Thursday, October 31, 2002

Tales From the Gridiron

A great story: Act of kindness speaks volumes about football’s spirit (as read and discussed this morning on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning).

What a great story.

Judge Corrects His Opinion

This is newsworthy: Howard Bashman’s blog has become even more influential. Turns out that a judge issued an opinion on Tuesday; Howard noted in passing that one of the footnotes appeared to be in error. On Wednesday, the Judge issued an amended opinion with a correction of the footnote in question, followed up by an e-mail to Howard thanking him for the catch.

Others have picked up on this, noting that this is a pretty incredible demonstration of how a blog can impact “real-world” events.

If anyone from the legal press is reading this, make sure you pick this up.

Smaller Companies Still Kicking...

Why tech’s heavyweights still can’t crush the small fry BusinessWeek Online [ News Around the Web]

An encouraging note about the opportunities for innovation from Business Week. In light of the doomsday predicitions coming from Siebel and Oracle, it’s nice to hear someone see the glass as half full:

Even if smaller and midsize companies face a tighter squeeze and dwindling resources, they believe small, innovative companies will continue to thrive in such markets as security software and wireless networking gear. Others are changing the game: Inc. offers customer-management software online to nearly 5,000 clients. That’s a cheaper, more flexible alternative to software from leaders Siebel and SAP. Such pressure keeps the giants on their toes.

If you named your company (not to mention the site) “”, don’t you think would pull up the home page?

Turns out you’d be wrong. You need to go . Come on guys, figure out the DNS!

White Paper on Technology Buying Cycle

My only comments after reading the synopsis (I’ll look at the full paper later) is to compare this with Gartner’s Hype Cycle (I wrote about this last December). More later…

From Ross Mayfield’s Weblog:

Whitepaper: Timing Your Business Case.

I have posted a whitepaper on the use of financial metrics (ROI, TCO, ROA, etc.) in consideration of the technology adoption lifecycle.  Below is the abstract and link to the paper.  Please email me your comments: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


Buyers and Sellers of technology have renewed their focus on valuation metrics such as Return on Investment (ROI), Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return on Assets ( ROA).  There has been a marked shift from using ROI to TCO for the bulk of technology companies.  Today’s focus on cost cutting, however, only explains part of this shift.  Customers demand business cases using different metrics at different times depending upon their aversion to technology risk and the business cycle.  This article introduces a new framework, the Technology Valuation Lifecycle, for understanding when and why valuation metrics should be applied.  The 5 Value Drivers for ROI, the Whole Cost Model for TCO and the Competitive/Capacity Advantage for ROA reveal key considerations for metric inputs.  The article also highlights key business cycle considerations for valuation metrics and the drawbacks of metrics in developing a business case of technology purchase. Download this whitepaper in pdf format [Ross Mayfield’s Weblog]

The Reviews Are In!

Well, one review anyway. Sandeep Dave, editor of the India Law & International Resources Review, recently published his review of the Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet. You can read the full review here. But the concluding paragraph says what needs to be said:

In plain language, the book gives useful tips to exploit technology for focused legal practice and client relationships. Co-written by three entrenched names on the net, it is handy and useful. Website snaps and useful links add value. Get your copy today!

Stay tuned for more reviews as they come in.

Posts vanished

I just recreated four posts from yesterday that vanished sometime overnight. When I got to my computer this morning, Radio had crashed at some point – and when it restarted, it acted as if posts I’d made since late afternoon had never happened.

Fortunately I had copies of the posts (I subscribe to my own feed to ensure that posts are distributed properly) and have just added them back to the site. Any links to specific posts from yesterday will be broken, so please update your links.


Law Firm Soap Operas

I’ve been silent on a couple of law firm soap operas playing out very publicly in the press lately. But for the benefit of any readers who may not be wired into the rumor mill, let me try to sum them up for you…

Pillsbury Winthrop and Latham & Watkins
  • Frode Jensen, a partner in the NY office at Pillsbury Winthrop, left to join Latham & Watkins. On September 3, Latham put out a press release (courtesy of Google’s cache; the release is no longer on Latham’s site) announcing the move. From the press release: “We know Frode well from the opposite side of the table,” said Kirk Davenport, Chair of the New York Corporate Practice. “He is a very capable lawyer, and his extensive contacts and experience in several industries, including the biotechnology sector, will be an asset to our New York corporate practice.” (For those keeping score, Pillsbury is an 800 lawyer law firm with offices around the globe; Latham has nearly 2000 lawyers worldwide.)
  • The following day, Pillsbury’s chairman Mary Cranston issued her own press release. In the press release, Cranston indicated the firm had investigated sexual harassment claims against Jensen and “concluded there was a reasonable likelihood that harassment had occurred and responded with a variety of measures.” (How’s this for the most duplicitous comment ever made in a press release: “It is always sad to lose a friend and colleague to another firm, however, under the circumstances of the past year, Mr. Jensen’s move is probably in the best interest of all concerned, and we wish him well with his new firm.”)
  • The day after that, Pillsbury’s managing partner admitted in an interview that the reason for their action was that a recruiter had advised Pillsbury’s management that lateral hiring would be negatively affected by Jensen’s departure.
  • Shortly thereafter, Jensen dropped his bid for partnership at Latham and sued Pillsbury for $45 million.
Clifford Chance
  • On October 15, six associates drafted a memo to the New York Partners at Clifford Chance. The Memo, available here, is a thirteen page (single-spaced!) memo outlining just how bad things have become at Clifford Chance.
  • The memo is a response to CC’s dismal showing in the latest American Lawyer Associates Survey. (The full list of firms and their rankings is here.) (Side note: CC beat Pillsbury Winthrop by just two spots.)
  • The memo identifies seven specific complaints:

    • the 2420 hour billable hour requirement for all associates (I’ll save you the calculator: assuming just five holidays and no vacation, that’s 9.5 billable hours per working day for an entire year.)
    • the assignment system
    • performance reviews
    • poor internal communications
    • the pro bono program (“pro bono” is where lawyers volunteer their time for clients who can’t afford legal representation)
    • partner indifference
    • insufficient training
  • Supporting claims of how bad the billable hour requirement is, the associates indicated that lawyers felt pressured to pad their bills to meet the requirement. This got picked up in this past weekend’s Financial Times and this week’s Forbes, both of which comment on clients’ fears that their bills are being padded.
  • Slate ran an unsympathetic article by Dahlia Lithwick yesterday titled “Free the Baby Lawyers!“ in which she concludes:
    Consider their final suggestions for improving quality of life at their firm:

    • “Put plates and utensils in the pantries, so that people working late can avoid eating out of containers”
    • “Get an online food delivery system … so that people working late can order food easily”
    • “Set up a recreation room with a TV”
    • “Get concierge service for things like dry cleaning”
    • “Free shoeshines”
    • “Give out corporate accessories and toys”
    Do these people even understand that one could eat dinner, watch television, or shine one’s shoes at home? And wouldn’t it be fun for them to socialize with real people instead of malevolent bosses? The absurdity of the Clifford Chase memo isn’t that these associates regret their Faustian bargain. It is that they just want shiny shoes for their troubles.
  • As a result of all of this press, clients are demanding explanations from CC. Partners have called “war councils” on both sides of the Atlantic to address morale, client retention, and damage control in the press.
  • As if you didn’t know what the discussion would be, feel free to stop by The Vault’s discussion board about the issue. And then swing by Greedy Associates for even more.
And you thought life in the legal profession was boring!

