Category Archives: Technology

Passover Contracts Online (selling “chametz” via the web)

During the 8 days of the Passover festival it is forbidden for a Jew to have any “chametz” (refers to bread, grains and leavened products that are not consumed during Passover) in their possession.  We throw lots of stuff away, clean like germaphobes with OCD, and seal any cabinets in the kitchen with masking tape that contain chametz products that we didn’t want to toss out.  Then we sign a contract with our rabbis to “sell our chametz” in a paper transaction that removes ownership of the products sealed in our houses until the holiday is over, at which time the chametz are transferred back to our possession.

Enter the Internet

My wife usually needs to remind and remind me again to sell the chametz.  I usually wait until a day or two before Passover before signing the 1 page simple contract with our rabbi and fulfilling the obligation.  Well not this year.  Here I am almost a week away and I fulfilled my obligation without ever leaving my home.

My friend Yoni forwarded a link to Kipa.com’s program to sell your chumetz online.  The site is in Hebrew, but thanks to Google Translate (or the built in translator on Google Chrome) I could read what it said.  Basically, you enter your email address and they send you a verification code.  You then enter the verification code, which brings up the web form equivalent of the rabbis contract asking for your name, home address, phone number, and places where chametz can be found.  The whole process took me 3-minutes and once finished I received a verification email that my chametz would be “sold” right before the holiday and revert back to me 1-hour after it.

This brilliant use of the Internet is just another reason I love all things online.  What are some of the novel things you have found the Internet to do that used to require physical actions?

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Repurposing Content (actual Wiki article I wrote at work months ago)

Just what does it mean when we say that content is being “repurposed”?

In a nutshell repurposing means taking existing content and using in different ways to reach a wider and more varied audience.  The focus here is trying to get the most mileage out of the content that companies invest in.  Rather than restricting production and distribution to a single product in either print or PDF online, take the whole work or even pieces of it and create an entirely new product to meet a different demand.  XML (Extensible Mark Up Language) plays a large part in the ability to be flexible when these opportunities present themselves.

For example, in a recent author discussion about a forth coming book, which surveys topics in American Law for first year law students, the following repurposing opportunities were identified:

  • Content Feed to Open Web Projects – Using parts of the book to provide content in practice area primers on the New Attorney Hub, a LexisNexis open-web site that caters to the needs of 3Ls and recent graduates.  While there is no revenue attached to such an effort, excerpts can be used to promote the original book, the authors and their projects outside of the Lexis system.  Here, the author gets exposure for their projects, the book gets exposure, and the New Attorney Hub gets content.
  • Introducing the Content in an Online Menu to the International Market – a book like this, which is not your typical case book, could easily be adapted as part of an International menu on Lexis.com b/c attorneys around the world are always looking for comprehensive and condensed overview material on U.S. Law.
  • Creating Forms for Practitioner Use – original commentary or checklists could be extracted into forms that can repackaged to the practitioner market.
  • Podcasts of the Book – in the Millennial generation (today’s average law student) everyone wants to multitask and learn how they want to learn.  Offering a downloadable podcast of the book which could be created easily by the authors with simple and inexpensive tools.  These can even be automated through a service like Odiogo (see my post about this & subscribe to my audiofeed to the right).
  • Contribute to Rule of Law Knowledge Banks – there are many sites devoted to the Rule of Law around the world.  Often attorneys working to establish or defend this cause do not have the funding to access premium information.  Content can be donated to knowledge banks or open web projects like the LexisNexis Rule of Law Resource Center to promote these worthy causes.

The point is this: traditional publishing involves a receipt of content from the author, a period of editing, production of the content into a PDF file, and the publishing of a single book.  When a new edition is needed rinse, lather, repeat …

With new technologies we have an opportunity to stretch the life of the same content across platforms and audiences.  When it comes to repurpose, we are only constrained by imagination and willingness to be think in different boxes. Opportunities like the ones cited above embody the essence of repurpose.  This is not a call for abandoning the current course blindly for wild and unpredictable trends.  It means positioning content development to use current resources in different ways to maximize value, while keeping relevant, profitable, and innovative.

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Lexis Microsoft Office: Legal Tech Man on the Street

It has been a long four days since I left the Holy Land for New York City to attend Legal Tech.  The big news of the conference for my company was the introduction of Lexis Microsoft Elmo (or “LMO” as we fondly call it while picturing a fuzzy little red monster).  This is an integration of LexisNexis tools to Microsoft programs like Outlook and Word that allows lawyers to search in the context of their documents with the push of a button.  Check out my post from the Martindale Blog that was written the day we announced LMO.

One of the main things I did a Legal Tech was capture the “man on the street” perspective about what we were doing.  Here are some videos posted on our LexisNexis YouTube page with me interviewing conference goers, keynote speakers, and our own CEO:

Interview with Bruce MacEwan, partner at Adam Smith Esq.

