Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Radio as a Content Management App

Boldly Going Where No Law Firm Has Gone Before – I have been wrestling with the idea of making my law firm’s News & Events page of our website into a Radio Weblog.  The benefits are obvious (ease of posting, ability to add comments, XML feeds etc).  I mentioned this to Rick today in our brief phone conversation.  Rick said “oh, that’s easy…just give me 10 minutes.”  I’ll skip over the whole back and forth with tweaking etc.  Bottom line: look at this page, and compare it to the other one.  Uh, Houston … we’ve got liftoff. [Ernie the Attorney]

Yup, it was easy. And I like finding little wins like this. Give credit to the folks behind Radio – it was a simple tweak, an obvious extension of the platform they built. Once Ernie pulls the trigger (by using Radio’s “upstreaming” capabilities to upload the page to his firm’s web site, instead of his own weblog), he’ll be feeding news directly from his blog to his firm’s site. Nice. Let’s make sure that Ernie’s firm gets credit for being the first firm to use a weblogging system to power part of their public web site… this is definitely a sign of things to come.

By the way, this is what the bigshots like Vignette and Interwoven call a content management system. They’ll charge you six figures for the privilege of using their system. Radio costs $40.


Hacking Taxis

Hacking Taxi Cab Billboards.

The Sizzle: What’s Up In Digital Marketing and Advertising

“A new technology developed by Vert, a small company based in Somerville, Mass., transforms ads on top of taxicabs into real-time, animated electronic billboards. Vert’s software, first tested in the Boston area, lets advertising messages change according to ZIP codes, neighborhoods, even city blocks, enabling marketers to target audiences in a way never before possible with outdoor transit advertising.

With Vert, a Webserver, built into taxi-top screens, communicates with a global positioning system. The GPS determines the taxi’s location. In turn, a wireless modem, which keeps in touch with Vert’s central server, delivers the relevant ads for a particular area. So, a cab passing through a city’s financial district can display stock quotes. Another traveling in a Latino neighborhood can relay ad messages in Spanish. Or a taxi at an airport can beam temperatures of major cities to travelers. The messages appear in color on the taxi screens-10 times brighter than televisions-in a format similar to Web banner ads….

… By year’s end, roughly 200 Vert-enabled cabs will be deployed in Boston and in New York….” [Business 2.0, via Andy Rhinehart]

Sounds like something out of Minority Report (how long before they’re talking directly to you). It’s definite eye candy for pedestrians, but won’t it be distracting for other drivers? As Andy says, “some heavy information shifting” going on here in terms of moving targeted advertising to where people are. [The Shifted Librarian]

Whoa! I saw one of these in New York last month – it was “advertising” ESPN by showing that night’s baseball scores. It was seriously cool – but by the next block I was already thinking about hacking it. How would you do it? What was it using to determine the messages. Thanks to Business 2.0, now we know. And I guarantee you there’ll be reports by year-end about Vert-enabled cabs running around with digital grafitti in lieu of the actual advertisers’ message.

Keith Olbermann on Baseball

I always liked him on ESPN, never saw him on Fox Sports, and agreed that MSNBC was a bad fit. Looks like Keith Olbermann always belonged at a keyboard. He’s now a columnist at Salon. I loved this quote:

Major League Baseball never fails to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Radio User Feedback Blog?

Radio Wishlist – Far be it from me to wish for anything more from Radio.  Okay, I admit I’m overindulged and spoiled.  Nevertheless, here is what I wish for.  I would like it if Radio came with a default “category” called “Radio Questions.”  And as we all know, this implies a separate XML feed for that channel.  Then the folks at Userland (and the phalanx of developers who lurk in Radio Userland) could subscribe to that channel for some of the more intrepid users (i.e. Rick) and respond on a publicly available channel.  Thus you would have an XML channel with the latest hot tips and fixes for current Radio problems.  So, it would be sort of like an online demonstration of what a corporation could use Radio for: i.e. a robust, and inexpensive KM solution.  It sounds cool, but (as the guy in the commercial says), is it implementable? [Ernie the Attorney]

This is a great idea, Ernie. A wide, distributed multi-author weblog with someone at Userland rolling up all the feeds and sifting through the most frequently-requested items. Anyone else could subscribe to the roll-up feed and comment away …

Great idea. Wonderful way to close the feedback loop. Anybody want to volunteer to make it happen?

10,000 year-old clocks

The Clock of the Long Now.

I remember reading in Wired about Danny Hillis “millennium clock”. It was a single page with some text over a picture of Hillis, probably standing by the clock, I don’t remember. The text can be found here. When I read it, I interpreted it as a challenge to be able to build something to last for 10,000 years and didn’t think much about it.
Now I’m reading The Nudist on the Late Shift – a book I mindlessly picked up at a sale and honestly didn’t think I would ever read, but as I started I couldn’t stop. It’s a very interesting book about Silicon Valley during the latter part of the 90s. … []

Great post from Peter Lindberg’s weblog about futurists, long-range planning, and the impact of technology on culture.

IBM to Acquire PwC Consulting

eWeek reports that IBM is buying the business and technology consulting arm of PriceWaterhouseCoopers:

The deal, already approved by both companies’ boards, calls for IBM to pay $3.5 billion in cash and stock to PricewaterhouseCoopers for the global IT consulting unit.

PwC Consulting expects to achieve revenues in fiscal 2002 of $4.9 billion, according to officials. The combination will give IBM Global Services a strong position in business applications consulting and should help improve the financial picture of the division, which has seen slower growth in the past several quarters.

The Web As We Remember It

This is a great site: Pick your poison, then see a current web site through the eyes of the web’s first browsers.


Tracking Referrals: Part Two

Update: I removed this from the site. Apparently it was causing IE6 to crash entirely… which isn’t quite browser-friendly. sigh Here’s hoping this shows up as a Radio macro so I can insert it into the site without any compatibility problems. Many thanks to Buzz, Ernie, Will, Jenny and Robin for chipping in to help identify when the site was working again!

On the right-hand column, you can now see sites who are directing traffic to this site. I ended up using Stephen’s setup – but it’s not perfect yet. Stephen gives you two options – you can either use his script or you can install the script on your own server. I tried getting it to run on my server, to no avail. Many thanks to Stephen and Will for their assistance in trying to isolate the problem. (Note: I’ve narrowed the possible faults to two areas but don’t have time right now to correct them. Anyone with perl experience is welcome to contact me and let me know what’s going wrong.)

So I reverted to using Stephen’s script on his machine at This is a very simple solution – all you need to do to make this happen is insert one line of code into your blog, and it will start tracking the info. That’s it. After an hour or two, you’ll start seeing results populate the box. Very nice. It will even track day links, so if you include this on your template for each day, you’ll be able to point to sites that are linking to specific posts of yours.

Some limitations to this implementation:

  • It doesn’t filter out links from my own site. So you’ll see lots of visitors from this site showing up on the referral list. (This would go away if I could get the script to work on my own server.)
  • It only tracks the last 24 hours of referrers. I’d prefer to keep the information persistent, so that anyone browsing my blog could see the conversation that built over time.
  • It’s dependent on someone else’s server. Stephen is to be commended for making this available, but if his site goes down, I lose this info. Again, this wouldn’t be an issue if the script were running on my own box.

In all, I like this solution. I still maintain that the better long-term answer is for Userland to develop a macro that would capture this info automatically for Radio blogs. They may very well be working on it (I hope so!) already. We’ll see.

