27 January 2006

Going Offline and Away!

Gone away to Natura Park Resort Eco & Spa for a week, it's a tough life! Enjoy the snow, if applicable. ;-)

25 January 2006

Contributor to Slaw.ca

As of today, I have joined the slaw.ca team of occasional contributors. From time to time, I will post on slaw.ca some of the content that appears in this blog, edited for the legal profession community - here is an example: "The Uneasy Lawyer and IT Dialogue".

24 January 2006

Web 2.0 and Law 2.0

I have recently come across a very interesting roundtable (from Law Practice TODAY) with Dennis Kennedy, Tom Mighell, John Tredennick, Stephen M. Nipper and Frederick L. Faulkner on the following topics:
  • What is Web 2.0
  • Examples
  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • RSS
  • Web 2.0 Applications
  • What does it mean for lawyers
The authors used writely, a self-styled web word processor, to create this article.

Pandora v. Last.fm

When I wrote earlier about Pandora, a reader (thanks Mike) suggested that I try last.fm. If you're interested in a comparison between Pandora and last.fm, take a look at the review by Michael Arrington on TechCrunch. Although the post is short, there are lots of insightful comments.

23 January 2006

IMN: Three Subscriptions Are Now Available

Navigating to the end of the right side menu of this blog, on the main page, you can now find three different RSS or email subscriptions for this blog:
If you want, for example, only to receive posts and to be kept informed of new resources tagged for this blog (I tag a lot of good stuff that I do not necessarily comment upon in this blog); you need to subscribe to each service by clicking on the corresponding links, above.

Note: posts are also tagged resources - they will show up in the "resources tagged" feed too.

Building Better Communities Awards (for Libraries)

I once characterized (for fun!) Librarians as "Librarians: I go on managing my collections and serials mindsets", well, think that no more: I really like SirsiDynix new "Building Better Communities Awards", for Libraries (official press release here).

The award recognizes Librarian technology leadership, in service of communities.

It would have been even a better award, I think, if eligibility had not been restricted to "SirsiDynix-powered" Libraries. Although it may seem strange if SirsiDynix were to award a prize to a "non-SirsiDynix" powered Library, on second thoughts, it would make a very lasting impression on the winning Library and would enable all Librarians, proud of their achievements, to apply... Two cents worth from a non-Librarian.

An Excellent Library Catalog Interface: NCSU Libraries

I recently came across the new NCSU Libraries Catalog system (thanks to LibrarianInBlack) and found it the best library catalog interface I have come across to date.

This online catalog is powered by Endeca.

19 January 2006

Wikis In Large Corporations

Since I wrote recently about "The Death of Enteprise Software", I came across an article titled "Wikis: Enabling Effective Knowledge Sharing Across the Organization", by Graeme Foux. This article is symptomatic of a larger trend of moving away from large, cumbersome enterprise software platforms to agile combinations of web-based applications.

I liked Graeme' s article for several reasons, the first being because he offers a simple definition for what is a wiki:
A wiki is an online tool that allows users to update and publish content collaboratively. Anyone who has access can edit the content, using a very simple tool and an ordinary web browser. Wiki usage is known as ‘collaborative authoring’.
The article has a clear focus on wikis in corporate settings: how can they be useful? What is the added value? What can you do to make wikis successful? The theme of this article underscores the trend alluded to earlier, that is, web 2.0 technologies - including wikis - are poised in 2006 to be assessed for their usage in large corporations and governments, replacing in part or completely several traditional content management systems.

In addition to wikis, more generally, web based applications are also ripe for specific evaluation by large corporations and governments. When comparing the bottom line of well designed Ajax applications as opposed to monolithic enterprise applications, convincingly done by Dion Hinchcliffe in "Why Ajax Is So Disruptive", it is easy to understand why momentum in that direction is building up. Follow the latter link for the full explanation of what Dion considers the "disruptive influences" of Ajax applications on the traditional software world:
  1. The End of Software Upgrades, Fixes, and Security Patches;
  2. Software and Data Available Wherever You Go;
  3. Isolated Software Can't Compete with Connected Software;
  4. Deprecation of the Traditional Operating System; and
  5. Software That Is Invisible.
Having been confronted with the spiraling IT costs associated with traditional IT and software delivery, I can't help having a feeling of elation! I can start to see a business environment unshackled from a much too long hijacking of itself by IT undelivered promises.

IT and its Total-Cost-of-Ownership (TCO) might even represent, again, a fair proportion of the total budget. What an interesting perspective. Web 2.0 and Ajax offer large corporations and governments a genuine strategy for IT rationalization, even resulting in a better information environment for end users. When was the last time that rationalization in large organizations resulted in something better at a lower cost?

17 January 2006

U3: Take Your Computing Environment With You

Have you ever wondered how to take with you, on the road, in a tiny USB drive, all your favorite software and files without the need to install anything on the computer you will connect your USB drive to?

Search no more! Take a look at U3. I especially recommend the clear presentation of U3 CEO Kate Purmal, available at the latter link.

16 January 2006

Yet Another Angle on Web 2.0

In the "Must Read" section, I have provided several links to Web 2.0 articles. I have just added another one, by Barb Dybwad, titled "Approaching a definition of Web 2.0". It has more focus on the conceptual aspects of Web 2.0.

14 January 2006

The Relationship Between IT and Business

As I read two recent posts on the subject topic (Business and I.T. Must Work Together to Manage New "Web 2.0" Tools by Dennis D. McDonald and Jeremiah Owyang and The Lawyer-IT Dialogue by Simon Fodden), I realized how much of a universal challenge the relationship is.

