Recently in Blogs, Blogging and Wikis Category
Please join us!
Thinking Inside of the Blog
May 7th, 2009 12:00 - 1:00 PM Central Time
Are you hoping to follow hot topics,supplement training, market your department, or create a knowledgebase? Using a blog for these types of initiatives and more. For the most part, Blog applications are only limited by your imagination.Why? Because blogs are simple but powerful tools for organizing and sharing information that are often underestimated and underutilized.
We'll discuss the variety of ways you can use these mini-content management applications in your firm, review some of the more popular blog tools, including. You'll learn how to setup a blog, and organize your content.
Nobody really LIKES writing procedures manuals. You know you should, you know it would be helpful if you did, and when it comes time to train a new employee, you're always sorry that you didn't do a better job of it. But what if everyone could collaborate on a procedures manual, writing down specifics as they do them, or even as they learn them. It sounds like a job for a wiki!
If you're having a hard time getting you and/or your staff started on such a process, take this tip from Anne Welsh's article "Internal Wikis for Procedures and Training", in Online Nov./Dec. 2007. "one colleague...asked me to set up wiki pages for each of the topics I would like to know about, with prompt questions. Having read these, they worked through the procedures "live," stopping every 10 minutes or so to document what they'd done. Then we used their notes as the basis for a walk-through of each task. I added any additional notes I thought I'd need.." What a brilliant way to encourage staff members to detail procedures in a wiki!
Procedures can change on a daily basis. A wiki is ideal for creating a "living" procedures manual that can be easily edited by whomever you choose. Just think, start a procedures wiki and next time you get a new employee, you'll be ready!
Are you using blogs and/or wikis in your library? Answer this week's poll!
The web is all a buzz about Google's newest application, Google Sites. Google Sites is an adaptation of Jotspot, a wiki web provider that Google purchased over a year ago, and is now part of Google Apps.
Why aren't they calling it a wiki? Google Sites can be the basis for an intranet, a personal web space or an external web site. Wikis can be all of these things, too, but people decidedly lack imagination, and might pigeon-hole
a wiki app as a Wikipedia-type knowledgebase. While wikis are essentially an easy way to create a web site, for some, the label could be limiting. Google is aiming this at the general public, and by the way, not everyone knows what a wiki is! Anyway, that's just my guess as to the motivation, and I think it makes sense.
What I'm really liking is idea of 10 gigabytes of file storage. I've been on the lookout for a central location to store files of all kinds, including spreadsheets and pdfs, relating to our dog club. I've thought of using a wiki, but there's a limitation to the amount of space that is offered for free. Google has never been one to be stingy with storage space. So I plan to experiment with it sometime soon. And I'll bet our members won't mind at all that it's not called a wiki. :-)
Besides, apparently Google's eye is also on the enterprise market, with Sharepoint as the competition. So while Google Sites may resemble a wiki now, they obviously want it to become much more.
For more information see:
It's easy to create a wiki, but not always easy to get people to use it. Ben Sutton at Rosen Law may be on to something. He offered his employees a $1,000 cash prize as an incentive to use the firm's new wiki.
Rosen chose PBWiki as his platform of choice to replace a much more sophisticated and expensive Lotus Notes platform. All kinds of information is being collected on the wiki including phone lists and case files.
For more information see: Boosting Teamwork with Wikis (Fortune, Feb. 12, 2008)
There's a wide variety of ways to use wikis in libraries. In general, while wikis are handy any time you want to get some web pages up quicky, they're especially efficient when you have more than one person collarborating on content.
Meredith point out the value of the subject guide's task-based emphasis:
Probably my favorite part of the subject guides is the focus on how-to’s. More general subject guides are great, but usually students are trying to accomplish something more specific. They’re not doing “architecture research” — they’re looking for information on a specific building or architect or design style. They’re not doing “English research” — they’re looking for literary criticisms, book reviews, etc. That’s why I think a task-based orientation works so much better than a subject-oriented one. The majority of the questions we get at the desk are from students trying to do the same few things and now we have guides that address those specific things that students are trying to accomplish.
