Friday, May 31, 2002

Information Flows...

In keeping with the theme of blogs in business, Dave Winer had the same reaction to this piece as I did:

[I]t’s not about advertising. It’s the inverse of advertising. The economic revolution of blogging is about manufacturers giving up on advertising and going direct, talking to their users, and their competitors’ users. And that won’t be enough either. They’ll also have to listen to the users. (BTW, that doesn’t mean they have to do what the users tell them to do, nor is that always a good idea, it’s not so simple and linear.)
And, here’s Genie Tyburski’s ( of the Virtual Chase) take on the value of decentralized news or information flows:
[C]onsider this. Wednesday afternoon at about 1:30 pm, I uploaded the expert witness article I announced in yesterday’s alert. I also linked to it in our RSS feed. By 1:45 pm, Ernie the Attorney announced its availability. By 3:30 pm, Daypop had indexed it via Ernie the Attorney. By late afternoon, more than 100 visitors had read it — all before I announced its availability!

[From today’s Virtual Chase Alert] We’re going to need shades when all those blogging lightbulbs go off over business heads at the same time 8-]. [Bag and Baggage]

Thanks to Ernie and Denise for pointing out The Virtual Chase news feed. I first met Genie Tyburski five or six years ago, and am amazed at the consistent collection of great content. Now that she has an RSS feed, all that wonderful TVC goodness comes directly to my computer. Excellent!

Home is where...?

Just realized after looking at my calendar that today is my last day in the office for four weeks.


Thursday, May 30, 2002

re: Which is Worse?

This is unquestionably the weirdest piece of spam I’ve ever received.

From: JamesRoberts167…
Subject: re: in your opinion, which is worse
Date: Thu, 30 May 0102 12:33:55 +0400

Let me ask you this…which is worse:

A. The engine on your Lexus freezes up at 160,000 miles instead of 300,000. You take a financial hit and you are forced to buy a Camry this time.
B. You start bleeding during bowel movements. You go to the doctor and get poked, prodded, X-ray’d, biopsied, etc. 3 days later you get a call for a consultation. The doctor informs you that you have advanced colon cancer at 45 years old. You have anywhere from 6 months to 5 years left to live. He tells you it’s time to get your house in order because you’ll be checking out soon. Chemotherapy starts today.

A friend of mine who was a science and health researcher at the University of Chicago, just died this past year of colon cancer at 42. In the midst of the prime of his life, he said goodbye, and left his wife and child behind, wondering what just hit them.

Why do you brush your teeth? Are your teeth falling out right now? For most of us, we do it so we won’t need false teeth and Fixodent down the road…right? We want to be able to eat apples. Hey, I agree with that. Natural teeth are great.

But have you ever seen someone who was forced to endure a colonectomy? Someone who now will be spending the rest of their life carrying a bag around?

Incredibly, this is an area where even the staunchest MD’s AGREE with us!! Can you believe it? If they knew you had the greatest colon cleanse in the world, I bet they might even refer people to you. NO, I’m not kidding…

This subject is not even up for debate. It’s a proven fact. The problem is, most people are not doing anything about it. Please don’t be one of them.

****WARNING***** The next section of this email contains graphic material which may not be suitable for squeamish individuals.

Let’s talk stools.

The stool tells you a lot about your colon health. If it’s dark brown in color, and it sinks, and it stinks, that’s not good. And don’t feel bad, that’s the way most people are. What you want to see is light brown color, which means it’s full of fresh bile from the liver, very mild odor, and a stool that floats. We’re talking low-density here folks. The more compaction you have the darker the color and the faster it sinks. Compaction is not good. Also, moving bowels should be SIMPLE. If the veins are popping out of your neck and you feel like your doing the bench press, you NEED to cleanse your colon.

When you do the cleanse, for the first few days….things are a little weird. But you know you’re cleansed when you see the above good stuff happening, and you are eliminating at least 2-3 times per day.

Cleansing your colon is a 30-day process. Its also very economical at $45.50. You may be very surprised at some of the benefits you will receive besides just losing 1-5 lbs of p**p from your body and brightening your future health.

People have reported more energy, less allergies, clearing of acne, cessation of migraines, and many other results, not to mention restored regularity. When your body is void of old, poisonous toxins that are constantly being reabsorbed through the colon walls, it can begin to heal again. And when the colon walls are clean, the good nutrients from your food and supplements can be absorbed again. You will be thrilled with the results.

At this point you are either nauseated thinking about what is inside your own colon, or you’re ready to do something about cleaning it out.

Want more info? Click here and I’ll send it to you, including instructions on how to take it. It is private, all natural, totally safe, inexpensive, and very effective. And yes, I have taken it myself.

Click for more info: (removed)


Weird spam

Hands down, the weirdest piece of spam ever. I shudder to think what individuals this will attract from Google…

The West Wing on DVD?

Interesting. Nick Denton’s three favorite TV shows happen to be my three favorites, in fact they’re the only shows I like. Last night The West Wing wasn’t on after last week’s fabulous season finale. What a shame. I didn’t tune into this show until its third season (I think) and there are so many episodes I haven’t seen. Why not find some way to monetize this, I’d happily pay for it. As I’ve said many times before, there aren’t enough ways to spend money on things that bring pleasure.  [Scripting News]

Well, two out of three ain’t bad. I’m a Sopranos junkie, have watched every episode of The West Wing, but Six Feet Under didn’t do it for me. Not sure why. My third would have to be 24.

Dave might be interested in the fact that you can buy the entire first season of The West Wing in the UK and Australia, but can’t in the U.S. Why? Bravo bought the rights to reruns (at a cool $1 million/episode), and if this site is to be believed, is likely preventing their sale. Bravo starts airing the episodes in Q4 2003, and will have rights to all episodes produced through 2009.

It's Happening After All: Snow and 20 Partners to Leave Brobeck to Join Clifford Chance

The British Are Coming!. London-based Clifford Chance is swooping into San Francisco in style and scandal. The firm’s partners completed a vote Wednesday agreeing to extend offers to former Brobeck chairman Tower Snow Jr. and 21 Brobeck partners. Legal consultant Peter Zeughauser, who represented Clifford Chance on the deal, said the move is a clear signal to the Lathams and the Skaddens that “the table has been reset .” []

Interesting that Zeughauser points at Latham and Skadden – as if he’s daring them to react. Clifford Chance has over 3,600 lawyers worldwide – which makes them nearly twice as large as the largest American law firm. I predict that two 1,000+ lawyer firms in the U.S. will merge within the year to create a competitor to Clifford Chance.

The press release announcing the deal is at Clifford Chance’s web site here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

When Leadership Means Saying "I'm Part of the Problem"

a picture called leadership.jpgLeadership on the Line (Harvard Business School Publications). How can you lead your organization through a rocky time if you aren’t willing to admit that you might be part of the problem? We’ve all been there: the “leader” who says, in effect, “Get your act together! If it weren’t for you, we’d be doing much better.”

But the hardest thing to do for anyone, let alone someone in a highly visible position, is turn their prism inward and allow that they may be contributing to whatever mess the organization is in.

A good section from the article:

Asking people to leave behind something they have lived with for years or for generations practically invites them to get rid of you. Sometimes leaders are taken out simply because they do not appreciate the sacrifice they are asking from others. To them, the change does not seem like much of a sacrifice, so they have difficulty imagining that it seems that way to others. Yet the status quo may not look so terrible to those immersed in it, and may look pretty good when compared to a future that is unknown. Exercising leadership involves helping organizations and communities figure out what, and whom, they are willing to let go. Of all the values honored by the community, which of them can be sacrificed in the interest of progress?

