WordCamp Seattle was this past weekend at the Washington State Convention Center, just a few short blocks away from LexBlog’s offices. This was my third WordCamp in four years and was a return to form (in my opinion) to the first WordCamp Seattle that I went to in 2014 (held at the University of Washington). 

Hot on everyone’s mind, and the subject of many talks, was Gutenberg, the new core editor coming to a WordPress install near you in just a few short weeks (recently, the timeline for the core update was pushed back to November 27th). In talking with various attendees, it was clear that sentiment was mixed on the introduction of Gutenberg and how it would impact their business, but there was also a palpable sense of excitement and interest around the project that I haven’t seen other major core updates garner (such as the Customizer or REST API). As I’ve said before, Gutenberg is a shot to the arm for the WordPress community, and that comes with pros and cons, but Thomas Jefferson was right:

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

By this I mean, shakeups in the status quo are a necessary part of any long-term project. If you’re not constantly evaluating and adapting, then you run the risk of stagnation. It’s more clear to me now that the benefits of Gutenberg extend beyond bringing a new technology stack to the table. It’s reengaged the community and brought content managers back into the fold as integral players in the conversation about what WordPress is and how it should move forward. At LexBlog, this is a conversation that’s near and dear to our hearts (as bloggers and managers of the largest legal blogging community in the world) and so it’s exciting to play our own little role as we map out an introduction to Gutenberg for our clients. 

As someone interested in what’s going on under the hood, I spent more time in technically-focused talks, but thoroughly enjoyed Andrea Zoellner’s talk on what Gutenberg could mean for the everyday writer. 

Like many pieces of technology, you have no idea what people will do with Gutenberg once it’s in their hands for an extended period of time. However, if her analogy holds and Snow Fall-esque (an interactive NY Times piece that set the standard for multimedia-driven articles) blog posts will eventually be achievable for the masses, then we’re about to enter a very interesting time for bloggers using WordPress. 

My other two favorite talks were from Alain Schlesser and Jon Peck.

Alain discussed how to change your way of thinking when interacting with Gutenberg, and honestly did a better job of it with his slides than with anything I could write here. The big takeaway for me was that as with all technology, there’s a path to sanity. It just might be a bit circuitous. If you’re looking for a less abstract breakdown, just go take a look at his slides! 

Meanwhile, Jon Peck (of Algorithmia) tackled a subject that is a big topic on my mind and was exciting to see someone in the WordPress sphere musing on it as well: Machine learning. For LexBlog, machine learning holds the keys to how we can effectively tag and organize content on LexBlog.com (which has over 400,000 posts and 150-200+ coming in every day). For WordPress, it could mean better ways to manage forums, create advanced applications, and continue to engage the broader engineering community. His talk was a shot in the arm and has me thinking about how to move forward on projects that include components of machine learning algorithms. His slides are also well worth the review, and there was also a fun WordPress plugin that he introduced that could be used as a scaffold for many different projects.  

In short, an incredibly fun and exciting WordCamp. Here’s to many more!

I’ve been at LexBlog for several weeks now and it has been more interesting than stressful. I have a simple job really. I have only been given one task: find all the blogs from all the attorneys in the United States. This seems like a daunting task, but for someone like me, it’s a massive logic puzzle, a game of Sudoku. I pride myself in finding things, anything really. It is a skill I have built over a decade of curiosity and education. So, you can see why I would jump at the chance to put my searching skills to the test. I would be asking myself “What is acceptable redundancy?”

In the last several weeks I have started and restarted “the master search” multiple times. My master search sheet, of which there are 3, has gone under building and rebuilding. It the first instance I focused on law practices by state. According to the Martindale database there are 386 law practices. That may just be how they narrow “practice” down, but there are definitely more. A search on Martindale for Alabama attorneys returns 54,339 practice areas with a total of 19,222 attorneys. My first problem was finding enough attorneys in a given practice. There may be more attorneys practicing child custody cases, but fewer child protection. For an outsider to law like myself, it feels like splitting hairs. The second problem was many attorneys are apart of firms and those firms cover multiple practice areas. I wanted to be specific; therefore, I needed to start from the beginning.

The second iteration of the master search focused on all states simultaneously, but focusing on a single practice. Using the 386 practice areas, this would result in 19,300 separate searches for all practices over all 50 states. The issue: some practices are not a focus in some states. While that may seem obvious, a genuine lack of maritime lawyers in Oklahoma, the problem was more complicated than that. It meant that law firms may define their law practice outside the definitions of Martindale and I already had my suspicions from the first iteration. It would also mean that I would be going over the same law firms over and over. I am a hard worker, but I’m not going to double, triple, or multiply my efforts times 386, if I’m not required.

