Why I Use Google Scholar In My Blog Posts

The more I use Google Scholar, the more I like it.  I think you will, too.  I always use Google Scholar, for example, to hyperlink cases or statutes or law review articles in blog posts because:

1.  it's free;
2.  it's easy for readers to access (no subscription hurdle);
3.  it's reliable;
4.  (best of all) within the document, Google Scholar hyperlinks citations for ready reference; and
5.  there's a Shepardizing of sorts provided, too.

For example, click here to check out New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) on Google Scholar.  Nice, huh?


Can Book Reviewers Be Sued for Bad Reviews? Yes. Amazon Reviewer Sued by Self-Pub Author for Libel under British Law After French Award for Criminal Libel, and U.S. Precedent

The New Yorker's Book Bench is spreading the news about a lawsuit filed across the pond against an Amazon reviewer as well as Amazon.com and Richard Dawkins by the self-published author of a book entitled, "The Attempted Murder of God: Hidden Science You Really Need to Know."

It's filed under British libel law and the first hurdle appears to be something akin to a Rule 12(b) motion under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure -- and it will be interesting to see what Great Britian does with this attempt to get money damages out of someone who wrote a thumbs down review of a self-published book uploaded for sale on Amazon. 

Laura Owen has written a nice summary piece on this reviewer libel suit over at PaidContent, entitled "Self-Published British Author Sues For Libel Over Bad Amazon Review.."

Book Reviewer Found Guilty of Libel in France for Bad Review

Think this is nuts?  Well, if this plaintiff had been following the news out of France, then maybe he is being crazy like a fox.  Seems that a plaintiff suing  for "criminal libel" under French law for a bad online review won -- got a nice chunk of change in an award, too.

Among the defendants:  the editor of the European Journal of International Law, New York University Law Professor Joseph Weiler.  Notice that an American book reviewer and noted law professor is being sued for damages in France, and he's posting about his courtroom experiences online. 


Could this happen in the United States? Should American Book Reviewers Worry About Being Sued for Damages by an Author for a Bad Book Review?

In the United States, authors have already sued reviewers for allegedly destroying their writing careers by giving bad reviews of their work.  I haven't done extensive legal research on this, but I am aware of  a landmark case where the New York Times got sued by an author named Dan E. Moldea for a review it published by NYT sports writer Gerald Eskenazi. 

That case, really cases, sets a standard for review - there are two relevant opinions here:

Moldea 1:  Moldea v. New York Times Co., 15 F3d 1137 (D.C. Cir. 1994)

Moldea 2:  Moldea v. New York Times Co., 22 F3d 310 (D.C. Cir. 1994)

Interesting thing about Moldea:  upon appeal from a district court dismissal of the case as being without merit, the appellate court initially recognized a cause of action for damages based upon a bad book review -- then, the court changed its mind ... finding that the book reviewer cannot be sued as long as the review is (Moldea, 22 F3d at 315) :

rationally supportable by reference to the actual text he or she is evaluating

From the Moldea 2 opinion (22 F3d 311-312, 315-316):
After careful consideration of the Times' petition for rehearing and Moldea's response to that petition, we are persuaded to amend our earlier decision. The original majority opinion was generally correct in its statement of the law of defamation. Unfortunately, that opinion failed to take sufficient account of the fact


Google Offers Google ThinkInsights: Here's an Infographic Example

Google tweeted about "Think Insights With Google" today and I went to investigate. There's a lot of stuff there, you might want to go surf around there for awhile. This infographic, for example (zoom to enlarge):


Google Alerts, Social Mention, and Spiral 16: Tracking Topics and Trends on the Web

Hopefully, you are aware of Google Alerts, a tool provided by Google, for free (as always) that notifies you when your name, your product, or just about anything under the sun is being discussed online. Google Alerts will let you know if your name has made the local news, for example, or if your daughter's soccer team got mentioned for winning regionals.

There are other sites that can help you keep track of things, too - Google isn't alone out there. Here are two for you to try:

1. Spiral 16

2. Social Mention.

Both of these services provide similar information to Google Alerts, but they target social media and they give more info to you than just links. Check them out, they are useful tools for you.

How?  Names are just one thing to search.  I have alerts set up, for example, under the phrase "death penalty" because I co-author a blog on capital punishment. (FYI, I also have an alert set up for that topic at Google Scholar, it's proven to be very helpful, too.)


Freelance Writer Who Blogged While Sitting on Illinois Wrongful Death Jury Found Not to Have Compromised Jury Integrity and $4.75 Million Award Stands. For Now.

It should not come as a surprise to many that the juror who blogged about her experiences while on an Illinois jury gave defense counsel a solid basis for appealling the $4.75 million verdict that came down against a commuter railway in a wrongful death case brought by the widow of a blind man who died, she alleged, as a result of the railroad's negligence.

Some, however, may be surprised to find that the juror's blogging about her days on the jury, for a total of six posts, did not result in a reversal: on September 30, 2011, the Illinois appellate court ruled that her actions didn't sway the jury or compromise the integrity of their deliberations.  (Read the opinion here.)

Who was this blogger?  Eve Bradshaw is a self-described freelance writer based in Chicago, 50 years old and a mother of three, who sat on an Illinois jury and wrote about it, in a series of posts for her Blogger blog The Green Room, which she has been publishing for several years.

Read the posts in question, or read Mrs. Bradshaw's blog in general, and you'll find a nice person.  Her posts about what was going on during the trial aren't smoking guns of jury tampering or jury evildoing; there is nothing sinister here, which was important to the appellate court. 

Nevertheless on appeal, the defendants argued that jurors should have been interrogated to determine whether or not the blog posts had impacted their deliberations, especially since the posts contained descriptions of communications between the jurors themselves.  It wasn't a winning argument -- however, part of that result springs from the content of the posts themselves (see, e.g., paragraph 63 of the opinion).

It's not over: the appellate court decision could get taken up to the Illinois Supreme Court, and with almost $5 million on the line, I'm betting the defendants will do so. (There are other points of error here as well; a subsequent appeal seems pretty much a given.)

Now, here's what I'm thinking:  first of all, what the heck?  As a lawyer, no I don't think that jurors should be blogging about what is going on -- no more than they should tweet about it, chat over coffee at Starbucks about it, or discuss anything with a member of the media.  At most, I might be willing to consider the posts being saved as drafts ... but to publish them while the trial is in process?  Scary stuff for a lawyer, juror blogging.

I don't think any communication by a juror about the trial process should be condoned, period.  It's a slippery slope to find blogging different than, say, chatting with a reporter, no matter the content of the posts themselves. If Mrs. Bradshaw had voiced these communications to a reporter who then published them in the local newspaper, would we have the same result?

That being said, it also makes me wonder about the additional responsibilities this places upon trial attorneys because if I were still litigating, you can bet your bottom dollar I would have a paralegal assigned to monitor every juror to insure there was no web chatter - be it Twitter, Facebook, or now, personal blogs.  

Seems to me that some will argue that okaying this blogger's posting means that lawyers now have a duty to monitor juror blogging (and to discern that they are or may be blogging) since the blogging itself has been found acceptable.  That's probably true even if there's a jury instruction not to blog (or tweet, etc.).

