites, interactive websites, etc, itís simply impossible to restrict the entire internet. Why bother to lock out hotmail/yahoo when people have email and text on their smart phones??
That era is over.
And itís dumb to block most websites, too. Disallowing Linked In, Facebook, Blogs and Twitter (yes, some firms lock down all of those) is cutting off your firmís nose to spite its face. These are valuable marketing tools for those who wish to use them that way.
Michelle also points out that the way to deal with issues is the same way I enforced our policies back when I was working as the lone IT guy:
So, donít spend a lot of energy worrying about who is using what forum and instead, if issues arise at the individual level with regard to performance, then address problems one-on-one with that individual. Worry about people not getting their work done is the real issue behind the bans, anyway, right?
Today's reality is that there is little choice now but to trust the way people spend their ďtimeĒ is appropriate, overall, and simply hold people accountable for the end result: either they are cutting the mustard with performance, or they arenít.
Couldn't agree more. If you have people who are not being productive, what makes you think blocking Facebook is going to suddenly change that behavior? How about if you just solve your personnel issues without involving IT? Don't we have better things to do than keep track of all the various websites users might be wasting time on and blocking them? I know I do.
That's one of the recommendations Doug Cornelius makes in various discussions around the blogosphere about poor communication between "geeks" and "users". (Start here at 3 geeks and a Law Blog, which links to Jenn Steele's original post and read the comments on both for the background.)
Doug's claim that the problem with help desk tickets is that no one ever knows what happens and where they go, so opening it up so that he, as a user can log in and see what has been happening to resolve his issues, would solve the communication problem. I'm going to disagree.
Not because Doug's idea is a bad one, in fact I think that should be a requirement of any ticketing system. It certainly would help ease some of that black hole feeling, but I don't think it would put much of a dent in the real communication problem.
That's because, in my view, the lack of communication has little to do with users not being able to follow up for themselves, and everything to do with the fact that geeks are not given any reason to really communicate with users. Think about it, IT heads and organization's management teams demand those automated systems that allow a help desk tech to either fix the problem, or assign it to someone to fix, without ever leaving their desk. They connect remotely to a user's machine, make a small change, disconnect and call the ticket closed. There's no time spend building relationships with users, learning about what work they are trying to accomplish, talking to them about how they are working, looking for teachable moments where the tech could maybe help a user find a simpler way to do something etc. Those are the kinds of things that increase communication back and forth, not yet another piece of technology.
If you work at a help desk though, why woud you spend the time to do this? On one hand, you're probably working short staffed due to cutbacks, supporting a couple of hundred users with 1 or 2 front line techs, and what are you being evaluated on? The quality of relationships you've built, the follow up calls/visits to a user to make sure a fix is working, or how much you understand what your users are trying to do and how they could use technology to be more efficient? No, you're being evaluated on how many tickets you close.
Managers, remember you get the behavior you measure. If you measure closing tickets quickly and in large numbers, you'll get tickets closed quickly and in great quantity. When that results in poor communication between techs and users who don't know each other at all, I guess you better find a way to measure, and reward, behavior that improves those relationships. If you continue to only look at the bottom line expense of tech support, you'll get the bottom of tech support.
So, how are we feeling about Google's announcement that they're going to be doing more behavior targeted ads? Are we outraged at the privacy implications, or just glad they at least gave everyone an easy way to opt-out instead of just doing it without saying anything?
Discuss. I really am curious to hear what others have to say about this.
I've seen a slight increase in the number of blog posts, and tweets, talking about the upcoming ABA Techshow in Chicago. Last year's conference was a great time, but I won't be back there this year due to a limited budget, and plans to attend ILTA 09 instead.
So, much like LegalTech in February, I'll be doing my best to keep an eye on Techshow through the writing of people who are actually there. Unlike LegalTech though, I won't have to spend any time creating my own Yahoo Pipe output of searches, they already have their own at Techshow Buzz.
As it turns out, that's a very good thing for me schedule-wise. I'll be on vacation in NYC Mar 28-April 1, and will probably not even have access to do much of anything online. Techshow starts April 2. I won't have to do anything more than make sure I have the RSS feed for Techshow Buzz plugged into Google Reader, and then it'll just be a matter of catching up! Of course, someone scheduled the Twitter session for 8:30AM on Day 1, so I'll have to really get with it in the morning so I can track some of that live, if possible.
Who schedules any Social Networking session that early, don't they know who they're dealing with here? *L*
Last week, I was out of the house early to setup some A/V equipment at an all day seminar that one of our departments was putting on. When I arrived at the hotel, the power was out. I walked in with a laptop and projector, and some additional cables and it was all useless without any power to plug in to.
Luckily, the power came back shortly before the program started and we went about getting the presentation running and using the hotel's sound system for the day, but it got me wondering. What would we have done if the power hadn't come back on? Would we have continued on with the program sans electronics? We could have, it was a small enough room that the speakers could have been heard, and the printed materials could have doubled for the PowerPoint presentation, and the emergency lights in the room could have been enough, but it surely would not have been very pleasant, especially for the folks who paid quite a bit of money to be there!
Have any of you guys ever found yourself in similar situations where you had to get creative with contingency plans when things outside of your control go horribly wrong? Share your best stories!
He then goes on to use the word "I" somewhere in the neighborhood of 27 times in 7 short paragraphs. So, despite the title, the content of his post is really "I use Twitter to follow topics and listen, not to follow people", which is fine if that is how he wants to use Twitter.
I don't happen to think that's how everyone should use Twitter. Certainly, I follow enough people that we all know I don't read every tweet, but I follow the people I follow for a reason, and I love interacting with them and creating new connections in my industry, or who are local to me. My wife currently follows 40 people, I think. She is absolutely using it to follow select people, and is enjoying doing just that. Does that make her a poor Twitter user, or someone who is using the tool to do what she wants to do with it?
Twitter, like every other social network out there is a tool, nothing more nothing less. If the tool works for you, use it, if it works for you differently than it does for me, great, use it that way. If it doesn't work for what you want to do, don't use it.
A few days ago, I saw a link to an article, and I may have even bookmarked it on Del.ico.us to read later, that was from SearchSecurity.com. This is a Tech Target entity, and when I went back later to read the article I was prompted to register. Since there was one field to enter my email address, I went ahead and put in an old hotmail address I don't use very often, as I'm prone to do with sites like this, thinking once I gave them that, I could read the article.
Nope, once that was input, I was then presented with a page full of profile information, name, phone number, address, IT role, budget, etc. I decided I wasn't giving them that information, and wasn't even going to be bothered to fill in fake information, so I simply closed the browser tab.
Lo and behold, when I went over to hotmail, which I do every few days, just to see if there's anything I might want to read, I had an email reminding me to come back and finish my profile, and 7 other messages from Search Security.