Clap, clap

If you’re testing and you know it, clap your hands. [The Peanut Gallery ]

Will, many many thanks for your help. We’ll figure it out. :)

Monday, July 29, 2002

Tracking Referral Links

My mission – to find a way for you, loyal reader, to know who’s pointing to this site. Why bother? The real value of the weblog medium is its transparency – if you’re reading this stuff, I can guarantee you there are at least a dozen others out there talking about similar issues. And wouldn’t you like to know who they are?

Sure, there’s the blogroll on the right. But that’s like Yahoo – you don’t know the good from the bad. Wouldn’t it be better to know who was pointing back to me – those are the people who are presumably indicating that they found something useful here.

There are already examples of this out there. Movable Type (a competing weblog application) has TrackBack – though David Watson indicates that he’s got it working with Radio, it’s a one-way link for me to notify other sites that I’ve linked to them. That’s not what I want: I want to know who’s linking to me, so I can share that info with you.

Some promising leads:

  • Stephen’s Referrals. I almost had this working earlier today, then ran into a snag with my provider’s support of PERL and CGI. Anyone care to lend a hand debugging? This is the closest to what I want.
  • Simpler implementation from Stephen’s ( doesn’t require any CGI), but isn’t yet working on my site. Doesn’t include counts of recent visitors – just compiles links of referrals.

There are others, but they appear to require either PHP (an environment I have zero experience in) or server side includes (SSI, also something I haven’t monkeyed with). I think with a little effort I can make one of the two work.

Question – will this add any value? Anyone else interested in seeing this work in Radio? (Wouldn’t a Radio macro be ideal?)

Sunday, July 28, 2002

The Mother of all Law Blog Lists

My New Law Blog Roll – I’m going to maintain a master list of law blogs in the outliner format.  It’s easier to maintain and to annotate.  Check this out.  I have added some commentary about most of the law blogs.  If you aren’t listed E-mail me and complain and I’ll be happy to add a blurb (I ran out of steam a few minutes ago, so this will be a continuing weekend project).  If you have a blurb but are unhappy with it let me know what I left out.  One thing I would like to list for everyone is what City and State they are in. [Ernie the Attorney]

Kudos to Ernie for keeping such an exhaustive list of law blogs. I lost control of mine, and am now editing it down just to those sites that I read frequently. Six months ago, there were about a dozen of us (that we knew of) – now here we are and I count close to 60 blogs in Ernie’s list. Whoa.

(Ernie: I’m in Naperville, Illinois.)


Saturday, July 27, 2002

What Does Your Grocery List Say About You?

New story – Privacy in the U.S.: Beyond the Tipping Point? Commentary on Ashcroft’s Operation TIPS, the erosion of privacy in a post-9/11 world, and the quandary the Bush administration finds itself in with respect to data management.

Privacy in the U.S.: Beyond the Tipping Point

I vividly remember calling Domino’s one night in law school. I ordered my regular pizza (it was the health special: bacon and sausage w/extra cheese), but forgot to give them my address before I hung up. Realizing that, I called back. “Oh don’t worry. We’ve got your address.” They’d implemented caller ID, and had my info in their computer. Understand that this was 1993, and caller ID was still relatively new to the market. Interestingly, they also had a list of my prior purchases. After that, I could just order “the usual”, and a circle of goodness would show up in a half hour or less.

The geek in me was impressed, but the burgeoning lawyer was a bit spooked by the possibilities for abuse. So started a thread on Cyberia (unfortunately, the archives only go back to 1997) about data capture, grocery store affinity cards, and the possibilities for abuse.

Well, turns out that those grocery lists can lead to some unfortunate results. Thanks to the Blog Hot or Not site (warning: it’s addictive), I found this post which links to a Village Voice article about Ashcroft’s Orwellian wishes. Isn’t that exactly what the government is looking for in TIPS? More or less. Fortunately, John “Little Brother” Ashcroft was on the Hill this week to assure the Senate that TIPS won’t create an “Orwellian” database. Here he is:

“We don’t want a new database, I’ve recommended that there be no database and I’ve been assured there won’t be one” created by the program, Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Uh huh. This database-less setup is exactly what got the FBI in trouble – a lack of technology. I’m all for catching the criminals, but how exactly does the government plan on assimilating hundreds of thousands of tips from grocery store clerks around the country without using some database to power the thing? Post-its? Maybe they’ll do like the FBI does in the Sopranos – pictures on a cork board.

Yeah, that’ll do it.

Come on, John. Turns out that such a database was already in the works under Clinton – and could easily be resurrected. Check out this report from back in May by Josh Marshall. Turns out that the reasons behind Ashcroft’s lack of interest in a federal database may have less to do with principles and more to do with former lobbyists who are now higher-ups in the INS.

More interesting is the negative publicity TIPS is generating even among conservatives. Not known as a particularly liberal pub, Business Week this week blasted Ashcroft’s program:

But like many of Ashcroft’s salvos in the war on terrorism, Operation TIPS will more than likely reduce privacy without increasing security. Let’s be real: Terrorists with half a brain aren’t likely to be outsmarted by the mailman or open the door to have the gas meter read if they have bomb-making material nearby.

But ordinary people, who might be reading the Koran, will. The result could be a flood of unsubstantiated and largely irrelevant tips that overwhelm law-enforcement officials already mired in data. Worst of all, the program could sow the seeds of suspicion among loyal American citizens.

Perhaps most damning, notes Business Week, is that House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) added language to the House version of the Homeland Security Bill on the 18th which would prevent the Justice Department from setting up Operation TIPS at all.

Bet let’s let Ashcroft’s words speak for themselves:

To those who pit Americans against immigrants, and citizens against non-citizens; to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty; my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists – for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.

Am I the only one who sees the irony here?

Safire on Blogs

A picture named safire.gifIn the Sunday NY Times, William Safire explains “ blog.” This takes the concept to a high level of acceptance in the English language (at least American English). I’ve been here before. In the 80s, with my brother, we got credit for “laptop” from Safire, but told the researcher that the word was already in use in the industry when we wrote about laptops in Byte in 1982 or so. I learned then that Safire is the authority on American English. So blog is now a very real word. It will be in the Oxford English Dictionary, and Safire has written it up. We all did something real. Jorn Barger, Blogger, the Frontier community. Congratulations to one and all! [Scripting News]

Friday, July 26, 2002

Hot or Not?

This is more than a bit goofy, and not nearly as voyeuristic as the “Am I hot or not“ site. But the same people who brought you the hot or not site bring you Blog: Hot or Not? I don’t really care about the rating I get (well, just a bit), but I was pleasantly surprised at the number of good sites I found that I didn’t know about. So if you want to get in the game, feel free to start with your friend tins by clicking here. Every time you rate a blog, you get to see another one.

Services like this are other ways of finding sites of interest. Recently we’ve seen Joe Jennett’s randomizer, KM Pings, and TrackBack. What Blog Hot or Not lacks in sophistication (I’d like to be able to look just at sites with keywords that match my interests) it makes up for in volume – this site received dozens of visitors in the first afternoon of availability. What will be interesting to see is if any of the folks who swing by decide to come back for more or if they just pass right along…

Seven Myths of Knowledge Management

From the August/September issue of Context Magazine comes the Seven Myths of Knowledge Management:

If you look at how companies approach knowledge management, you can see that the problem is in the execution. Companies commonly make catastrophic mistakes by falling for one of these seven myths… [more]

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Linking Down the Rabbit Hole

Deep Linking Takes Another Blow, Wired – “Using a search engine to locate stories on newspapers’ sites violates European Union Database Directive law, according to a recent ruling by judges in Munich’s Upper Court.” [LLRX Newstand]

For the life of me, I cannot understand how a rational court can find a hyperlink to be anything but a pointer. Are phone books illegal because they publish phone numbers which permit you to directly contact an individual? What about neighborhood directories that publish addresses of local businesses and gasp directions?

