Can Digg help lawyers?
Digg is social networking / social bookmarking / collaboration website that displays content submitted by its users. Once content (in the form of a news story, website, video, etc. — anything with a URL, really) is submitted, other users can “digg it” or “bury” it by clicking on the appropriate link. Digging content elevates it and when “a submission has earned a critical mass of Diggs, it becomes ‘popular’ and jumps to the homepage in its category.” (See, Digg.com/how). Basically, it’s a popularity contest for stuff on the web. The site started out with categories such as gaming, music, technology, and Apple — to appeal to the young techie crowd. It has since expanded to include six main topics: technology, science, world & business, sports, entertainment, and gaming; and several sub-categories.
What’s in it for me? In addition to the proud feeling of peer validation that comes when you see people digg stuff that you submitted (there is a digg counter that shows the number of diggs),
you can keep up with what is popular in categories of interest by clicking on links that show you the most popular content in the last day, week, month, or year (believe it or not, the announcement of Apple’s iPhone ranks only second in the last year – check out Digg to see number one). This could be a real time-saver if you don’t have time to read all the good stuff that’s out there. Let the power of the crowd work for you to vet the stories.
But, Can Lawyers Digg It? So how can these social bookmarking concepts help lawyers? In the microcosm of a law firm there is a lot of content — some good, some not so good. On your document management system (DMS) alone, there are probably millions of documents. Some of those (thousands?) may have made it to your collection of models, samples, forms, “best practices,” etc. — if you have such a collection. If you’re lucky, then your firm has a work product retrieval system, like RealPractice, Lexis Total Search, or West km (and maybe an enterprise search system like Recommind). So, you can find what you need, but is it a good piece of work product?
Unless you have a small army of KM staffers, Practice Support Lawyers (PSLs), or attorneys with too much time on their hands, it’s unlikely that anyone will manually vet the firm’s work product to give it the thumbs up or down.
RealPractice has employs a feature that approaches what Digg does, but it only allows a single tag that designates “best practices” documents. There is no voting to elevate the popularity of the document — more like a monarchy than Digg-style democracy. One issue that the RealPractice model raises is: Who determines whether a document is worthy of “best practice” status? The author? Practice group leaders? Anyone?
A Digg-style voting system would allow lawyers to passively tell other lawyers that certain documents are valuable. Would this pose the risk of hurt feelings (“Why doesn’t anyone like my model document?”) or worse yet, stuffing the ballot box, bribes, or campaigning to gain document popularity? We KM people only wish lawyers would be so enthusiastic about participating in KM activities.
The bigger challenge is to get lawyers to click on the Digg button. One incentive is that doing so remembers the documents that you Digg. The result is social and personal: You have cast your vote (helping others), and you get a handy list of documents that you have voted for — sort of a personal KM system — that you can reference later.
Even better would be an “auto-Digg” feature; a system that elevates the popularity of documents based on the number of attorneys who access them, the amount of time it is open in a word processor, or the number of times it is copied. What about: who accesses the document? Should a two votes be cast if a partner (or her secretary) opens or copies the document?
Social tagging may have a place in law firms, but how much value will it really add? Is developing a such a feature worth the effort? And is it even necessary?
LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management for Lawyers and Law Firms.