Jan 28 2014

Smartphones in law firms – which way’s the wind blowing?

Jason

Back in September I finished a poll on my site that asked which platform people thought was going to become the leader in law firms. iOS topped that poll which was not surprising from a consumer perspective, but from a costs perspective it was rather surprising given the high device costs AND the higher tariff costs for non-consumer tariffs (particularly in the UK where 50%+ of the traffic for this site comes from).

So since then I’ve been running a poll asking a slightly more specific question, focussing much more on the costs aspect to see if the results matched.

Are you considering as a firm to remain with BlackBerry 7 to control your costs? 

The results were interesting, 20% indicated they were going to stick with BlackBerry 7 devices (either keeping the same handsets or upgrading to the latest/last BB7 device). Only 12% said they were going to go BlackBerry 10, this roughly tallied with the 16% in the previous “Which mobile platform do you think will become the leading platform in law firms?” poll.

Still though I was surprised that 68% said they would go with a different OS, meaning one of iOS, Android or Windows Phone.

I still struggle to grasp how in such a cost sensitive industry like Legal there can be a cost-benefit analysis that justifies iPhones for all, smartphones yes but high end smartphones? It’s an interesting landscape that is going to change dramatically in 2014 I’m sure, but I still think that Windows Phone has a big part to play here. I know of a few large international businesses (outside Legal) that have gone the MS way, will further integration into products like Systems Centre for management of mobiles make this easier for firms? Or will a more consumer own device with business providing SaaS (Software as a Service) facilities be the norm? Time will tell.

 

p.s. I’m running another poll at the moment looking at what people use for news (rss) feeds since the demise of Google Reader. Why not take a vote? It’s at the top right of the home page of my site.

 

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Nov 24 2010

A WorkSite question – one library = one fileshare?

Jason

This blog post is a question to other legal IT teams, especially those that support Autonomy iManage’s WorkSite product. The question came to me after I re-read the post by @jbtrexler on the excellent blog electronic file 2.0.

It’s about storage underneath WorkSite and a realisation that after six years of supporting the product I’ve never really needed to get to grips with the underlying file management of the product.

The question though is simple. For a single WorkSite library or database, can I have the physical documents stored across numerous shares? So for my Matters library could I have the documents stored on a matters1 share on say one array of disks and a matters2 on another?

At some point I’ve been led to believe not, but am I wrong?

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Feb 22 2010

Human Computer Interface

Jason

Such a dull title, but that was the title of one of my final year modules at University. The textbook is probably in the loft somewhere. It was all about designing applications to be intuitive and easy to use (a much harder job when everything was DOS based!).

A couple of things over the last week got me thinking again about the design of applications from a user perspective and how important this is.

First off was the launch of Windows Phone 7 Series.

winmo_7_peoplescreen

Clearly Microsoft finally “got it” with this release. They went back to the drawing board and designed something from a users perspective. Grouping things together in a logical human way (rather than technical grouping). Take a look at the video over at MSDN.

Second though was the interface with the most potential, Microsoft Live Labs Pivot.

Pivot

Basically it is an interface into huge amounts of information. It allows you to slice up information in different ways, allowing you to go from huge amounts of data down to small amounts and back out in logical and connected ways.

It’s quite difficult to explain how this works using text, so take a look at the video over at the Microsoft Pivot site – http://getpivot.com/

In a law firm the possibilities for this are huge.

Law firms have huge amounts of data in documents and emails that this kind of interface would be perfect for. Imagine this being the main interface for Outlook or your document management system. You could slice up your emails quickly to find the information you were after. Or slice up your documents to collect together specific types of agreements, in specific jurisdictions etc.

On the developer page there are a number of challenges. One of which is a front end to SharePoint. I’m going to put my own challenge out there for any legal software developer to front end Autonomy iManage’s WorkSite, imagine this being the user interface of DeskSite!