C’mon. I tell you how to find something. Doesn’t mean I’m taking credit for the destination. And besides – where’s the freakin’ harm? I tell someone how to find your information by guiding them to your site, which just happens to be under your control. I helped you, fer godsakes. (Note that I’m not addressing sites that frame others’ content, or otherwise try to misrepresent the source. I’m speaking to sites that simply link people directly to content provided on the web.)

One last point, then I’ll shut up. Whatever happened to the courts looking for the narrowest restriction? Rather than outright prohibitions on linking, what about endorsing technical limitations that can prevent any undesirable actions? I can prohibit sites from linking to my content, I can redirect visitors who hit my site, I can do whatever I want. It doesn’t take much.

This is beyond nuts. I know Ernie and Denise have posted numerous items about this issue in the past… are you guys as depressed as I am?

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

How Will Sam Seaborn Die? Rob Lowe to leave West Wing over salary dispute. Bummer.

Five Questions...

Forgot to mention this last week when it ran in Internet World: Five Questions with Rick Klau.

ISO to Withdraw JPEG Image Standard?

No More JPEGs – ISO to Withdraw Image Standard, The Register – “The ISO standards body will take the unprecedented step of withdrawing the JPEG image format as a formal standard if Forgent Networks, a small Texan company, continues to demand royalties on a seventeen-year old patent.” [LLRX Newstand]

Josh – looks like you’re not the only one on the warpath. (Read Josh’s piece for good background on the Forgent/JPEG controversy.)

Blogs and Business, Take 3

The BlogRoots authors are publishing their book on the Web, in its entirety. Chapter 8, Using Blogs in Business, is online now. Excellent. [Scripting News]

The birth of a meme. I’ve now counted at least five separate sources of info on the blogs and business topic. And I got my copy of Information Week today with the cover dedicated solely to blogs:

“Give individual employees within a company their own weblogs, encourage them to document their best ideas and personal experiences, link them, add search capabilities, and it’s easy to imagine that at least some innovation will arise from the ordinary.”

More on this later.

Ernie the Outliner

Today’s Legal Headlineshere again, in outline format (with yesterday’s headlines collapsed). [Ernie the Attorney]

Ernie’s doing good things with the Radio outliner and activeRenderer. See also his Copyright Outline.

Like Ernie, I’m finding that the Outliner is a fantastic way to organize thoughts. I’m now using it in lieu of my Outlook Tasks – its hierarchical presentation is a much better way of organizing my day-to-day “to do” list.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Myhrvold, Bad Software and lawyers: Oh my

Here’s a gem from former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold: “Software sucks because users demand it to.” [“Why Software is So Bad”, July/August Technology Review.]

The article is a good read. But the ultimate conclusion is troubling: the author suggests that bad software is systemic in the industry, and that regulation is sure to follow. (To his credit, he cites numerous examples of easily fixable software bugs that had catastrophic results. He’s right: there’s lots of bad software out there.) But product liability law as the savior? “[W]hen the costs of litigation go up enough, companies will be motivated to bulletproof their code.”

References to the liability paradigms installed to handle the railroads, automobiles, etc. are persuasive, but is this really the best way to improve software quality? A couple things are certain: software is increasingly pervasive. Software developers consistently incorporate new features, enhance existing functionality. This ubiquity means that entire businesses are dependent on intangible lines of 1s and 0s. If those binary digits fail, does the company have any recourse?

What worries me is that if this is where we’re headed, software companies won’t necessarily try to make the software bug -free: they’ll just make it do less. But less exposure for the developer means less innovation for the industry. In this economy, that can’t be a good thing. (I’ll admit to a bias: I’m part of the management team at a software company. But I’m also a software consumer – and I’m not sure I want or am entitled to a dollar every time I see a blue screen of death. Well, come to think of it…)

Any Color You Want...

From the July/August issue of Technology Review:

You’ve probably heard the Ford adage that a customer could have any color Model T he wanted as long as it was black. But have you ever wondered why the only choice was black? Because black was the fastest-drying paint.

Great editorial by Michael Schrage about the nexus between waste management and innovation. (For example, the first use of the steam engine was to expel filthy water from coal mines to allow deeper mining and more profitable mines.)

He sees parallel processing as the next big area of innovation. There are vast numbers of computers connected to the Internet at any given time that aren’t doing anything. Just sitting there. So what if you took those periods of “dead time” and got the computers to work together to solve complex problems? Examples of this are SETI @Home, the project where computer users can “donate” computer cycles in their quest to find evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence. More than 4 million computers have signed up.

Question: if you had billions or trillions of computer cycles to manage, what would you focus on first? Comments welcome.

Negroponte on WiFi

EE Times: MIT prof critiques Europe’s wireless efforts. The “big deal” Negroponte was keen to stress was that the emerging world of ad-hoc, peer-to-peer wireless networks will lead to a world of intelligent devices that will in fact serve as a network. “For years, we have been saying we can get the intelligence from the network, but we have not thought of these devices as being the network…” [Tomalak’s Realm]

I always liked Nicholas Negroponte. I read his book Being Digital while in law school, and it was the first time I really gave thought to “meta data”. Negroponte’s comment (not necessarily original, but he gets credit from me ‘cause that’s where I read it) was that in the future, it won’t be the bits that matter – it’ll be the bits about the bits. In other words, the more we know about the information itself, the more likely we’ll be able to act on it, be smarter about it, and learn from it.

I like this notion – a lot, actually – because it forces you to be more effective in your interaction with any machines. Think for a moment – do you have a standard file naming convention? How do you categorize your information? If you were to vanish tomorrow, would anyone be able to quickly sort through your digital data and make sense of it?

Dealing with structured data is as much art as science – and thinking about Negroponte’s “bits about the bits” is as good a way as any as starting down the path of learning how to manage knowledge.

Oh yeah – and his comments about Europe’s efforts with 3G and WiFi systems are insightful. I knew I had a point in there somewhere…

The Blogroll Works

Played with activeRenderer last night to make the blogroll behave. Check out the results – I’m pretty happy with the end result. (If you’re reading this in a news aggregator, just visit the home page. If you aren’t sure what a news aggregator is, it’s safe to assume you’re reading this on the web site itself. Look over there. No, there. See where it says “Worthwhile links?” That’s what I’m talking about.)

I documented the steps necessary to make this work – keep in mind that this requires a bit of extra effort. This wasn’t really an intended implementation of activeRenderer, but Marc Barrot (the tool’s author) was intrigued enough to say that he’s going to look at making it easier down the road. No promises (by him, that is), but the fact that it does this well out of the box is a good sign.

Those who are following this thread know that I was trying to make this work using Userland’s macros. Ultimately, I preferred activeRenderer’s more complete functionality – I have more control over the presentation. And the directoryFrame macro is dependent on some code running at Userland’s servers – which often dramatically slowed down page loads. Overall, I think this is a better answer.

Let me know what you think.

Broadcast or Broadband? You Be The Judge...