I decided to make the ultimate filtering tool and go from there. I revised my second iteration and made an excel that would color coat across all states and all law practices based on a series of duplicates. Red text equals multiple states. Green background means websites with blogs in multiple practices. I think you get the point. This meant that I could cover every search without worrying about overlap. After a few hours, I realized I would again be covering the same firms over and over again. This process still did not resolve the multiple-practices issue. Not the best idea when time is valuable. I wanted to make every search meaningful and cut down on redundancies as much as possible.

My most current master search has lead me to using the most basic and simplified search. I went to the Alabama State Bar(ASB) and discarded Martindale. According to the ASB, there are 13,552 registered attorneys. Makes me think Martindale has some cleaning up to do with their 19,222 result. I went through each attorney,  copied their law firm, and did a basic google search for each firm. It took me an afternoon to go through 1800 attorneys. I found 438 law firms (removing companies, educational entities, and government entities). 287 of those firms had websites without blogs and 154 with blogs. 103 of those with blogs have written a post in the last year. This means that the ratio of attorneys to active blogs is about 1/18. The quality ratio is much lower, but for both those of good quality and poor. Most of the blogs are fairly typical. The amount of time in this process is so far the most ideal. Each lawyer could only ever be covered once and law firms were auto sorted to remove duplicates. I would save sorting by practice for a much later date.

Estimating my time, I should finish sorting Alabama attorneys to their firms in about 35-45 hours. The firms to their website with or without blogs should take another 40-50 hours. This process has been drastically cut down, but I’m sorting the sand from the flour. It is a task that needs to be done and should be completed. Especially if Lexblog ever intends to make bread with these blogs. It may seem like a tedious task, but the reality is much different. I have found some hidden blogs. I found blogs that only a person like me could find. They are tucked away in pages lost in the depths of a website. It is a great feeling finding these treasures. Some of these small blogs are fantastic reads and the authors could really add to the cannon. I hope I can bring these blogs the attention they deserve.

There is a long-running discussion at LexBlog about the benefits and perils of third-party solutions. This discussion has been going on for so long that if you look closely enough, you can find evidence of it in this A List Apart post from 2014 by our own Scott Fennell. This post, is also the subject of Scott’s WordCamp Portland Maine talk this year, so the battle clearly rages on (shameless plug for Scott/WordCamp Portland Maine here – he’s in some rarefied air with this speaker list!).

As with most things, I find my opinions on this subject to be complex. On the one hand, I’ve personally seen what happens when a site manager grows accustomed to a WordPress plugin only to see the support for it slowly fade as the developer (or company) behind it slows their involvement in supporting and managing the codebase. On the other hand, I’ve npm install‘d my way to freedom from more issues than I’d like to admit.

Today was a day where I was saved by a third-party solution. WP Crontrol, a plugin from John Blackbourn, is a handy tool that provides a user interface for CRUDing WP-cron events. Typically, the problems that plague the WP-cron elude us as WP Engine provides a true cron that we use on all of our environments to ensure that scheduled actions take place when our publishers (and us) expect them to. However, this isn’t a perfect solution as long-running crons can cause a bottleneck to appear at the top of the cron stack with those cron jobs stopping others from firing.  This is a pretty frustrating issue for someone that just wants their scheduled post to go live without worrying, and difficult to troubleshoot as cron events are held off in the database without a great way to manage them.

Enter WP Crontrol. After installing this plugin, I was able to easily see a list of cron events that clearly should have fired by now. After deleting the oldest cron, the rest cleared up in short order. 

Now, Mr. Blackbourn is a well-known quantity in the WordPress realm. We use his plugin Query Monitor regularly, he’s a core contributor, and works at Human Made, a highly-regarded WordPress agency. This is a far cry from the sorts of solutions that Scott or other members of the LexBlog product would typically have concerns about.

But where do you draw the line? As I eluded to above, npm is something I’ve grown accustomed to using, and many of those modules have dependency chains that stink to high heaven. LexBlog taps into a number of third-party plugins that are now a core part of our product offering. WordPress itself is a third-party solution that we have built our business upon. There is no escaping the power of these tools, and I wouldn’t want to even if I could. 

