Beating Information Overload with News Aggregators – Article

[NOTE: This is another in the series of repostings of my previously-published articles. This article, from the fall of 2003, over two years ago, was my effort to explain RSS feeds and news aggregators (or news readers) in plain language and to show why I found them so exciting and, even, a "world-changing" technology. If you still visit this blog on a regular basis, you'll want to read this article to see how you can get the posts on this blog to come to you without you visiting this blog. People describe RSS as a "disruptive" technology and all kinds of other things. But until you "get" the newsreader experience, this is all just theory. Use of RSS feeds and a news reader can dramatically change your everyday experience of the Internet. It's powerful stuff, if it fits the way you use the Internet. It's worth making the experiment.]
Beating Information Overload with News Aggregators
I knew the world had changed the first morning I checked my news aggregator before I checked my e-mail.
We all have our routines for getting our daily dose of information. We might read a newspaper or two. We check our e-mail for messages and newsletters. We have our favorite web sites we check every day. The mail brings magazines, advance sheets and other information resources.
And it all overwhelms us.
“Information overload” is no longer a catchphrase – it is an illness that leaves us with a sense of being overwhelmed and falling further behind. Being a lawyer means that we are definitely in the information business.
I have found a solution that really works. The same tools can work for you.
Let me start with a paradox. The amount of information I now handle on a daily basis has grown dramatically, but the amount of control I feel that I have over that information has increased exponentially. You might be thinking: is he actually going to try to talk me into adopting a new technology that brings me more information? Yes, I am.
I’m also going to try to sell you on a new technology and hardly tell you any details about the underlying technology. Why? Because it’s not about the technology—it’s about how the technology can help you in what you do every day.
Some of you might remember back to a three-month period in the late 1990s when “push” technology was the hottest tech trend going. The idea was that rather than going out to the Internet to find information, we could have information “pushed” to our desktops. Pointcast was a classic example. “Push” was not ready for prime time and it disappeared off the face of the earth.
However, one of the ideas behind “push” – that it is better to receive some information, especially updates and news items, automatically rather than to go out and search for it – continued to be attractive. For the most part, e-mail and e-mail newsletters have since filled the role expected for “push.” Savvy e-mail users could subscribe to relevant newsletters and had friends and colleagues who sent them relevant material off the Internet.
Unfortunately, in the last year or so, the sheer volume of e-mail, spam and the danger of attachments, drastically reduced the effectiveness of e-mail for these purposes. It has become difficult to find relevant material in your inbox.
At the same time, it has become harder to find the information you want on the Internet. When you do find a valuable page, it takes work to keep up with developments on the site. Essentially, you have to remember to visit each page that you want to follow on a regular basis. I’ve tried a variety of techniques, from a “daily” favorites list to “tabbed” browsers to some “automated browsing” techniques. None of them work. The difficulty is that you have to make an ongoing effort to go out to each page.
As a result, I found that I never remembered to check a wide variety of useful sites, especially those of my friends, and I missed all kinds of useful material. I had accepted that as the cost of living in a world of information overload.
Enter newsfeeds and news aggregators. A news aggregator is a software program that automatically retrieves newsfeeds from web pages that supply these feeds. Newsfeeds come in a number of standard formats and are relatively simple items of code that (1) can be retrieved and read by news aggregators and (2) may contain headlines, summaries, excerpts, full text of articles, links or even images. That’s all you really need to know about the underlying technology in order to use it.
What are the benefits and advantages of news aggregators and newsfeeds?

  • I do not have to visit each source site individually. Once I find a site with a feed (and I’ll talk about that below) and “subscribe” to the feed via my aggregator, I get the information the site feeds without taking affirmative steps to visit the site.
  • I can review new information from a large number of sites in a short time.
  • I can sort my feeds into groups categorized by subject matter.
  • I can add and delete feeds easily.
  • Because I receive information via feeds in a highly useful manner, I can deal with information easily and efficiently.

