Computer Glasses Really Do Work

Around two o'clock every afternoon, I'd start to notice it.  My eyes would itch. Vision in my left eye would become blurry.

First, it was a mild distraction.  Then it became a real annoyance.  It was interfering with my day.  My work.

I began to understand why there were so many "dry eye" commercials on television.

So, doing what most of us do, I began surfing around for information on eyestrain. The Worry Wart part of me whispered that maybe I had serious eye problems — had I infected my eyes with dog germs, absent-mindedly scratching the head of a pup while working and then rubbing my eyes without thinking?

Maybe I had an illness. A tumor. Ye Gads, maybe I was going blind!

Am I the only one who has that Chicken Little voice whining inside their head?

Meanwhile, I reassured myself that I'd been doing just fine, ThankYewVeryMuch, with taking care of my eyes since I spend so much time staring at the screen.

 I know that I need to look away periodically. So I do.

I know I need to adjust the brightness of the screen. So I do.

I take breaks. I even have these special computer eye-drops that are very refreshing. (Got that idea from Penelope Garcia using them in an episode of "Criminal Minds.")

None of these were enough to solve the problem. You almost set a clock by it: at two o’clock, two-thirty at the latest, my eyes would start demanding my attention.

Then, surfing around looking for a pair of cute readers, I found tinted computer glasses. Maybe you’ve known about them for years. Not me. A real eureka moment here on the Planet Reba. Ordered them immediately.

I’m an Amazon Prime member, so I got the speedy two-day delivery. Love that. And Wow. WOW.

These things are fantastic!

I didn't buy the cutest ones. I didn't buy the most expensive ones. I bought a pretty basic pair off of Amazon.com, as a test run, and boy howdy are they a game changer.

I'm sharing this with you, Dear Reader, because if you spend any time at all staring at a computer screen, and then getting yourself appear of these inexpensive tinted computer glasses might be a wonderful thing to do for yourself. 

My eyes don't itch. Blurry eyes are gone. I haven't had a headache since I started using them. I'm wondering how I ever lived without them!  Maybe they might help you, too?

(No, I'm not getting paid one red cent or anything in barter here.  I'm just sharing something that's made a big difference in my daily life in the hope that it might be helpful to others out there who work at a computer screen all day long.)


Google Authorship is Over - Now You Need to Know About the Google Knowledge Vault

Big news out of Google today -- they're ending Google Authorship.

Image:  Peggy Webber in The Screaming Skull (1958)
If you want details, go read all about it from Google's John Mueller or  Eric Enge (Search Engine Land) or Marc Traphagen (Google+ post).

Now, don't panic.  This isn't all that big of a deal to you.

What Does the End of Google Authorship Mean to You? Not That Much, Really

It means that your photo isn't going to be appearing in Google Search Results any longer -- but you already knew that, right?  Google nixed the pix a couple of weeks ago.

It doesn't mean that your content doesn't count, or that it's going to have a negative impact on what you have written and published on your blog or web site.  (Google testing per Mueller shows little if any impact on traffic to sites, for instance.)

Google Still Loves Schema 

Schema -- e.g., the "article" coding for In Depth Articles and the "publishing" coding for Publishers -- that's still alive and well.  It's really just your byline that gets hit; that coding for "author" that Google isn't that interested in following right now.   From Mueller today:
Going forward, we're strongly committed to continuing and expanding our support of structured markup (such as schema.org). This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we'll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.
And why is that?  What nixed the "author" markup?  From the stuff that I've read this afternoon on Google, among other things is the fact that not that many people search for what someone has written -- they're looking for content by subject matter most of the time.

Searching for Subject Matter - Not Much Name Dropping

Don't you find that true?

I mean, I search for "Peggy Noonan" because I love how she writes -- but how many writers do you search for in Google, just to read what they've written?  Aren't you searching for subject matter too, anything from "Emmy winners" to "slow cooker chili recipe"?

Bottom Line Regarding Google Search and Google Authorship

Here's what I'm concluding today from Mueller, Enge and Traphagen, which is important: Authorship may be back in the future, but the important thing to recognize is Google is working hard toward "semantic search" overall.

