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Are you blogging yet? If you’re not, it’s a good bet you will be soon. Blogs may well be a critical step forward in enterprisewide attempts at effective knowledge management. To figure out whether blogs really belong on your radar, it’s important to understand what they are, how they’re different than existing tools, and what options you have for using them in your own firm. THE DEFINITION Blog is short for Web log. Several years ago, a few individuals began maintaining chronologically ordered Web sites — often brief comments with links to other Web sites. The Web pages that resulted — with new posts at the top, older posts following down the page — were easy to read and provided readers with a snapshot view of what the site’s author found important at the time. Today, “blog” doesn’t just describe the output — it also describes the technology that produces the site itself. There are a number of applications specifically designed to produce easily updated Web sites. Where blog applications differ from Web design applications (such as Microsoft Corp.’s FrontPage, Macromedia Inc.’s Dreamweaver MX and others) is their focus on publication. Web design applications are more concerned with look and feel, layout and overall presentation. Blog apps are specifically geared to make content publication a simple process that requires little effort at all. Beyond this difference in focus, blog apps also control a number of back-end functions that simplify use: ��Archives of past posts (daily, weekly, monthly). ��Creation of permanent links to individual posts, formatting of the home page (including only the most recent posts). ��Overall site structure. These functions ensure that the “blogger” (i.e., the person who maintains the blog) doesn’t have to worry at all about the technology — they just write what they want to capture, and click a button to publish it. The blog app takes care of the rest. THE TECHNOLOGY Out of a simple concept evolved several compelling advances for content publication and distribution. In addition to taking what you write and publishing it to the Web, blogs often create XML versions of your content. Relying on a standard called RSS, blogs publish your content in a format that makes it easy for programs known as news aggregators (a list appears at the end of this article) to monitor your content and retrieve any new items. THE POPULARITY An early reason for blogs’ popularity has to do with the Google Internet search engine. Google adores “fresh” content. If Google figures out that your site is frequently updated, it will index your site more often and rank your site higher in the search results for terms contained on your pages. (Proof? My Web log — www.rklau.com/tins– now makes me the No. 8 “Rick” on the Internet at Google.) Because the raison d’�tre of blogs is to create fresh content that is easy to update, blogs feed Google’s love of new content. The result? Google steers enormous amounts of traffic to blogs — which leads to increased links among blogs — which ultimately reinforces the popularity of those sites. THE ENTERPRISE Where blogs may make a big difference for law firms is not in their individual use, but in their use firmwide as a knowledge-sharing platform. The strength of a blog as an enterprisewide KM tool is in its ability to facilitate the easy collection and sharing of information. A major shortcoming of existing KM systems at law firms is the laborious process individuals must endure in order to share knowledge. Blogs shortcut the process by making it simple to capture day-to-day knowledge. One lawyer may not know what another will find interesting — but if the information is captured, it can easily be shared throughout the organization. THE APPLICATIONS There are three leading Web log applications. They are: Radio Userland 8 www.userland.com/ Available for Windows and Macintosh operating systems, users can download a 30 day free trial. $39.95 entitles you to a year of program updates and 40 megabytes of disk space on their Web log server. Userland’s Radio Community Server (free) is geared to support enterprisewide knowledge Web logs (also known as k-logs) for internal use. Blogger www.blogger.com/ Web-based blogging system, offers both a free and a paid “Pro” version (currently $35/year). The Pro version offers better server performance and enhanced functionality. Movable Type www.movabletype.org/ A suite of CGI scripts that can be installed on your Web server to support many traditional blog functions. WHY I LOVE THE BLOG I started my Web log in December 2001. It is an excellent way of capturing day-to-day ideas, links and other content that I want to remember. The blog has proven to be an exceptionally simple system for annotating my bookmarks, for flagging some particular piece of information for future use and for jotting some thoughts down before I forget. Furthermore, my Web log has introduced me to a community of bloggers in the legal community I would have not otherwise met. These individuals share an interest in how technology is affecting the profession, are experts in their various areas, and have helped shape my own understanding of what knowledge management for law firms means. Some of the sites I read on a regular basis are listed below — and thanks to my aggregator, anytime they post to their site I get a copy of their post. It is for those reasons that blogs can be useful — especially in larger organizations. By capturing the thoughts and comments of people throughout the firm, that information can easily be shared and distributed to others who are interested in those subjects. The organization as a whole benefits because the individuals in the firm get smarter. NEWS AGGREGATORS News aggregators are able to more intelligently interact with the information — so that Radio (which has its own news aggregator) can grab just the posts since the last time I looked at the content from a particular site. If you don’t have Radio, other programs serve as a “news aggregator,” such as FeedReader ( www.feedreader.com) and AmphetaDesk ( www.disobey.com/amphetadesk). They will grab any new content posted to sites you monitor. This is a wonderful way to “subscribe” to content from a variety of sources — and not just from Web logs, either: Hundreds of news sources and publications now support this feature as well. LAW BLOGS — OR “BLAWGS” Denise Howell, of counsel in the Los Angeles office of Crosby Heafey Roach & May, gets credit for coining the term blawgs. Here is a list of some key blawgs you might be interested in: ��Denise Howell: bgbg.blogspot.com. ��Ernest Svenson, technology partner at 40-lawyer New Orleans firm Gordon Arata McCollam Duplantis & Eagan: radio.Weblogs.com/0104634/ (Ernie also maintains an exhaustive list of blawgs at radio.Weblogs.com/0104634/ outlines/Law%20Blogs.html). ��Howard Bashman, head of appellate practice at Buchanan Ingersoll, based in Philadelphia: appellateblog.blogspot.com/. ��Glenn Reynolds, University of Tennessee law professor and one of the most trafficked blogs online: www.instapundit.com. Rick Klau is vice president, vertical markets, at Interface Software Inc. He is co-author of the “The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, 2nd edition,” published by the American Bar Association. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.rklau.com/tinsor www.interfacesoftware.com.

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