The Web's Missing Links

From this month’s Technology Review, The Web’s Missing Links:

Webloggers, or “bloggers,” say recent experiments with backlinking could benefit all kinds of online publishing. Instead of pointing readers only to sources for the item they have just read, backlinks also point to newer material that item inspired, making it easy to follow a path through the Web’s marketplace of ideas. And because they can be updated automatically to reflect new incoming links, backlinks turn static Web pages into active hubs of related information.

(Update: David Gallagher has put the full text of the article on his site here.)

I’ve been meaning to post why I think TrackBack, or backlinking is so important. Reading this article just reinforces my belief that this will become an important element of weblogs moving forward. Denise and Ernie have both had good posts on this in the past couple days as well. (Denise should be credited with finding a way to work lap dancing into a blog post about weblogs, by the way.)

Let’s say Alice shows up at my weblog by way of a link on Bob’s site. Bob evidently said something compelling enough to convince Alice she should check it out. When Charlie shows up at my site by some other source, he is presumably interested in the same ideas. Without backlinking, Charlie has no way of easily knowing that Bob said anything worthwhile.

In the same way that Google interprets a link as a “vote” for a page, backlinking is an attempt at exposing the possible connections to an idea or expression that a reader may be interested in. John Robb expressed his lack of interest in TrackBack last month, and he referred to Ray Ozzie’s lack of support as well.

With all due respect, I’m not sure they’re right. Read both of their comments: they express satisfaction with the feedback that they get through existing channels (server logs, referral tracking, etc.). But they’re missing the point that TrackBack is less for the writer than it is for the reader. In a relatively painless way, TrackBack (or some other iteration that tries to do the same thing) will connect the dots for the readers – so that they may see threads of discussions occurring across numerous sites.

Presumably some writers would be similarly interested – but in many ways writers can get this kind of feedback by monitoring their referral logs. It’s the readers – who either don’t know about or don’t have access to the source’s referral logs – who will gain tremendously by seeing the flow of traffic across sites.

Why I like the Technology Review piece is that it puts the focus squarely on the web’s “marketplace of ideas.” Think of TrackBack as a kind of idea-based roadmap. If I like the idea I’m reading right now, I sure would like to know how others got here.

The Debate

“It’s over.”

“You’ll be back.”

Well done, Mr. President.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Trying out Ryze

I’d seen Phil’s endorsements of Ryze, but it was Matt Mower’s e-mail this morning urging me to take a look that tipped the balance.

For those that don’t know, Ryze is a business networking web site. The goal is to make it simple for people with common interests to find each other. There’s a geographic element (for example, I’ve now joined the Chicago “tribe”), an educational element (find alumni from the same schools), a corporate element (who works/worked at company x), and so on.

I tried this before with collapsed under its own weight, and really relied on your friends proactively signing up in order to make the system worthwhile. Ryze seems much lower-key than that.

Most surprising is the sense of community that’s apparent after just a day… I set my personal site up this morning, and already five (scratch that, a sixth signed while I was composing this post) people have signed my guest book. These are people who are interesting to me – one, for example is a woman in Chicago who has a technology marketing background, another is a guy who maintains a blog that I’ve now subscribed to.

The key to something like this is to have a true sense of community. Though I don’t know all the ins and outs of it yet, I’m impressed with what appears to be a robust community… people have gone out of their way to welcome me, Ryze meetings are popping up all around (I just missed Chicago’s last party, but will try to make the next one; Matt just attended a mixer in London this week) – and this seems to be a genuinely good way to discover and maintain friendships.

If you’re a Ryze member and want to share your experiences, I’d love to hear them. I’m eager to learn more to discover whether this is where I want to spend some time.

Yahoo Chooses PHP

This slide presentation is interesting for a whole host of reasons:

Making the Case for PHP at Yahoo!

24 Opens with a Bang

Last year’s season started with a plane hijacking – filmed before but shown after September 11. This season starts with a brutal torture scene (condoned by, but not performed by, US government agents), followed later by Kiefer Sutherland apparently killing a prisoner in cold blood and then saying, “I need a hacksaw.”

Whoa. Heavy stuff – and not your typical TV fare by a long shot.

Minor nits about the first episode – where’s President Palmer’s Machiavellian Chief of Staff Mike Novick (actor Jude Ciccolella) from the campaign? (I just checked the 24 web site and the character is mentioned; no idea whether he’ll have a role or not. But I liked the character last year – he would be a good addition here, always looking for the political angle in the midst of a crisis.)

Also, there were a ton of plot threads thrown out in Episode 1: the obsessive compulsive parent in the family Kim’s a nanny for, the is-he-or-isn’t-he groom-to-be/terrorist, the over-eager CTU programmer, the Presidential aide who may or may not be working against the President… I’m sure it will balance out as the season progresses.

And since when does NSA run operations? Wouldn’t this be an FBI operation, with intelligence sharing from NSA, CIA, and others?

Predictions: we haven’t heard the last from President Palmer’s ex-wife. And Nina knows something that will play a role in solving this crisis (maybe the Drazens financed Second Wave at some point? Or they exchanged weapons for cash?).

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

24 Season Premiere

Time to get excited. Commercial free tonight…

Establishing Brand Momentum

The six forces of marketing momentum : HBS Working Knowledge [ News Around the Web]

An interesting dissection of how to create brands that have “momentum”. Thoguh some of the analysis is geared to technology organizations, I think there is still some applicability to law firms. Take this quote, which is instructive in how to set a direction that contributes to brand momentum:

Momentum brands project a sense of manifest destiny even as the market around them changes with greater and greater frequency. This sense of confidence is built on establishing direction; that is, articulating a credible vision of the future and its inherent opportunity for all constituents in a given market space. Following our research, we defined direction as the ability of companies to anticipate and execute on the inherent market opportunities that come from the impact of technology on markets.

New Must-have gadget: Splashpad

Splashpower is a UK startup building a device called a “Splashpad.” This is a flat surface that you set on your desk, which provides power on contact with electronic devices that are equipped with a “ SplashModule.” The upshot is that you could have a corner of your desk that charged your Visor, SideKick, phone, iPod, and iBook, eliminating the need for custom cradles, dongles and cables — God, I want one of these. “ [via BoingBoing]

Monday, October 28, 2002

Small CRM Companies Thriving

Best Little CRM Companies in the Business. When you want something done right in CRM, you do not necessarily need to call on a big company. A number of smaller, less-heralded technology providers are making a name for themselves with very targeted, specialized products that meet needs not previously satisfied by the offerings of household-name players. [CRMDaily]

Of course, this article still focuses primarily on “traditional” CRM – i.e., sales force automation and call-center stuff. But it’s nice to see positive press in the CRM space that also identifies the potential upside in going with a more targeted, hungrier provider than the big guys.

