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Age of Immersion
Age of Immersion 570 344 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 4 min.
We are at the dawn of an age of immersion. We can no longer ignore the fact that our reality will be perpetually augmented with data and information. Computing devices that can beam information directly into your retina are reality. Lets face it, the number of people who drive around without GPS navigation or leave the house without an internet connected smartphone are increasingly dwindling. So let us embrace and prepare to seize the opportunity to power ‘Commander Data‘.

 

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The Focus on Experience

There are two major drivers in this new world to augment our reality. The insistence todesign for experience as opposed to just complete a task and the pervasiveness of computing in every aspect of our lives. Wearable computers loaded with sensors connected to the network and our lives are just a start. The way in which services will model our behaviors and reprogram our habits will be the net effect. Example, for me it has become cognitively impossible to forget my smartphone. This is an inevitable result of meticulously engineered software aimed to immerse us. So after the initial backlash andawkwardness we will adapt and then thrive (or be enslaved ) by this “new reality” of augmentation.

The Blur of Reality
So how will we experience this new reality? We will wander our physical world and see every object and instantly know its properties. Every sound we hear can be traced to itsorigines or we can search the meaning of speech right away. We will become smarter on every subject because we can be fed every aspect in real-time, up close, in context and personalized. You could walk into a forest and “know” the latin names of the vegetation. You will never wander aimlessly in a store looking for an item because you will be ‘navigated’ by advertisements. And you will always be just a single click away from purchasing anything maybe influenced by ‘friends’ that also bought it. You can not lose your keys because you probably wouldn’t need them. You will not pay in cash and it will be harder to get lost or tell a lie. So, while we still can go hungry, the distance between you and the nearest restaurant is always in view.

The Future of Legal
While some already see implications in jury selection with the ability to pull up profiles and do background checks in real-time. You may also be able to access stress levels of witnesses during cross-examination by monitoring their heart rate with a camera. I see a world whereby any word or sentence can be instantly parsed and dissected for meaning and context, based on who speaks them, when and where. So while hearing the opposing counsel making their plea, you will be able to capture their arguments and choose rebuttals immediately. Better yet, you will be able to predict your opponent more accurately.

The legal profession will have to lean on creativity of crafting arguments rather than ability to find them. If all information is distributed evenly your only differentiator will be the ability to conceptualize and articulate alternate versions to benefit your client. You will be able to create your own algorithms, run simulations and predict outcomes.

Heads Up!
Now back to the present. If we rewind from the future depicted above, what are the actions we should take today to ensure we are ready. One may assume that challenges with creating, compiling and retrieving legal information will be solved comprehensively. As a matter of fact, we will be engulfed by it. The actual challenge will lie in the interaction between data and the brain. How can we interact with matter to craft information into a winning case. I belief it will depend on the filters we develop, the focus we can provide and the convenient tools we will deliver to assist our users to conceive something new.

Now this gave me an excuse to doodle a Heads-up display inspired by Mark VIIHUD specifically aimed at legal information. We might not have this in stores tomorrow but aim to make any legal professional feel like Tony Stark. Back to you, Jordi.

 

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Mission Monocle: Chasing Mona Lisa In An Online Reader
Mission Monocle: Chasing Mona Lisa In An Online Reader 1024 539 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 3 min.
Google Reader is shutting down on July 1st. It has been my filter of the internet and a window to the world for over 8 years. It helped me focus in the chaos of content on things that matter to me. I can honestly say it has made me smarter by helping me discover countless artifacts and precious information I would otherwise have never seen. Now my mission is to find a replacement and if I don’t, I will build one. Here’s what I’m looking for.

There are numerous articles deliberating its demise and many more posting alternatives. The decision to stop may be understandable, but it belies the cries of a declining but vocal minority. I must admit that lately Google Reader was just the engine that fed my other apps which have more modern design and features. In a previous post, I explained how to create a personalized newspaper. Now I’m chasing something more ambitious.

1. Is it convenient?
Google Reader was a simple app but what made it special for me is the following:

  • It was the first cloud app enabling me to access it on any PC
  • It was my first mobile app which made me use it daily
  • RSS feeds enabled me to aggregate information from across multiple sites, sources and topics
  • By tagging, I was able to group and filter based on my own interests
  • Not just news but it doubled as a personally curated repository for research

In short, it gave me the freedom to be diverse and to balance work and play.

2. Will it make me smart?
There’s still the attraction of one window for all information, but now I crave more. The speed in which you can cycle through content, the clear presentation and sharing features are delightful. However, I’m looking for a service that will help me easily filter or mute the noise and help me schedule consumption. One that can correctly alert me and integrate with other apps and silos of information. It doesn’t need to have an elaborate feature set but must strive to eliminate copy-paste or window switching. It should be able to gauge what I know and most likely what I want to know and, therefore, find, filter and organize that what I need to know.

