My Converation with MySmartChannels

One of the things I love to do most is to learn about cool new technologies. Today was a great day for that.
I had a long phone conversation with Peter Cid\terella and Bill French at MyST Technology Partners about what they are doing with their MySmartChannels and MyST Web Services Platform. There are times when I feel that I’m one of about a half dozen lawyers/legal tech consultants who keep thinking about web services.
I’m always on the lookout for ways new technologies, such as web services, can be applied to the practice of law, and we spent a fair amount of time talking about that today, giving me some good ideas in that area. We also talked at length about the “is document management broken?” issue and where we are these days in knowledge management, including the promise that blogs hold in KM.
However, I was fascinated by their approach to web services, channels, feeds and aggregation. In fact, I stepped out of my quasi-journalist mode and began to care somewhat less about what could be done in connection with the practice of law and more in ways that I, along with others who “get” this, might do some very cool things. It makes quite a few things that I’ve been thinking about seem far more possible than I had imagined. It also suggested a number of possibilities for some of my legal and consulting clients that I want to share with them.
Take a look. If you see some of the same things that I see, let’s talk. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a continuing conversation with Bill and Peter about what they are doing and ways to use it. I don’t often get too “evangelistic” about a specific technology (other than CaseMap), but, depending on what I learn, the MyST technologies may push me in that direction.
More about things MyST-related:
EcontentMagazine article on web services
Into the MyST blog RSS feed
Think Outside the Feed blog RSS feed
SmartStream Alliance
Bill French on “disruptive technologies”

Tips for Making More Usable PDF Files

I recently wrote a very favorable book review of Carl Young’s Adobe Acrobat 6.0: Getting Professional Results from Your PDFs. Unfortunately, my book review will not appear in print until a month or so from now.
In the meantime, take a look at this review of the book and consider adding this book to your PDF toolbox. There are many things to praise about the book, and I recommended the book and used some of the points from the book in my recent presentation on Adobe Acrobat for Lawyers.

Dennis’s Summer Reading: Thunder Run – An Amazing Story

I was checking out the “new books” section at the library a few days ago and noticed a book called Thunder Run, by David Zucchino. I’ll admit that the linguistic similarity to “Thunder Road” brought out my Springsteen antennae.
One of the blurbs described the book as the story of the tank battles fought by American soldiers as they took Baghdad. Having seen the Patton movie a month or so ago, I’m now into the tank aspects of military strategy. So, the book went into my take home stack.
Now, I thought that the book was about the drive from Kuwait to Baghdad. I have assumed from the beginning that the strategy and tactics of that campaign would be studied in depth for years and I wanted to get a better understanding of it.
However, that’s not what the book was about! In fact, it was about something far more limited and, ultimately far more interesting than the big campaign. In fact, it opens a window on the future that we all would be well-advised to consider and, in many ways, illustrates some of the ideas you will find on the thought-provoking and essential Global Guerillas blog of John Robb, especially the notion of “swarming.”
Here’s what troubles me. I probably followed the news from the Iraq war to a greater extent than the average person and I’ve read a good number of books and articles on the subject. It befuddles me that I had no idea of how the city of Baghdad was taken until I read this book.
“Thunder run” refers to fast armored strikes conceived of and run during the Vietnam war. In a way, they are like the boat runs a young John Kerry made during his service. You can look at them in a number of ways, but they sure seem like an operation designed to draw unfriendly fire.
If you don’t know the story of the “thunder runs” into Baghdad, you have to read this book. It’s an amazing story that we all should know, in which an insanely small number of US soldiers with a few tanks, Bradleys and Humvees essentially ran a gauntlet into the center of Baghdad and essentially “ended” the early part of the war in a few days.
If you think that they don’t make soldiers like the ones who fought on D-Day, you might change your mind after you read this book. What these soldiers accomplished almost defies description and they turned what could have been a catastropic loss into what appeared, at least according to the news reports I remember and the analysis of the pundits, to be an easy victory. Let me just say that after I read this book, I felt that the level of medals handed out should be upped a notch or two and I wanted to shake the hands and thank each of these soldiers.
If you like reading thrillers, as I do, this book had me reading it from cover to cover in one session, never sure what would happen next, just like a good Robert Ludlum novel. I found Zucchino to be a compelling writer in every sense.
What you see is a combination of strategic brilliance and folly, firepower and restraint, preparation and invention, the real dangers of the siloed branches of our military, and a memorable illustration that the plan is the first casualty of contact with the enemy. What you also see is a good glimpse of the war of the future.
The book raises a lot of questions, to no surprise. The big one for me is: have we geared up to fight the preceding war? Maybe bigger is: what are we doing to show that we’ve learned anything from what has happened so far?
The “insurgents” are exploiting military weaknesses and gaps that you will see in this book and probably will get even better at it. You’ll have a few more of your own (maybe, what do we use helicopters for? or what does it mean to say that “we need more boots on the ground”? or at what point does “swarming” make it possible to overcome superior firepower?).
However, you’ll be struck by the story of this battle and the soldiers who fought it, the clash of two different worlds shown by the defense of Baghdad, the thin and moving line between victory and defeat, and the human stories that deserve a much wider audience.
Trust me, Thunder Run is a book that you want to make room for on your summer reading list.

