[url=http://www.denniskennedy.com]Dennis Kennedy[/url] and I will be in Washington, D.C. this week for the ABA Law Practice Management Section Fall Meeting. It has been awhile since Dennis and I have been in the same town at the same time, along with a lot of other legal technology folks. So we decided to have a meetup where we could get together, have a drink or a bite, and talk blogging, twitter, legal technology, or whether my Texas Rangers actually have a chance of beating the Yankees.
We've updated our book, The Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies, for 2009 with some new material that is included on a CD with the book. The CD includes a new chapter on tips, an article on trends, forms, audio and other updates. The CD itself can be ordered through through the ABA Web Store via this link (the book itself is here). The book is also available through Amazon.
We're also looking for a few people with a strong interest in the the book and a good audience for the book that we can send review copies to. If that might be you, please get in touch with us and tell us about your interest and audience. We can then work with our publisher to get you a review copy. Of course, we'd hope that you would then publish a review. You can get in touch by using the form on our contact page, leaving a comment to this post, emailing us personally, or contacting us through Twitter (@collabtools, @denniskennedy or @tommighell).
I joined the virtual world Second Life a couple of years ago, but never really got into it -- I mostly just flew around looking at things, and the only people I ever saw were playing casino games. I'm always amazed when I hear how people are using the virtual world to collaborate and work with others.
Did you know you can also collaborate on documents in Second Life? Here's a great video on EtherPad Real Time in World Text Collaboration from the Second Life English Blog. EtherPad is one of the new document creation sites that literally allows you to see changes to the text in real time; it's not a full-featured document editor -- it's pretty much just text -- but it's great in terms of collaboration possibilities.
Why use it in Second Life? A couple of reasons; first, your group can discuss the document as it's being edited, via the Second Life chat feature. You can also invite an unlimited number of people to review the document without giving them actual editing access. All they need is a Second Life account.
And I think that it's not just EtherPad that allows this functionality -- it's any site that publishes a URL for its document. While Google Docs don't have their own dedicated URL, Google Spreadsheets do -- so you can probably work on spreadsheets within Second Life as well.
We at Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools love the writings of Michael Sampson, and a couple of weeks ago he posted a great piece titled: How to Manage Your Business in a Recession: "#1 Reset Priorities to Face the New Reality". In this new age of budget cutbacks, businesses are looking for new ways to help its employees work together, or work with others. He mentions two specific items that resonate with me:
- Expense Management for Meetings. With the new fantastic video and web conferencing programs available, remote meetings are becoming a more attractive - and economical - option for businesses. As Michael says: "[r]emember, it's the cost of telepresence in comparison to the alternative that signals whether it's a prudent financial investment, not the out-of-pocket cost per se."
- Get Out of Managing Projects in Email. As we state in our book, email is a necessary communications tool, but it's a lousy collaboration tool. If you're managing your projects (or lawsuits, or transactions) through email, starting thinking about whether tools like Sharepoint, Basecamp, or Central Desktop might make more sense.
Mike's article is a great read -- give it a look.
We have recorded a roughly 14-minute podcast in which we talk about some of the main themes of our book and add a few new insights into the subject of collaboration tools and technologies. You can download an mp3 (right click on the link and click on "save link as . . .") of the podcast here
We also wanted to remind you that we have also created a Twitter identity for the book. If you follow us at @collabtools on Twitter, you'll get regular reports with links to helpful articles and blog posts, tips, and pointers about collaboration.
As many of you already know, we'll also be speaking on collaboration tools at ABA TECHSHOW 2009. We hope to see you there, especially since one of the sessions we'll do is a roundtable "unconference" session where we'll let the audience set the agenda to cover the issues they most want to learn. Be aware that there's still time to take advantage of the $200 "early bird" discount on registration for TECHSHOW.
Last night, Tom and I were finishing up work on a new project (that I now realize as I write this, I might not be able to disclose quite yet).However, it is definitely related to our book and collaboration.
I thought it might be instructive to describe the tools and techniques we actually used as we worked to finish this project.
We were working, simultaneously, on several articles, a list, some forms and an audio file.
First, we exchanged emails to confirm our to-do lists and the division of labor.
I had the job of preparing a couple of first drafts. I went first to Google Docs to do those.
We also opened up a Skype instant messaging session so we could send quick messages back-and-forth, especially to get quick answers to questions.
When I finished a first draft, I'd share the document with Tom so he could access it in Google Docs.
By the time, I had finished drafts, Tom had emailed me Word versions of other documents he was finishing up with revisions marked with Track Changes.
We used Skype to alert each other about areas to pay special attention to or questions we had about the documents, as well as share some ideas.
I marked my changes to Tom's documents in Word with Track Changes and emailed the documents back to Tom to finalize so he could submit them as Word documents.
We were also using Skype to make decisions about going forward with preparing an audio file from a recording of one of our presentations and making a last-minute decision to add another list to our set of materials.