Those messages all had an unsubscribe for that email list option, and another option to edit all my subscriptions. So I went to that link, and discovered that they had created a profile using my email address, and went ahead and subscribed me to 8, yes 8! different lists. Not only that, but when I tried to unsubscribe from them all, I was prompted to fill in all the required information in order to make changes to my profile. You know, all that information that I had decided not to give them before, when I left the site without creating a profile!
So, instead I followed the links to unsubscribe from that individual newsletter. Now I find myself down to 5 subscriptions, because the others have not been delivered yet, and no option but to wait for them to be so I can unsubscribe to them as they come in.
I have tried one other option, sending them an email asking for the profile I never wanted, to be deleted, we'll see how that works out for me.
Have you had an experience like this with website registration before?
Update: I did get a confirmation email that they have deleted my account, and I've yet to see another email from the site, so hopefully, it's taken care of!
Tom O'Connor posted yesterday about a conversation that has bounced around the litsupport mail list, quoting John Martin in the title of his post, It's the Archer, not the Arrow.
I won't repeat what Tom has written, you can go read it yourself, and frankly, I couldn't write it as well as he did anyway.
But I do want to point out something that I've found to be true through the years, and that held true not just in the e-discovery world, but in every area of technology. It's still all about the people. There's no process, or tech tool, that can stand up to a single person not following the proper procedure. Every security policy, record retention policy, e-discovery or forensic process depends on people doing the right thing, and thus it all has one common point of vulnerability.
Unfortunately, I find far too many people continuing to try and protect this vulnerability with more technology, when the real solution lies in having people who are properly trained and motivated to do the right thing. It's not as easy as throwing more technology, or budget, at the problem, but it's a heck of a lot more efficient.
I found a copy of the premiere issue of NextGen Law sitting on my desk when I arrived at work this morning. I don't really know how I got on their mailing list, but it's not a very thick magazine so I did spend a little time skimming through it this afternoon. It's not half-bad. Yeah, it's a little on the basic side for those of us coming from an IT background, but I thought the relatively quick-read, to the point, articles are great for passing along to folks who aren't as deeply embedded in the tech world as the rest of us.
The odd thing, however, is that I can't find a website for it. According to the publisher information it's a product of DailyJournal.com, however even on that corporate site, there's nothing. It's not even on the list of Publications.
Wonder if I'll ever see another issue? Does anyone have more info about it?
This is a follow up to yesterday's post about Morton's use of twitter. As Aaron and Angela both correctly point out in the comments, this sort of behavior devalues Twitter as a communication tool. I want to stop referring to Twitter and like-tools as "media" because media doesn't even begin to cover what it does.
Here's the thing, comparing online communication tools using a term that has nothing to do with two-way communication automatically invites people, in this case marketing people, to view the tool in the same way they view radio, print and television, as a place to get a message out to people who will consume the message.
As @michaelramm pointed out to me today on Twitter, yes you can use Twitter to pass along information to a large group of people, but it's also much more than that. It's also a terrific networking tool, allowing people to connect and share information and ideas on a one-to-one basis. That's the thing that differentiates not just Twitter, but the internet as a whole. It's not just about consuming information, it's a true marketplace. It's a large, never ending, networking event, if you like.
Let's take that metaphor and understand why all these "retweet to win a prize" gimmicks are just that, gimmicky. Let's say we are all at one large networking event, where you have to option to make as many connections as you can, and speak with all of them simultaneously. Sure, the event has sponsers, and you'll probably have to listen to a few words from each of them. Some of the folks in attendance are also working in sales, and want the opportunity to talk to you about their product. You, of course, have the option to say no, that product isn't really a fit for me, and you each move on. Certainly the people you have made connections with may find a product, or person that can be useful for you, so they pass along that information, doing great word of mouth marketing because they have had a good experience.
All of these things go on at networking events, and online, everyday. I have no problem with any of it. However, do you ever see anyone walking around a networking event and starting every conversation with "I'm trying to win a contest, so let me mention the name of a company you dont care at all about, just because they might give me a prize!"
You wouldn't stand for it. It's bad form on two fronts, one for the company in question, the other for the person doing the retweeting.
The company in question isn't asking people they have a relationship with to help spread the word about their product based on their own good experience, they are asking people who know nothing about them, to talk about them online in exchange for "payment" in the form of contest entries. It tells me that you aren't generating enough word of mouth, so you're resporting to a gimmick. It makes me wonder why you have to resort to this instead of encouraging people to talk about their own experience with you. Maybe it's because no one actually has had a good experience? On top of that, you're asking people to annoy their friends, is annoyance really the way you want me to remember your name? Surely a company like Morton's doesn't need to resort to this, and surely a company like Fahlgren Mortine, who in my interctions with folks who work there do actually seem to get social networking sites like Twitter, can do better.
The second, and more aggravating, front for me are all the people who continue to go along with this kind of thing, which I will explain in more detail in the next post.
I'm not sure that this is a problem for most meetup.com groups, but the Columbus Techlife group schedules quite a large number of meetups. For a group of over 600 people, that's a good thing. There's a pretty wide variety of events, covering the wide variety of interests among the group. And I get an email every single time one is added, a reminder as it approaches, and another right before it.
Meetup doesn't have any options to turn off these emails either. Apparently, if I want to not get emails about every new event, I would have to leave the group, which would then mean I couldn't RSVP to the events I am actually interested in!
C'mon Meetup, I have plenty of other ways to know of upcoming events, I follow the group's founders on Twitter, for example. Give me the option to turn off those emails!
So, after asking last week for recommendations, I've moved forward and decided to go with Evernote as my note-taking, organizational tool of choice, since Google is no longer going to be developing Notebook.
In the couple of days since I made the choice, there are a few things I really like, and a couple that are somewhat irritating, but I can live with them.
The biggest weirdness, for me, is that the interface is ever so slightly different between the Windows and Mac clients. The Windows client has a view option that is similar to the view I used in Google Notebook. I can have a given notebook open, and all of the notes in that notebook will display in one window, where I can simply scroll through them. The Mac client doesn't appear to have that, going with a more Outlook-like view where you open each note individually. Why would you include that view in one client and not the other?
The other thing is that in the Mac version, I can right-click a note and have the option to move it to another notebook, in the Windows client, when I right-click a note, the option to move it isn't there.
These differences make it just a little more irritating for someone who is constantly going back and forth between the Mac and Windows environments. There are quite enough small differences to keep in mind between the two operating systems without a program that's supposed to work in both throwing in a few more.
That being said, I'm enjoying Evernote's ability to sync notes across all my computers, and the web version for computers I don't want to, or can't, install a client on. I love that it has a OneNote import wizard, so I could not only move my Google Notebook stuff over, but also the stuff I had kept in OneNote because I didn't want it online with Google's service. I also love that I can encrypt portions of any notes, which helps me feel better about storing certain things and letting them sync across computers than I did with Google.
