I sent the following e-mail in three weeks ago to the TechnoLawyer list, and it’s still inexplicably not going out. How can you claim to have an e-mail distribution list if the e-mails aren’t getting distributed? Rather than continue to wait, I figured I’d just throw it out there… and let Ernie, Denise and others pick it up and run with it. If other lawyers find it useful, all the better!
TechnoLawyer member Robert Donahue asks: “I have been exploring Knowledge Management for some time now, trying to find an individual system rather than an organizational system — something I can use to take advantage of as much of the benefits of KM as possible in a firm that is not currently interested in KM. Suggestions? Software?”
About three months ago I started using a program called Radio made by Userland, Inc. (http://radio.userland.com/). Radio is a weblog application – designed as a poor man’s web content management system to automate the publication of content to a web site. Weblogs have become a big deal lately (I wrote about them in last month’s LPM Magazine, the article is here: http://www.abanet.org/lpm/magarticle2002_v28n3_p8.shtml ; the popular press, including MSNBC, Newsweek, The New York Times, and others have written extensively about them in the past few months) and Radio is emerging as the leading application for weblogs as Knowledge Management tools.
Radio runs as a server on your desktop (don’t worry, it will run on Win98, ME, NT, 2000 or XP, it will also run on Mac OS X, and Mac OS “Classic” 7.5.5 or later). Point your browser to Radio’s home page (running on your desktop), and you’re ready to go. Setup takes less than five minutes. Radio’s abilities as a KM tool:
1. Easy capturing of unstructured information. Radio takes anything you type into your Radio home page and publishes it to your weblog. The weblog can be a private site, published to your firm’s web server or even to your own hard drive; alternatively, it can be published to Userland’s site – 40 megabytes of storage space is included in your Radio license. Radio can also ftp your site to a web server you maintain. Once this information is published, Radio creates an automatic calendar of past entries, and archives every post in an intuitive format: http://site/year/month/day.html. I’ve added a free search engine to my site (I use Atomz at http://www.atomz.com/) which makes the searching of all past posts very useful.
2. Archiving of sites, pages or other web content of interest. Rather than simply bookmarking a page you’re interested in, Radio lets you annotate that link. When coupled with a search engine, you have a searchable archive of all sites and pages you’ve linked to in the past. This is far more useful than a standard bookmark system.
3. Outlining. The Radio application includes an XML-based Outlining application. Whether you use it stand-alone, or take advantage of Radio’s ability to allow others to “subscribe” to your outline (permitting others to see changes to your outline made in real time), the Outliner is a powerful tool for organizing your thoughts and publishing them to your web site for future reference.
4. RSS Syndication. Perhaps the most useful feature of Radio is its ability to monitor other news sources. One aspect of Knowledge Management is the ability to aggregate disparate sources of data and easily sift through for items that are relevant. Radio includes a “News Aggregator” that reads XML files known as “RSS” files (RSS stands for Rich Site Summary; it’s a standard Userland co-created with Netscape several years ago to streamline the management of news-oriented sites). Every hour, Radio scans the RSS “feeds” of sites you’re subscribed to. If the RSS feed has changed, Radio downloads the new content to your desktop, allowing you to browse the topic. If you want to archive that item, click “Post” and Radio takes care of publishing it to your own site. There are thousands of RSS feeds available, including feeds for Law.com, LLRX, and other law-related sites. This has radically changed the way I browse the web – now most content I’m interested in comes to me.
There are other elements of Radio that are valuable in a multi-user environment, but that’s beyond the scope of the question asked. Radio is a fantastic application – it is, without exception, the best $40 I’ve ever spent on software. You can see my weblog (created and maintained with Radio) at http://www.rklau.com/tins/ – you won’t see the application behind the scenes, but you can get a sense of what the end result looks like. Maintaining the site is trivial – Radio hides all of the technology behind the scenes so that all you have to worry about is typing in whatever it is you’re interested in. If you can use Word, you can use Radio.
As with any KM solution, recognize that your ability to succeed is as much dependent on the processes you build to support the application. Radio by itself won’t get you to KM nirvana. But if you give it some time and learn its strengths, I’m certain that you’ll be better off than you are without it. (And what’s to lose? Take advantage of the free 30 day download before committing the $40.)