A Great Birthday Weekend

Many thanks to my folks who made it out for the weekend to help me celebrate my 31st birthday. Robin and I went to dinner with Mom & Dad at Bistro Banlieue – great French food if you’re in the Chicago suburbs (it’s in Lombard, right next to Oak Brook). If you go, be sure to ask for Joshua.

My favorite gift is the wine club Robin renewed for me – we’d belonged when we were living in California, but let it lapse when we came to Illinois. Knowing that each month we’ll get two bottles of wine from around the world is fun – and they are consistently outstanding wines. K&L Wine Merchants are the guys we use; there’s more on their wine clubs here. We do the Best Buy Wine Club, though I have my eye on the Signature Red Collection

Friday, October 25, 2002

Profitability Opportunities for Large Firms

A new survey by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young looked into the correlation between growth and profitability among large law firms in the US and UK. The most important finding is that “no single firm has yet achieved a combination of global scale and high-end profitability.” Of the ten firms with the highest profit per equity partner (PEP), only one is in the UK and the remaining nine are in the US.

From my perspective, of the four performance “levers” they identify for triggering increased improvement, one in particular stands out:

  • Opportunities include adapting appropriate incentive and reward models; rolling out best practice initiatives to consider managing client relationships more efficiently; adopting new technology and support services and improving sales and marketing. [emphasis mine]

The report’s author, Bob Scott, concludes:

“There are significant opportunities for legal firms to capitalise on size, reputation and reach to improve efficiencies and returns on investment in people, processes, IT and infrastructure. Sustainable, profitable growth can only be achieved by balancing M&A, cost reduction, price optimisation and the cultural changes necessary. Those firms that get this combination right will be the ultimate winners.”

The abstract of the report is here in PDF format.

Wellstone Dead

CNN is confirming that Senator Paul Wellstone has died, along with his wife, daughter and five others.

I remember seeing him speak at a Clinton/Gore rally in 1992 when my parents were living in Minnesota. He was the most partisan, animated politician I’d ever seen speak. It was hard to agree with him on a number of issues, but you had to admire his commitment and his work ethic.

Wellstone on Crashed Plane?

No official word yet, but it appears there’s at least a possibility that Senator Paul Wellstone was on board a small aircraft that crashed in Northern Minnesota today. Some similarities to Gov. Mel Carnahan’s plane crash in the weeks leading up to the 2000 election.

Matrix Reloaded Cliff-hanger

Joel Silver, producer of the next two “Matrix” movies, says that the cliffhanger between the first and second parts of the next installments is so compelling that people will be desperate to see the next film.

“I think we won’t even have to advertise the third film, we’ll just tell people the date, and they’ll come,” Silver tells Zap2it in an interview over the weekend. “The story is so fantastic.”


Thursday, October 24, 2002

A Disclaimer Only a Lawyer Could Love

Actually, everyone should love this disclaimer. But only lawyers will recognize how frighteningly close it is to the real deal:

Thanks to Erik for picking this one up.

(PS – If you have pop-up killers in place, disable them for this site. Trust me.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Professional Adoption of CRM

Just saw that my presentation from the LawNet Annual Conference in August is now available online here. If you’re in a professional services firm and are struggling with professional adoption of CRM (or any sufficiently strategic technology), give it a look and let me know what you think .

Additionally, be sure to browse the list of all presentations given at the conference.

Another Blawg

Hey Denise – check out Jennifer Klyse’s blog. She’s in I.T. at a big law firm (which will remain nameless for now). She had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of a blog rant from me back at LawNet in Boca Raton, and made the mistake of actually downloading Radio.

Predictably, she’s now hooked. Welcome, Jen!

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Documentum Acquires eRoom for $96m

Documentum Buys eRoom for $96M
By Staff

1”>- content_start—>Beefing up its content management software with a popular collaboration tool, Documentum%20%20Friday%20said%20it%20will%20buy%20eRoom Technology in a stock and cash deal worth about $96 million.

RK: On p. 116 of the book, we talked about an eRoom/PC DOCS integration built by Matrix Logic. (More on this integration is here.)

Just a quick update to note the above: Documentum, a competitor to PC DOCS in the document management space, acquired eRoom earlier this month. While this doesn’t necessarily change anything about the Matrix Logic arrangement, keep in mind that acquisitions like this happen often and can dramatically affect your technology choices. (Ask yourself: will Documentum have any incentive to continue to support an integration that directly competes with themselves?)

Another good example of this is Niku’s failed acquisition of former extranet provider Legal Anywhere. Legal Anywhere was a small but growing provider of extranet services to the legal profession until they were acquired in late 1999 by new company Niku. Niku proceeded to go public – at one point their stock was worth more than $100 (it now trades at $.19) – and gradually eroded their support of the legal division. More than a year ago, Niku shut down the Legal Anywhere group – leaving dozens of large law firms without an extranet provider.


Site note: comments back

I added comments back to this site after seeing the nice modification to the Radio News Aggregator over the weekend. Thanks to some under-the-hood tweaking by Dave, people who read this site in their Radio aggregator can now add a comment to any post directly from their aggregator.

This is exactly how it should be.

Kingsley Martin: Calculating KM ROI in Law Firms

Kingsley Martin, formerly CIO at Kirkland & Ellis, is a sharp guy when it comes to KM. He’s a lawyer (with law degrees from both Oxford and Harvard) who has been focused on KM-related issues for over 15 years. He was one of my co-panelists at last week’s Executive Director Forum, and I was excited to see this article by Kingsley published last week at (Thanks to Joy London for the pointer.)

Some key ideas put forth in Kingsley’s article:

  • Records Management Quarterly reported that 80 percent of the electronic data on a typical network has not been retrieved or used in 30 days; more than 50 percent has not been accessed in several months; and only 20 percent of network storage is active data, while the remaining 80 percent is inactive1.
  • Tony McKinley, in an article titled “Managing All Information Assets,2“ claims that 85 percent of documents filed are never retrieved, while 50 percent or more are duplicates.
  • A study by the multinational firm BAE Systems discovered that 80 percent of employees waste an average of 30 minutes per day retrieving information, while 60 percent are spending an hour or more duplicating the work of others.