Whoa, Will:

Casting Pearls Among Swine. Listen closely because this is very simple.

  1. Call your CATV provider. Ask for the Internet access without television package.
  2. Buy this
  3. Buy this or this
  4. Buy this
The problem now becomes>off the computer and on to your television, which sits in the same room as your couch. By which time you find it’s easier just to buy a TiVo or ReplayTV with Ethernet support. Why is this all possible? Because you are not buying the content, you are buying the connection. The content is thrown out, on the air, on the network, in the vague hope that you will receive it. The exception which proves the rule is HBO. Is it legal? Good question. [The Peanut Gallery]

Touching a Nerve

From this month’s issue of Context Magazine:

Kentucky riflemen in Daniel Boone’s day said they knew they hit their target on hunting trips when they heard a squawk from the bushes where the game was hiding. Executives trying to find the right target market should look for that same kind of sudden outburst from customers.

Such a response comes only when a company touches an exposed nerve— some frustration so deep, some need so visceral that, when presented with a solution, the customer reacts out loud. Finding that sensitive spot isn’t easy, but the effort is worth it. Hitting an exposed nerve will generate a surge in demand far beyond what most products experience.

Spent a day out today with one of our sales reps. Met with three prospects, none of whom had ever seen our product. Two VC firms, one private equity firm. Two out of three hit the nerve. One guy actually said: “This is phenomenal. In five years here, I’ve never seen a product so squarely focused on what we need. I’m impressed.” Going in, we were led to believe he was the skeptical one.

(I’m relying heavily on the good karma coming from these meetings as I sit helplessly in the Admirals Club at Laguardia hoping that the air traffic gods see fit to let me see my wife tonight…)

Towards the end of the article:

Interestingly, but not uncommon, the nerve we had hit had the lowest economic payback for customers. If we had assumed customers were completely rational and had focused on delivering them the biggest benefit, we would have missed the exposed nerve.

I’ve seen a couple examples of this recently. The higher up in the organization I talk to, the more likely it is that the exec wants to solve just one problem. Solve that problem well - they can qualify it, rationalize the effort, and commit. That other problems get solved is often incidental. Odd how the strategic thinkers seem more pragmatic on this particular subject – it’s the tactical ones who often get paralyzed by the enormity of a project and try to find the thing that will solve all their problems.

Which leads to a separate, but related quandary: positioning a strategic sale to a tactical organization who wants everything. That’s for another day.

Monday, July 22, 2002

The Contender

I’m traveling tonight, and just checked into the hotel. The Contender is on HBO, and I’d forgotten just how good it is. Performances are just remarkable – Gary Oldman as the hawkish conservative out for blood, Sam Elliot as the abrasive chief of staff, Christian Slater as the naive first-term congressman. But it’s the leads – Jeff Bridges as POTUS and Joan Allen as the vice presidential nominee with a past – who make the film riveting. Bridges oozes power without being over the top – being well-fed never seemed so alpha.

Politics aside, I really just miss having a president who can orate. Is that so much to ask?

Using Active Renderer to Manage a Blogroll

I think I’ve finally found the answer I’ve been looking for. The challenge: to create a visually appealing, functional collection of links to other blogs on the right-hand column of this site. Commonly referred to as a “blogroll”, the collection of links is a good way to show visitors where else they can go for related information. Before digging into how I made it work, a note: this isn’t really what Marc Barrot (author of activeRenderer) intended. It works (quite well, actually), but it requires some elbow grease. If you’re not comfortable doing some tweaking, then you’re best to wait for a later relase of activeRenderer which will likely make this a more straightforward process.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Download and install activeRenderer. Download activeRenderer.root and save it into the Radio UserlandTools folder on your hard drive.
  2. Shut down and restart Radio Userland.
  3. Create a sub-directory for your blogroll in the Radio Userlandwwwoutlines directory. (I called mine ‘blogroll’.)
  4. Open the Radio application, select File | New.
  5. Create your blogroll. I have seven top-level “nodes” (a node is just an entry in the outline); other than the node that says “Home”, each node has sub-nodes that contain links to specific sites. Note: you need to modify the HTML link so that it sets the link target to the parent frame. To do this, open the outline. Click on HTML then “Format text” – this will turn off the Radio Outliner’s formatting of HTML and allows you to edit the underlying HTML. Click “edit” then “find and replace” then “find”. In the “find” box, type {”>} (without the curly braces). In the replace box, type {” target=”_parent”>} (without the curly braces). This is a work-around, and Marc Barrot, the author of activeRenderer, will make this easier in upcoming versions.
  6. Save your blogroll in the directory you created above; I saved mine as Radio Userlandwwwoutlinesblogrollblogroll.opml.
  7. Create a stripped down template for the blogroll sub-directory. My template is here. (Note: save this file, or your own template, in the blogroll directory as #template.txt.)
  8. Modify your #homeTemplate.txt file (this is the template that controls the presentation of your home page). Figure out where you want the blogroll to go in the HTML. Now create an inline frame that calls the rendered HTML version of the blogroll. This is the line you need to insert:
    <iframe src= height=x width=y></iframe> (note: replace “” with your weblog URL.)
  9. Save the template.
  10. In Radio, select Radio | Publish | Weblog Home Page. Verify that it works.

If all went well, you’ve now got a blogroll that will dynamically update whenever you add new links to your blogroll. (You can see mine at my home page here.) To maintain the blogroll, just add any new links to the blogroll.opml file. When you save those changes, Radio and activeRenderer will take care of updating the HTML file on the server.

Some advantages to this approach:

  • The blogroll dynamically reloads every time a page is loaded. Regardless of what page people are visiting (it could be months or years old), they’ll still see the most current list of links.
  • You can maintain your blogroll natively in Radio.
  • Screen real estate is preserved; instead of a long list, visitors see just the few top-level nodes in your outline.
  • It looks cool.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Blogs and Business Value

Information Week (John Foley):  Are you blogging yet.  Weblogs could have business value. [John Robb’s Radio Weblog]

More fodder for the business value of blogs – a good thread from last week with input from John, Terry and me.

Active Renderer is Too Easy

Yet another minor enhancement to the site that I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I just installed Marc Barrot’s Active Renderer plug-in. It’s going to allow me to do a bunch of nice user interface things on the site (including fixing the blogroll on the home page), but initially the biggest change is the cleaner interface for daily posts. Now every day has a little wedge next to it that looks like this:

By default, prior day’s posts are collapsed. Click on the black wedge, and you’ll see the posts for that day. This cleans up the home page considerably, and makes navigation pretty straightforward.

The most incredible thing about this is how ridiculously simple it was to implement. Download the file, save it to your Radio Tools folder (the Tools folder is in your Radio Userland folder). Shut down and restart Radio, then go to the preferences page for Active Renderer. Check the boxes to activate it, and you’re all set. Publish your home page and enjoy!

It's Knowledge Sharing - not Knowledge Management

Here’s a perfect example of how weblogs can create shared knoweldge:

Interestingly, I wrote about Buckman Labs back in April. For those who are interested, here’s a snippet:

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).

The Downside of KM?

Some cold water on the blogs as KM solution:

Given a choice people tend not to communicate. Some don’t want to share, some feel threatened or diminished by sharing, some fail to understand that most things lose meaning unless they have adequate context, some enjoy a feeling of superiority by talking about their work in a way that others will have difficulty understanding, some get a kick out of doing things but not out of explaining things, some simply lack communication skills. Remember, most offices are political environments. That doesn’t help.

