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.

One measurement of how well we’re helping customers answer their questions is tracking our self-service score. It’s a simple ratio of users in our Support Center versus the number of users in support tickets. For example, a self-service score of 3:1 means that for every three people engaging with our documentation, one opens a support ticket.

This score becomes important as LexBlog opens more parts of our platform to more of our customers. We’re giving users more control over settings such as their sidebar widgets and design colors. We’re also rolling out a self-service website model where users can create, design, and launch their own sites.

As people use these new tools, however, they’re going to have questions. And research shows that most customers would rather find answers to their questions before contacting support channels. For example, American Express reports that “48% of customers prefer to speak with a customer service rep when dealing with complex issues, but only 16% prefer the same contact for simple issues.”

Ideally, as we grow, the number of users finding help through our documentation will increase faster than the number of users submitting support requests. Ideally.

 

Our self-service score over time

Chart showing LexBlog's self-service rate increasing over time.
This chart shows LexBlog’s self-service rate from June 2016 to July 2018. The dark blue line shows the rate for each month. The light blue line is the trendline.

 

The chart above tracks our self-service rate starting in July 2016. That’s when we finalized the transition from the old documentation platform, Reach, to Zendesk’s Guide software. The good news is our self-service rate is increasing over time.

 

How do we boost the self-service rate?

To be clear: self-service isn’t about discouraging customers from contacting us when they do have trouble. Sometimes when things go wrong you just need to hear a human voice. Our support team is dang good at answering questions and putting out fires.

For me, increasing our self-service score means fewer people get to the point where they can’t figure out something.

And while the increase in LexBlog’s self-service rate is good news, I think it can get better. Here are some ways I want to help our customers through better documentation:

  • Continue monitoring search query results reports to see what our users are searching for.
  • Deleting content that users don’t read. Unread articles clutter up search results and make it harder for customers to find what they really need.
  • Create a smoother onboarding process for new users. This includes guides written for brand-new bloggers.
  • Analyzing the path of users through help content. This will tell us where they’re getting stuck.
  • Let the robots help. We just implemented Answer Bot, an AI tool that suggests help articles when customers reach out to our support team.
  • Getting direct feedback from customers. Future projects may involve getting our customers to provide ideas for our support docs. In fact, if you have any feedback — good, bad, or ugly — on our Support Center, please leave a comment on this post!

As some may know, LexBlog is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, but we have a number of intrepid team members who work remotely (thanks to Scott’s recent move, though, we’re all at least in the contiguous United States now). Twice a year we sound the LexBeacon (picture a conch shell, with the LexBlog “L” ornately carved into it), and gather everyone at LexBlog HQ for a week of in-person meetings, conversations, and, yes, a little bit of fun.

Since this is our employee blog, I thought it’d be interesting to share some of our scheduled sessions and activities for the week…and also, maybe, possibly, this will encourage other LexBloggers to write about it, too. Perhaps they’ll come up with a catchier name than LexWeek?

We kick off the week today with a lunch and learn, which I imagine will also serve as Caroline’s introduction to the team. Caroline Metsker is our new Marketing Lead, and I’m certain you’ll be hearing more from her soon. Welcome, Caroline!

The week also features a number of breakout sessions, on topics such as Google AMP, supporting the success team, and the value of technical writing. I and, hopefully, others will share what we learn from these sessions here as the week progresses.

We’ll also be doing some less work-related activities, like cheering on the Mariners at Safeco Field on Wednesday afternoon (except Garry, Giants fan that he is), and running the draft for the LexBlog fantasy football league. Perhaps this will be the year someone finally unseats Scott?

Happy LexWeek!

I joined LexBlog in January with the goal of helping it launch a global news and commentary network based on content from legal blogs. In furtherance of that goal, we announced in April that we are opening participation in the network to all legal blogs, without cost and without regard to whether the blog is a LexBlog customer.

Since then, I’ve been wrestling with a thorny question: Are there legal blogs that we should exclude from the network and, if so, what standards should guide us in deciding which to exclude?

There are two sides to this issue.

On one hand, I am a First Amendment purist. I believe that lawyers who blog should have complete editorial freedom and discretion to write about whatever they want. To be clear: LexBlog exerts no editorial control over the content of the posts you read on LexBlog — they are solely the product of the lawyers and firms that publish them. 

On the other hand, we are creating an editorial product that we hope will provide value to readers. To accomplish that, we aspire to adhere to editorial standards befitting our readership. While we would never be involved in the content of specific posts, we can exercise discretion in the selection of blogs that participate in our network. 

To my mind, providing editorial content of value means, among other things, excluding blogs that are primarily spam. Of the blogs that have applied to join our network so far, we have rejected at least two because they struck us as overt spam with no editorial value.

You’ve all seen these kinds of lawyer blogs. They are loaded with SEO keywords about accidents and victims, followed by a call to action to hire an “experienced (fill-in-the-blank) lawyer.”

