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Androvett Blog

by Erin Dooley at 9:40:00 am

 

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Bombarded with voicemails, emails, faxes, texts and tweets, many businesspeople are hoping to cut down on digital clutter. 

A recent New York Times blog post suggests that professionals simply eliminate social niceties. Gestures like saying “hello” in an email, sending a thank-you note, or leaving a voicemail have become passé – disrespectful, even – according to the blog. 

“Of course, some people might think me the rude one for not appreciating life’s little courtesies,” author Nick Bilton admits. “But many social norms just don’t make sense to people drowning in digital communication.”

Though commenters have lamented Bilton’s lack of civility and even called him a “digital jerk,” he makes a valid point: though (or perhaps because) we’re constantly plugged into technology, we can’t keep up with it. And in a sea of digital messages, we need to find a way to stay afloat. 

We’ve all been the author of important emails that remained unopened in a recipient’s inbox or voicemails that went unanswered.  

Bilton suggests that rather than leave repeated voicemail messages urging colleagues to respond to an old email, people should respect colleagues’ time by communicating via text or tweet – or not at all. 

Cut the fluff, he opines. Eliminate the niceties and stick to essential information only. 

But while some may appreciate Bilton’s efforts at brevity, others may be offended by impersonal texts or 140-character tweets. Worse still, they may be put off by what some call techno-elitism, the assumption that everyone wants to use (or can pay for) advanced technology.  

The solution may be simple. Ask your coworkers which method of communication they’d prefer.  Then, mimic their communication style. If they include email salutations and send snail mail, it’s likely they value traditional decorum. If their emails are succinct, chances are, they’d prefer yours be brief too.  

by Robert Tharp at 10:30:00 am

Love this series of videos  from Google Analytics video that illustrates the challenges and nuances that we all face in the quest for relevant visibility in  today’s search engine landscape.

Effective efforts require sophisticated thinking, a true understanding of your audience and their search habits as well as a focused approach to relevant, quality content.

by Robert Tharp at 10:06:18 am

We’ve seen plenty of kooky schemes for tweaking a website’s search-engine performance, but online merchant Vitaly Borker took it to such a level that it appears he’s a shoe-in for a special prize all his own: prison time.

As described by the New York Times last week, Borker was convinced that Google’s inscrutable algorithm that determines a website’s search engine rankings could not distinguish between praise and complaints. According to his website optimization strategy, Borker embraced the old chestnut that there's no such thing as bad pr and took it a step futher. He figured that even negative postings translated into buzz that helped push his business, DecorMyEyes, higher in search results and increased his sales.

According to police reports, Borker set about menacing his customers with disturbing threats of violence. He is now being held without bail, charged with one count each of mail fraud, wire fraud, making interstate threats and cyberstalking.

Writes the NY Times: It is unclear if Mr. Borker was right about the cause of DecorMyEyes’ surprisingly strong showing in online searches. But last week, Google published a post on its official blog stating that it had changed its search formula so that companies were penalized if they provided customers with what it called “an extremely poor user experience.”

by Robert Tharp at 11:40:59 am

It's no secret by now that our expanding use of social media networks has created a perilous and evolving landscape for businesses, institutions and regular folks. What's surprising is the myriad ways that online networks create concerns and conflicts that never existed just a few years ago. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes "the age of privacy is over" and there should be no distinction between a person's professional and private lives, the working world clearly has not and may never reach that degree of comfort.

Just last week the Dallas Morning News detailed how the Lewisville school district is considering a new policy that would forbid teachers and other school district workers from criticizing the district or even identifying themselves as employees of the district in their profiles and postings on social media sites. The paper also notes that the Texas Association of School Boards is drafting new policy language that addresses how employees should use social networking sites, even on their own time and on their own computers.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, 27 states now have some form of regulations to limit so-called SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) retaliations against consumers who post negative comments online. Federal legislation, currently in the House Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, would all an individual who thinks he is being bullied by litigation for speaking out or petitioning on a public matter to seek to have the lawsuit dismissed. Finally, a report by Arezow Doost of KTVT/CBS 11 highlighted the growing trend in which businesses are using the legal system to fight negative reviews and comments on social networking sites. The broadcast notes the efforts of a Plano eye surgeon to uncover the source of a website posting critical of his services. Interviewed in the news report about this growing area of litigation, Dallas attorney Michael McCabe of Munck Carter says there are limits to freedom of speech, even on the Web. "If you make defamatory statements, that won't be protected by freedom of speech," says McCabe. "Can you be sued for it? Yes, if you are out there making defamatory statements online you very well might be sued for it."

by Robert Tharp at 2:04:41 pm

Social media guru Brian Solis posts some very interesting numbers regarding the explosive growth and our collective embrace of social media networks. Time spent on social networks tripled over the last year and now accounts for 17 percent of the time we spend online. As a result, we are now spending more time on social networks and blogs than e-mail.