I also really like being able to have an "add to Evernote" feature built in to Outlook, and the web browser, not to mention the screen clips. (Though those features seem to be much more prevalent, again, in only the Windows environment.)
Hopefully, at the end of the day, synching all of this info makes me more organized, and therefore, productive. That's the whole point, and Evernote has proven useful so far!
Which one is going to be better suited to my to-do lists, brainstorming notes, gift ideas lists, and other random tid-bits of information that I like to keep organized in a OneNote like structure, but accessible in the cloud?
The other day, I spent an hour with Cheryl Harrison, meeting up as part of her Fast Friends experiment. (Which is an interesting experiment in ad of itself.)
One of the things we were discussing was the various ways people connect online now. I was regaling my new, young, friend with tales of having to go to Ohio State's Computer lab to get hooked up to IRC and Usenet, using a text-only browser, etc. I'm sure I sounded a lot like a grumpy old man to her, talking about walking 5 miles to school, uphill both ways, though the snow, etc. *L*
But it occurred to me, that even then, the thing that amazed me was connecting with people from all over the world through this communication tool, and how amazing that really was. Here was a tool that allowed me to send out a message and, like dropping the proverbially pebble in a pond, watch it spread out across the world and reach people all over who were also using this tool.
Now, granted, it took quite a bit of doing to get connected back in the early 90's. It's quite amazing how far we've come in that time, both in terms of the tools beng easier to use, and also in how efficient they allow us to be. On the other hand, blogging, twittering, social networks, etc. are all about the same thing Usenet was back in the day. We're still sending out our messages, and watching them ripple out across the 'Net, and just like the first time someone responded to a Usenet posting in like 1993 or whatever it was, I'm still amazed at how it ripples and where it goes after I post it.
Seven plus years after starting this blog, I'm still amazed at the feedback I get about it. I'm amazed that almost 400 people follow me on Twitter, and I'm amazed at how quickly a community has built up at the Child Abuse Survivor Network in under a month's time.
Like I said, the tools have allowed us to be so much more efficient now, and will only continue to get better over time, and the types of messages we're sending out now have changed, but the goals are still the same. It's still the connections, and the opportunities presented by those connections that matter.
Over the years I've worked with technology, I've listened to many, many complaints about the technological tools that folks are using in their work. Everything from poor interfaces, slow response times, and various limitations of the tools.
One of the more interesting ones I've seen though, are the folks who get bad data from a tool, and blame the tool. I.e., your firm's contact database lists the wrong information for someone, and after you tried to use that information and found the error, you blame the contact management system, as opposed to the user who entered the wrong information.
I used to work for a membership organization, so maybe I've become a little more sensitive to it than most, but I really don't know why users turn against a tool, when it's the user's entering bad information that causes the problems. (Garbage in, garbage out, anyone?) I've had to listen to users complain about outdated information not being updated, information not being in a database because no one ever actually collected it, or errors in their own searches, and in each of those cases, their suggested "fix" was to get a new database system. As if that would somehow magically make everyone collect, track, and update correct information when they never have before?
That being said, if you work in IT supporting one of these tools, your life is going to be so much better if the information in it isn't actually garbage. If it is, your users will turn on the technology, and possibly even you. If the information is good, they will like the tool, and by extension, be very happy with you.
Obviously, the more people entering data, the less control you have over it, but what can you be doing to help make sure your tool is still full of useful information? What training can you do to help users pay closer attention to what they're entering? What information might you want them to collect that is going to be helpful to various departments? What kinds of random "checks" can you put in place to find trends that may cause a problem down the road?
You may not feel like that's your job, and you'd be right. It is the responsibility of each user inputting data to make sure it's complete and correct, but when everyone in the organization quits using the tool that you're paid to develop and support, where's that going to leave you? Get out in front of problems before your tool turns into an albatross around your IT department's neck.
After a trip to the Franklin Park Conservatory this afternoon, followed by a nice lunch, we came home and my wife proceeded to head up to the office to work on uploading some of her photos. Not 10 minutes later, I hear her calling for me to come help her.
Somehow, the CF card she was using had become unreadable to her Mac. She had switched on the PC, which would read it, but didn't show anything on it. Obviously, this is not good.
Now, the software I had loaded on that machine that I had used one other time in a similar situation didn't read the card either, so I went out to grab a copy of PC Inspector Smart Recovery, which I had used numerous times in the past. Unfortunately, that program hasn't been updated since 2004, and trying to run it on Vista resulted in an error. This is not good either.
So, I stepped up to Google and found Recovery Manager 1.5 from VAIOSoft. That program doesn't list Vista as a supported OS either, but I took a chance and installed it, and it worked like a charm. The wife has her photos back, and I have her admiration, at least until the next time I do something dumb. ;-)
What do you all use for this sort of recovery, and more importantly, when this happens to me while traveling and I only have my Macbook, what Mac utilities are available for this sort of situation? Or am I better off starting up the Vista virtual machine and use this anyway?
I'm not exactly sure what I thought I was getting into when I decided to give Mr. Tweet a try. They advertise their service as "Who Should I Follow? - Mr. Tweet looks through your extended network to help you build effective relationships on Twitter."
To me, that meant they were going to check out my current network, and the things I tweet about, and help me find some folks I don't know about, who would add to my Twitter experience.
That's not what I got, at all. More than a week (maybe 2 weeks?) after I asked Mr. Tweet to give me some recommendations, I finally got them yesterday, and was immediately disappointed. I was greeted with page after page of uber-popular A-List people. These were not people I wasn't following because I didn't know about them, they were people I had already made a conscious decision not to follow, because they aren't all that relative to what I'm doing. In a nutshell, all Mr Tweet turned out to be was yet another "friends of friends" service. Yes, more than 100 people I follow also follow folks like Leo Laporte, Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, Kevin Rose, etc. So what? By suggesting that I should follow these people just because lots of other people follow them, doesn't really help me find people I don't know about.
Again, I already know these people are on Twitter and made the decision not to follow them! Mr. Tweet isn't providing me any new information, it's just spitting out the most popular twits, because some of the people I do follow also follow them. That is an overly simplified and borderline useless basis for suggestions. Individuals have a great many interests, just because one of our's overlaps, does not mean that they all do.
In the meantime, I'm still looking for folks twittering about the things that do interest me, well. Hopefully, some service will step into the marketplace with something more than "friends of friends", eventually.
I had a random thought today while I was processing some e-discovery documents. I stumbled upon a resume, and noticed that the author name didn't match the name on the resume. That got me thinking.
Now, certainly there are plenty of reasons why the author name would not match the name on the resume, things like borrowing a computer, having a shared computer at home, or simply having someone else type it up for you. But still, I wondered if any hiring managers out there have ever looked at the metadata of a resume, and whether that influenced how they felt about that resume.
As the hiring manager, how would you feel about a resume with an author that's a resume writing service? Would that make you question how much you're reading the thoughts of the candidate or the words of someone else?