Which calls to mind a rather telling example from the world of law firm management (this just happened again last week, but I’ll refrain from naming the parties): Two firms merge. Overly sensitive to any disruption it might cause to actually name one office as the “headquarters”, the combined firm instead insists that it has no home office. Just a lot of offices all over the place.


Can you imagine two computer companies merging, and admitting to the rest of the world that they really can’t resolve who’s in charge, so they’ll just let everybody continue under the na├»ve assumption that nothing has changed? Not only would chaos ensue, but the shareholders would revolt, competitors would grab the “merged” company’s customers by lunch, and there might be enough people left by day’s end to turn the lights out.

Memo to management: figure out who’s in charge. Let everybody else know. Acknowledge that there will be a sacrifice. And resolve to move on. Because if there isn’t a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, there are far larger problems on the horizon then which city is listed first on the letterhead.

Play The Matrix online Warner Bros. is set to make its first foray into the burgeoning online gaming world with a pay-to-play game version of its film franchise “The Matrix,” Variety reports.

Cool! I still think that the semi-underground campaign for A.I. last summer was the way this kind of online counterpart to a movie ought to be done.

For those that didn’t play, the idea was simple: the TV ads for A.I. included quasi-subliminal hints (in one, the name “ Jeanine Salla” is listed as the “Sentient Machine Therapist” in the credits; if you did a Google search on her name, you were in the game). Once you started searching, you uncovered web sites that appeared to be set in the future, clues about how to “hack” into e-mail belonging to key characters, and even real phone numbers that had recorded voicemail messages that provided further clues. This was all designed to lead you on a journey to discover who murderer Evan Chan. The campaign was organized by Warner Brothers; it led to a volunteer community that called themselves Cloudmakers to coordinate efforts of thousands of online gamers.

At the time, it was thrilling: nobody knew what it had to do with the A.I. movie (not much, as it turned out – just a clever conceptual tie-in), and nobody was talking. The clues kept turning up: in ads in the New York Times (which, when paired with ads in the L.A. Times, produced another clue). In trailers. On the web. The web sites that were part of the game changed frequently – suggesting that you were living this adventure in real time.

It was viral marketing in the purest sense – and I (and thousands of others) was hooked. It was mysterious, engaging, and completely different. (Come to think of it, kind of like The Matrix.) I’m most excited about the fact that Warner Brothers was behind the A.I. campaign – and with the creative energy of the Wachowski brothers in tow, this should prove to be a thoroughly engaging adventure.

Sign me up!

Monday, May 27, 2002

Memorial Day 2002

As I’m sure has been the case for many Americans, today was a far more poignant Memorial Day than many in the past. Though my wife and I did the traditional Memorial Day stuff – worked in the yard, had a cook-out with neighbors, took the kids to a parade – I kept coming back to memories of September 11.

I was in the air the morning of September 11, and spent the next 36 hours trying to get home. I kept notes while on the train back to Chicago, and put that into a mini -journal of September 11 and the days that followed. I’ve published it on this site, both to remember my own experiences and to honor the memory of those who sacrificed so much.

The point of Memorial Day is to honor those who’ve lost their lives in the service of our country. (For more on the history of Memorial Day, be sure to visit the Memorial Day web site.) To those who have lost their lives, a grateful nation thanks you. To those in service today, know that your efforts are appreciated and your sacrifice is respected.

Above all, know that we will never forget.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Hilton Garden Inn Testing Free Internet Access

When the chain’s access provider went bankrupt, however, [Hilton Garden Inn manager] Kurre began hooking up guest rooms free of charge to the hotels’ own [high speed] internal lines. The free service, which is being tested at three dozen Hilton Garden Inns, has increased the usage rate to 25 percent [from 3 percent, when the hotel charged $9.95/night]. But isn’t Kurre losing money by giving away a service he once tried to sell? “ I’m leaving zero revenue on the table because I’m making it back on rate and occupancy,” he says. “Travelers are checking out of other hotels and coming to us and paying $5- to-$6 more a night just to get the high-speed access free.” [Joe Bercantelli’s Tactical Traveler]

Amen. Charge me whatever you want – just give me high speed access. I’m sick and tired of dialing up on rusted copper. I actually connected to AT&T’s network this week at 12,400 baud (on a 56k modem). I wrote about this a few months ago; I’m thrilled to see that some hotels are getting creative. I haven’t stayed in a non-Hilton chain hotel in nearly a year (I’m a slave to the HHonors program, where I’m a Diamond member), but I would switch allegiance in a heartbeat if it meant I could have reliable connectivity when I travel. Are any chains listening?

Triumph Reporting From the Star Wars Debut

Star Wars – I haven’t seen it, but I have seen this review and it’s priceless

Click here. [Ernie the Attorney]

Triumph the comic insult dog interviews Star Wars fans. Ten of the funniest minutes of video I’ve seen in a long, long time. Nice catch, Ernie!

Il n'y a aucune cuillere... just doesn't have the same ring.

Where’s Baudrillard?. Brent Staples claims to have learned something about French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s opinions of “The Matrix,” a movie that borrows heavily from Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation. However, Staples’ short piece on the subject has a lot less of what Baudrillard thinks of “The Matrix” and a lot more of what Staples thinks of Phillip K. Dick and Hollywood’s penchant for misinterpreting science fiction. Of course Baudrillard would say that no movie could do justice to his book — no surprise there. But the fact that “The Matrix” spends most of its time in the world of the image (the “virtual” world) is not sufficient evidence that the film misunderstands what’s at stake in Simulacra and Simulation. I also think Staples’ analysis doesn’t do justice to the other allusions in “The Matrix,” including Althusser’s concepts of ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs). The contest between image and “real” is only way to frame the more central issue of the various problems caused by our imaginary relationship to our real conditions of existence. And on the question of “Blade Runner”: I wrote a short paper on the film and Dick’s book — perhaps I’ll find time to post it soon. [via there is no spoon]

Now that’s what I’m talking ‘bout. The Matrix is not your standard shoot-‘em-up flick. Reinforcing the comments above (courtesy of that other well-titled blog) is a great essay I found (courtesy of Google’s cache; the page is no longer available) that digs into the importance of Baudrillard’s writings in The Matrix. It is heavy stuff for a Friday, but a great deconstruction of the real core of what The Matrix is all about. For more commentary on this, check out the Baudrillard on the Web archive, kept by a grad student (as of two years ago, at least) at University of Texas at Arlington. For those who aren’t rabid Matrix fans, Simulation and Simulacra is the book Neo opens at the beginning of the film. He had hollowed out the center, and stored evidence of his hacking inside.

Now I’m certainly not one to tell Baudrillard that he just doesn’t get that the Wachowskis actually do get him, but there’s a certain whiff of French superiority in the comments, non? (When I lived in France I came to the conclusion that the French don’t hate America – they simply hate Americans because we’re nowhere near as cool as we should be. We don’t deserve America. If only the French could have America, well, now then you’d have a great country.) Well, M. Baudrillard, have another puff on the Gauloises, cut down on the espresso, and relax. Your theories are in good hands with the Wachowski brothers.

Interface - by Stephen Bury (aka Neil Stephenson)

A picture named interface.gifOn this last trip, I finished reading Interface by Stephen Bury. (Bury is Neal Stephenson’s pen name.) It’s not traditional Stephenson fare – while he definitely gets the technology right, this is much more of a political thriller. There are threads of Robert Ludlum in here, what with the shadowy multi- national syndicates and vast sums of money controlling corporate America.

The plot is intriguing: an Illinois governor suffers a stroke, and is offered a chance to experiment with a new therapy that involves the implantation of a chip in his head to help reestablish the brain’s “circuits”. He recovers from the stroke, but the resulting presidential campaign – and the fight for control of the campaign and the candidate – is fascinating.