The trick, as Scott so eloquently puts it at the end of his post on A List Apart, is knowing when to leap into someone’s helping hands, and knowing when to take a stand:

It’s not that third parties are bad per se. It’s just that the modern web team strikes me as a strange place: not only do we stand on the shoulders of giants, we do so without getting to know them first—and we hoist our organizations and clients up there, too.

So look before you leap. It’s never as easy as just installing and forgetting. 

Unlike recent point releases, WordPress 5.0 represents a major shift both in the underlying technology and user experience. Some other releases stand out in my mind – 3.4 brought the theme customizer which is now the foundation for all the theme work done at LexBlog, 3.8 changed the look and feel of the WordPress administrative area, and 4.4 introduced a REST API into core – but this update dwarfs those and most others. 

For as long as I can remember, writing a post or updating a page in WordPress was done through the visual editor built on TinyMCE.  This experience has been a more consistent part of my life than anything else. I’ve changed jobs, left my home in Montana, made a new home in Seattle, and gotten married all while the WordPress editor remained unchanged. As of WordPress 5.0, that will change as the new Gutenberg editor replaces the traditional publishing interface. This means that we’ll go from the ubiquitous WYSIWYG editor:

The old TinyMCE as it appears on the LexBlog Platform currently

to one that looks like this:

And is based primarily on the notion of “blocks.” Every discrete piece of content (paragraphs, images, embeds, lists, blockquotes, etc) is considered to be a content block in Gutenberg.

As this is not a post that’s designed to be about the differences between Gutenberg and the current experience, I’ll skip over most of those details, but if you’re really interested, I’d advise visiting Testing Gutenberg where you can play around with a demo of the new editor.

The first inklings that the editor as we knew it was on its way out was January of 2017 when Matt Mullenweg (WordPress’s benevolent dictator/founder and Automattic’s CEO) posted on WordPress core’s development blog that the editor was a primary focus for that year. In the nearly two years since, the GitHub repository that hosts the current iteration of Gutenberg as a WordPress plugin has seen over 8,000 commits and 300 contributors. The team behind Gutenberg represents some of the most committed and talented WordPress developers, and more join the ranks of contributors every day.

Gutenberg has also been the subject of countless posts that vacillate between critique, praise, and everything in the middle. While the introduction of WordPress’s REST API was no stranger to controversy, the forward-facing nature of this change has opened the discussion to the entire community. The WordPress community has grown far beyond freelance developers and solo bloggers looking for an easy solution to setting up a site. It now includes small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, digital publications, e-commerce shops, newspapers, and countless agencies, plugin/theme developers, and entire marketplaces.

WordPress enjoys a marketshare unlike anything before it with 32% of the web and nearly 60% of all sites that use a known content management system relying on the open source project. If Facebook is the town square of the internet, WordPress is the roads and sidewalk, and like the roads and sidewalk of any city, if there are potholes or uneven edges, people will complain and complain loudly. Unfortunately, there is plenty to complain about with Gutenberg. Automattic’s accessibility lead just resigned amidst complaints that the project was leaving behind the central tenants web accessibility standards. The documentation of the APIs and ways to interact with the new editor are sorely lacking. The core team’s attempts to engage the community have been ham-handed at times.

The list of grievances against Gutenberg could go on and likely constitutes a post unto itself, but one thing is certain: Gutenberg is merging into core whether we like it or not. The only question left is when.

Practically, what does this all mean? Ultimately, that depends on your situation. Many site managers, agencies, and plugin/theme developers are scrambling to activate the Classic Editor plugin (which deactivates Gutenberg) to avoid the onslaught of hard conversations between them and clients as various pieces of functionality may break with the introduction of the new editor. Others are diving headfirst into creating new blocks and building entire themes around the experience. However, if you’re like the majority of website owners, the update will come as a surprise as one day (thanks to the curse and magic of automatic updates) the visual editor updates to Gutenberg. 

At LexBlog, this is clearly a huge deal. The vast majority of our clients interact with the post editor and only the post editor. We are, after all, a community of publishers. Fortunately, we’re also a company that’s built our platform on WordPress, and we take new technical developments quite seriously. Over the course of the past two years we’ve reduced the number of third-party integrations that touch the WordPress post editor, limiting the chances that a third-party solution that hasn’t updated to integrate with Gutenberg will cause an issue for our customers. We still have a few third-party plugins that interact with the post editor, but they’re among the most well-known plugins (such as Yoast) or developed by highly regarded individuals (Co-Authors Plus) and have already been updated to support Gutenberg.