If you're doing hard copy pathfinders and research guides, consider a wiki as an alternate format. People always know where to find them, you kill fewer trees, they're more interactive, and they're easy to update and maintain. You might also want to create short bibliographies or "handouts" as a way to support your training sessions and provide information on a as-needed basis. How about using wikis to house and organize FAQ's? Or to collect information when you're collaborating with others on a research project?
MediaWiki, best known as the platform for Wikipedia, is Meredith's tool of choice. I've used MediaWiki, and wasn't wild about it because the lack of WYSIWYG editing made it cumbersome to use, and cumbersome is the exact the opposite of what you're going for in a wiki. Rumor has it that WYSIWYG is under development.
If you can't install wiki software locally, you can use one of many hosted wiki services, such as PBWiki. Just make sure not to store confidential information there. They can be password protected, but I still doubt your tech people would consider that adequate. See the WikiMatrix for help in choosing the right tool for your environment.
I've played around with wikis a bit for both personal and professional reasons. I like the concept, but I really don't care for the special wiki markup. Sure, it's fairly easy, but if I haven't visited my wiki for a while, I forget...how do I create a bulleted list? Where's bold? So I've wondered whether there were any wikis that offered WYSIWYG editing. All I ask for is a bold button, maybe a little link for creating URLs.
I no longer need to wonder. WikiMatrix tells all about 78 different wiki programs. If you need help choosing, there's even a Choice Wizard. Guess what? There's at least 33 different wiki programs with WYSIWYG editing. Life is good.
I'm a big believer in casting a broad net when you search, at least at first. But it can be hard to sift through the zillions of search results that you may get from the mainstream blog search engines. There's just SO much. So specialty search engines, such as BlawgSearch, that searches only the legal blogs, can be handy.
If you're looking for stuff that's strictly library related, you have another option, Libworm. LibWorm searches over 1500 library-related rss feeds. You can also browse a list of subjects, or feed categories and view a Libworm tag cloud. You can even create an account and using MyLibWorm as a sort of RSS reader, albeit a very limited one.
LibWorm is currently in beta, so there's hope that there could be improvment in the relevancy ranking. Many of the categories, such as the Law Libraries category, simply don't return useful results. Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm also unable to find a list of the blogs that are searched. A blog directory, organized by topic, might also be a handy addition.
Here's an early Christmas present - a search engine just for legal blogs from Justia.com. The ability to search only legal blogs is a giant step towards using blogs more effectively for research purposes. For example, try a search for stock option backdating on the Justia Blawg Search and just look at the good stuff that comes up.
According to Tara Calishain's ResearchBuzz, the search engine covers over 600 blawgs with more on the way. You can also browse for blogs by subject, browse recent keyword searches, and view blog entry tags. It's well-organized, attractive and a great resource for searching and identifying legal blogs.
Mary Whisner's column, "Practicing Reference...", (Law Library Journal) is always a favorite of mine. Now I can welcome her to the world of bloggers. In her summer column she writes, "A Blog's Life", a tale of a law school reference librarian who decides to write a blog, Trial Ad Notes, to be exact.
In the opening paragraph she says "The question of whether developing and writing this blog is a good use of my time still remains open." Trust me, Mary, probably all bloggers wonder about that! The trick may be to market it more broadly than just within the organization. I know, I know, that's the primary reason for it's being, "to support the students and faculty of the Trial Advocacy Program at the University of Washington School of Law", but others interested in the topic can help make it seem all worthwhile! Meanwhile, your main audience benefits as well if it keeps you writing.
I've been playing with wikis a bit more lately, both at home and at work, and I'm starting to really appreciate the simplicity and power that wikis can provide. They aren't complicated creatures. A wiki gives you the ability to create and edit a collection of web pages, which you can search, link to and categorize; not such a big deal, really. But if you're working with others on a project, and you want to store your collective knowledge and discoveries in one place, it's hard to beat a wiki.
