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A Dynamic and Intuitive Legal Research Experience in a Automobile

A Dynamic and Intuitive Legal Research Experience in a Automobile 1021 643 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.
Location: A5 en route to Wolters Kluwer Corporate Office.

Driver: summary!
Car voice: you have a 58 unread messages and 18 alerts.
Driver: please tag and provide urgency?
Car voice: tagging complete and the most urgent are 4 messages from your client “LegalComplex” which match with 2 alerts. Is this urgency correct?
Driver: yes. Please proceed with research?
Car voice: research indicates that 2 briefs and 1 IntelliConnect document match messages tagged “LegalComplex” and “Urgent”, would you like these to be linked?
Driver: no, just save to client folder and schedule in calendar…

Ok, I may have gone off the deep end here but bear with me. I’m in no way proposing to try this in your own car. The ‘car’ is a metaphor which personifies an ultimate goal: to build a research system that needs as little physical interaction as possible e.g. no typing or clicking. While voice recognition still seems tricky at times, Apple’s Siri comes eerily close to its ability to decipher the human voice. The key, in my opinion, lies in the understanding and relaying general tasks such as: calculation go to Wolfram Alpha and restaurants go to Yelp.

Loup.002

Therein lies the opportunity. With domain-specific information in hand, vertical search engines can work better at providing immediate answers whereas universal search just provides lots of hits. As previously discussed, filtering and narrowing down sources for us to search through is essential for our professional market.

In the example above, the alerts (based on the personal agents) combined with customers messages may provide a sort of ranking by urgency not much different than creating rules in Outlook. The messages can be grouped similar to Gmail priority inbox and then matched with previous search alerts and predefined tags.

Now a client has sent me a couple of questions on a certain topic which coincides with news alerts on that same topic. Based on client history and configured tags, the system can suggest a ‘urgency’ of the matter. Subsequent search of personal and proprietary documents provide a most likely match for the information you may need to answer the questions. But the system lets me be the judge of that.

Here’s how it might look like in a 2012 Mercedes-Benz:

Here’s my dream…

Legal Research On Your Television Screen

Legal Research On Your Television Screen 1337 765 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.
A quiet Sunday morning, I’m channel surfing on my big screen when I come across an enticing teaser on the Wolters Kluwer Channel. I carrousel through the Health and Tax panels and select Legal. I start reading the news articles and a particular phrase intrigues me. I spread my arms to zoom in and make a left to right swiping gesture in the air to select it…

Dominator

Now this is not the opening to my upcoming Sci-Fi drama but rather an imminent reality. At the end of 2011, there were 82 million connected TVs in homes worldwide according to research group Informa. By 2016 it forecasts that number will have ballooned to 892 million. I also predict Smart TV’s will be into corporate offices quicker than you can spell: iPad. At Wolters Kluwer’s HQ in Alphen a/d Rijn, Netherlands, you are greeted by the latest news displayed on a large screen in the lobby. These are scattered around the building and in board rooms. The fact is, the TV screen still dominates and it will continue to do so by convergence with the web.

tv2

Domesticated

Actually, my first web-like experience coming to Europe was ‘surfing’ TeleText pages on my TV. I still use it occasionally for looking up flight status from my comfortable couch at home. And it’s not just flight status lookups but also legal research that is being domesticated. While doing year stats analysis on research portals, I discovered that engagement peaks during weekends with hours instead of minutes spent on the site. Imagine you could utilize the biggest screen (TV) in your home for research. It’s the same argument why you would use your smallest screen (Smartphone) for quick lookups.

Dipping toes

Natural interfaces such as the touch on Apple’s mobile devices or motion on Microsoft Kinect are slowly replacing mouse and keyboard. I wouldn’t go as far as using my eyes to control the screen but I think it isn’t farfetched that a minority report style of an interface will enter our television sets. And some in legal technology have already been wondering when it will appear for legal research. Traditional print publishers are already dipping their toes on Apple TV, Google TV or Roku.