The last point touches on the essence of the usefulness of newsfeeds and news aggregators. With respect to new information, we, and lawyers especially, ideally want to do the following:

  1. Know that the information is there (Alert).
  2. Quickly determine what it is (Headline).
  3. Quickly scan or get the gist of the information (Excerpt or Summary).
  4. Read the full article if we are interested (Full Text).
  5. Deal with the information – typically act on it, move it on, delete it or file it (Take Action).


If we could find a tool that allowed us to take these steps easily, not only would our lives be easier and less overloaded, but we could, in fact, take on and handle more information, especially if, at the same time, we are improving the quality and the relevance of the information we get.
News aggregators give us precisely such a tool.
In my news aggregator (I’m using FeedDemon as my example), I have a number of subject matter folders. In each folder are the feeds (sometimes called channels) that I have affirmatively added to my list of feeds. When my news aggregator updates (either on launch or when I manually trigger it), I will see in the left column a highlighted feed and the number of new items sent out by that feed. When I click on that feed, I see in the middle column the headlines of these feeds, with the unread ones in bold. If I click on a headline, then, in the right column, I will see either a summary provided by the author of the feed, a short excerpt, or the full item, in each case with a hyperlink to the page on the site providing the feed on which the item is located. Today’s news aggregators, for the most, look very much like the Outlook e-mail interface many of us use on a daily basis.
In short, I quickly see the Alert, the Headline, the Excerpt or Summary, and either see or can quickly jump to the Full Text. Therefore, I get four out of the five ideal steps in a matter of seconds, or less, per item, and I take full advantage of my ability to scan quickly. I also have the tools to perform the Action Steps in an efficient manner.
As a result, I have a great deal of control over the information I receive because I can “triage” it very quickly, and move on or go deeper easily and efficiently. If the headline doesn’t affect me, I move on. If the headline interests me, I look at the summary or excerpt. Doesn’t affect or interest me? I move on. If it does, I look at the full text. Then I act on it – bookmark it, delete it, forward it on to a colleague, whatever.
As you will notice, e-mail newsletters, web pages and other approaches, do not give you the benefit of following these five steps so easily. For example, many e-mail newsletters are full text. If you like, as I do, e-mail newsletter that provide a short blurb and a link to the full article, you’ll see the benefit of a news aggregator right away.
We now have access to a rich information environment that brings material to us on a regular basis in a manner we can work with. But what can information can we really get?
It is now time for a brief digression about weblogs or blogs. Newsfeeds and blogs are almost invariably talked about at the same time. Here is all you have to know: A blog does not need a newsfeed and a newsfeed does not have to be connected to a blog. That said, newsfeeds definitely play a major role in the world of blogs and some of the best feeds come from blogs.
You can now get feeds from newspapers, magazines, news networks, headline services and a wide variety of content sources as well as from blogs. If you want to monitor, on a daily basis, a dozen of the most well-known newspapers in the world, you can easily do so. If you want to see headlines on your favorite sport or subject of interest, you can do that. There are now hundreds of law-related feeds.
As a result, you can be more up-to-date, spot trends, see what some of the leading thinkers on a variety of topics are writing, and learn of new developments quickly and easily. I will tell you that you can realistically manage several hundred feeds in less than half an hour in the morning.
How do you get started?
Here is the path I suggest. There are a number of sites that point you to legal blogs with newsfeeds. I’d start at Blawg.org (http://www.blawg.org) and see what is out there and what might interest you. Technorati (http://www.technorati.com) is a good general search tool for blogs and newsfeeds.
Once you get a feel for the information that is available and want to take the next step, check out a news aggregator. There are a number of them and new ones appear regularly. If you ask me today, I would suggest trying NewsGator (http://www.newsgator.com) or Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com), an online newsreader. There are many newsreaders these days. I generally recommend using Bloglines as an easy way to get started.
\You will gradually learn a number of tricks to locate feeds and there are some helpful resources. However, you will want to start looking on your favorite web sites either for an orange, rectangular button that says “XML”, the phrase “Syndicate this site” or something similar that indicates a newsfeed, an “XML” feed, an “RSS” feed, an “RDF” feed or something along those lines.
Click on that link. You will be taken to a page of code that is all but incomprehensible. That’s OK because all you want is the URL. Copy the URL and go to your news aggregator and following the steps for adding a new feed or channel and paste the URL in the appropriate blank. In some cases, an aggregator may automatically pick up the feed.
From that point on, when your aggregator updates you will get fresh headlines and material from that feed and it will appear in a convenient place with the other feeds you monitor. You never have to go to the website or blog, or the incomprehensible XML page, again, unless you want to. New posts and items will just come to you.
As a result, you will find yourself better informed and more in control of the information tidal wave in which we now live. I have been looking for a tool that will produce these results for many years. News aggregators have dramatically changed the way I deal with information, especially developments that affect my practice, in a manner that is extremely positive, productive, and, I hope, profitable. I definitely encourage you to take a test drive with these new tools and technologies. They will help you where you need it on a daily basis and give you a greater sense of control, and that’s something all of us can use.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and advanced blogging consulting and technology committee coaching packages for law firms, corporate legal departments and other professional services providers.