As Leigh Dodds says in his article "Embracing the Wiki Way: Deploying a Corporate Wiki" (Freepint, July 27, 2006), "Creating a wiki environment is as much of an exercise in community building as it is in software installation." Dodds further explains how he used a wiki at Ingenta to create a space where the engineers could capture project requirements and incorporate documentation. He didn't stop there. He found a myriad of other ways to use wikis to enhance communication and collaboration.
Creating community spaces are certainly just as important in law firms. It's not technical data that may be stored, but perhaps instead, knowledge of a certain area of law or new legal trend. It could also related to a particular deal or client. Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because it's a wiki, you have to open it up to everyone. There are levels of security available on most wiki products. Just make sure the members of the community the wiki is aimed at are allowed to contribute. There's not much point to a wiki if it doesn't engage the group that it is intended to serve.
I'll bet you figured that by now I've written up all my AALL experiences. But how about just one more program mention?
Debbie Ginsberg did a great overview program on wikis, Let’s All Wiki Wiki! Though there's nothing like being there, her Powerpoint can give you some good information, and her handout is excellent. Both of these are available on the LawLib Wiki that she created for the presentation. While you're there, get in the spirit and create or edit a page, just to get the feel of how these things work.
While public Internet wikis, editable by anyone, can have credibility and spam issues, wikis can be great for internal use and collaboration, so don't ignore this trend!
Thanks to Genie Tyburski for pointing out the wonderful Colbert segment on Wikipedia. As a result of its airing, action was required to protect the elephant entries on Wikipedia from faithful Colbert fans. You'll have to listen to find out why.
Don't get me wrong, I think Wikipedia is great. But, well, as he points out there is a legitimate danger to an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. On the other hand, if our government can make up facts, shouldn't the rest of should have the same right?
According to a N.Y. Times article on attorney bloggers, a recent survey conducted by Blogads.com found that 5.1 percent of the people reading the blogs were lawyers or judges, putting that group fourth behind computer professionals, students and retirees. Not only that, 6.1 percent said they were in the legal profession, putting lawyers fourth again, behind educators, computer types and people involved in "media".
Who says lawyers aren't early adopters! But, of course, blogging isn't about technology. As the article points out, it's about words, and attorneys always have something to say.
As blogging becomes more popular among journalists and other experts, as well as people "on the ground" in places like Iraq, the quality of the information in blogs becomes even more important for researchers. It may have also just become a bit more accessible with Google's new search engine, Google Blog Search. For a review, see Mary Ellen Bates' September 2005 Tip of the Month - Google Does Blogs and Search Engine Watch's Roundup Of Google Blog Search Commentary.
I do have one small thing to add on the subject of wikis. If you want to try out a wiki for free, but don't really want the just anybody to post, try PBWiki (Peanut Butter Wiki). It will let you create your very own password protected wiki and give you a craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich all at the same time!
[Spotted on Teknoids in a message from David Dickens.]
I guess I could write a blog on wikis and how they could be used in law firms. I could include links to recent blogs on this topic by reputable lawyers, as well as to wikis in action. I could also detail the reasons why you might want to consider a wiki as a KM tool. Lucky for me, I don't have do, because Joy London already has. So instead, I think I'll just enjoy my glass of Trader Joe's Chardonnay and watch an episode of Foyle's War. Thanks, Joy!
I said I'd take a break from blog-related stuff soon, but we're not done quite yet. I'm not the only one obsessing about blogs this month. The July/August issue of ABA's Law Practice magazine is almost completely about blogs and includes such articles as:
I'll try to take a break from blogs-related stuff shortly, I promise. But before I do, I wanted alert you to a couple more places to look for blogs, should you be so inclined; this time the library and law-related ones.
Law Library Blogs and Blogs by Law Libraries or Law Library Associations is compiled by Bonnie Shucha, UW Law Library. So far, she's identified 74 blogs related to law libraries. By the way, Bonnie also writes Wisblawg, which, while Wisconsin specific, also covers other items of interest to those of us outside that great state. I learned about Blogpulse on Wisblawg.