Writes Brian: As a result of our online interaction, advertisers are following our activities attempting to capture our attention where it is focused. The same report also found that online display advertising in top social networks has more than doubled year-over-year, increasing 119 percent. The jump represents an increase in spending from approximately $49 million in August 2008 to roughly $108 million in August 2009. Also of note, the share of estimated spend in social networks as also increased, expanding from seven percent in August 2008 to 15 percent in August 2009.

 

by Robert Tharp at 2:07:45 pm

Facebook's usage numbers are just staggering: more than 250 million registered users are spending more than 5 billion minutes on the social networking site every single day(5 billion minutes works out to 9.5 years of time, according to this time conversion calculator). 

Businesses are learning the hard way that there's a fine line to walk regarding whether to allow workers to log onto their personal Facebook pages(and other social media networks) during the work day, says Anthony Campiti of Thompson & Knight. Many employers have implemented or are considering outright bans out of concern about productivity and concerns about confidential information and legal exposure. 

Campiti says such a response may be justified for some companies, but a measured, consistent approach is perhaps the best strategy for most. "Many employers are deciding against across-the-board bans because of the negative impact on recruiting and retention, and the potential benefits in using the sites to network and build business." Campiti says companies should enforce any existing reasonable-use provisions and develop specific policies for social networking. "As long as employers apply and enforce these policies consistently, they should be OK legally." To interview Mr. Campiti, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 1:22:23 pm

We receive lots of media requests here at Androvett Legal Media, many of which are spot-on relevant to our growing stable of expert legal clients. As former journalists ourselves, perhaps nothing pleases us more than helping a reporter on a deadine find the perfect source to flesh out a story. But you never know what's going to cross the transom on any given day. This one from just a few minutes ago deserves a special award.


[Publication deleted] magazine wishes to find out if it would be possible for a human being to survive inside a whale for a significant amount of time. I'm a freelancer. Contact: [name deleted], at [e-mail address deleted]


So there you go. Wanna talk about criminal defense? Estoppel? ERISA? Probate law? Executive compsensation? Mergers & acquisitions? We'll set you up. Shoot, even maritime law. Wanna know how long you might survive in the body of a whale? We'll work on it. Seems like someone's written about this before, though.

by Robert Tharp at 1:50:43 pm

Add our revered halls of justice to the growing list of U.S. institutions on a crash course with the wide-open information frontier made possible by the Internet and social

media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Technology lawyer Tom Melsheimer of Fish & Richardson's Dallas office and State District Judge Craig Smith describe the phenomenon in a recent Houston Chronicle op-ed piece detailing how the unprecedented access to information and the format's two-way communication platform are proving irresistible to jurors in cases across the country.

Melsheimer and Smith write:
Web-savvy jurors these days encounter a court system that by necessity still operates in essentially the same manner as it has for generations. In a world of lightning speed exchanges of electronic information, our courts continue to rely on hard copy documents and judges who must serve as heavy handed gatekeepers of information. Lowly jurors accustomed to instant gratification and a two-way information exchange increasingly find themselves in an unfamiliar and uncomfortably passive role.
Simultaneously, as Americans use social media to provide a now-ubiquitous "what are you doing?" running daily dialogue via Facebook and Twitter, a stint on jury duty is proving irresistible fodder. Never mind that our justice system hinges on a sacred premise that jurors start a case with an unprejudiced, blank slate and promise to consider only the information and evidence presented in trial.
Some might see this latest challenge as more fodder for the argument that juries are an outmoded and unintelligent way of resolving disputes. We have seen this sort of debate before. Others might say that we should just relax and assume that jurors will follow the instructions that they are given.
We think that neither approach is sensible. Instead, judges must take an intelligent, active approach to instructing jurors about the Internet, keeping in mind the temptations of the modern Internet-savvy juror. They must allow, even encourage, lawyers to ask questions about potential jurors' use of the Internet, including participation in networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Simply reminding each juror, "don't discuss the case," just won't get the job done anymore, if it ever did. These instructions can't wait until a jury is sworn in but should begin when potential jurors first enter the system and receive their briefing in the central jury rooms. Otherwise, the judicial system will find itself meting out justice, not via the common sense of citizens, but via tweets, text messages and blog postings. OMG.
Read the entire commentary here.

To interview Mr. Melsheimer, contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com

by Robert Tharp at 4:59:43 pm

Web 2.0 has created a loosey-goosey world out there for corporate communications. Twitter, blogs, instant messaging and other up-and-coming mediums create plenty to worry about from a corporate communications standpoint, says Chris Schaeper of Houston's Thompson & Knight. As corporate America and employees embrace these new mediums for marketing and networking, Schaeper says that executives can't afford to forget that all corporate communications are ultimately subject to SEC regulations. "Communicating too freely can cause headaches for public companies, and securities laws exist to assure that corporate information is distributed evenly and fairly," he says. The SEC has barely caught up to e-mail communications, much less chat rooms and message boards. As a result, Schaeper recommends a periodic review of communications policies. "The Tweeting rage has added a fresh reason to do so - and sooner rather than later." To interview Mr. Schaeper, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 11:52:44 am

This just in: a dynamic, high quality Web site has a direct impact on your business success.

