Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Firefox and IE Both Fail at Positional Linking!

Since the earliest days of the web, coders have been able to use anchor tags to control link destination positioning. By setting up page anchors, we are able to link readers to an exact placement location within a destination webpage. Common usage might include a table of contents, or point users to an in-page chart or graphic. Or, as my friend Simon wants, to link to a paragraph location within a court decision.

Unfortunately, anchor usage has always had its limits. Unless we own or control the landing page, or a document was originally designed for anchor usage, those destination page markers are rarely in existence.
My Question:
Why haven't Firefox or Internet Explorer ever bothered to improve link destination positioning for webpages? It can be done with PDF, why not webpages?

My Solution:
I’d like to see FF or IE will come up with a software remedy that allowed page positioning for any link - perhaps expressed as a percentage of the page length. The link could go to “page.htm#%=95.6" to land at the 95.6% mark of the document’s length (or close to the end of the page). Browsers could then be upgraded to display this page positioning information within the status bar at the bottom of the browser.
To me, this type of context driven linking can only improve what the web offers. Perhaps the W3C should be involved here? At the very least, the big browser co's should be investigating this as a new feature.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

KM is for Mid-Sized Firms Too

LLRX has a just published a fantastic article by Jason Eiseman, titled Creating Intranet Applications for Knowledge Sharing Within Law Firms.

Like Jason, I'm a big believer in bringing web 2.0 and open source applications behind the firewall. For those of us in mid-sized law firms, the choice to selectively integrate open source can often mean substantial cost savings, and keep us competitive.

Many KM practitioners, myself included, were very impressed with Oz Benamram, and MoFo's award winning AnswerBase. BTW, kudos to MoFo for releasing this application for public viewing. And similar kudos to Tom Baldwin & Sheppard Mullin for releasing this video showing their SharePoint 2007 portal.

For the mid-sized firm, one might be left to think that KM is only for firms of size. True, we don't have a team of dedicated programmers at hand, but in many cases, lean and innovative can compensate. At my Canadian firm of 75 lawyers, we do internal blogging, wikis, and are working on some cool things with internal RSS. In 2004, we launched a federated search product that offers a one-stop search for all of our in-house KM collections, and all our public web content too. What did these projects cost? A: my time. How does that compare to the efforts at MoFo? It doesn't, and to be honest, I don't think it has to.

As our firm grows, I know the future includes more off-the-shelf products like those employed by Tom & Oz. But for me, a couple things have become apparent. First, it is always possible to innovate in a mid-sized law firm. And second, even if your applications end up ported over to a vendor product later on, dipping one's toes into the waters of KM change is never a bad idea. Innovation & KM success are often just as much about building a culture of change as they are about cool technologies.

Not every KM application is going to be a homerun, so from my perspective, the equation really should be about risk. Risk is often the biggest difference in tactics between a mid-size and a large scale firm. At the mid-size firm, we cannot afford six figure mistakes - and why innovation through OS can make sense. At a larger firm, purchase cost is the least of their worries. Making a bad choice and deploying any technology across 18 offices and 1k+ attorneys could have devastating consequences. Big law CKO's may prove me wrong here, but my guess is that many larger firms will shy away from (or at the very least, tread carefully around) in-house and OS solutions. That's ok, as this is not intended to be a critique; simply comparing tactics.

Jason's article was a good reminder that there are many roads to law firm KM. And for those of us in firms of less than 1k ... or less than 100 ... the key is to stay innovative, keep an open mind, and make sure our tactics match our situation.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Library of Parliament Research via RSS

Heads up... the Parliament of Canada is now offering RSS notification for all their research letters, memos & papers. Every time their researchers respond to parliamentarian's inquiry with written materials, you'll be notified. Classified by subject too. Nice work!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New RSS Tool - Yahoo Pipes

If you haven't been following the web-tech circles lately, you may have missed the buzz surrounding Yahoo's newest RSS tool - Pipes.

Pipes allows you to combine different data feeds, like RSS, into a single output. It's similar to other feed tools, but the environment is all web based, with an interface that's similar to visual programming applications. What makes this tool a winner though, is the logic behind the operations. You can filter, remix, and mash-up feeds to produce an incredible array of new content types.

While I think this is probably the most sophisticated RSS tool on the market to date, it is also not the easiest to grasp conceptually. For those interested in taking it for a spin, start with Yahoo's product overview, and move on to these tutorials below:

For me, Pipes represents a level of reliability that we haven't always received with other RSS filtering and re-mixing tools. Despite the learning curve, this is one tool that should prove worth the time investment. I'm looking forward to it!

(cross-posted to Slaw)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tim Travers Legal Reflections

Best of luck to Tim Travers of Travers Associates as he gets started on his newly minted blog: Tim Travers Legal Reflections.

Tim will be discussing a mix of topics, including legal KM, web technology and law firm management issues. Looks like we have another great UK law blog to keep an eye on. Congratulations Tim!