If you want to know the future, learn more about the Google Knowledge Vault.

What is the Knowledge Vault?

Google's building a huge (HUGE) database of information for all of us to use.  And use efficiently.  It's called the "Knowledge Vault."

Google wants to be the best search engine out there -- to serve you; to keep you away from Bing and its other competitors.  To do that, this enormous, mind-blowing amount of information that it is compiling in its Knowledge Vault will have to bring stuff to you that you want most in your search results.

From New Scientist, this explanation of the Knowledge Vault:

It promises to let Google answer questions like an oracle rather than a search engine, and even to turn a new lens on human history.
Knowledge Vault is a type of "knowledge base" – a system that stores information so that machines as well as people can read it. Where a database deals with numbers, a knowledge base deals with facts. When you type "Where was Madonna born" into Google, for example, the place given is pulled from Google's existing knowledge base.

This existing base, called Knowledge Graph, relies on crowdsourcing to expand its information. But the firm noticed that growth was stalling; humans could only take it so far.
So Google decided it needed to automate the process. It started building the Vault by using an algorithm to automatically pull in information from all over the web, using machine learning to turn the raw data into usable pieces of knowledge.

Semantic Search is the Next Step

So, Google is working hard to evolve its service to make things even better for all of us.  This will be "semantic search" and the importance of quality content and good research will be even more important to blogs and web sites.

Beginning this year with Hummingbird, Google is moving past keywords and into "conversations" because Google has the ability now to comprehend and understand content (and searches) better.

Part of Google's success will involve the ability to discern reputable, trustworthy authors and experts so their work can rank higher in search results.  Google will want this as opposed to reliance solely upon "human actions such as markup," as described by Traphagen and Enge:
As Google moves forward in its commitment to semantic search it has to develop ways to identify entities such as authors with a high degree of confidence apart from human actions such as markup. Recent announcements about Google’s Knowledge Vault project would seem to reinforce that Google is moving steadily in that direction. So this may be how it approaches detection.

Bottom Line:  Keep Writing Great Content for Your Intended Reader

So, don't worry about this Author Ranking business, just keep writing great content.  Target your intended reader.  Support your work with links that you know are reputable and will stand the test of time (a NYT link will be there, a local blog is iffy).

And don't worry that your smiling face and your byline aren't being monitored right now.  You're fine.


Texas Law Firm Sues Client Over Negative Online Review at Yelp.Com

 In June, a Texas law firm did what so many lawyers these days dream about: they sued the author of a negative online review for defamation. 

Gunfight: Image, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Austin’s Grissom and Thompson has filed a civil lawsuit against their former client, a man named Joseph Browning, over a review he published online at Yelp.com, alleging that the law firm is the victim of defamation because the online review was "blatantly false" and had no basis in fact.

You can read the Texas law firm defamation petition here.

The full text of the negative online review appears as an appendix to the pleading.

The Online Review That Fueled the Law Firm’s Defamation Lawsuit 

The negative review was published not long after Mr. Browning was sued by the law firm for not paying his legal fees. In part, Mr. Browning wrote that not only did the law firm miss deadlines, but that the lawyers had no strategy and "couldn't even get the basic facts of the case straight after burning through 20 hours of billable time." 

He concluded his Yelp review with this zinger: "They will not defend you. They will hurt you. This is their motive. That is their intent." 

Mind you, Grissom and Thompson already obtained a judgment against Joseph Browning over unpaid attorneys fees and totaling around $4000. I have not read of any malpractice case against them, and the ABA coverage reports that Mr. Browning did not mount a defense to their case for fees.

This defamation claim is not a part of a fee fight.  It is an independent lawsuit.

The lawyers, speaking through their lawyer to the ABA Journal, say they may never collect on that judgment, and they may never see any money from their defamation (libel, libel per se) claim, but they're moving forward on principle.

Will This Law Firm’s Lawsuit Encourage Other Attorneys to File Defamation Claims Over Negative Online Reviews? 

