The Great LinkedIn Challenge has come to a close. The competition was fierce. The challenges were tough. The competitors were tireless in their pursuit of the long-awaited donut cake prize. 

All of that being said, I am happy to announce our winner (at last!). 

Congratulations, Melissa!

Melissa is our Associate Editor here at LexBlog with a passion for storytelling, journalism, and helping others. As I was reviewing her completed LinkedIn profile, I noticed a comprehensive theme that truly spoke to her interests and passion for what she does. She also fulfilled all of the challenges – not an easy feat! 

Because LexBloggers put a tremendous effort into making their profiles shine, I chose two runners up who also did a great job getting their profiles to all-star level. 

Well done, Jaime and Josh!

They will also receive a donut prize (a bit smaller than the cake, of course) for their dedication to completing the challenge. 

I hope you enjoyed following along on this fun competition with me. It’s great to see LexBloggers work hard to make a name for themselves online! 

If you’re wondering, Melissa’s infamous donut cake will arrive at the LexBlog office for celebration in mid-January when we’ll have some of our remote LexBloggers in Seattle for the week. Pictures will follow!

Send your congratulations to Melissa, Jaime, and Josh with a connection on LinkedIn!  

I had a moment of déjà vu yesterday. I went to a law blog and read through the first post wishing their readers “Happy Veterans Day”. Right now it’s a week before Christmas. I thought “meh, I’ll come back to this one in a bit”. I opened the next blog on my list and started reading the first post wishing me another “Happy Veterans Day”. Honestly, I thought I was in a time loop like Bill Murray. Okay, well maybe there was a mistake, and I moved on. I opened the next blog on my list and started reading the first post wishing me, in fact, another “Happy Veterans Day”. At this point, I realized what was going on. Each blog was connected to a single firm, was named similarly, and was designed exactly the same.

I’m new to SEO practices. I will admit that fact outright. However, I know sales. I know sales enough to know I’m a terrible salesman, but still better than most people. I wasn’t hired to be a salesman, even though my emails to people sometimes sound that way. I’m grateful for that, but my point I want to make is simple. Numbers don’t lie, but people do.

I come across tons of law blogs that are terrible SEO driven monsters that, if a real person spent 10 seconds reading, would agree wholeheartedly. I wondered if these types of blogs were worth it and began to do some research. Come to find out, I work at a great company. I’m not trying to brown-nose; honestly, I don’t care enough. What I did find was that LexBlog believes what I believe and that’s the power of human connection.

My parents were Realtors and I lived very comfy in my country club lifestyle that they provided me. Neither had a college education. Heck, my mother didn’t get her GED until her 30’s. They taught me that people made business and that human connection was more important than anything. They would take clients out to lunch, drive all over to meet people, and send cards/gifts for holidays. They took care of people and didn’t ask for anything in return. There was even a case where my mother made a woman dinners for several weeks, after which, the woman sold her house through a different realtor (I believe because they were family). My mother wasn’t upset by this at all. She didn’t help the woman for a potential sale. They were in the business of helping people and in return people sent them business.

I used this mentality of human connection to sell watches years ago. Traditional watches are still around and people wear them for all sorts of reasons. In the few years I fixed and sold them, I never cared to be a salesman and I wasn’t. However, dawning that attitude of wanting to help people and make connections, real connections, made me one of the top salesman of that old watch company. I even remember several instances of customers breaking down emotionally. Those customers were grateful for being treated like human beings.

SEO takes the human out of sales and attempts to put humanity into an algorithm. Businesses that rely purely on SEO practices tend to measure success linearly in order to fit into the self profitizing formula. Humanity is not a formula. Now, I’m not saying that data isn’t important. Ignoring data is just plain silly, but when it comes down to relying on quantitative, qualitative, and anecdotal evidences for success, don’t think that quantitative is everything. Quantitative is all numbers. From my understanding, SEO is all numbers. SEO practices ask how many clicks can I get to my website? How many users have visited today? I know that roughly 80% of the internet is robots. So my question, why would I care how many visitors are generating hits on my website? I guess I would care if they were buying whatever it was I was selling.

To reiterate my point: human connection is something very powerful. If you as a blogger or as a business owner rely purely on numbers, you’ll miss the bigger picture of what success really means. You’ll find yourself just doing donuts in the parking lot. You feel yourself moving, but you’re not going anywhere.

In just a few months I will have been podcasting for ten years.  I went into podcasting reluctantly.  I had a blog and everyone around me encouraged me to start releasing audio versions of the stuff I talk about on my blog.

When I started, I was terrible.  Audio quality was low.  Talent was even lower.  But I was committed and that first year I released a show every week.  I was doing it, yet I never stopped to really consider if I should be doing it.

So that is what I would like for you to consider before podcasting.  Why?

Since you will get better and through hard work might even get a following, how you answer that question is more important than anything else.  

