Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Leadership Challenges in Professional Services Firms

A picture named aligning_the_stars_cover.jpg“Carrying out the responsibilities of a CEO in a professional service firm is exceptionally challenging because the position lacks the inherent power and control that CEOs of traditional companies enjoy.”

This article is an excerpt from Aligning the Stars: How to Succeed When Professionals Drive Results, published by Harvard Business School about the challenges inherent in a professional services environment. The book looks like a worthwhile read, and the Q&A (on the right-hand column of the HBS page) with author Jay Lorsch is excellent. I’ve ordered my copy already.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Ask Not What Google Can Do For You...

The Google API is a two-way street. Google’s new SOAP API seemed to follow a boom-and-bust trajectory. Everyone was excited about it until it arrived. Then doubts arose. “Bah,” scoffed Edd Dumbill in an O’Reilly Network column (http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/weblog/view/wlg/1303), “what a waste of space for something that can be done in one line of shell script.” Edd’s point — that an HTML-screenscraping alternative to the Google SOAP API is easy to hack together — is quite correct. But the conclusion — that Google’s SOAP API is silly — is, I think, very wrong. Full story at BYTE.com. [Jon’s Radio]

Jon Udell is becoming one of my favorite hackers (in the best sense of the word). Not only does he work at molding his environment to meet his needs, but he documents the thought process behind it and gives you tangible results. In this article at Byte.com, he lays out how Google can benefit from better web publishing (an idea I’d given thought to a few weeks ago, but had no idea how to accomplish) and what we can do to benefit from Google’s new API. Bravo, Jon. Keep it up!

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Federal Government Worst at KM "by far"

Federal Computer World reports on a Gartner presentation to a bunch of federal KM “specialists.” From the article:

Much of the problems seems to be that government workers don’t understand what knowledge management is. “Knowledge management is a business process that has to be approached with discipline,” [Gartner’s French] Caldwell said. “It is not a technology. You can’t buy it in a box.”

Effective knowledge management requires extensive information sharing and collaboration. But government agencies and their employees are better known for guarding their knowledge and defending their turf than for sharing and cooperating.

… “Building a collaborative government is the issue.” [Federal Computer Week, via llrx.com]

I guess it’s good to know the professional services firms aren’t alone. But why should this be? It’s not hard to recognize an individual’s contribution, nor is it hard to align compensation with the desired behavior.

Here’s my guess: collaboration reveals the weak links. The moment you participate in a truly collaborative endeavor, your contributions are obvious. People aren’t afraid of not getting credit for their contributions – they’re afraid of the lack of contributions becoming obvious.

Acton Boxborough Soccer Dynamos

I have no reason to link to this site, other than they’re from my home town (Acton, Massachusetts). Saw them linked on the Radio Community Server’s most viewed pages. Great idea – youth soccer team, includes e-mail links to the coaches, schedule, storm tracking (!). Makes sense.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

Dr. Mudd and Military Tribunals: Here We Go Again

History with a Sept. 11 twist. A chapter in American history that has come to life again in the federal courts may shed light on the jurisdiction of post-Sept. 11 military tribunals. [National Law Journal]

This is an article about the conviction of Dr. Samuel Mudd as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Interestingly, the findings of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit could “shed some light” on the Bush administration’s plans with the military tribunals, according to Eugene Fidell, a partner in a D.C. firm and president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

Why do I care? My law school, the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, enacted a “moot court” in 1993 reenacting the Mudd trial. Arguing on behalf of Dr. Mudd was the great- granddaughter of Mudd’s attorney with none other than F. Lee Bailey. When I was a 3L, I was the winning bidder at a charity auction on the book commemorating the retrial – Dr. Mudd and the Lincoln Assassination (edited by my ConLaw professor, J.P. Jones). The book was signed by F. Lee Bailey. Even better, it was signed by Bailey from prison (for more on why he was in prison, see this brief news blurb): “For Rick Klau, Wishing you great success at the bar, F. Lee Bailey”.

(Bailey was disbarred in November by the Florida Bar.)

Hollings Bill Endorses Spyware

Salon: “Sen. Fritz Hollings is pushing a bill that supposedly safeguards online privacy — but actually gives intrusive marketers a green light.”  [Scripting News]

I guess I should’ve suspected as much. First Hollings had the “consumer broadband and digital television promotion act“, which actually did none of those. Now he has the “online personal privacy act“ – which allows businesses to collect any “nonsensitive” information about you and do whatever they want with it. This really has been a banner month for Fritz.

Now I’m not exactly a privacy freak on these issues – when I called my local Domino’s back in 1994 and they knew what I wanted because they had caller ID, I figured that most of this technology would increasingly make it easier to collect information and harder for me to control it. But I do get annoyed when politicians claim they’re helping improve a bad situation when in fact they’re codifying it. Chalk it up to yet another reason why people mistrust the law.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Debut of Radio pages

Debut of Radio pages for WV Supreme Court site.

The seven new opinions released today were posted to newly-revised pages on the WV Supreme Court site, which marks the official debut of these new Radio-driven pages.   I broadcast the new links to the 2100+ subscribers of my e-mail opinion summary list, so I’m anxious to see what kind of response this gets from the practicing bar and others.  I’m posting the topical category and catchline in Radio’s itemTitle, which will allow users to run a Google search for other relevant links to the opinion’s main holding. If other courts would use this convention, we could bootstrap Google as a free legal research search engine!

