When I moved to Seattle and began working at LexBlog as a full-time Account Manager in the summer of 2013, one of the first things I began doing was organizing my inbox in a way that would let me easily find a certain class of questions  and answers. This was primarily because at that time, LexBlog had no central repository of documentation for publishers using our platform. In this world, questions were a dime a dozen, but answers were in short supply or trapped in the brains of long-time LexBlog employees. Fortunately, the same or similar questions would come up time and time again, and each new question would get tagged and organized in a way that let me find it and other similar questions so that the next time it came up, the answer was just a few clicks away.

This might seem like a product piece for Gmail (it’s not, but Gmail sure is swell!), but far from it. This was an onerous, time-consuming process for all parties involved. On my end, my inbox was a mess, with emails from dozens of customers every day asking me how to do something when just the day before a colleague of theirs at the firm had asked the same question. Meanwhile, our customers were wondering how to do something and, finding no resources at their disposal, would email yours truly and wait patiently for a reply. When an employee at a firm would leave, someone new would take on the responsibility of managing the site and have to relearn everything on the fly.

We made it through those days through the power of fantastic employees who were truly dedicated to answering questions thoroughly and with a smile on their face. LexBlog is a company that prides itself on providing top-notch service and support, and it was (and still is) a necessity to be quick, nimble, and thoughtful, but things have gotten considerably better over the years.

Continue Reading A New Set of Tools for LexBlog’s Support Center

Tools is a blog series on various tools we use in the office to help us accomplish our task.

For the inaugural post of Tools, I’d like to feature an app that’s frequently used here at LexBlog: Integrity

Integrity is a link checking app for Mac that’s been used by LexBlog for many years. Whether it is launching a new blog or migrating an old one, we use Integrity to check for broken links, images, attachments, and etc. Although with the improvements implemented over the years the number of broken links or objects have decreased significantly, we still run Integrity checks for all launches. Let’s face it, broken images or links are simply unprofessional.

The results Integrity returns are quite straightforward: the link text, the link’s address, where it’s found, and the type of error (if any). And you can sort them by link, page, status, or just view everything at once with flat view. Those who prefer doing more analysis with the results can exporting into a .csv or .xlsx file.

Something to be mindful of when using Integrity is to find an optimal setting for the number of threads you would like to crawl at once; the higher it is the faster the sooner the task will be completed but it also increase the likelihood of false positives (links not loading due to server’s limited capacity) or IP address being flag as malicious attacker. As such, You’ll need to play around and find the optimal threads setting.

So, if you need to check broken links or objects, give Integrity a try. If you use Integrity already, how you like it?

Kevin O’Keefe’s schedule over the past year has been filled with travel to such interesting locations. Speaking engagements, meetings, and conferences in London, Amsterdam and New Orleans etc.

As a lover of travel I must say I was a little jealous when an instant message from Kevin popped up telling me he was enjoying the pub culture in London and in particular the beer.

Kevin’s visit to Amsterdam was of particular interest to me as it is absolutely one of my favorite places in the world.

Upon his return from far flung locales Kevin will often stop by my office to chat about his latest trip. I’m always curious to know if he had a chance to go to this or that museum etc.

What he invariably talks about is the people he has met and how they inspire him.

This week through a FaceBook live interview that Bob Ambrogi and Kevin did with Kate Fazio, I too was inspired. She is a woman who has transitioned from the corporate world to further the mission of Justice Connect, an NGO that provides legal assistance to people and other NGO’s. She was inspired by how the use of technology could efficiently provide help to more people and also help people to help themselves.

I was inspired by how Ms. Fazio was using technology but more than that, I was inspired by the mission of Justice Connect. As someone who spent many years working for what was predominantly a criminal defense law firm I know that there is a justice gap.

Take the case of David Milgaard who spent 23 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. I was so proud of the lawyers I worked with who spent untold hours/years to get justice for David. I still remember the happy day it was announced that he would be released.

Sadly the case of David Milgaard is not an isolated one. Organizations throughout the world are working to close the justice gap and young women like Kate Fazio are out there making a difference.

Thanks to Bob and Kevin for interviewing Kate Fazio. She inspires me. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

One of the drastic changes for LexBlog Design has been a move away from the use of graphics programs for the creation of web layouts to live designing inside the browser using Apple Fritter.

