I joined LexBlog in January with the goal of helping it launch a global news and commentary network based on content from legal blogs. In furtherance of that goal, we announced in April that we are opening participation in the network to all legal blogs, without cost and without regard to whether the blog is a LexBlog customer.

Since then, I’ve been wrestling with a thorny question: Are there legal blogs that we should exclude from the network and, if so, what standards should guide us in deciding which to exclude?

There are two sides to this issue.

On one hand, I am a First Amendment purist. I believe that lawyers who blog should have complete editorial freedom and discretion to write about whatever they want. To be clear: LexBlog exerts no editorial control over the content of the posts you read on LexBlog — they are solely the product of the lawyers and firms that publish them. 

On the other hand, we are creating an editorial product that we hope will provide value to readers. To accomplish that, we aspire to adhere to editorial standards befitting our readership. While we would never be involved in the content of specific posts, we can exercise discretion in the selection of blogs that participate in our network. 

To my mind, providing editorial content of value means, among other things, excluding blogs that are primarily spam. Of the blogs that have applied to join our network so far, we have rejected at least two because they struck us as overt spam with no editorial value.

You’ve all seen these kinds of lawyer blogs. They are loaded with SEO keywords about accidents and victims, followed by a call to action to hire an “experienced (fill-in-the-blank) lawyer.”

But I am also noticing a grey area of blogs that walk a fine line between marketing spam and legitimate content.

Editorially, legal blogs are two-headed creatures. They are valuable vehicles for publishing legitimate news and commentary. But they are also, in most cases, marketing tools designed to increase exposure and draw in business.

Whether explicitly or not, almost every blog post written by a lawyer is meant to send the message, “Hire me!” Relatively few legal blog posts cross the line into pure spam, but the majority of them are marketing, even if subliminal.

Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote of obscenity, “I know it when I see it.” As someone who has spent most of my career in publishing and journalism, I can say the same about spam.

But, in fairness to those who submit their blogs to us, can we define an explicit standard to guide our acceptance or rejection? Where do we draw that line?

I asked the editors of the ABA Journal whether they apply any criteria to screen the blogs they include in their Blawg Directory, which lists more than 4,500 law blogs. Sarah Mui, assistant managing editor (Web), said that they do not apply quality criteria. She primarily checks that it is, in fact, a law blog, and that it is active.

The closest they have to “quality” criteria, Mui said, are those that they apply when accepting nominations to their annual Blawg 100:

  • We’re primarily interested in blogs in which the author is recognizable as someone working in a legal field or studying law in the vast majority of his or her posts.
  • The blog should offer insights into the practice of law and be of interest to legal professionals or law students.
  • The majority of the blog’s content should be unique to the blog and not cross-posted or cut and pasted from other publications.
  • We are not interested in blogs that more or less exist to promote the author’s products and services.

That last bullet begs the very question I’m wrestling with. In the end, perhaps the only workable standard is no standard, but rather to rely on the “I know it when I see it” exercise of editorial judgment and discretion.

I would love to hear from you. Should there be an explicit standard for accepting or rejecting law blogs as part of our network? If so, what should it be? When does a blog cross the line from editorial legitimacy to objectionable spam?

In another era, I would be an Excel jockey; instead, my true love is Google Sheets.

As Scott Fennell and I have continued to hammer away at working on the new LexBlog.com, my eyes have gone red staring at more spreadsheets in Google Sheets than I’d care to admit. I’m using these spreadsheets for two reasons:

  • Validate that the shape of the data on our test aggregation site (i.e., the future LexBlog.com) matches the shape of the data on each test source site (i.e., all of the client sites that we manage)
  • Derive some understanding of the organization of things on the current LexBlog.com

The reason I’m using Google Sheets for all this is simple: It’s fast, easy, and requires very little from me to maintain the approach.

Continue Reading How We’re QA’ing The New Aggregation Engine of LexBlog.com

Happy national donuts day! On a day dedicated to donuts, it seems fitting to write my first post in a blog about donuts. To stick with the donut theme, I’ll be dedicating this post to a favorite GIF emoji on the LexBlog team: Donut Parrot.

The Donut Parrot!

When we have a moment to take a break from our ticket queues, many of us at LexBlog like to virtually congregate in our team chat feeds to share jokes, interesting articles, solve problems and of course – send lots of emojis! Since we’ve added Slack as our team chat app, we’ve accumulated a sizable collection of GIF based custom slack emojis. As a company of donut enthusiasts, the donut parrot is one our most frequented emoji choices. Along with donut parrot, a few other parrot emojis have been pretty popular on our slack channels as well.

 

 Meet fiesta parrot.

 

And my favorite, coffee parrot!

 

Apparently we’re not the only ones who appreciate parrot based GIF emojis. Brittany Levine Beckman shared a story in Mashable about how the Cult of the Party Parrot GIFs have taken the internet and tech company Slack channels by storm.