Interview with Mike Walsh, CEO of LexisNexis US Legal Markets

Interview with Jonathan Silverman, Service Executive at Microsoft

Interview with Alex Dilessio, Innovation Lead at LexisNexis

Interview with John Alber, Partner at Bryan Cave

Check out the LexisNexis YouTube channel for all of the videos from Legal Tech.

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Want an iPad?

The hype finally fizzled to reality yesterday when Steve Jobs revealed the iPad to the world.

Check out Howard Greenstein’s prediction, which came the closest I’ve seen in sizing up what this device would be.  There were many reactions:

But none as emotionally charged as this one.

As for me, the iPad seems enticing.  Read this post from my blog last year and you will see it comes nowhere close to what I envisioned Apple doing.   I have heard a range of reasons why people will buy it, my favorite of which is “it’s slick, cool, and sexy.”  A sexy iPad.  Sounds like a reason to drop $500+ on a device that does less than my iPhone.  And yet, like a car crash or an MTV reality show, I just can’t look away.

What about you?  Will you buy an iPad?  Why?

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Building An Employee Community

Employee communities, internal social media platforms built for employee engagement by the employer, can be a wild success and source of innovation or an incredible flop. I have seen examples of both first hand. So how do you make your employee community an engaging place that workers will care about?

There are three primary tactics for building a powerful employee community:

1. Usefulness and relevance to day to day work, and a genuine value placed on engagement by senior leadership

2. Incentives

3. Passion for community and real opportunities to make a difference through it

Usefulness, Relevance, and Value

Leaders must make participation in the community useful to achieve the day-to-day work of the employee.  This may mean diverting conversations away from email and onto message boards.  Really progressive companies may want to get rid of email ENTIRELY and use only their internal social networking platform for messaging.  To do this of course, your system would need to have the functionality to tag, sort, and archive in-mail messages, but the key to abandoning email for community discussion platforms is changing the behavior of employees to have primary discussions on public or private threads rather than on fragmented email chains.

Expectations in business today are not always reasonable.  We’ve all heard that “build it and they will come” doesn’t apply to online communities.  Fostering true engagement and participation means making what goes on in the community relevant.  To be relevant, the conversations, content, and other activity within the community need to translate to real-world objectives, action, and results.  Any community platform you build for your workers is a tool – just like putting in a phone system didn’t start making employees innovate, putting in a community with fancy tools is just the first step; it will not cure your innovation problem.  What a community platform can do, however, is level the playing field for ideas to be heard.  That is what we mean by relevance.

Beyond the day-to-day behaviors moving to new tools, is the work product on your system valued?  When people put out ideas on the community who champions them?  Do you have a way of measuring the best contributions (not just the most)?  All these questions hint at the value placed on what goes up in the community and the value extracted from it.  Again, these are just tools.  Let me say that one more time: these are just tools.  They have the potential to change the way we work and add incredible value, but only if we first see how our old tools can be replaced.

Incentives

Money is one of the last on this list.  The most powerful incentive is when someone believes what they are doing is important.  Without this our efforts in a community or the very work we do just seems aimless.  How can you make what is going on in your community important?  This is the million dollar question, but a good place to start, what is important about the work you are doing now?  What are the goals of your company?  How you better reach them by using your community to communicate the mission, objectives, steps, and progress?  These questions all go to making the work you do on your community focused and important.

Beyond this, the community is a place where senior leaders can become real to employees, much the way celebrities have used social media to interact with fans.  Try having an executive write a regular blog where he solicits feedback and responds to comments received.  Another tactic is to create an innovation lab forum, where employees are invited to submit ideas for new directions the company can take the business in.  The highest rated ideas can be green lighted and those individuals or teams chosen to work directly with top level people to make them happen.  These are just some examples of non-tangible incentives that resonate with employees.  Give them a stage.

Passion and Making a Difference

Find your cheerleaders early.  Even better if they are people others in the company already respect.  Create a team of superusers, not just in name.  Make it part of their work to meet regularly, grow the group, and lay out a clear path for others to join their ranks (this is not so much an exclusive club as it is a milestone).  These users are the ones along with senior leadership who should be listening and fostering engagement in the community.  Hiring a dedicated community manager is also a good idea.

Passion that doesn’t translate to change is just enthusiasm.  An organization needs to commit to the new course that the group conscience of the company begins to plot.  Your community is worthless if it can’t change things in your company.  If you are “the decider” ask yourself: am I just going to do what I want anyway?  If so, your community exists to give the illusion of progress.  And what a shame, because it will be a missed opportunity to take your business to the next level that you know it needs to hit.

