Monthly Archives: October 2009

Where the Hell is that Email: Searching Microsoft Outlook

This is a really quick post (promise) b/c I am being picked up for the airport in 25 minutes.  What is the best tool for searching in Microsoft Outlook?  Let’s admit, the native search on Outlook 2007 sucks (sorry for the potty mouth but it is the only way to describe it).  I have been using the Xobni plug in and highly recommend it.  Not only does Xobni offer lightening fast search, but it creates profiles and statistics on everyone who sends you email, including pulling pictures and information on them from sites liked Linkedin.  Now a friend of mine at a bankruptcy firm swears by a program called Look Out.  Problem is this thing is a dinosaur.  If you can find a copy to download, it basically just works as a search function.  Now maybe that is elegant and streamlined and all that, but I expect more from my tools these days.  What other Outlook tools have you found that are must haves for search and mail functions?

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Does Anyone Really LIKE Black Jelly Beans (building trust in business)?

So I was on a mission for Jelly Belly jelly beans.  Don’t ask me why.  I guess it was because I had eaten meat for dinner, and with the whole kosher thing I have to wait 5 hours and 5 minutes before I could have eaten ice cream.  In any case, Jelly Belly jelly beans, besides being delicious, are also kosher and pareve (meaning they can be eaten right after meat).  I was in Target with my mom and spied a pack.  I bought it.  The box says you can eat one at a time or enjoy flavorful combinations among the 20 gourmet flavors, which include eclectic choices like bubble gum, popcorn, strawberry daiquiri or toasted marshm mellow (my favorite by far).  The interesting thing about a pack of Jelly Bellies is you only get about 2, maybe three of these really good flavors.  Then there is the other jelly bean; the one, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it is included in a gourmet pack of such delicious flavors … the black jelly bean AKA black licorice AKA the one I always toss out if I can help it b/c I don’t like the flavor.

For some reason there always seems to be about 4 or 5 of these in a pack of jelly beans.  And here I was in a multi-flavor popping frenzy (usually I eat them one at a time) and every few handfuls or so I’d get the black jelly bean.  Then a philosophical question arose: the fine people at Jelly Belly must know what they are doing, right?  I mean after all, they produce many flavors of jelly bean (have you ever seen the Harry Potter ones, including booger, vomit, and fish?) and the black jelly bean is always included.  There must be some people who actually like the flavor – my mother-in-law does come to think of it.  These thoughts brought me into further contemplation about a book I started reading called “Trust Agents.”

Picked it up for free at a talk by the authors this past Friday at the Harvard Club.  Uberblogger Chris Brogen (my newest favorite Canadian) and Julian Smith (love him – not crazy about his blog navigation/theme) sat on a panel with two other guys (the ones who wrote the book “The Trusted Adviser”) speaking before a crowd of 200 business folks, most of whom were from the social media industry.  During the talk they made many points about how it was important for business to experiment, even at the cost of failure, if it meant great returns in the new connected economy.  That customers expected conversations, a point I semi-agree with, and companies need transparency and trust to succeed in today’s world where a favorable review on a consumer website can sell the latest widget.

What does this have to do with Jelly Beans?  Well, in a way my purchase of a pack of Jelly Bellies encapsulates the trusted relationship that businesses must build.  Even though I do not like the black jelly bean, others do.  Jelly Belly is taking a risk including it in the pack of gourmet jelly beans b/c (I don’t think I am alone here) most jelly bean eaters do not like them either; my mother-in-law is in the minority.  Yet they come standard, despite pissing off a chunk of the jelly bean eating population when they pull them out of the pack.

The point is that businesses sometimes make choices to stick tried and true to tradition even at the risk of negative public opinion.  In building trust with the public, business is expected to do some things we don’t like in the interest of achieving specific business goals (not everything Apple does is golden – price point anyone?).  The good companies stand by their choices while listening to the feedback.  Perhaps they even incorporate the feedback into their future decisions.  The true test here will be to see if the black jelly bean ratio goes down after someone from Jelly Belly reads this post (if they are even listening).

More about Trust Agents and this topic to come as I read this excellent book.

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Taking Control of Your System Start Up

This is not a topic I really know about.  How often do you hear someone start with that?  The reason I am even including this short post is to show the value of blogging.

While at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Annual Meeting in Boston a friend and colleague of mine, Eugene Weitz, former corporate counsel at Alcatel Lucent walked up to my booth between sessions.  He said, “just got out of a session you would have liked.”

“Yeah,” I asked, “what about?”

“Lawyer-tech stuff,” he said.

“What did they discuss.” I asked.

“Different tools, using them in practice.  The most interesting thing I saw was about taking control of your system start up,” he said.  “He gave a bunch of programs, some of which I may check out.”

“You should blog about that,” I said.  Eugene recently started an exclusive blog on Martindale-Hubbell Connected called In the House: The Impact of Technology on the 21st Century Lawyer.

“I don’t know,” he said, explaining that he didn’t have expertise in the tools or anything like that.  And it is this last point that inspired this blog post.  I told him that readers don’t always want the expert opinion.  The beauty of blogging is that whoever reads your stuff reads it to get your take on things.  To show him that anyone could write about system start up, I found this link all about it, posted by someone who does know about the subject.  I drafted this post as my testimony that what makes this whole blogging thing interesting is getting different perspectives on the same information.  Believe me, this post is much more about how we share and connect as human beings than it is about system start up.  In any case, there you have it.

