Tech

The Tablet Turning Point

Coding HorrorTue, 11/11/2014 - 01:36

Categories:

Tech

Remember how people in the year 2000 used to say how crazy and ridiculous it was, the idea that Anyone Would Ever Run Photoshop in a Web Browser? I mean come on.

Oops.

One of my big bets with Discourse is that eventually, all computers will be tablets of varying size, with performance basically indistinguishable from a two year old desktop or laptop.

Apps are great and all, but there has to be some place for this year's bumper crop of obscene amount of computing superpower to go. I like to use history as my guide, and I believe it's going exactly the same place it did on desktops and laptops — that no-installing-anything friend of every lazy user on the planet, the inevitable path of least resistance, the mobile web browser.

For the last few years, I've been buying every significant tablet device in the run up to the big holiday sales season, and testing them all, to see how many years are left until mobile devices catch up to desktops on general web and JavaScript performance.

How are we doing? Let's benchmark some Discourse client-side Ember JavaScript code:

iPhone 4 June 2011 2031ms iPhone 5 Sept 2012 600ms iPhone 5s Sept 2013 300ms iPhone 6 Sept 2014 250ms iPad Air 2 Oct 2014 225ms

My Core i4770k desktop machine scores 180ms in the same benchmark on the latest version of Chrome x64. I'd say we're solidly within striking distance this year.

I don't like to spend a lot of time talking about news and gadgets here, since the advice and commentary will be inevitably outdated and irrelevant within a few years. But this year marks a key turning point for mobile and tablet performance, and I've lived with every iteration of these devices for the last couple of years, so I'll make an exception.

Look at this performance rampage the iPad Air 2 goes on:

Just look at it! All the graphs are like this!

It's hard to believe we now live in a world where the Apple "Premium" is no longer about aesthetics, but raw, unbridled, class-leading performance. And you know what? That's something I can totally get behind.

Anyone who tells you the iPad Air 2 is some kind of incremental update must not actually use theirs. As someone who does regularly use his iPad, I can say without hesitation that this is a massively upgraded device. I grew to hate my old iPad Air because of the memory restrictions; I could barely have three tabs open in Mobile Safari without one of them paging out of memory. Thanks x64 and iOS7!

The bonded screen, touchid, the now-adequate-for-x64 2GB of RAM, the amazingly fast triple core CPU, the GPU, and yeah, it's a little thinner. For performance, nothing else even comes close.

It's so fast I sometimes forget I'm not using my Surface Pro 3 with its 4GB RAM and Core i5 CPU. I get hassled when I bring my Surface to meetings, but I patiently explain that it's a very nice third gen hardware design with a fully integrated keyboard cover, IE11 is a great touch browser, and that I'm mostly using the device as a tablet, as a sneak preview of what iPad 8 performance will look like. Based on today's benchmarks with the iPad Air 2 – chronologically, the iPad "6" – I believe that's about right.

I also purchased a Nexus 9. It's the first device to ship with Android 5 and the vaunted Nvidia Tegra K1.

I'm very impressed with Android 5.0; aesthetically I think it's superior to iOS 8 in a lot of ways, and it is a clear step forward over Android 4. Anyone on older Android devices should definitely upgrade to Android 5 at their first opportunity.

Performance-wise, it is what I've come to expect from Android: erratic. In our Discourse benchmarks, and the latest version of Chrome Android beta, it scores about 750ms, putting it somewhere between the 2011 iPhone 4s and the 2012 iPhone 5. That said, this is the fastest Android device I have ever laid hands on. I just wish it was consistently faster. A lot faster.

To that end, I'd like to ask for your help. We've identified some deep bugs in the Android Chrome V8 engine that cause fairly severe performance issues with JavaScript frameworks like Angular and Ember. (Desktop Chrome performance remains class leading; this is highly specific to the Android version of Chrome.) If you know anyone at Google, please ping them about this and see if it can be escalated. I'd love it if more Android users – including me – could have a better browser experience when using large JavaScript apps.

I hope over the next year the remaining Android 5 performance bumps can be ironed out. I still like the Nexus 9; if you're a big fan of Google services like GMail, Docs, and Maps like I am, I definitely recommend it. The one I have will be a gift to my mom.