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Going Green: How Your Facebook Profile Saves the World

Cartoon by Thomas A. Boldt "Tab"

You probably didn’t know that Facebook, Linkedin, and Martindale-Hubbell Connected are saving the world.  Think about it.  You used to go places to network.  Now you do it in your pajamas.  Going to those places used gas, jet fuel, created additional trash (travel size bottles and food wrappers galore), and excess (don’t we all take longer showers at hotels and indulge in liberties like leaving the lights on?).

But it’s not just conferences.  I used to print out photos for relatives and send them to everyone (okay, maybe I didn’t exactly do this – but people do).  Now you share those same photos on Facebook or Flickr.  If people want to print them out they can choose which ones they like and do so.  Printing at home saves a drive to Target, which saves on exhaust used.  This same rule applies to birthday greetings, announcements, and other one-to-many items that used to be shared via mail or phone call (think of the energy you save posting it once rather than calling each person when something happens).

Now you might be saying to yourself, “but Mike, isn’t it impersonal to do everything via Facebook broadcast?  No cards, no phone calls?”

I say to you, “do you hate the environment?  Are your trying to kill your planet? 2010 must be the year where we all wake up and start doing everything digital because it is a matter of life and death for our earth!”  Okay, I’m kidding about this last part, but think about it – the more we can consolidate the means for doing something while reaching broader audiences the less energy we will need to consume, which results in conservation of resources.  And not just environmental resources, but perhaps the most precious resource of all: time.

As for me, I am going to join Brighter Planet’s 350 Challenge. For every blogger who signs up and displays their badge  they will remove 350 lbs of CO2 from the air (don’t ask me how they are doing this).  From their site:

To join in, post the badge to your site, let us know, and we’ll offset 350 pounds of carbon in your name. That’s like flicking off 100 lightbulbs for a day. Or going two full weeks without your car!

So that explains the badge to the right.  Also, you may notice that the design of Mintz’s Wordz has always been simple, with a white background, and thin layout.  This helps with server bandwidth and usage which conserves energy also.  So just by reading this blog you are helping the environment.  Mashable has a great article with 10-ways to green your website.  Tell me how you’re cutting down on your carbon footprint using technology?  How are you using social media to foster relationships and conserve?

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The Death of “Social Media” (“Augmented Reality” is Next)

Many sites have been predicting the death of the term “social media” as a trend to watch in 2010.  Adam Singer on Future Buzz has a great post about how the genericizing of the term “social media” as a buzz word in 2009 and 2010 will dilute its meaning of any substance so that eventually it describes just what we do online.  Intrigued by this thought, I left the following comment on his post and encourage you to add to the conversation there:

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the term “social media” for a while now, and have tried to come up with a better term.  It’s not just about semantics.  When I tell people that I am a community manager for a large professional network of lawyers they say, “oh – so you’re a webmaster?”

“No,” I say, “I’m a community manager – we have a team that deals with code and development.  I’m more the people, engagement, and business development side of things.”

“Hmm,” they say, looking at me suspiciously and thinking that I just dropped a load of crap on them, until I say, “I work in social media.” Then they’re like, “oh, right, like Twitter and stuff.”  Tired of the conversation, at this point I’ll say, “yeah, something like that.”

I will not mourn the death of the term “social media” as a buzz word among popular culture, but it does come in handy for the reason stated above, as well as, doing searches and Google alerts for things I want to read about.  If I used as generic a term as “online” I would have to filter through even more junk than I already do (I read mabye 15 – 20% of the 150+ articles I pick up in RSS per day searching for the term “social media.”)  I agree with you that it is risky to name a business after a buzz word (anyone out there still called “Web Surfers”or “Super Information Highway Cruisers”?), but as with my own blog, putting the term “social media” in the subtitle helps with traffic and orientation for new visitors.  Of course, if your post is right and the term social media comes to mean anything online, well then I’m back to square one.

So what do you and others think the term to describe augmented reality, specialized online social networking, community and content sharing should be?

Terms like “information super highway,” “cyber (insert here),” “world wide web,” were aliases we used to describe what eventually became the generic term “online.”  Does “social media” describe something else or will it eventually come to be what we know and expect as “online”?  Is there any differentiation between e-commerce, gaming, cloud computing, and “online” or do these terms describe a distinct aspect of “online” that has validity even after they have become integrated into our general expectations?  I would dare to say that the term “augmented reality,” which we are going to hear thrown around A LOT in 2010 is going to suffer an even quicker death than the term “social media.”  As Adam notes in his blog, the demise of social media is perhaps a long way off.  Business is just starting to hit milestones in adoption (see Pepsi to Skip Super Bowl Ads in Favor of $20M Social Media Campaign) and as I hinted to in my comment to him, the term is genericizing b/c it is how people are coming to understand this functionality of the web.

So what do you think we should call “social media”?  If not “social media” then what search terms should we use to find out about this kind of activity on the web?  What are the buzz words of yesteryear that have died and what can we learn from them?

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