 

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Where Do They Find the Time?

Clay Shirkey, author of “Here Comes Everybody,” posted this great article in 2008 explaining the phenomenon of social media.  It’s not a primer about Facebook or why people should use Linkedin or how lawyers can benefit from being on Martindale-Hubbell Connected (shameless plug), rather he talks about how traditional media folks still don’t really get it.  Sure, they understand that these tools and being in these spaces can help their projects move forward (I don’t think there is an HBO show out there without a blog), but the question in their minds remains: where do people find the time?

Shirkey goes on to talk about television, the great distraction.  He said if you then take the creation of something as vast as Wikipedia and look at it as a unit as of 2008, all of the content, edits, pages, and comments crowd-sourced on Wikipedia had taken 100 million thought hours to create.  Where do people find the time?  The thought hour surplus from watching television in the United States in a single year: 200 Billion thought hours (“that’s 2000 Wikipedia projects per year”).  Imagine if we could harness the power of those wasted hours, “unwinding” in front of meaningless stories crafted to capture our attention towards a bit of advertising that most people cut out via TIVO (don’t worry – they’ll still get you via product placement and in-show ads – ever wonder why so many people in movies and on TV have Apple computers?).

It reminds me of an R.A. Lafferty short story that I once read called, “Polity and Customs of the Camiroi,” where a board of education visits a distant advanced civilization called “Camiroi.”  In this culture, children are working on advanced nuclear physics and other such topics by the first grade (to any Lafferty devotee who may read this: I’m paraphrasing here, so please don’t roast me if I got the grade level wrong at which kids learn advanced nuclear physics.  As I am comfortably typing this in bed, I am too lazy to dig through the book case for my copy of Lafferty to confirm this – if you wish to do so please leave a comment).  The point is that this fictional society placed such a value on time that they race their young through trivial lessons such as finger painting, making cute little crafts, and teaching them colors so they can get to really useful knowledge like applied sciences and quantum theory at an early age.  They bring to mind what might be possible if we took the 200 billion thought hours in America each year and applied them to problems like solving the energy crisis, space and time travel, and fixing the inability of people to merge properly to avoid unneeded traffic (to solve this last one would mean the true evolution of the human race as a species in the universe).

So how does this apply to community management?  After all, it was on a community management message board that I first got the link to the Shirkey article that started this little post.  Speaking from my experience, one of the primary things I hear from lawyers (my target audience) is that to participate in an online community seems time consuming.  As people who primarily get paid by the hour (and sometimes the minute) they do not know how they can spend time creating content and reacting to other peer created content online.  Let’s look at Shirkey again with a dash of David Allen (author of Getting Things Done).

Where do you spend most of your time as a lawyer?  Is it in research (not if you have a huge team of paralegals), talking on the phone with clients, gathering intelligence, writing, golfing, loafing?  I think how specifically you can answer that question (and if you have something like Time Matters software tracking your every move it should be easy) you can then answer the second question: where is your time not being optimally spent?  If you could find a better way of doing existing tasks that would free up your to do more high value tasks, that would be valuable to you and your clients.  For example, if you needed to find out about a particular issue for something you were writing at the end of the week, putting a key question out there on a message board read by other thought leaders on the issue would enable you to have a conversation about it rather than just looking up the results on a search engine and forming a singular conclusion.

The point is that before something becomes normal to us it seems like a big undertaking.  There is no denying that online communities and social media will change the way we do everything.  Just like email did for communications, this new way of interacting will find its way into the everyday business of doing business.  Just like online legal research enhanced the information presented in law books (some even argue turning them into into glorified paper weights and office decoration), community media will replace solitary search, information gathering, and cold calling.  Time will tell whether as a profession we be innovative with this technology and integrate it to our work flows, or remain cautiously on the sideline, accepting it only after many years have gone by bringing something new to weary of.

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Synergy – My New Holy Grail

So I’ve got this sick set up in my office right?  24” iMac, Dell laptop going into dual screens through a docking station, and a nice new desk to sit it all on (no more card table for me!).  One problem though (make that two), I’m sitting here with two sets of peripherals (keyboards and mice). This is just entirely too much clutter for a minimalist like myself.

Enter Synergy, my saving grace.  It is a program from Sourceforge that made a big splash in 2006 for its ability to allow a single mouse and keyboard to run across multiple operating systems.  If I could get this to work, then I could just keep my slick mac keyboard and mighty mouse, and move between all three screens.  The tutorials and videos out there all touted how easy setup would be (see below).

Yet here it is, two weeks later and I still can’t get it to work.  Well, that’s not entirely true; today I managed to get the mighty mouse on all three screens.  One problem though, I can only do this when I am not connected to my VPN.  Since I live and work in Jerusalem, VPN is my lifeline to making a living and it is the only way I can access a lot of my tools for community management.

Synergy does not work with VPN.  At least that’s the general consensus out there.  One possible solution I found involved a bit of work:

Since I don’t have a static IP for my DSL connection, I 1st had to setup dyndns so that my IP is findable via DNS. I then had to set up a port forward for synergy on my router to always send the synergy port to my PC that acts as the server. Then my VPN’d box is a client of the server, and uses the dyndns host name to reach it.

Not really sure if this will solve it b/c the guy had a physical KM switch (hardware that manages the keyboard mouse switch) for Synergy failures, but it may be worth a try.  It’s driving me nuts to have to switch back and forth between peripherals all the time.  Does anyone have a solution for me out there?

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