Today, so many lawyers – particularly those practicing criminal defense or family law – are faced with false or malicious negative online reviews.

 It’s offensive to the attorneys, it can be maddening.  And there's the real worry that a negative online review can hurt a law firm's business reputation.

Will attorneys follow in the steps of Grissom and Thompson and start filing lawsuits against the authors of these bad online reviews?

It's a good question.

Personally, those lawyers I know who have dealt with a negative online review have had a knee-jerk reaction of filing a lawsuit, but have ultimately decided not to do so. They've relied on their numerous positive reviews in place on the web, as well as their lawyers' personal reputations and their history of case results to balance against the negative review.

And they’ve crossed their fingers that their clients and future clients will a malcontent when they see one. It’s a sticky situation, being a lawyer and having to deal with an online review these days. It’s not like anyone monitors these reviews before they are published (Yelp argues this isn’t their job).

Maybe things are changing.



Google Removing Author Photos -- Don't Panic Over Your Google Authorship! Mark Traphagen Explains Why.

Mark Traphagen has written an excellent post on Google Plus regarding the breaking news that Google will no longer be showing Author Photos in Google Search Results.  

Mark Traphagen Explains All About No More Google Author Photos

It's worth reading his entire post on G+ (hint, go do this, especially the Addendum) -- especially since he keeps updating it as he learns more -- but here's his take on things:
The End of Authorship? Hells No 
That's how I think the decision process went down at Google. I think they understood the value of the author photos, but at the end of the day, whatever that value was, it was not greater than the value they'd gain by uncluttering their search pages. Google Authorship continues. Qualifying authors will still get a byline on search results, so Google hasn't abandoned it. 
Besides, the bigger project here for Google I think is not author photos in search but the much ballyhooed but so far elusive "author rank," the ability to confidently determine who the content creators are in any given topic whom most people trust, and boost their content when appropriate. At SMX Advanced this month +Matt Cutts indicated that was still a priority, but was also still a long way off in being accomplished. 
This is a long haul project folks. Don't head for the lifeboats every time Google makes a change.

Google Authorship Isn't Going Away: You Still Get Your Byline

Google wants to provide its customers with the best content responsive to customer searches, and Google Authorship helps Google to accomplish this goal.  Traphagen explains its this in more detail, and includes supporting links for anyone really interested in learning more (or who is really panicking right now).

Those SEO hijinks, to find a magic wand to get content appearing above the fold on the first page of search results?  They're being successfully culled by Google.  Quality content is key; just keep providing it and don't worry about not having your smiling face next to the search result.

Still worried?  Go read more at Moz.com.


Evernote Is Fabulous Must-Have Software That Just Keeps Getting Better

Evernote is fabulous, and it seems that every week I find new things to love about this software program.  Granted, I've upgraded to the paid version (Premium) but there's still a wonderful amount of help that Evernote's basic, free version gives to anyone working with a keyboard.

This week, for example, I began right-clicking on the little green elephant head in my desktop toolbar and choosing "clip screenshot" and then flipping into Evernote to email that screenshot to clients.  Such a time saver - plus for many people, the visual (screenshot) seems to work better as an educational tool than a lengthy email message.  Go figure.

Love this new find.  It's a great, fast way to send them examples of how their stuff is appearing in Google Everything Search (top spots above the fold in multi-million search results); to send them breaking news stories for discussion in their blogs (lots happening in law these days, e.g., the ABA is okay with social media research on jury panels); and much more.

This is just one teensy example of all the cool tricks that Evernote contains, and how it is fun to discover them as you continue to delve into Evernote's depths.

You really should check Evernote out.  I think you may grow to love it, too.  

Here's a short, well-reviewed video by Anson Alexander that gives you a nice overview.


Removing EBooks from Amazon: It’s Not That Easy

Here’s something of interest to anyone that is self-publishing e-books out there.

Recently, one of my clients decided to take down an e-book we had worked on together a few years ago and published on Amazon.com. The e-book was specific to an area of the law that I won’t rabbit trail here; suffice to say that things had changed in federal law and what was being shared online was out of date.