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What If We Could Weaponize Empathy?

Coding HorrorThu, 10/23/2014 - 18:43

Categories:

Tech

One of my favorite insights on the subject of online community is from Tom Chick:

Here is something I've never articulated because I thought, perhaps naively, it was understood:

The priority for participating on this forum is not the quality of the content. I ultimately don't care how smart or funny or observant you are. Those are plusses, but they're never prerequisites. The priority is on how you treat each other. I expect spats, arguments, occasional insults, and even inevitable grudges. We've all done that. But in the end, I expect you to act like a group of friends who care about each other, no matter how dumb some of us might be, no matter what political opinions some of us hold, no matter what games some of us like or dislike. This community is small enough, intimate enough, that I feel it's a reasonable expectation.

Indeed, disagreement and arguments are inevitable and even healthy parts of any community. The difference between a sane community and a terrifying warzone is the degree to which disagreement is pursued in the community, gated by the level of respect community members have for each other.

In other words, if a fight is important to you, fight nasty. If that means lying, lie. If that means insults, insult. If that means silencing people, silence.

I may be a fan of the smackdown learning model and kayfabe, but I am definitely not a fan of fighting nasty.

I expect you to act like a group of friends who care about each other, no matter how dumb some of us might be, no matter what political opinions some of us hold, no matter what games some of us like or dislike.

There's a word for this: empathy.

One of the first things I learned when I began researching discussion platforms two years ago is the importance of empathy as the fundamental basis of all stable long term communities. The goal of discussion software shouldn't be to teach you how to click the reply button, and how to make bold text, but how to engage in civilized online discussion with other human beings without that discussion inevitably breaking down into the collective howling of wolves.

That's what the discussion software should be teaching you: Empathy.

You. Me. Us. We can all occasionally use a gentle reminder that there is a real human being on the other side of our screen, a person remarkably like us.

I've been immersed in the world of social discussion for two years now, and I keep going back to the well of empathy, time and time again. The first thing we did was start with a solid set of community guidelines on civilized discussion, and I'm proud to say that we ship and prominently feature those guidelines with every copy of Discourse. They are bedrock. But these guidelines only work to the extent that they are understood, and the community helps enforce them.

In Your Community Door, I described the danger of allowing cruel and hateful behavior in your community – behavior so obviously corrosive that it should never be tolerated in any quantity. If your community isn't capable of regularly exorcising the most toxic content, and the people responsible for that kind of content, it's in trouble. Those rare bad apples are group poison.

Hate is easy to recognize. Cruelty is easy to recognize. You do not tolerate these in your community, full stop.

But what about behavior that isn't so obviously corrosive? What about behavior patterns that seem sort of vaguely negative, but … nobody can show you exactly how this behavior is directly hurting anyone? What am I talking about? Take a look at the Flamewarriors Online Discussion Archetypes, a bunch of discussion behaviors that never quite run afoul of the rules, per se, but result in discussions that degenerate, go in circles, or make people not want to be around them.

What we're getting into is shades of grey, the really difficult part of community moderation. I've been working on Discourse long enough to identify some subtle dark patterns of community discussion that – while nowhere near as dangerous as hate and cruelty – are still harmful enough to the overall empathy level of a community that they should be actively recognized when they emerge, and interventions staged.

1. Endless Contrarianism

Disagreement is fine, even expected, provided people can disagree in an agreeable way. But when someone joins your community for the sole purpose of disagreeing, that's Endless Contrarianism.

Example: As an athiest, Edward shows up on a religion discussion area to educate everyone there about the futility of religion. Is that really the purpose of the community? Does anyone in the community expect to defend the very concept of religion while participating there?

If all a community member can seem to contribute is endlessly pointing out how wrong everyone else is, and how everything about this community is headed in the wrong direction – that's not building constructive discussion – or the community. Edward is just arguing for the sake of argument. Take it to debate school.

2. Axe-Grinding

Part of what makes discussion fun is that it's flexible; a variety of topics will be discussed, and those discussions may naturally meander a bit within the context defined by the site and whatever categories of discussion are allowed there. Axe-Grinding is when a user keeps constantly gravitating back to the same pet issue or theme for weeks or months on end.

