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 base and the people that were helping clients find answers to questions, so there was little incentive as an employee to know or contribute to the content.

As I’ve mentioned in my past few posts, a huge reason LexBlog moved to using Zendesk’s suite of products was the consolidation of systems and processes. Instead of having three products from different companies that don’t talk to each other to manage one thing (support and project management) we now have a variety of integrated tools. A benefit to being in the Zendesk ecosystem is that these tools are fairly technically advanced, allowing us to tie a WordPress user to a Zendesk profile and supporting single sign-on into LexBlog’s support center where you can see all of your submitted tickets and interactions with our team since we’ve been using Zendesk’s ticketing system. For our support team this also means that all of the content from support center is at their fingertips each time they answer a question from a customer, and a new question can easily turn into a support center article.

While this has significantly streamlined our support processes from the Get Satisfaction days to today, we took things a step further when redesigning the support center. While the content has been available to anyone with a link to the support center for several years now, we had not allowed search engines to index anything. As a part of continuing to open LexBlog’s doors to all legal bloggers, we thought it was about time to take that step so that now anyone can search for the content on the web and find their way to the LexBlog support center. Community posts, profiles, and other private information will remain that way, but all articles written by LexBlog will be indexed by search engines from here on out.

A lot of the content now is there to aid in making our customers successful in using our software, but as we expand that content to include more information on blogging and social media, others that are starting up a legal blog may find it a useful resource. A key challenge for LexBlog (one among many!) is helping to raise the level of discourse on the web for lawyers and law firms – regardless of whether or not you publish with LexBlog – and this is one small step of many in doing just that.

I’ve been a big proponent of Zendesk after using their product(s) for several years at LexBlog. Like all businesses, LexBlog has gone through a variety of systems and processes cycles, and how we manage inbound requests is no exception. As I mentioned in my last post, a huge push over the last several years has been the shift from the cycle of inbox to development/design requests back to inbox to a more distributed approach through the use of Zendesk’s ticketing system. Not only was the old approach to communication causing headaches for all project members (have you ever played the telephone game?), it created silos where only a single account/project manager could manage the projects they were responsible for. If for some reason, that person was sick for a week, their projects may go untended or be utterly confusing for someone to step in and address.

Something that we’ve worked hard to do in recent years is choose software that we can easily work with outside of the box. It’s rare that we find something that fits what we need without customization, and having the ability to extend the core product is vital.

In that regard, I can’t say enough good things about working with Zendesk. The content in our contextual support bubble is dynamically populated if opened on a page where there is support documentation that may be helpful – this is powered by the Web Widget API. The support center in each site’s administrative area is powered by the Core API. And much of my work over the last several weeks has been with Zendesk’s Help Center templates, which are a mixture of HTML, CSS, JS, and Handlebars.

I also had the chance to extend LexBlog’s visual regression testing application to be more of a dashboard application for managing all things related to LexBlog’s systems by working with the Help Center API to provide Ted Cox, our technical writer, with the tools needed to better manage the content inside our support center through a variety of API calls and new React components (as a brief aside, if you have a React application and ever need to take the results of an API call and jam them into a CSV, I love this package).

Overall, a lot of good things to say about Zendesk, and probably even more as we’re starting to wrap up our work on redesigning LexBlog’s support center!

Tools is a blog series on various tools we use in the office to help us accomplish our task, whether it’s software or hardware.

This week we are featuring another tool that helps us open up multiple links without clicking on each link individually. Linkclump is a Google Chrome extension which lets users open, copy, or bookmark multiple links at the same time.

Why Linkclump?
Especially, after Open Multiple URLs (an extension that serves a similar purpose) was featured last week? The answer is that they address different scenarios where you may need to check a large number of links. Open Multiple URLs is great if your already have a list of URLs ready to be pasted into the extension’s textbox, but if the list of links is on a webpage (including Google Sheets) then Linkclump is more efficient as it will open up those links (in new tabs or new windows) simply by dragging a selection box around them.
hmm donuts

Additional Features
Besides opening up links, Linkclump can also also bookmark those links or copy them into clipboard. These features, along with other settings can be manage from its Options page.