BlawgWorld 2006: A Great Chance to Join TechnoLawyer and Get an eBook Featuring Some Great Legal Blog Posts

BlawgWorld 2006 is is a great present from Neil Squillante at TechnoLawyer.com and a great sampler of useful, thought-provoking and enjoyable blog posts from more than fifty of the many legal blogs out there these days.
BlawgWorld is both a free gift to current TechnoLawyer members (like me) and a promotion to encourage people who read and want to read blogs and who are also interested in legal technology to join the TechnoLawyer list (it’s free). As I’ve said many times before, if you are a regular reader of DennisKennedy.Blog, you should also be a TechnoLawyer subscriber. It’s that simple.
Neil and I go back a long way, I consider him a good friend, and the TechnoLawyer group has been very good to me over the years. I don’t even pretend to be impartial about TechnoLawyer. It was a pleasure to have the chance to participate in BlawgWorld 2006, which includes entries from both this blog and Between Lawyers. I appreciate Neil suggesting which post of mine to include.
I’m also struck by how many bloggers chose one of my favorite posts from their blogs. There’s some excellent stuff in there, especially Matt Buchanan’s excellent “Texaco” post, a personal favorite of mine.
BlawgWorld 2006 gives those new to the world of legal blogging a great sampling of the range and nature of the legal blogs. It’s not comprehensive, or even designed to be, but it’s a very nice sampler, especially for those who have heard about blogs, but haven’t really read any blogs yet.
Now for the details if you want to get your own free copy of BlawgWorld 2006. \It’s free, but available exclusively to TechnoLawyer members. To receive your free copy, please go to http://www.blawgworld.com, register as a new TechnoLawyer member (be sure to try out a few of the newsletters), and you’ll be emailed a link to download the eBook. You’ll get the book and then, assuming that you subscribe to a newsletter, receive the occasional email with great legal technology information from TechnoLawyer. In no time, people will consider you the local expert on legal technology – not a bad result for a free subscription. As I said, I don’t pretend to be impartial about TechnoLawyer – I’m a big fan.
Although I think that it’s easy for people these days to over-think and over-discuss the whole “blogging phenomenon,” I will note that if you read through BlawgWorld 2006, you’ll see why I’ve begun to describe blogs as “online newspaper or magazine columns without the newspaper or magazine.”
BlawgWorld 2006 gives you plenty of reason to join up with TechnoLawyer and to sample the world of blogs as well. A very nice combo, especially for regular readers of this blog.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
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Web 2.0 and the Practice of Law

I’ve been wanting to write more frequently about Web 2.0 and its implication in the practice of law. The Wired GC has stepped up to the task and hit a home run with his post “Web 2.0, Law Style,” a must-read if you’re interested in the application of new Internet technologies and applications to the delivery of legal services and the practice of law.
The money quote:

This could have all sorts of ramifications as to what law firms are really selling (information or insight), how they are organized (partner/associate) and how they are valued (finders over minders over grinders). It may also mean that a corporate legal department lets more work be done by clients themselves.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and advanced blogging consulting and technology committee coaching packages for law firms, corporate legal departments and other professional services providers.

