HighQ Forum 2012

The view from the Sky Lounge
Just before Easter I attended the HighQ Forum. HighQ are a company that in their words provide "secure enterprise collaboration and publishing software" In a previous role I used one of their products to publish content and was impressed by the functionality, although I was only using a very small part of the overall functionality. Before I talk about the forum I want to mention the location and the weather on the day as both were amazing and I'd like to know who HighQ paid to get this weather, as evidence by the photos incorporated within this blog post.

The format of the day was for tables to discuss topics that had been provided by HighQ, followed by someone from the table providing a summary of the discussions. After the round-table discussions, there were a number of presentations, sadly I missed these, but I understand they were excellent from the Tweets I read.

The first topic discussed was Legal Project Management this has become a hot topic in the last year as law firms look at ways in which they can manage not only clients and files more effectively but also what projects they can undertake with clients to add value. Legal Project Management is an interesting concept and one that many people will argue doesn't actually exist. But it does appear that a number of firms are looking at where the firm can save money and add value and Legal Project Management may have a role to play in this process.

The next topic up for discussion was Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). The idea behind BYOD is that consumers (fee-earners) are bringing their own devices to the workplace, with the expectation that they will be able to use these devices rather then a company issued Blackberry or Desktop PC. One of the biggest issues with BYOD is the sheer number of devices available and that would potentially have to be supported. What was clear from the discussions was that Apple devices are preferred to Android devices. It also became apparent that have a clear policy in place around the use of devices is essential for BYOD to be successful.

The Shard in all its glory...sort of
Next up was a summary of the challenges in providing current awareness to lawyers and clients. What was clear from this discussion was that law firms should be answering the "So what" question aka "How does this piece of legislation affect our clients" rather then just churning out content for the sake of it. Law Firms also need to look at how they can differentiate themselves, this is especially true in a market which has a huge number of players. The most interesting discussion from my perspective was around the use of internal collaboration tools and how attendees thought these tools would be changing over time. It was interesting to hear what other law firms were doing and especially how they're integrating social tools with more traditional intranets.

The final two discussions were around clients asking for more tailored/personalised services and the impact of the Legal Services Act. In terms of personalisation most firms were looking at services that delivered the greatest value and "what if" factor. Personalisation of course needs to be done in the context of different clients having different perspectives. The last topic discussed was the Legal Services Act this act aims to liberalise and regulate the legal market in the UK, essentially encouraging more competition, which naturally will have an impact on the services provided by Law Firms.  Most law firms present said that it was too early to tell what the impact will be but the potential for outside investment in Law Firms using Alternative Business Structures was something that everyone will be keeping a watching brief on. Overall a great afternoon, in a fantastic location, with amazing views and company...just a shame we had to do some work!

Evaluating e-books in Law Libraries

The iLibrarian has published the slides from a recent presentation on e-books, which I've embedded below. In her talk she outlines some of the benefits and downsides to purchasing and maintaining e-book collections. If you've not thought about e-books before, this is a good introduction to the topic.

I also wrote an article recently about why I don't think Law Libraries should be eagerly buying up Kindles for fee-earners to use within the Library. Why? well the market is in my mind still developing and will continue to develop. Also if you look at the iLibrarian's slides you'll see that there are a lot of benefits, but in my mind the challenges of e-books, particularly around the sales model and libraries relationships with vendors is one that needs to develop in a more positive way.

Anyway to cut a long story short, the slides are great and well worth having a look at.

An introduction to metadata and taxonomies

Are you "into" metadata an taxonomies or alternatively like understand the concepts but are looking for a bit more information? Then you'll definitely be excited (perhaps not excited) by this blog post from the Brain Traffic blog. In the blog post the author looks at some of the concepts behind metadata and taxonomies.

The first thing I want to say about this blog post is that although it's quite short it's packed full of content and it uses diagrams to great effect. The author also says that any conversation about metadata and taxonomies can get "big" very quickly, the important thing as the author says is not to get intimidated..."these terms have been around much longer than the Web, and can be applied in a wide variety of contexts"

So what did I learn from the blog post. Well the first thing was an excellent quote about metadata, which is as follows:

Metadata is "information about the content that provides structure, context and meaning" I also now know that there are three main types of metadata:
  • Structural metadata defines the elements that need to be collected; labels like title, author, date created, subject etc all make up structural metadata.
  • Administrative metadata is often created automatically when an item is added to a CMS or a Document Management System. This metadata is used to manage the content.
  • Descriptive metadata describes aspects specific to each piece of content like title, subject and audience.
Tied together these three types of metadata makes content findable and perhaps more importantly understandable to a human or computer.

What about taxonomies?

In a previous role I used to do a lot of work with taxonomies, so understand how crucial they can be and perhaps more tellingly how passionate individuals can become about terms within a taxonomy. In its simplest sense a taxonomy groups stuff into hierarchical groups. This stuff could be anything, legal subjects, animals, pop groups, you name it you can apply a taxonomy to pretty much anything.

In the digital world (aka websites or intranets) taxonomies are used to provides a structure within which content (which contains metadata) is published.

Common taxonomy types include:
  • Term lists are a standardised list of terms created to ensure consistent tagging of content
  • Hierarchies are a list of terms contained within a structured framework that have parent/child or broad to narrow relationships
  • Thesauri are used to translate conceptual relationships between content into something a computer can understand
How do taxonomies and metadata work together?

As the author says..."at its simplest a taxonomy organises information and metadata describes it. For the taxonomy to be able to organise the information, terms need to be stored as metadata"

That would be an excellent way to end the blog post, but the author then provides a diagram which illustrates this point. You'll have to read the original blog post to see it though :-)


Paddock Wood half Marathon 2012

Yesterday I took part in the Paddock Wood 1/2 Marathon, this was my first 1/2 Marathon of 2012 and my first 1/2 Marathon since the Margate 1/2 in October 2011. I'd be doing a lot of training, including Janathon, so I was hopeful of a decent time, close to my PB to 1:43:15. With that in mind I'd created a pace band for a race time of 1:44. As it turns out I did run a new PB for 13.1 miles but it was a staggering (at least in my mind) time of 1:38:48. For anyone that's interested that's 7:31 minute mile pace and an average speed of 7.99 miles per hour.

So why 5 minutes faster then in 2008, when I set my HM PB. A couple of things (1) The course was very fast and flat, there was only one significant hill at 1.25 miles, which lasted for about 4 minutes.(2) I've been upping my mileage for some time now, which I think this result showed. I still think I could have run a bit quicker. For example the first mile took me 7:50, so next time I'm going to aim for a 1:37 and see what happens!

So what about the race itself, well it was very well organised with about 2000 runners. I was number 2025, but there were only 1915 finishers. There was adequate parking, but you do need to get there early otherwise you end up parking in the local housing estates like me. Also if you park the wrong side of Eldon Way, where the race starts, like me you'll end up waiting for ages to get out of Paddock Wood, as they close a lot of the roads part of the 1/2 Marathon route. Would I run the race again, absolutely, a PB setting course and a very well organised and managed race.