The author, a former .com employee in charge of KM, rightly identifies a number of cultural challenges to getting people to share information. But these aren’t really downsides, per se – more like hurdles. In any event, I like the recognition that there’s more to KM than just software – that unless someone is committed, responsible and incented to make the thing work, it will be hard to succeed. (Not unlike the post I made a few weeks ago about Tom Jones’ cross-selling efforts at Citigroup…)

The question is: does a simple software platform (weblogs) reduce the barrier to entry? It’s not the answer, by a long shot – but if the software can make the sharing easier, then the efforts expended by the KM “owner” are far more likely to be rewarded.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

EFF Needs a WP guru

“The EFF Legal Team is seeking a volunteer legal secretary or other advanced Microsoft Word user to give us an in-house training. We’re hoping someone can help us better use styles, templates, captions, line numbering, tables of contents, tables of authorities, footnotes and other features of Word that are regularly used in litigation.  Alternately, we’d love someone who can introduce us to (and teach us to use) an open source tool that can easily handle all of these while at the same time seamlessly interoperating with the many volunteer lawfirms with whom we work, all of whom use Microsoft Word or Wordperfect.”  If you can help, please contact Henry Schwan

The EFF is a great organization that works tirelessly to protect our cyber-rights, so if you can help in any way, or know of someone who is willing and able to help, please let them know about the EFF’s need for help in this area.  Thanks. [Ernie the Attorney]

Let me second that emotion. I was a volunteer law clerk for the EFF back in 1994 when we were working on the Bernstein case (great case about the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the US State Department’s export control laws concerning, among other things, encryption), and my former boss – Shari Steele – is now the Executive Director. If you know of anyone in the Bay Area who can help, please forward them this info. You’ll feel good.

Treo 300 details at FCC

I’m in the hunt for a new cell phone, and will likely pick up the Treo 270. I like the idea that I can finally ditch my Palm and cell phone and carry just one device around… and the prospect of getting at least the important e-mails routed to the device is pretty tantalizing.

But as I was poking around, trying to figure out if there are new Treos coming out soon, I stumbled onto this apparently confidential info posted a little over a week ago. It’s about the Treo 300, which is going to be CMDA version of the Treo phone offered by Sprint. I’m going to stick with the 270 – which is a GSM phone, meaning I’ll be able to use it whenver I’m in London (I’ve been four times this year, and it drives me nuts to not have access to a phone when I’m there). (You can also see the full docs at the FCC site here.)

Anyone know anything else about upcoming Treo plans? I’m not going to be obsolete in a few weeks, right?

Friday, July 19, 2002

More on blogs and business relationships

This is a timely companion to my earlier post today about blogs and business relationships:

Weblog as the interface to a person.

Time for people. Paolo Valdemarin: Time for people. “Time for anonymous companies is over, we have all had enough, it really looks like it’s time for people, time for weblogs.” [Jake’s Radio ‘Blog]

Also this comment by Paolo:

I have had a company web site for about the last 7 years, but I have never received much feedback from it. Since I have opened my blog I’m receiving lots of messages from people all over the world. This is happening because they perceive the weblog as the interface to a person, while the company site belongs to a faceless entity, even if for some of those 7 years, behind that company web site there was only one person: me. [emphasis added]

If you start connecting the dots between the weblogs and k-logs space with the recent books such as Free Agent Nation , Bobos in Paradise, and The Rise of the Creative Class you can see the acceleration of a fundamental shift in the relation between employer and employed.

Pay attention; it will affect you. [McGee’s Musings]

Blogs and business relationships

A number of people have asked me why I maintain this blog. While there are a number of reasons – a personal KM strategy among them – I realized I hadn’t really given much thought to a significant aspect of the reason: the business relationships I’m building as a direct result of the contributions I make to the blog and the content I read from other blogs.

Thanks to this blog, I now know two individuals who have both been very helpful to sales opportunities for my company. The first was a prospective customer – and a past salesperson so thoroughly botched the relationship that the firm had zero interest in talking to us. (Now knowing the full story, I don’t blame them at all.) A few months ago, the director of KM at the firm started a blog – and discovered this site. We both write about similar issues, and have found that we both appreciate each other’s opinion. A month ago, I was in New York on business, we met for lunch and hit it off. While things will move slowly (we’re still a long way from establishing whether InterAction is right for the firm), the fact that we now have a solid relationship is a testament to the value of the blog. An opportunity at this firm will run to six figures.

Just this past week, another six figure opportunity arose at a large technology consulting firm. Our salesperson asked if I would join him in a meeting with some senior members of the team. Once I heard the name of the company, I realized that I knew someone with a connection to the firm – now a professor, he was the founder of the consulting company. I called the professor, we talked about the opportunity and the people who would be in the meeting, and I went into the meeting with both more information and a strong relationship. Not only was his feedback helpful in preparing for the meeting, but we discovered some mutual colleagues as a result of talking through our various interests.

I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to others who have identified business opportunities from personal relationships they build through their blog. But the whole notion of blogs as business relationship-building tools has been largely unexplored. It’s not something that can be institutionalized – to work, the relationships must be personal, which requires a certain credibility on an individual level – but I think it’s a very significant aspect of professional blogs that would largely put to bed the question “are blogs fads?” Fads? Nope. If I continue to develop relationships (two in seven months isn’t bad at all) that could yield significant six figures in revenues, then it’s a no-brainer.

Keep in mind that the R.O.I. calculation on this is almost laughable. I paid $40 for the software, and spend 15-20 minutes per day adding content to my site. Even if you assume a high billable hour rate for my time, my investment over a year might reach $10,000 – and that’s a soft cost (time) not a hard cost. The hard cost is just $40.

Just like a few years ago I would go out of my way to reward companies who had web sites, I am pre-disposed to work with people who have recognized the value of contributing to the weblog community – and as the blog model gains momentum, that will only get easier.

What are you waiting for? Put your business where your blog is.

Put Your Business Where Your Blog Is

Just put together a few thoughts on how blogs serve as business relationship-builders. I now have a couple examples of this blog leading directly to business relationships that are playing a significant role in sales opportunities. Those relationships would not have existed but for the blog.

While leads me to a new mantra: put your business where your blog is.

The benefits of K-Logs and Aggregation

Klogging, keeping good ideas afloat..
Curiouser! via Mike’s Radio Weblog:

Terry at Blunt Force Trauma writes on The Synchronicity of Klogging Culture. He highlights how klogging raises our awareness of new ideas by (1) giving us more than one chance to see them aka not letting them fall through the cracks, and (2) letting other people’s perspectives shed extra light on the same ideas.

[a klog apart]

This is so true. The number of times I’ve seen an item in my aggregator, only to see it appear two, three even four more times – each time with annotations from the new source – is growing. Not only does the reptition help ensure that I won’t miss things, it really does shed new light on important issues. This is why TrackBack will be so helpful – you can reconstruct these threads well after the fact to identify what other individuals said, when they said it, etc. Can’t wait to see it happen.

Web Services in Financial Services.

Web Services in Financial Services. A Gartner Report’s conclusions: – Web services won’t trigger a major disruption in financial services over the next two years. The impact will be more long-term. – Web services will enable business process outsourcing. [E M E R G I C . o r g]

K-logging at the statewide level

Top down endorsement for klogging..
The Utah State CIO made this Offer to Utah State IT Employees.