Example: Sara finds any opportunity to trigger up a GMO debate, no matter what the actual topic is. Viewing Sara's post history, GMO and Monsanto are constant, repeated themes in any context. Sara's negative review of a movie will mention eating GMO popcorn, because it's not really about the movie – it's always about her pet issue.

This kind of inflexible, overbearing single-issue focus tends to drag discussion into strange, unwanted directions, and rapidly becomes tiresome to other participants who have probably heard everything this person has to say on that topic multiple times already. Either Sara needs to let that topic go, or she needs to find a dedicated place (e.g. GMO discussion areas) where others want to discuss it as much as she does, and take it there.

3. Griefing

In discussion, griefing is when someone goes out of their way to bait a particular person for weeks or months on end. By that I mean they pointedly follow them around, choosing to engage on whatever topic that person appears in, and needle the other person in any way they can, but always strictly by the book and not in violation of any rules… technically.

Example: Whenever Joe sees George in a discussion topic, Joe now pops in to represent the opposing position, or point out flaws in George's reasoning. Joe also takes any opportunity to remind people of previous mistakes George made, or times when George was rude.

When the discussion becomes more about the person than the topic, you're in deep trouble. It's not supposed to be about the participants, but the topic at hand. When griefing occurs, the discussion becomes a stage for personal conflict rather than a way to honestly explore topics and have an entertaining discussion. Ideally the root of the conflict between Joe and George can be addressed and resolved, or Joe can be encouraged to move on and leave the conflict behind. Otherwise, one of these users needs to find another place to go.

4. Persistent Negativity

Nobody expects discussions to be all sweetness and light, but neverending vitriol and negativity are giant wet blankets. It's hard to enjoy anything when someone's constantly reminding you how terrible the world is. Persistent negativity is when someone's negative contributions to the discussion far outweigh their positive contributions.

Example: Even long after the game shipped, Fred mentions that the game took far too long to ship, and that it shipped with bugs. He paid a lot of money for this game, and feels he didn't get the enjoyment from the game that was promised for the price. He warns people away from buying expansions because this game has a bad track record and will probably fail. Nobody will be playing it online soon because of all the problems, so why bother even trying? Wherever topics happen to go, Fred is there to tell everyone this game is worse than they knew.

If Fred doesn't have anything positive to contribute, what exactly is the purpose of his participation in that community? What does he hope to achieve? Criticism is welcome, but that shouldn't be the sum total of everything Fred contributes, and he should be reasonably constructive in his criticism. People join communities to build things and celebrate the enjoyment of those things, not have other people dump all over it and constantly describe how much they suck and disappoint them. If there isn't any silver lining in Fred's cloud, and he can't be encouraged to find one, he should be asked to find other places to haunt.

5. Ranting

Discussions are social, and thus emotional. You should feel something. But prolonged, extreme appeal to emotion is fatiguing and incites arguments. Nobody wants to join a dry, technical session at the Harvard Debate Club, because that'd be boring, but there is a big difference between a persuasive post and a straight-up rant.

Example: Holly posts at the extremes – either something is the worst thing that ever happened, or the best thing that ever happened. She will post 6 to 10 times in a topic and state her position as forcefully as possible, for as long and as loud as it takes, to as many individual people in the discussion as it takes, to get her point across. The stronger the language in the post, the better she likes it.

If Holly can't make her point in a reasonable way in one post and a followup, perhaps she should rethink her approach. Yelling at people, turning the volume to 11, and describing the situation in the most emotional, extreme terms possible to elicit a response – unless this really is the worst or best thing to happen in years – is a bit like yelling fire in a crowded theater. It's irresponsible. Either tone it down, or take it somewhere that everyone talks that way.

6. Grudges

In any discussion, there is a general expectation that everyone there is participating in good faith – that they have an open mind, no particular agenda, and no bias against the participants or the topic. While short term disagreement is fine, it's important that the people in your community have the ability to reset and approach each new topic with a clean(ish) slate. When you don't do that, when people carry ill will from previous discussions toward the participants or topic into new discussions, that's a grudge.

