TAG | Web 2.0

Jul 31, 2008

Exclusive First Look: Martindale-Hubbell Connected

As online professional networking gains traction within the legal community, Martindale-Hubbell has been quietly testing its own networking site, Martindale-Hubbell Connected, which it plans to launch publicly late this year or early in 2009. The company made much ado earlier this month about its partnership with professional networking site LinkedIn. But it has operated in [...]

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Aug 24, 2007

Web 2.0: A Real Word Processor?

I recently republished my three-part series on Web 2.0 applications for lawyers (part 1, part 2, part 3), including several Web 2.0 word processing tools. Now comes one, Buzzword, that claims to be the first real word processor for the Web.

The difference between this and others such as Google Docs is in its features. It provides greater options for handling fonts, graphics, tables and page layouts. It also includes features you’d expect, such as importing of documents from multiple formats, versioning, ability to have multiple editors and ability to print to PDF.

Unfortunately, it is still in beta and registration is by invitation only. I’ve requested an invitation and will write more about it when I am able to try it out.

[Via eHub.]

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Jul 9, 2007

Repost Part 3: Web 2.0 – End of the Tour

[The following is the third of a three-part series of columns about Web 2.0 for lawyers originally published almost a year ago in the August, September and October 2006 issues of Law Technology News. Because I receive so many requests for this series, I am republishing it here. I originally intended it to be two parts, but expanded it to three because there was so much to cover.

Important note: I have not updated these since writing them nearly a year ago. Most of the sites remain as described, but some have changed. All information was current as of the date of original publication.]

What started out in this column as a two-part tour of Web 2.0 products and services of interest to the legal profession easily turned into three parts. In fact, our tour could easily continue for several more columns, given the abundance and assortment of useful Web 2.0 sites. Fear not, through, the tour stops here.

As noted in part one, the Web 2.0 name refers to a broad range of Web-based tools that focus on functionality and often bear a close resemblance to desktop applications. In part one, we reviewed common office tools, including word processors, spreadsheets and calendars. Part two looked at more advanced tools for file sharing, bookmarking, project management, graphing and
more. This time, we look at virtual meeting sites, online databases, presentation tools and more.

Online Meetings

Any number of services now make it possible to conduct meetings and presentations online. Webex may be the best known. But these services are not cheap. On a pay-per-use basis, Webex charges a per-person rate of 33 cents a minute plus another 20 cents a minute for
integrated teleconferencing.

A Web 2.0 alternative is WebHuddle, which is free, at least for now, and built on an open-source platform that you can download and install on your own network. Use it to conduct meetings with your current teleconferencing service or using its VoIP option. It allows text chat, use of PowerPoint presentations, application sharing and polling, all in a secure environment.

Unlike Web conferencing services such as Webex, you need not install and special software. WebHuddle runs in any Java-enabled browser in any operating system. You can record presentations for later playback. It can even be used over a dial-up connection, although a faster connection is recommended.

Database Development

The advantage of building a database online is that you can access it anywhere and share it with anyone. One of the best of the Web 2.0 database tools is Dabble DB. It draws on the most-useful features of spreadsheets, databases and intranets to offer a unique data-management tool.

Among the features of Dabble DB are strong searching and sorting, support for multiple users, data exporting in various formats, customized reports, simple data-field management and change tracking. Besides exporting data, you can publish it into HMTL or PDF and create RSS feeds for tracking.

Other Web 2.0 database tools include:

  • MyOwnDB. Like Dabble, it uses a simple, browser-based interface that can be shared by multiple users. It is easy to upload and enter data and data can be exported into the CSV format that can be read by desktop spreadsheet programs.
  • Baseportal. A simple, customizable interface for creating and managing databases. A nice feature enables users to integrate their data into Web pages dynamically.

Presentations

How did lawyers ever practice law or put on seminars before the advent of presentation programs such as the ubiquitous Microsoft PowerPoint? So lawyers may appreciate Thumbstacks, a free tool that enables you to create presentations, such as slideshows and outlines, within your Web browser.