Or, what else could the metadata tell you? What if the author is listed as the company they currently work for? What if the edit/save information showed they were working on this document on that work PC during work hours? How would that change your thinking on a candidate, or should it? Heck for that matter, how would you feel about someone sending you a resume from their work email address during work?
Of course, speaking of email, just like you shouldn't have a questionable email address, like hotmama98@hotmail, you probably don't want to write your resume signed on as Weedsmoker, or something similar. That just might show up in the author field, and well, what are people going to think of you?
Then again, maybe most managers and HR people never even take any of this into consideration. I think I would if it was me. If Googling people is part of due diligence now days, why wouldn't something like checking out the metadata of an electronic document? Never know what it will tell you. (Especially if someone was silly enough to use track changes...)
So, anyone want to start sending resumes as PDF's? :)
The other day, after replying back and forth with someone for part of the morning, over lunch I got 4 error messages from the remote email server that my messages hadn't been delivered. The ones that had already been replied to.
That same night, the US Postal Service sent me an email to let me know that they had attempted to delivery my package, but couldn't, and so I would need to contact them about picking it up. That would be the package that in fact, was delivered that afternoon. It was delivered to the office, just like I had ordered it.
So what kinds of email follies have you seen lately? :)
In my short time working in Litigation Support, I've been through a number of product demo's from vendors and there are a couple of pet peeves of mine that could easily be avoided. I felt the need to address a couple of them here, in the hopes that someone out there will take the time to do this right!
First, and foremost, do your homework on my firm! If you have scheduled a product demo with me, you know where I work. Tthere are certain facts about the firm, facts which are easily found on the firm's website and thus I shouldn't have to tell you. Things like how many attorney's we have, how many offices, their locations, etc. If you had spent 5 minutes looking at the firm's site, you'd know these things. Lord knows I spent the 5 minutes looking at your site before the demo, please have the courtesy to do the same.
This goes double if there are any attorney's sitting through the demo with me. Again, 5 minutes on the site can tell you what area of law they practice in, wouldn't it be great if you knew what it was, and modified the demo "script" accordingly? Why yes, it really would!
Moving on to the scripted demo, it goes a long way with me if your sales guy can get through the demo without having it appear as if he's never done this before. Case in point, if your hosted review solution requires popups to be allowed from that site for a certain function, and the popup gets blocked when he/she uses that function in the live demo, I can only conclude that they've never used the product before. Is that what you want me to conclude?
Another example? I have done a lot of training in my time, both in IT and Lit. Support. Whenever I run through my training "script", I always make sure that I know exactly what is going to happen when I use a function. If I am teaching a class about Excel formulas, I make sure I know exactly what that formula will do in my training spreadsheet before I do it in front of an audience. In database training, I know exactly what my searches are going to return before I do them live. It only makes sense to do this. I don't want to have to stumble around while the people I'm training watch and wait. It's embarrassing. When you run a search to show me how the search works, and it gets no results, and you stumble around trying to get results, I'm embarrassed for you.
Lastly, if there's a feature of your product that you don't know how to use, or may not quite be ready, don't try to show it to me. If it doesn't work, that doesn't look good.
So, in short, do your homework and practice your demo. Your demonstration of the product should come across like you have done it before, in fact like you do it every day.
Edited to add: If you promise me something during the presentation, I will not follow up with you to remind you to send it to me. Waiting to see how long it takes you to follow through is part of the test...
Edited (part 2): When you create a demo case for us and provide me with a logon to test drive your tool for myself, when I login and get an email 1 minute later telling me how you saw me login and to let you know if I have any questions, followed up by a phone call when I don't immediately respond to your email, I don't find it helpful, I find it creepy. It makes me want to do anything but login and test drive the product again. Is that what you want?
I had my doubts about using Ning, mostly questioning whether we really needed a way to create even more social networks! Turns out, though, that when I was trying to create a way for child abuse survivors, and their significant others to meet up with others in the same situation, interact, and create a community, I turned to Ning to create a new network as opposed to trying to force a network to fit on Facebook or some other platform.
It was pretty easy to start the network, choose which features I wanted to include, decide the layout, and what questions I wanted to ask as part of a user profile. Then it was a snap getting in, creating my profile an adding an apllication. It all made sense, and seems to follow similar logic as other social networks. Can't complain about that. I'm sure if I was more of a programmer, or had more patience, I coud hack away at the CSS and customize it even more, but for now, we'll go with what I put together over the course of a couple of hours.
We'll see if the network grows and starts to flourish. I hope it will, and if you know of any child abuse survivors in your midst, please spread the word!
Group and Friend Suggestions, is there a better way?
I've written about this before, with Facebook's "People you may know" tool, but I'm reminded again today because of some "recommendations" of groups that are starting to appear on LinkedIn and other sites as well.
As I mentioned before, just because you read this blog, and maybe I follow your blog, and we're "friends" on-line, doesn't necessarily mean that you and I have the same interests outside of that relationship. For example, I know a few of you guys live pretty much across the country from me, and we are connected on Facebook, or LinkedIn, etc. Just because we're connected, doesn't mean that I know your neighbor, or person you went to middle school with, who also happens to be connected to you. It seems like, if I fill in some friend details, there should be some algorithm that would eliminate the more obvious cases. Something like taking people I went to elementary school with, and my in-laws, and figuring these people have no reason to know each other, so we can drop them from the list?
The same should be true of group affiliations. LinkedIn and Facebook seem to want me to always know what groups my friends are joining, insinuating that I might be interested in those groups too. Again, here we could maybe apply a little common sense to the algorithm, no? Geographical groups in a place that I have never lived or alumni groups that don't match where I went to school? Women's groups? Single's groups when I list myself as married? Obviously, I'm not going to be overly interested in joining in those groups, why spend so much effort to bring them to my attention just because someone I am connected to joined them?
Surely, someone can make some programming changes and improve on this! I mean, I'm no programmer, but it seems like there are some logical places to eliminate obvious non-interests from my friends group memberships, thus there must be some way to add that logic to the algorithms? Or are social networking sites really just lazy about giving us more specific results because we don't expect it from them? I've gotten somewhat used to getting more information than I want on social networking sites, and ignoring it. Maybe that's what they count on?
Hmm, so attorney's are going to want more mobility, and clients always want more responsiveness from their attorney. Let's face it, clients are not going to accept "I'll get back to you when I'm back in the office next week". They'll find a new attorney, one who can respond to their email, review a document, and send a letter on their behalf without waiting to be "in the office" to do it.
All that requires mobile technology, and the attorney's are going to demand the freedom to use whatever mobile technology is easiest and most convenient for them. That includes thumb drives, Blackberry or iPhones, VPN connections, etc. (Eventually this will probably include "cloud" storage too.)
Of course, of the other hand you have two interests on the opposite side of all this mobility and accessibility. One, obviously is data security. How do you keep confidential information, well, confidential?