All too often, we have an unproductive corporate dialogue that looks like this:

This relationship eventually ends as follows:

Not very productive! It might be more appropriate to insert an intermediary function called "IM" between business users and the IT staff, giving us:

These "models" (thanks to Doug O'Brien, manager at Natural Resources Canada, for sharing his insights on topic in that simple and humoristic form) make several assumptions:
  • By "IM", we mean a corporate function that looks at Information Management holistically in which all IM facets are integrated (see Standardized IM Frameworks here), including, for example, records management, access to information & privacy, library services, research services, standards, education, training, so on and so forth;
  • By "IT", we mean a corporate function that represents the more traditional Information Technology activities, technical and "problem solving" in nature - networks, hardware and software fleet management, application development, etc.
Going back to the White Paper published by Dennis and Jeremiah, they approach the issue by asking "how should IT be involved?" The challenges they evoke (Chicken & Egg problem, Ownership Policy, Technology Trends, Employee Responsibility - on that topic see related legal issues, Crisis Management and Influence vs. Control) are all real challenges. I suggest that their paper points to a missing piece in the organizational picture: an intermediary function, or person or Department, providing the necessary interface between IT and the business. Such people know the language of the business and of IT. In a law firm, for example, this person might be a lawyer with a strong IT background, knowledge and interest. This allows business users to remain focused on their business and IT staff to remain committed and engaged in IT problem solving without the unfair added responsibility to tackle the whole IM Problem Space.

Simon Fodden raises a similar challenge in the context of a law firm here. I wholeheartedly agree with one of his remarks:
Ideally, there might be a CIO or CKO who has the status of a partner, whether or not she/he is in fact a lawyer-partner. This person would understand both worlds enough to know what questions to ask, what issues to pose, and what policies to impose or recommend. If this truly important mediation role is left to chance, such as when it's dependent on the fact that Mary or Ali, otherwise a librarian or an associate or an office manager, happens to have a background that facilitates things, the firm is vulnerable and may not be putting things on the best footing.
Considering knowledge-based organizations and their users thrive on information, it is well worth the investment to have a dedicated IM function and to position IT as an enabler of IM and, in turn, IM as an enabler of the business. The dialogue will improve and rationalization opportunities, matching business requirements, will be easier to identify.

Lesser Known Books on KM

I do not write much about Knowledge Management, but I found this list of "lesser known books on KM" by Larry Prusak, available here, interesting and informative.

13 January 2006

HR: Blogging As A New Required Ability?

As Web 2.0 technologies become more prevalent, I would not be surprised to see the ability to "blog", or to contribute to weblogs, appear in job offers as an ability increasingly sought after... once the legal issues are sorted out. See for example how ZDNet is Looking for a Few Good Bloggers, in a recent post by Bill Ives.

An Example of a Public Law Wiki

Found an interesting law wiki by the Cornell Law School "Legal Information Institute":
Wex is an ambitious effort to construct a collaboratively-created, public-access law dictionary and encyclopedia. It is sponsored and hosted by the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School (http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/). Much of the material that appears in Wex was originally developed for the LII's "Law about..." pages, to which Wex is the successor.

The Death of Enterprise Software

As reported by James Robertson in his post titled The death of enterprise software, Joe Lamantia has written an interesting piece on "turning away from monolithic and expensive systems with terrible user experiences" (the original post can be found here).

As users increasingly turn away from enterprise systems, they are likely to turn to new trends and technologies that have a proven track record, in particular, solutions that espouses what Dion Hinchcliffe calls "The Timeless Way of Building Software":
There is one timeless way of building software. It is decades old and is the same today as it's always been. And because it is timeless, it will always remain this way.

The great software of our time has always been created by people who were close to this way. It isn't possible to create great software - software that is satisfying, and useful, and makes itself a natural extension of life - except by following this way. And as you will see, this way will lead anyone who looks for it to elegant, vibrant software which is itself timeless in its form.

It is the process by which the function of a piece of software grows directly from the inner nature of people and naturally out of the raw bits, the otherwise meaningless digital medium, of which it is made.

It is a process which allows the life inside a person, or a group of people, or a community to flourish, openly, in freedom, so vividly that it gives rise, of its own accord, to the natural order which is needed to be contained within it.
If large, neutral and "good for all" enteprise solutions do not obey the above great software characteristics and, at the same time, carefully selected web 2.0 technologies do; the workplace is poised to embrace web 2.0 technologies sooner or later - provided such technologies are carefully selected and orchestrated for deployment in corporate settings. In particular, for large corporations and governments, I agree with Joe Lamantia's prediction:
For enterprise software, I think organizations will turn away from monolithic and expensive systems with terrible user experiences -- and correspondingly low levels of satisfaction, quality, and efficacy -- as the best means of meeting business needs, and shift to a mixed palette of semantically integrated capabilities or services delivered via the Internet. These capabilities will originate from diverse vendors or providers, and expose customized sets of functionality and information specific to the individual enterprise. Staff will access and encounter these capabilities via a multiplicity of channels and user experiences; dashboard or portal style aggregators, RIA rich internet applications, mobile devices, interfaces for RSS and other micro-content formats.
End-user experience is not the only driver for this change. The commoditization of IT, a concept coined by Nicholas Carr in "Does IT Matter?", coinciding with organizational self-awareness of massive IM/IT sustained investments as a portion of overall budgets; are pushing for considerable IM/IT rationalization. In one Department for example, the federal government is hoping to save approximately $150M on a yearly basis on the basis of IM/IT rationalization.

Expect an increasing number of conferences exploring how web 2.0 technologies could well serve the workplace, such as this one, and expect a better collaboration between IT staff and business units, as described in this White Paper by Dennis D. McDonald and Jeremiah Owyang (reported here by James Robertson). Finally, Web 2.0 solutions will increasingly target corporate settings, such as Alfresco - an open source, open-standards content repository.

Exciting times ahead in 2006!