My client is shown as the sole author. I worked with her on editing, fact-checking, cite checks, etc., along with getting a nice cover, moving the content from Word to the Kindle format, and getting the final e-book listed on Amazon.com.

She didn’t care about other sites; her goal was to share this stuff with non-lawyers who needed an overview and Amazon served that purpose. ("Hey, client, great question.  I've published a short e-book with that answer and a lot more that may be helpful to you.  Why not pick that up and read it -- it's faster for both of us and lots cheaper than my hourly rate?")

 This worked well for everyone for a long time. Then the law changed and the book, as written, wouldn’t be helping anyone any more.

Makes sense that she wanted to remove the e-book from Amazon and get it off the shelf, right?

Here’s where I enter the story. Seems that my savvy, smart, sophisticated attorney-client wasn’t finding a way to get the darn thing offline. Nope, it’s not that easy.

First off, you have to enter the author section of Amazon (authorcentral) to work on your stuff. Going to basic Amazon.com or looking at your official author page from your e-book's page won’t get you there.

So, you enter the special world of authorcentral and guess what? You still cannot simply take the book off the shelf.

Surprise, surprise. At least we were both surprised.

What happens next is that Amazon asks why you want to remove the book from the site. You must give Amazon a reason to remove the book from its sales catalog. And after you explain why, you get a message where Amazon replies that someone will get back to you on it.

Now, my client had an obvious reason, who could argue with not selling a law book that had old law in it?  Turnaround was short: the book was offline within 48 hours.

Thing is, what I’m wondering … what about if you have no good reason except you’ve changed your mind? You just don’t want to sell that e-book any longer because, well, you don’t feel like it? Or the cover is ugly? 

Or it’s a fiction piece and your cousin just now figured out that the blithering idiot in chapter three is based on him, and you’d rather not have the ebook available for reading during the family reunion next month?

Well, apparently, that’s not necessarily your call. It’s Amazon’s.

Now, I realize that Amazon is competing with other sites for e-book dollars and that Amazon may be worried that authors will be trading around e-books like baseball cards, trying to place their work in the spot where it may reap the biggest revenue return for them. (There’s even a suggestion in the Amazon response about not republishing on another site within 30 days.)  If this is all to avoid some kind of musical chairs marketing strategy, then I get it.

Still, I found it interesting that an author cannot take down their own work whenever they choose to do so.

And I wonder if there are scenarios where that turnaround might be harmful to someone, where they need to remove something immediately and are damaged by the delay.

Thought I’d share.


Google Webmaster Helps You With Writing Content: Watch YouTube Videos and More

For those writing blog posts and articles for web sites, Google's constant evolution as a search engine can be overwhelming - how can you get your content noticed by Google and therefore found and read by people (other than your mother and your friends)?

The answer to that question seems to change every day, but the key is providing the best writing you can create for your intended reader. And Google isn't aloof - there are lots of helps provided by Google online to help you reach your goals.

Google Webmaster Tools are available to you here. Perhaps an easier way to learn the basics is to watch a few Google instructional videos, like this one:



Hashtag Tip: Hashtagify.Me is Great Help in Choosing Great Hashtags (for Lawyers and Everyone Else)

hashtag, number sign, public domain image
Parents and children don’t always speak the same language, of course. Sheldon Cooper and Penny can get confused in their conversations, too. Not everyone communicates with the same vocabulary, which is fascinating and wonderful except when you’re considering hashtags in social media.

Hashtags have to be somewhat of a common denominator among lots of folk's vocabulary or they’re not doing much good.

Suffering Hashtag Frustration?

Which brings me to a conversation I had with a frustrated client a couple of weeks ago who is a lawyer dipping his toe into Twitter. Hashtags? If he had any hair left on his head, it would be gone now just over his frustration of finding hashtags to include with his tweets.