Flashback: My Legal Technology Predictions for 2000 – Article

[NOTE: This is another in the series of repostings of my previously-published articles. As you may know, I have a long tradition of writing an annual legal technology predictions article. I was gazing into the legal tech crystal ball recently and came a way with a bit of a sense of pessimism and a large sense of deja vu. I mentioned this to some of my legal tech buddies. They quizzed me a bit and I mentioned that 2006 in legal technology reminded me a lot of the year 2000 in legal technology. I dug out my predictions article for 2000 and quickly realized why I had that feeling. I'm finding that writing these predictions articles increasing involves a balancing between developments that really interest me, such as Web 2.0, and developments which are likely to happen in the use of technology by lawyers. With that in mind, I'm republishing my predictions article for 2000 without any changes. You'll seem some of my common themes and I'll let you judge how accurate my predictions were – some wags might say that certainly many law firms have had much financial success ignoring my predictions. The article may be especially interesting to those who contend that the legal profession are "slow adopters" of technology.]
A Legal Technology Agenda for 2000
Assuming you have put the aftermath of the Year 2000 Problem behind you, 2000 will be a year in which you will find that your clients more so than innovations in technology will dictate changes in the way you practice. In 2000, it will be more a question of implementing existing technologies well rather than preparing for strikingly new technologies. It will be a year of great opportunity for lawyers and law firms, especially those looking toward the Internet.
Here are twelve items to put on your technology agenda for 2000:
1. How Will You Do Windows? Lawyers live largely in a Windows world. You may hear a lot about Linux, Macintosh and other alternatives, but most legal applications are Windows applications.
The biggest technology release of 2000 will be Windows 2000, Microsoft’s much ballyhooed and much delayed successor to Windows NT 4.0. A major new version of Windows is big news in any year, but Windows 2000 is the proverbial 800 pound gorilla – much of your thinking about upgrades and new systems will be a reaction to Windows 2000.
Microsoft clearly wants business users to move to Windows 2000, which it sees as the next generation in operating systems. Expect to see availability and support for Windows NT and Windows 98 dwindle as the year proceeds.
You may still conclude that you will stay with Windows 98 or NT for the foreseeable future, but you have to look at Windows 2000 and understand the reasons for choosing it or not choosing it. Your thinking, unfortunately, will be further complicated by the Microsoft antitrust case. Although there’s always a reluctance to move to the first release of any software, it’s hard to imagine a more thoroughly tested product than Windows 2000. There’s a feeling of inevitability about Windows 2000.
2. An Explosion of Non-PC Options. How much longer PCs will be the "computers" of choice? Some predict that as early as 2001 the number of "information appliances" purchased, such as Palm computing devices, "smart phones" and the like, will surpass the number of PCs purchased. We soon will be seeing the decline of the PC.
Information appliances focus on a limited number of specific tasks (calendaring, e-mail, paging, web access) and are generally portable in a meaningful way. They tend to be "instant on" (no waiting to boot your PC) and extend the reach of your office computer in user friendly ways. The cost is more likely to be a few hundred dollars rather than the few thousand dollars you might spend for a PC.
While Palm computing devices are the hot items in this category and the new Visors from Handspring have gotten a lot of attention, watch this year for e-mail appliances, web pads that allow you to browse the Internet, wireless devices and other specific-purpose devices. These devices are tailor-made for the ways many lawyers work and may improve your productivity while trimming your technology costs.
3. A Move Toward Knowledge Management. Knowledge management gets a lot attention these days. From simple efforts to make earlier work available to reduce the need to "reinvent the wheel" to more elaborate efforts to capture and exploit the accumulated "wisdom" inside your firm, innovations in knowledge management continue to grow.
Knowledge management really means finding ways to move beyond simply processing data or managing information to unlocking the "knowledge" in your firm. You and your firm have a lot of knowledge – methods, people to talk to get things done, strategies. Typically this knowledge is in the head of only one person. The result can be inefficiencies and duplication of effort when someone doesn’t know the right person to ask, can’t find a file that shows how something was done in another case or can’t locate a research memo on the same topic.