The other is the possibility of electronic discovery. What happens when you're party to litigation, and the people of interest have been using a blackberry, maybe a thumb drive or two (or 3-4?), working on some documents on their personal PC? A mess is what happens, that's what.
So, the question for law firm IT folks is how to you balance these two seemingly competing interests?
To me the answer lies in policy and education. Unfortunately, that's not going to be easy. There are no shortcuts. You've got to figure out what is going to work best in your situation, and then do the hard work to find the correct balance. I'm still not sure what it would be.
I spent some office time today listening in on the 10 Things every Corporate Legal Department Should know about Discovery webinar sponsored by Mimosa Systems today, and had a few notes that I posted to Twitter, and want to talk a bit more about here.
The speaker for this webinar was Bill Savarino, Partner at Cohen Mahr LLP in Washington DC. His points were mostly aimed at corporate legal departments more than law firms, but I wanted to get a sense for what he was telling those folks, because those are the same issues facing our clients and it's good to have some idea of where they are.
The first thing Bill said was that corporations that do not have a retention policy covering their electronic documents, are already behind the curve and are keeping much more than they need to. Couldn't agree more. I saw this when I worked in IT, and I see it with clients all the time. There is just so much stuff to go through and review, simply because they've kept everything. Years worth of emails, documents, database records, backup tapes, etc. add up to quite a large legal bill for e-discovery purposes. The more "stuff" the harder it is to find the relevant documents to any litigation, and the harder it is to find, the longer it's going to take, and the more it's going to cost.
He suggested working with your legal team, and taking a look at ARMA for samples of policies.
The next point Bill made that I mentioned on Twitter was that there should be a good relationship between your legal department and IT department. It's not the first time I've heard this advice when it comes to e-discovery. This was also the tweet that got the most response, because I added that it's not something I've seen very often at all! Obviously, I'm not alone in that opinion. Of course, the importance of it is obvious whenever you stop to think about how you respond to litigation. One of the first steps your legal team is going to do, is have to figure out where the relevant Electronically Stored Information is. Who knows that better than your IT department?
Case in point, last year at another conference, speakers referred to the "IT guy with backup tapes in his trunk." Since I used to be that guy, it certainly rang a bell to me! Let's face it, when your legal department gets wind of litigation they're probably going to go to the CEO and other executives to formulate a plan. Do any of those folks know all the places where documents might be stored? I bet not. But I bet there's some random person in the IT department, who's been there forever, and knows where everything is, who no one even thinks about getting involved.
I'm not a lawyer, but I know enough about IT to know that this is probably pretty good legal advice, and I know from experience, and from what I hear in the industry, that lawyers and techies, do not get along very often. But they absolutely should. Lawyers need the techies to locate ESI quickly and correctly, and techies need lawyers to guide them when searching for and working with relevant documents, so that they do so appropriately.
One of the more "interesting" pieces of advice Bill had was for organizations to do this in-house as opposed to outsourcing the collecting and culling of e-discover because of the cost of doing so. I had a bit of a problem with that advice, simply because not every IT department has the expertise to do this correctly. Many medium sized and smaller organizations probably shouldn't be doing this on their own, they need an outside expert. Lord knows when I was a one-man IT shop at a small organization, I had no business doing this! Of course, the webinar was sponsored by a company that sells email archiving and discovery solutions, that help give you more ability to do this in house, for a price. I'm not certain that fact is unrelated to the advice, unfortunately.
He also mentioned, several times, that when it comes to technology like thumb drives, working from home computers, instant messaging, etc. "If you can't manage it, ban it". I thought to myself, that horse has already left the barn. Most of us know there are a ton of people using thumb drives to take work home, logging in from their home PC's, using personal cell phones to conduct business calls, or text messages, etc. I'm not so sure you can put that genie back in the bottle. At best, perhaps you can educate employees on the risk of their home PC's being seized and searched if the company gets involved in some investigation and they've used them to do work. I'm still not sure that would stop it.
Lastly, one suggestion I could get behind was to look for tech savvy attorney's with experience working in e-discovery when it comes time to find outside counsel. This is, of course, where I point out that I'm not an attorney, and none of the advice that I'm sharing with you from the webinar should be taken as coming from me. You should find yourself one of those attorneys with experience dealing with technology, e-discovery and retention policies and talk to them about the best way to protect your business.
Today I was trying to take a part of a YouTube video and getting it inserted into a PowerPoint presentation. I'm pretty sure the workflow that eventually accomplished this feat could use some improvement.
I started by grabbing the FLV and converting it to AVI using Vixy.net.
Then I tried to simply bring the AVI into Windows Movie Maker, and clip part of it. However, that didn't work. Trying to save the file as a WMV resulted in an error, and playback resulted in sound, but no video. Not good.
So, I took my AVI's at that point and thanks to this site, used Prism to convert them to WMV, which I could then bring into Movie Maker and get my clip.
So, like I said, there's an extra step in here that I'm not thrilled with. Is there something about the AVI files that I could correct that allow it to be clipped in Movie Maker, or is there some way to take the FLV direct to WMV? Either one would save a step! :)
Ever since I created my Gmail account as my name, I've gotten occasional emails that are not meant for me at all, but are meant for people with the same name. Now, I have no idea how other people are getting the impression that my name @ Gmail is this other person's email address, but it's been frequent enough to make me wonder.
Over the past couple of years, I've gotten flight confirmations from SFO, notes from an aunt, a copy of a HS kid's resume, and lately group emails from a group of Sununu supports rallying for his election.
Usually, I do send a reply letting them know they've got the wrong address. Do you?
Wonder what Google's advertising within Gmail thinks of all that? :)
Simply put, the headline of this post from Gabe's Guide to the E-Discovery Universe describes exactly what you should expect if you are party to a lawsuit at work, and use your home PC to access work information. News Flash: Yes, your home computer may not be safe from your jobís legal issues
This is yet another area where the line between work-life and home-life is a blurry mess. This crosses over in to all sorts of different areas, business risks, work-life balance, employee expectations, etc. Technology has really changed the way we work, and eliminated the idea for many of us, that we go home at 5 and that's it.
Interestingly enough, on the flight to Kansas City for my wife's cousin's wedding this past weekend, I was reading an article in the online magazine for Northwest Airlines about Best Buy's corporate headquarters ROWE approach. ROWE stands for Results Only Work Environment and is based on the book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It. The basic idea is that there are no schedules. If you want to go to a movie or grocery shopping in the middle of the day, or don't want to start your work day until 2PM, then so be it. So long as the work you're assigned gets done, you get your results, no one cares how you get it done.
Now, obviously, this wouldn't work everywhere. If you have customers that expect you to be available during certain hours, you kind of have to be, but how many of us work in places that expect us to be in our seats "working" for certain hours during each day regardless of how much work there actually is to do at that point, and then expect overtime during the "rush" times?
