Photo of Jared Sulzdorf

Jared is a maker of things at LexBlog. He likes pretty things, functional things, funny things, food, and WordPress. Not necessarily in that order.

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

A company’s website can be an amorphous thing. A place that tries to be something to everyone that visits.

Most product-based websites are attempting to sell you something. Whether that’s a dream, a physical object, a service, or a piece of software the goal is to take you from visitor to lead to customer. This

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, LexBlog used Get Satisfaction to manage our knowledge base and community portal (then named “Reach”). The implementation was clunky, requiring users to create dual user profiles on their sites and inside this other application. Moreover, there were no ties between the content in the knowledge

Maintaining a network of over 1,000 blogs can sometimes feel a bit like digital farming. Much of my time is spent identifying bugs to squash in various repositories, managing projects along to completion, and reviewing platform statistics in preparation for the next round of customer interviews (the “weeding”, “shepherding”, and “flock tending” of product management).

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. Those same great employees still exist, but our systems and knowledge management tools are considerably different.


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

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?

At LexBlog, we manage a lot of sites with a small (but mighty!) team. While we carefully introduce new features on a regular basis through a combination of automated and functional tests, it’s much easier to trust the process (any Philadelphia 76ers fans out there?) when your team is responsible for writing that functionality. However, as LexBlog’s platform is built on WordPress and includes a variety of third-party plugins not written by LexBlog’s product team, we’re often put in a position to introduce new code to the platform without having the luxury of reading each line. In fact right now, we’re preparing for a core update now that WordPress 4.9 has been out long enough to see a security release added to the initial point release.

In our line of business, this is fraught with peril as not all sites are created equally (meaning they often run different bodies of code) and the standard at LexBlog is high where a few pixels of change is cause for concern. So how do we do it?


Continue Reading How We Update WordPress (and Third-Party Plugins) at LexBlog

One of the things that I’m proudest of at LexBlog is our commitment to using WordPress for everything we deliver to our clients. The WordPress open source project’s mission statement – to democratize publishing – aligns with LexBlog’s goals to democratize legal publishing, and aligns with my personal philosophies to make the web accessible to those that can add value to the world’s largest conversation (the internet).

The past two years of the State of the Word have been largely the same. In 2015, Matt Mullenweg called upon a community of PHP developers to learn JavaScript deeply while pushing RESTful APIs as the future of WordPress development. In 2016 this focus was carried over as JavaScript continued to eat the web and major components of WordPress’s REST API were folded into core.


Continue Reading WordPress Marches on with 2017’s State of the Word