Google announced this morning Cloud Connect for the Google Search Appliance (GSA).  The Search Appliance has been around for years, but Google has had difficulty getting law firm adoption.  The latest version, however, offers some additional benefits that might make it more attractive to all types of businesses, including law firms.

The Cloud, Ground, and Social Search.

Google says that GSA now displays search results from “Google Docs and Google Sites alongside results from more traditional repositories, like file shares and content management systems.”  In addition, one search can show results from blogs, and social media sites, like Twitter.

Who We Know.

Equally important — especially to law firms — is the new People Search feature, “which makes it easy to find experts and contact coworkers.”  Search results for coworkers are included in response to queries.  The announcement indicates that the GSA can index personnel information and includes an LDAP connector, which should make things easier to set up.  The ability to index popular client relationship management (CRM) applications, like InterAction, is unclear.

Important Extras.

Finally, the new GSA includes Dynamic Navigation and SharePoint 2010 support.  Dynamic Navigation “allows users to drill down into search results based on search modifiers for their queries.”  This sort of feature is nothing new;  most of the search tools used by many law firms use it, but is an important addition to GSA nonetheless.   Narrowing search results — rather than executing a new search — is one of the fastest ways to get the information you need.  Google did not elaborate on SharePoint integration, except to say that it supports Microsoft SharePoint 2010 “content without the need for additional connectors.”  Going forward, tight SharePoint integration will be absolutely necessary given the increasing rate of adoption at law firms.

What are your thoughts?  Will the new version of GSA prompt more law form adoption?

Knowledge Management, Technology & Social Media for Lawyers and Law Firms

google-buzz-logoGoogle Buzz is barely out of the digital delivery room, so it may be a bit premature to start a meaningful review of the web’s newest baby.  But I’ll do it anyway.  Well, “meaningful” may be a bit of a stretch.  How about “cursory” or “preliminary?”

In case you are an under-rock dweller, here are the basics: Google announced a new web application called Google Buzz, which integrates with Google’s Gmail service.  There is also a Google Buzz mobile device application, which is accessible by pointing your mobile browser to www.buzz.google.com.  Here are some shots of how it looks on the iPhone:

iphone-buzz-2 iphone-buzz-3 iphone-buzz-1

Buzz is being rolled out over time, so if you don’t have it yet, don’t panic.  Be patient.

It’s impossible to resist a comparison to Twitter.  But, Buzz is more than just a Twitter clone.  It’s sort of a Frankenstein’s Monster of  web applications: part Twitter, part instant messenger, part email, part discussion forum, part social media aggregator, part rich media delivery tool, and part location-based social network.  Too much to cover here.

If you really want to understand it, your best bet is to watch this brief video:

You can also read this good article about it from the New York Times.

A few notes on the good and bad of Google Buzz…

The Good:

  • Google Buzz is integrated into it’s popular (176 million users strong) Gmail email service.  This means more of a centralized hub for this new pastiche of communication.  It also means that it won’t be ignored (like Google Wave? and Google Latitude?) because the Buzz link appears right under Gmail’s inbox link.
  • Integration with Twitter.  If you connect your Twitter account (also Picasa, Flickr, and Google Reader) with Buzz, your tweets flow to your Buzz stream. Double your pleasure.
  • Integration with Google Reader.  Increasingly, Reader is becoming the filter from which I find interesting content on the web.  With Buzz, I can use the Reader “share” feature to send items right into my Buzz stream so others can enjoy the good content, as well.  You can follow me on Google Reader here.
  • Mobile access & LBSN features.  Google’s first swing at Buzz for mobile is impressive.  It shows a list view and a decent map view of nearby Tweets Buzzes (see pics above).  This will help Google overcome their failed attempt at LBSN (i.e., location-based social networking (see Google Latitude).  Lookout FourSquare?
  • The @ factor.  Like Twitter, you can direct a Buzz to a user by using the “at” symbol as a prefix to an email address.  So, to send someone  a Buzz, type @email_address@gmail.com in the Buzz box.

