My colleagues will recognize the picture from a different post on a different blog of mine. Considering that my readership consists of my supportive coworkers and a few supportive friends, the image I imagine, should be met with “really, you couldn’t find a different picture?”. The razzing that I’m expecting is well deserved. While I’m a person that holds the belief that there is nothing-new-under-the-sun, I definitely believe that bloggers should take a healthy jab at originality. Let me save you time and sum up what I’m about to say: a blog consisting purely of reposts is lazy, insulting, and terrible.

First, I want to clarify something. A site that dedicates itself itself to pulling posts from various blogs is an aggregation site. A blog aggregation site is different than a blog. I’m concerned with blogs that perform the function similar to aggregation sites, but are still blogs. When a reader goes to an aggregation site, they do so with either a topic in mind or they wish to browse different blogs. Blogs consist of posts written and published by bloggers aka authors. A reader going to a blog site does so to read the specific content published by the blogger. It’s like wanting to read your favorite author as opposed to browsing an anthology. Both aggregation site and blogs have distinct purposes as mediums, but both rely heavily on the content being published.

I’ve come across several blogs that looked promising. The title was catchy, the post titles interesting, but low and behold, the posts were just copy/pasted. The worst reposting sites don’t use the blogging tools correctly and end up copy/paste into an italicized block quote. It looks just yucky and is one way to make sure no one comes back to your blog.

One of the more sad reposts are for law professors. I see the author is a law professor at XYZ University and I expect that the posts are going to be rich in thought. Then I begin to read and quickly find that all of their posts were taken from someone else! They will even have a one-line post with a link to some random publication. Say something! Please, give me your insight! I can find and read publications any time. I grew up in the generation that has always had the internet. What I don’t have is an expert based opinion shrouded in personal experience about that publication. The fact is: if your not adding to the discussion, you’re being irresponsibly lazy.

The reason why I have such a high horse on the subject of repost blogs is simple. Repost blogs are insulting. While it is fine to assume some lack of knowledge of your readers, repost blogs assume your readers are plain dumb. Defining terms is customary in academia and, from my limited understanding, the law is the same. So, please, define terms, explicate, tell your readers what’s-what, but don’t just hand them materials and hope for the best. If a friend hands me a book, I get from the gesture that they want me to read it. If I ask that friend, “why are you handing me this?” and they blankly stare at me, what am I suppose to think? You’d find the experience jarring and discomforting. As a repost blogger, this is what you are doing. You’re handing a blog over expecting your readers to be interested based solely on title alone.

At this point, my high horse has become the dead one I’m beating. Simply put, bloggers are writers. Writer’s struggle with writing from time to time, hence the common colloquialism ‘writer’s block’. In the case of a repost claiming writing woes, you as a writer are ignoring the principle rule of inspiration: first, write about what you know. A repost blogger obviously can find material, sources, etc. Why not put in a bit of effort and write a few sentences about the post? If it is a publication in a professional journal, is it any good? If it is a post that starts “with permission from the author”, why not say how much you enjoyed it or tell us what about the post made you want to repost it? Lastly, if you’re a blogger that is just looking for ad revenue from people clicking on your site, shame.

I would like to see more lawyers chiming in on topics that I’m only just now learning about. I read a post that is interesting and I want to know if there is another side or if the law is different in different states. Consequently, that’s not the case. However, it would be just neat to see a series of blogs that respond to one another creating a meaningful discussion that adds to the knowledge base of a given topic.

On December 6th, the largest content management system on the internet, WordPress, released one of the largest user-facing updates in recent memory. WordPress 5.0, or “Bebo” as it was named, represents a major shift for the open source project and the community that supports it and so was introduced with a combination of fanfare, disarray, and resentment – aren’t open source projects fun?

While the video above is cheerful and will serve its purpose as a delightful bit of marketing for WordPress, it is certainly not indicative of the feelings of many contributors and small business owners that have made their living from WordPress. Those feelings were on full display in the comment section of Matt Mullenweg’s post announcing that WordPress 5.0 would launch with just a few days notice. 

It’s easy to question the timing of the release (right before WordCamp US and in the midst of many e-commerce shop’s busiest time of year), but many of those questions and feelings of animosity faded after watching Matt respond personally to dozens of comments on his post. Each reply exuded a sense of calm and command of the subject at hand that was impressive given that Mr. Mullenweg is the CEO of an operation of over 800 employees, managing the inner workings of multi-billion dollar company. I hope to have the fraction of his patience one day. 