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Oct 30 2009

One to pass to your IP/IT lawyers

Jason

Are you ready for WWW.JДSФИPLДЙT.CO.UK

As of this month the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) agreed to allow non-Latin script web urls. This means the address above could be a perfectly valid web address (domain name).

This gives a whole raft of opportunities for cyber squatters to snap up domains of companies, especially those that are based in the emerging markets of most international law firms, the eastern European, Asian and Gulf region countries. And as well as squatters if you have clients whose brand names are non-Latin character based or who trade in regions where the writing is non-Latin, it could be an opportunity to advise them on protecting their brands.

Unfortunately the change means that there are also more opportunities for phishing attacks through spoofing domain names.

For example, take a look at this url www.jаsonplаnt.co.uk It looks pretty normal right? However try the link, you’ll get a 404 or page not found. Why? Well the a’s are actually а’s (still confused? the first is a Latin character a and the second is the Cyrillic character a). A computer recognises them as totally different. Therefore sites could be “spoofed” using this Cyrillic method and be used to “phish” information from you.

Below is a (hopefully) high level explanation of how this new system will work.

First remember, computers work under the bonnet in numbers for pretty much everything.

So as it stands now there is a service on the internet called DNS (Domain Name System). This acts like a phonebook, turning easily understood domain names that you use into strings of computer-readable numbers, known as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

There is also an encoding system that turns characters you type into numbers that the computer understands, this is called ASCII. This is what the internet DNS system uses now to translate the characters of the urls.

Technically the problem has been that ASCII was built for the Latin character set. And it is limited to the number of characters it can encode. To cater for all the worlds character sets; Latin, Cyrillic and Chinese characters etc, a new system was required. This is called Unicode. However the DNS “phonebooks” of the internet only understand ASCII**.

So to enable the new domain names to have all characters sets, a method was required to handle the conversion. The conversions between ASCII and non-ASCII forms of a domain name are accomplished by some clever algorithms called ToASCII and ToUnicode.

So take JДSФИPLДЙT, this is Unicode and so the ToASCII algorithm would be applied. Once it has been through this algorithm, a prefix is given to distinguish it from a standard ASCII name (otherwise you could end up with a totally different Cyrillic and Latin urls/domain names pointing to the same place!). The result is a unique name that can be looked up in DNS (**technically DNS can support non-ASCII but because of other limitations it has meant non-ASCII names be converted to ASCII).

Finally it is worth knowing that most of the popular browsers have introduced some methods to help with the “spoofing” by recognising when this new multi-language domain name is being used in this way.

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Aug 27 2009

Looking after those WorkSite links

Jason

Last week I had a webex with Paul O’Connor from GrantSelect, Paul’s an ex Autonomy iManage employee and was demoing a new product GrantSelect have developed for WorkSite.

There are three main areas to the product:

Sending WorkSite Documents/Links

This I think is the neatest area and is a very simple (from a user perspective, not for one minute suggesting technically it’s simple!) solution to a classic WorkSite problem.

For those that use WorkSite, do you default your “Attach worksite document” as an NRL link or as a Copy of the document? If it’s set to the former you risk sending your clients useless NRLs, but if the later you could clog up your inboxes internally with large attachments (and lose all your version control as people use the copy in the Inbox rather than the latest copy in the document management system).

The GrantSelect solution is a service that sorts this out. You can set WorkSite to always send an NRL link, if it’s internal then great! People get the small link and all the version control, security etc WorkSite brings. If it’s external then the GrantSelect product swaps out the link for an actual copy! Thus your client gets a useful document.

It’s a simple yet effective solution to a simple but annoying problem. My only question is will it be cheap enough? It’s one of those problems that probably can’t justify a high priced solution.

Receiving documents in emails as attachments

Next part of the product is for incoming emails, specifically those with attachments. The email is processed before the inbox and the documents are replaced with NRL links, the documents are then filed in a secure workspace (I think Paul said they are secured to the email recipients, but can’t be 100%).