For our own plugins and themes, we’ve gone through a multi-pronged approach of:

  • Front-end visual regression testing (just to be safe)
  • Extensive review of our codebase for integrations with the existing editor 
  • Functional testing to unearth issues

We’ve certainly found problems and are working to address them (or have resolved them already). Unlike many site owners, we’re fortunate to have a great team who are capable of finding problems, organizing them, and fixing them one by one. We’ve activated the Gutenberg plugin on our internal properties (including this one), allowing our entire company to get used to the new interface and find issues before our customers do.

We will also straddle the line that many are walking, only perhaps with slightly different motives. At LexBlog, we’ve long believed that our customers are not guinea pigs for new changes, but instead take a pragmatic approach where we allow the broader community of users and developers to find issues and solutions for such developments. This will be no different. While the proposed WordPress 5.0 schedule has targeted a November 19th launch date (with an alternate deadline where 5.0 is shipped January 22nd if some project slippage happens) LexBlog will delay the introduction of the Gutenberg interface beyond that, activating the Classic Editor plugin and working with our customers to slowly introduce the new interface. This should help eliminate confusion and give our authors a safety net for learning how to use Gutenberg. 

How exactly we go about this is still a work in progress. There are many of the pieces of the puzzle we’re still working on, and those pieces will shift and settle as the picture from the core WordPress team crystalizes. Until then, stay tuned!

The longer LexBlog has maintained a product discipline, the more disciplined I’ve tried to become in evaluating new ideas and business. This often puts me in the place of saying “No”, which, contrary to some popular beliefs, is not a word that I personally enjoy saying. I find it unlikely that anyone enjoys telling someone else that their idea is not worthy of working on immediately (or ever), but it’s a necessary part of running a product.

A product is (hopefully) not a compilation of random ideas. It is the final result of days, months, or years of hard work. It is rarely the thing you thought it would be when you first started building. While many beautiful products started as offshoots of a larger product and eventually became the product (think Instagram), even these are carefully defined as the team behind the product learns and responds to it’s users.

Products are unsuccessful for reasons that are often far outside of the control of the team engaged in building the product. I can not understate the value of marketing and sales. However, when the product team allows their systems to grow unruly in scope and size, it’s nearly impossible for the product to succeed. This process of maintaining focus and delivering the largest value to the widest group of people is just that, a process, and it requires intense focus.

It feels a bit trite, as a product manager, to quote Steve Jobs, but this quote from the co-founder of Apple rings especially true as I think about the process of working on a product:

You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.

And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.

And it’s that process that is the magic.

It has recently come to my attention that law bloggers can be a somewhat cautious lot. Though perhaps cautious isn’t the right word…measured, maybe? If you read through any of the blog posts on LexBlog’s front page it’s clear that a tremendous amount of thought and consideration has gone into the writing, on everything from Idaho’s marijuana laws to ICO breach notifications.

But it seems as though, at times, that careful consideration results in a delay in the publication of posts on topical news. We rarely see breaking news posts on LexBlog, which is why our editorial team waives the 200 word preferential limit for Featured Posts if said post is covering breaking news. That’s your LexBlog Insider Tip of the Day: if you want your post featured on the front page, shared across our social media platforms, and in the running for our weekly Top 10 in Law Blogs, write about something in the news today.

Take, for instance, all the recent news on Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, including the Senate Judiciary Committee’s recent announcement that both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will publicly testify on Monday about the alleged assault. It’s a hot-button topic, rife with political and social controversy but, if you’re hesitant to make your own writing political, there are a number of other angles that could be taken when writing on this news. You could, for instance, blog about the Anita Hill hearings, when Hill accused Justice Clarence Thomas, then-President George H.W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, of sexual harassment. You could also blog about the potential outcomes of the Monday testimony, or perhaps there was a similarly controversial nomination within your district court. Heck, you could even write about the concept of Supreme Court nominations overall, and simply use Judge Kavanaugh as a means of contextualizing your blog post.

Breaking/current news posts needn’t be long, drawn-out treatises, nor do they need to force you to air your own opinions (if you are hesitant to do so). Instead, think of them as an opportunity to add your voice to a current conversation, and to help shape the discourse of a moment in history.