His key argument is here:

The transfer of knowledge is, in fact, the essence of knowledge management. While many commentators have touted the productivity goals of KM, the true value of knowledge sharing will likely be found in its ability to leverage knowledge and enhance the value of professional services. Using knowledge management technologies to capture prior work product, exemplars and other materials developed by senior and skilled practitioners, law firm associates, legal assistants and non-attorneys can perform valuable client work and charge a rate commensurate with their enhanced performance. Accordingly, the application of leverage is simply recognition of the fact that billing rates increase with experience, and such experience can be gained through hands-on practice, training and the use of technology. As a result, computer systems are being enlisted as part of professional development to supplement mentoring programs and provide training opportunities for attorneys. In addition to such broad-based skill development, KM initiatives can focus knowledge transfer on specific practice areas, developing the skills of associates, legal assistants and non-lawyers to perform higher-level work through the development of forms, practice guides and document assembly.

Though I’m less interested in the mathematical formulas Kingsley puts forward (not because they’re not valuable, but because in my experience firms don’t trust them – there’s a reason these guys went to law school and not business school), it’s worth exploring the ways in which he attempts to quantify the ROI of a KM initiative.

I'll Never Complain About Airtravel Again Woman Squashed by Plane Passenger

LONDON, England — A woman injured while squeezed next to an obese passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight has been given £13,000 ($20,000) by the airline.

Barbara Hewson, 63, was offered damages by Virgin Atlantic after suffering a blood clot, torn leg muscles and sciatica following a flight to Los Angeles in January 2001, the UK’s Press Association reported.

She said the woman passenger was so large she had to sit with the arm rests up, but when she complained, the crew said there was nothing they could do as the plane was full.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Tim Calhoun for Senate

If you missed Saturday night’s SNL (I’m obsessing, but it’s nice to see them back in good form), I did manage to find a copy of Weekend Update over here at (No direct links, but just click on the “John McCain” link in the top left corner.)

In the spirit of fair play, Weekend Update gave equal time to another politician (since John McCain was hosting). The resulting two minute campaign speech by Tim Calhoun is fall-out-of-your-chair funny. (“Calhoun” – actually cast- member Will Forte - starts his speech at about 3:45 of the video.)

  • “I love whales, but they have to go.”

  • “America needs another big lake.”

  • “I’m sorry about the cocaine. But sometimes I like to stay up reallllllly late, and cocaine will help you do that.”

Now if I can just find the Hardball bit – with Harry Belafonte spouting racial epithets (“The poodle is the black man of the dog world!”) and John McCain as Ashcroft (“The Arabic language – and anything that sounds like it – will be illegal.”) I’ll be happy.

HipTop - A Real Wireless Blogging Tool

Hey Jenny! Check out the following language from

Hiplogs Online Journals—It’s your chance to be a star! You and your trusty T-Mobile Sidekick, that is. Share your deepest thoughts or wildest whims online with a public journal you can update on the go!

It’s about time a wireless phone/PDA company actively promoted blogging. This is a big growth area. Danger, makers of the Hiptop (packaged as the Sidekick by T- Mobile), are pursuing this as a marketing strategy.

Smart. (Only question is, who’s their provider? Probably has to be blogger, given that the phone would talk to a web site, which would in turn handle the publication up to the weblog.)

Doonesbury: Don't You Have to Have Something to Say?

From this weekend’s Doonesbury:

Last Week's SNL on tape?

After thoroughly enjoying last week’s SNL episode with John McCain, I went to watch a few sketches again last night, only to find out that Tivo had incorrectly recorded over with a rerun of an episode from several years ago. (Even though the season pass is set to “first run only” it apparently got confused.)

So… anybody out there got a recording (VCD, DVD, VHS) they’re willing to share?

Microsoft Supporting Kazaa

Microsoft Using Kazaa as a Marketing Portal. Los Angeles Times Oct 21 2002 3:43AM ET [Moreover – moreover…]

“The dalliance with Kazaa seems risky, given the network’s reputation for promoting piracy. But to Microsoft, the projects serve a legitimate purpose: to show the entertainment industry how the anti-piracy features of Windows Media 9 might tame the file-sharing beast.”

Kazaa, for those who don’t know about it, is the latest in peer-to-peer file sharing. Load up the Kazaa application on your PC, type in a few words (“Bruce Springsteen”) and find anyone out there who has any media files relating to The Boss.

It is a relative of Napster, in that it serves a similar purpose: to ease the sharing of content by thousands of users. Where Kazaa is different is that it supports non-audio files (video, standard documents, etc.). In addition, the company behind Kazaa was incorporated in an attempt to shield it from much of the same litigation that ultimately crushed Napster. (Originally a Dutch company, Kazaa folded and reincorporated as Sharman Networks – in the island nation of Vanuatu.)

In any event, it’s awfully interesting to see Microsoft lend credibility to what many had seen as a haven for illegal file traders, porn swappers and music pirates.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

McCain as Ashcroft: Priceless

Just too much good TV tonight. Thankfully I had Tivo and the dual tuner to let me bounce among various channels. Highlights:

  • Barry Bonds hitting a homer in his first World Series at bat.

  • The entire Hardball sketch on Saturday Night Live. John McCain as John Ashcroft was inspired.

  • N.D. rushing for over 300 yards against Air Force and remaining undefeated.

  • John McCain sings Streisand was another gem: “For 20 years in politics, I’ve had to live with Barbara Streisand trying to do my job. Now I’m trying to do hers.”


Friday, October 18, 2002

Blog Awareness

Interesting. Spoke at the Law Firm Executive Director & CFO Forum today in Manhattan. Four different people commented on my blog…

What’s cool is that I hadn’t told any of them about it. People are still curious about it, and the “how do you have time to sleep?” questions get old – but the concept is getting out there.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I’m finally taking Ernie up on his recommendation to read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. So far, it’s every bit as compelling as Ernie said it would be. More to come once I finish it.

Ernie, Buzz et al. – can’t wait to read up on PopTech. Have a blast in Camden!

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Freshfields Annual Report

If you’re interested in seeing how a large, global law firm sees its business, make sure to spend some time reading the Freshfields annual report. In it, you get a sense of the scope of the firm (more than 2400 lawyers worldwide), the breadth of their practice areas and their goals moving forward.

  • “We aim to build long-term relationships with our clients.”

  • “We recognise the need for care in the selection and training of our people. We are now investing more in developing the skills and vision to understand and meet th eneeds of each client.”

  • “If we … improve our understanding of what our clients require, we believe we can succeed in building the long-term relationships based on trust on which our future depends.”

That's Just Not Sporting!

They’re Baaaaaaack!.
Wallace and Gromit: Cracking Contraptions

“Wallace and Gromit are back in their first screen outing for six years. BBC News Online exclusively presents Soccamatic, one of 10 short films, revealing Wallace’s latest inventions. Soccamatic is free to watch or download from this site.” [BBC News]
[The Shifted Librarian]

Live from New York: The Book Club

I’ve been a devoted SNL watcher for 16 years or so – enough to qualify me as an addict, but not nearly enough to get me into Tom Shales territory. He’s co-authored Live From New York, apparently a book that dishes lots of dirt (who knew Chevy Chase was so uniformly disliked?).