Firms and software companies have put a lot of effort into "unlocking" this knowledge and finding ways to make it sharable and more usable. In larger firms, attorneys use intranets, Lotus Notes applications and databases. In smaller firms, attorneys use case management packages, litigation database programs and simpler databases.
Law firms have been slow on the draw in this area, especially when compared to the massive efforts of the Big 5 accounting firms and other professional service firms. In part this slowness is because knowledge management is usually cast as a highly invasive, retooling of a practice. The better approach is to pick discrete areas in which to experiment, focus your efforts where they may bring the best results, limit the scope of projects, and try to measure your success.
Here’s a move toward knowledge management for trial lawyers that everyone can afford: (CaseMap). CaseMap costs less than US$500 and this powerful software allows you to capture the knowledge you have about a case, categorize and rate your evidence, see patterns in evidence, analyze evidence and even share results with others on a team. I’m a big fan of CaseMap. Another development to watch in this area is Microsoft’s Digital Dashboard initiative, which turns Outlook into the primary means of access to a variety of information you use on a regular basis.
4. Security Is No Longer Just a Blanket. Over the past year or so, hackers and virus creators have made the world much more dangerous for computer users. Your computers and your networks have become increasingly vulnerable to attack from a variety of sources.
While you might expect lawyers, with their concern for confidentiality, to be in the forefront of computer security, the sad story is that many law firms keep information on systems that are shockingly vulnerable and commonly allow practices that make virus infection all but inevitable.
The security issues with Microsoft products alone dictate a policy of installing a regular set of upgrades, patches and industrial strength security and virus protection. Even the most secure networks are vulnerable because firms allow easy-to-break passwords. Hacking "tools" and scripts are readily available on the Internet to assist even the novice hacker.
Simply put, you must get security issues onto your technology agenda. The program to watch in this area: BlackICE. You will also want to add Stuart McClure and Joel Scambray’s weekly Security Watch column in InfoWorld to your regular reading list.
5. Web Presence Matters. More than ever, law firms must have a professional web site. While many law firms now have web sites, it is time to move these sites to a second generation and use the sites to provide real value.
Current Internet usage statistics show that today’s user is not the stereotypical 15-year-old, but a member of a demographic group that should be attractive to almost all lawyers. A surprising number of people look for lawyers on the Internet and if you don’t have a site or if you have an amateurish site, you will not get these clients.
People are developing Internet expectations and a professional web presence is one of those expectations. Take a hard look at your web site and compare what it does to what you want it to accomplish. A major revision is probably in order.
6. There’s Gold In Your Networks. It’s not what you know but who you know, right? Most of us do not do a good job of capturing or mining the information we have about contacts. Address books get out of date. We have a collection of business cards of people who we no longer remember. We can’t remember our last conversation with a client, her birthday, names of children, et al.
It’s not only embarrassing, but it hampers our practice. Programs like ACT!, GoldMine, Outlook, TimeMatters, Amicus and others all provide "contact management" options. In a sense, this is a subcategory of knowledge management. Contact management turbocharges your address book. You can keep expanded types of data on a contact and, most important, keep historical data. And you can pull useful information out of your contacts.
Such as: contacts most responsible for referrals, clients with wills over two years old, prospects who are basketball fans for the extra tickets you have, the names of art appraisers you’ve used in the past. You get the idea. Some programs can work with caller ID and even pop up the caller’s information as you are picking up the phone.
7. Expand Your Network with E-mail Discussion Lists. One of the great Internet phenomena we’ve seen is the development of e-mail discussion lists. For virtually any topic you can think of there is a discussion list.
They work like this: You "subscribe" by e-mail to a list. You receive a copy of every e-mail sent to the list manager. Copies of any e-mail you send to the list manager are sent to everyone on the list. This mechanism produces an ongoing and wide-ranging discussion.
Why are they so useful? Many times, the leading lights in a field are regular participants. People tend to share a lot of practical knowledge. It is rare to see a question that goes unanswered. You can make friends all around the word. And, there is no better way to learn about new developments. Start at TileNet (http://www.tile.net) to find lists that appeal to you.