As far as I know, this is the first public sector information site driven by weblog technology.  If there are others, please let me know. [Rory Perry’s Radio Weblog]

Excellent example of how courts can use technology for the public good. Rory’s a pioneer, but he won’t be the only one to use this technology. We’ll start to see other courts get a clue before too long. (And when they realize that it costs them $40 to to do this, they’ll be stunned.)

On that note, here’s a true story – our local paper the other day reported that the city of Naperville has allocated $54,000 to a local web designer to redo the city’s web site. The primary purpose of the site? To inform the residents of what’s going on, upcoming events, contact info, etc.

In other words, a blog. I think they budgeted $53,960 too much. (Maybe they’d split the savings with me?)

Strategy Firms Won't Recover Until 2003

Kennedy Information predicts that it will be 2003 before strategy consulting firms will see a rebound. Noting that Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has already laid off one in eight employees, and predicting that Bain and McKinsey will likely follow suit, Kennedy points out that the business models for these firms are shifting – dramatically. Strategy consulting has even become a loss-leader at some firms.

For me, the most interesting nugget in the article sheds some additional light on an item I wrote about back in January. At a conference I attended, PwC‘s Dan Dooley mentioned that PwC tries very hard to measure its partners in a number of areas. According to PwC’s global strategy practice leader Saul Berman, cross-selling is an increasing focus of the firm and represents a growing element of the measurement of the partners’ performance.

Today, a number of law firms are trying to focus on cross selling their services, without really thinking about what’s needed to make it succeed. Aligning compensation – and focusing on the elements that make the practice measurable – is critical to success. PwC figured that out. Will the law firms?

"Geektools: GeekTels ~ Hotels

Geektools: GeekTels ~ Hotels that provide Internet access for their residents.” [Memo To Myself]

Excellent! Currently lists 2075 hotels across the U.S.!
[The Shifted Librarian]

Thursday, April 25, 2002

France's Shame

A picture named economist_lepen.jpgI lived in France for a little over a year in the early 90s, and Jean-Marie LePen and the Front National had started to emerge as more than just a fringe group. In some elections (mostly local), they were starting to attract 10-15% of the ballots. If memory serves, when I lived there they only had one elected official at the national level.

But LePen’s shocking victory over Lionel Jospin is certainly a new phase in France’s perilous journey to a frightening place. While I’ve always admired France’s eagerness to aggressively defend its culture, it now appears that a fair number in the country are aggressively attacking others. This article in The Economist is blunt, calling the results of the election “disgusting.” I wasn’t surprised at the amount of press the election was receiving in the U.K. this week – every time you turned on the TV, radio or walked past a newstand, someone else was ridiculing the French or bemoaning those crazy Europeans on the continent. (Is it any surprise that this election is being used to reinforce the U.K.‘s lack of enthusiasm for committing whole-heartedly to a “one Europe” policy?)

What is surprising is the amount of press it’s getting here in the States. As I e-mailed a friend in France yesterday, I think the last big story in the U.S. about France was EuroDisney.

The bottom line is that Chirac will win, but this will leave a stain on the French electorate for some time. The lesson here is not that the extreme right is growing in France – the 16% of the vote LePen received isn’t that much more than his F.N. has garnered in many past elections. The lesson is that the left – long considered a pillar of French government – completely destroyed itself during this election. Jospin (and the fractured parties who so divided the left vote) should be embarassed that they let this happen.

For those who are interested, check out this NPR story from last month (RealAudio required). Chirac has been lampooned by Les Guignols (“The puppets”) as “Super Menteur” (super liar) for his frequent turns of phrase (ahem). You’ll have to speak French, but you can watch some of the episodes where Super Menteur comes to the rescue. It’s great stuff.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

In London for the past 48

In London for the past 48 hours (nothing like a day trip to London from Chicago), and just before heading to the airport, I dialed in to clear e-mail. It was about 1pm London time, and as luck would have it, my wife was online back at home in Chicago. Not only were we able to exchange messages through Yahoo! Messenger (no big deal there), but I was able to see my two sons through the webcam and talk to my two year old using Yahoo! Messenger’s voice chat feature. It wasn’t telephone quality, but it was still impressive. On a computer on a dial-up line. From 4,000 miles away. Wow.

You know, I think this Internet thing might catch on.

BTW – Stayed at the Hilton London Paddington Station, which just re-opened after a two year renovation. Used to be known as the Great Western Hotel (the first luxury terminus hotel), and is it ever convenient. (Paddington Station is the destination of the Heathrow high speed rail line – 15 minutes door to door.) What a great hotel – definitely one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in in London (I had an upgraded room, but the hotel definitely earned its four star rating). And at £128 per night, you can’t beat the price.