Spread the Meme – A Balanced Approach to Copyright Reform

Via the Lessig Blog:
Well-known intellectual property law scholar Michael Geist (who can also write columns that non-academics can read and understand) has a new column that advocates a balanced approach to copyright reform and is an article that deserves a wide audience, says Larry Lessig, another well-known intellectual property law scholar (who writes books and articles that are a bit harder for non-academics to read (especially because of the too-tiny print in his first book, at least to these aging eyes) and understand.
I agree.
We may come at these issues from different places and want different results, but, if all interests have a seat at the discussion table and play a role in shaping the results, then we’ll reach better results than the current state of affairs in the U.S. where many, many people believe that the entertainment industry drives all legislation in this area for its own benefit.
Why do I have my doubts that this issue will be discussed in the 2004 presidential campaign?

FTC Shows That People Are Getting the Lesson of the CAN-SPAM Act

From the excellent site:
FTC Says “Do-Not-E-mail” Registry Could Make Spam Worse
“A national “do not e-mail” registry would do little to prevent the proliferation of junk e-mail and could even make the spam problem worse, said the Federal Trade Commission in a report. The FTC was required to produce the report for Congress under a provision of the federal Can-Spam Act, which went into effect in January.”
I gave a presentation that discussed spam last week. For my opening, I argued that the CAN-SPAM Act had all but eliminated the spam issue. I noted that since the enactment of the CAN-SPAM Act, as best as I can tell from the stats that I’ve found:
+ Spam now constitutes a miniscule 70% of all Internet email.
+ A mere 50% of spam contains viruses, spyware or other malware.
+ A whopping 0.3% to 1% of mass emailings comply with the CAN-SPAM Act
+ Spammers are cowering in fear from the zero prosecutions to date.

Ok, I was making a rhetorical point to get my audience’s attention. However, the spam problem seems to have grown exponentiallly since the Act came into effect.
Putting together a “Do Not Spam” Registry seems like it would create the ultimate target for spammers who want to harvest “live” email addresses. I would expect that database to be penetrated, copied and distributed in short order. I can’t imagine how violations of the list would be enforced and, as the 99+% non-compliance rate with CAN-SPAM suggests, how many expect that most spammers would care about the registry.
Oh, yeah. I forgot. We could get a few small players and well-intentioned individuals who couldn’t figure out the rules or made little mistakes and were easy to catch. That will help.
Why not do some simple things that would help? Here are a few:
Stop automatically sending out “you sent a virus” warning messages – there’s little chance these days that it actually came from the “sender of record” and it’s fair to say that these messages now constitute a substantial portion of all spam and use up bandwidth for the rest of us. What’s the point?
Stop opening attachments that you do not expect (even if they come from someone you know) or are not in a format you expect.
Stop clicking on links in unsolicited commercial email messages.
Stop opening messages you think might be spam and spend a minute or two learning about web bugs and other ways spammers can find that you have a live email address.
The bad news is that user behavior is what keeps spam rolling and growing. If you rely on spam filters, but use spammer-friendly habits with your email, you are part of the problem – like the driver with one foot pushing the accelerator and the other pushing the brake at the same time and wondering why the car isn’t working right.
It’s good to see the FTC willing to back away from a “create a new law” approach in this area.