In other words, how much less would your Litigation Support staff suffer burn out if they had the freedom to schedule their lives around the workload, as opposed to having to be in the office, sitting at a desk, twiddling their thumbs until 5 every day, only to then have to put in 12-16 hour days when there is a ridiculous workload and deadlines? How much better could their quality of life be if they could leave the office for a few hours in the middle of a slower day and get some errands done?
To look at it a different way, why does your IT staff invest in technology that allows people to access network resources from anywhere, and then you expect them to make sure they spend their 40 hours in the office? Because you want them to be able to work after hours, right? What do you offer in return? That may be why your workplace sucks.
Today at work I was being helpful and covering the helpdesk for an hour so that our helpdesk folks could have a meeting with their manager. Being the always-on kind of guy, I posted to twitter from my phone about doing that and what it was like.
In fact, I mentioned that it was kind of like riding a bike, after a couple of phone calls, I fell right back into a groove with it, short-lived as it was.
Alas, that's not why I am writing this post. The inspiration for this post came from a reply I got on Twitter, from Tony Hartsfield:
@mikemac29 Wonder if a help desk stint shouldn't be a mandatory annual exercise.
The more I thought about it, the more I thought that might not be a bad idea, at least in some cases. Here's why I think it could be, because not all IT jobs have direct user contact, and sometimes, without that, it's easy to lose sight of why you are there.
Now, for myself, Lit Support has a ton of direct user contact, so I really don't need the reminder, but I know plenty of networking folks, or software developers, etc. that don't have much, if any, contact with end users. Sometimes that leads to seeing their role as something other than providing the technology support so that others can do their jobs. An occasional shift at the helpdesk would remind them that the core business of the organization isn't to have a server room, or cool tech tools. Those tools exist to help the people who are at the core of the business. In many cases, IT isn't there. It's an important part, but it's not the core.
Sometimes it helps to peek out of the server room and see how those tools are impacting the people who are out doing the organization's business.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago the question I had about Bloglines, a commenter suggested I contact them. So, I went over to the site, filled out the contact form. I got the automated reply, and two weeks later, I still have no answer.
I thought about it today after seeing Ed Bott's post about the many problems Bloglines has been having lately. Maybe they were busy with that, but somehow I doubt it. I'm not holding my breath waiting for any kind of answer to my question about the number of subscribers. For all I know, the function on their site that shows you the number of subscribers is wrong, I haven't seen it change in a long time. It's certainly possible.
Of course, Bloglines isn't the only place I've filled out a contact us form lately. I also filled one out with a question about membership at the Columbus Zoo, and I'm still waiting for a response to that. We'll see how long that takes, or if I even get a response.
I don't really understand why places have a contact form and then don't respond. Seriously, this is 2008, soon to be 2009. We have instant communication all over the place, and it takes an organization weeks, or longer, to respond to email? If it's going to take that long, don't bother suggesting that we contact you that way. Having a form like that, with a promise for a timely response leaves the user with the impression that you will, actually, respond in a timely manner. When you don't it makes you look bad. Not good, especially for organizations that I like and respect.
When other organizations are on Twitter, and I'm interacting with the people who work there every day, it makes this response time look even worse.
Update: Naturally, the next day the Bloglines subscriber count according to Feedburner changes. At first it had the old count, plus the new, reduced count, for a new high, then it went back to the old count. Still no sort of communicaton from them about what happened.
This was posted to one of the Litigation Support mail lists, and I found the idea to be somewhat fascinating. Print What You Like:
Ever print a web page only to find your printout is full of ads, empty space and other junk you don't want? PrintWhatYouLike is a free web page editor that gives you control of how web pages look when printed.
There's no installation involved, you just enter the URL you want to print on the site, or in the bookmarklet, and then edit the page to look the way you want. In my brief, 5 minute, look, it seemed a little difficult to pick up how to edit, but I figured it out. I'm sure you will as well. Not a bad tool to have laying around when you get those phone calls from people trying to print a page that just won't behave.
Over the weekend, after seeing quite a few references to it, I decided to download Tweetdeck and check it out for myself.
The idea of breaking the people I follow on Twitter into different groups was sort of intriguing, but I wasn't exactly sure how it would work out in practice. As I began to use it though, a thought occurred to me. Typically, as a Twitter user, I don't go back and catch up old tweets very I'm just not going to see it. There's too much "stuff" to go back through.
As I looked at Tweetdeck, I realized that it would go back up to 48 hours to "catch up" on tweets. What if I created a very small group of the people I would want to see anything that they might have been tweeting during the time I was offline? For example, my wife. Tweetdeck's group feature, and ability to pull in that much history, makes that easy.
Now I just have to be careful not too add so many people to my "must read" list that it becomes overwhelming. :)
Of course, I've also managed to put together a couple of other groups, one for local twits, another for legal twits, etc. That helps me keep some of the topical conversations organized a bit better, but I'm still not sure that brings me as much value as a feature as my must-read list does!
Go check out Tweetdeck and let us know what you think and what features you like best!
How much easier would it be if every email was tagged, classified, and stored accordingly? What if no one from an organization could send an email without classifying it first? We already do things like force them to wipe metadata from attachments before they are sent, why not force them to "tag" it? You could still allow for personal use of email, you just wouldn't keep anything marked personal in your archiving system.
I think it's a great idea, but it's late so maybe there's something I'm not thinking of? What do you think?
Apparently, if you use Robocopy to copy data into a folder that doesn't already exist in the source directory, Robocopy will create the folder, as I thought it would, but it will be created as a System folder, with Hidden and Read-Only attributes.
Now, that's not a big deal, it's easy enough to make hidden files and folders visible, however it is a problem if you want to include this new folder with other folders within the same directory in a Windows Search. You have to search it on it's own.
For example, if you have a disk with backups dated Jan., Feb. and March, then decide to give Robocopy a try and use F:\April\ as your source directory (Assuming April doesn't yet exist), you will not be able to search for files across Jan., Feb., March and April. April will have to be searched separately. At least that's the behavior I'm seeing. However if you create the April folder before using Robocopy, no worries.
I installed the upgrade to version 2.0 of VMWare Fusion a few weeks ago, and it seemed like there were no problems. Today, I realized there is one problem. Seems that whenever I let the VM go into a suspended state, and then restore it from that suspended state, the video slows down dramatically.
Now, let's be honest here, I didn't notice this because I don't generally use that Vista VM enough to have it go into a suspended state. Generally, I start it up, use Windows for what I need it for, and shut it back down. If I need to do extensive work in Windows, I'll wait until I'm home and use my desktop for that, unless I'm traveling or there's some other reason why I'd use my laptop instead.
So it doesn't really impact me all that much, and it wasn't until today that I thought to actually see if I could repeat the slow down. Indeed, I can. Start up Vista, suspend the VM state, restore it, and then start a game of Free Cell, which shows me right away how slow the graphics are, as it slowly deals out the cards from the deck.