Taking off the lawyer hat and putting on the writer one, I have to wonder about the risks here.  First, to blogging itself.  Blogging is such a stepchild; a journalist reporting the day's events in the courtroom is one thing.  Posting about jury experiences while you're on the jury and sworn to protect its integrity doesn't do much to uplift the reputation of bloggers in the eyes of the traditional media.

Second, to the blogger.  Consider the potential personal risk of ciivil liability here -- what happens to the blind man's widow if the Illinois Supreme Court goes the other way and reverses that $4.65 million award because of six blog posts? What happens to the blogger then? 

Scary situation up in Illinois. 


What is Google Panda and Why You Should Care, and How Much, About Panda's Power over Your Site or Blog

This past week, one of my law firm clients had a problem with a guest post they were providing on another blog.  Seems that company had heard of Google Panda and was so scared of Google Panda that they refused to publish the guest post unless one paragraph within the post was rewritten -- it was quoting from the law firm's blog, and they were terrified that Google would penalize their site for duplicate content. 

Of course, this is ridiculous.  However, it was easier in time and money for my law firm client to rewrite a paragraph than argue over SEO, so there was one problem solved.  However, all this hoopla has me hearing more and more terrorized, trembling comments from colleagues and clients about the very scary Google Panda and what it means .....

So, here goes. 

First of all, what the heck is Google Panda?

Google Panda is a change in the algorithms used by Google to decide which site gets ranked first, second, third, etc. in the results list it provides to your search request.  This began months ago; there was a recent Panda update in October 2011 that some consider to be pretty big. 

Short version: the top secret mumbo jumbo that Google uses to decide who gets top billing got revamped.  

Why do this?  Google tries to explain in a February 2011 blog post, pointing to a desire to move "high quality sites" up in the search results and "reduce" the ranking of "low quality sites."  Low quality sites specifically including those that copy content from other sites ... and here is where some big reactions have come.  Some pretty big and established sites saw themselves fall in ranking at Google.com.  What the heck was going on?  So, Google provided "additional guidance" on how Google searches and ranks web sites in May 2011. 

Google suggests that you look at your site from their perspective, and ask yourself the following questions:
  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
From what I know at this point, Google Panda will still get some more tweeks, and in the long run, Google is always going to be trying to better itself -- to make sure that you don't find another search engine preferable to Google.  It looks like Google is trying to thwart content mills that just copy stuff from other sites and republish them as their own, you know the sneaky ones that I mean; however, sites that do things like publish press releases are getting hit here, too, and that's not fair (e.g., PR Newswire). 

Some reputable sites are facing a 60% loss in web traffic after Google Panda - and that's money either in sales or jobs or marketing or something, folks.  Sixty percent is a huge hit, and it's not hitting those sneaky, yucky, content copying sites -- it's hitting respectable, longstanding sites that are understandably peeved.  For many folk, being angry and fearful of the Google Panda Power is justified and I hope they get their trains back on the track soon. 

However, Google's position is understandable and if you are writing for the web with the intent to add value then I don't think Panda Power is something for you to lose sleep over.  I learned today from David Naylor that Google Panda isn't named after the cute bear but after a Google engineer named Navneet Panda.  I like David Naylor's two cents worth on Google Panda: ask yourself two questions and stop worrying about it.  The questions?  Go read Naylor's post to find out. 

And, if you really want to learn all about this, Search Engine Roundtable has done a video on Google Panda (including the October 2011 updates) which you can watch on YouTube. It's ten and half minutes, if you've got the time.


Bloggers and Anonymous Commenters Sued for Defamation by Cooley Law School

Defamation claims against bloggers may be on the rise, and it may be that lawyers, law firms, and law students are providing an online prototype for others interested in suing bloggers for alleged defamatory conduct.  Seems that a story that has been brewing on the web for months now just got some big, national exposure today as the National Law Journal (and Law.Com) have published an article entitled, "Ripping a critic's mask off: A law school fought to learn the secret identity of an ex-student blogger," written by Karen Sloan.

Blogger Rockstar05 and Anonymous Commenters Sued for Defamation by Cooley Law School

In the National Law Journal piece, readers are given a blow-by-blow of Thomas M. Cooley Law School's ongoing litigation against an anonymous blogger publishing under the moniker of Rockstar05 and three other anonymous defendants (at least two of which are those leaving comments to Rockstar05's post, with another leaving a comment at the Huffington Post), a suit filed by the law school asserting the school has been defamed by the defendants via the words that they wrote online.  The law school is also suing a New York law firm, one of its partners and another lawyer working there, for "trolling" websites under the guise of investigating a class action while "...posting false and defamatory statements about Cooley on various public websites."  Complaint in Cause No. 11780, pp. 1-2 (full copy here).

Rockstar05 is fighting against his or her name being revealed; there's a gag order in place right now on Rockstar05's identity, although Cooley's counsel knows who Rockstar05 is (and so does Karen Sloan of the NLJ, who interviewed Rockstar05 for her article).  What did Rockstar05 do, exactly?

Rockstar05, according to Cooley's complaint, wrote a post entitled, "the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Scam," which can be read in its entirety as Exhibit B to the Cooley pleading (full copy here). 

Public Citizen Has Filed an Amicus Brief in the Cooley Law School Case, Arguing Application of Dendrite Int'l.

Also contributing to the national import of this growing story is the amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief filed by Public Citizen, a nationally-known consumer rights group.  In its brief, Public Citizen argues for the First Amendment rights of anonymous bloggers, citing to Dendrite International Inc. v. Doe No. 3, et al., where the New Jersey courts have defined a set of guidelines for trial courts "...faced with an application by a plaintiff for expedited discovery seeking an order compelling an ISP [ internet service provider] to honor a subpoena and disclose the identity of anonymous Internet posters who are sued for allegedly violating the rights of individuals, corporations, or businesses...."

Among the standards set by Dendrite Int'l, the burden of the plaintiff to establish:

... that its action can withstand a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to R. 4:6-2(f), the plaintiff must produce sufficient evidence supporting each element of its cause of action, on a prima facie basis, prior to a court ordering the disclosure of the identity of the unnamed defendant.
Finally, assuming the court concludes that the plaintiff has presented a prima facie cause of action, the court must balance the defendant's First Amendment right of anonymous free speech against the strength of the prima facie case presented and the necessity for the disclosure of the anonymous defendant's identity to allow the plaintiff to properly proceed.
This is a big deal - and while Michigan isn't required to follow New Jersey, the opinion is well thought out and does recognize the free speech interests at stake when bloggers are sued for what they have written.

October 24th Hearing On Merits of the Defamation Suit

Right now, there is a setting on October 24, 2011, where the law school's law suit against Rockstar05 and the John Doe defendants will go forward.  More and more eyes are watching this case, and there is some commentary already that by filing this suit, Cooley has actually given the controversial words a lot more exposure than they would have had otherwise, by filing this lawsuit.

For details on the suit, you can read the press release by Cooley as well as the petitions that have been filed (pdfs available for reading and downloading at the Cooley Law School site). 

For more commentary, consider:

Professor Turley, who points out the Pandora's Box of discovery that Cooley Law School may have opened for itself.