If you subsequently file the email from your inbox into WorkSite, the documents are also refiled to the same workspace (for example, alongside the email in the client matter workspace).

This one I wasn’t too sure about and after a few chats I got similar feedback. Which is although the storage saving and single version controlled instance of the attachment is very nice, you’re ultimately messing with the email. We couldn’t help thinking that fee earners won’t appreciate their email not being as it was sent from the client.

I would love to hear other people’s comments on this one:

What do you think about the whole "email as a record" question?

Do you think people in general will get it?

Working remotely (without WorkSite for BlackBerry!)

This one’s another nice simple idea, especially for those Blackberry or Outlook Web Access (OWA) users without access to the document management system.

Basically it allows you send an email to a "Doc Request" email address, be it either an NRL or just a document number. The product will then email you back a copy of the document for you to access either through your BlackBerry or OWA.

Again like “Sending WorkSite Documents/Links” it’s  a simple solution to a common problem (especially if you started defaulting all your internal links as NRLs!).

Paul also mentioned that they were considering this for InterAction, so you could email in a contact and receive details of that contact in return.

 

Overall I think these are very nice simple solutions to common problems (they’re not major WorkSite issues, but niggles that crop up time and time again). The key to these products will be cost and scalability. I can’t see people wanting to spend huge amounts on these problems (especially at the moment), but at a reasonable cost they could form part of a usability and email management solution. The scalability due to the volumes of emails medium/large law firms will receive.

There is also the benefit of reduced storage space (which for email could be considered a major issue due to the exponential growth of the stuff!) and keeping the multiple copies of emails with links to single instances of the documents will facilitate this, but as I’ve mentioned I’m not sure about the ramifications of this email “alteration”? Also this area will need some hard case study evidence as to the cost benefit.

The full name of the product is GS Link Warden for Worksite and there’s more information over on the Grant Select website (http://www.grantselect.co.uk/products/products.htm)

One final thing that I thought was in relation to my recent posts on email management. That is with WorkSite 8.5 on the horizon, Zantaz EAS (or other email archiving) and Exchange already in use, it’s a lot to think about tying all these technologies together into something that in the end makes file management (especially of emails) easier for the fee earner. I mean the fee earner doesn’t care about IT storage issues, they want their electronic file to be as easy to browse, read and manipulate as the paper one was/is!

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May 5 2009

Tweetdeck v Seesmic Desktop

Jason

One of the benefits of twitter is the proliferation of desktop applications that are available to enhance the twitter experience (if you are still using twitter via the web then you want to try one or more of these applications). For a while I’ve used a combination of tweetdeck and thwirl with the later slowly getting less and less use.

Then this week I downloaded Seesmic Desktop and I’m a convert. They’ve basically copied tweetdecks best features and added to them.

That’s not to say I’ve given up on tweetdeck, there are plenty of opportunities for improvement in both camps. But I thought for a blog post though I’d highlight some of the things I see strengths in both and benefits of each.

Big benefits both bring over rivals:

  • Multiple columns/decks, allowing you to slice up your tweet feed in ways to suit you. Either group by user lists, keep an eye on twitter searches for specific topics etc
  • Integrate your facebook feed and post facebook statuses

Seesmic desktop benefits:

  • Multiple accounts! This is the killer for me at the moment and my big reason for switching, you can integrate multiple twitter accounts into one application and then group people across all your accounts (I would like to see the ability to post to one of more of this accounts in one go though like ping.fm, rather than one at a time)
  • Enhanced facebook integration. Not just see status timeline, but the whole facebook timeline

Tweetdeck benefits:

  • Twitpic integration is nicer, like the fact you can stay in tweetdeck and not have to jump across to a web browser
  • Twitscoop. See trending topics in a column/deck
  • You can post to your twitter account and facebook in one post (seesmic is an either or)

There are indications that Tweetdeck will introduce multiple accounts, so maybe I’ll switch back shortly. But once that’s there, then there is probably only one feature that will make me switch again. The killer feature I’d like to see is:

  • ability to either export my settings for import on another computer (regardless of OS) or better still have these stored online (in fact is it time for twitter to add groups as a permanent feature?)