Most people intuitively understand by now the importance of any business having a competent and high-quality Internet presence.  But, wow, look at the results of

this recent survey describing how general counsels make decisions to hire outside law firms. To sum the findings of the Wicker Park Group/Hubbard One survey:

1) 100 percent of GCs in the survey indicated that they always look at a firm's Web site before deciding to purchase legal services. That's 100 percent, as in every single one of them look at a law firm's Web presence before they hire.
2) Nine out of 10 GCs say that professional bios are the most important section of a Web page.
3) Nine out of 10 GCs say the quality of a Web site makes a lasting impression.

Consider these assorted comments from GCs:

"I look at every firm's site we consider. The smart firms push a lot of content through their site. It helps in the search results. If a firm has a bad Web site, it makes a bad impression without even meeting the firm's attorneys."

"If a firm has not spent time and effort representing itself, what can I expect in terms of attention to detail and quality? Some Web sites are hard to navigate; others are simply very light on content."

by Robert Tharp at 3:46:14 pm

Over at Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox, Trey Cox has penned an interesting piece for the National Law Journal that focuses on the increasing challenge that trial lawyers
face communicating with distracted and zoned-out jurors. While Trey's article focuses on the attention economy in the courtroom setting, the analysis offers something for everyone. Let's face it as wireless bandwidth has increased, human bandwidth has narrowed dramatically. Trey borrows from leading business-world thinkers like Made to Stick authors Chip and Dan Heath and Thomas Davenport and John Beck's influential book, The Attention Economy to offer some great takeaways for communicating to distracted jurors.

Juror 12 is adrift. It's not that he doesn't care about the contract dispute tediously unfolding in the courtroom. Who knows -- he might be the kind of natural leader who can rally 11 wafflers behind closed doors during deliberations. The real problem with this hopelessly distracted juror is his irrepressible urge to grab his BlackBerry, manage his bloated e-mail folder and cram as much business as possible into each recess.

Meet today's juror, so overloaded with information that he can barely focus on the important things in his own life. Chances are, more than half the jurors on any given panel belong to Generation X or, even worse, Generation Y -- raised with a television in every room, surfing the Internet, cell phones in their pockets and iPods in their ears. MORE

The piece has already gotten picked up on Twitter and the Interwebs.

by Robert Tharp at 11:42:32 am

Pity the junior attorney. Before the economic crash, recent grads with the right pedigree were woo'd by major law firms offering increasingly escalating salaries.
Associate compensation became a benchmark of success that big firms fought to keep up with. No more, says Stacy Humphries of Houston's MS Legal Search. Instead, salaries are mostly flat while associates are hunkering down, focusing on keeping their jobs rather than looking for greener pastures. Meanwhile, it's the experienced attorneys with loyal clients that are doing the job-hopping in this climate, Humprhies says. "Junior attorneys are keeping their heads down and hoping to ride out the economic downturn while more senior attorneys, particularly those with portable business, are more proactive about trying to improve their situations." To interview Ms. Humphries about law firm compensation issues, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com. .

by Robert Tharp at 11:25:19 am

The term `cloud computing' conveniently lacks a certain intuitiveness. It's a hot topic in lots of industries; Dell even tried unsuccessfully to trademark the term. For now, Google's aggressive embrace of the cloud computing concept is having the most direct impact for most of us out there on the interweb. Anyone who uses Google's Gmail and Google
Docs is essentially benefitting from cloud computing. But wouldn't ya know there had to be a potential dark side to all this `free' stuff that many don't consider when using these services. Consider this fascinating story in the Houston Chronicle, describing how under the services' terms of use, Google reserves unlimited rights to use your content. E-commerce attorney and Vogel IT Law Blog author Peter Vogel says attorneys should think twice about communicating via gmail accounts because the terms could be interpreted as waiving the attorney-client privilege.

According to the Chronicle: Google, which prides itself on not being evil, offers a few more protections in its online legal agreement that everyone accepts before using its products. The agreement states that users retain the copyright to content they post, submit or display using Google's services. But Google gets "perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free and nonexclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute" any of the content. What's more, Google can make that content available to any companies or organizations it chooses.

"Most people do not pay any attention to what the terms of use are, but courts all over the world enforce those terms of use," said Peter Vogel, an attorney with Gardere Wynne Sewell in Dallas who teaches a course at Southern Methodist University on the law and e-commerce.

So the problem remains: What you put in cloud services such as Docs and Gmail, Google's free Web-based e-mail, isn't really yours anymore. Google doesn't make money by giving us gigantic e-mail accounts. Its profit comes in part from selling ads tied to the content of messages sent with those accounts. In other words, it's sifting through our messages, looking for sales leads. And it's not just Google. "When one uses an online service - Google, Yahoo, AOL - there's a click agreement that nobody ever reads. Somewhere embedded in the agreement you waive all sorts of ownership issues," Vogel said.