Hashtags are Important to Twitter and Google Plus and Facebook and More

One of the hurdles lawyers face with Twitter or Google+ (when they decide to delve into social media at all) is that lawyers think like lawyers. I remember being told by a UTLaw professor (Treece, Torts) that the theme of law school wasn’t to learn the law, it was to learn to think like a lawyer. To think differently when I left the building than when I first entered. Every lawyer out there has heard the same thing, countless times. “Thinking like a lawyer” - the reason for the Socratic Method, right? (Or at least one of them.)

It’s true, too. Lawyers do think differently, and this is great when considering all the potential ramifications of a contract being negotiated or when negotiating the settlement of a wrongful death case - but it’s sometimes problematic when attorneys are hunched over their keyboard, deciding what terms they should use to index their social media post or tweet.

Hashtags are tools you can use to index your tweet or post to help others find your content even if they aren’t following you, aren’t in your community, etc. Hashtags are helpful.

In indexing their social media with hashtags, lawyers may toss off a couple of words with an “#” in front and think “that’s that.” However, those hashtags may not be as advantageous to the attorney as other choices can be.

Lawyers tend to use words with which they are familiar, or which apply to their particular case or deal, rather than stopping to consider that these words may not be the best choice in drawing potential readers to their content (even sophisiticated ones).

Hashtags, after all, are just ways to index what you’ve written so others can find what you’ve shared. Consider these alternatives: Litigation vs. Lawsuit; Coverage vs. Insurance; Mortgage vs Loan; Housing vs. Property or RealEstate; Accident vs. Crash.

Lawyer or not, anyone using hashtags should be choosing words that they believe are familiar to their intended reader.  If you are writing for teenagers, then consider what words will work best as hashtags for them, not the words that work best for you and your peers.  You get the idea.

Try Hashtagify.me 

One option? Synonyms, sure. However, there’s a free service online that can help you find hashtags to use as well as discovering trending hashtags and more. It’s Hashtagify.me - try it and see if what your chosen hashtags provide as options when you input them into the Hashtagify.me word machine. (By the way, Hashtagify.me has the Highest Trust Rating at ScamAdviser).


Online Review Defamation Case: Jury Verdict is in for Dietz Development LLC v. Perez

public domain image, firecrackers warning, Be Wise
Late last Friday afternoon, as juries are wont to do, the verdict was reached in a Virginia defamation case that I’ve been following for awhile now: Perez v. Dietz Development, LLC (for details in the case, read my earlier post and for the dance turn the case took up at the Virginia Supreme Court read this).

Bottom line, both the plaintiff and the defendant were held to be guilty of defamation by the Virginia jury — and no damages were awarded to either side. Zowie.

It took the jurors the full Friday to deliberate the case, where Fairfax County’s Jane Perez was sued by her contractor for alleged harm to his business (around $750,000) because of the negative reviews that she wrote about her experience with his company in online reviews at Yelp.com as well as Angie’s List.

That’s defamation claim, round one.

Defamation claim, round two, hit when the owner of the company, a man named Christopher Dietz, went online and wrote some stuff in response to the things that Jane Perez had written. Things that Perez would argue defamed her.

Talk about finger-pointing.

Jury Finds Defamation in Perez v. Dietz Development 

Now, each side can argue that they were right — the other side has been found guilty of defamation. Of course, each side has to walk away with no award money in their pocket to cover the costs of litigating this case through a week of trial, much less that appellate review round to the state’s high court.

Who knows what the bottom line is for either of them once all the dollars and cents are added up. (Perez was assisted by the ACLU and Public Citizen, FYI.)

Here’s the thing: the victim of a negative online review (which the jury agreed was defamatory) took the same action that many lawyers understand: he responded to the bad review, and in doing so found himself faced with a defamation claim against him and months and months of this controversy being spotlighted in the local media. As well as spending lots of time and money in the fight.

This is not a lawyer online review case. It is, however, something for lawyers to consider before they decide to reply to any negative online review that pops up on an online review site like Yelp, Avvo, YellowPages.com, etc.