In the end, the trick is not looking objectively at what’s happening now but intuitively at what will happen. More after the break…

Call My Agent: Evolution In Information Retrieval

Call My Agent: Evolution In Information Retrieval 772 457 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.
 It is known by many names: OffspringMagnets, Filters, Bloodhounds  but in theory they can also be called: Agents. My definition: An intelligent application that basically goes and fetches ‘your’ information without you re-entering a query at every instance. Undoubtedly there are other more scientific explanations but for argument’s sake we’ll keep it simple and stick to this one. Now, how can agents make our lives more pleasant?

You’ve got Mail!
The first ‘agent’ I used online were email newsletters. If an interesting site had the option to subscribe to an email newsletter it gave me two features in exchange for my email address and exposed preference:

  1. I did not need to visit the site to get the latest information;
  2. By popping up in my inbox, it was a reminder that this source existed.

More advanced email delivery systems gave you more flexibility in delivery times or topics to choose from and the more advanced sites gave you more sources. Yet, not all sites had these options so I moved on.

webtimeline

Blowing the Pipe
With the rise of R.S.S. (Really Simple Syndication) feeds also came more creative features to play with. As with email one could subscribe to a site and use a separate application (RSS Reader) to receive the information. Yahoo Pipes – An interactive feed aggregator and manipulator- gave me the extraordinary ability to, “rewire the web”. For example, one of my favorite pipes was created right after the launch of the first iPhone. It used several online feed sources and persistent searches to scour information on the iPhone. If a site did not provide a feed I could always create one for it by using a web scraper.

While it all started out nicely, information overload crept in really fast. By using services like Postrank to prefilter my feeds based on popularity I was trying to stem the tide. By using trends and suggestions instead of Pipes in Google Reader I was also encouraging serendipity.

Back to Basics
Twitter, Friendfeed ,and Facebook added a new dimension to this overload fire I was fueling. Especially FriendFeed was menacing in its torrent of good information. By piling on filters on feeds I think I’ve managed the problem. My latest darling filter isSummify iPhone app. It summarizes and reduces my Google Reader 78 feeds and Twitter 226 friends to 10 story-links every 8 hours, depending on my settings.

Looking at this from another angle I think I have subconsciously created a personalized newspaper edited by humans and machines alike. Yet, I feel like I’m still missing some things in terms of relevancy, quality, and serendipity. Moreover, in the real world, I’m still pleasantly surprised by learning new stuff from friends and colleagues at the water cooler. It’s also scary to realize that speed will increasingly become more important. The earlier we know something the better prepared we can be and you might even be able to predict the future.

I think the web has evolved enough for us start rekindling this notion of agents. My dream is to have an intelligent agent which can rummage the web and alerts my friends in the real world to provide me with relevant information based on my profile. In real time or at predetermined times based on the substance of the information and the impact on my live and work.

More importantly, I hope that the web and my friends also know that I’m available to share, just ring my agent.

The Dogs of Legal Search: Facts vs Concepts

The Dogs of Legal Search: Facts vs Concepts 1024 640 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.
Legal research has passed the crossroads of print or digital and is heading for the next: facts or concepts. But are search engines getting too “easy” to use? Is the “dumbing down” of legal search engines a real threat to the quality of legal research?

Bloodhounds
As promised in a comment on a previous post, I would delve into the dilemma of simplifying of legal search engines. The question was raised again on the 3 Geeks and a Law Blog , which led me to some very intriguing insights presented in Roberta Shaffer’s key note at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Vendor Colloquium.

Here are some of the many trends in legal research which she highlighted during her keynote:

  • More complexity in legal issues (opinions longer)
  • More diversity of jurisdiction
  • More cases of “ a first impression”
  • More data-driven evidence
  • More focused on fact as compared to previous centuries – concepts/legal theories
  • Legal academy is more multi-disciplinary as are practitioners (judges?) – bringing to the table different ways of finding, evaluating, exploiting, and employing knowledge
  • Education by “edit” and “isolation”

The reason I’ve picked these statements is that I think they are key in the evolution of legal search engines. Deep analytical research is like finding a crumb and following its trail through the forest. My suggestion is to clear the forest or use a bloodhound. The skill set we needed in the past are evolving but the tools we use aren’t. In short, a logical evolution of legal search engines is trying to distill more facts and less concepts; also because the latter is much harder to achieve by a ‘machine’.