Florida Bar's Advertising Rules Are Found Unconstitutional by Federal Judge

Details are given in an article in today's Wall Street Journal entitled, "Florida Court Strikes Down Limits on Lawyer Advertising," concerning the opinion released last Friday by the Honorable Marcia Morales Howard of United States District Court for the Division of Jacksonville.

The federal judge has held that the Florida Bar violated the First Amendment rights of Florida attorney William Harrell Jr. when it deemed Mr. Harrell's advertising message of "don't get less than you deserve," as "manipulative" and therefore in violation of state solicitation rules. 

How much will this decision impact Florida attorneys?  Maybe not so much:  right now, amendments to the Florida Disciplinary Rules await approval by the Supreme Court of Florida. 

To review the rules in place for Florida attorney advertising, go here.
To review the rules that were proposed this summer for Florida Supreme Court approval, go here. 


Tags for Your Blog Post or Tweet - Finding Popular Tags to Boost the Chances People Will Find and Read What You Wrote

Once you have written your post or tweet, you might want to consider indexing what you've written so others can find it.  On Technorati, for example, the most popular tags can be found, listed alphabetically, at Technorati's Tag Index. 

What is Technorati?  It's a site that collects information placed in blogs and then creates indices of the information as well as rankings for the blogs within its system (which total in the millions).  If your blog is not listed at Technorati, then you need to get cracking and get your blog in Technorati's sights.  It's a big deal. 

For Twitter, tags go by the name "hashtags" and you can find a listing of popular hashtags at Hashtags.org - but this site is different than Technorati's Tag Index.  Here, you enter a hashtag, and the site returns with information on how popular it is ("trending").  Look at the percentages on the left: if they're low or nonexistent, then choose a different word for your hashtag.  (For more on how Hashtags.org works and why it's a big deal, read the informative article provided by TwitterTipsCentral, "Where To Find A List Of Twitter Hashtags ".)

Tip: Create Your Own Index of Tags

And, remember that tag.  No need to reinvent the wheel.  If you regularly publish items dealing with dogs, or beer, or recipes, or speaking Klingon -- whatever your focus -- collect the most popular tags for that topic and save them.  Make your own list of tags for your use, as a ready reference.

Why should you care about tagging?  Read my earlier post, "Twitter Tip: What is a Hashtag?" for details on why tags are a good thing. 

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Blogger Sues Blogger for Copyright Infringement: Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood vs The Hollywood Reporter

Nikki Finke reports on the comings and goings of the Hollywood biz at her blog, Deadline Hollywood, and I've read her for years -- she has been instrumental in making blogs more respectable as a legitimate news source.  Nikki Finke's background as a journalist - working at Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Observer, in addition to having her writing appear in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and The Washington Post means that she had top of the line journalistic credentials when she jumped over into the blogging arena. 

Nikki Finke's decision to become a blogger is important to all bloggers, and in doing so, she undoubtedly felt a lot of backlash from the traditional journalists who do not consider blogging to be respectable as a news source.  That's a rabbit trail topic - something to discuss in more depth on another day.

Point here is, I'm not the only one who admires her work, apparently.

Over the past few weeks (or maybe months), Finke has been posting about her battles with The Hollywood Reporter and her claims that her stuff has been popping up without authorization over at THR, which is another blog.  Today, I read on Reuters that Finke's filed suit:  "Deadline blogger sues The Hollywood Reporter." 

Among her claims (and by "her" I mean Finke as well as her parent company, both plaintiffs in the litigation), an allegation that source code was swiped from Deadline Hollywood.  That's plagarism, 21st Century style. 

Finke goes on: she's also alleging that there has been theft of "intellectual decisions" in what she follows in her blog posts.  As bloggers understand all too well, posts go up minute by minute (almost as fast as tweets) when there is a big story -- and deciding what to post and when is a big thing when you're publishing a blog.  Blogging will get more consideration and exposure as a venue for words, and news, and opinion, because of this lawsuit - if for no other reason than everyone's got to catch up with what exactly Nikki Finke is alleging is the harm that has been done and how it happened. 

Once again, Nikki Finke may be helping bloggers everywhere gain more respect for the medium - this time, not on the screen, but in the courtroom. 


Lawyers Should Know Ethics Rules and Social Media Policies for Blogs and Social Media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook): Bar Regs and Other Social Media Guidelines

Individual bar associations across the country may or may not have regulations governing social media on their books: social media moves fast; the process of creating new rules to govern the practice of law within certain jurisdictions, not so much.

Obviously, lawyers should know their own bar rules and regulations, since they are bound by the ethical rules applicable to their jurisdiction(s).  That's not the only attempt at corralling online communications on the web, however. 

Social Media Policies and Guidelines Established for Private Companies and Public Entities

Attorneys should be aware that social media policies and online communication guidelines are being set up by many different types of entities now; savvy lawyers will be aware of those internet rules and regulations that may apply to certain clientele - as well as those of a competing law firm (e.g., the April 2011 social media guidelines established by Baker & Daniels).

For example, there are social media policies in place for the States of Delaware, Oklahoma, and North Carolina as well as big corporations like Ford Motor Company, FedEx, and Coca-Cola. Many more have been collected for review by Chris Boudreaux at SocialMediaGovernance.com, an excellent go-to site for those interested in learning more about the evolving trends in controlling social media today.

Lawyers and Ethical Rules, Social Media Guidelines

Does the attorney have to know these social media guidelines?  No, the lawyer will not be controlled by these policies; however, he or she should be able to explain why they disagree with a particular guideline if a client, potential client, or referral source asks about it after reading the lawyer's blog or social media tweets, pokes, etc.  Having access to this information when creating an internal set of online social media guidelines as part of law firm policy will also be very helpful. 

Does the lawyer need to know about ethical rules?  Yes, they do need to know what their local and state bar associations have defined as acceptable online communications.  Lawyers and law firms should be aware of the ethical rules and regulations that apply to their online activities: they may be disciplined for violating them (e.g., reprimand, suspension).

In some states, a broad brush is applied to blogs, Twitter accounts, and pages on LinkedIn, Facebook (and now Google+) where the governing body attempts to regulate these new marketing avenues using the same solicitation rules already in place for things like web sites and direct e-mail communications.  Comments and guidelines to existing ethical codes need to be monitored. 

For example, the State Bar of Texas has tried to keep up with the rapid changes in social media by issuing an "interpretive comment" to work in conjunction with Part 7 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. 

Another example: the State Bar of Florida, which has passed specific regulatory language that applies specifically to the growing use of social media by attorneys and law firms.  Shown below is the Florida Bar's Guideline for Networking Sites, note how Florida goes into detail about such things as LinkedIn professional pages and Instant Messages: 


Righthaven RIP: Assets Being Seized, Rumors of Righthaven Bankruptcy Roam the Web

Righthaven's going down, and going down fast:  today the news is that creditors are seizing assets of Righthaven, Inc. - the company that struck fear into many a blogger's heart as it filed copyright infringement lawsuits throughout Nevada and other states (South Carolina, Colorado) without so much as a cease and desist notice letter.

Righthaven is reported to be considering bankruptcy even as I type this. 