And Slate has a book club conversation going on about it this week.

It's his Prerogative...

Saddam’s campaign themesong is Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, according to this Washington Post article. Wonder if the Iraqi leader’s campaign team bothered to take care of rights clearance for the song… if not, perhaps the United States should spare the missiles, prevent collateral damage, and just straight-up air-drop a posse of recording industry attorneys on him. Make lawyergrams, not war! Link [boing]

Five Apes in a Cage

Watched The Contender on DVD again last week. Each time I watch the movie, I have another reason to appreciate the artistry behind the film. (Pay attention to the frequent use of a “oner” – the long, tracking shots from one handheld camera. Often into and out of buildings, up and down multiple floors, etc. It’s a wonderful technique – even if you don’t consciously realize it’s happening, it’s a subtle way of reinforcing the grandeur of D.C.)

In any event, the deleted scenes were telling. While many were removed for good reason (they often created entirely new plot threads that would have simply distracted from the main theme), one scene was wonderful. Jeff Bridges as President. He walks into the Oval Office, where two senior aides (played by Saul Rubinek and Sam Elliott) are seated. The scene was improvised – the director, Rod Lurie, explains that Bridges had finished shooting that day (it was his last day of filming) and didn’t want to leave.

Bridges tells a story, one that I’ve already used twice in meetings (editing out the salty language, of course). I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea:

“Put five apes in a cage. In the middle of a cage is a set of steps, and at the top of the steps is a banana hanging from the top of the cage. When the first ape starts up the steps, blast all five apes with ice cold water from a firehose for five minutes. When the next ape starts up the steps, do it again. Then put the firehose away.

“The third time an ape starts up the steps, wait. The other apes will beat the shit out of the ape. Now take one of the apes out, put in a new ape. He’ll start up the steps – and the other apes will promptly beat the shit out of him. Replace another ape – and the other four – including the ape who never got hit with the water – will beat him to a pulp. Repeat the process, one by one, until you have five ‘new’ apes in the cage.

“They’ll never let one of the apes up the steps. And if you were to ask why, the answer would be simple:

“Because that’s the way it’s always been done.”

At that, Bridges pats one of the aides on the back and walks out. The scene works on several levels – it’s consistent with the theme of the film, it reveals more about Bridges’s President, and it’s fun to watch Rubinek and Elliott listen to the story without a clue about where it’s going.

Don’t be an ape.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Update on Radio Error

Turns out it’s an environment issue. Many, many thanks to John, Dave and Jake for each following up and offering assistance. After an IM session with Jake (would that all tech support were so easy!), we determined that it’s our VPN software – apparently it’s configured to only allow access through IE. Should be a relatively easy fix.

Also, thanks to a number of you who followed up with offers of assistance, and to Matt Mower who spent a half hour with me (also by IM). Matt – congrats to the Giants!

Ford to Firms: Cut Costs

Ford Motor Company’s message to law firmscut your bills, and if you have to find a creative way to do it then do it. [ernie/the/attorney]

This is how change happens in law firms: clients demand a different approach and law firms react. Today’s business model is driven primarily by the billable hour. As clients’ budgets demand cuts in legal spending, clients will force firms to think creatively about ways of shrinking the bills. Note that this article is not about Ford talking with tiny firms – the conversation was between Ford and several “magic circle” firms in London (the magic circle is the term that applies to London’s five largest law firms).

There will be two effects from this, one is noted in the article. One insider said, “There were firms at that meeting that won’t get business in the future.” Inevitably, clients will consolidate their business among a smaller group of firms. A byproduct of this however is that the firms who are in the consolidated group could easily see their revenues from the client go up. In other words, fewer firms sharing a smaller pie may nevertheless see increased revenues.

Ultimately, firms are faced with this reality and must find a way to react. The best way to make lemonade here is to fashion a business model that leverages the above scenario. How do you do that? Lower your cost of sale (through better marketing) increase efficiencies internally (through knowledge sharing).

Yikes – that sounds like a business. Now wouldn’t it be nice to see firms being proactive and actually suggest these changes? Never forget Jack Welch’s Six Commandments

Monday, October 14, 2002

RSS Subscription Problems

Setting up various users on Radio on our intranet. When anyone tries to subscribe to each other’s RSS feed, we get the following error message:

Can’t subscribe to the channel. The most likely cure is to check the URL in a web browser and see if you can get it to read the feed. The following message probably won’t help you figure out what went wrong, but we include it here because it might. “Poorly formed XML text, string constant is improperly formatted. (At character #66.)”

The RSS URL actually exists. Anyone know what this means?

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Strategy+Business: Diary of a Change Agent

Diary of a change agent Strategy +Business (free registration required) [ News Around the Web]

I have to get The Soul in the Computer: The Story of a Corporate Revolutionary. Read the summary at Strategy+Business – it’s a strong overview of how Barbara Waugh initiated change throughout her career at HP (18 years and counting). For me, the key graph from the S+B article is:

The impetus for organizational change in most companies is a desire to improve performance, but change is also geared toward improving a company’s reputation. Customers, regulators, neighbors, and prospective employees judge a company not by performance metrics or by the share price alone, but by the quality of the company’s products, the character of its community presence, the attractiveness of its jobs, and its record on such issues as pollution, sweatshop labor, and diversity in the work force. If outsiders’ judgments matter at your company, then people like Barbara Waugh are exceptionally important, because the climate they create, far below the level of executive command, has a great deal of influence on a company’s ability to improve in these arenas.


Tuesday, October 8, 2002

HBS Working Knowledge: Finding Which Customers Don't Fit

Finding which customers don’t fit HBS Working Knowledge [ News Around the Web]

A terrific article about the importance of (a) using front-line managers as leading indicators of what should be happening and (b) taking a hard look about what business you’re in, what business you should be in, and which customers you should have.

A snippet:

Try this today. Sit down for thirty minutes with the managers who run your company’s major departments (sales, operations, etc.), and ask each one to write down the names of five significant customers who shouldn’t be sold to, five products that shouldn’t be carried, and five services that shouldn’t be provided.

Surprisingly, in many companies, the managers’ lists would be so different that an outsider would think they were from different companies.

Why? Because most companies don’t manage profitability on a day-to-day basis—coordinating sales and operations to maximize profits to the fullest potential. Consequently, they have a few islands of high profitability, but lots of unprofitable accounts, products, and transactions.

Building a Bridge Between CEOs and CIOs

Jim McGee: We still need bridges between technology and business.
A report on a recent Booz Allen study on CEE/CIO job tenure. One implication is that there is still a significant opportunity in improving the communication between CEOs and CIOs. Part of that mission has already made real progress in that CIOs are much more adept at couching their conversations in business terms. By and large, they have learned to speak the language of investment and return.