3. Is it Mona Lisa?
There is a wide variety of services which are capable replacements. I have gone through some established names and encounter a few unusual suspects. Most differentiate on design and presentation, some even have a few neat tricks, but I haven’t found my “Mona Lisa”.

I lifted this quote from a video ( (32 min. mark) of Roger McNamee (Elevation Partners and Facebook investor): “.. content protection would be similar to that of the Mona Lisa …It’s hard to paint something like the Mona Lisa…”. I believe this rule also applies to any product or service that aims for loyalty or retention.

Leonardo Da Vinci drew 750 anatomy sketches, but only one resulted in the Vitruvian Man. Below is my first sketch and according to innovation scholars I have 3000 to go.

Phantom Menace: 4 Signs of Disruptions in Legal Technology
Phantom Menace: 4 Signs of Disruptions in Legal Technology 1024 569 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 4 min.
I recently discovered HBS professor Clayton M. Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Dilemma. In it he explains the theory behind disruptions and why they are particularly menacing if you are not prepared. There are companies like IBM that have managed to survive numerous disruptions by shifting models early or like Apple orAmazon by creating disruptions themselves. Nevertheless, timing is crucial to either shift or create but the real challenge lies in where to shift to or how to disrupt. What are the signs?
Phantom Menace

Here is a illustration of how inconspicuously disruptions occur and their menacing effect if you don’t anticipate:

A 17 year old IT student in Suriname explained to me why he likes Twitter more than Facebook. I asked why he stills uses Facebook and his response was: homework assignments. Contrary to Twitter, all his classmates where on Facebook which enabled him to connect and collaborate on their homework. Google – the organizer of the world’s information – wasn’t mentioned during our conversation.

Google is still the omnipresent phantom competitor for all publishers and does that without a single piece of curated content. This was achieved purely on the basis of superior technology. Yet they are now driven into a tough spot by something they were lacking by their own admission and now they are hitting back to overcome this lack of understanding how technology benefits people.

Google understood that the Internet needed a filter, Facebook understands that people just want to connect and Apple bets they will want to do conveniently on stylish devices.

 

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Traits
Here are some traits to identify disruptions:

1. Empathy: Disruptions fly in the face of convention and sometime turn a proven and time-tested business model on its head. But even more precariously, they demonstrate a keen sense of empathy towards users and a knack to invert the value of goods. Example:Wikipedia or Skype

2. Visibility: They are notoriously hard to spot because they sometime hide in plain sight (Flipboard) or slowly grow to prominence through the internet grapevines. Example:Summify

3. Loyalty: Although it might look highly unconventional e.g. typing on a touchscreen, users are converts that adamantly and genuinely buy into the idea and want to change their existing habits.

4. Experience: Most disruptions share the same challenges in debunking the status quo. They sometimes lose these battles despite being superior in some cases. Most often they lose because people base their verdict on similar but not identical past events. Example:Open Source.

Signs
Now how to spot potential disruptions in legal technology:

Mobile: mobile is not a device, app or technology per se. I rather see it as an environment. It is about doing legal research behind a desk or during a meeting, in a court room but also your living room and even your car. One should be able to switch between these environments seamlessly. Key is adjusting a service to recognize, adapt and be simple enough to use in each settings. Example: Yahoo Axis

Social: In no others industry is ‘Partnering’ such a fundamental part of the business as in the legal market. Although the ‘Partners’ concept works a bit different in practice, the principle remains: to connect, exchange and collaborate to achieve a mutual goals more efficiently. Any service that leverages this principle exponentially will be disruptive.

Consumers: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Consumerization are current trends that actually reveal an underlining movement: Companies are forced to think and act more like regular consumers. Especially while pondering IT decisions. This also mimics the cultural shift in work-life division where the job moves outside the office and beyond the business days.

Value: While value was generally ruled by scarcity in the physical world it is now a moving target in the digital space. Business models based on physical rules have gradually made way for another models based on different rules. Now services are able to invert the value of commodities and when that happens they will most likely succeed to disrupt.

Future
Imagining a future disruption in the legal technology space could be as simple as looking at current disruptions in the consumer market. A legal technology disruption might not originate from a existing legal technology player. It may not be based on superior technology or better curated content. It just might be that the very basic problem legal tech is trying to solve is (inadvertently) solved in a different more efficient fashion by someone else.

In hindsight all evolutions seem self evident yet they are notoriously difficult to predict…or it may be just a matter of looking at it from another angle. So let’s stop looking for disruptions and create them by starting at the end and work our way to the beginning.

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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.

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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 1024 586 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.

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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…

6 Reasons for Building for The Concept Worker
6 Reasons for Building for The Concept Worker 960 540 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 4 min.

Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future contains a description of a new age: the Conceptual Age which features the Concept Worker. This is different from what is called a Knowledge Worker, a term introduced by Peter Drucker. Publishers traditionally serve the knowledge workers: people who work primarily with information and those who develop and use knowledge in the workplace. So, if the next wave of customers will be Concept Workers, what tools would they need?