But I am also noticing a grey area of blogs that walk a fine line between marketing spam and legitimate content.

Editorially, legal blogs are two-headed creatures. They are valuable vehicles for publishing legitimate news and commentary. But they are also, in most cases, marketing tools designed to increase exposure and draw in business.

Whether explicitly or not, almost every blog post written by a lawyer is meant to send the message, “Hire me!” Relatively few legal blog posts cross the line into pure spam, but the majority of them are marketing, even if subliminal.

Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote of obscenity, “I know it when I see it.” As someone who has spent most of my career in publishing and journalism, I can say the same about spam.

But, in fairness to those who submit their blogs to us, can we define an explicit standard to guide our acceptance or rejection? Where do we draw that line?

I asked the editors of the ABA Journal whether they apply any criteria to screen the blogs they include in their Blawg Directory, which lists more than 4,500 law blogs. Sarah Mui, assistant managing editor (Web), said that they do not apply quality criteria. She primarily checks that it is, in fact, a law blog, and that it is active.

The closest they have to “quality” criteria, Mui said, are those that they apply when accepting nominations to their annual Blawg 100:

  • We’re primarily interested in blogs in which the author is recognizable as someone working in a legal field or studying law in the vast majority of his or her posts.
  • The blog should offer insights into the practice of law and be of interest to legal professionals or law students.
  • The majority of the blog’s content should be unique to the blog and not cross-posted or cut and pasted from other publications.
  • We are not interested in blogs that more or less exist to promote the author’s products and services.

That last bullet begs the very question I’m wrestling with. In the end, perhaps the only workable standard is no standard, but rather to rely on the “I know it when I see it” exercise of editorial judgment and discretion.

I would love to hear from you. Should there be an explicit standard for accepting or rejecting law blogs as part of our network? If so, what should it be? When does a blog cross the line from editorial legitimacy to objectionable spam?

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

Happy national donuts day! On a day dedicated to donuts, it seems fitting to write my first post in a blog about donuts. To stick with the donut theme, I’ll be dedicating this post to a favorite GIF emoji on the LexBlog team: Donut Parrot.

The Donut Parrot!

When we have a moment to take a break from our ticket queues, many of us at LexBlog like to virtually congregate in our team chat feeds to share jokes, interesting articles, solve problems and of course – send lots of emojis! Since we’ve added Slack as our team chat app, we’ve accumulated a sizable collection of GIF based custom slack emojis. As a company of donut enthusiasts, the donut parrot is one our most frequented emoji choices. Along with donut parrot, a few other parrot emojis have been pretty popular on our slack channels as well.

 

 Meet fiesta parrot.

 

And my favorite, coffee parrot!

 

Apparently we’re not the only ones who appreciate parrot based GIF emojis. Brittany Levine Beckman shared a story in Mashable about how the Cult of the Party Parrot GIFs have taken the internet and tech company Slack channels by storm.

There’s something hypnotizing about the quirky emoji that’s gotten humans to spread his gospel far and wide. He can be found on Slack, Reddit, t-shirts, in programming terminals, in an Android mobile game, and iMessage (there’s an app). You can even turn all the images you see online into party parrots with a Chrome extension – although it’s not a good look.

 

As silly as it may seem to write a post about GIFs and emojis, it’s undeniable that sharing a good GIF can add some humor to someones day and lighten the mood. I’ve definitely appreciated seeing the latest additions to the LexBlog GIF collection. In the spirt of Donut Parrot, have a happy Friday and donut day. Go treat yourself to a good maple bar, or a funny new GIF!

Today is National Donut Day, and its been a quiet support day for the Success team, probably because everyone is looking for free donuts. In all honesty, I’m happy for the less chaotic days of summer so I can focus on longer term goals I have at LexBlog as well as reflect on the past and focus on the path forward.

Today is a life changing day for my family and I because we are moving into our first home as homeowners today. I know what you’re thinking, you bought a house in Seattle?? Isn’t the market there crazy??

Yes. It is.

Our journey began in December of 2017 when we met our agent wandering an Amazon campus looking for clients. Little did we know that our meeting would turn into 4 months of non-stop house visits, hours of daily research, hours driving neighborhoods, and hundreds of open house visits. Luckily, with our hometown advantage and a very early start in studying the Seattle market (we started seriously researching in November 2017) we only had to spend every weekend (all weekend) searching until our offer was accepted on April 1st 2017. With our rent-back period now over per our agreement with the old owners, we are finally moving into our home ending our 6ish month journey.

Getting your foot into the door in a real estate market like Seattle is definitely a battle, but looking back on the journey I’m happy we went to bat.

A huge thanks goes to our wonderful agent Marissa Natkin of Keller & Williams whose expertise, patience, and advice helped us find our dream home in a crazy, competitive, market. Also to my partner for keeping me going when I wasn’t sure if I could take anymore, and to my colleagues at LexBlog for cheering me on and listening to me talk about the housing market for the past 6 months.

Onward!

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.