The initial outcry notwithstanding, it seems that it’s business as usual now that Bebo is out in the wild. New trac tickets are being created and progress toward 5.0.1 will begin in short order. There’s a part of me that can’t shake the uneasy feeling that we haven’t heard the last of Gutenberg-driven drama, but without any hard data to show user engagement or frustration with the editor it’s just that, a feeling.

In the meantime, WordPress continues to be the dominant content management system on the internet, and the changes that Gutenberg will bring go far beyond the content editing experience. If you’re interested in a sneak preview of those changes, take a gander at this post from Matt, posted shortly after his WordCamp US talk: 

Recently, as in yesterday, my position at LexBlog has taken a radical turn. Mostly, my job has consisted of mindlessly scrounging for websites without the slightest inclination into the quality of the presented blogs. I was desperate to add anything and everything to The List without very many concerns. It was a very cool process that let my geeky how-is-this-going-to-look mind run while completing a major task. However, that has all changed.

After looking at thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of blogs, my job is now to read, mark, and decide what to do with each and every blog. I have become the first line of gatekeepers that decide whether or not a blog should be allowed to enter the kingdom of LexBlog. This job has become one of the coolest jobs on my varied resume.

I remember hearing years ago about jobs at major publishing companies. The students/recent college grads have large bins filled with books and manuscripts that they read and either throw away or send up the ladder. The bin was a hodgepodge of papers, letters, and other various materials in which authors placed their novels.  A book could be written on a roll of toilet paper, but if it was good, the gatekeeper would send it up. My job has mirrored this process quite well.

The process has slowed down considerably. Where I could easily scan and sift 10k+ websites a day, I can only email about 20-25 bloggers in the same amount of time. I get to read some amazing blogs. I have read stories of murder, slight, fraud, compassion, advocacy, intrigue, and so much more. The drama of life is reflected in these blogs and they don’t fail to entertain or inform. I have found that there are certain characteristics about law blogs that seems absent from other blog realms.

Law blogs ask: “What do we do with this?”. A story has an arc, also known as a state of change. The main character always goes through a series of events that have consequences. However, a good law blog will ask “So what? What do we do with this information?”. It’s not enough to just read the paper about a murderer on death row pleading innocence. I read a blog about the ethical complication about the murderer ignoring the lawyers legal advice that could save the client from death (still life in prison, but at least alive).

I read another blog about a lady forced to carry her 70 lb service dog in a crate into her condo, stairs included. She sued the condo association and the decision is still up in the air, but what a decision! Could you imagine hearing about a neighbor that was required to carry their dog in a crate while near the property? Some would say “that’s a sad story”. A lawyer would ask, “So, what should we do about this information?”

As I continue to explore all the neat and nifty blogs out there, I hope that each blogger knows my authenticity. I like them; therefore, they will hear from me. My only hope is that they can see the gatekeeper waving them in. Otherwise, they will continue to try and climb over the wall for readers to view them.

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.

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.

The other day, when coming up with ideas for a new blog, a client asked about another blog, which unfortunately no longer exists. I quickly suggested they use the site WayBack Machine, an online archive which allows access to archived digital content.

If you want to see what the New York Times or ESPN homepage looked like 10-15 years ago, go check it out on Wayback. ESPN has been archived over 37,000 and the NYtimes over 170,000. Like Newseum, you can spend hours getting lost in the content.

ESPN.com in November, 2000

Which brings us to the history of LexBlog.com, which has been revamped countless times. Our support team spent  25 minutes last week going through the years, as all of us made sure to notice a young Jared on the homepage in 2013.

THE original LexBlog.com, 2004

By going through separate pages, I was able to read about past new features, past employees, and see pictures of old offices. And of course, give a hard time about past marketing slogans like “Do you like us, Do you really like us?”

At one time we even offered a 10% “LexPremium” discount. Nowadays, we (employees and family) tend to joke around about Lex-phrase/object/thing… LexSkiing, LexBrewing, LexBall. You name it, we’ve probably said it. Of course, all in good nature.

By the time, we finished reviewing past LexBlog sites, it made us think, there is a reason none of those pages exist anymore. They sure didn’t help our clients, they may have made a few folks feel special by having their own profile on LexBlog.com, or may have helped us when reviewing features. But I know our ultimate goal is to help “make legal news, information and analysis more easily and intuitively accessible to legal professionals and the public,” which we are now one step closer to doing with LexBlog.com.