30 June 2006

The Paperless Lawyer-Speaker: Dominic Jaar

Last week, several lawyers from the Office of the Judge-Advocate General converged to Ottawa, at the Government of Canada Conference Center, for a National Retreat on integrated information management. The 3-day retreat opened with a one-hour session on Modern Law Practice led by Dominic Jaar, corporate counsel at Bell Canada. Dominic accepted an earlier invitation posted on slaw.

Dominic treated us with something far better than a vision of a future, modern and paperless lawyer: he simply shared with us how he currently worked and demonstrated his day-to-day practice, including court room practice. From accessing remotely the corporate Practice and Case Management System to sifting, filtering and sorting through thousands and millions of documents in the context of e-discovery in a court room setting; Dominic's demonstration was getting the point across very convincingly: it is well worth the upfront investment to become a true paperless lawyer. Whereas he could manage about 30 to 40 cases concurrently, Dominic estimated he could now manage about 110 to 120 cases, with more ease and pleasure.

He also demonstrated several technologies that are part of his Law 2.0 arsenal:
  • VPN conduit to the office, enabling him to remotely connect to corporate resources;
  • In addition to a Practice and Case Management System, a distinct application to manage, sort, filter, annotate and generally better manage and present evidence in electronic format;
  • Whenever authorized by the Judge, automatic voice recognition and transcription of testimonies in his laptop: as witnesses (or anyone for that matter) is speaking in the court room, testimonies and verbal exchanges are automatically transcribed into text;
  • Phone service from the computer also, enabling automatic logging of calls into the relevant cases, etc.
If you need a lawyer as speaker for a seminar or conference that is gifted and that has truly gone the paperless route and is also web 2.0 enabled; consider Dominic. He is a member of Sedona Canada (Working Group 7 of Sedona) and regularly writes in the newsletter for l'Association du Jeune Barreau de Montréal. Participants to my Retreat last week were unanimous: his presentation was an eye opener into the future and was very stimulating. We all want him back next year. Now all that you need Dominic, so people can find you easily (especially if they google you); is your very own claimid page. ;-)

[cross posted on slaw]

Creative Commons Licenses Added to Microsoft Office

As you may already know, I'm a fan of Creative Commons licenses, because they allow authors to promote the dissemination of their ideas and their work using one of many carefully designed licenses. One such license is featured on this blog. Instead of publishing under the default almighty "All rights reserved", placing severe restrictions on the reuse and re-purposing of their works; creative commons licenses empower authors and publishers to decide exactly what rights they want to retain as opposed to retaining "all rights".

Microsoft has recently offered the option to embed Creative Commons license in Word documents, Excel workbooks and PowerPoint slide descks; by offering a new Microsoft Office add-in. Great idea!

PS: with this Firefox extension, you can instantly view creative commons licenses embedded in web pages.

29 June 2006

Metacrap: 5 Years After

About five years, ago, Cory Doctorow published the entertaining reality check called "Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia". Take a look at it. Still valid. A bit extreme, but to counterbalance the huge amount of meta-utopia already published, I would surmise that Cory wanted to get his point across in a way that most of us could immediately relate to.

Such reality checks are useful, especially before embarking on organizational metadata journeys. Highly recommended!

28 June 2006

Open Source Software Gaining Momentum: Taiwan, Belgium

The logic of adopting open source software in governments has been recognized in several governments, such as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Taiwan and Belgium are the latest into the club of governments adopting and promoting open source software, for a number of not too suprising reasons:
  • Taiwan (and presumably China is next) are fed up with high licensing fees, most of them paid to Microsoft. The sums involved are staggering.
  • Belgium, on June 23rd, 2006, issued a press release confirming the adoption by the Belgium government of the Open Document Format (ODF) in government. An excerpt from the press release follows (my translation): "In the first stage, each federal Department and Agency must ensure that documents in ODF format can be read. A transitory period is planned. This will enable all administrators to take all necessary measures without jeopardizing level and quality of service. Further progress will depend on the impact assessment study and on the existence of appropriate plug-ins for reading and saving documents in ODF format. This decision illustrates the overall federal government strategy of promoting the use of open standards." Thanks to Russell McOrmond for reporting this (GOSLING mailing list).
[cross-posted on G2TT]

22 June 2006

Starting With Web 2.0

I am keeping fairly quiet this week, as I am leading a National Retreat for selected lawyers of our Office in Ottawa. One question I keep getting asked: "How can we get started using web 2.0 stuff - wikis, blogs, feeds...?"