If you would like to expand your blogsphere expand out to the non-law library world, there's plenty out there, and LibDex tries to keep track of it all.
For law-related blogs, don't forget about the Directory of Law Related Blogs.
All these blogs ought to keep us busy for a while!
When is a blog not a blog? When it's a cheap and easy content management system instead. Bill Machrone discusses some of the non-traditional ways use you use blog software in his column, I Blog/I Do Not Blog.
Related Article: Create a Policies and Procedures Manual with Movable Type
You may have noticed a cluster of posts on blog-related resources here on LawLibTech, and there's a few more to come. I should explain that I recently gave a presentation on blogs, so I'm a little hyper-aware of such things, and want to keep track of handy sites/posts for next time.
For someone getting started with blogs, the first question might be, "How do I find interesting blogs?" While I'm familiar with the law-related resources for finding blogs, that might not be the highest priority for everyone. The thing is, I don't really know my way around the non-law stuff. I simply haven't ventured out much though I really do have other interests, (dogs come to mind, as you might have noticed). But I already monitor about all the blogs I can handle. If I start watching the REALLY interesting stuff, I may never get back to the work-related information. It's the same reason I avoid video games.
So that's my excuse. Which is why I thought this post, Blogging Intro for Inquiring Minds, worth remembering. As suggested, I decided to subscribe to Blogdex; after all, it's probably good to know what the masses are talking about. Links are included to Rebecca Blood's history of blogs, as well as the State of the Blogosphere, which can definitely provide fodder for future presentations. And this is where I spotted 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web, which I read on the train home this evening, and I happen to think is quite brilliant.
Considering the fact that this relatively short post contains a ton of blog-related information, I don't want to lose track of it. That's a good enough reason for me to blog-it.
Blawg.org has started a new category for law firm feeds. It makes perfect sense for law firms to provide RSS feeds of at least their marketing materials, and sure enough, some are doing just that. The first entry in this category is Hogan & Hartson. That's all well and good, but finding this feed from their home page is, at best, unlikely. Help me out here, does anyone else see where it's linked? But paste this into your aggregator, and you too can monitor Hogan's press releases.
Lacking from this entry are those firms that have offered blogs, and naturally, include RSS feeds for those blogs. Those are included under the applicable subject matter.
The July/August issue of Law Practice Management has several good articles on blogging:
It's never a happy thing when you become dependent on a web service, such as Bloglines, and it goes down for maintenance just when you wanted to log on. But you've got to love a company that doesn't take themselves too seriously. Here's the message I saw when I tried to log into Bloglines this evening.
It looks like I'll just have to wait!
You may want to share this web page with your business development people. It provides a quick way to see how your organization's web site ranks in the major search engines for particular keywords. All you do is type in the keywords you're interested in, then the URL for the web site you want to see ranked, and there you go. So if your firm specializes in a particular area of law, type in keywords related to that area, and see where your firm's web site stands.
By the way, one of the big advantages of law firm blogs is that they increase search engine ranking in a significant way. A good blog is more likely to show up highly in search engine results than a typical, fairly static, web page, according to Dennis Kennedy.
"I was shocked by the impact a blog has on search engine placement. Not only does your ranking improve, but the speed your pages get added to a search engine like Google is astonishing."
A Continuing Discussion of Law Firm Marketing on the Internet: What are Blogs and Why is Everyone So Excited About Them?, LLRX.com, July 21, 2003.
Blog tools can be a great way to feed current information to a library's constituency. Blogs are easy to use, easy to maintain, and perhaps most importantly, allow librarian bloggers to communicate brief pieces of information in a chronological fashion, while, in some cases, also building archives by subject/category.
David Badertscher, librarian at the New York Supreme Court Criminal Term Library, has recently introduced a blog for his library users. He includes cases of note, current events relating to law and legal research, and other news items of potential interest. His tool of choice is the Bloglines blogging function, a no-cost and quick way to get information out to the real world.
While these aren't "enterprise blogs", because they are available on the open web, the principle is the same in that their main audience is likely to be their own attorneys and staff. Though, in these cases, the rest of us can always listen in!