8. Taming the E-mail Tiger. Many attorneys have seen great benefits from using e-mail and clients increasingly want to contact attorneys by e-mail. E-mail, however, raises many important management issues. How long do you store e-mail messages? Must you protect messages to clients with encryption techniques? How do you ensure that an e-mail with important information is integrated into a client’s file? How do attorneys manage growing numbers of messages? You will want to implement management solutions well before you and your attorneys are run over by the volume of e-mail they face.
9. Computers Continue Their March into the Courtroom. One clear trend in legal technology is the march of computers into the courtroom. Litigation technology includes real-time transcription, litigation databases, trial management and trial presentation. Projectors and large monitors are becoming more common in trials. This technology can dramatically level the playing field for small firms and solos against much larger firms. Expect to see continued explosive growth in this area. From video depositions to PowerPoint slides to digital cameras, trial lawyers are seeing the benefits of using technology to present cases to jurors (and judges) who are part of the TV generation. Litigators ignore developments here at their peril.
10. Collaboration Counts. Intranets allow you to turn all the information contained in your firm into a giant, private web site. All that information can then become easily accessible to other members of the firm. While intranets offer a great way to share information of all types within a firm, extranets allow you to create a private web site for a client that the client can reach over the Internet and see work in progress, billing information and other information that can enhance the client relationship and offer novel ways to work together more closely and more cheaply. Clients are starting to put pressure on firms to create extranets or to implement other collaborative software (sometimes called "groupware") such as Lotus Notes.
Extranets are becoming popular as a way for co-counsel to collaborate on complex, far-flung litigation matters like tobacco or other mass tort cases. By going to a secure, private site on the Internet, co-counsel can share information, discuss cases, work jointly on projects or documents and stay up-to-date on case developments. Other firms, large and small, are starting to use extranets for clients who want access to drafts of documents, billing information and the like. Extranets have potential to both aid in collaboration and to help save money – a dynamite combination.
11. Browser Interfaces Become Ubiquitous. A hot new Internet topic is "web-enabled" technology. In essence, this means that you can access programs and underlying information using only an Internet browser (Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Netscape’s Navigator). For example, many firms now give attorneys access to e-mail through a secure web site interface. Another example to watch: the application Service providers (ASPs) such as the Serengeti project (http://www.serengetilaw.com), which plans to provide a web interface to high-powered legal software applications that are hosted by a third party rather than at your firm. Expect to see even more of this trend, including in bread-and-butter applications like document management. The benefits: reduced training time and ability to access information from almost any computer.
12. Training Takes A Front Seat. Most law firms I know tend to skimp when it comes to training. This approach can be short-sighted and foolish. Excellent training can bring you excellent results. As you consider your technology agenda for 2000, think hard about dramatically increasing your training budget and focusing on how to make that training more effective. Consider a variety of training options and remember that lawyers who refuse to participate in training can generate substantial support and other costs.
Bonus Point. Try Something New that Can Revolutionize Your Practice. There are a lot of great new technologies available to lawyers. I recommend that you pick one technology that can have a dramatic impact on your practice and invest in it. For litigators: real-time transcription, databases like Summation, trial presentation packages like Trial Director, or a trial strategy program like CaseMap. For lawyers who produce a lot of form documents: document assembly software. For presenters: Powerpoint. For all: getting your practice onto the Web. Best advice: turn your young lawyers loose on some technology projects.
Conclusion. You may notice that I did not mention much hardware and only a few software programs. More important than gee-whiz new hardware in 2000 are the Internet and your attitude toward technology and your motivation to find ways to make technology work for you in your practice.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
Like what you are reading? Check out the other blogs where I post – Between Lawyers (feed) and the LexThink Blog (feed).