A nice feature of Thumbstacks is that it makes it easy to publish your presentation on the Web. Hit “publish” and you get a link to the presentation that you can share by e-mail, through a blog or on a Web page. It uses WYSIWYG editing and offers various themes and styles. It does not have all the bells and whistles of desktop presentation software – you cannot add sounds or animations, for example. It does have a remote-meeting service for using your presentations in conference calls or via Skype.

Graphing and charts

Several Web 2.0 applications make it easy to create charts, diagrams and graphs. Jacuba Charts, for example, takes the data from within a table on a Web page and automatically generates full-color charts. You can edit the charts, allow them to be viewed online by anyone and print them. If you revise the data from which you created the chart, the chart changes automatically to reflect the revisions.

Another tool for creating charts and diagrams is Gliffy. Use this free tool to draw flowcharts, floorplans, network diagrams, Web site maps, seating charts and the like. Publish finished Gliffy drawings to your Web site or blog or export them into the open-source SVG format, which allows you to open them in most illustration programs. You can invite others to collaborate with you on a drawing simply by entering their e-mail addresses.

Web development

When Google Page Creator, first launched, the response was so overwhelming that it temporarily had to shut off new registrations. This free tool lets users create and publish Web pages from within a browser and it requires no knowledge of HTML. It is of limited use to professionals because it will not publish pages to your proprietary domain. Your pages are hosted at the URL “http://yourgmailusername.googlepages.com.”

But another free Web publishing tool, SiteKreator, does allow you to publish using your own domain (but not to your own server). It offers a free personal edition and a paid business edition. The business edition has more features and flexibility, but the personal edition offers 50 predesigned templates, unlimited pages and a sufficiently rich array of features for a solo or small firm to create a professional-looking site. Either version includes tools for creating blogs and mailing lists and adding interactive Web forms.

For a completely different kind of Web page, try Squidoo. It enables users to build a single Web page – which it calls a “lens” – devoted to a particular topic. Page creators call themselves “lensmasters,” and together their pages form a unique community of information and resources on a unique range of topics. Search “law” on Squidoo, and you will find pages devoted to legal marketing, elder law, international law and law firm management, to name just a few.

Finding More Web 2.0 Sites

Even over the course of three columns, we are able to cover only a sampling of the sites that fall under the Web 2.0 rubric, not to mention the many new sites coming along every day. Here are several index pages that will help you further explore the world of Web 2.0:

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Jul 9, 2007

Repost Part 2: Web 2.0 – The Internet’s Second Coming?

[The following is the second of a three-part series of columns about Web 2.0 for lawyers originally published almost a year ago in the August, September and October 2006 issues of Law Technology News. Because I receive so many requests for this series, I am republishing it here. I originally intended it to be two parts, but expanded it to three because there was so much to cover.

Important note: I have not updated these since writing them nearly a year ago. Most of the sites remain as described, but some have changed. All information was current as of the date of original publication.]

Last month, we promised a two-part tour of Web 2.0 products and services of interest to the legal profession. We lied. Given the abundance of sites and the limit on our word count, we continue the tour in a third installment next month.

As noted in part one, some hail Web 2.0 as the Internet’s second coming. The name refers to a broad range of Web-based tools that focus on functionality and often bear a close resemblance to desktop applications.

Last month’s installment reviewed common office tools, including word processors, spreadsheets and calendars. This time we look at more advanced tools for bookmarking, project management and task management.

Bookmarking and Sharing

Whatever Web browser you use, its built-in bookmarking tool is woefully clumsy and inadequate, quickly becoming bloated and difficult to search. Web bookmarking tools overcome these deficiencies, with added features no browser could dream of.

One of the most popular is Del.icio.us. Bookmarks are stored online, which means that you can retrieve them from any computer. This is nice, but the popularity of Del.icio.us is driven more by its social-bookmarking tools. Del.icio.us allows you to add “tags” to your bookmarks – one-word descriptors of the pages. Tags help you organize your own bookmarks, and, because del.icio.us allows sharing of tags, it creates a communal repository of related links. You can also create feeds to make your bookmarks available on your blog or though RSS syndication.