I believe that the 900 or so IT employees of the State of Utah would benefit from speaking and listening to each other more. I think we need groups of specialists inside various departments to communicate with others in their specialty and without.  Consequently, I’d like to see more people writing blogs and communicating their ideas through an open forum like the one blogs engender.  To that end, I’m willing to pay the licensing fee to Userland for the first 100 employees who start a blog.  Here are the conditions:

  1. Download the software and begin using on the 30-day free trial.  I’d like to see you get a start before I pay the fee.  Let me know when you’re up and running.
  2. I’m biased toward IT employees, but other are welcome too, particularly if they’re interested in eGovernment.
  3. You’re responsible for what you post.  If you’re going to talk about things that shouldn’t be public on Userland and need to be kept behind the state firewall, let me know and we’ll set up a place inside the state network for that.  We could even set up an authenticated area, if needed. 

“It is good to be king.” Royal suggestions cut through all kinds of trust issues and formal decision making. I’ve been asking for prerequisites to success on various knowledge management lists. Uniformly the top answer is “senior management endorsement, buy-in, enthusiasm.”

UserLand’s hit a sweet spot too.

  1. Low price point cuts risks of trying and eventual rollout
  2. Newbie-friendliness gives immediate satisfaction (egoboost, social affirmation)
  3. Syndication/etc. amplifies social networking effects, reinforcing current participation and bringing in new users

One other thing: you can see from Windley’s post there is something real about the sense of ownership and control you feel when the tool and your writings are on your desktop. Radio gives you this. The tradeoffs of remote access and managed desktop are also real, but have much less emotional investment. These feelings of control worth of attention as the klogging meme spreads.

[a klog apart]

I’ll have to encourage my buddy Bill Kendall, who’s in the Salt Lake City D.A.‘s office, to look into this. (Granted, that’s city and not state government, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see that combination as well?)

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Radio's NewsViews

I’ve been using Mikel‘s “newsviews” tool for Radio and I like it alot.  It allows you to sort RSS subscriptions by category.  [John Robb’s Radio Weblog]

Another option for using Radio’s aggregator more efficiently. Nice.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

My Radio... Now it gets interesting

Check out this “early release” of an extension of the Radio Userland world. From the developers’ about page:

This Tool extends the Radio Userland aggregator from rss to any networked data (xml, html, soap, personalized services, etc), and any layout. It is exceedingly simple for developers to add functionality to the framework. The GUI (screenshot) is reminiscent of My Yahoo! and other server based personalization tools.

More information available here.

John Robb: CEOs who 'get' technology

I have been listening to the books on tape set of Peter Drucker (Management challenges of the 21st Century).  He’s absolutely brilliant and a must read/listen if you want to get real perspective on business issues.  He posited an interesting thought:  technology kingpins like Gates and Ellison are destined for the scrap heap as the technology they represent becomes commoditized and fades into the background.  The new kingpins:  those CEOs that apply the new technology better than their competitors.  His example of a similar process of evolution was the barons of the printing press.  I agree to an extent.  The difference is that technologies are moving quickly to combine ( combinatorial technology is a huge opportunity space) and there are more than a few exponential acceleration curves at work in info-tech.  [John Robb’s Radio Weblog]

Daddy has a small...

This is priceless. Painful, but priceless.

Robin Williams on HBO

Robin Williams on HBO. ‘W doesn’t speak when Cheney’s drinking water .’ ‘Ashcroft is a politician that lost to a dead man in Missouri.’ [How do you know that?]

It was fun seeing Robin Williams do stand-up again, though it felt a little more forced than it used to. Compared to stand-ups today, however, he still has the ability to take you on a wild ride.

Memo to anyone else considering watching it in reruns: don’t watch it with your mother-in-law in the room. Trust me on this one. If you must, just find a reason to be in another zip code for the final five minutes. You’ll thank me.

Monday, July 15, 2002

The directoryFrame macro needs help

Radio programmers, please help. I want to use the directoryFrame macro to render my list of weblog links. (If you’re reading this in your aggregator – this means you, Jenny – click here to go to the home page and look on the right-hand column under the calendar.) Here’s what’s going on:

Userland (the company that makes Radio) released a new macro for creating distributed directories. I got all excited about this last month, and created a directory of law blogs – presumably, anyone using Radio could just link to my directory file (it’s here) and then their directory would include mine. Pretty cool concept.

But I got to thinking – I want my own distributed directory. I have different collections of links: I keep a master list of law blogs I monitor, but I want to reference it from multiple places (in the Radio for Lawyers site, for example). The directoryFrame macro is perfect for this: I can keep one file – lawblogs.opml – and simply include it by reference. So the frame on the right (on my home page) is one simple file, with pointers to several other files – each of which contains the links that I’m interested in. Rather than maintain the links multiple times, I maintain them once. And Radio takes care of doing the right things (assembling the directory into a folder-like structure).

With me?

Now comes the problems. Visually, this does exactly what I want. It shows a folder-like structure, and doesn’t re-draw the page when you navigate around. But the presentation beyond the folder structure is wrong – I want smaller fonts and I want less spacing between the list items. Also, when you click on a link it opens in the small window the link list is kept in. That’s bad. But Userland doesn’t give me control over the text in the box (at least, not that I can find) – so I’m stuck with their font layout, and the fact that I can’t force clicks to open new windows.

This is driving me nuts. It seems like I’m so close – yet calls to the usual places have gone unheeded. Is someone out there who can point me in the right direction?

Can you send e-mail via first class?

Oh dear. Seems the Hawaii Office of Disciplinary Counsel ruled that attorneys may not send unsolicited e-mail about their services because such communications must be sent via first class mail. (This is from last spring, but I hadn’t seen coverage about it and received an e-mail today from ABA ethics guru Will Hornsby on the subject.)



“It’s 1972 calling. They want their rules back.”

Must be all that sun.

Friday, July 12, 2002


Not a real ad.

What Makes a Good Hotel

Some London Hotels Offer the Future for Guests. “Hotels are racing to install high-speed Internet access, e-mail and a variety of wireless and digital services. And some are going for the all-in-one solution.” via  [New York Times: Technology]

Whenever I travel I always base my hotel choice on technology amenities.  In fact, our firm website includes not only hotel information, but also information about which hotels near our firm have high-speed Internet access.   I wonder what other bloggers require in their travels. [Ernie the Attorney]

I love that Ernie’s firm includes which hotels near them have high-speed access. If I were a client, that piece of info alone would cement my relationship with them.

What I require in a hotel (sadly, I’ve stayed in 22 of them so far this year):

  • High speed access. Don’t need wifi (don’t have a card yet, cause I haven’t gotten around to installing it in the house), just want reliable high speed access. I’m more than willing to pay for it, too – even though hotels like the Hilton Times Square don’t charge for it.
  • Separate work area. It drives me nuts when all I have to work on is an end table by the bed, or a desk that isn’t close to a phone line and power source.
  • TV with more than three channels. It’s bad enough that I don’t have access to TiVo when I’m on the road – but hotels that deny me a little variety on the tube are just rubbing salt in the wound. Is it too much to ask to have Comedy Central, MSNBC, A&E, or some of the other cable staples?
  • Room service with edible, normal food. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t care about ordering braised leeks with marinated truffles in a demi-glaze over a seared filet mignon when an elevator is involved in its delivery. Give me a hamburger, or a couple of pasta dishes, or a salad or two. Keep it simple. And, while you’re at it, keep it hot. And keep the drinks cold. Is that so hard?
  • Mini bar with snacks. I’ll admit it – I’m lazy, and if I get hungry after working late I just want to reach into the fridge and pull something out to eat. Candy bars, potato chips, pretzels. Does anyone really eat $9 jars of peanuts to fill up? Or candy bars from my parents era?
  • Water. I love it when hotels put a bottle or two of water in my room. It doesn’t cost them much, and I’m normally thirsty by the time I get back to the room.