Podcasting is time-consuming, not just from a production standpoint. Jut like blogging, it is the stuff you need to do after the show has been released that makes the difference.  That means getting out their and hustling, doing anything to get heard in the extremely crowded podcasting world.

If you are already at the top of your game, as an expert of something, podcasting will be a lot easier.  People will already want to hear from you. It will most likely enhance your reputation, if done right, and open more doors for you.

If you are unknown, it is going to be a slog.  You will be working against large podcasting networks and hundred of thousands of shows all competing for ears.

An article published April 25, 2018, by FastCompany states there are:

Over 525,000 active shows and over 18.5 million episodes

Is it worth your time?  Unless the journey is fun and you do not expect to become “famous” or make money. The answer is probably not.  

Here is a simple test for you.  This also applies to blogging.

Ask yourself, how long am I willing to do this without asking for money to do it?  That money could be in the form of solicitation of services or an advertisement.

If you need to have an advertisement in your first few dozen episodes.   You are probably doing this for the wrong reason and podcasting is not worth your time.

I didn’t write this to dissuade future podcasters, but to level-set your expectations.  Podcasting is just like blogging.  It works best when it is an expression of your expertise and personality and not just a vehicle for advertising.  So think long and hard before you decide to sit down to record and make sure you are realistic about your goals before getting started.

Communication styles will vary between co-workers.  This is just a fact of life.  What you feel comfortable with, other’s might find burdensome.  Many companies will try to sell you on solutions that they think will fix all your issues.

No matter your job title or department, Slack can help your team work together and get things done.

It is a miraculous claim and it is also not true.  I am not saying that Slack is not a wonderful tool.  We used it at LexBlog for over a year and I loved it.  BUT, I also happen to enjoy the chat format for communicating.

No tool is going to solve your problem though.  In fact, the illusion of true communication can actually be masked by the noise generated by these tools.  Companies like Slack send you emails monthly crowing about the number of conversations they facilitate. 

But it is difficult to measure effectiveness.

So do pick the communication tool you think is the coolest or the one that is most dependable, but remember it is only a tool.  A tool is only as skilled as the person using it.

As a person using that tool, you need to work hard to get better at it.  That means practicing communication with different people.  That means getting out of your comfort zone. That means learning and growing.

This is a challenge at any level.  At LexBlog it is problem we tangle with daily. From our relationship with our customers to the people sitting 5 feet away, we need to make effort.  Effort not just to open up the lines of communication, but to try and listen or talk when required by the person we are communicating with.

I have a hard time with this sometimes. But every day I am trying to be more aware. Unsurprisingly, when you start really communicating, you discover the people around you are fascinating and nuanced, with lots of great ideas and talent. 

Only once we have learned to communicate with those around us, will the tools we decide to use, show value.

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: 

This is an exciting week at LexBlog. Not only do we have our amazing Editor-in-Chief, Bob Ambrogi, in town and a new Associate Editor joining us (Welcome, Melissa!), we have a truly thrilling, exhilarating, and delicious challenge facing us. 

What exactly is this exciting trial we must confront, you ask? I give you LexBlog’s Great LinkedIn Challenge! While this is not exactly what one would call an exhaustive marathon run or New York’s infamous Hot Dog Eating Contest, we take this challenge very seriously at LexBlog. To explain why, let me give a little background. 

If you’ve ever been to our CEO, Kevin O’Keefe’s profile, you know he believes in the important place of LinkedIn within a person’s professional development. LexBlog itself had a tagline, “Make a Name for Yourself,” to encourage lawyers and other legal professionals to embrace blogging and networking online. We still hold strongly to that principle for our network – so why wouldn’t we do our best to embrace it ourselves? 

This is how The Great LinkedIn Challenge was born. Earlier this week, I was thinking through ways to inspire a passion for networking and growing online influence among my fellow LexBloggers. I decided that the two things that universally motivate people are 1.) Fierce competition with proximate peers and 2.) Donuts (especially at LexBlog, obviously). And with that, I created this challenge for my coworkers. 

Before a deadline of December 19th, we are each tasked with completing a list of challenges. Each challenge, in some way, improves the LexBlogger’s LinkedIn presence. Some challenges are easy, such as uploading a header image. Some are more difficult, like listing bulleted details about past work experience. 

The most exciting part occurs on the last day of the challenge. In the true spirit of the sweet-filled gluttony of the holiday season, whoever completes all 11 of the challenges by the deadline receives a giant donut cake from Legendary Donuts! Just take a gander at their menu. Who wouldn’t want to win one of those? 

And so, in this time of intense rivalry among us here at LexBlog (not really), we ask that you encourage us as we embark on this journey of improving our online presence. We take donations in the form of non-cake-sized donuts and LinkedIn recommendations. 

*Updates on the winner will most definitely follow* 

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.

No kidding, there I was, checking my email, when I saw it:

[RESPONSE REQUIRED] You’ve been selected as a speaker for WordCamp Maine!