It is a very funny book at times, and anyone with political interests will love the chapter where the pollsters explain their demographic cross-section of the U.S.A.:
  • 400 pound Tab drinker
  • Burger-flipping history major
  • Economic roadkill
  • Pent-up corporate lickspittle
  • UFOs ate my brain
  • Debt-hounded wage slave
The list goes on. And you know that Stephenson had a ball coming up with these terms. (What’s frightening is that they may not actually be original to him.)

If you’re not familiar with Stephenson, you should be. His Cryptonomicon remains the single best hacker story I’ve read. Employees at tech start-ups will love his boilerplate business plan – so accurate it’s almost eerie. Hackers will love his in-depth explanations of phreaking, data havens, and cryptanalysis. History buffs will love his attention to detail, his weaving of multiple WWII plot lines (Enigma, Bletchley Park, sub warfare, the battle in the Pacific) and his ability to connect the past with the present. In short, there’s something for everyone. It’s hefty – at 900+ pages, it’ll take you a while to get through. But it’s worth it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

KM, Attrition, and Greedy Associates

Good thread on institutional memory and attrition at law firms:

I imagine it’s very frustrating to spend 5-7 years somewhere building up a set of tools and having to leave it behind when you go. Not an easy job. I happen to think that the tangible things like documents and databases, while valuable, pale in comparison to the knowledge gained from working with peers and senior people over a period of time. You can’t capture that in a system. – Christopher Smith, 10:33 PM

And Denise’s comments on the same issue:

Christopher has written a thoughtful post about law firms as law schools ( yes, the learning does continue – in theory) and where knowledge management systems fit into the equation. He observes that a large investment walks out the door when an attorney leaves. This is true whether the person is let go or decides to seek greener pastures (attrition is incredibly high in this profession). As our firm and its technology grows, I find myself considering the flip side: technology harvests a great deal of knowledge from us as we work. As anyone who has changed jobs can tell you, it is not all that easy to take it with you when you go, and even then, you’re simply copying information that will stay behind in your absence. [via Bag & Baggage]

(Ernie contributed to the thread as well, but I only have a link to the article; I’m writing this on a plane.)

Side note: This is the single biggest minefield that a vendor can walk into. Either answer to the “what happens when people leave the firm” is a trap. One answer – that “no problem – we keep all the info” – is just fodder for the attorneys who don’t want to share anything… “See? You’re taking my data!” inevitably follows. And the fact that the information’s available means that theoretically anyone walking out the door could take a lot of data with them. “We can’t share – somebody might take it!” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Chris nails it – attrition is a big problem. I co-authored a chapter to an ABA book (”Changing Jobs“) a few years ago, and I remember a statistic from the book that talked about associates jumping firms. The authors suggested that it costs a firm on average about $200,000 every time an associate walks out the door. (Factor in lost billable revenue, added training time, recruiting costs, ramp-up before the replacement is operating at 100%, etc. and that number is probably conservative.) Denise is right: by capturing some of the knowledge created by these individuals (associates or partners), the firm is hedging its bets. Chris says that the tangible things “pale in comparison to the knowledge gained from working with peers and senior people over a period of time.” True, but the cost of attrition would be far higher if the firm didn’t capture it.

That said, I don’t think this is a binary issue. If a firm commits to capturing best practices – in effect, capturing the experiences Chris refers to above – then the cost of attrition goes down. In fact, one of the reasons associates leave (certainly not the only, or even the primary reason, but a reason nonetheless) is that they don’t feel like they’re able to learn enough, that they’re simply a grunt worker churning out memo after memo, brief after brief. (Want proof? Take a gander at Greedy Associates.) If they could start to assimilate the experiences of the more senior attorneys, while benefitting from the work product at the same time, it’s a win-win situation.

To make this happen, you need two things: a commitment from the senior members to contribute, and a straightforward way of capturing information once they decide to share. The first is purely cultural (and can be helped along by strong management, something far too many firms lack), and the second sounds suspiciously like a K-log (a knowledge-oriented weblog). More on that topic later.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Palm OPML Answer!

“You can use Natara Bonsai to do this…” [YACCS Comments for tins ::: Rick Klau’s weblog]

We have a winner! Thanks to the comment above, I now have a functional copy of my Radio outlines on my Palm. It’s not perfect (it involves a two-step process to go from Radio to the Palm), but it works. Bonus? The company behind Bonsai is local. (They’re less than a mile from my house. Who knew?)

On a lark, I then did a Google search for “natara opml“. Hit #2: “I created a small export template that Bonsai can use to generate OPML output.”

And then I see hit #4 (at “If you use the Bonsai PDA/PC outliner, here is an export template that will export the outline in OPML format. If you happen to use Radio Userland or similar application, this will make it immediately importable into this application.” Bing!

So let’s retrace the last 24 hours:

  • I post a question on my weblog.

  • Dave Winer links to me at

  • I receive a dozen e-mails, and six people leave comments at my site.

  • One satisfied Bonsai user tells me that you can import/export files between Radio and Bonsai.

  • Google tells me that somebody already did this, and I now have a fully- functional Radio/Palm integration.

This rocks.

Struggling Airline Helped By Friendly Giant

Struggling Airline Helped By Friendly Giant
FORT WORTH, TX— Hit hard by the recession and the aftermath of Sept. 11, American Airlines has received some much-needed assistance from a friendly giant named Urno. “Urno has been of enormous help to us, mostly by picking up planes and running them to their destinations to cut fuel expenses,” American Airlines president Donald Carty said Monday. “He also helps wash our dirty planes by dipping them into lakes and rivers.” Carty said he has strongly discouraged Urno from swatting rival airlines’ planes out of the sky, but “sometimes, he just won’t listen.” [The Onion]

Flying more than 8,000 miles this week (all domestic) on American, I’m glad to know they’re doing everything they can to make my life easier…

24 Season Finale

I’m on the road on the west coast tonight, and got to the hotel in time to watch the 24 season finale. I’ve been hooked since the first episode (I’ve always been a Kiefer Sutherland fan). In spite of the fact that this is the conclusion to twenty-four episodes, and that it will no doubt tie up a number of loose ends (but not all of them; 24 is coming back next season), watching this episode is maddening.

Why? Because I’m not home, and I can’t fast-forward through the commercials on my TiVo. Aargh.

Lots of flow

Thanks to Dave for linking to my request for help on OPML to Palm integration; I’ve had three recommendations (ShadowPlan, Progect, and one other). Shadow seems the most likely candidate for success – it uses XML, just not OPML (it wasn’t out when Jeff Mitchell, the author, started working on it). An XSLT style sheet to translate between the two should do the trick – guess I’ll have to learn! Many thanks to everyone who contributed e-mails and comments on the subject; I’m looking forward to making this work.

Monday, May 20, 2002

Off to San Antonio...

I’m heading to San Antonio now, speaking at the Association of Legal Administrators Annual Conference. Updates may be sporadic for a few days…

A Busy Writers Guide to Radio Renderers

I’m just now starting to understand the power of Radio’s outliner as a content creation tool; see this article as a great overview of how you can use the outliner for more than is immediately apparent. I just love that with each day, I learn more about what Radio can do. (Even more impressive: these new things make my job easier.)

Palm Interface to Radio Outliner?

Broke down and bought another Palm (an m125 on eBay) over the weekend. I hadn’t replaced my old one last year, but finally ran out of patience.