The Dietz Lesson for Lawyers Deciding How to Handle a Bad Online Review 

Lawyers and law firms have lots to consider before taking up their arms in battle against a negative online review.  Practical things that may fly in the face of principles and true justice.  What are the consequences of a lawyer's responding to an online review that is negative, maybe even defamatory?

Will another lawyer be all too happy to pursue that unhappy client’s defamation claim against the attorney or his firm?

Are these cases akin to the warnings that lawyers get when pondering a lawsuit over unpaid attorneys’ fees (i.e., that they are inviting a counterclaim for malpractice no matter how weak it may be, as a strategic defense play)?

Just one more consideration in how to deal with negative reviews these days. It may be painful to be silent in the face of a disturbing, negative online review, but many may argue that it is the prudent thing to do.  Particularly when lawyers are involved and there's the possibility of Bar disciplinary action in addition to civil litigation (as was recently faced by an Illinois attorney who responded to a negative online review, now she's been disciplined for her actions).

Those interested in learning more about this case can review the Complaint filed by Christopher Dietz and Dietz Development that started this lawsuit back in October 2012:


Tool Tip: WordWeb is Free Offline Dictionary and Thesaurus That Works Great With Scrivener

Admittedly, my favorite thesaurus is my Old School desk copy with its duct tape and stickies and notes written in the margins.  However, I don't want to carry this thing with me everywhere I go, which means I need a good on-screen Thesaurus and Dictionary.

If I'm online, then Thesaurus.com and Dictionary.com work just fine.  However, if I don't want to open up an internet browser just to check for a synonym or a definition, I am stuck.  Or I used to be.

WordWeb Review:  I Like It.  I Really Like It. 

For the past week or two, I've been trying out WordWeb it's working out well.  Best thing?  It hangs out on my desktop toolbar, and I can access it even when I'm not online.

Which is great for many reasons including these two:
  1. WordWeb offers more to me than Scrivener does because Scrivener (a) has no internal dictionary or thesaurus, which I miss from my switch to Scrivener from Word; and (b) I'm not forced to go online via the Scrivener tool to access a thesaurus.
  2. If I'm writing, then I'm focused on the task at hand.  It's really (REALLY) tempting sometimes to go check email or jump onto Pinterest for a quick looksie when Scrivener brings me online to use a thesaurus.  WordWeb protects me from this temptation.  

Now, is WordWeb as great as my trusty print version?  Nope.  

It's a nice tool, though, and I think you might find it helpful, too.

Plus, the price is right.  It's free.

Check out more at CNET -- where WordWeb has been rated "spectacular" by the CNET editors and has received a five-star rating by over 1200 users.


YELP Online Reviews: Virginia Appeals Court Forces YELP to Identify 7 Anonymous Reviewers Who Wrote Bad Reviews

Those who wrote anonymous negative reviews placed upon the YELP online review site are no longer protected from being identified, rules a Virginia appellate court in Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., v. John Doe #1, et al. (Read the complete opinion below.)

Precedent-Setting Case: Anonymous Reviewers Must Be Identified by Yelp.com

The Virginia Court of Appeals has set precedent in a case where the owner of a carpet cleaning company, Joe Hadeed, sued Yelp and seven John Does (anonymous reviewers) because Mr. Hadeed believes that seven (7) anonymous reviews placed on Yelp.com about his company, Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., have hurt his business.

Hadeed wants Yelp to reveal the identities of the seven anonymous reviewers, in order to enable him to prove that they were not customers of his business and therefore had placed reviews on the online review site that were false, defamatory, and illegal.

Yelp, represented by Public Citizen, argued that the anonymity of the seven reviewers is protected by the First Amendment and that their names should remain secret. Yelp argued that before identities are revealed, the court must determine if the plaintiff’s claim of defamation is viable. This argument failed at trial and the appellate court has now confirmed that these anonymous bad reviews aren’t going to receive constitutional protection.

The Virginia appeals court found that the trial court judge did not abuse his discretion by holding Yelp in civil contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena duces tecum served upon it by Hadeed. Yelp must provide the identities behind the seven bad reviews to Hadeed.