Example: Tad strongly disagrees with a decision the community made about not creating a new category to house some discussion he finds problematic. So he now views the other leaders in the community, and the moderators, with great distrust. Tad feels like the community has turned on him, and so he has soured on the community. But he has too much invested here to leave, so Tad now likes to point out all the consequences of this "bad" decision often, and cite it as an example of how the community is going wrong. He also follows another moderator, Steve, around because he views him as the ringleader of the original decision, and continually writes long, critical replies to his posts.

Grudges can easily lead to every other dark community pattern on this list. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to recognize grudges when they emerge so the community can intervene and point out what's happening, and all the negative consequences of a grudge. It's important in the broadest general life sense not to hold grudges; as the famous quote goes (as near as I can tell, attributed to Alcoholics Anonymous)

Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

So your community should be educating itself about the danger of grudges, the root of so many other community problems. But it is critically important that moderators never, and I mean never ever, hold grudges. That'd be disastrous.

What can you do?

I made a joke in the title of this post about weaponizing empathy. I'm not sure that's even possible. But you can start by having clear community guidelines, teaching your community to close the door on overt hate, and watching out for any overall empathy erosion caused by the six dark community behavior patterns I outlined above.

At the risk of sounding aspirational, here's one thing I know to be true, and I advise every community to take to heart: I expect you to act like a group of friends who care about each other, no matter how dumb some of us might be, no matter what political opinions some of us hold, no matter what things some of us like or dislike.

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Your Community Door

Coding HorrorMon, 10/20/2014 - 19:32

Categories:

Tech

What are the real world consequences to signing up for a Twitter or Facebook account through Tor and spewing hate toward other human beings?

Facebook reviewed the comment I reported and found it doesn't violate their Community Standards. pic.twitter.com/p9syG7oPM1

— Rob Beschizza (@Beschizza) October 15, 2014

As far as I can tell, nothing. There are barely any online consequences, even if the content is reported.

But there should be.

The problem is that Twitter and Facebook aim to be discussion platforms for "everyone", where every person, no matter how hateful and crazy they may be, gets a turn on the microphone. They get to be heard.

The hover text for this one is so good it deserves escalation:

I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.

If the discussion platform you're using aims to be a public platform for the whole world, there are some pretty terrible things people can do and say to other people there with no real consequences, under the noble banner of free speech.

It can be challenging.

How do we show people like this the door? You can block, you can hide, you can mute. But what you can't do is show them the door, because it's not your house. It's Facebook's house. It's their door, and the rules say the whole world has to be accommodated within the Facebook community. So mute and block and so forth are the only options available. But they are anemic, barely workable options.

As we build Discourse, I've discovered that I am deeply opposed to mute and block functions. I think that's because the whole concept of Discourse is that it is your house. And mute and ignore, while arguably unavoidable for large worldwide communities, are actively dangerous for smaller communities. Here's why.

  • It allows you to ignore bad behavior. If someone is hateful or harassing, why complain? Just mute. No more problem. Except everyone else still gets to see a person being hateful or harassing to another human being in public. Which means you are now sending a message to all other readers that this is behavior that is OK and accepted in your house.

  • It puts the burden on the user. A kind of victim blaming — if someone is rude to you, then "why didn't you just mute / block them?" The solution is right there in front of you, why didn't you learn to use the software right? Why don't you take some responsibility and take action to stop the person abusing you? Every single time it happens, over and over again?

  • It does not address the problematic behavior. A mute is invisible to everyone. So the person who is getting muted by 10 other users is getting zero feedback that their behavior is causing problems. It's also giving zero feedback to moderators that this person should probably get an intervention at the very least, if not outright suspended. It's so bad that people are building their own crowdsourced block lists for Twitter.

  • It causes discussions to break down. Fine, you mute someone, so you "never" see that person's posts. But then another user you like quotes the muted user in their post, or references their @name, or replies to their post. Do you then suppress just the quoted section? Suppress the @name? Suppress all replies to their posts, too? This leaves big holes in the conversation and presents many hairy technical challenges. Given enough personal mutes and blocks and ignores, all conversation becomes a weird patchwork of partially visible statements.

  • This is your house and your rules. This isn't Twitter or Facebook or some other giant public website with an expectation that "everyone" will be welcome. This is your house, with your rules, and your community. If someone can't behave themselves to the point that they are consistently rude and obnoxious and unkind to others, you don't ask the other people in the house to please ignore it – you ask them to leave your house. Engendering some weird expectation of "everyone is allowed here" sends the wrong message. Otherwise your house no longer belongs to you, and that's a very bad place to be.