Other bookmarking sites include:

  • Furl.net. For every bookmark you add, Furl archives a copy of the Web page and makes it fully searchable. This makes it easier to find saved pages and also preserves the page as you first saw it. Like del.icio.us, Furl allows you to create RSS feeds or even create a daily e-mail newsletter of your links. As you use Furl, it recommends new Web pages that may be of interest to you based on pages you have saved.
  • Spurl.net. Spurl also allows you to save copies of Web pages and makes them fully searchable. Add notes and search those as well. As with other services, it enables you to create RSS feeds for your bookmarks and explore those of other users.
  • Blinklist.com. Each user gets a Web page that is home to his or her links. Here you can see your most recent, most popular and favorite links, or view a tag “cloud” showing your tags and their popularity. You can also see who else has saved the same page and read their comments about it.
  • Stumbleupon.com. It adds a button to your browser toolbar. Clicking it takes you to the relevant Web sites that are highest rated by other users and that best match your own browsing preferences. The idea is to use the collaborative power of the Web to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

Project Management

Projects fail not from a lack of charts or reports, but from a lack of communication and collaboration. This is the premise of Basecamp. It provides key project-management tools such as task lists, scheduling, time tracking, whiteboards, file sharing and messaging. A basic version is free. From there, prices range from $12 to $149 a month, depending on numbers of projects, storage space and features. Higher-end plans include data encryption.

A similar tool is Central Desktop, which describes itself as a place to “create online workspaces for business teams.” Use it to share documents and files, track and search “conversations,” coordinate and schedule tasks, and plan milestones. Stored documents are searchable and protected through encryption. A free version allows two workspaces with up to five members each and storage up to 25 megabytes. Advanced versions range from $25 to $249 a month and allow for up to 50 workspaces with as many as 100 members each.

To-Do Lists

Never again forget the milk. That is the idea behind Remember the Milk, a site for managing all those nagging little tasks. This free site makes it easy to add and tag to-do items. Better yet, it will send you reminders via e-mail, text messaging and instant messaging. Add tasks the same way – by e-mail or from your cell phone. Share tasks with selected contacts or with the world. Create RSS feeds for tasks or view them in online calendars such as Google Calendar.

Other task managers include:

  • Ta-da Lists. From the folks who bring you Basecamp comes this free task manager. Use it to track tasks and make lists (holiday shopping, calls to make, etc.). Create RSS feeds for lists and share them with friends or the public.
  • voo2do.com. voo2do has features that allow you to track priorities, due dates and time estimates for each task. Rather than use lists, voo2do lets you group tasks by projects. Like the others, it is free.

Next, the Web 2.0 tour continues with virtual meeting sites, online databases, presentation tools and more.

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Jul 9, 2007

Repost Part 1: Web 2.0 – The Internet’s Second Coming

[The following is the first of a three-part series of columns about Web 2.0 for lawyers originally published almost a year ago in the August, September and October 2006 issues of Law Technology News. Because I receive so many requests for this series, I am republishing it here. I originally intended it to be two parts, but expanded it to three because there was so much to cover.

Important note: I have not updated these since writing them nearly a year ago. Most of the sites remain as described, but some have changed. Notably, the first site reviewed in this column, Writely, is now incorporated into Google Docs. Some others, such as Rallypoint in this column, appear to be defunct.]

It is the Web’s second coming – at least so say the apostles of Web 2.0, the so-called second generation of Web-based products and services that emerged in the wake of the dot-com collapse.

Web 2.0 sites often bear a close resemblance to desktop applications but with the Web as their platform. Word processors, calendars and spreadsheets are just some of the traditional desktop applications offered online under the Web 2.0 rubric.

Why use the Web as your platform instead of your desktop? For lawyers, the strongest reason is collaboration. Lawyers working jointly on a project – whether across town or across continents – derive enormous value in being able to work together in a platform- and location-neutral environment.

Credit goes to Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media for popularizing the Web 2.0 concept, and he describes the collaborative nature of these sites as “harnessing collective intelligence.” It is something even lawyers can use more of.