Final note is for people with Windows Mobile devices. Get Pocketwit! It has many of the features on seesmic desktop and tweetdeck: multiple accounts, groups and integrated twitpic.

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Mar 12 2009

Interwoven WorkSite 8.4?!?

Jason

Well I find out today that Interwoven will be releasing a v8.4!

It’s all part of the takeover by Autonomy and I know that until the merger goes through it’s difficult for them to disseminate information to customers on something that isn’t confirmed. But customers are still moving forward with projects and if you’re in the process of moving to v8.3 for the Vivisimo search, then you may want to take notes of these upcoming releases!

For those mid-project, here’s the order as a guide:

  • v8.5 is imminent (with Vivisimo Velocity) on a limited release (Limited release is fully tested production code but only released to clients who ask for it so they can be given preferential support)
  • v8.4 (with Autonomy’s IDOL engine) would follow this at some point. A server side upgrade retaining the v8.2 client – expect it to initially be a limited release while knowledge of IDOL grows within Interwoven.
  • v8.5 would then be released with Autonomy’s IDOL engine as a limited release
  • IUS (IDOL) limited release on a similar timetable to 8.5 IDOL
  • General availability of all above would follow later in year
  • Along with additional v8.5 modules such as SharePoint integration, WorkSite Web, IRM, language packs etc
  • After all this there comes the Fileshare release (I’m looking forward to this one! From what I understand you can make your workspaces available through a windows file share!)

In terms of architecture, the feedback is that the IDOL engine requires a similar capability as Vivisimo Velocity, so in their words “we can ‘simply switch’ from one index to the other”.

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Feb 16 2009

Calling Autonomy!

Jason

I’ve had an idea! You might want to take notes…..

I’ve been using your Zantaz product a little bit this week, specifically I’ve been trying to address an issue in the firm with large Outlook calendar folders. During this time a thought hit me….imagine a future release of WorkSite and Zantaz that are perfectly integrated with Autonomy’s IDOL engine and each other. Here’s what I came up with…

callingautonomy

  • Emails are no longer physically stored in the WorkSite environment, but are solely stored within Zantaz – BIG savings on WorkSite storage costs (our DMS is 70% full of email!), additional benefits from Zantaz de-duplication, compression etc
  • However you can still file an email to a matter, either by continuing to do a simple drag and drop or by using the Interwoven “Send and File” functionality. BUT rather than move the email into WorkSite, it would just “tag” that email as belonging to the WorkSite matter in question. You could still browse the matter workspace in WorkSite and see the emails in a folder, but they would be just returned from Zantaz using an IDOL search on the “tags” – benefits here would be in performance as the email doesn’t have to get moved from Exchange to WorkSite etc
  • “File and Send” itself would become more efficient as it wouldn’t have to scan WorkSite for emails that are already filed, to flag in your Inbox. Instead a simple IDOL query could be used against the Zantaz store. In fact if journaling was being done, it would know the email was already logged and “tagged”!
  • By changing to “tagging” you could easily add many “matter tags” to one email, it could then belong in many WorkSite matter workspaces – perfect for all those emails from a client that refer to many matters.
  • ALL emails could be journaled into Zantaz and then IDOL could be used to intelligently “tag” emails based on content, recipients, senders etc automatically. This could be used to suggest filing locations to the fee earners or even just file the email as soon as it reaches the Inbox – big benefits in time saving for the fee earner. Also if the fee earner has been particularly lazy and not filed their emails by the time a Zantaz policy archives it from their Inbox, it would still have some matter information tagged against it.
  • Best of all Search! The Express Search would become incredibly powerful allowing full access to all documents and emails with a simple “Google like” search. You could also leverage Outlook search to consolidate results from Exchange, Zantaz and WorkSite, ALL matter documents and emails in one search.