I worry that people are learning the wrong lessons from the way Twitter and Facebook poorly handle these situations. Their hands are tied because they aspire to be these global communities where free speech trumps basic human decency and empathy.

The greatest power of online discussion communities, in my experience, is that they don't aspire to be global. You set up a clubhouse with reasonable rules your community agrees upon, and anyone who can't abide by those rules needs to be gently shown the door.

Don't pull this wishy washy non-committal stuff that Twitter and Facebook do. Community rules are only meaningful if they are actively enforced. You need to be willing to say this to people, at times:

No, your behavior is not acceptable in our community; "free speech" doesn't mean we are obliged to host your content, or listen to you being a jerk to people. This is our house, and our rules.

If they don't like it, fortunately there's a whole Internet of other communities out there. They can go try a different house. Or build their own.

The goal isn't to slam the door in people's faces – visitors should always be greeted in good faith, with a hearty smile – but simply to acknowledge that in those rare but inevitable cases where good faith breaks down, a well-oiled front door will save your community.

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Level One: The Intro Stage

Coding HorrorThu, 10/09/2014 - 22:21

Categories:

Tech

Way back in 2007, before Stack Overflow was a glint in anyone's eye, I called software development a collaborative game. And perhaps Stack Overflow was the natural outcome of that initial thought – recasting online software development discussion into a collaborative game where the only way to "win" is to learn from each other.

That was before the word gamification existed. But gamification is no longer the cool, hip concept it was back in 2011. Still, whether you call yourself a "gamer" or not, whether you believe in "gamification" or not, five years later you're still playing the world's largest multiplayer game.

In fact, you're playing it right now.

One of the most timeless aspects of games is how egalitarian they are, how easy it is for anyone to get started. Men, women, children — people love games because everyone can play along. You don't have to take classes or go to college or be certified: you just play. And this is, not so incidentally, how many of the programmers I know came to be programmers.

Do you know anyone that bought the video game Halo, or Myst, then proceeded to open the box and read the manual before playing the game? Whoa there guys, we can't play the game yet, we gotta read these instructions first! No, they stopped making manuals for games a long time ago, unless you count the thin sheet of paper that describes how to download / install the game on your device. Because they found out nobody reads the manual.

The project I’m working on is critical, but it has only about 3 to 4 users, most of whom are already familiar the application. One of the users even drives the design. The manual I’m writing, which is nearly 200 pages, is mostly a safety measure for business continuity planning. I don’t expect anyone will ever read it.

It’s a project I managed to procrastinate for months, working on other projects, even outside the scope of my regular assignments. The main deterrent, I believe, was my perception that no one needed the manual. The users seemed to be getting along fine without it.

And so as the year ticked to a close, instead of learning more about Mediawiki and screencasting and After Effects, I spent my time updating a 200-page manual that I don’t think anyone will ever read. It will be printed out, three-hole punched, and placed in a binder to collect dust on a shelf.

I guess that's not surprising for games. Games are supposed to be fun, and reading manuals isn't fun; it's pretty much the opposite of fun. But it is also true for software in general. Reading manuals isn't work, at least, it isn't whatever specific thing you set out to do when you fired up that bit of software on your phone, tablet, or laptop.

Games have another clever trick up their sleeve, though. Have you ever noticed that in most of today's games, the first level is kind of easy. Like… suspiciously easy?

That's because level one, the intro stage, isn't really part of the game. It's the manual.

As MegaMan X illustrates, manuals are pointless when we can learn about the game in the best and most natural way imaginable: by playing the actual game. You learn by doing, provided you have a well designed sandbox that lets you safely experiment as you're starting out in the game.

(The above video does contain some slightly NSFW language, but it is utterly brilliant, applies to every app, software and website anyone has ever built, and I strongly recommend watching it all.)

This same philosophy applies to today's software and websites. Don't bother with all the manuals, video introductions, tutorials, and pop-up help dialogs. Nobody's going to read that stuff, at least, not the people who need it.

Instead, follow the lesson of MegaMan: if you want to teach people about your software, consider how you can build a great intro stage and let them start playing with it immediately.