Clay Shirky on O'Reilly. He

Clay Shirky on O’Reilly.  He finally “gets” the link between Web Services and P2P.  Excellent.  Nice to have you on board Clay!  >>>So given that the peer-to-peer world has been historically bad at standards, for a variety of historical reasons, it looks to me like the standards for peer communication are actually going to come out of Web Services. And they’re going to be adapted to a world where client/server is the description of a transaction but not a topology.<<<  [John Robb’s Radio Weblog]

Link Rot and How to Fix It

Rotten Links Hamper Learning. Thousands of Web pages disappear regularly despite the ongoing growth of the Internet. Researchers say ‘link rot’ is a serious problem that could hinder online as well as offline courses. By Kendra Mayfield and Katie Dean. [Wired News]

Somebody should tell the researchers (and the authors, for that matter) about InfoMinder and Archive.org. InfoMinder will monitor any URL for you and tell you when they “rot”, and Archive.org will show you the pages as they used to exist. This is a non-issue.

Just for kicks, check out Userland’s first recorded web site (4/17/97). Archive.org’s “Way Back Machine” is as addictive as web sites get. Go on – try it. You know you want to.

Importing Subscriptions

Turns out that it is possible to back up and import your subscriptions. There’s a good document describing this at Radio Userland’s support site here. Any Radio users who are reading this, not a bad idea to create a backup of mySubscriptions.opml (in www/gems) so that you don’t have to manually recreate the subscriptions file.

Thanks again to the Userland folks for their support!

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Annoying. Radio lost my subscriptions

Annoying. Radio lost my subscriptions (again), so I had to manually recreate them. Anyone know how to backup/import subscriptions so I don’t have to individually add sites to my aggregator?

Any tips are much appreciated.

InfoMinder - Keep Tabs on Changing Web Sites

Years ago, I was a big fan of URL Minder, a product of a company called NetMind. NetMind was bought by PumaTech (the folks behind Intellisync), and in January of this year they turned URL Minder into a for-pay-only product. The concept behind URL Minder was simple: you type in a URL you’re interested in, and URL Minder would check it once a day. If the site had changed in any way, it would e-mail you to go check it out. This simplified the process of keeping tabs on a bunch of web sites – if you hadn’t received e-mail, you could safely assume that the site hadn’t changed.

A few weeks ago, I saw a mention at The Shifted Librarian about a site called InfoMinder. Sure enough, it does the same thing as URL Minder – and it’s free! No idea whether it will stay free, but I’m enjoying the service just the same. If you want some ideas about how to use the service, check out Jon Udell’s article on the topic.

Monday, April 22, 2002

Cool. I'm the #1 result

Cool. I’m the #1 result for “lawyer weblog“, at least right now…

Truth? You Can't Handle... Oh, Nevermind.

Mike Deem: “When simplifying for mass consumption any issue as complex as this one, one could ‘spin’ it in any number of ways without abandoning the ‘truth.’ Gates is spinning this one in the way that is best for Microsoft’s bottom line. It is his responsibility to Microsoft’s share holders to do this.” I responded “Mike, while I’m not a lawyer, I don’t think it’s legal to spin when you’re under oath. I think it’s required that you tell the truth.” [Scripting News]

Well, I am a lawyer (kinda – got the degree, but chose to work on the technology side of the fence). And I don’t think it’s nearly as black ‘n white as Dave Winer would like us to believe.

When you’re under oath, you’re required to answer the questions asked. Answer the questions truthfully. There’s no need to volunteer more information than asked. The lawyers need to do the hard part: ask the questions in such a way that the only possible answer is the one that, while “truthful” (in that it contains no falsehoods) is also unambiguous.

There is no question that Bill Gates is a Very Smart Man. And as Mike Deem rightly points out, Gates’s responsibility is to his shareholders. (Mike left out an equally important duty: to the judicial system to tell the truth. But that’s more or less implied in his post.) The job of the states’ attorney(s) is to corner Gates so that he admits what is technically possible (or not) and why. It’s a chess match, and there are few absolutes.

Has anyone seen a transcript?

And, in honor of our favorite Louisiana lawyer, here’s a link to the Louisiana State Bar’s guidelines for preparing to be a witness.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

Siebel: Back to the Future

Back in January, I linked to a Forbes article that indicated Tom Siebel believed the recession was over. In fact, he said, “I believe we will see the information technology market pick up in Q1 and Q2 and the economy at large by Q3 or Q4.” (How’d he know? He uses his own software, of course.)

Which makes Siebel’s tough quarter seem all the more ironic. In this week’s eWeek, Dennis Callaghan reports that a number of CRM vendors took it on the chin in Q1. (Full disclosure: I work for Interface Software, a CRM company focused on the professional services market. We had a great quarter. I’ll link to the press release when it hits.) Q1 sales for Siebel cratered ($477m vs. $598m in Q1 ’01), and were even lower than Q4. Don’t get me wrong – to do nearly a half billion in software revenues in this economy ain’t bad. But when you’re expected to do better, well, you need to manage the expectations better. Betting the farm that your software can read tea leaves isn’t a good way to get the analysts on your side.

In the quarterly conference call with analysts, Tom Siebel admitted: “I suspect that this will have been for the industry one of the worst quarters ever. … It’s pretty darn weak out there.” So what should we conclude: that the software was wrong, or that Tom read it wrong?

Saturday, April 20, 2002

Tina Fey and TiVo: A Match Made in Heaven

My wife and I agree on one thing (well, more than that – but we agree on one thing regarding technology): TiVo is the single best piece of technology we’ve ever bought. Talk to anyone who has one (or to folks like Jenny, who bought the ReplayTV device), and you can’t get us to shut up about it.