The Bad:

  • Direct messaging? As noted, there is an @ function, but it is not readily apparent whether there is a direct (private) message shortcut function (the equivalent of using the “d” in Twitter).  You can send a private message to “a small group of your closest friends,” (see the video) but doing so is just a tad cumbersome.  Shortcut, please.
  • Searching email also searches Buzz items.  Gmail’s ability to quickly search your email items is one of it’s best features.  As of this morning, search results included Buzz results.  Not good.  Google should be able to fix this (and there may already be a filter for it).  But the default search should exclude Buzz results, or Google should simply include a button to select the content to search.
  • Buzz to email.  Some users have already complained of being  inundated with email because Buzzes are going right into their inboxes (rather than into the separate Buzz location).  This is designed to happen when someone comments on your Buzz or sends you an “@ message” – so that you don’t miss it.  There should be an option to disable this feature.
  • Speaking of comments… everything in moderation, please.  This is not Twitter: people can comment on your Buzzes.  Sounds great, unless you follow someone like Robert Scoble or Pete Cashmore (of Mashable), then it’s WAY too much information.  A recent Buzz by Scoble elicited 100 “likes” and 145 comments.  Scrolling down through all those comments to the next Buzz took a while.  And I hate to say it, but a lot of those comments were meaningless blather.  Buzz needs a “show/hide” comments link (default view to hide) to avoid this.
  • Long posts: Again, this is not Twitter.  There is no 140 character limit on what you can Buzz about.  Scoble said he likes this, but I disagree.  Twitter has gotten us used to short messages.  140 characters may be too short, but I don’t want to read War and Peace in someone’s Buzz post.  Maybe there is a limit, but I couldn’t find it.
  • A butterfly?  (See the video) I get it, I get it: social butterfly.  But shouldn’t Google have used a bee or a hornet as the mascot?

As a preemptive strike, I’ll just say that the Google Buzz integration with Gmail had better not mess up my Gmail contacts!!!  There’s already enough frustration with that as it is.

That’s it – quick and dirty.  If you’re using Google Buzz, then let’s connect.  Find my Buzz information on my Google Profile.  I’ve also created a LinkedIn Group called Google Buzz where people can discuss it (in a less buzzy, old-school discussion- forum-type of way), so join that too.

So, what are your thoughts about Google Buzz?  Please comment below.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Since I’ll be discussing External Knowledge Management: Using Internet Resources to Your Advantage at LegalTech next week (see my post about it), I thought I’d share a new Google tool that can help.

Google Reader is not new, but Google just announced a new feature that allows you to follow changes to any website — even those that do not offer RSS feeds.

It’s simple: find the website you’d like to track, copy the URL into the “Add a subscription” field in Google Reader, then click “create a feed.”  I did it for my firm’s website’s articles page:

google-reader-create-feed1

According to Google: “Reader will periodically visit the page and publish any significant changes it finds as items in a custom feed created just for that page.”

Obviously, this is a great tool for keeping up with clients’ websites that don’t offer RSS feeds.  But even if a website has RSS feeds, you may want to set up the Google Reader tracker for parts of websites that the RSS feeds do not cover.  For example, if a company has a web page listing employees, it might not publish changes to that page with an RSS feed.  You can keep tabs on who joins or leaves the company by using this new Google Reader feature.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Summary: While Google’s new SearchWiki won’t be an immediate benefit to lawyers, it may help them understand the value of commenting on and promoting content, which may lead them to want the same functionality inside the law firm.

Google announced SearchWiki on November 20, 2008. Simply put, SearchWiki is not a wiki. It is an add-on to the standard Google search function that allows you to mark search results as favorites and make a free-form comments about the results.

How it works. After performing a Google search, you’ll notice that there are three new icons near each result: (1) “Promote” – a box with an arrow pointing up to a horizontal line, used to mark a search result as a personal favorite (2) “Remove” – a box with an X, used to remove the result from your (but not other’s) future search results and (3) “Comment” – used to make personal comments, that you and others can see, about the search result.

Google SearchWiki icons

Google SearchWiki icons

After promoting or commenting on a search result, that web page will rise to the top of your future search results for the same search or other search phrases that include the result.

Nothing new. SearchWiki is nothing new, and I wonder just how useful it will be. Other web search engines have done it before: see my post on Scour (a.k.a Aftervote), which has similar promote, demote, and commenting features. The problem with these feature-rich non-Google search tools, like Scour, is that they are not Google. It is far more likely that people will use and enjoy new features in Google than to use a lesser-known substitute, like Scour.