I hope Interwoven’s WorkSite engineers are allowed the scope to look at the full Autonomy product suite. This merger could really be great news for law firms if they are! I’m also so glad we made the hard decision two years ago to drop KVS and buy the Zantaz solution :-)

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Jan 26 2009

Jaiku v Twitter

Jason

Is there any point in me introducing Twitter? It’s hit the mainstream press now, so like Facebook if you’re online reading this blog you probably have heard of the latest internet hit. But have you heard of Jaiku? My guess is probably not.

Jaiku was founded in 2006 and then purchased by Google a year later, it’s basically a “twitter clone”. It generated a fair bit of publicity last week amongst Google’s announcements that it was culling a number of it’s offerings.

Now I know Jaiku is never going to beat Twitter just like Microsoft Live Search is never going to beat Google. Twitter is now the defacto standard for micro blogging. So why then title a blog post in such a way that it indicates that there is some scope for a challenge?

The answer is in this paragraph from the Google announcement.

we are in the process of porting Jaiku over to Google App Engine. After the migration is complete, we will release the new open source Jaiku Engine project on Google Code under the Apache License. While Google will no longer actively develop the Jaiku codebase, the service itself will live on thanks to a dedicated and passionate volunteer team of Googlers

I can see so many uses for Twitter internally in a law firm. IT notifications of service interruption, legal project teams working together globally on cases using it to communicate, marketing teams communicating pitch information, you could fill a page with knowledge management use alone etc. The problem though is security. You may use Twitter now, but I bet you keep your tweets vague enough to not give any personal or confidential information away?

Now with an open source Jaiku, you can have an internal Twitter. Hosted on your own secure network. Keeping it in your own network means you don’t have to limit the content. Also with it being open source you can guarantee that soon there will be Adobe Air clients, BlackBerry clients, Mac clients etc etc

This could do for internal social networks what Twitter has already done for external!

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Jan 21 2009

Google vs Interwoven – email send & archive/file

Jason

Google have introduced a “Send and Archive” function in their Gmail (Google Mail) application. This is a labs feature at the moment and so isn’t turned on by default. I caught sight of this from a post on Mashable in my RSS feeds, which in turn refers to the Google Labs blog announcing this feature.

I already posted a link to this via twitter on Monday, but I thought I’d add some thoughts here now that I’ve used the feature in Gmail. And to say that it is very similar to a feature introduced by Interwoven in WorkSite already, their “Send and File” functionality.

sendandfile

On the left is Interwoven’s product integrated with Outlook and on the right is the Google labs feature.

Basically both are designed to get your emails out of your inbox into a long term storage area. In Interwoven’s case this means into a Workspace for the matter you’re working on and in Google’s case into your Archive area within Gmail.

After playing with the Gmail version for a while, two things struck me:

  1. Subsequent replies to your email don’t seem to be auto filed in the archive, I had to chose to archive these (admittedly one click archives the whole email thread). The Interwoven version though will “tag” the outgoing email so it can then file the incoming replies automatically.
  2. There is no structure to the archive (unlike say sub folders or workspaces), it’s just a big “bucket”. Google can handle this either by labelling the emails (from what I can see rather like a categorisation tag) or alternatively by just by relying on their search engine to find your stuff.

It’s this very last point I want to touch on. This to me is the killer feature! When your search engine is as good at returning what you’re after as Google’s, why bother structuring it at all?

After all email is an absolute pain to file in a rigid structure. For example, that email you received from the client may refer to two matters and some personal information just for you, how do you file that in a single folder? But a big bin with a fantastic search capability might just work!

Will the velocity engine from Vivisimo that’s in Interwoven WorkSite 8.3 bring the “Google search” to WorkSite? I’ll let you know when we get it up and running!

And if you’ve already got it up and running why not post a comment? 

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