This past week I had the opportunity to live design the Real Lawyers blog with Kevin O’Keefe. The joy of this process is that it’s not weeks to delivery but a few hours and we were “live” with a new look. This method is not random erratic design rather, a thoughtful intelligent creation built on what we’ve learned over the past 15 years and woven into our digital publishing platform. The benefits of this approach are numerous:

  • Instant Results — We can immediately see our font, color, and layout choices on desktop and mobile views
  • Quick Corrections – We can make on-the-fly adjustments vs going back into Photoshop
  • Truthful Presentation – There will always be a disconnect between what we make in Photoshop and what we actually see online
  • Real Content – We can see how our new design interacts with our content on desktop and mobile views and we can make quick adjustments
  • Remove Captivity to old Design – We can be more agile to make design updates as our focus, branding, or preferences change

The exciting thing about Apple Fritter is the power to create can be yours. Pick a starter design, upload your logo, choose your fonts, colors and start blogging!

JavaScript wrangling has been among the most controversial topics in front-end development for a long time now. It’s right up there with tabs vs spaces and french press vs pour over. Here’s how we do at LexBlog in all current and foreseeable projects.

The Global Object

We kick off a plugin/theme JS file with a global that is namespaced for that project, containing handy functions used throughout.  Example:

Continue Reading How We Boilerplate our JavaScript

I decided to start a series about things I wanted to communicate to our clients or really cool things that I thought they should know.  In my first post, Things I wish clients knew about LexBlog, I shared our story of moving from a custom blog/website building agency to a Software as a Service platform – but what does this mean?

Does LexBlog still build blogs?

The short answer is yes but this process has changed dramatically and (in my opinion) for the better!

The old blog creation process involved a Photoshop PSD file, and while this file had layers of imagery and elements, it wasn’t a website, it was just a static image. This image is passed back and forth multiple times with critiques and changes – sometimes this process would take months. Then once the PSD specs were approved, THEN we build a custom website.

If any readers have ever built a custom website from scratch (from a  mockup image) you know this process is lengthy, challenging, and in the end very costly for all parties. The real challenge with this process was translating a flat image into a dynamic, functional, real website.

Apple Fritter is our solution for live website creation

Our Apple Fritter software is a different approach to creating a website – we have built an extensive live website design software using the WordPress core customize.php. This allows us to create your design on a live website real time meaning we can make design changes and present you with your blog in a matter of days!

Gone are the days (or months) of lengthy custom website projects – we’ve built a tool for building a blog or website, no PSD mockups required.

 

I was reminded of a meeting yesterday with my COO, Garry Vander Voort, while watching the College Football National Championship game last night.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban changed quarterbacks at halftime of the National Championship Game.

Alabama couldn’t get anything going in its runing game in the first half. Trailing Georgia 13-0, Saban went into the locker room, huddled his quarterbacks together and said we’re going with Tua in the second half – and may rotate back in our starter. Nothing more.

Changing quarterbacks is not unusual in its own right, but Tua Tagovailoa was a 18 year old freshman who hadn’t played a meaningful down in college football. The starting quarterback had won 25 of 27 games he started. Now Tua’s going to replace him to lead Alabama, the pregame favorite, back to win a championship.

Why the change? A quick gut feel by Saban that Alabama needed to pass in order to win. Their power running game was being shut down by Georgia and Tua was a better passer. Simple as that.

Tua threw two touchdown passes, including a walkoff bomb to another freshman in overtime to win the National Championship. A play after he got sacked for 16 yards,  a play so dumb Saban said afterwards Tua wouldn’t have been capable of throwing the game winner had he been able to get to him.

A ten minute gut decision by Saban won Alabama the game. Saban’s sixth national championship, tying him with legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most championships in college football history.

Yesterday afternoon, Garry and I were talking about LexBlog’s evolution to a publisher. By curating the contributions of legal bloggers worldwide, LexBlog would become the world’s largest source of legal news and information. Bob Ambrogi inspired both of us, big time.

Historically,  LexBlog only curated LexBlog client blog publications — blogs running on our WordPress managed platform. Recently we’ve had talk of including non-LexBlog platform blogs at a cost of $50 per month. Turns out many legal bloggers were paying far for syndication and this was considered a steal by folks contacting us.

But as Garry and I talked, such payments ran into credibility problems. Largest legal news source, but only from contributors who paid?

Also had problems with growing fast. Getting people to take money out of their pocket and to put it in yours is not always easy. We’d never get all the good law bloggers and it would take a lot of time and human resources to get those we did get.