There's more.  Attorney Todd Kincannon is reportedly mounting a class action lawsuit against Righthaven, Inc. If you believe that you may have been harmed by the actions of Righthaven, Inc., then Mr. Kincannon wants to chat with you.

What did Righthaven do?  It bought the copyrights from various media sites and then sued websites and blogs for violation of federal copyright laws  (see my July 2010 post for details, "Profiting from Copyright Infringement - New Vegas Company Sues Bloggers After Buying Media Copyrights.")

What happened next?  After over 250 of these suits were filed (some reports are that they've filed over 275 cases), federal judges started acting.  The suits were blown out of court for things like standing problems.  (See, "Righthaven's Days May Be Numbered: Federal Judges Are Ruling Against Standing and More.")

And, Righthaven started losing cases.  In the asset seizure making news now, Righthaven defendant Wayne Hoehn is seeking to enforce a federal court order that orders Righthaven to pay Mr. Hoehn $34,000 as reimbursement of the legal fees that he had to pay to defend himself against their copyright lawsuit.

Righthaven whined to the federal judge, the Honorable Philip Pro of the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, asking him to stay the award because having to pay Mr. Hoehn right now might force Righthaven into bankruptcy.  Judge Pro was not swayed; the order stands.

So, right now, federal marshalls will be executing on Righthaven assets to meet that $34,000 award and Righthaven may be filing a bankruptcy petition (where the automatic stay might temporarily stop the marshalls).

For all things Righthaven, check out the excellent website that is monitoring all this:  RighthavenLawsuits.

Does this mean no more copyright infringement suits?  I doubt it.  I don't know that "copyright trolls" will have a big future - but those that own the copyrights are free to sue for federal copyright law violations.  Righthaven was acting as a middleman, in a way: buying those rights and then suing based upon them.

Take out Righthaven, what have you got?  No more middleman.  If it is cost-effective to sue for copyright violations, then owners will do so.  Maybe Righthaven's aftermath will be that they will be more inclined to file.


Anonymous Comments: Should You Block Them From Your Blog?

Anonymous comments did not start with the World Wide Web; they've been around for centuries and they've always been a headache at times. For an interesting read about anonymous comments, check out the Online Journalism Review's article on traditional journalism's take on anonymous commenting -- you'll learn a lot: for instance, did you know that Benjamin Franklin wrote many an anonymous comment under the psuedonym "Silence Dogood"?

The position of many print publishers is this: if someone wants to have their words published in their publication, then the publisher feels that the writer should have the cojones (yes, I'm in Texas) to put their name right up there with their comment. Of course, the publisher's lawyers have pointed out that there may be legal consequences to the words printed in the publication; therefore, having the ability to find that potential co-defendant if the comment proves litigious is important to the legal team.

I get it. And I'm still in favor of allowing anonymous comments on your blog (or blawg).

Here's why: technology being what it is today, right now there are all sorts of hurdles to leaving a comment on a blog or newspaper or online magazine. Just this past week I experienced the following:

  1. I had a devil of a time trying to leave a comment to a Typepad post - I was requested to sign in via Twitter or Facebook or Google to leave the comment, or alternatively leave my name and address (for the blog's growing email marketing list). If I used Twitter, I was asked to agree to allow the platform to post its own tweets on my Twitter feed. That's right. Their stuff. On my Twitter feed. Without my prior looksie. I was left with two options, well three: (a) agree to be on their mailing list; (2) allow the platform to be my Tweet-partner; or (3) not leave a comment. Surprise: I didn't leave the comment.
  2. A client in Florida wanted to put a comment at one of the top Florida newspaper's online sites. Same platform issue. After much time (that we both could and should have dedicated to other things), her comment was left on the news article -- and now, she is watching her Twitter feed, to see what they are going to do (and I hope she's got her finger on the Application Approval button at the Twitter settings page).
In social media today (think Klout), you want to have comments on your blog (or blawg).  You want to make it easy for readers to communicate with you.  Sure, there's a spam issue and yes, there will be times when a comment is troublesome. I'm not recommending that bloggers ignore the contents of the comments and monitor what's being written by readers. 

However, it is just too darn easy to surf away if the blog (or blawg) puts up a hurdle for the reader to jump in order to write a short thought or two about the post.  Who wants to spend all that time and effort just to leave a little message?

I know I don't.  I leave anonymous comments when it's too much burdensome to get through the blogging platform's hurdles ... maybe I will leave a signature within the comment itself.  If I remember.  For something like, "thanks for sharing this" I may not.

Bottom line:
  • blocking anonymous comments doesn't help your reader (or your social media dialogue, if that is the terminology that floats your boat) and may alienate some of them, since it's the fastest and simplest way of leaving a comment online. 
  • forcing readers to allow third party access to things like their Twitter feeds just to have the joy of leaving a comment on your blog is just plain disrespectful and manipulative and wrong in my humble opinion, and I'm sure I'm not alone here. 
  • blocking anonymous commenting is not going to prevent you from getting troublesome comments: it's just as easy for troublemakers to create online pseudonyms with fake online email accounts, etc. as it was for Ben Franklin to sign "Silence DoGood" to his letters long ago -- you're not stopping the dedicated writer who doesn't want to leave his real name. 
  • in the event of a huge lawsuit, techies may well be able to track down the source of the comment anyway: how anonymous that writer really is in today's technological world is debatable.


Considering Book Covers: Different Needs for Print and EBook

I'm in the process of getting a series of books published and it's crazy how many details there are in what appeared to be a pretty simple path.  One thing that has been a bigger stumbling block than I had planned for:  the ebook cover. 

How the image appears in a thumbprint on Amazon's website is very important, and has very different demands than an eye-catching book cover on a shelf or table at the local brick and mortar. 

Very Different.

Here's a great blog post that not only discusses these differences but gives some nice covers as examples, with a critique of them: 

15 Ebook Covers: Success and Failure in the Kindle Store by Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer


Grading My Own Papers: Top Results In Google that Hold Over Time

On August 30, 2011, I was asked by a national legal marketing agency to provide them with some details on what I achieve in Google results, and while I explained that I cannot violate confidentiality by providing statistics from ghost-coaching clients or ghostwriting clients I could - and did - provide them with the following:

1. Performance example of writing style/content from blog that I write with Terry Lenamon

Terry Lenamon on the Death Penalty  
  • This blog was holding at Google page rank of 5/10 with only 8 posts per month until our summer 2011 hiatus (now we're at 4/10). 
  • Google Everything search: death penalty | Google rank: 4 / 26,900,000 (first blog shown in results) 

2. Examples of holding top search results in Google from my four personal blogs (posts chosen at random): 

Reba Kennedy.Writer.Lawyer. 

Backseat Lawyer 
  • Google Everything search: lawyer blog | Google rank: 12 / 90,000,000 (still in the first page of results) 
  • post example: Google Everything search: jose baez | Google rank: 3 / 6,790,000 | post written: 01/15/2009 (2 years, 8 months old) 

Rebecca Kennedy's Blog 
  • Google Everything search: fiction writing blog | Google rank: 10 / 129,000,000 
  • post example: Google Everything search: thriller vs. mystery | Google rank: 1 / 13,200,000 | post written: 11/24/2006 (4 years, 10 months old) 

Everyday Simplicity 


Righthaven's Days May Be Numbered: Federal Judges Are Ruling Against Standing and More

More than one federal district judge appears to have had enough with Righthaven's strategy of buying copyrights from various media sources (usually in Nevada) and then suing for copyright infringement under federal law without so much as a form cease and desist letter.  (For details on the Righthaven plan of action and its early success, read my prior posts on the subject.)