One of the things I really like about it? I can watch SNL whenever I want. As much as I like to watch it live, with two kids in the house (both of whom are up by 6:15), it tends not to make all that much sense.

A picture named tina_fey.jpgIf you haven’t been watching SNL lately, you’re missing some of the best political comedy around. Tina Fey, head writer on SNL and co-anchor on Weekend Update, is magical. Her monologue from a few weeks ago was a great summary of the chaos in the middle east. Turns out I’m not the only SNL/TiVo fan – but this guy did me one better: he actually transcribed the entire thing. Read it here.

Google Whack

Well, my complaint yesterday about Google searches coming up empty is no longer a problem… searches for terms like CPA weblog, accountant weblog and the like now have a result: this site.

Oh well. Maybe others looking for them will find this site, and point me to sites that must be out there.

Anyone? Anyoone?


Friday, April 19, 2002

ISO Accountant Bloggers...

Where, oh where are the accounting blogs? So far, I’ve managed to find just one: the cleverly titled “Accounting-blog“. (No clue who’s behind it, or even how to get in touch with them.) But searches for “accountant blog“, “ accountant weblog“, “CPA blog“, “CPA weblog“ and so on are, um, not exactly fruitful.

What gives? Sure, it was tax season… but zilch?

Weil Gotshal Puts Enron Bankruptcy Docs Online

Weil Gotshal is making up for that embarassing Global Crossing gaffe from a few weeks ago with this document repository for the Enron reorg. In partnership with e-Law, LLC, Weil Gotschal has put the documents, the service list, the hearing schedule, and instructions for appearing by telephone online. Nice. [law .com]

Google News Aggregation

Jenny (TheShiftedLibrarian) finds a gem, allowing you to get the Google News feeds directly into your news aggregator (if you don’t know what one is, read the “about this site“ page and read about RSS to get more info). Very cool.

Serendipity! Multiple Google News Feeds from The Loebrichs:

“My aggregator brought in an interesting story from The Shifted Librarian mentioning that Ken Rawlings had made a Google News Feed based on Bryce Yehl’s wishlist. I thought to myself, great, I can stop using the stopgap feed I made using Mark Paschal’s Stapler on March 16th. Unfortunately, the titles only format, while short, missed out on one of my favorite features of Google News, multiple sources with different points of view. This did spur me to both try out RSSDistiller and break my feed into seven feeds so each Google category can have its own.

Google Business News Link to XML
Google Entertainment News Link to XML
Google Headline News Link to XML
Google Sports News Link to XML
Google Technology News Link to XML
Google US News Link to XML
Google World News Link to XML

Now I don’t need to manually delete all the business and sports stories when I aggregate.”

This is even better because you get a lot of Google headlines in your aggregator, and this lets me narrowcast them even further based on my individual preferences! Thanks, Bruce!
[The Shifted Librarian]

Hollings gets it right?

Hard to imagine, but it looks like Senator Fritz Hollings (D-SC) may be on the right side of the law on this one. This is the same guy who two weeks ago proposed a bill that would effectively have Congress enter into a limited partnership with Hollywood; now it looks like Fritz is siding with individual users who don’t want their personal information abused online.

A full summary of the bill is here at TechLaw Journal. The full text of the bill is not yet at Thomas. (I’ll update this once it shows up.)

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Wall Street Embraces Instant Messaging

Wall Street & Technology reports that eight Wall Street firms (CS First Boston, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Salomon Smith Barney, and UBS Warburg) are building out an Instant Messaging network based on Communicator, Inc.‘s secure IM system.

The goals: greater customer convenience, faster communication, and improved efficiency via an archived system that can be audited in case a record of communications is needed.

You mean you can use technology to benefit the clients? And it can tie back to your business model? And comply with regulatory oversight? No way.

If the clients aren’t careful, they could end up demanding this of their law firms too.

Fast Company: Are All Consultants Corrupt?

Fast Company interviews David Maister on why professional services firms are so poorly run. If you haven’t seen David speak before, you should. Though the shtick gets old after a while (you can only listen to him clear his throat into a lavalier mic so often), he has been thinking about management of professional services firms for years, and can entertain a crowd while also pointing out their weaknesses. He’s blunt and crass (especially for a Brit ), but when he’s in a room, he owns the room. You have to admire that.

Here are a few choice quotes:

What most professional-services firms don’t understand is that to make the most money, you actually have to believe in the product or service that you offer and care for the customers or clients whom you serve. That isn’t a religious argument; it’s a business lesson. You can’t dominate an industry unless you care passionately about what you do and the people you do it for.

… I’m not picking on any one profession. They’re all equally bad. They treat people poorly. They don’t train well. They have no quality assurance. They don’t collaborate with one another. They don’t show any interest in their clients. You would think that this would kill them. But they’re only competing against each other. So as long as nobody wakes up, they can all make money doing this shit.

… For most professional-services firms, the answer lies in their mission statement: We won’t screw up, but we’re nothing special. If that were me, I’d slit my wrists! That’s true for one very simple reason: I don’t want my tombstone to read, “He did tolerable stuff for tolerable people because they paid him.” I’m not that much of a whore.