It complicated things too. LexBlog does a lot of free work for non-profits, law schools, and legal tech organizations. We would want all of their blogs, whether on our platform or not, to be included at no cost. Boy, was that going to get gray as to who’s free and who’s not. Who gets billed and who doesn’t is a mess for accounting.

I also saw more revenue opportunities by being inclusive and much bigger, faster. More relationships. More sales of existing products,. Sales of new products and solutions.

Why get bogged down on a smaller revenue items when not charging frees up time to get after large revenue.

In less than five minutes, Garry and I went with our gut. Every legal blogger (real bloggers) will be curated at LexBlog at no cost. Credibility, simplicity, growth and a big goal on the horizon – world’s largest legal news and information site by curating the contributions of legal professionals world-wide. Totally in line with Ambrogi’s thinking.

Neither Garry or I are Nick Saban. But if a guy who’s won as many titles as anyone can go with his gut on a national stage, why not us?

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the net neutrality regulations created during the Obama administration. These regulations were put in place primarily to stop internet service providers (ISPs) from engaging in discriminatory practices against online services/companies (a common example is Comcast manipulating the availability of Netflix – slowing it down – for its customers until Netflix paid the ISP for better speeds). They also had the delightful side-effect of ensuring that the United States would not see the cable-TVization of the internet, similar to what you see in countries like Portugal who have no net neutrality rules:

This move from treating the internet like a utility (like water or power) that all American citizens can access without the typical market concerns, to a commodity is concerning for consumers and businesses alike. When the vote was finalized a few weeks ago, one of LexBlog’s internal Slack channels came alive as we tried to parse through what this could mean for publishers and small businesses.

Continue Reading What Does Net Neutrality Mean for Digital Publications?

A post on Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog has propelled many a legal startup to success.

People have approached me at conferences asking if I know Bob Ambrogi — as if he were some sort of rockstar. I have seen other folks approaching Bob at legal conference receptions wanting to introduce themselves and a co-founder.

They’re all hoping to get Bob to cover them and their company at LawSites.

In addition to tech driven aggregation and curation of blog posts by niches, there may be some low tech ways of shining a light on law blogs and law bloggers.

Maybe it’s individual pieces on blogs and bloggers. Years ago, LexBlog ran a Talk of the LexBlogosphere. Rob La Gatta interviewed bloggers on and off the network. Some of the bloggers weren’t even lawyers. The goal was to inspire people to blog by highlighting great bloggers.

We ran top 10 blogs of the day. This was started by Rob La Gatta after we discussed how the website, Fark, highlighted a 100 or so news stories a day for community comment. That’s been pared to once a week, but is still much appreciated by network members — especially so by those included.

With Ambrogi on board and moving to a publisher status, there may be some “easy” ways to shine a light on bloggers and blogs which we may be missing.

Looking in to stories, interviews, lists of posts, list of blogs with descriptions, niche publications and the creative use of social media we may find some low hanging fruit.

Rather than a marketing company or a company selling marketing solutions, why not create a publication?

A publication that builds a legacy brand. A publication that carries on for years, the way we have seen newspapers, magazines and trade journals do for decades — until the net.

LexBlog was started as a company that “built blogs for lawyers.” The blogs were and are used by lawyers and law firms for marketing. Marketing in the sense that one built a name and relationships from blogging.

What if LexBlog were a publication with contributors as lawyers looking to market themselves – to build a name and build relationships.

Publishing models founded on paying reporters and editors and selling advertisements for revenue are failing. But what if as opposed to paying contributors, they paid you?

Not a lot, maybe $50 per month (unless you are looking for more). Why would they pay? For the same reason thought leaders write for the Harvard Business Review, Forbes and Bloomberg.

But here, all of the contributions, in addition to being published in LexBlog, would be published and archived on independent publications/blogs with a title, branding and domain in the name of the respective contributor(s).

Unlike other publishers and distribution services, canonical tags would tell search engines that this independent publication/blog serves as the original or primary site and that the piece on LexBlog is a duplicate.

The model would include satellite publications so that contributors’ pieces could be published in niche publications, such as Pharmaceutical AI or Michigan State University Law Today (alumni, professors, students).

LexBlog as a publication would exist not to shine a light on itself, but to shine a light on its contributors.

The publication exists to intelligently and professionally aggregate for ease of reading and discovery. Editors will curate and display/report contributions of value. It’s not a pay for play.

Just thinking out loud here. Am I nuts?