The anonymous reviews, which claimed that Hadeed Carpet Cleaning was guilty of false advertising in its offers of low prices for carpet cleaning, were consumer reviews that would violate Yelp’s Terms of Service if they were written by people who were not actual customers of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning.

What the Hadeed Carpet Cleaning Case Against YELP Means To You 

This Virginia case may change how online reviews for goods and services are treated not only in Virginia but in other states around the country. By requiring Yelp to reveal the names of the seven anonymous reviewers, bad reviews left online are not as safe from the writers having their identities revealed as in times past. (Note: we don’t know if there are really seven different people here. This could boil down to one person who has posted online using seven different IP addresses from different devices.)

1. Anonymous Reviewers Aren’t As Safe From Revelation 

Anonymous reviews left on YELP or other review sites may not be protected if their anonymity is legally challenged. This means anyone writing a negative review online should be aware that if they don’t want to leave their name as a reviewer, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be identified in the future.

Anonymous isn’t as anonymous anymore. Critics argue that this ruling may discourage people from leaving valid criticism of bad service with online review sites. Others argue that trial judges are going to be making the privacy decisions here, and legitimate, honest negative reviews aren’t the target here. It’s fake bad reviews left behind the mask of the name “Anonymous” that judges will allow to be disclosed.

2. Businesses Victimized By Bad Reviews Have Increased Ability to Fight Back 

Bad reviews that are real are one thing. Bad reviews that are fake, and placed on a review site with the intent to hurt and harm a business, are another.  This case may help companies, including law firms, protect themselves in the future from the real harm that can come from fraudulent online negative reviews.

Update:  The Atlantic reports that Yelp will be appealling to the Virginia Supreme Court.  Stay tuned.

 Read the Virginia Opinion here:


Public Domain Images: The Getty Trust Provides over 40,000 Public Domain Images in its Open Content Program

The Getty Trust and the Getty Research Institute have been building the Getty's Open Content Program, where more and more images are being provided to us all as public domain images digitized and published online.

Here are two examples from their release:

Belisaruis by Baron François-Pascal-Simon Gérard 

President Lincoln, United States Headquarters, Army of the Potomac, near Antietam

From one of their announcements:
Imagine being able to pore over a sketchbook by Jacques-Louis David in minute detail, to investigate Mayan, Aztec, and Zapotec ruins in Mexico, or to study the costumes and social mores at Versailles. All of these things are possible with today’s addition to the Open Content Program, which includes 5,400 artwork images from the collections of the Getty Research Institute—bringing the total number of available images to over 10,000.
These high-resolution images span centuries and continents, and include artists’ sketchbooks, drawings and watercolors, rare prints from the 16th through the 18th century, 19th-century architectural drawings of cultural landmarks, and early photographs of the Middle East and Asia. Over the coming months, we’ll supplement these images with other material critical to the study of art history, including artists’ books and letters, stockbooks of famous art dealers, documentary photographs of art and monuments in situ from around the world, important historical treatises, and archives of famous artists, photographers, and collectors.

They do ask that you respect their wishes, detailed here, which include the following:

Attribution to the Getty

Please use the following source credit when reproducing an image:  Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.


Public Domain Images: British Library Shares 1,000,000 Free Public Domain Images From Book Illustrations

Recently, the British Library uploaded 1,000,000 public domain images (that's right: 1,000,000) that their hard-working librarians have taken from books published between 1600 and 1900 A.D.

They've all been uploaded to Flickr.

Go to Github to get the manifest.

The images have been collected as part of the British Library's "Mechanical Curator."

Here are a couple of examples:

Note:  You may have some hurdles in getting the image from Flickr to your blog platform.  Hint:  choose to "share" the image in the right sidebar of the Flickr page.  


Cool Public Domain Images: Free Photographs of Golden Age Movie Stars on Wikimedia Commons (Publicity Stills)

Images are becoming more and more important for websites and blogs, given the growing popularity of Pinterest and Google+, among other social media sites.  Finding quality photographs to accompany your words isn't hard to do on the web; however, tracking down great images in the public domain is not as easy.