Last Fall, I took a University of Toronto course taught by Stephen Abram, VP Innovation at SirsiDynix. I felt overwhelmed by his forward looking horizon, knowledge, and I kept asking myself - "what is all this web 2.0 stuff? how does he keep current with so much?!" I finally asked him. Stephen just said: "start by looking up web 2.0 on google, subscribe to a few blogs... it will come".

He was right.

Eight months later, I read on a regular basis over 100 blogs, I now am fully immersed in that forward-looking horizon. If you feel very new to this, no worries. One year ago, I had no clue of what "web 2.0" meant. It's not rocket science.

In this post, I share some recommended steps to anyone new to web 2.0 and interested to start experimenting with feeds (RSS), wikis, blogs, the whole shebang. Feel free to add comments and other suggested steps and resources.
  1. Introductory Reading. Before you start experimenting with blogs, wikis and the like; I suggest you follow these links to get a bird's eye view: Intro to Web 2.0 by Joshua Porter, other web 2.0 definitions compiled by Dion Hinchcliffe, wikipedia articles (Web 2.0, RSS, wiki, blog, social tagging).
  2. Web 2.0 and your Environment. Each field of human endeavour, including yours, will be influenced by the web 2.0 phenomenon, sooner or later. Why? Web 2.0 promotes a participatory web in which ideas are shared, exchanged, debated, online and in full view, instantly connecting all interested parties. Web 2.0 offers alternative modes of expression and lowers the publishing threshold - to be an author once required a literary agent, now; you can open and publish on a blog in mere minutes. The long term wordlwide impact of this information revolution has been neatly encapsulated in the provocative EPIC 2014 movie. Here follows an example of how web 2.0 is increasingly having an impact on the legal profession: Web 2.0 and the Legal Profession.
  3. Experiment Web 2.0: ClaimID. You cannot develop a good understanding of web 2.0 trends and paradigm shifts without experimenting and using its tools and technologies. So, in the next steps below, I offer a few ways to get you going and experimenting. These experiences may result in you establishing an online presence: before you do so, open yourself a ClaimID page (see mine as example). Check these suggestions too. It is good practice to tie your online presence to a single ID page: I recommend ClaimID for this purpose.
  4. Experiment Web 2.0: NewsReading. If you want to be able to read syndicated feeds (see links in para 1 above), you will need a news reader. I use GreatNews for desktop based newsreading. There is also bloglines for internet based news reading. If you plan to do your news reading from the same computer all the time, a desktop newsreader is faster and more efficient. Once you have installed the software on your computer (or opened yourself a bloglines account), you are ready to subscribe to your first feeds.
  5. Experimenting Web 2.0: Subscribing to Feeds. A good starting point to give you an idea of the kind of things you can subscribe to is a recent article by Steve Rubel: 35 Ways You Can Use RSS Today. Standard icons are now used to identify feeds. Do not forget to subscribe to this blog! ;-)
  6. Experimenting with Web 2.0: Time to Tag. You are going to do a lot of exploration and reading on the net. You need a way to reference pages and sites. The "web 2.0 way" to do this is with "social tagging", so open yourself an account on http://del.icio.us - and start tagging pages as recommended in The Several Habits of Wildly Successful del.icio.us Users. By way of example, you can see how my del.icio.us account has grown to over 1,000 resources in about seven months only, and even when I hit 10,000 resources; I am confident I will be able to retrieve any page I want simply by combining my own keywords. For example, the list of my resources tagged both with "Web2.0" and "Trends" can be accessed witha URL formatted like this: http://del.icio.us/Fidelis1970/Web2.0+Trends ("Fidelis1970" is the name of my account on del.icio.us). Similarly, I know I can retrieve my own list of sites using drupal with the following URL: http://del.icio.us/Fidelis1970/drupal+Example
  7. Experimenting with Web 2.0: Time to Blog. Ok, you subscribe, you read, you tag; it is now time to become and actor of the information revolution! Open yourself a blog. The easiest, no hassle and free way to do this is by starting at blogger - see also the full explanation.
  8. Experimenting with Web 2.0: Time to Wiki. Whereas blogs represent a method for updating pages with regular posts, displayed in reverse chronological order, each posts typically enabling comments; wikis are more in the nature of a collection of easily editable web pages that are interlinked. The most successfull implementation of a wiki the wikipedia. There are places where you can start experimenting with wiki and even to open your own little wiki, such as Peanut Butter wiki. You can also simply register yourself an account on an existing wiki, and start editing and creating topics.
A few months of this; and you'll be a brand new web 2.0 citizen! ;-)