Tom took my first drafts out of Google Docs, put them into Word documents and used Track Changes to show his edits.
While he was doing this, I used Audacity to do some clean-up and light editing of the audio file.
Tom then sent me the edited Word documents, which I checked and made minor revisions to, again using Track Changes. I also used Skype instant messaging to discuss a change Tom made that I thought made a different point than the one I had intended. We discussed that and decided on the final wording. I then emailed the Word documents back to Tom to finalize (Tom was taking charge of submitting all of our materials.)
Once I finished the audio file (approx. 50 megabytes), I used YouSendIt to transfer the large file to Tom, who received notice that it was available and downloaded it.
We then compared noted and checked our lists using Skype IMand determined that we we were done.
Tom then assembled all of the files and used Drop.io (which he prefers for its ability to handle multiple files) to send all of the files in, beating our deadline by a day.
We then used Skype IM to get caught up on other things we had been doing.
1. We actually use the collaboration tools we write and talk about.
2. We like having a tool box of collaboration tools for different purposes rather than being concerned with a single all-purpose collaboration tool.
3. Different tools work well for different purposes.
4. Even in the same project you might use a number of different tools to do the same types of thins.
5. We really like the way you can open a constant communications channel to help you work by using instant messaging.
We invite your comments.
Regular readers of this blog have probably figured out by now that we are big fans of everything Google; so it was very disappointing to me to discover that the company decided to stop development of the great Google Notebook. I used to use Google Notebook all the time -- it was a great way to capture snippets of information from the web and keep them all in one place, with different notebooks for different topics.
I've since moved on to using Evernote as my primary notetaking tool -- I like it better because it allows me to access and take notes from three different locations -- a web browser, a stand-alone software application, and an iPhone application. That's why I was glad to see that Evernote was all over the Google Notebook decision, and is offering users of the discontinued service the opportunity to import all their notebooks over to Evernote.
Over on Twitter, people were asking me why I used an online notebook. Here are the five top ways I use Evernote:
- As my personal web archive -- rather than bookmark a page, I simply clip it to Evernote and keep it forever.
- As a research tool -- I create a notebook and throw all my research snippets (whole pages, excerpts) into it.
- Travel planning -- when I visit a city, I create a notebook for restaurants, hotel and sightseeing information.
- Meeting notes -- I keep notes from all of my meetings within Evernote.
- As my digital filing cabinet -- I keep lists and all sorts of other information there. It's all searchable!
Perhaps Evernote is not for you. No worries -- there are many other options, including these 17 Noteworthy Alternatives to Google Notebook. No matter which tool you use, I think you'll find that an online notebook is a good way to have access to your important thoughts and notes no matter where you happen to be.
We're working on creating a big list of tips for collaboration projects, collaboration tools and collaboration technologies. It currently runs about 150 tips.
We'll use the list of tips for handout materials for our upcoming presentations at the ABA TECHSHOW and for some other ideas we have in mind that we'll share later. We'll post the tips you provide as well.
However, since the tips are about collaboration, it only made sense for us to do the list, well, collaboratively, as an experiment in crowdsourcing.
Here's the idea: If you wan to participate, send us your favorite tip or tips (let's try to keep it to a sentence or two each) in one of the following ways:
1. As a comment to this post;
2. Via Twitter to @collabtools, either as a direct tweet (start tweet with DT) or as a reply (start tweet with @collabtools). You can also add a hashtag to the tweet, either #collabtips or #collaboration; or
3. By email to either denniskennedyblog @ gmail . com or tmighell @ gmail . com.
Please be sure to provide your name, so we can give you attribution.
If you have any questions, let us know.
Interested in a project management tool, but also want to take advantage of your own firm or company website? Check out Project Thingy, an interesting tool that embeds itself on your own website. Just enter your domain name, and you'll get the HTML that you can literally cut and paste on your website to manage your projects. The data still resides on the Project Thingy servers, but it's an interesting twist to access the project management from your own site. The service is free for one project, up to $139/month for unlimited projects.
In September, I posted Is Online Word Processing on the Rise?, which included a poll asking readers what tool they primarily use for word processing. Microsoft Word won hands down, with 58% of the vote. Google Docs came in near the bottom with 12%, and there were no votes for other online word processing tools. These results are similar (if not a bit higher) to the findings of Compete, which measured traffic to Google Docs; the results are summarized here. It found that although traffic to Google Docs grew 158% in the past 12 months, only about 2.4% of the adult online population was using the service. Even more interesting is the statistic that the average user only spends about 5 minutes per month on the site.
What can you do on a Google Docs page in only 5 minutes per month? Certainly not create a full-fledged document. Whatever is going on during those 5 minutes, the Compete study demonstrates that Google Docs attracts primarily casual users, and that online word processing services still aren't ready for enterprise use.