The other part of that mission isn’t as far along. That is the need to build a deeper understanding of technology possibilities and limits on the part of line business executives. Some of this may self-correct as we get new generations of managers who have grown up around technology. They will certainly have less fear. On the other hand, I don’t believe this new generation of management has an equally solid perspective on the limits of complex systems. They’re comfortable with technology as magic. Next they have to start learning a bit more about how the magic happens.

CEO and CIO Flight [Line56: B2B News]

CEOs aren’t the only executives in dire straits these days. According to an article by Booz Allen Hamilton’s James Weinberg, John Boochever, and Thomas Park, “CIO longevity in the job averages less than two years, and the reason almost half of all CIOs wind up fired is that they fail to establish good working relationships with their CEOs and the rest of the management team. No wonder many in the industry believe that ‘CIO’ stands for ‘career is over.’”
With such short CIO and CEO tenures, Booz Allen Hamilton thinks it’s difficult to set a business (and, for that matter, e-business) direction for a company.
The article from Weinberg et al points out that, “Improved productivity (even if it can’t be easily measured) from advances in technology was the underpinning of the nation’s longest economic expansion and the Internet is forcing a reinvention of the way … companies do business with consumers, suppliers, and partners, and is fundamentally altering how their employees communicate with one another.”

[source: McGee’s Musings]

European VC Market to Consolidate

At least 30 percent of European venture capital firms will disappear over the next three years, according to research from AltAssets, a British research group. While governments continue to encourage investment in fledgling companies, AltAssets said the VC industry was grappling with a hostile environment. It found that 78 percent of the 125 firms it surveyed, which collectively managed about 20 billion euros ($19.6 billlion), expected industry consolidation over the next few years.

  • Go to Article from The Financial Times
  • Monday, October 7, 2002

    A Baseball Fan in London?!

    Here’s a cultural by-product that might not have been anticipated (by me, anyway): As console games (in this case, Nintendo 64) proliferate internationally, games for those consoles evanagelize sports that otherwise don’t get any attention. Case in point? Matt Mower, a British citizen, was wearing a San Francisco Giants baseball hat so I’d recognize him when I walked into The Chandos pub next to Trafalgar Square last night.

    Turns out that his roommate had N64, bought one of the baseball games, and he and his roommates learned how to play baseball. And because N64 makes you pick a team, and because Matt has always wanted to live in San Francisco, Matt is now a SF Giants fan.


    As expected, beers with Matt was a delight. He’s a really sharp guy, who is passionate about the opportunity for blogs to play a part in the larger enterprise. He’s to be commended for striking out on his own, building products that significantly extend the blog paradigm, and for being so eager to experiment with new ideas.

    I trust that this is the first of many beer sessions. (And maybe when the Giants play the Cubs next year he can come see Wrigley Field in Chicago…)

    K-log Pilot Follow-up

    Roland Tanglao asks about my piloting a K-Log post: Very cool, Rick! Will these klogs use Radio and will they be public?

    Yes and no. We’ll use Radio to start out. The initial efforts will be internally focused – mostly because I want to conquer issues one at a time. I see the biggest hurdle being the changing of peoples’ habits – and if the sites were public, we’d have to simultaneously address separate issues of openness, whether we were somehow helping competitors, etc. Better to address those once we get people comfortable with the concept.

    That said, I like the idea that we can eventually make public sites too. I’ll keep people in the loop as we evolve the project.

    Announcing My New Boook

    I’m very pleased to announce that The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet (2nd ed.) is now available for purchase from the American Bar Association. The book is a collaborative effort between myself, Deborah McMurray and Greg Siskind. (Greg is the original edition’s primary author; he managed to rope me into the project and I in turn roped Deborah in.) For those reading this site, the book is notable for two reasons: (1) the book includes a chapter (by me) about using weblogs for marketing, and (2) the three of us are contributing to a multi-author blog to accompany the book.

    Happy reading!

    Sunday, October 6, 2002

    Windows Fun for Everyone

    My trip to London started Friday night, when I realized I hadn’t installed our new VPN client. Since I’d be out of the office all week, I thought it a good idea to actually have access to the company network while I’m gone. Though I wasn’t thrilled about driving to the office at 10:30 on a Friday night, all I had to do was install one application.


    First my computer didn’t want to “see” the right directory on the network – it was apparently confused that it was actually “online”. At this point, I made the dreaded call: to the IT guy who was on vacation. I didn’t want to do it, actually hated myself for doing it (I pride myself on being pretty independent as far as computer use goes) – but I needed the &$!$@* VPN client.

    Forty-five minutes later, we’d removed and reinstalled the drivers for the ethernet card, rebooted twice, and finally got to install the software. Scott, our I.T. director, is a saint. He even gave me updates on the Yankees/Angels game while we waited for the machine to reboot, reload, crash…

    Miraculously, when I got home everything worked – plugged it into the home network and was able to do everything over DSL.

    But all was not right.

    Yesterday afternoon, I tried to download my e-mail from the flight club before boarding the plane for London. Repeated calls resulted in “error 720: the computers can’t agree on a PPP protocol to use.”

    Frustrated but figuring it to be a temporary thing, I packed up and watched the end of the Stanford/N.D. game. (Mom & Dad were at the game, and got to see a N.D. victory for the first time in years!) I landed in London this morning, get to the hotel and dial the local London POP for AT&T. Same error message. I tried manipulating every single dial-up networking setting: error control, flow control, IP compression, you name it. Nothing helped.

    There’s an Internet cafe across the street from the hotel, so I was able to fire up the ethernet connection and search Google for some help. I found it: here and here (but not, interestingly enough, here). The solution? Simple, really: just remove and reinstall TCP /IP.

    At this point, I’m wondering whether I somehow missed Jenny or Ernie messing with my equipment… as much as I despise my Gateway laptop, I’d been able to avoid problems like this in the past. In any event, I managed to remove TCP/IP, reboot, reinstall TCP/IP, reboot, and (cue drum roll) – it works!

    Simple! Just three hours (cumulatively) spent over a weekend when I could’ve dealt without annoying Windows problems.

    Piloting a K-Log

    We’re kicking off a k-log initiative at my company tomorrow. I’ve identified a dozen people to serve as guinea pigs. IT installs the software tomorrow, and they’ll take a few days to get familiar with the software. Rather than bombard them with any formal training right away, I want them to be comfortable with what’s on the screen – at least that way they’ll figure out what questions they want to ask.

    Week of the 14th, I’m going to meet one-on-one with each of the people to help them get over the basics, explain the aggregator and the concept of RSS subscriptions, and identify any challenges they’ve faced.

    The following two weeks will have small group meetings. I’ll be subscribed to each person’s site, so there will also be periodic e-mail follow-up to find out if things are working well. We’ll make a go/no-go decision the first week of November – at that point, we should know whether the “average” user is comfortable with the interface, if they see value from being able to monitor what their co-workers are doing, etc.