You want public domain images because they are free to use.  Images (photos, infographics, clip art, etc.) are protected by copyright laws and they are not free for your use in your blog post or on your web page unless the creator has released their copyright, or the copyright protections do not apply for some reason.

For instance, federal government images are not protected by copyright and you are free to use images found at sites like NASA and the CDC.  

Publicity Stills: Another Source of Public Domain Images

Another great find for public domain images:  publicity stills that are in the public domain.  Like Fred Astaire dancing in promotion of the film "Daddy Long Legs" above, of the image below of Elvis Presley promoting "Jailhouse Rock."

Granted, both of these images are of stars dancing but maybe I'm in a dancing mood this morning - it's the first working day of 2014 and I'm excited about this year!  However, you can find lots of other great photographs to choose from by going to Wikimedia Commons and searching for "film stills"  or "publicity photos."  Lots to choose from - with famous faces and people doing things other than dancing.

These Hollywood Golden Era movie stills are free from copyright protection and in the public domain because they were published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and any copyright was not renewed.  However, publicity stills by definition are generated for publicity and many, like news releases, are disseminated for widespread use with a release of copyright in order to promote an actor or a movie or a TV show.

You need to check before using newer images, however.  For details on more recent imagery, visit CreativeClearance.  Newer film stills may retain their copyright and you'll need to pay for their use in your publication (and a blog is an online publication).

From Wikimedia Commons:
As explained by Additional source information: This is a publicity photo taken to promote a film actor. As stated by film production expert Eve Light Honathaner in The Complete Film Production Handbook, (Focal Press, 2001 p. 211.):  "Publicity photos (star headshots) have traditionally not been copyrighted. Since they are disseminated to the public, they are generally considered public domain, and therefore clearance by the studio that produced them is not necessary."


Google+ : One Very Big Reason Why Bloggers Should Use Google Plus

Google Plus is getting more and more traffic and more and more users … and while lots of my clients tell me that they don’t have time, and don’t see the need, to get involved in social media, it’s important to remember that Google+ is not the same as other forms of social media out there.

Lawyers blogging on the web, as well as other bloggers, may not have time for Twitter or the desire to be personally involved on Facebook (or trust Facebook, for that matter), and these are valid concerns. 

However, in 2014, it’s going to be good for anyone committing time and money to blogging to become involved on Google+. 

Which means, even if you ignore Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook and Pinterest and all the other social sites out there, you might want to consider Google+ as being worth your time investment.

Why Is GooglePlus important for Bloggers? 

Report Finds Google+ Plus Ones Second Only to Page Authority in Getting Ranking in Google Search Results

If you want to be in the top search results in Google’s Search Engine, and most everyone does since Google is the dominant search site (overwhelmingly so over competitors like Bing, Ask, and Yahoo), then Google+ can help you.

Here’s how: when content is mentioned in Google+, those in the know are reporting that Google Search Results will rank those GooglePlus mentions higher in the search results than the original content source site. Content is mentioned in Google+ via “plus ones”— this is where a Google+ post (and remember GooglePlus is a blog post really, see my earlier post on this here) placed upon GooglePlus and published there in a Google+ profile entry is then “liked” via some other GooglePlus member (or you, because you can +1 your own fine self).

Moz.com has studied Google search results, and has found that +1s (plus ones) on GooglePlus are very (VERY) high in getting content to the top in Google Search Results. 

In fact, Moz.com found that Google Plus Ones are the SECOND MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR in how a site is ranked in Google Search. Only page authority has more power. Here’s an excerpt from Moz.com’s chart showing how Google+ impacts Google Search Results:

GooglePlus. moz.com, seo
Screenshot of the Moz.com 2013 Report  

To review the entire 120 leading search marketers' expert opinions on over 80 ranking factors, combined by Moz.com into their 2013 Correlation Study, click on the image above.  

Want to place an invitation to "plus one" your blog content in Google Plus on your blog?  Here are the instructions from Google's Developers for placing a PlusOne button on your site.  

Happy 2014