How much will this case cost me?
The European Cartel Digest compiles and summarizes every decision of the European Commission and all case law of the courts on cartels. Unlike most legal print publications its construct is similar to a database. This setup makes it especially suitable for extracting facts in a flexible manner and experimenting with alternate online displays. The ultimate goal is answering factual queries quicker by exposing facts such as: what are the amounts of damages awarded in particular cases? This concept video demonstrates how such a question might get answered faster:

The essential question on everybody’s mind will always be: what’s at stake? In this new age the margin for errors for professionals are far greater simply due to amounts of data available. Let’s not forget that an online legal search in the many repositories is only one way to get answers. But wouldn’t it be nice if it was our first stop for quick answers about the facts of the matter.

 

LegalComplex Library: Concept of a Modern Library

LegalComplex Library: Concept of a Modern Library 1132 506 Raymond Blijd
Read time: < 1 minute
Awhile back I went on an adventure to uncover the “modern library.” A traditional library is a place the curious roam and discover bundles of meticulously crafted and curated information. Massive wooden bookshelves would instill a sense of awe and ignite a challenge to absorb all hidden wisdom. Then came the Internet and it became a dated notion to pick up a book. The library was effectively replaced by a search engine. LegalComplex Library is an attempt to rekindle this enchantment in a new era.

(Unique) Case

The starting point was looking at a typical ‘modern library’ that a knowledge professional would operate in and the tools they would use to solve a case. Most often they would use an internet connected PC accompanied by installed software to accomplish several tasks. Depending on the subject matter or phase in the research process, the professional would need to switch between several tasks and applications to accomplish their overall goal.

Unique_Case-2

You the Platform

In the above examples, most of the used tools would have been developed with a focus on a specific set of tasks. It required a certain level of skill and knowledge to effectively operate these tools. The reason is that most were not developed with personalization or customizing in mind but rather adding enough features to accommodate the majority of projected uses. In short: they were not built around you but rather the perception of a task you would ultimately be forced to adapt to. The video below is the first in a series and presents the framework and fundamentals to try and change this paradigm.

Time magazine announced in 2006 the person of the year: You. Now let us start building products and services that are suitable for this magnificent person.

Apocalypse 2014: the End of Three Mobile Myths

Apocalypse 2014: the End of Three Mobile Myths 980 431 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.

1. Consumption or Creation?

A recent report by usability guru Nielsen on the iPad reiterates a common understanding about the iPad, which is that it’s mostly for media consumption. Email is “the only slight exception to the rule.” This might be true now but it is not a sign of things to come.

The main reason why consumption is more prevalent is simple: good consumption apps far outnumber good creation apps. The internet started out the same way until Web 2.0, Cloud and SaaS.

The ultimate example of mobile creation – microblogging (Twitter), photography, notes, to-do and other productivity apps aside- are in fact the Apple apps. Garageband, Pages, and Numbers are excellent examples of creation on the tablet. Especially iMovie on the iPhone I find extraordinary. I’ve created over 15 iMovies ( a mix video, photo’s and music) and loaded them onto YouTube in HD straight from my iPhone.

overview_imovie_20110302The trick is to figure out the usability and tasks and refitting them to the mobile form factor. It’s design led by format as oppose to desktop-based workflow.

Mobile-Personas

 

2. Apps or Web apps?

A Forrester report stated, in general, to do both because it deemed the distinction irrelevant. But here’s the quote from their blog post: a majority of consumers across the globe will access the Internet, not apps.

This is especially true for areas which do have ubiquitous and ambient connectivity. Those areas are expanding. Moreover, real-time and streaming will always be preferred over sync, update, and download. I heard somebody once say: You need real-time data if you want to cross a street. Just as Cloud and SaaS are getting the traction we should not revert back to the notion of “installed software” and its drawbacks.

3. Mobile vs. PC

Taking the above into account the question is not if but when mobile will replace the traditional concept of a PC. Laptops have already replaced the workstation in most business and homes. Smartphone are doing the same with cell phones just as the iPhone is replacing Blackberry.