    So far, people seem cautiously optimistic about the concept. We’re great at using our own product for CRM – but we haven’t committed enterprise wide to doing anything like this other than CRM. Wish us luck!

    Blog meetings continue

    Out of disappointment, an opportunity: Terry Frasier, owner of the blog formerly known as “Blunt Force Trauma”, was going to be in Chicago this week. We were trying to find a way to hook up, but it turned out I had to be in London a day earlier and I cancelled. (Turns out that was OK – Terry ended up having to cancel his trip too.)

    Thanks to the fact that I’m in London early, I’ve spent the day knocking around town being a tourist – something I haven’t done in my 8 previous trips to the city. And tonight I get to meet Matt Mower, the guy who runs Novissio and who created the ridiculously useful tool liveTopics. I’m sure both of us will report back on our impressions…

    John Robb thanks Userland’s customers today, and indicates that great things are to come. John – you’re welcome. But great things are already here – my blog continues to introduce me (both virtually and face-to-face) to people who are smarter than me and interested in many of the same things I am. So in the spirit of John’s thanks, let me thank John, Ernie, Dave, Denise, Chris, Joy, Matt, Terry, Jim, Jenny, and the many others whose blogs I read on a daily basis. Our world is a smaller place because of your contributions – and we’re all the better for it. (And thanks in advance for the beers that Matt and I will no doubt enjoy tonight!)

    Friday, October 4, 2002 Successful Branding

    Courtesy of POELog: What Becomes A Brand Most? – This sort of ties together 3 of my more recent posts.

    In branding, advertising it not the most important element; consistency is. Consistency is eminently more important than advertising when it comes to branding. “Consistency in what?” you ask. Consistency of message, of product or service, of delivery, and of experience. These are vital elements of successful branding. Without this consistency, the brand is doomed to fail.

    If you read my post on the Internet and branding (two down) … you’ll see that the author of this article and I are on the exact same page (of course, she’s a little more eloquent than me).

    Brands that want to last need to focus less on advertising, less on creating “noise,” and more on things that matter—offering value to the customer, effective merchandizing, filling a niche in the market, product innovation, doing it better than the next guy, and internal branding.

    Now … that’s someone that understands branding.

    Google Changing Its Colors

    There’s quite a debate going on in the webmaster world about the recent changes to Google’s pagerank algorithm. I commented on the phenomenon earlier this week (and my drop from the top 10 “Rick” results on the Internet), but it appears that the impact of Google’s changes are far-reaching.

    The two camps can be seen at Google is good and Google is horrible. (Thanks to Search Engine Blog for the pointers.) There’s also some speculation about what in fact happened over at Google.

    And finally, thanks to Genie Tyburski at The Virtual Chase for some info about the “Google Dance“ – the period of time in which Google is updating its servers when you can get different results at Google for the same query depending on which Google server you hit. Interesting.

    Thursday, October 3, 2002

    Case Study: Microsoft's Intranet

    Case study of Microsoft’s intranet.
    A substantial and excellent case study of Microsoft’s intranet and the information architecture challenges that had to be addressed. Worth the time.

    Boxes and Arrows: MSWeb: An Enterprise Intranet #1. Fascinating look at Microsoft’s Intranet Information Architecture [Roland Tanglao’s Weblog]

    It’s nearly impossible to develop a successful information architecture against a backdrop of explosive content growth, content ROT, and the political twists and turns common in any organization. And, we’re sorry to say, we don’t have the Holy Grail. But we’ve had the privilege of getting up close to a large number of corporate intranets. And the best approach we’ve seen so far is that taken by Microsoft’s intranet portal (MSWeb) team….

    Like Microsoft itself, MSWeb is insanely huge and distributed. Let’s use some numbers to paint a picture of the situation. MSWeb contains:

    • 3,100,000+ pages
    • Content created by and for over 50,000 employees who work in 74 countries
    • 8,000+ separate intranet sites

    …Microsoft estimates that a typical employee spends 2.31 hours per day engaging with information, and 50 percent of that time is used looking for that information.
    [McGee’s Musings]

    Tuesday Morning Quarterback

    If you’re a football fan and haven’t found Gregg Easterbrook’s column, be sure to check it out. He used to write for Slate, but has now switched to ESPN.

    Gregg is what Dennis Miller should have been for Monday Night Football: crazy knowledge about the game matched with an off-beat sense of humor.

    Enjoy his observations about the game, his quick wit, or his reader submissions of football cliches translated into a foreign language and back into English (courtesy of Babelfish), like:

    P.J. Knight of Lewisville, Texas, translated “We have to give 110 percent all the time” into Korean and back and got, “We all hours only one hundred things and gave 10 percent to do, Oh! it does.” Oddly, TMQ can hear Jim Mora hollering that.

    Blogging from the Harvard Business School Publishing Next Generation Growth Conference

    Denise Howell blogs from the Harvard Business School Publishing Next Generation Growth Conference, and comments specifically on the Komisar, Zook, Cook and Foster Panel. One quote in particular caught my eye:

    Creative Destruction: markets outperform coporations. Long term survival and long term performance are not the same thing. Foster chooses to take an investor return lens. It’s harder to get rid of a business you already have than create a new one. J&J took steps to make the corporation more market-like. Today, Qwest, Global Crossing, Tyco tells us what happens when controls systems are inadequate. Must control what you must rather than what you can. [Bag and Baggage] (emphasis mine)

    Denise reports that within spittin’ distance are Dan Gillmor (working his usual magic). Kevin Marks, Robert Scoble and Dave Winer. Good stuff – wish I was there!

    T-Mobile Sidekick

    A picture named sidekick.jpgI held a Sidekick last night – happened to pass by a T-Mobile (aka “The cellular company formerly known as Voicestream but now we’ve hired Catherine Zeta-Jones and got rid of Jamie Lee Curtis”) stall at a mall and checked it out.

    Initial reaction: great form factor, nice big screen, very functional design. The construction seems very solid, and it definitely has the “wow” factor. It’s a GSM phone – which means I could take it to London with me and keep the number. The screen rotates to cover the keyboard, so when you’re using it as a phone it appears to be a more standard “brick” phone. When using it as a PDA, the screen rotates out, revealing the keyboard. Two menu buttons on the left and a jog dial on the right control menuing functions and assist with navigation.

    Initially they have just one calling plan for the device: $40/month gets you 200 minutes, 1000 off-peak minutes, and unlimited Internet access. That’s ideal for the casual user, but they’re going to need to do something for someone like me – I’ll easily do 500+ minutes peak time per month. And I want better international pricing ($.99/minute isn’t bad, but it’s not ideal – I’d gladly up my monthly fee). Regardless, I like that they’re not charging for the browsing functionality.

    If you buy now, there’s a $50 mail-in rebate – you can buy the phone for $200 and they’ll throw in the camera adapter so you can take pictures with the phone. It synchs e-mail, has wireless web browsing, and T-Mobile has the only nationwide GPRS system (so you have always on e-mail).