Another benefit for lawyers is freedom from software purchases and upgrades. Many Web 2.0 sites cost nothing and their upgrades are seamless and transparent to their users.

Less tangible but equally important, Web 2.0 sites tend to be the most innovative on the Web. The usefulness of their innovations may be obvious in certain contexts, while in fields such as law, they may be less so. It will take innovative lawyers to explore fully the application of Web 2.0 to law practice.

That said, this three-part column presents an overview of noteworthy Web 2.0 products and services of interest to the legal profession. This first part looks at common office tools, including word processors, spreadsheets and calendars. The next part will look beyond the desktop, at mashups, mind mappers and other cutting-edge applications.

Word Processing

Of Web 2.0 products that emulate those on your desktop, the most striking examples are word processors. The best known of these, thanks to Google’s acquisition of it in March, is Writely. Writely is a browser-based, WYSIWYG word processor that looks and feels much the same as the one on your desktop. The difference is that you can easily collaborate on and share documents with others, access your documents from anywhere and store them online. Create documents from scratch or edit most common formats.

At this writing, Writely is closed to new registrants while it moves to Google’s systems. You can add your name to a waitlist, or try one of the other Web-based word processors. Among them:

  • WideWORD. This free document editing and collaboration service features high levels of security and encryption, along with version control and comments on documents.
  • Writeboard. This document-collaboration site features shareable text documents that let you save every edit, roll back to any version and easily compare changes. Every edit creates a new version, so nothing is lost.
  • Zoho Writer. Create documents or import them from Microsoft Word and OpenOffice. Export documents as PDF, DOC and HTML files. Post documents directly to your blog.
  • Rallypoint. Describes itself as combining the features of a word processor with the collaborative abilities of a wiki. It allows you to create and share pages and decide who has access and at what level. Tag pages to organize them and search using the built-in search engine.

Spreadsheets

Another common office application now online is the spreadsheet. A beta version of Google Spreadsheets is earning high marks. Unfortunately, it has a waitlist for sign-ups. Sophisticated users will find it less powerful than desktop programs. But for collaboration, sharing and online storage, it is a surprisingly full-featured program. Use it to create spreadsheets or import from XLS and CSV data.

Other online spreadsheets include:

  • iRows. Includes functions to create charts and to convert to HTML pages.
  • NumSum. This free services allows for sharing and tagging of spreadsheets.

Office Suites

A handful of companies now offer suites of office tools comparable to those you would buy for your desktop. They combine word processing, spreadsheets and graphical presentation applications.

One such suite is ThinkFree, which allows you to create Microsoft Office-compatible documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The service is free and comes with the added bonus of 1GB free file storage. This means you can work on any documents from any computer and share it with others. It includes version control and roll back.

Another, Zoho Office Suite, goes a step beyond ThinkFree. In addition to document, spreadsheet and presentation tools, it offers a “Virtual Office” of group e-mail, group and individual calendaring, document sharing and instant messaging. Zoho’s word processor and other office tools are free. Its Virtual Office is free for up to 10 users, then priced starting at $295 a year.

Calendaring
Google has a knack for launching a product and quickly becoming the category killer. Such is the case with its Web-based calendar, Google Calendar. It is easy to share, easy to search and easy to integrate with other Google products such as Gmail and the Google Desktop. A recent upgrade allows you to access the calendar from your mobile phone and publish it to your Web page.

Other online calendars include:

  • HipCal.com. Hipcal provides a free online calendar, to-do list and address book, as well as group calendaring. It was acquired in May by Plaxo, the company that provides a service for managing and updating contacts.
  • Planzo.com. Planzo is a simple, sharable calendar that allows you to track events, write to-do lists, upload and share files, and more. A nice feature is the morning e-mail it sends you with a digest of your day’s events.
  • CalendarHub. Free individual and group calendars. Calendars include RSS fees.

A variation on these is Upcoming, which describes itself as a collaborative, social-event calendar. Use it to keep track of and comment on events you or others will attend.

Part 2: Tools for file sharing, bookmarking, project management, graphing, mapping an
d more.

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