There’s something hypnotizing about the quirky emoji that’s gotten humans to spread his gospel far and wide. He can be found on Slack, Reddit, t-shirts, in programming terminals, in an Android mobile game, and iMessage (there’s an app). You can even turn all the images you see online into party parrots with a Chrome extension – although it’s not a good look.

 

As silly as it may seem to write a post about GIFs and emojis, it’s undeniable that sharing a good GIF can add some humor to someones day and lighten the mood. I’ve definitely appreciated seeing the latest additions to the LexBlog GIF collection. In the spirt of Donut Parrot, have a happy Friday and donut day. Go treat yourself to a good maple bar, or a funny new GIF!

Today is National Donut Day, and its been a quiet support day for the Success team, probably because everyone is looking for free donuts. In all honesty, I’m happy for the less chaotic days of summer so I can focus on longer term goals I have at LexBlog as well as reflect on the past and focus on the path forward.

Today is a life changing day for my family and I because we are moving into our first home as homeowners today. I know what you’re thinking, you bought a house in Seattle?? Isn’t the market there crazy??

Yes. It is.

Our journey began in December of 2017 when we met our agent wandering an Amazon campus looking for clients. Little did we know that our meeting would turn into 4 months of non-stop house visits, hours of daily research, hours driving neighborhoods, and hundreds of open house visits. Luckily, with our hometown advantage and a very early start in studying the Seattle market (we started seriously researching in November 2017) we only had to spend every weekend (all weekend) searching until our offer was accepted on April 1st 2017. With our rent-back period now over per our agreement with the old owners, we are finally moving into our home ending our 6ish month journey.

Getting your foot into the door in a real estate market like Seattle is definitely a battle, but looking back on the journey I’m happy we went to bat.

A huge thanks goes to our wonderful agent Marissa Natkin of Keller & Williams whose expertise, patience, and advice helped us find our dream home in a crazy, competitive, market. Also to my partner for keeping me going when I wasn’t sure if I could take anymore, and to my colleagues at LexBlog for cheering me on and listening to me talk about the housing market for the past 6 months.

Onward!

Just like donuts there are many preferred methods of customer service, as to what is most effective, company standards, the outlook and end result. What one persons view of successful customer service may be a complete fail to another’s, like a jelly donut. “Who in their right mind enjoys jelly donuts?”

Everybody in their lifetime has held a position that involves customer service, wither you were working retail focusing on a customer by customer basis or as a member of a customer service team to a broader audience. You maybe even give yourself a team name, the Success Team sounds pretty cool! With years and years of experience within customer service you may think to yourself that there’s never really anything new to pick up…make sure your customers are receiving the service you are able to provide and when something isn’t within your companies scope, to apologize and hope they aren’t too upset.

I guess the point of this post wasn’t to go into a step by step self improvement guide on how to better your career in customer service. More so that there is always room for improvement, something new to learn, a different angle or vision towards what you may believe to not be satisfactory but outstanding customer service. With our customer service, or “Success Team!” here at LexBlog we have had a reading assignment of late….”Raving Fans” by Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles. It’s a nice excuse to take 30 or so minutes on a sunny day to get outside and have a read while improving your career and yourself as a person…Oh yeah! The sun is back out. I’ll take this opportunity to insert a quote, “If you want to shine like a sun, first burn like a sun.” – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

There were many segments of this book that were appealing, some self explanatory while some being a positive reminder how much more we can offer each day. My favorite being the “last secret” revealed in the story being “Deliver Plus One”. To know that attempting to make a change drastically and expect immediate improvement in any aspect of life is setting yourself and your expectations up for failure. The thought of improving 1% a day is something that stood out to me in this book not just for a role in customer service but just life in general.

Finding just one task, goal, exercise to improve at a time sounds a lot easier than promising yourself a whole list of ideas towards growth. What can I learn to raise the service I provide to customers from good to outstanding? What can I study to make myself 1% better each and every day? So as this post can be work related, or just life and donut related, no matter how old or experienced any one person may be there is always different views to digest and room for growth in all aspects of life, even in something that may be viewed a simple and straight forward as customer service. I know one thing that makes customer service a little easier is being part of such a professional SUCCESS TEAM! WELP! ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND!

 

 

Our Head of Product, Jared Suldzdorf often says working at LexBlog.com requires wearing many hats. He’s not wrong, as a typical day may consist of dabbling in Business Development, Customer Support, and Design.

I spent part of my breaks in college doing administrative work for LexBlog.com, and I’m now just approaching my two year mark of working full time since graduating from college. The first year, I spent working as Business Development Coordinator, which consisted of researching inbound and outbound leads as well as prepping for meetings. I currently spend my time responding to technical support requests and launching blogs, but a regular old day may include things I’ve never done before.

Yesterday, I started with Technical Support Requests. The first request was due to the top navigation bar appearing as two lines. After investigating we found out it was happening because of the font kit ID. In the end, we had to confirm the client had registered the domains on fonts.com and ensured the site had the correct identification number from fonts.com.