Concept Workers
Concept Workers would hopefully enjoy working with a tool like Concept Zepp (Solving Social and Research Online) which I introduced in an earlier post. It aims to reward researching and sharing information between peers to expose expertise; a personal knowledge management application that will help them advance their knowledge.

building for knowledge worker

6 rules of knowledge management
First, we need to understand what knowledge management is before we can make a tool for it. Unfortunately, there is no industry consensus. One blogger stopped counting knowledge management definitions at 54, after which the blog went offline. As with a lot of complex problems they are often easily solved by explaining them to a 4-year-old. Keeping that in mind, I found this definition in Rules of knowledge management:

How children share – Davenport’s Kindergarten Rationale:

  1. You share with the friends you trust
  2. You share when you’re sure you’ll get something in return
  3. Your toys are more special than anyone else’s
  4. You share when the teacher tells you to until she turns her back
  5. When toys are scarce, there’s less sharing
  6. Once yours get taken, you never share again
Translating this to a concept worker network it might look something like the image below:
Legalcomplex Concept-Workers-Network
In short: we get smarter by reading and enriching content other people have produced. By sharing our own we have the chance to make others benefit equally. But we only share if we’ll get something in return.

 

6 reasons social is important
In essence, knowledge sharing is a fundamental part of being a social human being and a member of society. I’ve gather a few arguments which indicate why ‘social’ is important:

  1. There is a growing awareness among most major players that they must tap into social networks. For instance, Google is reportedly betting the company on GooglePlus and CNN made a sizable investment to acquire technology to incorporate a more personalized experience for its users.
  2. The main impetus is to extract information from the social activity that occurs on such networks and to use that information to make better decisions about search results and other targeted services. From: How Social is Changing the Search Industry
  3. Activity streams in social networks facilitate serendipity and informal learning.
  4. They help flatten organisations and traditionally hierarchical structures.
  5. They inspire an open knowledge sharing culture. From: 5 Reasons Why Activity Streams Will Save You From Information Overload
  6. Corporations like law firms want to create a social platform for better knowledge flow because they are struggling with email filing and knowledge management as a whole. From: What’s New in Legal KM?

6 reasons for building tools for the concept workers
Finally, here are 6 reasons why we should build tools to support concept and knowledge workers:

  1. Knowledge workers understand information as currency. Sharing is a core strategy for success even in a corporate context. This can bring knowledge workers to the commons.
  2. Their worldview is informed by systems thinking or is polyglot. It’s not informed by a single political ideology.
  3. They understand that influence depends on the ability to persuade, and that choice of language is important.
  4. Knowledge workers can become moderate radicals, meaning they believe that fundamental change is needed.
  5. Their identities are not wrapped up in a single belief system so they have options. Courtesy of: The new knowledge worker
  6. And to add my own: They will always look for and find better ways of advancing their knowledge.

So why don’t we give them a special toy to do just that.

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 1024 458 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.
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.

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.

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Needles & Magnets: What’s wrong with legal research today?
Needles & Magnets: What’s wrong with legal research today? 1024 576 Raymond Blijd
Read time: 2 min.
An excellent piece by Mary Abraham at Above and Beyond KM questioned if Westlaw or Lexis are offering the right legal search solution. She states:

“It seems obvious that the current approach to legal research is fundamentally flawed. Lexis and Westlaw have created these enormous databases of case law that cannot be completely mastered unless you have world-class research skills.”

This prompted a response by Greg Lambert on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog to compliment her on daring to ask the essential question of “why are we doing it this way?” I’ll go a bit further and ask why are doing it all and what should we be doing instead?

A Needlestack
Both articles discuss the “needle in the haystack” approach of legal research tools and propose fixes. The solutions suggest pre-filtering or questioning the searchers’ motives before the search. But after the search, every nugget of retrieved information is a potential ‘needle’ so what is hay and what is a needle? Ultimately the end-user decides but it begs the question: why is there hay?

Publishers do not purposely produce products which nobody would value. That business model would not last. Publishers produce “needles” …lots of them. Research publishers produce content for extensive varieties of end-users and each with a different value depending on the time of access. Example: an attorney researching a contract written in the past in accordance with the law in effect at that time would not benefit getting the latest version of the law – they want the historical one. Whereas an attorney drafting a contract today would need the latest version.

Creating Powerful Magnets
In the future, I hope we won’t be creating more needle stacks. Hopefully, we would do better than a brute force keyword search. We would use more delicate filters and have a better understanding of the needs of the ‘real’ users. We should definitely have our own platform and running on our own data centers, maybe design our own chipsets and devices to better suit our users. Above all, we must design our own software to go along with the content and make it convenient and pleasant to work with. The business model will have to change from just selling needles to delivering magnets. Meaning, better ways for professionals to get information instead of just repackaging more information.

There is an advanced way to find a needle in a hay stack and that is by using a really powerful magnet to pull it out. These simple solutions gave rise to the Industrial Age yet seem strangely elusive in the Information Age.

When will we start exploring magnets instead of creating needles?

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