SearchWiki also allows you to see how many other people have promoted, removed, and commented on a search result. Just go to the bottom of a search result page and click the link that says “See all notes for this SearchWiki.” (You can also see all of your own SearchWiki notes and add a result to the search if you did not see what you were looking for – OK this may be helpful.)

searchwiki-other-features

See other people's SearchWiki comments

In the example below, search results for “Obama,” there are 296 notes. Among those, the first result indicates that 103 people promoted it, 15 removed it, and 37 commented on it. Google says that the changes that you make only affect your own search results, but it is unclear if a significant number of promotions and comments alter (or will in the future alter) the search result ranking for everyone.

Google SearchWiki results for "Obama"

Google SearchWiki results for "Obama"

What does this mean for law firms? Other than being a nifty way to enhance your Web searches, what’s the impact on law firms? Well, as for Google’s offering, not much. But there are enterprise-class offerings that give you similar features. And these features in the enterprise are more than just nifty — they can be downright helpful; making it easier for lawyers to find the high-quality internal content that they need.

Apply the SearchWiki concepts to the content of the various systems in your law firm and things get interesting. You could promote, demote, and comment on documents in your document management system. But, to make it really useful, the user activity would need to affect other user’s searches. This would help separate the really good work product from the so-so work product — in a decentralized, “democratic” way, as opposed to the single-gate-keeper approach to managing content.

Interwoven Universal Search (IUS) does all that Google’s SearchWiki does, and more – but rather than applied

Interwoven

Interwoven

to the Web, it works with your firm’s internal documents and other content. IUS allows users to promote and demote content (either through a star ranking system or a thumbs up/down procedure), and make comments. Comments are key because they allow lawyers to learn aspects of documents that cannot otherwise be ascertained from the documents themselves. For example, agreements never indicate, in their four corners, whether they are favorable to one party or another; a comment about an agreement can indicate this type of valuable information.

IUS goes further than SearchWiki by allowing tagging of content for quick, easy, and personalized classification. Users of the popular social tagging website Delicious will appreciate the utility of this feature. Finally, IUS allows users to save search results into virtual folders. This is handy if you want to make a personal collection of favorite documents, but still make them accessible to the rest of the lawyers in your firm.

So, while Google’s new SearchWiki may not have an immediate impact on the way lawyers think about managing their content, it may be a step in the right direction. If lawyers become familiar with promoting and commenting on web content, soon they may want to be able to do it with their internal content, as well. It’s yet another example of how consumer-based web tools are shaping the way law firms learn from, and take advantage of, innovative new technologies.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

ILTA – August 26, 2008 9:00 am

These are my notes from the program.  [Since I am taking paper-free notes and because there is free Wi-Fi here, I thought that I’d add the notes to the blog.  Disclaimer: my notes are rough, so forgive the typos.]

From ILTA:

Title: Recap of G100 CIO Event – Web 2.0 Focus

Description: Join the G100 CIO Advisory Board as they provide a recap of the G100 CIO event held on Monday, August 25 in conjunction with ILTA ’08.  The focus is “Web 2.0 – What It Means to Law Firms,” including a summary of what Rajen Sheth, Senior Product Manager for Google Apps shared with the group around the phenomenon of Web 2.0 in general.
Date/Time: 8/26/2008 9:00 a.m.
Location: Fort Worth 5,6,7
Speaker(s): Peter Lesser – Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP
David Rigali – Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP
Karen Levy – Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Peter Attwood – Simmons & Simmons

LawyerKM’s notes:

  • The panel recapped the G100 CIO Advisory Board meeting from 8/25/08
  • What is Web 2.0?
  • an aspect of collaboration rather than just web consuption.
  • structured vs. unstructured data – it may be ok to have multiple collaborators.
  • Is it different the Enterprise 2.0? – trying to take the concepts of web 2.0 and incorporate them in organizations.
  • At Mallesons wikis started with IT staff and now it is among the practice groups – someof the most prolific users are the more senior attorneys.  average age of partner there is 39 (is this a factor?)
    • Firm culture is important – some use DMS as a confidential repository, some have them open.  The latter may find wikis more acceptable. 
    • They has a client facing wiki.
    • They allow people to even restructure the wiki page.
    • Firms are not looking to IT to set it up.  It is very low cost. 
    • Use: from a practice group perspective, the wiki content was not a part of the record (i.e., the matter records) – the content is more practice-group related rather than matter related. 
    • Some fear contributions to wikis becuase they don’t want to be seen as having written something stupid.
    • The wikis are getting 1000 hits per day. 
    • Best adoption was in IP practice group.
    • In technology department they have a wiki page for their meeting agendas.
  • The panel was asked if they will use wikis.
    • Lesser said not now, but didn’t rule it out for the future.  It is a cultural thing.
    • Levy – there are ways to introduce it (admin first, perhaps) – find out where it fits.  It’s a tool and it may fit some problems, not others.
    • Attwood – has tried it in IT, some have worked, others not, agrees with Levy
    • Brandt – thought was – if it is “cheap to fail” why not try it. 
  • Question: what about blogging?
    • Lesser’s firm has a policy against it – presumably refering to external blogs (but there is one internal blog).
  • What about the fear of discovery (from a litigation perspective)?
    • Brandt – the stuff is still there (now it’s just in email and other electronic places) [great point - people need to understnad this!!].  Levy agreed. 
  • Google Apps (some of the notes below are beyond Google specifically)
    • idea is cloud computing and using Offie-style apps (like Word, email, spreadsheets, presentations) on Google’s servers. 
    • the price is fixed, the upgrades in functionality are frequent. 
    • Docs has full doc version control.
    • there is real time collaboration on documents.
    • Attwood was surprised how far forward Google is.
    • Lesser thought this was the most interesting topic.  Many in the room thought they might see this in the next 1-1.5 years.  It may be client driven (if a client adopts it, law firms may have to adopt it as well). 
    • The thought was to sit with Google to adjust it to make it legal specific.
    • The functionality is very far from the feature set that we are used to from Microsoft. 
    • Security seems to be there.  It is encrypted. 
    • Google allows you to tie in your own authentication methods
    • There was debate about whether firms are ready to give up all they have done in the last 10-15 years. 
    • Many firms are looking at getting away from a specialiszed approach and going for a more corporate approach.  Stop making and using customized applications and use more standardized applications.
    • The cost issue (often 1/10 of what the existing systems might cost) may be the thing that convinces partners to move away from the customized apps and go for more standardized apps.
    • The panel agreed that communicating with Google early on may convince them to focus on what they might be able to do to make it work for law firms.
    • A benefit to focusing on more out-of-the-box approach is that you can upgrade quickly. 
    • The panel plans to reach out to Google and others, like Microsoft, etc. to see how firms can move in this direction.
  • One take away
  • Levy – the dramatic gap in cost between the traditional approach and the new Google approach.
  • Attwood – this is moving much faster than he thought. 
  • Lesser – thinks that the whole cloud computing could work.
  • Brandt – There seems to be no real road map to the development of the products – it is based on user feedback, which is good.

It was refreshing to hear such forward-looking ideas on the panel. 

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

It is truly a David versus Goliath story. In this corner, little LawyerKM. In the opposite corner, gargantuan Google. But LawyerKM has won the fight over Google Sites.

Back in March when I learned that Google finally finished Googleizing JotSpot and made it into Google Sites, I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to check it out. But, to my great displeasure, Google made Sites a part of their Google Apps platform, and required that people “Sign up with your school or work email address.” I couldn’t sign up because I didn’t have a school email address and my employer didn’t allow such use of my work email address.

So, I wrote an An Open Letter to Google Sites and published it right here in this very blog. I demanded [read plead] that Google reconsider. I’d like to say that dozens of my loyal readers commented in support of my cause, but that would be a bit of an exaggeration. Only one person, Tim, supported me. (Thank you, Tim!)

Well, the gargantuan Google has finally come to its senses and agreed with little LawyerKM. Yesterday, Google announced that Google Sites is now open to everyone.

You’re welcome.

Watch the video… then go make a Google Site.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

Google Maps has integrated Wikipedia data. It’s a handy addition. In the normal map view, click the “more” button at the top of the map. It offers two selections: Wikipedia and Photos. Photos are nice, but the Wikipedia elements are great. Click Wikipedia and the map populates with several W’s. Click on a W and see a location-based Wikipedia entry. Try the interactive map of Manhattan, below (you can also try out the photos from here). Very handy when you are looking for something to do in a new city or vacation spot.

After only four days without Internet access, I am considering declaring RSS Bankruptcy. There are just too many RSS feed items in my Google Reader account, and I can’t keep up.