Libraries by their nature tend to be neat, tidy and well-organized. That's what we expect from libraries, after all. And catalogers valiantly strive to identify and describe library collections, imposing structure where there was none, in order to provide access to the materials housed therein.
In contrast, the web is NOT neat & tidy, but chaotic and impossible to control. It's contents can't be adequately described in a MARC record and it can't be cataloged by humans carefully assigning LC subject headings. It's simply too large and changeable. What has been made possible by machines must be organized by them, which may not be easy to accept by people who have spent their lives classifying information, piece by piece, bit by bit.
Some of us are dealing with reality better than others. In particular, Michael Gorman, ALA President-Elect and former cataloger, needs to develop some new coping skills. His current approach is perpetuating a librarian stereotype that we usually try to avoid, that of the Luddite librarian. Along the way, he has insulted a large group of people who tend to like to express themselves rather vociferously in very public forums; not a wise move, in my opinion. These are the people that Michael Gorman calls "The Blog People."
During the early days of the web, when I was just starting to work with html, I remember thinking about how web pages could be used internally in an organization. I was, naturally, mainly thinking of library-related information, and in fact, wrote my library procedures manual in html with the thought that someday it could be stored in a central location where my entire staff could access it.
Apparently that wasn't a unique idea because intranets came along soon thereafter and rapidly gained in popularity. Is there any AmLaw 100 firm without an intranet? Probably, but you get my drift.
Now the talk is all about whether blogs are useful corporate/business communication tools. I think the same principle that applies to intranets, applies to blog tools. It's all about content. Blog software offers an easy, and in some contexts, primitive, "content management system" which allows users to provide updated content without the need to know html. The success of a blog tool (or intranet) depends upon the willingness of someone in the organization to share and update information on a regular basis. Some will succeed, some will fail, and often it won't be a function of the tool itself, though certainly cumbersome and difficult to use software will have a chilling effect. But the tools are a mode of communication; given the tool, someone still has to take the time to take advantage of the opportunity.
There, I'm glad I got that out of my system. Now to the main point. Laurel A. Clyde recently wrote an article, Enterprise Blogging, which details many of the ways a blog can be used in an organization. She also offers a variety of web resources, including a list of blogs about enterprise blogging, and a nice bibliography of related articles, so if you're looking for ideas on how to use a blog in your firm, or just want to be able to justify blogs to management, you should take a look.
Librarians typically come across new information, web sites and resources on almost a daily basis. But can you recall that new source or research tip the next time it's needed, months or even years later? I can often remember questions from months ago, but not necessarily the answers, or more importantly, how I went about finding them. In addition, in a multi-librarian firm, it's also very important to share information among the library staff.
It's clear that attorneys aren't the only ones that need knowledge management! The old 3 x 5 index card reference file really doesn't cut it anymore.
In a recent article in the "California LegalPro" supplement to the Recorder (Fall 2004), "Blog-On!", Diahann Munoz, a reference librarian in the DC office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, talks about how the library staff at Morgan set up a private blog on Blogger.com to save such tidbits as "new database information and passwords, answers to difficult questions..information regarding vendor or professional meetings, links to articles of interest..and new discoveries about products and services.."
Since blogs are full-text searchable, and allow categorization by topic, blog software/services can be a great way to create a shared, reference database, without those old 3 x 5 cards!
Wikis are an excellent way to collect unstructured information and collaborate with others. As you can imagine, this means that wikis have quite a bit of potential in a business environment. According to PC Magazine ("Wikis at Work"), that's what they've learned at Dickson Allan, an IT consulting firm, where the information technology consultants use wikis to collaborate and communicate information about Dickson Allan clients.
Dickson Allan uses a tool called "Jotspot", which provides a ready-to-go wiki at a reasonable per month, per user charge. Jotspot makes it easy to get started with a number of pre-built templates to choose from. Every page you create has an email address, and you can simply send email to a Jotspot wiki page in order to add content. Of course, you can also use their WYSIWYG editing tool.