Of course, like any good Windows machine, virtual or otherwise, simply restarting the guest, fixes the problem. ;)
From time to time I find myself needing to use the Robocopy utility to copy data and retain all of the metadata from the files I'm copying. It's actually quite a nice utility, not only does it maintain the metadata you tell it to, it also is a way more robust and speedy way to copy large amounts of data than just using Windows copy command. It's part of the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools.
The last time I was doing this, I was trying to get a copy of all the data from one external drive to another. (For various reasons, I couldn't remove the drive from it's enclosure, I just needed to copy the data off of it, leaving some important metadata intact.) Using robocopy from the command prompt, it's a pretty easy robocopy F:\ G:\ command, but given the large number of switches that go along with the command, I like to use the Robocopy GUI utility that is available at Technet.
However, the GUI interface wouldn't work properly with drive letters. It's worked before for me copying from a directory, but apparently it doesn't want to recognize the drive letter as a directory and give me anything underneath it. Oddly, I tested another utility I sometimes use for similar work, PathSync, and it didn't recognize anything underneath F:\ either. It's very strange.
As it turns out, it wasn't a huge deal, I went back and figured out what switches I needed to get what I was after, and got my work done using the command line (robocopy F:\ G:\ /e /copyall /r:3, for reference check this blog post with the switches available and what they mean.)
BTW, Robocopy copied about 70GB of data from one USB drive to another in less than 2 hours, in case you don't think it's more robust than Windows Explorer. ;)
On an E-Discovery webinar today, Browning Marean of DLA Piper was talking about the duty of attorneys to be competent to some degree with the technology they were dealing with, when he said the following:
"One way to get competent is to associate yourself with people who are competent."
Now he was referring to vendors, technologists and other experts in the field that they could learn from, or lean on when they need some form of expertise, and I couldn't agree more.
More than that, I'd say this little bit of advice works for just about any professional field or interest you may have! If you need to get competent with something, anything, find someone who already is and learn from them. On-line social networking simply allows us to do that sort of thing on a much wider scale. Now, if I have a question about something, instead of making a couple of phone calls, or asking someone I work with if they might know someone, etc. I can post my query to Twitter, which shows up on my blog, and on my Facebook, and a number of places that I don't even keep track of anymore.
That's a few hundred people, in my case, who I can ask a question of with just a little bit of typing.
I haven't even talked about the benefits of interacting with all these folks and seeing their expertise at work, learning as I go just by reading the things they post about, or being connected to people in locations, and professions, that I might need some information about, etc.
Again, take all that stuff you learned about networking from business school, or law school etc. All that information about the benefits of having an active network, of the sharing of information and contacts. Now realize that social networking tools allow anyone to do that sort of thing, with a much larger reach, even if they are somewhat shy or otherwise socially awkward.
Imagine all the things you can "get competent" at with these tools? Why aren't you?
Last week, when I talked about the questions of having the right adapter for every hard drive type possibly being a reason to consider not doing this sort of work in-house, I responded to a comment with this phrase, "it's a bit trickier when you have to explain why I can image THAT laptop, but not THIS laptop, especially when they're both from the same manufacturer."
As this week has gone on, I've thought more about the concept of expectations, and how do you explain why you can do some things, and not others, or why moving data sometimes takes this long, and other times takes much longer because of the bus speed of the equipment you're using, or the write speed of the media, etc.
Case in point, imaging a SATA drive is much faster than imaging an IDE drive, even if they are the same size. Moving data from a network share to an external drive is slower than moving it directly from a local drive, etc. Most times you may not really think about it, but when you're doing discovery, and dealing with large amounts of data, there is a very noticeable difference, and it's one you have to plan around.
Unfortunately, not everyone realizes that they need to plan around these things. They see that moving a case database took an hour the last time they asked, so they don't understand why they can't take a laptop with the case database with them in a little more than an hour. They can't understand why copying a drive can be done by the afternoon one time, and need 24 hours the next, or why we can print out a set of documents at the office in 30 minutes, but it takes hours using another printer at a client office.
More than that, they can't understand why we could easily grab data from one type of computer, but not be able to grab it from an Exchange or SQL Server the same way, and let's not even get started on RAID arrays!
Thus, if you're an attorney working with this stuff, you really only have two choices. You can take the time to understand all of the technology, at least to enough of an extent that you can have some idea of how things work and how difficult they are to accomplish, or you can trust the people who do this work for you, whether it be in house or an outside vendor.
I suppose your third option is to not understand it, constantly disregard the estimates given on the time work will take, and spend your working life angry at various litigation support or IT workers (external and internal). That doesn't sound like much fun, though.
I'd love to hear from others about how they manage these expectations without going crazy, so please leave your best ideas in the comments.
Well, maybe not rescue so much, but I can say that as much as I like Twitter currently, I really gained a new appreciation for it last night. Within about 10-15 minutes of returning home from Dayton/Cincinnati on Sunday, the remnants of Hurricane Ike, which seemed to have moved at quite a pace up from Texas, knocked the power out in our neighborhood. (We were 1 of about 2 million people without power in Ohio because of up to 75mph winds!)
Our power remained out all night, and into Monday morning. (Thankfully ours was back on by the time we got home from work on Monday. We are lucky, many are still without!) With no power, of course, our house digital phone line was out as well. My blackberry, however, was working quite well, and thanks to constant Twitter updates from local friends, and news media members, I was able to "check-in" with the outside world and keep track of what was going on without having to call individual folks to get the scoop. Twitter was where I found out how wide=spread the power outages were, where I learned about schools being closed, and where I learned about time frames being given for power to be restored. Twitter was where I kept on-line friends informed that we were home, and safe. Twitter was where I got updates from around town from various local tweeters. Twitter, was, for all intents and purposes, our lifeline to stay connected.
Jenn Steele, who writes a blog dedicated to discussing how to manage the IT department called Leading Geeks, has an interesting post today, On Attitude.
I find that geeks easily fall into sub-optimal attitudes, which usually fall into two categories. The first is what I call the "stupid user" category, where they develop the attitude that anyone who doesn't work in their department or on computers is too stupid to function. The other I call the "end of the world" category, where they develop a Chicken Little attitude about anything that goes wrong.
I know every one of you reading this has seen both of these, and probably suffered from them at times.
She goes one later in the post:
In my work environments, I watch for these attitudes and actively discourage them for several reasons. First, I really want to create a service organization inside my law firm. Second, it's just more fun to work around positive people. Finally, I want better work product from my geeks, and, since they're not attorneys, a positive attitude leads to better working results.
I find myself in agreement with what Jenn says, in theory. In practice, I wonder how many IT Departments don't have issues with bad attitudes?
Look, the Nick Burns SNL skits were funny because everyone who watched the show knew someone just like that. Yes, it's an exaggeration for comedy's sake, but it's funny because there's an inkling of truth to it. Not only that, but I'd hazard a guess that most people not only knew someone like that, they also expected to be treated like that by their IT support people. That's why people hate to call tech support! (I know, I'm one of those people who hates calling tech support!)