Here’s my question: I now rely on my Radio Outliner. I no longer use my tasks/ to do list in Outlook because the hierarchical view of items is so much more powerful and intuitive. To close the loop, though, I want to be able to view my outline on the Palm. How do I get my opml outline into my Palm? Two-way sync would be nice, but isn’t necessary.

Is anybody doing this? Let me know…

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Business 2.0. - Warren Buffet on

Business 2.0.  Warren Buffet on corporate profitability and the stock market over the next 14 years.  He expects the market to grow slowly over the next major period.  Why? Corporate profitability will not increase as it has in the past (it is currently at a very high percentage of GDP) and interest rates have little room to decline further.  However, I am more bearish than he is due to the impact of the New Economy on corporate profitability, specifically due to this:
>>>I won’t dwell on other glamorous businesses that dramatically changed our lives but concurrently failed to deliver rewards to U.S. investors: the manufacture of radios and televisions, for example (also aircraft and cars). But I will draw a lesson from these businesses: The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how much it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage. The products or services that have wide, sustainable moats around them are the ones that deliver rewards to investors.<<<  I contend that the “moats” and “barriers” to corporate competitiveness, his pick for the only true predictor of long-term coporate profitability, are starting to fall due to better information flow and outright public resistance to inefficient pricing/business practices.  [John Robb’s Radio Weblog]

Saturday, May 18, 2002

Active Renderer

Found this while browsing Marc Barrot’s site tonight. It’s using Marc Barrot’s Active Renderer tool, and it takes your Radio outlines and automatically renders them as DHTML (Dynamic HTML, a nice visual presentation of HTML content) relying on cascading style sheets (CSS) and Javascript. You can collapse and expand elements of the outline at will, giving the browser much more control over how much or how little information displays on the page.

Ultimately, this is what I want to do with my links.opml outline file (which I documented yesterday). This would allow me to have a bunch more links without taking up a bunch of screen real estate.

Much to learn… Why do these mind bombs happen so late at night? I’d say I won’t sleep well now, but the newborn has already taken care of that.

Radio Express - Adding Content Just Got Easier

Found this great little tool while surfing over at Radio Userland’s Discussion page. It’s very similar to Blogger’s “blog this!” bookmarklet (a bookmarklet is a javascript button that gets added to your IE toolbar). While browsing, if  you see an item you want to add to your blog, just highlight the text you want to post, click “ RadioExpress” on your toolbar, and it pre-fills the title, link and text boxes with the right text.

Adding content to your blog couldn’t be easier. Nice!

Friday, May 17, 2002

Managing Your Links List in Radio

The goal is to provide a list of links that appear on my weblog home page that is easy to edit. The default link list macro in Radio, the navigatorLinks macro, had little formatting flexibility and was difficult to edit. I originally tried Jon Udell’s “my subscriptions” macro – but the resulting list of links had no categorization – other than alphabetical – so readers would have to do their own hunting to find links that were useful to them. (Note: The list of links to the left is now maintained using this solution.)

I stumbled upon this post at CE Grenier’s site that documented an ideal solution: creating an outline in Radio that would automatically publish the links to my home page. Because I could sort the links and add my own categorization, it was exactly what I was looking for. However, in getting the macro to work I noticed a few tweaks that make the process smoother. This is my attempt to document it so that if you want to add your own link outline to your page, you’ll know how. It’s not exactly a simple process, but it is straight-forward. If I’ve left anything out, please let me know. Full disclaimer: I didn’t modify the underlying code that Charlie documents at his site; I’ve simply added more documentation of the process. (I also named my file links.opml instead of interests.opml because it seemed more logical to me.) Many thanks to CE Granier for creating this solution; it’s always nice to find exactly what you want!

Step 1: Create the Links Outline
Start Radio if it isn’t running. When it’s in the task bar, right-click on the Radio icon, select “Open Radio.”

Click on File | New in Radio. A window titled Untitled will open. Save the file into your www/gems folder. (This is most likely at C:/Program Files/Radio Userland/www/gems if you’re a Windows user.) For this exercise, I called my file “links.opml”.

Create your outline. The first line must read: #renderOutlineWith “linksListRenderer”. From there, I created top-level categories and then indented the list of links below. Type in the name you want for each link, then highlight the item and select “HTML | Add Link”. Type in the URL and click OK. (A nice shortcut: if you have copied the URL into the clipboard, you don’t have to type the link in: selecting “HTML | Add Link” simply adds the URL automatically.)

Save the file.

Step 2: Add a renderer to radio.root
This sounds a bit spooky for us non-developers, but once you know where to look it’s not that hard. First step: in the Radio application again, click on “Window | radio.root”. This should open a window that contains seven top-level entries: examples, scratchpad, suites, system, user, websites, and workspace. (If any of these outline entries are expanded, select “Outline | Collapse Everything” and that’ll clean it up.)

Double-click on “user”, then double-click on “html”. An item underneath html should be “renderers”. Double-click on it. Click on any one of the entries, then hit the enter key (you may need to hit it twice). A new line should appear that reads “item #1”. Delete “item #1” and type in “linksListRenderer”.

While the cursor is still on the line, click in the lower left corner of the “radio.root” window on “Kind”. A list of options pops up; select “script”.

Now double-click on the “linksListRenderer” line where it says “1 line”. This should open a new window with a blank line. This is where you add the script that renders the outline into html for inclusion in your home page.

The script is available here. (Right-click that link, select “save as” and save it to your hard drive.) Open the file in a text editor like Notepad, and copy the entire contents of the file to the clipboard (hit ctrl-c when the text is highlighted). Now go to the new window with the blank line entry. Paste the contents of the text file into the blank window. Click “compile”.

Close the window.

Step 3: Install the renderDesktopFile macro
Now you need to install a macro provided by Userland that allows Radio to render the file properly. The macro is here (right-click, select “Save as” and save it to your hard drive). In the Radio application, click “File | Open” and find the file you just downloaded. After you open it, it will ask you for a name for the imported object.

Click OK.

Step 4: Add the Macro to Your Homepage Template
Almost there. Go to your desktop website. Click on Preferences, then select “Home Page Template” under “Templates”. Decide where on your page you want the list of links to show up – and insert the following command:
<workspace.renderDesktopFile(“c:\program files\radio userland\www\gems\links.opml”)>
Note: if you named your links outline file a different name, be sure to change the path.

Click submit. At this point, Radio should republish your home page. Assuming all went well, you’ll now have a list of links on your home page maintained in your Radio Outliner.

Step 5: Maintaining Your Links
At this point, adding a new link to your home page is as simple as opening the links.opml file, typing in the new link name and selecting “HTML | Add Link”, then saving the file. If you want to add the new information right away, select “Radio | Publish | Weblog home page”, or just wait until you add a new post.

That’s it! Good luck.

Managing Your Links in Radio's Outliner

Just documented how I’m now managing my links list in my Radio outliner. There are probably other ways to do it, but this is exactly what I was looking for. Very cool.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Brobeck Team Not Leaving for Clifford Chance

Update: Brobeck Team Won’t Move to Clifford Chance. Citing “practical challenges,” negotiations by Clifford Chance to hire a team of partners led by Tower Snow Jr., the former chairman of San Francisco’s Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, fell through this week. Whether the Brobeck lawyers — either individually or as a group — are looking elsewhere for a new home is not known. Observers believe a mass defection of a big-ticket group would be such a harsh blow that Brobeck wouldn’t be the same. []

Who Said Nobody Likes Lawyers?

A picture named screencap0000.gifCongrats, Ernie! Ernie passes the 10,000 page view milestone (as noted at the Radio Community Server).