By now, most people have heard of e-mail bankruptcy: the act of starting over by deleting most (if not all) of the e-mail messages in your in-box and requesting that people resend messages if they are really important. It’s becoming pretty popular. Maybe the next version of Microsoft Outlook should have an e-mail bankruptcy button. Here’s an article about how venture capitalist Fred Wilson declared e-mail bankruptcy last month. His message was, “I am so far behind on e-mail that I am declaring bankruptcy,” he wrote. “If you’ve sent me an e-mail (and you aren’t my wife, partner, or colleague), you might want to send it again. I am starting over.”

I sympathize with Wilson. I know that I’ll spend most of the day playing the “e-mail catch-up game” when I return to the office after vacation. It’s stressful. But I feel an almost equivalent level of stress when I see that I have several thousand unread RSS items in my Google Reader account. There are close to a thousand items in my KM folder alone. Part of me wants to at least skim the items, but the other part wants to simply pretend they never existed. This is nothing new, really. I wrote about it last year in RSS Overload is the New Black. So, I should have seen it coming.

For now, I’m not ready for RSS bankruptcy. I’m just going to allow the items to accumulate, read some at my leisure, and really do nothing. (I know, it’s all very Zen.) If I miss something, it’s OK. I’m sure someone will re-blog it and I’ll see it eventually. Or maybe I’ll see it on Twitter, or maybe in my FriendFeed wrap-up email. Or maybe I should follow Tim Ferriss’ lead and outsource my RSS reading, the way he outsources his e-mail. Or maybe… it just doesn’t matter.

How do you deal with RSS overload?

Update: One thing that will help is Google’s new Google Reader application for the iPhone, which is still in beta. Read about it on Lifehacker. The previous version was pretty good, but it was clearly a “light” version of the full web-based RSS reader. The new version more accurately resembles the full version. Very handy.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

With most of my time devoted to knowledge management at a law firm, I often forget about my own needs. I’ve got a lot of digital stuff in various silos that could use the KM treatment. At home, on my iMac, it’s not a problem because I have Spotlight. I can find just about anything on my iMac pretty quickly. But I have a lot of stuff on the web – and it’s not all that easy to find. Off the top of my head, here are some of the web applications that I use frequently:

  • Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail (multiple accounts), iGoogle, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Reader, Upcoming.org, Meetup.com, WordPress, Digg, Delicious, Twitter, Netvibes, Picasa, Mac Web Galleries.

In the Google applications alone, I have a lot of pretty important information. My Gmail contact information is more up-to-date than my Outlook contacts at work.

In some ways — on a smaller scale, of course — I have the same problems as a large enterprise: there’s a lot of information and no easy way to find it. If I am looking for contacts, for example, I can go to Gmail, LinkedIn, or Facebook. But, I have to go to each and search them individually. And with new web applications popping up all the time, it’s only going to get worse.

I need a search engine for the enterprise called “me.” One search box that will tap into all of my online silos. Clearly, Google should be the one to offer such a solution.

Google already has Google Custom Search, which allows you to build a search box that searches specific sites to the exclusion of others. Several KM folks have written about Custom Search. See here, here and here [Doug, I think there's a KM blog missing from your KM Sites Search list ;) ].

So, Google, let’s take Custom Search one step further: maybe call it “Personalized Custom Search” or “iCustom Search” or “Self Search.” Give me the ability to search all of my web apps in a secure, password-protected way. One search that hits all of my web apps. So, when I do a search for my business contact, “Jim Smith,” the results include emails to and from Jim, pictures of Jim that I tagged in Picasa (and in Facebook), a Google Map that shows me where Jim’s office is (based on the information in my Gmail contacts), Jim’s LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, the activities that Jim will be attending from Upcoming.org and Meetup.com (because he is tagged as a friend), his Twitter posts and Delicious tags, etc., etc.

While you’re at it, please make an advanced search page that allows me to select or un-select certain web apps. Now, is that too much to ask?

By the way, I created the image with Gliffy. Check it out.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management, Technology & Social Media for Lawyers and Law Firms

Since everyone seems to be so interested in innovation at Google, here is a YouTube video that I found entitled (you guessed it) “Innovation at Google.” It’s a presentation by Google CIO Douglas Merrill.

Enjoy.

LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms

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