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3 Reasons to Avoid Online Forms for Wills and Estate Planning

ABA's tech feedTue, 10/07/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

The Internet is a wonderful tool for so many areas of life. However, drafting legal documents is not necessarily one of them. While it may sound enticing to use that website form to draft your will, here are three reasons to reconsider that decision.

They are state specific.

The online forms you come across may or may not work. These forms tend to not be state specific which means your will may or may not be valid. If you are going to take the time to draft a will or any other estate planning document (which you should), you definitely want to ensure that it is valid. Visiting an attorney in your state will ensure that it is valid and properly executed so that your interests are protected.

You are missing out on valuable legal advice.

While websites may appeal to you because it looks quick and easy to get your document drafted, you are missing out on valuable legal advice when you turn to a website for your document. Meeting with an attorney, you will become knowledgeable on how to formulate your plan and how extensive it should be; you will be advised on whether a will or a trust is better for you; and you will be able to get answers to any questions you have. An attorney does more than draft the document as you say, they provide you will legal advice on why you should have your document drafted one way or another.

Websites don’t inform you of changes in the law in the future.

A website is not going to call you when a law changes in your state that affects your will. An attorney should. The laws are constantly changing and competent estate planning attorneys stay up to date on those laws. You can request that your attorney contact you on a regular basis (typically annually) to ensure your will is still valid and appropriate. It could be that the tax laws have changed and you would now be better off with a different estate plan. Either way, you will constantly be updated on the laws and you have an attorney watching out for you and ensuring that your plan will be executed as you want it.

To sum up, you get what you pay for. Using an online form is probably cheaper and maybe less time consuming than working with an attorney to draft your will or other document but is it really worth it? These are important issues and you want to make sure that everything is in place and conforms with the law so you may want to think twice before you use that online form for your will, advanced medical directive, power of attorney, etc.

Featured image from shutterstock.

The post 3 Reasons to Avoid Online Forms for Wills and Estate Planning appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Kennedy-Mighell Dissect iOS 8, Apple Pay and Apple Watch

ABA's tech feedMon, 10/06/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

A quick and dirty summary of Apple iOS 8 is here, and in this episode of the Kennedy-Mighell Report, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell dissect the usefulness of iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the other, often overlooked Android-based phones that have been on the market. There is an argument to be made that Apple steals its features from Android.

Other vendors have also announced new editions of their phones, as well as some interesting new gadgets. With new options like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch, iOS 8, and Apple Pay, Apple-using lawyers need to think about which products they need (or want) and how to make the best use of them. 

The discussion on Apple Pay, and the use of mobile payments in law firms, about 20 minutes in, is worth a listen.

The post Kennedy-Mighell Dissect iOS 8, Apple Pay and Apple Watch appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Joseph Morin Explains Bestlaw

ABA's tech feedFri, 10/03/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

I’m getting acclimated to getting pitched. Most of the time, the pitches are press releases that follow the conventional template.

Joseph Morin didn’t send the conventional template. Instead, he sent a short email about Bestlaw,  stating he’s a 3L at the UC Berkeley School of Law, and editor-in-chief of the Berkeley Technology Law Journal. He built Bestlaw, a Chrome extension, to add features to Westlaw. Sounds useful, and I was curious to know the last straw that made him build an extension. Per Morin:

As a law student, I spend a lot of time doing legal research and writing citations. Legal citations have to conform to the Bluebook, which is a massively complicated 500-page style guide. I wanted to automatically generate Bluebook citations for the cases I was reading, but Westlaw didn’t have this feature.

So, I started building the extension over the summer in my free time. I added a tool to generate Bluebook citations with one click. There were other things I wanted in Westlaw–like a link to jump to the footnotes, tables of contents for cases, and the option to fold and expand statutory sections–so I built those, too. I shared it with a few friends over the summer for feedback.

I launched the app publicly last Wednesday. As of today, it has 1,500 users and it enhances over 20,000 pages per day on Westlaw. Lots of my law school classmates are using it. We’re using it to speed up the editing process on the Berkeley Technology Law Journal. The law schools with the most active users are Stanford, Harvard, Georgetown, and NYU.