What I really want to do is set up an RCS site that’s for the law blogs … but that requires a dedicated machine. And right now, I can’t seem to find one for the task. I think that’s where things are heading, though: self-selected communities that are microcosms of the larger “blogosphere” (a goofy term that sounds like it’s straight out of a D ‘n D role play).

And Ernie will be the Adam Curry of the bunch.

Fun Matrix Fact #147: Who Does Neo Work For?

Early in The Matrix, Thomas Anderson (aka Neo) walks into his company’s building. The name of the company is written in large letters on the outside of the building.

A few minutes later, he gets a call from Morpheus. Morpheus tells him to run to his boss’s office to escape. As he does so, you briefly see the same company’s name on the wall.

But something’s not quite right. What is it? And I don’t think it’s a mistake, as some have suggested. It actually reinforces the overall theme in the film.

(The Wachowski brothers really thought this stuff through.)

Measuring ROI on KM investments

I’m finally getting around to responding to Chris’s post from a few days ago. He raised an interesting point about his CIO’s insistence on identifying the ROI for his firm’s upcoming CRM investment. (Disclaimer: I work for a software company that sells CRM software to professional services firms. You can learn more here. The post below relies on a couple examples of my current customers. After all - I may want to help people, Ernie, but I draw the line at helping the competition!)

The closest I’ve seen a firm come to attaching hard numbers to their CRM investment is Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt. They recently shared their experience in a Business 2.0 case study – and the results were impressive:

  • Doubled the number of RFPs marketing can respond to
  • 6,500 administrative (secretarial) hours saved per year
  • Faster opening of new office with less down-time waiting for business to ramp up

Those are the “hard” results. And they’re pretty good. The stuff above alone translates to an ROI that paid for the product in less than a year; after that, it’s an annuity. Good, right?

Then why am I ambivalent about the results? The real answer is that the truly valuable piece of their investment is the value it provides to the lawyers – in their ability to get a complete snapshot of an industry, or learn everything there is to know about a prospect, or to recognize that a partner in the Montreal office knows the assistant GC at the company we’re pitching tomorrow. That’s where the rubber meets the road, because it results in revenue gains.

And you can’t place a number on that. Trust me – I’d love to. It would make my job a lot easier. But what lawyer is going to admit that they just landed a $50,000 engagement because of software? And even if they do give credit where it’s due (Osborne Clarke, in the UK, recently did), the reality is that they didn’t get hired because of the software. They got hired because they’re good at what they do and the client had a need.

So even if I could say that you got ten new clients at an average engagement of $50,000 each because of the CRM software, can I really say that the software generated $500,000 in new revenue?

What this boils down to is a difference between strategic ROI and tactical ROI. You can measure the tactical benefits ( which are bulleted above from the Osler case study) by looking at cost savings. But I can only cut a dollar by a dollar – and nobody gets a bonus at the end of the year because you sent fewer duplicate mailings out. If I can position you to land new business, be more selective about the business you go after, and let you see (perhaps for the first time) which business is worth keeping, then I think I’ve added much more value. And there’s no real limit to how many dollars that can add to the bottom line. Result? A more proactive business (I know some managing partners break into a sweat when they see that word) that can operate more predictably, strategically and profitably.

I don’t kid myself – there are a number of firms who buy our software and never think about anything but the tactical benefits. But I can tell you now those are the same firms that 18 months from now will be scratching their heads why they invested in the software. (“Isn’t this just a Rolodex? Why’s it cost so much?”) It’s the firms that recognize that the gains that are truly worth making are also the ones that are difficult, if not impossible, to measure conclusively. Those are the firms where the managing partner proclaims (and I actually had one tell me this a few months ago), “InterAction is the spinal cord of this firm.” Now that’s strategic. And how do you measure the ROI on a spinal cord? I’m not sure, but I can tell you what it costs to not have one…

This paradox annoys me to no end, since I’m a measurement guy at heart. But sometimes these things are worth taking on faith.

Don't Sniff Those Packets!

There’s a lot of folks at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference, and this is another conference with 802.11b wireless access (aka “wi-fi”) to allow any geek with an antenna to have access to the Net. Well, Rob Flickinger from O’Reilly decided to run a program called EtherPEG to watch the packets of information flowing across the wireless network at the conference. (EtherPEG is a packet sniffer that renders the images that are transferred over the network; it’s only available for Mac.) As Cory Doctrow’s account below attests, the results are a bit odd. To quote Rob himself: “I have stared at the sun, and for the sake of my sanity, will never again look directly at the consciousness of the online ueber-geek collective.”

Sniffing packets to sample the geek groupmind. Holy crap. Rob “Community Wireless Networking” Flickenger ran a packet-sniffer called EtherPEG (which makes collages out of images being moved over the sniffed network) during this morning’s panel on blogs and emergence, with Steve Johnson, Clay Shirky, Rael Dornfest, Geoff Cohen and me. The results are really unspeakably weird. It is to reel.

I was impressed that when Tim O’Reilly stood up to ask about whether bloggers were building a city or living in their own ghetto, virtually all traffic stopped. Evidently, this was something that almost everybody in the room was interested in listening to. And once Tim sat down again, the pixels began to flow once more.
After a little while, the atmosphere took on a bit of a dark turn. Lots of images of law enforcement agency websites, some american flags with an angry eagle bursting through, and possibly darkest of all, a Britney Spears fan site. The theme continued as Clay Shirky was discussing “maps and non-player characters” and the downward gothic spiral expanded… Link Discuss (Thanks, Schuyler!) [ via bOing bOing]

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Innovation and Imitation

Good read over at MIT’s Technology Review: Mimetic Management. The author is Michael Schrage, a Fortune columnist and research associate at MIT Media Lab. The article touches on innovation, picks up yesterday’s thread about listening to customers, and tries to identify what motivates customers:

[I]t’s also critical for innovators to know who their customers and clients don’t want to emulate. It may be that innovation is seen as the best means for differentiating oneself from the competition. … And so who organizations don’t want to be like can be even more revealing than who they do.

The result is an intriguing matrix of innovation and imitation: who organizations aspire to be like and who they aspire to avoid, which processes should be innovative and which ones should be imitative. In other words, innovators will have to study the imitation patterns and pathologies of their customers in both innovative and imitative ways.

The Innovator's Dilemma

A picture named innovatorsdilemma.jpgBlogs as Disruptive Innovation.

One of the most thought-provoking business books in the last several years was Clay Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma. It got carried into lots of meetings as entrepreneurs and consultants tried to justify their latest fantasy as the next disruptive innovation. I’m reasonably sure that most of them never bothered to read it.

Those who did read it will recall that one characteristic of disruptive technology innovations was that they weren’t particularly exotic technically. In other words, Christensen’s research made a strong case that disruptive innovations were those that combined existing, well-established, technologies into new designs that served markets that were underserved or ignored by the established industry leaders.

… While I understand why Dave gets irritated by all the attention going to the BigCos about web services while Userland gets generally ignoreed, to me it’s one more datapoint supporting the disruptive innovaiton hypothesis.  [McGee’s Musings]

It must be a book day. Prof. McGee’s post about The Innovator’s Dilemma reminded me that it’s definitely on the must-read list of anyone who’s interested in the business of technology. One of the interesting lessons I took from the book: you can’t always listen to your customers. Christensen’s research showed countless companies who listened obsessively to their customers and went out of business. (Think DEC.) The irony of Christensen’s research is that many wildly successful companies developed smaller, less functional products that over time grew to satisfy the broader market. They didn’t listen to customers – they believed they solved a fundamentally different problem, but one that would evolve into a broader solution.