[cross-posted on G2TT]

13 June 2006

Does Anyone Know? How to Create "Web 2.0" Lists?

Does anyone know how to do this?

I would like to:
  • Be able to send emails to an address;
  • Have those emails transformed into a feed (with attachments and full text feed - no one line teasers);
  • For free?
I can't get MailBucket to work, same for mail2rss; and the Gmail email to RSS gateway solution is ugly...

UPDATE: and after trying the "Google Groups solution", I found out that their group feeds do not validate so I can't subscribe via my news reader...?!


08 June 2006

G2TT in the Ottawa Citizen | Web 2.0 in governments

The Ottawa Citizen (main newspaper of Canada's National Capital Region) featured today a full two page story in the tech weekly section, written by Peter Hum, on Government 2.0 Think Tank ("G2TT"), a private association dedicated to open source government. This marks the official launch of G2TT.

To the extent you are interested in web 2.0 happening in governments, please publicize this post on your blog and in your own networks. This is the welcome message on the G2TT site:

Government 2.0 Think Tank, or "G2TT", is an outlet of participation for those who are passionate about Public Service and want to solve problems in their fields.

Thought leadership. Vision. Skill. Comprehensiveness. Common sense. Not only can you find these attributes on G2TT, but you can, and should, contribute yours. You can register and view all content on this site. You can also become a member and participate to G2TT endeavours, including its first project, Leveraging Web 2.0 in governments.

G2TT promotes governmental efficiency. G2TT does not promote any particular viewpoint on any political issue. G2TT seeks to offer quality information to governments and members of the public about improving the way government does business, leveraging an open source community spirit.

G2TT is a private association, made of members drawn from the Global Public Sector ecosystem: Public Servants, citizens - anyone interested in operational issues facing any government, world-wide. Whether you are cynical, dispirited, passionate or just curious; there is no excuse not to get involved: G2TT puts within your reach an architecture of participation in which your voice can contribute to governments moving forward. Join us. We are thought leaders.

The first project of G2TT, called Project Eureka, specifically targets web 2.0 and related issues in a governmental context:

Throughout the world, governments are facing unprecedented opportunities and challenges in how they manage information. For example, the commoditization of Information Technology ("IT"), coupled with Web 2.0 trends and technologies, present a basket of solutions often leveraging Open Source Software and Open Standards. The Information Technology ("IT") landscape is dramatically changing, at a pace that few governments and large corporations are able to keep up with.

While these fundamental changes are occuring on the IT front, the traditional governmental silos of Information Management, such as Records Management, Library Management, Archives, Metadata & Taxonomy, Access to Information & Privacy, etc. are breaking down to make room for an increasingly unified version of information management, reconciled and working with IT.

These major transformational currents will completely reshape the way governments operate and interact with the Public they serve. How these changes will occur, however, is difficult to predict, because few governments entrust the full spectrum of responsibilities related to Integrated Information Management to a single Chief Information Officer (CIO's). Current CIO's are often "Chief IT Officers" as opposed to "Chief Information Officers".

Many public servants possess the necessary knowledge to empower their governments to embrace these major trends. However, they are typically responsible for only one piece of the problem. This is where G2TT comes in.