I’d say I need to get out more, but that’s actually part of the problem. I get out far too often – I need to stay home more!

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Can knowledge systems lie as

Can knowledge systems lie as well as information systems?. [McGee’s Musings]

Spoofing and Peer to Peer Networks

The Trademark Implications of Spoofing Music Downloads – Self- Tarnishment?.
… If the record companies are in fact spoofing, then the practice, from a trademark point of view, is unique (to me at least).  The owner (or licensee) of the artist’s trademark is intentionally distributing an inferior or defective version of the product associated with that trademark, deceiving the user (albeit a non-paying one), in the hopes that the experience will tarnish not the trademark owner but the means of distribution.  While it seems metaphysically impossible for the trademark owner to counterfeit or infringe itself, self-tarnishment seems possible (to say the least).  Also of interest is whether the free services will respond by filtering out spoofs and advertise that they offer only real unauthorized copies. [The Trademark Blog]

Another KM blog: Column Two

km. I’m continually impressed by James Robertson’s blog – very on topic and well written. It’s inspirational. [How do you know that?]

Ditto Chris’s observation. I found this site a couple weeks ago, and am really impressed with the breadth of Robertson’s coverage. Looks like the KM arena is alive and thriving in Australia.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

One Idea May Hide Another

NPR reported this week on the death of Kenneth Koch, a founder of the New York School of poetry. They replayed part of a Jim Lehrer interview with Koch, in which Koch explained a poem of his titled “One Train May Hide Another“, a reference to a sign in the Kenyan desert that puzzled him. (Listen to the NPR piece for a complete explanation.) I’m not much of a poetry connoisseur, but the poem really struck me. It focuses on the situations in which something more obvious obscures something more significant.

For me, it’s the line ‘one idea may hide another’ that simply rings true. The conclusion to the poem is elegant and powerful – I’m certain this will stay with me for life:
Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It
     can be important
To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.
I’m sorry I didn’t know of or appreciate the works of Kenneth Koch while he was alive. But I’m thankful to have found the poem. R.I.P., Kenneth.


Just finished a semi-annual get-together of a group of close friends and colleagues: Norm, Ann, Leigh, Ross and Deborah. In many ways, I have this group to thank for the spark that got me headed down the blogging path last December. Their counsel, support and encouragement over the past several years have been a real gift. Thanks, guys.

Now if only they’d all get their own damned blogs. What are you people waiting for?

InternetWeek: Putting the Relationship Back in CRM

Good article by Rich Karpinski in InternetWeek that about what we’re all about at Interface Software. Most exciting for me is the validation from one of our customers, Cynthia Reaves at Honigman Miller in Detroit. I met Cynthia a couple weeks ago, and sat in stunned silence (for those that have met me, you know that silence and I don’t hang out together all that often) as she gave one of the best user-focused demos of our software I’ve ever seen. It was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had since I joined the company – a real-life translation of our positioning to how one user derives tremendous benefit from the software.

What makes Cynthia successful – indeed, what any professional needs for the technology to help – is her focus on the end goal. Rather than get bogged down in the user interface or a feature/function comparison, she recognizes that her goal is to deliver superior client service and make more money. With that in mind, she looks to shape the software to her needs – not the other way around. Cynthia’s not a techie by a long shot – but that didn’t keep her from figuring out how to make InterAction do her bidding. She gets it:

Through experience, Reaves has learned that new business in her profession doesn’t come easily. It’s an accepted wisdom that “clients typically don’t respond until the sixth touch,” she said. “It takes that long to get something billable and a return on your investment. A lot of law firms way away from opportunities to generate additional revenue from existing clients.”


Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Jennett Random Radio

Check out the little blue button on the left: Joe Jennett has created a network of Radio weblogs. Want to see another Radio weblog? Just click on the green button. The “randomizer” will take you to another random weblog. Kinda cool.

BlogChalking - Nice Idea, but needs work

Jumpstarting The Prairie Blogs Again
BlogChalking is an interesting twist on the WiFi phenomenon:

blogChalking is a movement attempting to create a region-sensible blog-search system – descentralized, improvised (influencing existing Internet search engines) and world-wide. Truly cool and simple.” [via Daypop Top 40]

[The Shifted Librarian]

I see a couple problems with this system:

  • Meta information like age needs to be tied to a birthdate, not to an age range. An age range will change with time ( like it or not, we all get older), while a birthday doesn’t change. If I really care about looking for bloggers in a certain age range, I don’t want to find people who were 26-30 two years ago (and could be 31-35 today).

  • Geography must be normalized, pulling from an authoritative resource on goegraphic info. Giving me a de-normalized text field to just punch in my own city name invites too much opportunity for error. And what’s up with “neighborhood”? Might be useful in Manhattan (Chelsea, Greenwich Village, etc.) but it’s useless in my town. This just reinforces the need for an authoritative resource for location-based info. Microsoft MapPoint’s .NET web service would be perfect here.

  • To be truly useful, this would need to incorporate meta data like interests. If I’m looking for other bloggers, I really don’t care about all of the “who should I date this week/what I ate last week/why all men/women/dogs/aliens are scum” blogs – but I would like to see professional, tech, KM, etc. blogs.

I don’t mean to nitpick – I think this is a good concept. But the implementation in this case is cute but not particularly useful.

CRM and Firm Management

Customer Relationship Management Software

Rick writes: “Good interview with HBS professor Susan Fournier: ‘Customer relationship management (CRM) programs have become too much about the technology, not enough about the customer relationship.’” [tins ::: Rick Klau’s weblog]

I agree (as if I know anything about CRM), but the technology, if it works right, is the engine that gets the job done. Just today I learned that a particular lawyer in my firm holds a key piece of knowledge that may enhance our firm’s ability to get an important piece of business. I would never guessed he was “The One“ and neither would he. But if I had been able to search all people who knew a certain person then I would have known.   But, sadly, we don’t have a database like that to search.

I guess that’s the thing about CRM software. If you don’t know that there is something important that you don’t know, then you don’t know. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is not the foundation for sound marketing practice. CRM is going to be an integral part of most law firms, and I would like to hear more about KM and CRM from people like Chris, Joy, and Rick. [Ernie the Attorney]

Ernie nails it. The main difference between CRM in a professional services environment (law, accounting, consulting, etc.) and CRM in a product environment is the importance of the relationship to the business transaction. In Ernie’s case, knowing who else in the firm knew a particular contact can be the key to unlocking business. Establishing those relationships is hard on the technology side, but needs to be transparent to the end user.

To be honest, the challenge isn’t so much the technology – with enough resources, you can build the right tools. The harder challenge is getting the lawyers to understand the benefit. Most often, it takes someone having an “aha moment” like Ernie just did (of course, Ernie gets this stuff instinctively and this is probably just one in a long line of aha moments for him) before they can really grasp the importance of what the technology could do for them. This is doubly hard in a law firm environment because the lawyers are pulled in such disparate directions: they’re expected to be the salesmen, the managers, and the service providers. When you show up offering to help improve their sales abilities, they assume that’s the least of their problems.