The “BigCos”? They fail to see the broader need, instead listening to their best customers. By solving the unique needs of those best customers, they don’t address the needs of the masses. It’s a challenging hypothesis – one which has interesting lessons for anyone like me who’s with a growing software company. (And yes, Denise: my employer knows about this blog. And they’re cool with it.) We’re the market leader for CRM software in the professional services market – and we’re trying harder to solve more complex problems. What we hope (and I don’t think we’re being naive here) is that by solving a broader set of problems, we’re addressing a wider range of opportunities.

So… we’re a big company in a niche market. By almost any other measure, we’re very much a small but growing company. Of course, we hope we’ve avoided the “BigCo” mentality. Whether we have? Well, that’s up to folks like Chris to decide.

RSS Subscriptions and Traffic Monitoring

Here’s an interesting thought: to the extent that page views are a barometer of your site’s popularity, the RSS feed of your site actually contributes to fewer people viewing your site. In other words, people get my posts delivered to their desktop if they subscribe to my RSS feed – meaning that they don’t have any reason to visit my site. I thought about this not in the context of my own site, but when I realized today that I have stopped going to News. com – after visiting several times a day for years.

This is both good and bad: the fact that the News Aggregator has so substantially changed my browsing habits (for the better) is good. But if I’m C|Net, I’m annoyed: fewer eyeballs mean fewer ad dollars. And it’s not as if the ad market is exactly robust these days.

Translated to the Radio Community world: has there been any thought to incorporating rss.xml file reads into traffic reporting? Certainly seems like it would be a more accurate reflection of how many people are reading your site. In fact, doesn’t the fact that someone has subscribed to a feed explicitly endorse that site even more than a link to it does?


Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

A picture named faster.jpgI finished reading Faster by James Gleick last week. Gleick (whose personal site is at is my favorite author on technical matters. If he could make me understand Chaos theory, he can do anything. (If you haven’t read Chaos, you should: excellent overview of fractals, the law of unintended consequences, etc.). His biography of Richard Feynman, Genius, was another outstanding book about one of the great minds of the 20th century (some say second only to Einstein). Few authors could have explained physics as well as they explained Feynman.

Faster is about the acceleration of our lives – how we seem to have less time, despite our ability to measure time in even smaller increments. Gleick is a master at observing the little things – and he freely admits the paradox of writing a book about things getting faster. (Aren’t books inherently slow?) For me, the value of the book was Gleick’s ability to capture the zeitgeist of the last decade – and to suggest the possible ramifications. One example is his observations about the information explosion:

Many of the world’s librarians, archivists, and Internet experts see a crisis looming. They warn that our burgeoning digital culture is heading for oblivion, and fast. “There has never been a time of such drastic and irretreivable information loss,” says Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog a generation ago. Our collective memory is already beginning to fade away, he argues. Future anthropologists will find our pottery but not our E-mail. “We’ve turned into a total amnesiac,” Brand says. “We do short-term memory, period.”

Faster is contemplative, a bit meandering (I think purposefully so) but ultimately worth the read. Even though it was written three years ago, many of his observations are just as timely today as they were when he wrote them. Just about every chapter has a nugget worth quoting, and my copy is now earmarked and underlined throughout. I will no doubt return to this book periodically.

Gleick is a great writer – and great news! By visiting his new site, I see that he has a new book, titled What Just Happened: A Chronicle From the Electronic Frontier. I’ve now added to my growing reading list (which is expanding rapidly thanks to Ernie and Jenny.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2002


Microsoft ploy to block Sun exposed. Evidence indicates that Microsoft executives, including Chairman Bill Gates, sought to steer the direction of a Web services standards body away from rival Sun. [CNET]

This is news? Come on – Microsoft had (still has? don’t know) an intranet site called SunDown (go to any browser on the Microsoft campus and type in http://sundown/) fer crissakes. Everything you would ever want to know about how they were going to cause Sun to, um, set.

Vendor/Customer Communication

I feel something like a voyeur reading Chris Smith’s weblog, “How do you know that?” (Thanks to Denise for getting us in touch.) You see, Chris isn’t just another guy interested in the intersection between law and technology. Nope – Chris is also (*gasp*) a prospect. It seems that someone at my company annoyed the you-know-what out of Chris and his colleagues at Chris’s large law firm (since Chris keeps the name of his firm private, so will I). (Side note: the person on our end is no longer with us.)

In any event, reading Chris’s site on a regular basis will be instructive for me. He’s documenting the very real challenges he’s facing on a number of issues (the last few days covered extranets and justifying a CRM investment), and what he’s trying to accomplish. It’s instructive because I’m a vendor (I hate that term). My company, Interface Software, sells to firms like Chris’s. And understanding the challenges faced by folks like Chris is key to our ability to solve those challenges.

Of course, there’s risk involved. Chris is banking on the fact that I won’t abuse this open communication by trying to use his posts as fodder for my own efforts to convince him to buy our software. (I won’t.) This kind of open dialog is exactly where weblogs can foster better understanding among complementary groups. To work, though, there has to be restraint.

Who knows? Hopefully it will work both ways. Chris might learn something from me. Seeing life through the eyes of someone selling into the legal market might shed some light on his own challenges, and/or identify some solutions he hadn’t thought of. One thing is certain – I am thrilled to see the number of sites blossoming in our corner of the weblog world. (Go to Denise’s site for an exhaustive list.) Who knew there were so many tech-savvy lawyers?!

Coming up soon – I’m going to respond to Chris’s post about measuring ROI on CRM.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Brobeck Partners to Leave for Clifford Chance?

Brobeck’s Snow Set to Jump to Clifford Chance, U.K. Paper Says. Tower Snow Jr. and 10 other securities litigation partners at San Francisco’s Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison were mum Monday about a British press report that they were set to leave Brobeck for Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells. Reportedly, Clifford Chance is to vote Friday whether to take on the group, which would give the firm a presence in California and a national footing. []

It has been a tough year for Brobeck. Their attorney ranks have shrunk by 26% (mostly by layoffs, but attrition is included), they pulled their first-of-a-kind-for-law-firms ad campaign on CNN and MSNBC (and the CMO left as a result)their managing partner (Tower Snow) was ousted, profits per partner are down more than 40%, they let more than half of their team of KM lawyers go, and now this. If it materializes, it will be a major coup for Clifford Chance (did you know they were the largest law firm in the world?) who has not yet established a major presence on the West Coast.

BMW 7-series: Technical "progress"

Dazed by a Technical Knockout. The BMW 745i is a remarkable car with so many genuine technical advancements that it is surely the world’s most advanced sedan. By James G. Cobb. [New York Times: Technology]

I saw one of these on the road the other day, and was impressed at how different it looked. ( It certainly is a BMW, but their high-end models haven’t changed much at all in years.) Reading this article, though, suggests that the aesthetic changes are nothing compared with the interior.

270 voice-activated commands? A complex menu-driven interface for controlling everything from the radio to the climate? An instruction manual for valets?

What were they thinking?

Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” BMW forgot that true technical progress is when you can hide the complexity from the end user.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

RealNames shutting its doors on Monday

A picture named ballmerTeare.gifI just spoke with Keith Teare, the former CEO of RealNames. He explained that the company will shut down on Monday, and explained how it happened. As I read the account, I could see both sides. In the US, RealNames didn’t really catch on. But in Asia, it’s become important, says Teare, because it allows people to enter names of websites in their native language. I was pleased to see that Microsoft is being sensitive to how they use their power in the Web. And at the same time, I share Teare’s concern that they used RealNames to bootstrap their own equivalent service. I asked what he hopes to accomplish by going public with the details of the breakup, he would like them to reconsider, he wants to keep going forward with RealNames, he doesn’t want to shut the company down.  [Scripting News]

“… he would like them to reconsider…” In a “let’s torch the town and hope that someone’s still around to turn the hose on” kind of way.