An odd duo, aren’t they? The football quarterback turned activist, who was recently the face of Nike’s ultra-viral ad campaign, and the world’s most famous painting. But the Mona Lisa wasn’t always regarded that way…

In August of 1911 three men from Italy snuck into the Louvre, and stole Leonardo da Vinci’s smallest masterpiece, which, at the time, was not even the most well-known painting in the museum – in fact, rumor has it that it took Louvre staff 28 hours to realize the painting was missing. What ensued was a viral event the likes of which modern marketing departments could only dream of – the Mona Lisa was splashed across the front page of every national newspaper, police questioned everyone from JP Morgan to Pablo Picasso, and, as tensions between France and Germany escalated before World War I, there were even rumors that Kaiser Wilhelm was to blame. Eventually the police found and returned Mona Lisa to her rightful place, but she would never again be anything less than the most famous painting in the world.

Before cell phones, before the internet, the Mona Lisa went viral, much as Nike and Colin Kaepernick did earlier this week.

One of the (many) benefits of working in WeWork is that they will often host lunch and learn events, put on by other members. Today, Brian Hallett, a Professor at IE University, gave a presentation on “When Brands Go Viral.” We covered a lot during the presentation, from finding the balance between surprise and familiarity, to discussing the role of gatekeepers aka peoples, influencers, companies, etc. that can either promote or suppress the spread of information from one network to the other.

What stood out the most to me was an exercise he had us do early on. I’d encourage you to give it a try yourself!

First, go to the social media page that you use most often. From there, look at the most recent thing that you have shared, and answer the following questions:

  1. Who did it come from? Did you see it outside of your network, or within your network?
  2. Did you share it with your own network or with another network?
  3. What does it say about you?

In my case, I had most recently shared an article from Bleacher Report about a former MLB catcher who recently retired to work with the National Eating Disorder Association. It came from a writer I follow, so it was seen within my network, and I then shared it in my own network. It says a few things about me: that I value the contributions of athletes off the field, that I care (or want people to see that I care) about mental illness and raising awareness of eating disorders, etc. The author is also someone I admire, but who doesn’t follow me back, so it was interesting to reflect on how my sharing of his piece was done, in part, to draw his attention.

Now, I’m no Caroline Metsker (LexBlog’s Marketing Lead), but as our Social Media and Editorial Coordinator I’m rather involved in the world of digital marketing. I certainly learned a lot from Brian’s presentation, and there are a few things I’ll be looking to implement with our social media strategy, but I’m not so sure that viral marketing should be our goal.

LexBlog forges new paths in the legal tech industry, so why should our marketing be the same as any other company? Often, viral marketing campaigns can feel forced – they’re designed to generate buzz for the company, to prey on the consumers’ emotions and appeal to what makes them feel good. Meanwhile, LexBlog is about building relationships and building trust – in our bloggers, in our platform, in us – and any marketing we do should be focused on developing those elements. The access we offer to the thoughts and opinions of some of the brightest legal minds in the world is unparalleled: reading LexBlog can be life-changing; writing for us can be, too.

If a LexBlog post goes viral, that’s great! Not because of all the clicks, or likes, or retweets we would get, but because that would mean that we’ve facilitated greater access to the incredible base of legal knowledge and news that our network provides.

We’ve relaunched LexBlog.com!

These are words that I’ve (and others) have said at LexBlog probably a hair over a half-dozen times in the past two years; a point that Conner alluded to when he took a look at the history of LexBlog’s many and various websites. This time, however, things feel very different. After an eight month battle with Co-Authors Plus, the WordPress REST API, caching, and a few handfuls of our own plugins the new LexBlog.com was soft-launched in August (just before my wedding!).

If you look back on some of my recent posts here (We’re Redoing LexBlog.com…… Again. and How We’re QA’ing The New Aggregation Engine of LexBlog.com) and some of Kevin and Bob’s older posts (What if LexBlog were a publication? and As We Open Our Network, Should We Reject Some Blogs?) you’ll see that this latest version was a long time in the works both technically and philosophically.

On the technical side, we had to battle (and continue to wrangle with) keeping posts and authors in synch on LexBlog.com with their original counterparts using the WordPress REST API to communicate between sites. When you’re talking about over 1000 sites, nearly 400,000 posts, and just under 20,000 authors/co-authors this is no easy task.

Philosophically, we’ve had to prepare for the shift in what LexBlog.com means to the company and the larger legal publishing community. For years, LexBlog has focused on publishing platform technology to help lawyers get online and engage in the larger discussion online. We believe, and continue to believe, that the fastest way to join this conversation is to listen, share, and add your two cents.