See what I mean? Read the article. [Thanks to Wendy Leibowitz for the link.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Communities, Audiences and Scale

Clay Shirky was the moderator at this year’s PC Forum, and his article titled Communities, Audiences and Scale provides a very interesting argument about the sustainability of communities. He compares the viability of audiences (one-way communication model) to communities (two-way communication model), and identifies weblog software (like Radio) as transforming the traditional Internet model away from an Internet audience to an Internet community.

But at what cost? Shirky comments:

[C]ommunities have strong upper limits on size, while audiences can grow arbitrarily large. Put another way, the larger a group held together by communication grows, the more it must become like an audience — largely disconnected and held together by communication traveling from center to edge — because increasing the number of people in a group weakens communal connection.

I’d be interested in what Prof. McGee has to say about this - as the implications for a KM-oriented weblog community are quite stark. If Shirky is right, then it means that the problem with a KM initiative (at least one based on the weblog metaphor) will necessarily migrate from a community to an audience. Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose?

I’m not sure I agree with Shirky’s ultimate conclusions. For starters, he cites just two examples of web-based communities hitting the upper limit of their sustainability. Though I haven’t done much writing on it lately (my second post to this weblog was about the topic), Shirky seems to be arguing the polar opposite of Reed’s Law. Interesting.

One could make the argument that the Radio Community is a more vibrant, sustainable community. I think Shirky’s argument supposes that it’s a binary environment: you’re either two-way or you’re one-way. What if you could have both? Tools like the Radio aggregator permit me to have an audience, while my own aggregator makes me an audience member of other blogs I monitor. Tools like the Radio Community Server in turn tell me which sites are most popular – and from that I can self-select to which audiences I want to belong. It’s pretty symbiotic actually.

Closing the loop (and going to bed): John Robb has been talking about the inefficiencies of e-mail as a collaborative tool. Perhaps part of Shirky’s complaint is that too many communities have tried to coalesce around the e-mail model? Maybe the technology has simply not arrived to deliver on the promise of a true scalable community?

BTW: can’t help but point out the circuitous route that got me to Shirky’s article: a mention at Scripting.com of Kevin Wehrbach’s weblog, which led me to EDVenture’s site, which mentioned the e-mail newsletter The Conversation Continues, which mentioned Shirky. Talk about a community.

Mark Cuban: Ignore Hollywood!

Mark Cuban is the Chairman of HDNet, the first all-HD, national TV network, and says in a speech at the NAB that broadcasters should “totally ignore Hollywood in the fight over digital rights management,” calling the studios’ fears a “chicken little environment.” [ Consensus at Lawyerpoint]

Cuban is a breath of fresh air. Whether it’s his comments on NBA refs (or the resulting day at a Dairy Queen), his unabashed enthusiasm for his team, or his general approach to doing what he wants, he certainly doesn’t suffer any fools. What I admire about his is his leadership style: stay focused, follow through on commitments, and always think about what’s possible.

Looks like his commitment to HDNet is more of the same. Cool.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Law firms and KM: There is hope

I originally wrote this article about law firms and KM last month, but a conversation with “Ernie” last week, today’s link to the Global Counsel article, and an e-mail I just got from Buzz prompted me to include another link. I tweaked it just a bit, but it’s basically the same piece. Like Ernie, I think the compensation model has to change before we can see dramatic progress in this arena. Clients need to be more proactive in demanding that firms change (see this post about Cisco for one indication of how this might happen). But firms should take a leadership position in proactively addressing the root of the problem. The ones that do will be rewarded with more strategic, more valuable work.

Knoweldge management and global brands for law firms

Anyone interested in the intersection of KM, professional services firm management and branding should read this article from the March issue of Global Counsel magazine. The author looks at global brands like KPMG, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and asks, “Can any law firm ever create as strong a brand as these companies?” He believes they can, and outlines ten steps necessary for firms to accomplish this. One quote stands out in identifying the challenges (and opportunities) faced by large firms:

Law is a knowledge and service based industry. Without knowledge sharing and consistent service, a global firm is no different from a collection of independent national firms. But as a firm grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to share knowledge and develop a consistent approach to client service by informal means. A structured approach is therefore required. This will ultimately determine whether a firm becomes truly global or is merely international.

Not surprisingly, the author points out that one of the biggest hurdles to making this really work in the U.S. is the “cult of the billable hour.” Ernie and I spoke about this particular issue the other day: as long as the billable hour remains the primary mechanism by which lawyers are compensated, individual professionals will not have any incentive to truly share knowledge. The billable hour is heroin for far too many professionals: no matter how bad they know it to be, they can’t quite get themselves to put the syringe down.

That said, once one firm figures it out (and any firm that follows even a handful of the tips in the article will be on their way), the rest will follow. So the question is, how long? And who will be first? [Thanks to Leigh Dance for the pointer.]

Monday, April 15, 2002

Eugene Volokh's weblog

Professor Eugene Volokh is one of my favorite lawyers on the net. I originally met him while I was a subscriber to Cyberia-L, a list started by William & Mary law school professor Trotter Hardy. Through e-mails, Prof. Volokh is frighteningly smart, and has a wicked sense of humor. After I graduated, I needed to be in L.A. on business, and on a lark called him up. He graciously agreed to meet me, and we had a great lunch at the UCLA faculty cafe. I’ve lost touch with him, but hear/see him periodically on NPR, MSNBC, The New York Times, etc.

