Friday, July 24, 2009

Latitude for iPhone - now what?

In case you missed the news, Google Latitude is now available on the iPhone. Just visit in your browser and you'll be able to share your location information with your friends, see where they're at on the map, and email/call/SMS them if they're sharing that detail with you. There's an Android version, a Blackberry version, and it also works in the browser on your computer.

One of the challenges to getting value out of this is having friends share info with you. Here's a tip. If you add contacts, select "all contacts" and Latitude will start by showing you all of your correspondents who are already on Latitude (and presumably require less convincing that this is worth doing):

That brings up this screen:

Click the names of the people you want to add and you're good to go - now you'll be able to see where your friends are hanging out.

Last thing to do with Latitude? If you have a blog, add the Latitude badge to your blog so people can see where you are. I've added it to my blog, and this is what it looks like:

The Latitude Badge site includes a one-click add to Blogger, or you can copy the embed code to add it to whatever platform you use. Easy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blogger and adult content

Last week, a Blogger user posted about her impending departure from Blogger. A Blogger "interstitial" began appearing before users could visit her site, warning of potentially objectionable content. Becky believed the interstitial to be politically motivated, and many of the commenters tended to agree with her. I tried to clarify in the comments (search on my name to find the comment) on that post:
To be clear: at no time are any classifications applied to blogs because of their political views. That would be the antithesis of why Blogger was founded ten years ago, and is contrary to everything the team believes about giving our users a platform on which they can speak their mind.
I published my e-mail address on that comment, and in the last week have not received a single e-mail - from Becky or from anyone commenting there. Her post was picked up on Instapundit, and in announcing that she has shut down the blog today, others joined the conversation (Simple Justice, RedState, and Popehat to name a few). The common thread appears to be the conviction that Google was attempting to shut down a blog because we didn't agree with the views expressed on the blog.

To be clear: we wholeheartedly endorse an individual's right to express themselves. As I stated in the comment on Becky's first post, I would hate to lose Becky's voice in the blogosphere, and would be even more disappointed if Blogger's actions in any way contributed to her deciding to stop blogging.

That said, Blogger acted exactly as set out in our Terms of Service and our Content Policy: "there are some boundaries on the type of content that can be hosted with Blogger. The boundaries we've defined are those that both comply with legal requirements and that serve to enhance the service as a whole." We specifically outline the scenarios in which an interstitial will apply, including "image and video content that contains nudity" and point out that "we may put such content behind an interstitial."

We didn't take the blog down. We didn't prevent people from reading it (as evidenced by the many comments left on both of her most recent posts). We have in no way acted to prevent, restrict or otherwise skew the debate happening on her blog or any of the others discussing this that are hosted by Blogger. We simply responded to the fact that a number of posts there do, in fact, contain nudity. Visitors to the site flagged the blog as containing objectionable content, and as set out in our TOS, blogs that contain nudity may contain an interstitial to let readers know what they will find when they click through.

I want to be as clear as I can possibly be: I want Blogger to be a platform to encourage the free flow of ideas. Healthy debate from across the political spectrum is absolutely critical in a free society, and I'm proud that millions of users around the world rely on Blogger to publish their opinions.

Update: On Twitter, @popehat suggests that I should have realized that the people complaining were idealogically opposed to Becky (here and here) and that I should have personally used my discretion (here) to ignore those flags and chosen not to apply our TOS to the situation. As I responded, I can't see how us subjectively applying our standards helps anyone, as it would lead to precisely the situation we're accused of: deciding which ideas we embrace, and which peoples' opinions are worth paying attention to. I'd much prefer to objectively apply our stated policies to each situation, so that everyone involved - our users, the readers of blogs, us - know exactly what to expect.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Comparing legal blogging platforms

I originally got into blogging because I was past deadline for my magazine column for the American Bar Association. Three searches in three days resulted in #1 results for John Robb's blog - and, being me, I called John to ask him why he kept showing up at the top of my Google queries. (More on that here.)

