Friday, July 28, 2006

On Vacation... Back on August 8th

On vacation next week, back on August 8th. :-)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

SLA NorthWest Regional Conference

Quick note to say the SLA NorthWest Regional Conference will take place October 6 & 7, 2006 in Vancouver. This year's theme is 'Content Management - Converging Information, People and Technology'.

VLLB Going to the Carnival

First time in the Carnival of the Infosciences for me! Thanks to Eric Schnell for hosting, and beefing up what looked to be a lighter week for contributions.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Largest Group of Blogging Professionals? Say it With Me, Librarians!

Are Librarians the largest group of blogging professionals out there right now? Steven Cohen thinks so.

Right at the end of the above post, he says:

"BTW, librarians have, by far, the most professional blogs. My conclusions are by no means scientific. When I was at PubSub, I looked at this stuff all day (Oh, what a wonderful service we could have provided to the industy - ho-hum). Second would have to be the PR bloggers. Third. Maybe the legal profession."

I can't help but think this is true. Having actively tracked both Librarian & Law Blogs (Cohen's #3) for a while now, I'd say the volume does seem larger within the Library realm.

However, one distinction must be made - the strength of the Law blogging community is not in volume, but in the number of influential bloggers. This blog (the VLLB) was probably one of the few listed on both of PubSub's rank lists, and I can tell you that getting to the top of the Legal blog tracker was way harder!

Now obviously the numbers thing isn't something that can be easily proven, but I have to say, even if Librarians are only 'one of the largest groups' blogging, that's cool! And coming from a profession that's needed a kick in the 'ol profile department for a while, the trend of Blogging Librarians may just represent our branding emancipation! We need to establish ourselves as a smart tech-info-business-savvy group, and we're doing that, via the blog. The same way Lawyers are adding the human elements of trust & understanding to their profession, via the blog.

Can you feel the tide changing? I can. :-)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Info*Nation features Liisa Tella & Christina Tribe

CLA's newest online product to promote Library careers, Info*Nation, shows two local Law Librarians - Liisa Tella & Christina Tribe - under the 'Take a Tour' section of the site.

Check out the warhol-esque image...

Marketing Department at Harper Grey has to be loving that!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Drupal & An Introduction to Open Source CMS Products

[cross-posted from Slaw]

In a recent Slaw comment, Connie Crosby asked if someone would write something about Drupal. Subsequent comments from Patrick Cormier & Simon Fodden gave brief summaries, but I thought I'd go a bit further, and try to relay some of the basics surrounding this type of web software.

Briefly, Drupal is an open source CMS, written for the LAMP stack, which is modular in design. What does this mean? Well, let's start with a couple definitions.

  • Open Source (OS) - open source software (generally) lets you download the software for free, view the source code, alter and re-distribute. Each OS product typically has a development community, which can be quite large in some cases, creating new features, fixing bugs, and helping each other when they have common goals.

  • CMS - Content Management System, a database driven web-tool, which can deliver a variety of automated webpages. Content is created, edited, and archived within this system.
  • LAMP stack - an acronym for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP. Linux is an operating system like Windows (only older, better designed), Apache - the webserver software that delivers the pages to your browser, MySQL - a high capacity database software, and PHP - the code that ties everything together. These technologies are frequently used as a group, and make up the most popular development environment on the web.
What this all means, in layman's terms, is that Drupal (or any other CMS) is free to download and install on your webserver. It is then possible to do any of the following (to name a few):

  • customize the functionality by adding different Modules
  • Re-code any of those Modules to fit your needs
  • Download different Themes to change the design
  • Re-code any of those Themes to fit your needs
  • Create user 'roles' and set permissions for what users can see & do
  • Search all content, automatically track usage, and allow comments on any content element

The functionality also goes way beyond blogging. Think of it as a common delivery tool for: blogs, forums, wikis, RSS publishing, custom user profiles, image & photo galleries, event calendaring, and a ton of other content based tools. And all of these features are delivered by the same software mechanism.

My only caveat with this type of tool, is that you're working without a safety net. When things go wrong, the buck really does stop with you. Open Source communities are (mostly) great for helping to find the fix, but when the suggested fixes don't work, you might have to find a specialized consultant to help out -- perhaps using the paid services part of the community website (as Patrick Cormier did). I haven't had to go that route yet, but it's good to know it's there.

On the positive end of things, the upside to open source products like Drupal is huge. There's a constant flow of new ideas, and I've found it to be the place for online innovation. To me, it seems that whenever a cool new website comes out, there's almost always an open source angle to its development. And if there isn't, a similar open source alternative comes out soon there after.

Monday, July 10, 2006

KM & Legal Vendors

An interesting post yesterday by Cindy Chick where she notes the Los Angeles law firm Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan LLP, and their use of three different vendors for KM document retrieval.

To start off, I like the mixed approach that Cindy advocates. She says - "The bottomline is, just like digital cameras, no product does it all." Very true, and no doubt the future for many law firms will include a multitude of product lines to serve various KM functions. Document repositories are, after all, only one element of a Knowledge Management program.

My second reaction to this post is something that I've seen coming for a while now, and I'm a bit concerned. My problem is this: Are we really comfortable tying our KM document repositories to the online vendors?

I understand why Thomson & Lexis want this. Every case cite, in every memo, letter, opinion, (...) will draw law firms closer to their product lines, will drive up usage rates, and then drive up our flat fee contracts. The Vendors will continue their 8-9% subscription hikes (nothing new to us Librarians), and objectively, it's good short term business on their part. Hard to argue...

The question for me is, why do Law Firms, who have traditionally been treated like the captured market we are, want to draw even closer to the Vendors? Are we prepared for: 1) being completely reliant on their technology platform (& rate of innovation); 2) rising costs that may force us to pick one Vendor over the other; 3) using their cost recovery modules; 4) being just like every other firm that chooses their KM 'solution', and lacking any possible KM competitive advantage.

Law firms need to get beyond the 'me too' trend here. Sometimes purchasing a ready-made 'solution' isn't as advantageous as purchasing the right tool. Case in point, the many firms who are building their own repository solutions in-house, and building them to match their firm's practices, culture, and business objectives. Guess which direction is more customizable, and which one will innovate first? ... I just hope that we, in the legal KM community, are entertaining all the options.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Slaw Turns 1!

Congratulations to my fellow Slaw contributors! It's been a great first year.