In person, he’s just as smart, he’s funnier, and he talks so fast it’s hard to keep up. He graduated from UCLA with a dual degree in math and computer science at 15 (yes, fifteen), and got his law degree a few years later. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and then for Judge Alex Kozinski (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals). There’s that computer company he started with his dad when he was twelve, or the fact that he’s a law professor at a major law school and he’s just 33 years old. Unreal. (More unreal? He’s been teaching there since at least 1995.)

Well, he has a weblog (with his younger brother, a law student at Harvard ). Judging by the first week’s postings, it promises to be just as eclectic as the man himself. Cool. (Thanks to Donny Broome’s list of weblogs for the pointer.)

I'm looking for information about

I’m looking for information about the European Union Data Protection Directive and the UK Data Protection Act. Specifically, I’d like to know what companies are doing to comply. Anyone out there have suggestions or pointers?

Citibank violating the cybersquatting law?

Search for PayPal at Google, and the first hit you’ll get is PayPal, but the two micro-ads on Google are for competitors – eBay and C2IT (a Citibank knock-off of PayPal). So far, no problems. Except that Citibank has registered PatPal.com, a misspelling of PayPal’s domain name.

Isn’t this a violation of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA )? A good overview of the federal law (P.L. 106-113) that went into effect in 1999 is available here at Gray Cary’s web site. As I read it, Citibank has deliberately registered a common misspelling (the “t” on the keyboard is right next to the “y”, resulting in patpal.com instead of paypal.com) with the express purpose of diverting traffic intended for PayPal.com.

Ernie, Denise - any thoughts? Is Citibank’s behavior protected?

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Who Reads What and Why

Who Reads What and Why [The Car Talk Guys, via LISNews]

    1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

    2. The New York Times is read by people who think they run the country.

    3. The Washington Post is read by people who think they should run the country.

    4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don’t really understand the Washington Post. They do, however, like their smog statistics shown in pie charts.

    5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn’t mind running the country, if they could spare the time, and if they didn’t have to leave L.A. to do it.

    6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and they did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

    7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren’t too sure who’s running the country, and don’t really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

    8. The New York Post is read by people who don’t care who’s running the country either, as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

    9. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren’t sure there is a country, or that anyone is running it; but whoever it is, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feministic atheist dwarfs, who also happen to be illegal aliens from ANY country or galaxy as long as they are democrats.

    10. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country, but need the baseball scores.

    11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

[The Shifted Librarian]

Friday, April 12, 2002

Hollings bill on the fritz

Turns out that not too many people like the Hollings bill that would mandate protection for the entertainment industry – or, better put, nobody likes it. Except maybe for Mr. Eisner and crowd.

This is good news. (Thanks to Doc Searls who pointed out the mention on Scott Andrew’s site.)

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Simplifying Knowledge Sharing to Promote Sharing

Jim McGee at McGee’s Musings talks about the perils of “knowledge sharing” in his latest post.

A largely unexplorted dimension in KM is that of visibility. I’ve written one initial stab at it in a piece looking at knowledge work as craft work.  I suspect the underlying fear in this debate is that of having your work taken and used without credit more so than simply having it used. This is one of the intriguing aspects of a weblogging/knowledge-logging environment. It gives you both a tool for simple visibility and a tool for watching the chronological evolution of ideas. Many (not all) of the arguments about who thought what when are effectively eliminated by weblogs. Sure we’ll find new things to argue about, but wouldn’t it be nice to eliminate this one? [McGee’s Musings]

Couldn’t agree more. Attribution, coupled with visibility, are the two keys. Attribution ensures that people don’t worry about others claiming credit for their own work. Visibility creates an incentive for individuals to contribute.

In much the same way that Google’s page rank respects linking, these two elements allow individuals to reap the benefits of participating in a knowledge sharing environment. The act of me attributing the thoughts above to Jim McGee infers that I respect his opinion on the subject, and simultaneously gives visibility to his comments so that others may benefit.

Those Big Ads on C|Net Really Work

Courtesy of NetMarketing, this article from Media Life Magazine suggests that the large, hard-to-miss ads on C|Net (called Interactive Messaging Units, or IMUs), are working. From the article:

60 percent said that the units were worth stopping their activities to view, and 49 percent said that they thought the units were the type of ad they’re likely to click on.

Of course, here’s the not-so-revolutionary conclusion from the same article:

“What we’ve learned with this round of studies, as well as what we’ve seen from user activity on our page, is that the key to the success of the units is knowing your audience, branding early, keeping the unit simple, and providing them with the right information.”

In other words, like billboards, radio ads, TV ads, newspaper ads, yellow page ads…

Google now on my home page

I just added a “Google Box” on my home page. Google just opened up access to its system via SOAP, so that now anytime Radio publishes my home page, it dynamically updates the search results on this page. Very cool. More info is available here at Userland’s page, and here at Google’s.

Most unexpected result? The #2 search result for “law and technology” is the law journal that I founded in law school, The Richmond Journal of Law & Technology. (Now if only they could fix the page title!)

Shorten up those XML posts!

With any luck, this item (in any XML aggregator) will contain just the first sentence – all other content will be included on the weblog itself (for those reading in an aggregator, follow the link to the full post for more info). The advantage to this is that anyone subscribing to my blog will see less content in the aggregator – making it easier to scan headlines and then link to my site if they want the full text.