Come on – he’s pissed (understandably so) and wants everyone to know that he got out-maneuvered by a much larger company with more resources.

My RadioLand WishList I

My RadioLand WishList

I saw Rick‘s list, but all I want (for right now) is something that I know is in here.  I have set up a category and I want it to display with a new theme (I know how to do all that) and then I want the new category to have none of the navigator links or any other idicia of connection with my current page. 

I take it this involves some sort of modifying of the text files in the folders etc.  But I’m stumped.  Please help me!  I’m only a lawyer for God’s sake…. [Ernie the Attorney]

Ernie: In your Program Files\Radio Userland\www folder, there is a file called #template.txt. This is what controls the presentation of files in the www folder. Any sub-folders in the www folder (like your categories folders) can have their own #template.txt file; if they don’t, they simply look up the folder tree until they find one.

So… if there are no #template.txt files in the ../categories folder or any of the specific categories folders, then Radio will apply the settings of the #template.txt file in the www folder.

Open Windows Explorer, find your default #template.txt file (the one in the www folder). Click ctrl-c and then go into the category folder you want to modify. Paste (ctrl-v) the file into that folder, then double click on it to open the file in Notepad.

This next step is no fun – you’ve got to modify the raw HTML to change the appearance of the file. But if all you want to do is maintain the basic settings (i.e., general page lay-out, colors, etc.), then you just need to delete the info you want to get rid of. So to delete the navigator links, you need to find the line in your template that says <navigatorLinks >. Delete that line, and the navigator links are gone. To eliminate “personal” info, get rid of the e-mail icon ( referenced from the Radio macro <radio.macros.mailto ()>) as well. (These macros are commands that Radio sees, runs, and substitutes the results before publishing the HTML up to your web site.)

That should do it. Of course, if you want to really play around, you can select a new template altogether and delete that same info from the template file. You should be good to go.

By the way – if you want to upload the category page to a different server completely, you should read this article at Userland’s site. All the steps necessary to do it are there. Cool stuff!

Friday, May 10, 2002

Radio wish list: Aggregator Improvements

(Apologies in advance to those of you reading who don’t have Radio installed, and don’t care to. You can skip this.)

Radio’s News Aggregator has dramatically changed my browsing habits. In many ways, it’s the aggregator that makes Radio a truly viral application: while the weblog component makes me a content producer, it’s the aggregator that makes my consumption of data much more efficient. By combining the production and consumption models so seamlessly, the folks at Userland created an application that will change the way you view web content almost overnight.

That said, it needs to be a lot better. (I know, I know: I’m asking a lot for $40. But bear with me: I think these improvements would be good for any Radio devotee.) So here’s my list of things I want the aggregator to do:

  • Sort new items by content provider, time of update, and subject. (The more sources I subscribe to, the harder it is to read in one sitting. If I get a bit behind, it’s hard to navigate easily.)

  • File items of interest without necessarily posting them to my weblog right away. (Sometimes I just want to revisit the item and don’t want to immediately decide whether to delete or post.)

  • Delete groups of items (or move to a “to be read” file) based on defined criteria at once. (This is different than manually checking each news item; I want to say “delete all posts from this source”, or “delete all news items” but keep “ weblog items”.)

  • Keep track of sources whose items I’ve posted to my own weblog, and sort those higher in my list than others. (Some sources I monitor just to stay in the loop, while others have information that is more directly germane to my interests and therefore more likely to be added to my site.)

  • Make the item list collapsible, rather than a long list of items in a table. If I could click on a “+” sign to expand a list of items (or similarly click on the “-” to collapse them), it would be far easier to scan through the items to find ones that interest me.

I’ll think of other enhancements, I’m sure. But adding these options would make the aggregator experience far better. As it is, I feel as if I’m constantly struggling to keep up with the many items on the aggregator page – and by definition, each item should be something I’m interested in. I don’t want to drown in this stuff – I want to manage it. And right now, Radio’s aggregator doesn’t give me enough control over the content.

Blogging and Related Reading: Exploring the Meta-data Possibilities

I just finished reading the Salon article mentioned a minute ago, and there’s a compelling suggestion in there, one I hadn’t thought of: what if, while browsing a site, you could see what other blogs said about that site? Just click a button, and see a list of sites that had pointed to the site you were currently visiting.

This ought to send Jenny‘s mind reeling – it’s a kind of massive annotation project. It takes the best of Google, Blogdex and Daypop and rolls them into one. It also transforms blogs from chronological archives to topic-specific commentaries linked by unique URLs. I like it.

And here’s one for Rory, Ernie and Denise: combine this with Rory’s comments from yesterday. When reading a court opinion on a particular topic, I could see what other lawyers had said about this decision, read opinions from other jurisdictions who had linked to it, and even see related commentary by topic. This takes the notion of metadata and exposes it in its most useful form – by establishing connections between related data and distributing it to interested individuals. (This is a bootstrapped version of what West does with their keynote system.)

As Neo would say, “Whoa.”

Salon: Use the blog,

Salon: Use the blog, Luke. Scott Johnson. It’s about information management. The bloggers have the potential to do something far more original than offer up packaged opinions on the news of the day; they can actually help organize the Web in ways tailored to your minute-by-minute needs. [ Tomalak’s Realm]

Reason #174 that I love the weblog concept: my Radio aggregator lists this article at Salon about blogging. Reading the Salon article, I see a mention of a site I didn’t previously know about: The Weblog Bookwatch. It watches the sites at and scans them for any URLs, then lists the top books mentioned. Even better? There’s an RSS feed for the Bookwatch, so any additions to the Top 10 will be automatically delivered to me from now on.


Steven Vore responds to my

Steven Vore responds to my comments on measuring contributions in the workplace.

Howard Bashman - How Appealing

Blog Appeal

I heard last night from Howard Bashman, who heads the appellate group at Buchanan Ingersoll – and has a blog. Howard writes an appellate practitioner column, and observes that “[a]ppellate lawyers usually labor in obscurity, but the Internet no longer makes that as easy as it once was.” True enough – through Howard we now can keep up with a fellow who practices before the Supreme Court and lives to tell the tale. (He also notes with alacrity that Bag and Baggage is not “totally devoted“ to appellate law. Heh.) [Bag & Baggage]

Another subject-matter expert (in this case, Howard Bashman, partner at Buchanan Ingersoll) shows up on the blogging scene. Here’s an example of the kind of insight offered (a point that hadn’t occurred to me, but which makes perfect sense) relating to the current imbroglio between President Bush and the Senate over judicial appointments:

Of course, in order for the vast majority of cases to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, they must first pass through the lower courts. Due to increasing judicial vacancies in the federal court system, it’s becoming harder and harder for cases to be processed and decided in a timely manner.

Which raises an interesting question: how does this ultimately affect the number and nature of cases that do reach the Supreme Court? If fewer writs are filed, does that mean the Court will hear fewer cases? Wouldn’t an interesting consequence of the 2000 election be that the Court ultimately exercised less influence over the social and political landscape because they had fewer opportunities to express an opinion?

Thursday, May 9, 2002

Custom RSS Feeds - New Radio Feature

Create custom experimental XML feeds.

Radio’s RSS writer is now user-extensible. The RSS writer in Radio is now officially user-extensible. “Before generating the RSS, we check,“ Dave writes today. Excellent. This will open the floodgates for all sorts of useful metadata experimentation. We’ll see Radio UserLand sites emitting RSS 1.0, and others extending RSS .9x. It’s not the format that matters to me, it’s the experimentation. [Jon’s Radio

This is brilliant news.  Ordinary Radio users like me can now experiment with tagging topical categories of posts related to “official” court filings (such as opinions), court rules, and FAQs.   Enabling an end user to sort, filter or interpret by topical content.