The worm turns.

Federal judges setting in more than one state don't seem to think that Righthaven is doing the right thing, apparently.  Standing has been found wanting.  Fair use has been found.  Copyright has been determined not to be at issue in the first place.

For a nice recap of these various court opinions, read David Kravets' article in Wired's June 20, 2011 issue, "Righthaven Loss: Judge Rules Reposting Entire Article Is Fair Use."

Today's news: Righthaven isn't paying attorneys' fees.

This morning, TechDirt reports that Righthaven is avoiding paying around $3000 in attorneys' fees to a defendant even though it's been ordered to do so by a federal judge.  The company has asked the court for a 30 day stay ... doesn't sound smart, but we'll see what happens.


Lawyers: Please Stop Stealing News Video for Your Firm Web Site, and YES You Are, Too....

It's Friday, thankfully ... because if I have another client conference where I have to explain this simple fact to a lawyer this week, I may start pulling my hair out.  And I like my hair, I don't want to do this. 

So, I'm going to rant here on my blog instead, and here goes:

When an attorney is interviewed by a reporter and that interview gets uploaded as a video on the reporter's website -- usually, a local television station's web site, or that lawyer is quoted extensively in a publication -- usually, a daily newspaper serving his local community, then it's understandable for that lawyer to be excited about this and want to share this great news. 

And not just with his family and friends, of course.  This is great exposure for the attorney: he's been acknowledged as an expert in whatever the topic of the interview was - from the Mets vs. the Yankees to the future of class action lawsuits in view of the 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Wal-Mart and AT&T.  Whatever.

Clients should know about this, right?  Sure.  And, referring attorneys should be aware of this, right?  Yes.

However, this interview cannot simply be taken from that online website and stuck on the law firm web site or blog without gaining the permission of its owner, the publication that's uploaded it onto their site.

No. No. No. 

Too many lawyers do this, and they should know better.  If they are sued for copyright infringement, that law degree is going to be a big fact used by the plaintiff that they did know better. 

And yes, sometimes you will have to pay for the use of the video or article.  How much will depend upon the publication.  There are times where the publication waives that charge, I've seen this happen more than once.

However, they're the ones who have to waive it.  You have to get permission, simple as that.

And if you think I'm being picky (and yes, I've been accused of being picky and it's true, I am) then think again.  Web sites are being sued without so much as any prior notice (e.g., cease and desist letter) in more and more parts of the country for just this sort of thing.

Go read my posts regarding Righthaven if you're interested. 

In the meantime, STOP stealing those news stories where your name is mentioned by just sticking them on your web site or blog.  Stop. It.

Okay, rant over.  



Lawyers Write Blogs About All Sorts of Things - The Evolution of Lawyer Blogs

The word "blog" is actually a contraction of the phrase "web log," and back in the day, folk wrote web logs or journals, usually writing about personal diary-like topics: day's events, family life, etc.  As the internet grew in popularity and technology got more user-friendly, it cost less in time and money to start a web log. 

People took notice.  Business minds pondered how these logs, or journals, could be revamped to sell products or services.  News junkies started blogs to share scoops (think Drudge Report).  Educators thought of ways blogs could provide learning opportunities and ways to share information over the web.  Political pundits started blogs to share their views (e.g., Little Green Footballs).  Families figured out how blogs could connect loved ones in all sorts of locations, even in war zones.  The list goes on.

In the midst of this, there were lawyers who started blogs with a personal touch.  They opined to their colleagues about pending cases, new legislation, the state of the law - and of the legal profession.  Some were more analysis-oriented than others, but it was usually a single attorney writing a short blog post (article on a web log) several times a month, or week, or day, like Howard J. Bashman's How Appealing where he's been writing "the Web's first blog devoted to appellate litigation" since May 2002. 

Then the idea hit for business development via a web log or blog.  We began reading more about "blawgs."  Law firm web sites were no longer cutting edge; now, blawgs were the new trend.   Law firm marketing strategies began to incorporate blogs into their rainmaking plans in much the same way that Web 2. 0 campaigns do now (i.e., the use of Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn). 

Blogs for lawyers and law firms diversified.  The intended readers of lawyer-generated blogs are varied: some are targeting potential clients, some are targeting referring attorneys, some are seeking to support an issue or to build public awareness about it.

Some blawgs consistently give opinion, some never do.  Some blawgs are funny, some are serious.  Some deal with the law, and some don't. 

Lawyers Who Blog About Things Other Than Law -- Ten Examples

For example, here are a few blogs appearing on the web today that are written by lawyers that have nothing to do with legal issues:
  1. Appalachian Trail Hike 2010 -- coverage of  hiking the Appalachian Trail " ... from the perspective of a lawyer, an ivy grad, and a city chick," via a blog on the Blogger platform (together with videos on MySpace, photos on Picasa, etc.), hiking from Georgia to Maine in one year's time. There's a documentary now, too. 
  2. Nathan B. Hannah, Attorney   -- periodic posts on jazz from a lawyer "who'd rather write music commentary."  Wish he'd write more - what's there is good stuff. 
  3. Ironlawyer -- an attorney posts about preparing for an Ironman competition with her husband - they completed a half-Ironman in May 2011.  Hopefully, there will be more posts after they recuperate.
  4. Paul's Travel Blog -- with periodic blog posts, this lawyer dedicates his travelogue to "...discuss[ing] a bit how a legal education changes your general behavior, decreases your appetite for certain kinds of risk. Now, it is true that the profession probably draws the risk-adverse simply because a legal education is seen as a "safe" field for moderate professional and economic success.... Yes, I believe that law school and law practice have made me a more cautious, risk-adverse person."
  5. Instapundit --  Glenn Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee who publishes a political blog as part of "Pajamas Media," whose personal passion is pondering "...the intersection between advanced technologies and individual liberty."  Instapundit has been on the web since 2001.
  6. Black Coffee and a Donut -- two sisters who are both attorneys have dedicated their blog to their foodie passion, and have a great food blog with very nice photos covering local restaurants as well as food finds during their travels (which do include Paris, of course).  Recently covered in the Baltimore, Maryland Daily Record.
  7. Everyday Simplicity -- my own blog, begun in January 2006, where I post regularly on issues of living a simplicity lifestyle, which includes issues like going green, downsizing, career change, recipes, cleaning tips, and being more frugal. 
  8. LeffStyle -- former NYC entertainment lawyer blogs on interior design with lots of photos, who educates readers not only on design, but designers. Chic and fun.
  9. Michelle's In Cambodia -- as a lawyer who moves overseas to Cambodia to teach English and have adventure, Michelle is as much a photographer as a writer and there are many wonderful photos uploaded here on her blog documenting her journey as well as her periodic posts.
  10. ProFootballTalk - an all-things-football blog, hosted by NBC.com as of June 2009, with lawyer Mike Florio as its editor; Florio also contributes posts to its "Daily Rumor Mill," with news tips as well as his viewpoints on all things pro football.  It's not known how much Florio got paid by NBC when he sold his blog to them, but he's remained at its helm as editor since the sale. 