I accomplished this by following this item at Scripting News, which led me to Jon Udell’s weblog post containing instructions. Like Jon, I’d noticed some sites (Ben Sullivan’s TechBlog in particular) that shortened the XML entries in the aggregator – making it much easier to browse. (By contrast, Doc Searls’ XML entries are challenging, to say the least, to read in the aggregator.)

Do this at your peril: I recommend backing up your Radio.root file before proceeding. And if you’re not using Radio, none of this will make any sense.

Here’s something that makes Jon’s process a bit easier: The item in question is in system.verbs.builtins. radio.weblog.writeRssFile. (In the Radio console, click on “Window | Radio.root” then navigate to the writeRssFile entry. Double-clicking on that will open a new window, which will give you the entire writeRssFile script.)

You’re looking for an item that’s located here:

– on WriteRssFile
- bundle //build xmltext
    – bundle //add the items
         – for i = sizeof (adrblog^.posts[i]
              – if flinclude
                   – bundle //add description, either from the cache, or by recalcing

Below that entry, you’ll find the item that Jon mentions. You need to delete the item that starts add (”<description>”… and then paste in the text listed at Jon’s post.

NOTE: This code could easily be over-written by Userland at somepoint. My guess, however, is that they may make this a preference setting in the future (Dave seemed pretty intrigued by the idea).



KM Must be Tied to a Coherent Business Model

Business 2.0 reports on concrete examples in the corporate world where KM is working. The author cites a number of examples of companies (Wal-Mart, G.E., Buckman Labs, and others) that use targeted KM efforts to further the business model. One quote:

See the pattern? A clear business model — “business model” meaning “how we make money.” A strategy to implement that model. And knowledge management supporting it as tightly as a Mafia lawyer.

Speaking of Buckman Labs, look what a Google search turned up: Buckman’s website devoted to KM titled “Knowledge Nurture“ – which includes a wealth of articles about Buckman’s KM efforts (like this case study in DestinationCRM). Why don’t articles like Business 2.0’s link to stuff like this? In a lot of ways, it’s far better than the article itself. Oh wait – maybe that’s why.

And speaking of mafia lawyers, am I the only one that thinks that Tom Hagen is still the best model for what a lawyer should be? (As it turns out, I’m not: see this article by my buddy Nat Slavin at Corporate Legal Times from last year about this very issue.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Measurement: Good or bad?

Great article.

Bag and Baggage

Anyone interested in seeing how weblogs and the law can get along needs to visit Denise’s site. Denise is an attorney at Crosby Heafey Roach & May, and maintains an excellent list of “blawgs” (wish I’d thought of the term!) along the right column of her page. It’s an excellent site. ( Thanks Ernie for the link.)

(And yes, Denise: I am a glutton.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Lawyers Learn E-mail the Hard Way

Secret List of Potential Suitors for Global Crossing Exposed. The identities of more than 50 companies that have expressed interest in acquiring Global Crossing are no longer secret to one another, courtesy of an e- mail message from Global Crossing’s lawyers. By Simon Romero and Geraldine Fabrikant. [New York Times: Technology]

At least we have Ernie, Denise, Rory, and others to prove that not all lawyers are clueless when it comes to technology. But just to be safe, maybe one of us ought to call Weil Gotschal and offer to show them the bcc: field

And The Narcissist Award Goes to... Fritz Hollings!

Each year, the Citizens Against Government Waste produce the “Congressional Pig Book”. They released the 2002 pig book today, and Fritz Hollings (D-SC) is the proud (?) winner of the Narcissist Award. What did he do to beat others in this coveted category? He got the Senate to appropriate “$14 million for the Hollings Marine Laboratory and $1 million for the Hollings Cancer Center.”

Why do I care? This is the same Hollings that floated the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act a few weeks ago – a bill paid for by Michael Eisner and friends.

Apparently Fritz is for sale to the entertainment lobby, but found a way for the taxpayers to foot the bill for some public “memorials” to Fritz himself. And we wonder why people don’t like Washington.

Monday, April 8, 2002

Centralized vs. decentralized trust

Jenny, the Shifted Librarian says today:

I think librarians love Google, but we’ll never trust pagerank enough to use it to verify authenticity. Of course, we take almost nothing on the web for granted, and that’s one major difference between us and your average web surfer. Librarians need our own pagerank system that we can control. [The Shifted Librarian]

I started thinking about this, and the best model I can see is the old PGPweb of trust“. The idea was fairly simple, but the problem it solved was complex: how can you safely rely on the digital signature of someone whom you’ve never personally met? If a signature was a fake (i.e., someone misappropriated another’s public key), then it was unreliable. Trust, in the context of the PGP web of trust, established both your certainty that the individual was who they said they were, and that the individual was reliable in taking care of her digital info.

If I trusted you, and you trust others, than my trust of you would be imputed to the others. By trusting just a few well-connected individuals, you would have a trust network on which you could rely. Pretty elegant.

In the context of the issue Jenny raises, it goes further. She points out that librarians need a system they control. This isn’t that much different than weblogs: how do I know the information that you’re presenting is reliable, authentic, etc? What we need is a decentralized approach – one in which I can establish my own trust parameters (i.e., “if Jenny links to it, I’ll trust it. If Bill links to it, I’ll never trust it.”) Google, as good as it is, is centralized – and the lack of independent validation of their methodology means that it’s inherently flawed when it comes to individual valuations.