In the afternoon, we had a “Sales Review Meeting” which is setup by our Business Development Manager, David Cuthbert. Our goal is to review an existing or potential client to figure out how we could better serve their needs. We run through their content on Jdsupra.com, Lexology.com, and firm site to determine if the quality and consistency of the content is worth exploring further. We also then look at any connections (professional and personal) in which we may have with the firm. Once done, we then review if the firm has any blogs, and what makes their blogs better or worse (typically).

In the evening yesterday, I spent my time “customizing” law school blogs for students. In the process, I design the site in a way that the colors of a school match the logo, buttons, and text. If you go to the site of any college, you will quickly notice that they’re using many shades of their primary colors, and often colors they wouldn’t otherwise use. So it is my responsibility to ensure the colors of a school, match the content and theme of the site, without taking away from it.

In the end, that was only three minor parts of my day. Next week, I’ll likely be launching and migrating blogs, as well as calling clients and prospective customers.

Growing up I have always wanted to go to Europe and visit some of their amazing attractions. Luckily for me LexBlog has an open PTO policy and my dreams are finally coming true!

This fall my girlfriend Molly and I will embark on our Euro trip.

Our plan is to fly into London since we found a non stop one way flight from Seattle for less than $400 which seemed like a very reasonable price to pay.  We will spend a few days in London checking out the must sees from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace and maybe even a wax museum.

From London we will fly to Athens then take a ferry to some of the Greek Islands like Mykonos and Santorini.

From Santorini our plan is to head to Italy to drink some fine wine and eat a ton of pasta. Some of the cities we plan to visit are Venice, Florence and Rome.

I am looking forward to seeing the sites such as the Vatican, the Colosseum and the Pantheon.

If you have any suggestions on must sees feel free to shoot me a note at david@lexblog.com

 

This is the format of an ideal blog post. The most important part of writing an ideal blog post is to, you know, actually write it. Your thoughts are brilliant, I’m sure, but when you keep them within your head you miss out on the discussions that your ideas could generate, that could subsequently help shape your own thoughts further.

The topic can be anything – if you look at our Top 10 in Law Blogs posts you’ll see the subject matter ranges from cryptocurrency regulation to a monkey selfie lawsuit. Sometimes, if you’re having trouble narrowing down a focus, or want to generate more attention with your post, it can help to write about something current in the news.

Well-written blogs are clear, concise, and don’t take too long to get to the point. The cool thing about blog posts is that they can be as long as you want them to be, or as short as you want them to be; an amuse-bouche of insight, or an entree analysis . If your blog is on the LexBlog network, and you want it to be on the front page, it may be good to write at least 250 words for your posts. We’ll put shorter posts on the front page, too though, especially if they’re covering breaking news.

Other tips for creating an ideal blog post:

  • If you’re having trouble getting all your ideas to flow, go ahead and use some bullet points!
  • Always include some sort of title image – it will show up when you share your post on social media, and a number of social media studies have shown that you get better engagement when you include images.
  • Read over your draft before you publish – typos, or other minor grammatical errors take away from your good writing and ideas.

Last but not least, the biggest key to writing good blog posts? Be consistent. Writing blog posts, much like anything else, can become habitual, but at the beginning you’re going to need to make a concentrated effort to push yourself to write with regularity. That consistency is worth it, though, because it’s key in building up your blog and your personal brand.

Donuts are such a big deal at LexBlog that we name our products after them. Apple Fritter is not just a sweet sticky treat to us. Heck this post is on donuts.lexblog

An interesting article regarding remote workers found its way into my Facebook feed yesterday about how remote workers outperform office workers.

The argument was made that remote workers were more productive than office workers. Remote workers also make better teammates and have fewer absences.
The article does makes a great case for working remotely and even makes the point that companies may be wasting resources on in-office perks. There is some truth in that but what about the donuts!!!!

When Josh sends out an email announcing the arrival of a sweet dozen from Top Pot everyone takes note and makes a mad dash for his office. Unproductive time or a fun break to get your daily sugar fix and have a brief chat with your fellow coworkers/donut junkies?

I think the jury will be out on working remotely for some time to come. It works well for some individuals and perhaps not so well for others. Some organizations will be able to accommodate employees who wish to work remotely while others may not.

At Lexblog some of our team live out of state, while others work remotely periodically throughout the work week. This kind of flexibility is just one of the things that makes LexBlog a great place to work. Flexibility, great coworkers, great customers and DONUTS!

Some years ago when I first interviewed with LexBlog, the CTO reiterated several times that he really wanted me to be fluent in plugins, in addition to themes. I knew my way around plugins generally, but I liked the vibe I got from the interview and I wanted the job to work out well, so I stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way home:

A career.

This book changed my working life profoundly. It’s no exaggeration to say that the reason I have a career, a home, a family, is this book. What’s funny too, is that it still holds up incredibly well. Very few concepts in these pages have fallen by the wayside or require significant updating in order to use today. I don’t think you can say that about many technology books.

I’ve probably recommended this book to dozens of people. My own copy is dog-eared and duct-taped. Recently when I moved my family from Alaska to Maine and was cutting down on my material possessions, this book made the cut. It traversed the western hemisphere!