Blogs are our chosen vehicle for helping our clients do that. However, it’s not easy to start blogging when your digital network is one – just you. LexBlog.com is many things to many people inside and outside of LexBlog, but for me it’s a place to see the vibrant digital publishing community in the legal industry. Hopefully, it’s a spot for other authors and legal professionals to find that for themselves. Somewhere to maybe see a similar publication to the one you have, find an author that you enjoy, or follow along with an emerging topic in your industry.

There are hundreds of publications focusing on a plethora of topics, and as LexBlog grows, so will these topics and contributing publications and so will the site itself. What we currently have is a foundation to finally launch all of the things we’ve wanted for so long:

  • Enhanced search functionality
  • Better subscription options for email and RSS
  • Social integrations for sharing content and interacting with publishers
  • and the list goes on

I’ve worked full-time at LexBlog for nearly 6 years and watched as the digital hosting, development, and content production sphere have evolved and seen us adapt alongside these many changes. In that time, this version of LexBlog.com is the one that kept me moving forward toward a larger vision of how digital publishing fits into the legal industry of today and its future.

Here’s to that future 🙂

Last week all LexBloggers received a mysterious Google Calendar invite titled, simply “Blogging Hour.” In the detail of the event, our COO Garry wrote that “Blogging is key to LexBlog. It is often difficult to find the time to write or talk with people about blogging. So I am setting aside this hour every week to blog and I invite everyone to join me.”

Five days later and I’m sitting in a conference room in the WeWork Holyoke penthouse*, typing at a table just a little more elevated than I’d like, surrounded by my blogging co-workers, real and remote. What a novel concept, a company that practices what it preaches!

So much of good blogging is about consistency – it’s one of the things we always encourage from new bloggers on the network – and it’s especially key if you’re hoping to build up a following for your blog. People have to trust that you won’t just leave them hanging after a post or two. But blogging consistency is also about you, the blogger. Much like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the next thing you know you’ve got a blogging habit.**

This Blogging Hour will help us hone our blogging habits, but it also allows us to prioritize writing and contemplation in a way that, let’s be honest, doesn’t always happen in a typical workday. It’s a structured hour, in that we’re here to blog, but we can blog about anything, from Member’s Only jackets to Gonzaga basketball. The freedom is almost overwhelming – which is, perhaps, why I’m here blogging about blogging – but I can already feel my Inner Editor retreating to the foreground. There’s a certain mental exhalation that occurs when you banish that Inner Editor. You’re not worried about typos, or grammatical errors, or the dreaded passive voice, you’re simply writing for the sake of writing. Blogging isn’t about perfection, it’s about opening up a discussion, prompting a conversation, sometimes it can simply be a tool to help you work through your thoughts on a matter.

In college I’d often write drafts of my papers by hand, then type them up later on. My thoughts flowed more easily, I scribbled more freely, and it let me avoid the many procrastination temptations that lurked on my laptop. Nowadays I only pick up a pen to attempt the daily NYT crossword – perhaps in our next blogging hour I’ll bring a pen and some paper. There’s a modern day tree-falling-in-the-forest conundrum for you: if you write a blog post by hand, does it still count as blogging?

*not a penthouse, just at the top of the building and high enough that I had to catch my breath before commencing the blogging

**this is a good thing, despite what your significant other may insist

I have worked at a lot of companies where the frequency of team members reviews are measured in months. While this might be convenient for team leaders, it is not frequent enough to give valuable feedback for team members who NEED guidance on what they should or want to be doing.

Several years ago, multiple companies sprung up with solutions for dealing with the dreaded review. Some of my favorites use technology and combine it with the more frequent 1:1 meetings that occur weekly at companies. This approach shortens the feedback loop and allows for corrective measures and positive feedback to happen more frequently.

This is exactly the approach we have taken at LexBlog.

Every week, everyone is asked to go to an internal form and answer 5 short questions. These questions deal with:

  • What a person hopes to accomplish
  • What they actually accomplished
  • What impediments they might face
  • What changes they might want to see in the organization
  • Who on the team has helped them most

The results of this form are available to the team member, so that they can track their progress over time, as well as the person to whom they report. So now in any 1:1 meeting they have instant discussion points and a log of those discussions.

This has been a great tool at LexBlog and is simple to implement. You can use something as simple as a Word Doc or go our route and implement the solution using Google Forms.

I suggest you meet with your team to establish the questions you might find valuable, but that you keep the number at 5 or below. The idea is to be frequent, fast and provide the most amount of value to the people who help drive your company without adding an onerous amount of work to their day.