This is the first association project, seeking to bring Public Servants and any other interested parties to work on a common goal, leveraging open source community spirit: Leveraging Web 2.0 in governments. This project, similarly to other G2TT projects, is designed in accordance with a common set of project principles, in particular, the need to identify a clear, well-articulated deliverable. This project deliverable is a report structured as follows.

(read more)

I am excited by the potential of G2TT, as it embodies the best of open source software communities in an altogether different context: open source government. For more details, please see the G2TT Association Charter. Digg the article! ;-)

06 June 2006

Why Law Blogs ("Blawgs") Are On A Roll

Lawyers like to argue, to write, to publish; that's a known fact. When it comes to blogging, there is something special, something uniquely appealing that ought to be pursued; something that makes the connection between the legal community and society better. And that has been nicely stated by Dahlia Lithwick in The American Lawyer, June 1st 2006 edition:
If you combine a journalist's fear of offering a personal opinion with her even greater fear of boring the reader, the result can be legal writing that is too constrained, while at the same time fixates on the details of the human drama at the expense of explaining the legal dispute. By contrast, legal blogging is wonderfully technical and detailed, but also largely accessible and opinionated. In the blogosphere, the taboo on opinionated legal writing has been lifted. Even better, law professors, who can be exceedingly cautious in print, sometimes become slightly drunk on the Internet's thin air. Whereas legal thinkers once limited their most serious scholarship to law review articles, occasionally nipping out into the dangerous world to write an op-ed, now many of them offer off-the-cuff observations about everything from partial birth abortion bans to their favorite CDs, several times daily. The blogosphere thrives precisely because it exists at the interstices of the ivory tower and pop culture. As a result, it's the most fertile ground for cutting-edge law talk.

Thanks to Ian Best (3L Epiphany) for reporting this.

[cross-posted on Slaw]


04 June 2006

Why Workflow is Not Good Enough

I enjoyed reading this candid take on workflow, especially this excerpt - I'm liberally quoting from James Robertson's Column Two here:
  • "Organisations looking for a CMS read vendor marketing materials, and all offer extensive and powerful workflow features. These same features are discussed in many of the industry reports, and included on standard lists of CMS features.
  • Organisations naturally assume that this functionality works in practice, and seeing the potential benefits, ask for it in their tenders and requirements lists.
  • Vendors see that organisations consistently ask for workflow features, and often very powerful features at that. This forces them to promote their workflow functionality in their marketing materials, and to develop ever more sophisticated workflow features.
  • Vendors know very well that workflow isn't used in practice, having only 1 in 50 clients ever making real use of it. The problem is that customers don't believe them, instead responding: "you're just saying that because your workflow features are weak!".
  • At so it goes on, in this self-reinforcing cycle, with no opportunity to have a real discussion about best-practice (or even just practical) approaches."
I agree. The issue of the "death of business process" in knowledge-based organizations was quite alive a few months ago (see for example the articles by Irving Wladawsky-Berger and Ross Mayfield). Business Process, when knowledge workers are concerned, does not work very well. Knowledge workers work differently. Don't even get Dave Snowden going on this, because if you do, you're in for an intellectual ride, taking you to the same destination but on a much more sophisticated and entertaining way!

Being a knowledge worker is very different than working on an automobile assembly line. By focusing efforts on developing and maintaining a rich and optimized information environment for their knowledge workers, organizations will get better overall results than by focusing on "business process re-engineering" (BPR).

Mapping business processes has its uses, for example, when the exercise is conducted to a reasonable level of granularity to exemplify information flows. Such maps inform the business systems analyst on what are the information requirements flowing for any given activity performed by a knowledge worker. These mapping exercises, however, should always be complementary to other methods of deriving information requirements, to include, at least; business line analysis and end-user interviews.

Solely relying on workflow and business process analysis is not good enough, as you risk capturing only a subset of the real set of information requirements in the workplace.

Knowledge workers are rarely bound to particular processes. They often acquire and derive knowledge from a variety of sources and activities that are not tied to any process. Information managers should therefore strive to provide their knowledge workers with a rich information environment, maximizing opportunities for knowledge creation, sharing and acquisition. This is done by planning the delivery of integrated information management.