Social Media in the City

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to "wangle" a place at the Perfect Information event "Social Media in the City". I'd only seen this advertised the day before it was due to take place but given that it was taking place just around the corner from me I was hoping the organisers would let me attend at short notice and indeed they did.

The sad news was that I was only able to stay for the first presentation, but that was fine with me because that was the one I most interested in hearing. This was a presentation from the very impressive Jonathan Armstrong who talked with great skill and humour about some of the risks associated with using Social Media tools.

One of the first thing Jonathan said was that everyday we calculate the risks we take, for example if we're about to give a presentation we normally check where we're walking to ensure we're not going to trip over wires or furniture. When we drive, most people will check their mirrors regularly, especially when undertaking manoeuvres to ensure we're not about to have an accident. But when it comes to Social Media tools we ALL tend to jump in without thinking and not worrying about the consequences of doing so, because we don't believe there will be any consequences when using these tools.

The rest of Jonathan's presentation was then devoted to explaining how Data Protection and other legislation affects how we use Social Media tools. One really interesting example was the case of Robbie Hastie who used to work at the Royal Bank of Scotland. Robbie was an assistant manager at the Bank of Scotland, who was prosecuted under data-protection legislation for disclosing salary details of football players on a BBC online football forum. He pleaded guilty at a court in Edinburgh to the offence of knowingly or recklessly disclosing this information without consent, although having the presence of the Information Commissioner in the forum probably didn't help. This case highlights that although the fine was small (£400) he lost his job as a result.

Some other examples Jonathan gave were around how the power of the internet can quickly and easily ruin a company's reputation. For example Coca Cola who have a page on their website which highlights some of the myths about Coca Cola and provides the answers to these myths. 

It was also interesting to hear about several examples of where Social media is being used as a litigation tool. For example is a litigation case involving a school in the US. The case has its own website, Facebook page and Twitter feed which is uses to contact students and former employees who might want to take part in the litigation.

Overall this was a fascinating and informative presentation, which was helped immensely by Jonathan adding anecdotes and humour into the presentation. If you want to read more about Jonathan's work then a good starting point would be his article "Technical difficulties" which was published in Managing Partner magazine last year.

Social Business Platforms breakfast briefing

A good looking breakfast :-(
Earlier this week I attended a breakfast briefing organised by Headshift and hosted by Arrow ECS in their offices at the Royal Exchange. The briefing was aimed at law firms and was a chance to look at the opportunities provided by SharePoint 2010 when combined with IBM Social connections.

First to speak was Lee Bryant from Headshift who talked in some detail about the journeys Intranets have taken and how some Intranets had become obsolete. One of Lee's first slides outlined what had happened to Intranets and demonstrated some of the problems with Intranets, which include;
  • Only one-way communication
  • A central administration team
  • No ownership
  • Complex, slow and tedious interfaces
  • Difficult navigation
  • Outdated information
  • Content dead-zones
Now shortly after showing attendees this slide Lee seemed to say that traditional Intranets we're dead. Dead is quite a strong word. I think most people especially Intranet managers would prefer the term "evolving" to describe what is currently happening to Intranets rather then dying. Lee went on to describe the role that SharePoint 2010 is playing in many law firms, I think most people would agree that SharePoint appears to become ubiquitous in law firms.

However SharePoint isn't a silver bullet and Lee described some of the issues with using SharePoint, specifically that:
  • SharePoint is very document centric
  • Surfacing content and surfacing behaviour is difficutl
  • The collaboration features are hard to use
  • There is no concept of flow within SharePoint
So the question then is, how do you work around these issues? This is where IBM Social Connections comes in. IBM Social Connections. IBM Social Connections is a social software application that enables users to blog, create wikis, follow other users, create networks and view activity streams. It does look quite good, although very similar to some other products. Sadly although we had a demonstration of IBM Social Connections and the potential of it, we didn't get to see IBM Social Connections used within SharePoint, that would have been interesting to see.

Overall a really interesting session and useful to see hear what other Law Firms think about SharePoint 2010 and its potential. I was also disappointed with the breakfast. I always go in expecting bacon butties and end up with a Pain Au Chocolat...oh well!

Revitalising outsourcing

The latest issue of Information Today Europe comes with a very interesting piece called "Revitalising outsourcing" The article, which is written by Iain Dunbar from the LAC Group an information management consultancy and services specialist, which has recently established a UK office, looks at some of the reasons behind companies outsourcing Library & Information Services. From the article:

"Organisations considering outsourcing are usually approaching it as part of a long-term strategy or as a result of a sudden crisis.

  • Need for cost savings
  • Outside expertise required
  • Massive cultural/organisational change required eg move from traditional to a digital library service
  • Financial or other crisis
  • Seeking more services for less money
  • Improve storage efficiencies
  • Make better use of/monetise archives
  • Address environmental concerns
  • Implement new technology eg SharePoint
  • Physical to digital migration"
The article then goes on to outline some of the benefits associated with outsourcing either elements of Library Services or an entire service. The benefits of outsourcing should by now be fairly obvious to most people; cost savings, having a wider group of individuals to call upon to undertake work and other efficiencies. However there are two benefits outlined in this article that I struggle to get my ahead around, they are:
  • Improved buying power on aspects from subscriptions to IT 
  • Relevant information to fee earners in a more timely and cost efficient manner
Lets take the latter "benefit" first. The issue I have here is understanding how reducing the number of staff in an organisation will speed up the delivery of information to fee-earners? Yes this can happen with less staff but surely only if the company invests in a new way of delivering information, which will initially come at more cost. The first benefit I'm having to assume means that less people in an organisation means that the company who is doing the outsourcing can pay less for subscriptions to online databases/IT systems etc, these costs will have to be absorbed by the company that is undertaking he outsourcing.

Having said that I struggle with these two benefits I can see to some degree how the first one would make an impact. I'm still not sure about the latter benefit though!

21 Useful Cloud Computing Resources for Librarians

I recently spoke at the BIALL seminar "Emerging Technologies" on how I thought Cloud Computing, as well as other tools, was going to become a technology that Law Librarians should pay more attention to, so it's great to see that the iLibrarian has put together a list of "21 Useful Cloud Computing Resources". The list provides a useful introduction to what Cloud Computing is and some Cloud Computing applications.

Perhaps of most interest to Law Librarians will be the resources which deal with Cloud Privacy/Security. With Law Firms tending to be risk averse we need to ensure that we're aware of some of the concerns around using Cloud Computing if we're going to be suggesting Cloud Computing as a means to manage data and potentially host applications.

I believe Law Librarians are in a good position to take advantage of the developments in Cloud Computing, because if you think about the work we undertake we've actually been using Cloud Computing for some time. Or at least since dedicated LexisNexis and Westlaw terminals were replaced by web versions of the databases. Where do you think the dedicated servers supporting LexisNexis and Westlaw exist? That's right (probably) in the cloud!

Deal 5 miler

Last Sunday I took part in the Deal 5 miler, this wasn't a race I'd run before but my understanding was that the race was held on a pan flat course and was a potential PB course. Now I hadn't run a 5 mile race since 2009 when I completed a "challenging" course is 36:56, I run 5 miles when training all the time, but 5 mile races are few and far between. So my expectations were quite low, although I hoped to run a sub 40 minute race.

Unfortunately on the day of the race the weather was a bit inclement, a strong wind behind us on the way out and a headwind on the way back, it was also raining, so all in all great weather to be running in. Despite this fact I posted a time of 37:29 which I was delighted with. I just need to keep up my training and perhaps and this will sound crazy run some more races before the end of the year! If we have snow like last year I might reconsider this decision!