It’s more or less my professional goal to infiltrate the inner circles of the WordPress community, so this came as good news.  Even better, I already had my topic prepared because I’d written it as an ALA article some years ago.  The one problem?  Slides.  I had none, and if I tried to make one I’d need a pro license for MS-Paint.  That’s when I decided to hit the easy button.

Brian Made My Slides

I literally made a jira ticket for Brian to make my slides and he did just that.  They were phenomenal and you can download them here.

The cover slide.

That’ll do, no?  I had the first presentation after the morning break, but put my cover slide on the projector as soon as the break began.  I think the awesome design helped fill a few extra seats.

The Talk Went Pretty Well

A 40-minute stage appearance is a really long thing to commit to rehearsing on a given evening.  Do I shower today, or rehearse my talk?  I showered less than average over the month prior to my talk, but still should have rehearsed a bit more.  I stumbled a couple of times.  But, it seemed like people were engaged.  I was having to pause for laughter at the occasional dev joke and I can’t really ask for more than that.

Yeah Speaking at WordCamp is Fun but Have You Ate Pizza with Matt?

In an amazing coincidence, Matt Mullenweg happened to be visiting Portland that same weekend.  He held a meet and great at a small workspace where several Automatticians work and I finally got to meet one of my heroes.  I was a little star struck!  He honestly was so cool.  So friendly, so engaging, so intelligent, so inspiring.  He spoke for about 45 minutes, and then took questions for about that long.  One person asked him several very specific questions about how to use the media library, and he was incredibly graceful about it.  Not even a chuckle or an eyeroll, just passion and interest about some of the features that came straight from “Photo Matt”.

He spoke about Gutenberg a bit.  He seems happy and he seems unflappable despite the mounting uncertainty in the community.  I think it’s called perspective.  He compared it the uncertainty that came about when WordPress first adoped TinyMCE.  Wow.  Yeah, that’s perspective.  He also said that it can be challenging to discern between valid criticism and criticism of change for its own sake.

Anyways that’s a wrap for this donut.  I’ll be sure to share the video of my talk if it makes it onto!

After nearly a year and a half of being full immersed in the world of legal blogs and blogging, I’m leaving LexBlog to travel across the country and work for the National Baseball Hall of Fame as their Digital Communications Specialist. It’s a dream job, made possible in large part by my work here, so it seems only fitting that I close out my LexBlogger career with one final Blogging Hour.

I interviewed to intern in June of 2017, a year removed from graduating college and weary from the balancing act of six different part-time jobs. Beyond a desire for stability, though, I was searching for somewhere I could learn and grow; somewhere that could offer some guidance, but also give me room to be creative. I got all that, and so much more.

Some things I’ve learned in my time at LexBlog:

  • Break up your blog posts. It’s difficult to read massive walls of text online, so often many people don’t. Break up your writing into smaller paragraphs, or *ahem* use bullet points.
  • Connect with people, be it in person or via social media. Reach out, ask questions, build those relationships – it makes you a better employee but, most importantly, it makes you a better human.
  • Social media is a powerful tool (heck, it helped me land my initial internship here, and the new job at the HOF!). It doesn’t shrink the world down, but it does make it more accessible – you can trade gifs back and forth with a bar association in the opposite corner of the country (gonna miss you, @TheFlaBar), engage with a law firm in India, and cover a legal tech conference in London.
  • Mistakes happen. Apologize to those affected, fix the mistake and then, most importantly of all, take action to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. It may feel terrible initially, but ultimately it’s another learning experience.
  • Don’t impose limits upon yourself. My friends used to tease me that I operated like a Luddite, or a tech-inept grandmother. When I first took over the front page of I tip-toed around the backend of the site, ever-fearful of accidentally clicking something that might make the entire thing explode in a wave of code and flame emojis. But I read some WordPress for Dummies, sent Jared far too many Slack messages, and spent a lot of time poking around and testing things out, and ultimately was able to help create and edit demo sites, fix RSS feeds, and all manner of things that once struck fear into my heart.
  • Blogging can change lives. If Kevin hadn’t begun to blog 15 years ago, there wouldn’t be six of us sitting around a table typing away merrily now. And if Bob hadn’t started blogging, well, would legal blogging even exist as it does?
  • Never make a fantasy football trade with Scott. He’s always trying to swindle you.

As I was packing my things last weekend, I found the old legal pad I used when I first started at LexBlog. Each date was carefully boxed at the top of the page, with notes from meetings, thoughts, and assignments scribbled beneath. Phrases like “shine a light,” and “blogging to build relationships” littered the early pages. It seems funny that I felt the need to write those ideas down back then – they’re concepts that are so fundamental to me now that it feels like the equivalent of writing down “breathe,” or “drink water,” or “donuts are delicious.” 

So, thank you, LexBlog. I’ll no longer be a LexBlogger, but I’ll always be a blogger.

And a special thanks to Aimee, for the glorious (gluten free!) wine and cheese spread!