One Small Example:  A lawyer in New Orleans, is watching the progress of asbestos mass litigation in the courts of Louisiana, becomes aware that very similar issues involving medical monitoring and asbestos mass litigation are pending before the West Virginia Supreme Court.  If the WV court has an XML feed for recent opinions (which we do), the lawyer in New Orleans could subscribe to that feed and watch for orders and opinions regarding asbestos mass litigation.  Understandably, however, the lawyer in New Orleans may not want to read all of the posts about another jurisdiction’s opinions – only those concerning limited issues.  With this new feature, the lawyer in New Orleans can target the request, saving bandwidth and precious screen time.  

[Rory Perry’s Radio Weblog]

Trivia Question: Best Computer Acquisition of All Time?

Trivia question: what acquisition is referred to below?

Indeed, last year Salomon Smith Barney analyst Jonathan Joseph summed it up when he said: “It will go down as one of the best acquisitions in the history of the computer industry.”

Post your guesses in the comments box. I’ll post the answer later today.

Wednesday, May 8, 2002

And Then There Were Three...

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m hooked on The Amazing Race. Have been since about the third episode of the first Amazing Race. And I was sad to see Oswald and Danny get eliminated tonight. For those who haven’t been watching religiously (shame on you!), this is yet another reality show. For whatever reason, this one appeals to my wife and I, while others haven’t done it for us (never got into Survivor or its ilk). Eleven teams race around the world, the producers pay for airfare and $100 or so for each leg of the race. Teams cover 35,000 miles in 30 days, hitting almost every continent. It’s fun to watch, and it makes for some memorable moments.

Please don’t let Tara and Wil win. Please.

KM: You Are the Weakest Link

In response to my post from a week ago, Greg Harmeyer responds:

While an interesting hypothesis, I’m not sure I buy the idea that people don’t collaborate because it reveals the weakest links.  By that logic, the strongest links would collaborate and a sort of Prisoner’s Dilemma would cause all to collaborate as much as possible:  even though I’d rather not collaborate and hold my knowledge to myself, that makes me appear to be a weak link and thus I’ll share my knowledge to the extent possible.  The strongest links have the most to share and therefeore are very willing to share it because of the impression it leaves.  In fact, I would suggest it’s this kind of rationale that has acted as the basis of incentives in environments where KM is successful. [via Greg Harmeyer’s weblog]

I’m not sure Greg and I are really on the opposite sides of this argument. On the one hand, I was talking about reasons why many opt out of traditional collaborative environments. I said that they avoid participating for fear of their lack of contributions becoming obvious. Greg is suggesting that the strongest links have the most to share. No argument here.

But we’ve got an interesting dilemma: the people who have the most to contribute have the least to gain, and the people with the least to contribute have the most to gain. The weak links (insofar as they’re contributing very little to the organizational knowledge base) will benefit disproportionately.

The question is ultimately whether the visibility and recognition that comes with contribution are enough to encourage future participation. I’m not sure that it is, unless there’s some way to measure and/or quantify this visibility. Look at’s reviewer system – one of the keys to Amazon’s business model was its creation of a community of book buyers. Adding the ability to review books and share those reviews with others was a critical component of that community. Yet it was only after visitors could rank the usefulness of reviews that reviews increased dramatically. Why? My guess – that the value of reviews was now quantifiable – and contributors were now rewarded with measurable recognition.

Maybe the difference between recognition and measurable recognition is a semantic one. But I like the broad notion of aligning compensation and rewards with with the overall business objectives. If you want me to contribute to a KM system, make it worth my while. Show me that increased recognition has some tangible benefit. (Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that I get paid more, but certainly most will take that route.) This has a number of very positive effects: it demonstrates executive-level commitment (if management isn’t willing to put its money where its mouth is, why should the grunts?), it erases any question of what the goals are, and it gives individuals a tangible reason for working towards the larger organizational goals (without sacrificing any individual objectives).

If you can’t somehow align a reward system with the success of the KM system, I’m willing to bet that the KM initiative will fall far short of its goal. I think measurability is the key. In this sense, the RCS ranking system (whose sites are most popular) and Blogdex (how many sites link to you, how many sites you link to) start to show what kind of metrics could be added to a Radio k-log environment. Visits indicate overall popularity, but that needs to be tempered with how many sites in your environment are actually linking to you. So the formula for determining a site’s overall “rank” would look something like:

(visits) * (links in / links out)

RCS measures the first, Blogdex measures the second. Even as I write this, I think there’s holes. But I’ll leave those for another day. It’s at least a useful exercise to think about…

TiVo Isn't Going to Kill Advertising

Study: PVRs Not Necessarily the Death of TV Advertising: Ad Age, the leading advertising industry magazine, brings word of a recent marketing study that finds that PVRs aren’t as bad for television advertising as some (cough* Kellner*cough) would have you believe. [LawMeme: Legal Bricolage for a Technological Age]

My own experience with TiVo mirrors many of the findings in this article. Not only is the summary of the Ad Age article useful, but the collection of related links is the most comprehensive on the subject I’ve seen. The law students at Yale are doing an excellent job. (If I could find my buddy Ben Kerschberg, a Yale law alum, I’d congratulate him.) LawMeme is an outstanding site. Almost makes me want to go to law school again. Almost.

My only comments in addition to this are that the evidence that TiVo can complement existing revenue streams for broadcasters is growing. Check out this post from March where I detailed two efforts by TiVo to develop new ways to capitalize on the shift in viewing habits of their users. The results were quite impressive – and I think this is the direction sponsored television will go.

Tuesday, May 7, 2002

Disenchanted's Referral Tracking Creates a Two-Way Web

Visit Disinchanted’s site to see how this works: every time someone links to them, they create reciprocal links back to those sites, sometimes including editorial comments about the sites you’ll be visiting. It’s a little tricky to explain, but once you see it, it should make sense. this adds tremendous context to their site (by showing which sites point in to them) and teaches the site owners quite a bit about what their visitors want (by watching which outbound links they follow).

Radio definitely needs this feature. (And saying so makes me the second “there is no spoon” site to go on the record with such a request…) [via there is no spoon]

Prof. Volokh to Debate Judge Kozinski on the Bono Copyright Extension

COPYRIGHT FOREVER: I’m off to Warner Brothers to debate my former boss, the inimitable Judge Alex Kozinski, about the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act — the Supreme Court will be considering its constitutionality soon in Eldred v. Ashcroft. I’m not completely sure that the law ought to be struck down, but that’s the position I’m taking in the debate. [Eugene Volokh’s weblog]

Good luck! Can’t wait to hear how it comes out…

Adam Curry Sheds Light on Fortuyn Assassination

Thanks to Dave, Tim Jarret and InstaPundit for the flow. I understand that US media outlets are lumping Pim Fortuyn with Le Pen in the same scentence even. They are misinformed and have done inadequate research. [Adam Curry: Adam Curry’s Weblog]

I’ll admit I didn’t know anything about Pim Fortuyn before yesterday. And initial reports I read (including CNN and MSNBC) painted a picture of a flamboyant racist who inexplicably had tremendous support in the Netherlands. Conveniently, Le Pen’s rise in France gave the networks an easy hook for the Fortuyn assassination.

But Adam has done a far better job explaining who Fortuyn was, what support for him meant, and what his policies were about. The black/white characterizations don’t surprise me on TV, but the same angles being reported in the papers ( which had 12 hours to get their stories straight) are disappointing. Bravo, Adam. Keep up the good work.