This is not his first foray into a technology solution, either. His previous law-related technology project was a site called perma.cc. Morin describes it as preserving

links in court opinions and legal scholarship. I wrote the code last summer and donated it to the Harvard library, where I was a fellow during the past year. It’s currently in use at the Fifth Circuit, the Michigan Supreme Court, and several other courts and law reviews.

Morin can add his name to a growing list of lawyer-programmer hybrids. Whether partnering with developers, as the case was with David Colarusso and Due Processr to automate sentencing calculations, and Terence McEnally who built Bernize Sez to easily connect ticketed drivers with lawyers, or using their own coding chops, the lawyer-programmer hybrid is making legal stuff better, and more accessible, for all.

 Featured image courtesy of Bestlaw.

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Changes for ESI Preservation and Spoliation

ABA's tech feedThu, 10/02/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

Some background: in 2006, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure rule-makers developed and put into practice amendments dealing with electronically stored information (ESI) and e-discovery. Great, except that most of those involved believed the amendments didn’t adequately deal with lost or missing ESI or “the spoliation issue.” So, in 2014, the rule-makers proposed Rule 37(e), which deals with the issue of spoliation equally across all federal courts, resolving the issue of inherent authority, or judges making decisions individually for each case.

That begs the questions: What are these changes and how will they affect the way businesses deal with e-discovery and data preservation?

To answer that, The Digital Detectives, Sharon Nelson and John Simek, interview ESI preservation expert James Kurz. They discussion how Rule 37(e) works and what the consequences are for the future of ESI preservation. Kurz explains that the rule, which only deals with ESI, proposes a three part test before considering spoliation issues:

  1. The ESI should have been preserved in the anticipation or conduct of litigation and is lost,
  2. The ESI was lost because the party failed to take reasonable steps to preserve the information, and
  3. The missing information cannot be restored or replaced with additional discovery.

If this test is passed, the federal court may then impose remedies, or if intention is proved, order more serious sanctions. He explains that Rule 37(e) will make a more homogenous legal process for e-discovery, and will solve some of the controversy surrounding the costs of ESI preservation and e-discovery for businesses. Although the rule faces the Judicial Court, Supreme Court, and then

The post Changes for ESI Preservation and Spoliation appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Encrypting Email with Office 365 Exchange Server

ABA's tech feedWed, 10/01/2014 - 22:47

Categories:

Tech
First, a Word About Exchange

An Exchange Server hosts mailboxes that contain e-mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, and more. It’s an enterprise-grade system that now, thanks to Office 365, is available to small and solo firms at a reasonable price. You can use your own domain names with Exchange server and have anywhere from one to thousands of mailboxes on the system. You can access your Exchange data from Microsoft Outlook on the PC or Mac or from virtually any kind of modern mobile device: smartphones or tablets predominantly. Outlook Web Access is the web-based client that Exchange server offers so that you can access your data from any device that has a web browser and an Internet connection.

You can have multiple email addresses and multiple domain names on the same Exchange mailbox and you easily can share your Exchange data, such as your Inbox or your Calendar, with anybody else in your organization.

All of your Exchange data is encrypted between your client (Outlook or mobile) and the Office 365 Exchange server. It’s also encrypted while it’s sitting on the Exchange server. By extension, any mail you send people in your firm—since it’s always on that Exchange server or transiting to or from Outlook—is encrypted. However, you may want to send an encrypted email to an outside party as well. There are several ways to do it, but here are two options for encrypting email.

Exchange Hosted Encryption (Soon to Be Office 365 Message Encryption)

Microsoft offers a server-side, policy-based encryption solution that lets you encrypt any message sent to any party. You create transport rules on the server side that automatically encrypt messages if they meet certain criteria (such as being sent to or from particular people or containing certain key words in the subject line). The person on the other end receives a regular email message indicating that you’ve sent them an encrypted message. The email has an attachment to click so the recipient can read that message. After clicking the attachment, the browser opens, and the recipient is asked to log in with a free Microsoft account. If the recipient doesn’t have one, he or she will be prompted to create one the first time—after that it should be automatic. Once the recipient successfully authenticates, he or she will be able to read the encrypted message. If the recipient replies to the message, the reply is also encrypted.