Tip on Finding the Time To Write That Blog Post

Blog posts are more than tweets or likes - you have to find a topic and spend some time writing at least a paragraph or two.  This is true when you're writing a personal journal type of blog.  If you're writing another kind of blog -- informational, research-oriented, etc. then it means even more involvement.

Which I discuss with my lawyer clients regularly because if it isn't a panic on finding something to write about, it's about finding the time to write the post (let's not even get started on the comments).  Here's something that helps: a timer.

That's right.  A timer.  Any old kitchen timer will do, as will the one on your phone or your watch (ahem).  However, here's one that I really like because it appears onscreen at the bottom of your window:  FocusBooster.

FocusBooster is free.  It's a part of a larger time management technique that you may find helpful (many do) but for now, I have to say that downloading FocusBooster and having that little timer bar counting down the seconds as you are typing away keeps you ... well ... FOCUSED.

It alarms at 25 minutes.  Then you get a 5 minute count.  Once that dings, you've got to restart FocusBooster.

The beauty of FocusBooster is that if you play your cards right, you'll hit that green square and get going, and before 25 minutes are up, voila!  Another post on your blog.

Try it.  According to Lifehacker, it's the most popular software of its kind out there right now. 


5 More Tips on Finding Things to Write About in Your Law Blog

Last fall, I wrote a guest post for Scoop, JD Supra's blog, that gave attorneys tips on finding topics for blog posts.  I won't repurpose that content - if you want to read those tips, go check out "5 Tips for Finding Things to Write About in Your Blog Posts or Legal Articles" over at JD Supra's blog. 

This time around, I thought I'd discuss themes and scheduling.  Magazines, for example, work in the long-term and not only do they have their publications scheduled months, if not years, in advance they also have annual theme issues (e.g., the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue; Time's Man (or Woman) of the Year; People's 50 Most Beautiful). 

You can do this, too.  Here's what I mean:

Five Tips for Finding Things to Write About in Your Next Blog Post

1.  Tie your practice area to a theme and write your posts around that theme for a certain period of time.  For example, tax attorneys might take six weeks near year-end and write a series of posts dedicated to issues surrounding tax strategies, charitable deductions, pending tax legislation, etc.  Stagger the posts over the last two months of the year.  Plan for it. 

2. Have certain "annual" blog themes.  Hurricane season starts June 1st every year, and here in Texas as well as the rest of the Gulf Coast, we are well aware of it.  Personal injury blogs could calendar that date and each year write a series of posts that deal with hurricane preparation, how to file a claim, warnings that homeowner's coverage is not the same as flood insurance, etc. 

3.  Consider pending legislation and what will happen when/if it passes and write a series of posts on the new law(s).  For example, Florida recently did a big whammy on its state budget by gutting a lot of state oversight agencies.  Conservationists are upset; developers are excited.  Posting a few short articles on what has happened and what it means is good for blog readers and it also provides the lawyer with a solid base of reference links along with an ability to demonstrate his or her legal acumen by explaining what the new statutes mean to the rest of us.

4.  Look at what is going on in your world, bite the bullet, and write about it.  Get personal and share with your reader.  Is the tanking economy causing your staff to start talking about car pooling, or are you seeing more people bagging their lunches now?  Write about this.  Here in San Antonio, for example, there is a growing number of thieves who are stealing pedigree dogs out of homes.  Heartbroken pet owners are offering huge rewards ($4000 was on a Reward poster at my local taco house last week) no questions asked.  Makes me angry.  If I were writing an animal law blog here, I'd be writing about that trend. 

5.  Create a blogging calendar and block out themes that correspond to your practice areas.  Personal injury could split the year with two months on Med Mal, two months on Wrongful Death, etc.  Then, within those themes, search for news stories (local is better) that correspond with the theme of that time period.  And, don't forget to link to the news story and do not cut and paste from it.  Use your words, and use the link as your support. 


CAPTCHAS: What Are They, and Are They Worth the Trouble?

CAPTCHA stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart," and I use them on my blogs. Whether or not you choose to use them on yours is a different matter.

What is a CAPTCHA?

It's that annoying little gizmo that asks you to retype a random series of numbers and letters into a little box, to show that you're human and not some spamming computer. They even have a little audio icon, so you can hear the series if the scramble is too hard to read (which lots are, I've noticed). 

There are different kinds of CAPTCHAs, with differing levels of complexity.  Older ones are nicer and less problematic than the later versions. 

Should You Use CAPTCHAs on Your Blog?

I do. Some don't: they argue that the balance between Spam-Fighting and making their blogs comment-friendly means not having a CAPTCHA. They worry that a CAPTCHA costs them comments.

Personally, I think it depends on the blogging platform - not all CAPTCHAs are the same. Check yours out. If it's a problem, then consider pulling it.

For example, Typepad (a popular blogging platform) has CAPTCHAs that bother me.  One writer-friend loves Typepad, and I like to comment on her blog every once in a while.  However, I'm doing this less and less because it's such a hassle.  What's going on? 

There's an added burden to her CAPTCHA of requiring me to sign in via one of my social media accounts before I can leave a comment.  Time-consuming.  That alone stops me.  And this is a friend:  what if I don't want the blogger to know who I am, because I'm worried about uninvited enewsletters, etc.? Anonymous commenting is not only faster for me, but protects me from this mess.

What about Anonymous comments?  That's for a different post on a different day.  


Finding the Time to Blog or Tweet: 30-Minute Social Media Marketing by Susan Gunelius Helps You

30-Minute Social Media Marketing by Susan Gunelius (available on Kindle) gives several excellent examples of implementing a social media strategy on a daily basis with a relatively short time commitment.

Read the book, and you've got the ground rules - along with lots of links to check out, tips to try, and tricks to streamline things. The 80/20 Rule is great. The Quick Tips throughout the text are good.

If your goal is to invest long-term in a social media marketing plan, or if you are just getting your feet wet at Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, this book is worth your investment of time and money.

There are two limitations, though:  first, times are changing so fast that some of the information is already dated. Of course, this isn't the writer's fault, but it does limit the usefulness of the book.

Second, I question some of the times within the schedules here - particularly for the newbie.  There are nifty schedules here, ready made for you, and that is a wonderful idea.  However, take for example Chapter 22's sample 30 Minute Marketing Plans where one plan has a mere 5 minutes allotted to write a post including an image.

Me?  I’m thinking 5 minutes to tweet (start to finish) seems reasonable - write the tweet, gather your hashtags, shorten the URL, edit as needed to meet that 140 character limit - but a quality blog post?

I dunno about that. Hasn't been my experience with my clientele - or with me. Still, tweaking and personalizing these schedules to fit the individual is an obvious need here.   Doesn’t mean that what’s provided here isn’t a great help. 

I recommend this book.


Notepad is a Great Kindle App

Notepad is a note taking tool for Kindle. It only costs 99 cents, and it's worth much more than a buck.

Why is Notepad so good?

It's fast. It's roomy. It's great when you're reading in your e-reader and you want to note something - whether it's from the book, or whether it's got nothing to do with the text you're reading.