In response to today’s article in The New York Times about Google’s search for a business model, John Robb suggested this morning that Google should move to the desktop. I wonder if what John had in mind was something that would address Jenny’s question: what if Google let me keep my own roster of trusted sites – so that Google’s own search results would be skewed according to my rankings?

Now that would be cool.

Blog on!

I co-author (with Erik Heels) a monthly column in the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Magazine. This month’s column is what got me hooked on the blog craze. Even though I wrote it three months ago (don’t you love dead-tree turn-around times?), I think it still reads well. An upcoming column will explore the concept of “k-logging” – using blogs for “grass roots” knowledge management.

Many thanks to John Robb for taking a half hour out of his day to chat with me on the phone about blogs, and who was more than happy to enlighten me on the power of personal publishing. Whether he knows it or not, he earned another convert back in December. (That I went to high school in Acton, where John lives, and my best friend lived on the same street as John’s family is pure coincidence. Seriously.)

Jupiter Shoots the Moon

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of fun making fun of Jupiter Communications (now known as Jupiter Media Metrix, after the merger of Jupiter and Internet “ratings” firm Media Metrix). For a couple years, you could always count on Jupiter to add a zero to any number that was a study about the Internet. It would generally go like this:

“Industry analysts expect that the market for e-commerce enabled toasters to reach into the billions by 2003. Forrester Research has estimated a total worldwide market of $2.2 billion, while analysts at Jupiter Communications indicate that number could be as high as $1.4 trillion.”

Looks like they could use a few of those zeroes right about now. With less than $10 million in the bank and their credit line tapped, they will likely go away if they don’t get bought. Forbes runs a story today that says that “[a]t this late date anyone with an interest in Jupiter’s assets is likely to let Jupiter die on the vine and then snap them up for pennies on the dollar.” Of course, with a stock trading at just $.12/share, that’s precious few pennies.

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Friday, April 5, 2002

Pentagon seeks approval of all foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies

The Financial Times is reporting that the Pentagon has asked for – and is likely to get – a requirement passed into law that any acquisitions over $100m of U.S. companies by foreign companies must first be reviewed and approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.

The CFIUS (doesn’t anyone have a good acronym anymore?) was established in 1975, but really came into effect under “41“ (aka George H.W. Bush) in 1988. Now “43“ is trying to expand their oversight authority – with the result being that just about any foreign acquisition will necessarily slow down. This is exactly what the U.S. complained about when the E.U. torched the G.E./Honeywell acquisition last year. Do as I say, not as I do, eh George? (Interestingly, the CFIUS is who slowed the NTT acquisition of Verio two years ago to a crawl – requiring NTT to extend their acquisition bid six times before finally getting approval. The problem? The FBI was worried that a foreign ISP would be less likely to cave to requests for info. You think?) Today, the CFIUS reviews less than 10% of potential acquisitions. Under the proposed rule, it would most certainly increase.

Not only has this annoyed people who should have been involved (like Treasury or Commerce), it’s likely to further annoy those pesky foreign governments (how much more will they take?).

Most frustrating – by not having any controlling rules over what the criteria are for review, the process will be fraught with uncertainty and confusion. And for companies seeking liquidity in an IPO-unfriendly world, this will most certainly be a hard pill to swallow. Wonder if those valley execs who ponied up a bunch of dough for “Dubya” are all that thrilled now?

Memo to the White House: get those pollsters working on trying to spin this one.

Wednesday, April 3, 2002

The secret behind Google's search technology

Just as a new upstart named Teoma shows up to try and challenge Google, Google reveals how things really work. (So I’m a little late on the April Fool’s stuff, but I was a bit preoccupied.) You gotta love a company willing to have some fun.

Ernie on the value of information

Jenny (ShiftedLibrarian.com) asked: Hey, Bruce and Ernie – [what] if this defense of the DMCA is allowed to fly…?

And Ernie the Attorney responds with a great post about the issues confronted by both Washington and Hollywood on the DMCA.

She is referring to the Assistant US attorney’s argument that, “in creating the DMCA, Congress did not intend to make any allowances for technologies which might have lawful circumvention purposes, … instead it wanted ‘a blanket prohibition on any device that’s designed to circumvent (copyright restrictions),’ regardless of whether the device may have some legitimate purposes.” [Wired Article] (my emphasis)

I can’t speak to the aerodynamics of that argument, although I understand why it was made.  I haven’t spoken much about the whole digital rights issue, although I find it fascinating, and the legal issues are certainly interesting.    But forget the legal arguments; they always represent the trees in important debates like this.  Here’s some things that I have noticed about the struggle for digital rights (which includes Napster, DMCA, etc):

  • Information is a valuable resource, and it should be allowed to move about freely
  • People are hungry for knowledge and entertainment, which are forms of information
  • The government’s job is to facilitate that which increases learning and knowledge
  • There’s a lot of money at stake and so people get “confused” easily

Monday, April 1, 2002

Happy Easter!

Announcing Robert Parker Klau, born March 31, 2002 at 2:14pm.

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Mom, Dad and big brother Ricky are all doing well. More later.