So take your pick, see which one suits your need, or try them both. If you use another tool to open multiple URLs at the same time, please comment below and let us know.

Tools is a blog series on various tools we use in the office to help us accomplish our task, whether it’s software or hardware.

automagically
ADVERB
informal
(especially in relation to the operation of a computer process) automatically and in a way that seems ingenious, inexplicable, or magical.

Automagically is how we like your LexBlog blogs to perform. To achieve that we use numerous tools and tricks, the one featured this week is a nifty browser extension called Open Multiple URL.

Open Multiple URL enables the users to open up multiple sites simultaneously within the browser by simply pasting in URLs. It also has the ability to extract URLs from a whole bunch of HTML.

Admittedly, the open URLs function works better than URL extraction (got some false positives). In fact, you need to be careful with how many links you try to open at the same time. From my experience, if I open 50 to 60 URLs I will hear my laptop’s fans sounding like the engines of 747 during take off; anything beyond that will slow down my Chrome browser to the point that I begin to have flashback from the days of running Window 95 with 4MB of RAM. But your experience may vary depending on the performance of your computer. Just play with it and find out your machine’s limit.

So how is Open Multiple URL used in LexBlog? We use it when we need to do perform visual inspections on sites, which is becoming much less frequent than it used to be thanks to the wonderful codes written by LexBlog developers. But there are still occasions where it’s quicker to perform visual checks than have the developers write dedicated commands: double checking inactive domains to make sure no mistakes were made, visual checks on feature implementations or improvements that only affect only small number of sites, etcetera.

Here at LexBlog, we are all fans of technology. And as someone who witnessed the era of Betamax, 8tracks, and rotary dial phones I’m glad that manual process is involved not just to manage internal projects and provide external support, but also to ensures our clients’ blogs work Automagically.

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?

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

In 2008 I switched to the Chrome web browser. I was a very early adopter. As a person who made their living as a web professional, it was not convenient. No one was using Chrome at the time, so I still needed to keep other browsers around for testing. That was okay, for the previous 6 years, I had been a Firefox user, and was used to checking projects on various browsers.

Chrome has had a good run. Not only has it dominated MY web browsing life for nearly a decade, but it has come to dominate the majority of websites. Depending on who you listen to, it has at least 50% of the browser market and as high as 70%. Not bad.

Sadly over the years, Chrome has become bloated. Sites crawl and lockup on my 3 year old work laptop. Since nearly everything I do is in the browser, this is kind of a big deal.

At onetime IE felt safe at the top of browser mountain.

On November 14th, Firefox’s new browser “Quantum,” finally came out of Beta and was made available to the general public. I decided to give it a spin and I was hooked. It easily handled dozens of tabs and importing everything from Chrome was a breeze.

It felt to me like Chrome was the pinnacle of browser technology and that no browser would ever make me feel a difference in my browser experience again. I was wrong. After the long slog of dwindling returns on Chrome, the new Firefox is noticeably better and I am not the only one who thinks so.

I even started using their Pocket service, which I had largely ignored up until now and I love that as well. With its recommendation system, I find myself not opening Feedly as much anymore.

The online world is full of surprises. It is easy to get complacent as a consumer and a company. Mozilla is showing that they can reinvent their flagship product and wow people.

I am not sure if it is too late for Firefox to make a comeback in a browser war that Chrome has come to dominate, but you never know. At onetime IE felt safe at the top of browser mountain. I for one am now a loud and proud member of team Firefox and will be telling everyone I know.

That being said, I will also keep a copy of Chrome around to continue to see the online world the way the rest of world sees it.

Hmm, I feel like I have been in this exact same place before.