Here's an example.  It's long past midnight.  I'm reading along in Grisham, and suddenly the thought pops up that I need to check that FedEx delivery: did it arrive? When was the deadline again?

Of course, Notepad is just as ready for you to jot down items for the grocery list or your calendar (anniversary, birthday) as it is something work-related.

Why is this better than the notepad in your nightstand drawer?

Notepad via Kindle allows you to take these notes and put them on your computer (and vice versa).  Plus, if you don't have that pad and paper next to the bed, Notepad means you don't have to get up and search for stuff. 

It's proven to be handy for me in my writing and I think you might find Notepad useful, too.


Crashes Happen and the Cloud Can Save You - Like It Did Me

This month, my wonderful new laptop with all its fancy bells and whistles along with the very latest in security software was attacked by a creepy little horrid virus that Shall Be Unnamed.

This evildoer was crafty and circumvented all my protections - even to the point where it would successfully reinfect my machine after I had jumped through all the hoops to get things cleaned up.

You know the drill. You can imagine the time involved here.

Everything is better now, and I'm back on my regular work schedule. The thing that I want to share - now that the danger has passed and I'm out of Panic Mode - is a lesson learned: it was wise to have everything backed up to a remote location. Very wise.

It was also very wise not to have email stored on the hard drive. (Well, copies were, but you get the idea.)

I had become arrogant, having escaped any kind of computer crash for several years. I've realized that in today's world it really is only a matter of time before you'll get zapped. Plan to be attacked now, and you'll be glad you did.

FYI - my security software? Norton.


LinkedIn, Yes; Facebook, No - TechRepublic's Toni Bowers Casts a Vote

I don't like Facebook and I don't use Facebook.  I don't recommend Facebook to friends or clients, and if you want to go into all the reasons why, then write me and I'll jump up on my soapbox and explain.

I'm not alone in this.  Just Google "I hate Facebook" and surf for awhile.

Or don't.  Opt for this: over at TechRepublic today, Toni Bowers writes a nice, short article on her take on this issue in "LinkedIn is Facebook's mature older sibling."

And have a great weekend.


IE 10 is Coming. And I Just Downloaded IE9 (With Its Kinks)

This past week, I upgraded to Internet Explorer 9.  Then, almost immediately thereafter, ZDNET reported that Microsoft was sending out IE9 as a Windows Update, so I wasn't exactly ahead of the crowd here.  Still, I was somewhat techno-proud.  You know what I mean.

Which, of course, meant that the inevitable time-eating kinks would pop up.  This time, I discovered that IE9 had a problem with secure sites.  I had to use Firefox to enter various client blogs and things to edit, optimize, fiddle, etc.  Annoying.  Fixable.

Today, I learn that IE9 is so shortlived that we're already being told to get ready for Internet Explorer 10.  That's right.  Ten. It's only been four weeks, Microsoft!  Four weeks!

PCMag has all the details, along with screenshots from Microsoft describing how really and truly great IE10 is going to be. 

Now, I admit:  IE9, so far, is nicer than IE8 (or 7, or 6, or whatever).  (The experts agree.) I particularly like the increase in space for me.  I just hate the Kink Hurdle. 

According to PCMag, it's gonna be a little bit of time before I have to worry about IE10 - but geez.  They could have waited a little bit before making this big announcement.

It's like going out and buying your swanky new car, and then two weeks later the car maker unveils that your make and model will have a whole new design next year.  You feel so old news.



Getting Stuff Done: Learning Your Distractions and Taking Control of Them

This isn't news, but I've discovered that working as a writer is so very different from working as a lawyer.  For example:
  • The deadlines are much more self-imposed (e.g, daily word count).  
  • It's a solitary endeavor  (no high heels. Heck, no shoes ...).
  • I can work most any place (home, Starbucks, a park bench).
Which means that very quickly, I've learned how much willpower I've really got -- and I've discovered powerful, subtle temptations that regularly keep me from meeting my word count.  The fridge, the TV: sure - but it's much more than that.  It's a pattern of distractions that is undermining me. 

Psychologists Study Willpower.  Duh.

I went surfing around the web, and discovered psychologists study willpower.  Who knew, right?  Which is wonderful:  I want to know what they've found, and incorporate it into my daily routine. 

Is there a secret weapon against procrastination?  Against stopping to watch TV and get a snack every afternoon, at the exact same time?  That @#$#$@#$ Ina Garten show is on every weekday afternoon at four.  Damn her.

Metcalfe and Mischel Study - 1999 (pdf here)

One thing I found was a study done in 1999 [1] that divides willpower into two motivations: hot and cold.  Hot motivators are fueled by fear and anxiety (which brings back memories of impending filing deadlines from my lawyer days) as well as good stuff.  Hot motivation is controlled by outside stimuli that spark your reaction.  The study labels hot motivation as the "go" system. 

I think that I have a lot of hot motivation.  This is not sexy at all. 

Cold motivators are different.  Cold motivation is the "know" system in the study's vernacular.  It's your willpower, baby. 

Fortunately, I can look back over my past successes and comfort myself that I apparently have quite a bit of cold motivation, too.  Whew. 

The Psychology Behind Distractions

To get the job done, I can't fall prey to all the distractions that tempt me away from my task at hand.  As I write this post, I'm fighting a war against distractions.  External and internal, they've been categorized. 

The neighbor's dog barking is external.  The thought of making a fresh pot of tea now rather than later is internal. An image of the Veggie Sub on Flatbread from Subway floats through my mind.  These can all veer me off my path - no!!!  I have to ignore them, and keep typing.

In their study, Metcalfe and Mischel describe what I'm doing right now as exercising my willpower.  Wo Nellie.  Good for me. 

Willpower, Self-Control: What It Is

Of course, they describe this in their psychological way:  what I'm doing is exercising my ability to inhibit my impulsive behavior in order to fulfill my commitment to myself, which right now is to get this post written, finalized, and published. 

In the long-term, that willpower might be labelled "self-control."  In the Bible, self-control is a gift given to us by God [2].  In the study, they delve into self-control (over the long haul) as having three characteristics:
  • it's mental and intellectual (not emotional);
  • you have more as you age, hopefully - self-control is a sign of maturity (babies don't have much if any of this); and 
  • (warning Will Robinson!) self-control is vulnerable to stress.  

Stress is Kryptonite to Self-Control

So far, so good.  All of this makes sense to me.  I'm still looking for information that I can use as tools to help me get all my stuff done.  I found some.

1.  Planning is Very, Very Important

They tell us that for self-control to be powerful, you have to rely upon the tools of planning as well as memory, which work together to "...keep the goals in mind while pursuing them and monitoring progress along the route."  So that old adage, "those who fail to plan, plan to fail," appears to have a scientific support, right?

For me, this means that I need to get a better handle not just on my daily to-do list, but on my one-year plan, five-year plan, even ten-year plan.  It will help me get the things done today that I need to do. 

It's true:  when I don't have my task list at my side, I am easily distracted.  It's just sad how easily I'm distracted, in fact -- and I won't even admit to the ridiculous things that have successfully tempted me away from my keyboard.  My purchase history at QVC speaks for itself. 