A tool like Jotspot, which hosts the software and data for you, may be the easiest way yet to get a wiki going at work.
Joy London, of Excited Utterances fame, describes blogging technology and its growing popularity in the legal community in her article, Blogging with Lawyers. She discusses blogging basics and explains the natural partnership between blogging and KM. Great article! And thanks, Joy, for including LawLibTech in your list of favorite blawgs!
Speaking of writing for the web, if you have a LiveJournal, DeadJournal or UJournal blog, you can memoralize all your gems of wisdom in book form by using a free service called LJ Book. It will grab your blog entries and create a PDF file which you can then send to a printer, for a price, to get the actual hardcopy. The same service for Wordpress and Movable Type users is currently in beta.
When a new Internet technology is discussed in the Wall Street Journal, (A Wiki May Alter How Employees Work Together, July 29, 2004) it's a good hint that the tool is on the move from the public Internet, to the business enterprise.
I really have some catching up to do after being out of town!
I'm pleased that LawLibTech was included in the "Eddix 50", a list of the top 50 legal blogs. The list is really quite handy, offering brief and thoughtful descriptions of each blog. If you're looking for a list of legal blogs, this is a good list of high-quality blogs.
Michael Angeles sees many reasons to use weblogs for KM, and he details those reasons, plus much more, in his recent presentation, "Supporting Enterprise Knowledge Management with Weblogs: A Weblog Services Roadmap", given at the recent Computers in Libraries conference.
During the course of a day, sometimes to no one in particular, I might look at an Intranet application and say "It's a blog." I'm saying that a lot lately. My co-workers think I have blogs on the brain. It's my way of noting how many places on our Intranet could be generated by using a blog tool rather than custom programming.
Here's one that probably wouldn't have occurred to me. D. Keith Robinson used Movable Type, a common blog tool, to create a policies and procedures pages on a hospital Intranet. This is different from what I would usually consider a potential blog application because it is much more subject oriented rather than date oriented.
Last week I talked about wikis. Since then I've spotted couple of interesting examples of public wikis.
I firmly believe in collaboration. I know I can accomplish much more in concert with others than on my own. Therein lies the main premise behind wikis.
(Econtent: If Two Heads are Better than One, Try 7,000 with Wikipedia)
But what exactly is a wiki, and as a practical matter, what is its reason for being? Those questions have taken me a little time to figure out. Luckily a recent article in PC Magazine, Take Back the Net, has helped clarify matters for me.
Just when you thought you've got blogging figured out, along comes another term, k-logging. Don't despair. It's a simple concept. K-logging stands for knowledge blogging, in other words, using blogging tools for knowledge management.
I just recently spotted an interesting article in Library Journal, April 2003, K-Logging: Supporting KM with Web Logs. Michael Angeles, a blogger himself, (http://iaslash.org/) discusses how librarians can support the information needs of k-loggers.
It may seem to some that blogging is the snake oil of the cyberage. It's often recommended to cure just about whatever ails you. The truth is blogging really can be useful in a variety of ways because it can help solve the universal problem of managing small pieces of information that are often be so elusive.
According to a recent article in PC Magazine, (Blogging for Business) blogging is being used by the Western States Information Network, a federal funded agency that collects, analyzes and share crime information, as a simple way to communicate. Think of it as quick and easy KM for law enforcement.
Blogs have a reputation for being personal, often trivial, online journals. But when considering blogs for an Intranet you need to get beyond the stereotype and keep in mind that blogs reduced to their bare bones are simply web pages with short entries in reverse chronological order that can be categorized by subject.
The content presented can vary dramatically. For example, any "What's New" page is a possible candidate for a blog. Do you want to distribute current awareness information? Consider a blog as an easy way to post to a web page, and also automatically distribute the entries via email if you so choose.
If you're new to blogs Darlene Fichter's presentation The Blogging Explosion—Libraries & Weblogs is a good introduction. She also includes examples of how blogs are being used on library web sites.
My favorite part was Darlene's clear definition of a blog, "A web page containing brief entries arranged chronologically."