John was at Userland at the time, his enthusiasm for blogging was infectious, and I started a blog so I'd have something to write about. Here we are 8 years later, and it's very cool to see a number of companies emerging to offer blogging guidance to lawyers and law firms.

So I was pretty disappointed to run across a post tonight from one of those new entrants, Avvo, who wrote up a post on their blog purporting to compare "legal blogging platforms". In the post is a chart that compares Blogger, WordPress, and TypePad, along with Avvo and LexBlog, two of the companies focused on the legal blog space. The post would lead one to believe that the only rational choice is to spend $25/month on an Avvo Legal Blogs.

I tried to comment on the post, but (irony of ironies) it seems to have vanished. Just in case it stays in limbo, here's the text of the comment that I left earlier tonight:
Conrad, as a non-practicing lawyer and an avid supporter of lawyers embracing new technology, I'm thrilled to see you call attention to the benefits that blogging can have for a professional's marketing efforts. I started a blog 8 years ago, and was one of the first lawyers to advocate for blogs as a marketing vehicle (both in my ABA column in LPM magazine as well as in the book I co-authored about marketing on the Internet, also published by the ABA).

However, I'm disappointed that you misrepresent almost every aspect of Blogger in your comparison. I'm the product manager for Blogger, and find your statements about its capabilities to be quite misleading.

For starters, Blogger is the most visited blogging platform in the world, and millions of users use Blogger to publish to their blogs every week - for free.

In addition to gadgets built specifically for the millions of users who rely on Blogger (, our users can control every element of their page and embed Flash, javascript and any other interactive code provided third parties that they want, giving them complete control over the functionality of their blog.

Domain registration and configuration is built into the app itself - allowing users to easily register their domain and begin publishing within minutes. My own blog is hosted by Blogger at - for which I pay nothing other than the domain registration fee. See this page for more info including a simple how-to video:

Our Terms of Service explicitly establish that the user owns all content they create: "Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services." Link:

In addition to controlling their own design, users can choose from thousands of third-party designed templates for a completely unique presentation. See here for links to some of the more popular designers:

Blogger's not for everyone, and I think there's ample room in this space for solutions tailored to the needs of the professionals you're catering to. But let's trust our users to make fully-informed decisions based on accurate representations of each platform.

--Rick Klau
Product Manager, Blogger
Other comments indicate that Conrad's comparison is further flawed; Kevin O'Keefe took issue with some of the claims about LexBlog, Rex Gradeless pointed out that isn't as limited as Conrad claimed, and Doug Cornelius suggested that self-hosted WordPress deserved a look too.

I'll reiterate what I said in the comment: there's plenty of room in this space for healthy competition. My law school roommate is a very happy customer of Kevin's at LexBlog. (Of course, I have also challenged Kevin - on his claim that Blogger's a non-starter for professionals - he's entitled to his opinion, but there are many, many professionals using Blogger and doing just fine. I'd like to think I'm one, btw.)

Bottom line, healthy competition should be on the merits, not on misstatements of fact.
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Monday, July 6, 2009

Blogging from my iPhone

Those who know me know how amazing my switch to a mac last year was. A 10 year thinkpad devotee, I reluctantly gave up on windows when I faced a 10 minute reboot. I haven't looked back since - and despite a few minor quibbles, I've been very happy with the switch.

Now it's time for another apple conversion - this time from a blackberry to an iPhone. I held out for more than two years, but the addition of video to the device really sealed it for me. I'm blown away at how polished the phone is - far more sophisticated than any mobile device I've used. (I know, I know - this is not new news to anyone. But I'm still in the honeymoon phase ... :)

More to test it out than anything else, I'm writing this from BlogPress, a nice $2.99 app that works with Blogger. Seems pretty good so far. Here's what this post looks like on the phone (yes, BlogPress supports images):

Pretty slick!

-- Posted from My iPhone