A Practical and Reasonable Approach to Working with Open Source Licenses

LLRX.com is my favorite place to publish my new articles. The newest issue of LLRX.com, in addition to its usual excellent collection of articles, contains a new article from me called “Best Legal Practices for Open Source Software: Ten Tips For Managing Legal Risks for Businesses Using Open Source Software.” I like the description of the article on the site: “Dennis Kennedy’s checklist is a practical evaluation of key factors that will ensure a sound decision making process in the adoption and implementation of open source applications within various legal settings.”
The article grows out of a presentation I’ve given (and would like to give much more often) that introduces the Open Source licenses and then discusses how best to assess and manage the legal risks involved in using Open Source software. I also wanted to write something that was practical – there are plenty of good academic articles on the Open Source licenses. I should know – I’ve written a couple of them, including this law review article a few years ago.
Here’s my variation from the standard legal presentations you might see and hear on this topic: I take the approach that you’ve made the business decision to use Open Source software and that you want to take a realistic approach to handling the legal issues, not that you want to hear from a lawyer a million reasons not to use Open Source software regardless of the business rationale for using it. I also tell the audience how to talk to their lawyers about Open Source, what questions to ask, and how to tell if your lawyer really knows what he or she is talking about when it comes to Open Source. Sometimes it’s better to know more than the lawyers when you go into the meeting.
In any event, I gave the presentation from which this article comes to a group of IT and business people (no other lawyers there) and it was one of the most fun presentations I’ve ever done.
During the presentation, it struck me that, especially in this context, legal risks are just one component of the total risk management picture and, this may be why people say that I don’t sound like all the other lawyers they know, it may not even be the most important component. As I said, there are many ways for lawyers to say “no” to Open Source software – I want to provide a framework where you can say “yes, and here’s how,” if that’s where the business logic and your approach to risk management lead you.
So, the article pulls from a “practical tips” section of that presentation and offers what I hope are some helpful tips to help you make good, solid decisions about when and how to use Open Source software in your business.
At the same time, the presentation and the article helped me think through some of the aspects of what I might call “open source law,” or ways that we can apply Open Source licensing principles to the delivery of legal services. I write about that topic from time to time, but not as much as I’d like to, on the Between Lawyers blog.
Let me recommend my article and this whole issue of LLRX.com to you, especially Donna Cavallini and Sabrina Pacifici’s article on resource for competitive intelligence and John Alber’s important article on ERP and data warehousing (trust me, it’s a must-read). Sabrina has done her usual stellar job with this issue and it’s always a pleasure for me to publish my new articles there. As an aside, I thoroughly enjoyed getting the chance to present with and talk with Sabrina at BlawgThink.
Oh, yeah. The money quote from my article:

If the lawyer only looks at the legal issues and the CIO looks only at the IT issues, you increase the likelihood of finger-pointing when an unexpected, but quite predictable, bad result occurs. No one, especially me, likes the idea of yet another committee meeting, but Open Source is a good example where time and effort spent on the front-end will pay off substantially over the alternative of cleaning up potentially messy and expensive situations in which you may one day find yourself.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s speaking services. Contact Dennis today for more information and to schedule a seminar for your firm, legal department or other group.