Predicting the tipping point is a challenging endeavor but here’s my attempt: 2014

mobile-internet-growth

 

Burning Filters and Popping Bubbles: The Personalization Paradox

Burning Filters and Popping Bubbles: The Personalization Paradox 834 472 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.
 In 2008 Clay Shirky coined the phrase “It’s not information overload. It filters failure.” In 2011 this was reversed by Nicolas Carr stating: “It’s not information overload. It filters success.” He also stated that we were, in fact, getting dumbed down by filters like Google. Eli Pariser at TED gave a presentation called Beware online “filter bubbles” which gave a warning of the dangers of filters and personalization. So are we going filter mad?

bubblesA question of perception

The reason for the filter upheaval is understandable from a certain perspective. So was book burning in its day. Filters have been around since there was information exchange of any sort. Eli Pariser made the case that in the last century we had filters called editors with build in ethics who decided to give us a wide spectrum of information. Algorithms – without ethics – are replacing editors in this century as our main filter. However, the problem is that algorithms for personalization will inevitably calculate your persona and provide you the information it can deduce you might want. This can be very confrontational. But that’s not much different from the previous century whereby the act of buying and reading a certain newspaper brand is highly ‘personal’ and would say a lot about who you are.

bubbles2The luxury of serendipity

In a world of consumer-targeted filters, do these also pose a “danger” for the business market? On the contrary, they are the core of the business proposition. The rise of information providers and publishers depended solely on finding the appropriate filters called sources, experts, authors, editors, etc . A lawyer arguing before the bench, a physician at the bedside, or an accountant before a filing deadline do not have the luxury of the accidental discovery of crucial information. They rely heavily on meticulously chosen filters to deliver in a clutch. And now they are requiring us to design better filters and not force them into haystacks to find a needle.

Information overload is a symptom best cured by filters that do not aggravate the problem or deceive the user.

bubbles3

Pleasant Habits vs. Tedious Tasks

Pleasant Habits vs. Tedious Tasks 1920 1080 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.

Contextual Design to create solutions for customers is an excellent post on how to capture the essence of a particular task. But after you’ve turned your solution into the perfect filter, how do you turn it into a solution which gets users away from paper and onto your services?

Design-crop-300x384Design for Convenience
Forrester released a report outlining mobile trends for 2011. Among other trends, it signaled convenience as a focus for companies to invest in. One of the main reason the mobile market is growing exponentially is simply because – in some cases – mobile has become more convenient in use than a desktop. So how does someone design for convenience?

First, you envision the ultimate digital user experience. One in which the user perceives the service as a pleasant habit which they enjoy reusing contrary to a tedious task they are forced to repeat. Then you design the user interface to go along with this experience. Finally, you design the content and platform to fit the interface and experience.

For example, one can geotag content by jurisdictions to be displayed on a map. A user can then visualize different views of subject matter and distil various facts. For instance, they might predict the most likely outcome of a certain case per jurisdictions just by the size of pushpins or the color of a jurisdiction on a map. (See mapping lead generation:www.forcemapper.com ). It will also enable content to be location aware to the user, especially a mobile one, thus creating a new experience and possibly a pleasant habit.

The power of ‘Edit’
Creating a pleasant habit is also realizing that you are not the only one trying to do so. There already are lots of services out there aiming to do the same and your users have experienced some of them.

Moreover, old habits die hard so it is a challenge to entice users to switch to your newly created ‘habit.’ To make the switch easier is to ensure your service can be modified to better fit most users. Users must be able to customize and personalize your service and to easily join or cancel it.

This offers them a simple but powerful incentive called: choice.

Develop with an ‘edit’ button in mind for your user and present it prominently on your service, application, or site. Build API’s for developers and use emerging standards for your services. Let users know they have influence over whatever it is you’re providing for them.

As John Barker hinted in “Content & Software – an Eroding Distinction?”, software has a distinct quality that enables users to manipulate the output. The rise of user-generated content has proven that users crave more control and publishers should provide as much as possible.

Ultimately, publishers should strive to create a platform where a user has the freedom to use content to gain knowledge the traditional way but in a modern fashion.

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