2.  Actions that Reduce Stress Are Also Valuable

The study also recognizes that stress can sneak in and weaken your resolve.  It's easier for those hot motivators to win if you're weak.  No news there.  So, it comes back to avoiding stress.  Really?  Grrrr. 

Find some stress reduction techniques that work, they suggest.  Plan for stress and be ready to beat it.  This I can do. 

For me, walking the dogs comes to mind immediately.  Even a short walk is good -- gets me out and moving for a bit and provides the added stress reduction of watching how happy the pups are to do this.  There's nothing so fun as seeing your dog jump up five feet in the air at the question "wanna go for a walk?" -- never gets old.

3.  Hooray!! Rewards!!! 

Get this: the researchers not only suggest rewards, they've got two kinds.  I'm really pumped now.  There are the Large Late Rewards (LLRs) and the Small Early Rewards (SERs).  I cannot tell you how much I love this.  However, there's bad news with the good news:  it appears that a small reward now may turn into a distraction.  You gotta be careful about giving yourself rewards.

For me, I find that giving myself little rewards when tasks are done (particularly ones that I despise) seems juvenile, but it works for me.  So sue me, I'm immature in my mature assertion of self-control.  Sometimes they are things, sometimes they are things I get to do. 

The Large Late Rewards are the Big Deals.  You get that article published, for example.  The researchers report that those should have big treats to go with them, or you'll get waylaid by distractions -- you'll find a reward for yourself in television, ice cream, tequilla, something ... if you don't consciously acknowledge your major achievement. 

What I'm Taking From This -- Plans and Rewards

Okey dokey.  From this, I'm going to stop and take the time to go over my business plan, my marketing plan, etc. as well as set up a list of real rewards, tied to goals being met.  Much more formal than my usual approach, but this makes sense to me.  (Businesses do this, too: bonuses, profit sharing, etc., and I may incorporate some of their tactics to my writing world.)  And after I get this all done, I'm going to go get a Frap ... as my reward.

[1] Metcalfe, J., & Mischel, W. (1999). A hot/cool system analysis of delay of gratification: Dynamics of willpower. Psychological Review, 106, 3-19.
[2] 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV ("...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.")


Follow the Lawsuits Being Filed Against Web Sites, Bloggers for Copyright Infringement by Nevada's Righthaven

I've posted in the past about Righthaven, and how they are building up quite a business by buying copyrights and then suing (without notice or cease and desist letters) for violations of federal copyright laws.  Go here to read about them.

Recently, I discovered a website that is tracking Righthaven's activitiesRighthavenLawsuits is not affiliated in any way with the company that has become a professional plaintiff.  Here, from the RighthavenLawsuits site:

This website is dedicated to gathering together and posting for Righthaven Defendants and the public information about Righthaven LLC -- the Las Vegas “technology company”that has been filing copyright infringement lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada (and South Carolina and Colorado) against numerous unsuspecting website owners (almost always without notice) for copyright infringement of news articles originally published in the Las Vegas Review Journal (and Denver Post) and purportedly assigned to Righthaven (sample assignment here) which subsequently registers the copyright to such articles with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to then file suit in federal court.

This web site appears to be current and comprehensive.  Interesting to me: since my post in July 2010, the company has expanded its activity into South Carolina and Colorado.  What will happen next?  Will Righthaven's tenticles creep into other states - or will other companies pop up in these other states as direct competitors to Righthaven?  Money talks, you know.


William Safire's Rules of Great Writing

I love these Great Rules for Writing by William Safire, since they each exemplify the rule itself.  Fun stuff:

Do not put statements in the negative form.

And don't start sentences with a conjunction.

If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.

De-accession euphemisms.

If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

-- QuoteGarden


Setting Up EMail Alerts: Try Google Alerts and TweetBeep

Alerts.  They are easy to set up and you want to have a few set up -- but what are they?  Alerts are where software automatically discovers new web content that includes a particular word or phrase and sends you  an email to let you know that something new has appeared. 

It's easy enough to do.  Have your name, your firm name, a topic of interest (e.g., "death penalty" or "american idol"), etc. set up with an alert system and then sit back and wait for the emails to arrive.

Google Alerts will automatically let you know when new stuff appears within its search results.  For details, go here.

TweetBeep searches Twitter and alerts you as you have requested - exclusively within tweets.  To learn more, go here. 


Twitter Tip: 140 Is Less Than You Think -- Leave Room for the Retweet

Once again, I'm chatting with a client who is learning about Twitter and getting comfortable with writing substantive messages that are only 140 characters long.  She's a little frustrated about that number, because she thinks it's a bit deceptive.  And she's right.  There's lots less room to move here than 140 would suggest, since at the outset that number includes the spaces between the words. 

That's right: the blanks are included in the tally. 

So from the start, the 140 character count doesn't leave everything for letters and numbers and commas and whatnot. 

Then you must shorten the links so they will fit.  The urls are often longer than 140 characters from the git-go. 

Now, even less than 140 in the count, right?

Next, you've got to add the hashtags.  This helps people find what you've shared.  Hashtags are important (more on them later).

That number is plummeting, isn't it? No wonder it's R for "are" and U for "you" ....

Now, it's time to remember the retweet.  If you don't, then you're making work for someone who is doing you a favor already by sharing your tweet with their followers. 

Easy way to envision this need is to retweet some tweets for yourself.  Go to Twitter, or whatever third party app that you're using to tweet, it doesn't matter.  Just find a tweet that you want to retweet.  Now, retweet it.  Do it again; heck, do it several times. 

Let's assume you retweeted USA Today.  See how the retweet takes up more space, since you're getting the "RT @USATODAY" in the message, too?  Did you go over 140 with your retweet, so you had to take the time to cut something before Twitter would accept it? 

Know how much your retweeted name uses in the count.

Here's the tip: cut the word count off your tweet before you publish it, to accommodate that character count.  Twelve characters are used in "RT @USATODAY." Fifteen (15) characters/spaces are taken up by "RT @rkennedy" - yours may be more or less.  Remember to accommodate your tally in your tweets.  Helps those who retweet your message to do so fast and easy.

Note: this doesn't appear when you are tweeting directly from the Twitter platform.  The retweet appears as a little green cap over the top left corner of your tweet box.  However, if you go and read your retweet in another venue, you'll see the "RT @USATODAY" at the start of your retweet.


Getting and Holding in Top Three of Google Search Results: More on Same

Just wanted to post quickly on one more example of how I achieve and hold top spots in Google search results - because I like that I can do this and because it's nice to have these examples for clients to have, too. 

Today, I just surfed for "Charlie Sheen Lawsuit" and discovered my week-old post at Backseat Lawyer (where I have no regular posting schedule, as you can see by the archives) remains in the top three search results at Google (everything search) at no. 3 out of 10,300,000. 

My post is 3rd out of 10,300,000.  That's nice.

Here's the screen shot -- which admittedly is hard to see via the blog -- but trust me (or Google it yourself) that the results show my little post ranking higher than ... well, all the media outlets (much less blogs, etc.) except two.  ABA Journal, NY Daily News, Hollywood Reporter fall lower on the first page, let's not even bother with subsequent pages. 

Who are the two that rank higher than Backseat Lawyer?   TMZ and Radar Online.