When this technology will really take off is when the firms start getting dedicated resources assigned to the various lawyer responsibilities: sales, management, client service. Just think: what if every software company required its entire executive team to be able to program in C? Sure, they might be smart – but would that make them more qualified to be good managers? Good sales people? I don’t think so. Yet the model persists in law (and accounting, for that matter). Slowly but surely, we’ll see that evolve to a more corporate model. (I wrote about the transition to a corporate model in the accounting profession in January; I still think that’s where we’ll ultimately end up.)

"Nobody Night" a hit

A picture named 08riverdogs-inside.jpgCHARLESTON, S.C. — The gates were padlocked and hundreds of fans of the Charleston Riverdogs gathered outside Joe Riley Stadium on Monday night .

It wasn’t a strike of any kind, just another outlandish promotion by the Riverdogs, the Class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Everybody except employees, scouts and media was barred from entering the stadium on “Nobody Night.”

It was all part of a promotion designed to set the record for professional baseball’s lowest attendance. …[USAToday: Sports]

Monday, July 8, 2002

Warren Buffett jumps into the tech space

MSNBC.  Level 3 taps Warren Buffett’s money for a roll-up strategy in telecom.  Will Warren play the role in telecom that JP Morgan played in railways? [John Robb’s Radio Weblog]

Law librarians can do more...

From today’s New York Law Journal:

“It seems clear, though, that the more involved law librarians are in the marketing process — such as by attending firm marketing meetings, joining the marketing committee and having a say in marketing decisions — the better the services will be that they can provide.”

While I don’t disagree with the author in the slightest (on the point that librarians can be very strategic to a firm), this really isn’t an article about librarians. The article is really about the need for quality data in a firm’s marketing campaigns – too many firms rely on half-baked research, or incomplete research, or no research at all when making decisions. Can librarians help in this regard? Unquestionably. But the marketing department shouldn’t be off the hook – they should be responsible for doing the market research, proposal generation, etc. Fortunately a number of firms are heading in this direction. But I fear some will look at this article and conclude that they just need to dump something else on the librarians’ plate.

eBay to Buy PayPal

The only thing shocking about eBay’s acquisition of PayPal for $1.5 billion is why eBay waited until after PayPal’s successful IPO. This is a good move ( combination of two market leaders), but Meg really should have done this a year ago. I think what probably tipped it (this is just a guess) is that PayPal’s much-vaunted fraud detection. It’s kept their costs low – and if eBay scraps their own BillPoint service (or at least folds it into PayPal’s infrastructure), they’ll use that cost-savings to achieve scale that PayPal couldn’t have done on its own.

Looking down the road a bit, this solidifies eBay’s move into infrastructure. They started out as an infrastructure for selling things – now they’re adding a payment infrastructure. Both are intangible and complementary. What should their next move be? Publishing? Media distribution? eBay is looking more and more legit as a big-business play.

On a final note, it’s nice to see companies being acquired for 10x multiples of revenues again… (!) Long live the . coms!

Announcing InterAction 5

It’s official: InterAction 5 is coming. (For those just joining us: I work at Interface Software, the company responsible for InterAction.) Last month’s press tour was a run-up to this announcement; we’ll be shipping the product this quarter. This is a major release, and the feedback from the analyst community has been very positive. I’ll get into more detail later, but for the time being you can read the announcement here.

Friday, July 5, 2002

TrackBack Update: Here comes Radio

There are several things about the weblog world that I like. Chief among them is that there is so much development across different (and competitive) applications. Radio Userland supports the Blogger API (meaning that you can post to a Blogger weblog from Radio). And now Blogger users can create RSS feeds, an endorsement of a standard developed by none other than Dave Winer, founder of Userland.

And now comes word that a Movable Type user (yet a third weblog application) has built a proof-of-concept integration between Radio and Movable Type – so that Radio users can use the TrackBack feature I talked about a couple days ago. It doesn’t seem completely baked yet (unless I’m missing something) – I think it requires the user to have both Radio and MT installed on the same machine. But the fact that such an integration is possible is a further testament to the open nature of the weblog community – and an indication that future enhancements will benefit all weblog users regardless of which application they’ve chosen.

(Can you imagine the OS world working the same way? sigh)

I’m eager to see someone close the loop on this – because, despite Ernie’s embarassing claims to the contrary, I’m not too good when it comes to the programming stuff. But I’m good at borrowing. :)

Thursday, July 4, 2002

New menu added to home page

I’m playing around with a DHTML menu I found at Soaked Hornet’s site the other day. The menu is written by a guy in the UK, and is pretty slick. Go to the home page to see it in action; I’ll probably republish my entire site so that the menu is added to all pages. Let me know what you think.

Added category listings to each post

Anyone reading this blog can now see which categories I’ve posted to for each post. I think categories are a powerful feature of Radio – they let me route content to separate blogs (for instance, to post something to Radio for Lawyers I just send it to that category, Radio takes care of uploading it to the right place). But it hasn’t always been apparent to visitors to the site that there are ways of looking at just the content that they care about.

Many thanks to Roland Tanglao who pointed me to the comments at Jake’s site that explain how to do it. It’s simple – just drop a file into your Macros directory, then add one line to your item template. Took less than five minutes. (Roland’s site is worth visiting for KM issues, by the way, and Jake’s a developer at Userland who’s got a number of good things to share re: Radio and blogs in general.)

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Peggy Noonan - Blogging is patriotic

Go figure – Peggy Noonan says in today’s Wall Street Journal that blogging is patriotic. (Thanks for the pointer, Dad.)

“The 24-7 opinion sites that offer free speech at its straightest, truest, wildest, most uncensored, most thoughtful, most strange. … Blogs may one hard day become clearinghouses for civil support and information when other lines, under new pressure, break down.”

Minority Report plot holes?

I’m less interested in the possibility of plot holes than some of the commenters, but there’s a good discussion going on over at about the central themes of Minority Report. Check it out. (Warning: many, many spoilers.)

Memo to journalists: join the weblog bandwagon

Plea from Editor & Publisher columnist Steve Outing: Board The Weblog Bandwagon Now, Please! Certainly nice to see someone from the traditional media recognize the utility and value of a weblog.

Chris Smith's sister is a riot

I got to meet Chris Smith last week for lunch, and had a great time. As I’m a parent of two little ones (3 months and 2 years and change), part of my contribution to the lunch-time chatter inevitably led to stories which I find unbelievably cute which no doubt bored Chris to tears. (I’m not being fair: Chris looked interested… but he doesn’t have kids and I’ll bet “staying out late” for him means staying out past prime-time TV, or going to a bar, or eating late. But I digress.)

He linked to his sister’s blog this week, and I haven’t had this many laugh-out-loud moments in the office in a while. Whether it’s the three year old holding the dog’s eyelids open, or declaring “God is dead”, or the six month old doing his best Exorcist impression – I’ve been there (or, more accurately, my wife has been there and told me about it), and Kathy captures the moments perfectly.

If you have kids, you’ll get a kick out of her stuff. Keep it up, Kathy!

Weblogs and Firm-Wide Knowledge Management

Here’s an article I wrote a couple months ago but which was just published in the ABA’s Law Practice Management magazine. Now that it’s published, I can reprint it here. (Don’t you love the publishing world?!) Thanks to Denise, Ernie and John for spending some time with me as I wrote it. I’m pretty happy with the results, and eager to see if any firms start using this technology for their own information-sharing efforts.