On the other hand, sometimes users actually do stupid things, and as a geek, you have to deal with those occurrences, every single day, one after the other. That's mind-numbing, and after a few years of this, it is really, really difficult to not fall into that attitude. It's especially difficult when that attitude is already present within the department when you get there. That, to me, is a large reason you have to stay diligent and look out for this attitude, because I don't think, once it's taken hold and been allowed to fester, you can ever get rid of it. (Barring a complete departmental overhaul, which is never good.)
So the question is, we know this attitude leads to poorer performance from your IT folks, we know it leads to disintegrating relationships between It and the rest of the organization, and we know that negative attitudes about the workplace lead to high turnover, so what do you do to prevent it? How do you recognize, and root out, poor attitudes BEFORE they become engrained to the job? On the flip side, what do you give your tech support staff to keep them happy, productive and on good terms with their users?
Personally, I'm not a manager, so I don't have answers. I'm betting some of you, who do manage IT people, have some ideas though. :)
And I'll be keeping an eye on Jenn's blog for more information on how she does it as well.
I've seen opinions on law firms doing e-discovery processing or collections in house, as opposed to farming that work out to a vendor that are about as varied and strongly held as the Presidential election. Some people think it's a great value-add for clients, or even a revenue source, while others would never, ever, take the focus away from their legal work, and don't want to deal with the ethical risks involved in handling this stuff incorrectly.
I can't really say that either side is wrong. Many of these folks have worked in this industry much longer than I have, and have more experience dealing with these issues. What I can say, is that if you're going to do more of this work in house, it helps to know what resources you have, and how they can be applied.
For example, we don't do a lot of in-house stuff, but we do a fair share. One of the things we do in house some times is get a forensic "clone" of a hard drive. When I get asked about getting a copy of a drive to work from, I generally say, that yeah, we can do that. Most of the time, that's true. yesterday, it wasn't.
Not because I didn't have time, or I didn't have a cloning tool, but because as technology has advanced, and the ultra-portable market has grown, we've discovered various types of hard drives that we don't have the proper tools for. I can do a SATA drive or IDE drive from any laptop or desktop, but when you bring me an ultra portable with a 1.8" drive with a PATA(ZIF) connector, or even one of the new SSD drives, there's not much I can do. I don't have the proper drive connectors to handle that. At the end of the day, we don't have the resources a forensic expert would have to handle various types of media. That's not our business. On the other hand, if we try to do some of this work in house, we're going to run into the limitations of our resources, and sometimes that's going to be problematic. Might we have been better off simply saying we'd have to send the drive out to be cloned from the very beginning? Maybe. Might our client balk at that sort of cost and find a firm that could do it in-house, and cheaper? Maybe. Is trying to be "somewhere in the middle", being able to do some work in order to limit client costs, but not everything so that we're not doing just that, going to bite us every now and then? Obviously, yes.
Is there a right answer? I doubt it.
Does the fact that I hadn't ever seen the 1.8" drive like that one mean I've been out of the tech loop long enough that my tech knowledge is starting to be irrelevant? Sadly, yeah. :)
Adrian Lurssen was "kind" enough to tag me for the Five Blogs and Five Blawgers meme. The basic idea is that you suggested five non-legal blogs, and then tag five blawgers to do the same.
I'm going to cheat a little though. After a quick review of Steve Matthews roundup of people who have already responded, I don't know if I can come up with 5 Blawgers to tag who haven't already done this, so I'm skipping that. ;)
Of course, my relative lack of experience in the legal blogging community hinders me there, but it's those years of working in IT, and being part of the tech blogosphere that inspires me to share some of what I know of non-legal blogs. So, without further blathering, here you go.
In no specific order:
1. Career Opportunities - Douglas Welch has taken his weekly column about "High Tech Career Advice" and turned it into one of the best blogs, and podcasts, about managing your career that you will find anywhere. He brings a wealth of experience as a free-lance IT consultant and shares his insights into your career.
2. Download Squad - More information about available utilities and other software that will make your computing life easier than you can shake a stick at.
4. Security Monkey - The content may be a little on the tech/geek side for some of you, but the fascinating stories will keep you coming back, and in the process you'll find yourself picking up little bits and pieces and maybe just understanding computer forensics a little bit, which isn't a bad thing for someone in the legal industry, is it?
5. MS Outlook for Business - You work in the legal field, you use Outlook all day, every day, you should learn more about it. This is a good place to start!
There are plenty more good ones that I could list, but the meme called for 5, so I'll stick to that. On the other hand, maybe I should do something like this on a regular basis? After all, I didn't even get into Photography, Sports, or Child Abuse awareness and advocacy, and I follow a few blogs in those areas too. ;)
Many of you techies out there probably already have seen the PC Weenies comic on-line. I admit to being a pretty avid follower of it myself. Today, Krishna shared that he's doing some artwork as a way to raise money for a friend of his who has been fighting cancer.
Yesterday I blogged about the idea of using the proceeds earned by commissioned guest-star strips for Cindy Randi?s fight against cancer. I wanted to make another option available.
For $50, I will create a custom piece of art (8.5? x 11?) featuring you and up to 3 PC Weenies characters of your choice. You will receive a high quality card stock print of the colored art, along with the original sketch (taken from my sketchbook) that was used to create the print. The money earned from these commissioned pieces will go towards Cindy (less printing and shipping costs).
So, if you're interested in getting a unique piece of artwork, or even in being a guest star in one of Krishna's strips, get over there this month and help out. I hear it makes a great gift too!
Over the long weekend, I downloaded and tried out the Adobe Air application, GMDesk:
GMDesk is an application that lets you run Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Maps as a stand-alone application to do all your mail handling, calendar event reading etc with. No need to open it up in a web browser, or have it clutter your workspace.
It works just like it says it should, and it does make it really easy to use all of those apps in one space, outside the browser. The one big disappointment to me was the absence of Google Notebook. Why not include it?
On the other hand, why not just go ahead and use the browser? With all the Firefox extensions available to customize your interaction with the Google applications, do we really need an option to use them in Air instead? I'm just not sure.
One of the more interesting, yet completely useful, pieces of equipment I took with me up to Cleveland the other day was something that my boss hacked together to serve as a portable projector stand.
Basically, what he had done was take a piece of black plywood, and drilled a screw through it, that he then attached to one of those pieces of a camera tripod that you screw onto the bottom of your camera. When you snapped that piece onto a tripod, you had yourself an adjustable, lightweight and easy to carry stand, that you could easily place anywhere in the room you needed the projector to be. Just as importantly, it was easy to move out of the way again when you were finished with it.
I even got a couple of comments about it.
Of course, it'd be nicer if we could find something that wasn't so obviously hacked together, but was still just as portable. Anyone have any suggestions?