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.

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.

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

If you host a great event but fail to post about it on social media, did the event actually happen?

Our CEO, Kevin, has written at-length about the importance of a social media presence for bloggers, specifically when it comes to Twitter.

Without a Twitter handle the person cannot see the recognition I gave them nor the recognition others gave them by retweeting or favoriting my tweet. With a Twitter account, the subject receives notice of the shoutout via an email and a Twitter notification.

The same is true when it comes to conferences and other events. You’ve expended time and financial resources to secure good speakers, but when you fail to post about the event on social media, you fail to fully capitalize on your investment.

Clio does a spectacular job with this, with their annual Clio Cloud Conference. They have a hashtag that they use on all posts that pertain to the event, and share quotes, pictures, and videos throughout the duration of the conference. Attendees join in, using that hashtag to talk about everything from an inspirational keynote speaker to the colorful socks they’re sporting that day. Through social media Clio is able to create a huge buzz around the conference- #ClioCloud9, their hashtag, was even trending on Twitter for the two days of the event this year!

But Clio’s a huge company, you may be thinking to yourself, there’s no way we could make things happen on that scale. But you don’t need to have a large company, world-renowned speakers, or hundreds of attendees to successfully share your event on social media. Here are a few easy-to-implement tips, regardless of the size of your event:

  • Create a hashtag, and be sure to use it whenever you post about the event. Attendees will see it, and use it in their posts too.
  • Post on social media throughout the event. This could be quotes from various speakers, a picture of the crowd at a panel, an interview with a high-profile attendee, etc. Tag them in the posts, and they’re likely to share it as well.
  • If possible, record your keynote speakers, and stream their speeches via Facebook Live. This allows others, who were unable to attend your event, to hear what your speaker has to say and increases the reach of your event.

These are simple steps, but social media coverage goes a long way towards expanding the reach of your event, and your organization itself.

Apparently, it was 50 years ago that the term “paperless office” was first used. While I haven’t been working quite that long, I do remember the days when everyone was espousing the benefits of the paperless office and how awesome that would be.

Wow we won’t need all those filing cabinets! We’ll save loads of money on paper – save a tree! Hell, we may not even need a printer. We’re going to save the planet!

I confess that I love paper. Nothing makes me happier than to wander around a stationery or office supply shop picking up various forms, file folders and notebooks.

I attend meetings with my trusted notepad and pen in hand. Alas I am the only one.

When I see the note at the bottom of an email asking me to consider the environment before printing I consider the environment before printing.

My office in the Dexter Horton Building was a shrine to my beloved paper. One four-drawer lateral filing cabinet, one two-drawer lateral filing cabinet, and one two-drawer filing cabinet. Each of them full of reports, spreadsheets, folders and invoices. Life was good.
Then the announcement came. Lexblog would be moving to WeWork. It’s an innovative new approach to the traditional office that would offer flexibility, a wonderful work environment with loads of great opportunity to network. It’s the future. Wow, there’s even free beer!!

What could be the downside?

WHAT!!!! I will need to scan 7 years of paperwork! There’s no room for all those file cabinets! The paperless office has to become a reality! I’m breaking out in a cold sweat! I don’t even drink beer!

Most of my coworkers picked up their computers and backpacks and happily moved to our new digs. I do often wonder what they carry in those overstuffed bags.

More and more furniture, fixtures and equipment is removed daily. My desk needs to go too. I remain as a lone figure with a scanner sitting at the only desk left in a vast open office space that was LexBlog.

It took a while but today I am very happy to be reunited with the other great members of the LexBlog team. WeWork is everything that it was promised to be and I am getting settled into my lovely new office with a window.

The paperless office has become more of a reality for me than it has ever been. My paper withdrawal symptoms are waning but it’s a process. What if the cloud bursts? There is still one smaller filing cabinet in my new office. It gives me comfort.

Buffer is a web and mobile application that enables users to schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

I’ve been using Buffer for years after people told me I was sharing some good stuff (other people’s posts and articles) on Twitter, but that a lot of it was coming out about midnight Pacific Time. Buffer enabled me to share posts as I was reading them, but to have them post to Twitter throughout the business day and early evening in ten minute increments.

Buffer has also been a good startup for me, as an entrepreneur, to follow. Co-founders Joel and Leo (left earlier this year) always looked for feedback, always listened to customers and always responded to support questions 24/7 – even before I moved up to the paid level. They’ve also been terribly innovative in new features and user communications.

Today, I got my “Social Media Report Card” from Buffer by email. Here’s the top portion.

Buffer social media report card

And the bottom portion. You can see I don’t use for Buffer for my LinkedIn and Facebook posts.

Buffer social media report card

I haven’t in the past paid much attention to Buffer report cards, and probably won’t now.

But I am intrigued by the simplicity of the information that’s easy to browse and compare week to week numbers. It’s this type of info that draws in the competitive types – like lawyers.

Could LexBlog have a user report card?

  • By firm, by blog or by author?
  • What would it include?
    • Number of posts?
    • Number of readers on he web?
    • Number of readers by email?
    • Number of readers by RSS?
    • Number of readers by social media?
    • Where have posts been shared?
  • What platform features have been used and not used?
  • How often would the report card come out? Weekly, monthly or weekly?

I am not sure what it would measure. Could be any number of things so long as the number is not too large.

One fear I have is that it may that could incentivize things that are not as important in blogging – numbers over quality through listening, engagement and a conversational tone.