    I think I’m in love. Great price point for the device, and seemingly more functional than some of the other multi- function devices. I’ll need to find out more about battery life before making the plunge.

    (For those who are wondering, the Sidekick is the device built by formerly super-stealth company Danger, who calls it the Hiptop.)

    The Economist: Scale-Free Architecture

    The shape of the Internet
    It is less random than people thought Oct 3rd 2002 [ Science & Technology]

    From the article:

    Dr Barabasi [at University of Notre Dame] noticed that the World Wide Web (the most visible bit of the Internet) was scale-free in 1999. His observation touched off a flurry of research, and others pointed out that the Internet as a whole was scale-free, too. This has several implications. On the one hand, scale-free topology is resistant to random failures—one reason the Internet, despite the lack of artifice in its design, has proved so reliable. On the other hand, because there are disproportionately many hubs (as well-connected routers are known), the net is particularly susceptible to deliberate attacks on those hubs, the sort of thing that cyberterrorists might attempt.

    The goal, Dr Barabasi says, is to create models that are statistically indistinguishable from the real Internet. When and if that is achieved, the models should have predictive, as well as descriptive, power.

    I wasn’t familiar with “scale-free” – I’ll have to revisit this at some point to think about how the notion of “scale-free” architectures may help define communities.

    The World's Funniest Joke

    My, how the Brits have fallen. Thirty years ago, Monty Python revealed that they had discovered the funniest joke in the world. It was so funny, in fact, that a team of translators were working on snippets of the joke. The sketch begins somberly, and escalates in classic Python style, until the Colonel declares that one translator who saw two words together ended up in hospital for two weeks. For my money, it remains one of the better Python satires.

    Now the British Association for the Advanceent of Science reveals that they have discovered the funniest joke in the world:

    “Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other man pulls out his phone and calls emergency services.

    He gasps to the operator: “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator in a calm, soothing voice replies: “Take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”

    There is a silence, then a shot is heard.

    Back on the phone, the hunter says, “Ok, now what?”

    To sum up: Monty Python – a joke that is lethal. Today’s British humor: a joke about someone getting killed. Just not the same, you know?

    Wednesday, October 2, 2002

    There Goes the Neighborhood

    Words can’t express the combination of horror, humor, and shock:


    Wednesday TV Double Shot

    Thanks to the wonders of TiVo (and its dual tuner), we were able to watch both West Wing and the season premiere of Amazing Race tonight. Steven wanted to know who was singing at the end of the West Wing episode; thanks to a visitor to his site, we now know it was Aimee Mann.

    If any of you are watching Amazing Race, who’s your pick for winner?

    Some e-mail Lists Never Die

    Did anyone else receive this e-mail yesterday?

    What’s amazing is that Pointcast died at least a couple years ago… but someone held on to the e-mail lists.

    Tuesday, October 1, 2002

    Law Firm Tries to Help Nigerians

    When they tell you that any press is good press, make sure “they” take a look at this article. This is most certainly not good press for the Michigan firm of Olsman Mueller & James: Bookkeeper falls for Nigerian e-Mail Spam Scam, steals $2.1m from law firm. [via Earl Bockenfeld’s Radio Weblog]

    Stay with us, Kathy

    Apparently Chris got word to his sister Kathy that she has some admirers.

    Just in case you missed my earlier links, make sure to swing by Inane Comments. It’s a wonderful log of life with three kids. Someone should hire Kathy to write this stuff…

    Google Changes its Algorithm

    Well, so much for talking about Google hacks. They just downgraded my weblog’s PageRank.  Personally, I think the two are related (FWIW, I thought it would be a good thing to make it easy to allow people to get RSS feeds off of Google News pages and add Google search to their site.  I guess not).  My traffic, subscriptions, and linkage has never been better.  Many community measures put my site in the top 15 weblogs.  Human intervention in the PageRank for my site is obviously (to me based on the data) what happened.  This is a warning to everyone else that likes Google:  make sure you don’t piss Google off or they will mess with you too.  [John Robb’s Radio Weblog]

    Well, I’m not so sure. Dave had his name drop to four, and I noticed that mine has dropped out of the top 10 into the top 20. Rubbing salt in the wound for me?  My article about the importance of blogs came out this week in Law Technology News. I made a point in that article of saying that thanks to my blog I’m #8 when you search for “Rick” at Google. Well, that was true for over a month, but then last week it appears Google changed the way it ranks things.

    Most upsetting? That s.o.b. Ranger Rick moved all the way to #2. A raccoon, fer crissakes.

    I highly doubt that anyone at Google is individually dialing down page results. I do think that they are tweaking the ways the system responds to various indicators in an attempt to make the search results more reliable. It’s likely a broader response to weblogs to put them into perspective – while they are an extraordinarily useful when it comes to sharing information, they’re not the only tool on the Internet for disseminating info. And Google’s algorithms were increasingly favoring weblogs – the exclusion of other, potentially equally valuable sources.

    My guess – this is just a welcome balancing act that attempts to achieve parity in search results. That is probably a good thing. (Not necessarily for my ego, mind you – but probably good for anyone using Google to search.)

    Technology Review: Data Extinction

    On the plane this morning got caught up on some magazine reading. I absolutely love MIT’s Technology Review – in its latest incarnation, it focuses on all things relating to innovation. The result is a magazine that is full of useful and intriguing information.

    This month’s cover story is on data extinction (available to subscribers only) – the challenge of preserving access to data as systems, applicaions and operating systems evolve. Some revealing statistics:

    • volume of business-related e-mail will rise from 2.6 trillion messages in 2001 to 5.9 trillion messages in 2005 (source: IDC)
    • JPEG is becoming outmoded by JPEG 2000; result: in five years it may be difficult for you to view photos taken today with digital cameras.
    • Land use and natural resource inventories for the state of New York in the late 60s are no longer accessible – the customized software that produced the inventories no longer exists.
    • NASA satellite data from the 70s is completely unreadable today.

    Three different approaches to solving this problem:

    • Migration: convert current data to future formats. Difficult and unwieldy especially when the volume of data grows. Not scalable, and inevitably some data is lost or modified in some way that may not be immediately apparent.
    • Emulation: create an emulator to mimic the hardware/software environment that the data was designed for. Not really a long-term solution, because it puts off a comprehensive solution, and could result in unwieldy chains of emulators – which can become a house of cards.
    • Encapsulation: a “way to group digital objects together with descriptive ‘wrappers’ containing instructions for decoding their bits in the future.”

    Then there’s the long-shot, a “universal virtual computer” – which would simulate the basic functions of a computer, create a basic architecture (memory, registers, rules for exchanging data) and define it in a way that any application on any platform would be able to store two versions of a file – one in the proprietary format and one in the UVC format. The article includes some support for this concept, and early tests indicate it may be possible. The result would be that future applications would have access to data created today.