Since Exchange Hosted Encryption is server-based, it works regardless of what client you send the email message from. You can send from Outlook, OWA, iPad, Android phone…it doesn’t matter. As long as the message meets the policy criteria you specified in the transport rule, the message will be encrypted. It also means that as long as your message meets the rule, the encryption is automatic—you can’t forget to click the Encrypt button. If you have an E-3 or E-4 plan, you get this encryption service for free. With the other Enterprise plans, including Exchange-only and Kiosk plans, you’ll need to buy the Azure Rights Management service for $2/mailbox/month.

S/MIME

S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) is a method to send secure email messages. It has been around since 1995 and made its Outlook debut in Outlook 97. It’s still available, in its updated version, in Outlook 2013. S/MIME uses public-key encryption to securely sign and encrypt your e-mail messages. Once you have a certificate, you go to (in Outlook) File > Options > Trust Center > Trust Center Settings > E-mail Security to get the dialog box:

Click Import/Export to import your digital certificate. Once you’ve completed that process, you can encrypt an email message by starting an e-mail to somebody, then clicking File > Properties in that e-mail message to get to the Properties dialog box:

Click the Security Settings button to get the Security Properties dialog box and check the box for Encrypt message contents and attachments. Then OK/Close your way back out, and your message should be set for encryption. One catch…you have to already have the other person’s public key attached to their contract record in your Contacts. Once you’ve got that person’s public key—either as an attachment or a download, typically, go to his or her contact record in Outlook’s people record, and click Certificates on the Ribbon. Click the Import button on the right and import their public key file to their contact record. Now you’re ready to send them S/MIME encrypted e-mail.

Additional Encryption Geekery

Public-key encryption uses a combination of two separate keys to encrypt the message:

  1. A public key, which you can publish freely,
  2. A private key, which you keep very secret.

When you want to send an encrypted email to somebody, you encrypt it using a combination of your private key and the other person’s public key. When they receive the message, they decrypt it using a combination of their private key and your public key. Only the right pair of keys will decrypt the message. There are tools that will let you generate your own key pairs or, for added security, you can obtain a key pair from one of the well-established Certificate Authorities like Verisign or Thawte.

 

Go Further with Office 365
This post was adapted from the Law Practice Division’s publication Microsoft Office 365 for Lawyers. Written by twenty-year legal technology veteran, Ben M. Schorr, this essential guide provides answers to the common questions asked by lawyers when migrating their offices to Office 365.

Learn More

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The Little Known iPad Keyboard You’ll Love

ABA's tech feedWed, 10/01/2014 - 12:30

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Tech

Have you ever spent money trying to turn your iPad into a productivity tool only to find that money was wasted? I have too. My search led me to the Brydge+ by Brydge Keyboards. I’ve been happily using it since 2012. With the keyboard, I am nearly always as productive using my iPad as my laptop (and it’s much easier to travel with).

Who can use it?

The Brydge+ is for iPad 2, 3 & 4.

If you are the proud owner of an iPad Air, they have the BrydgeAir scheduled to ship October 2014.

What makes it so wonderful?

The hinge. Really, this is huge. It attaches so that you can adjust the angle between the keyboard and the iPad from 0 to almost 180 degrees. This allows you to get the angle just right whether you are typing on your lap or watching a movie while propped up in bed. Also, the balance between the weight of the iPad and the weight of the keyboard is perfect.

The keyboard. Well duh! First off, the keys are real keys and have enough travel to make it easy to type. Second, the layout does not seem too crowded. And third, the top row features a number of keys dedicated to iPad functions (brightness, search, etc.).

The fit and finish. It looks and feels like a quality product. On more than one occasion, I have it mistaken for a MacBook Air.

The weight. The iPad and the keyboard weight about 3 pounds combined. I used to travel with a full sized laptop in a full sized backpack. When I switched to traveling with the iPad my total savings in weight was 10 pounds! If you are interested, the backpack I put my iPad in is the Eagle Creek Travel Bug.

The battery. Maybe my use is not typical but I can go weeks without charging the keyboard.

One note: I do not recommend charging the battery every night. I did this for months and ended up wearing out the USB port for the battery. Thankfully, they replaced the keyboard for me at no charge. Now I only charge it occasionally and have not had even a hint of trouble with the port.

What’s not to totally love?

The black one. An attorney I met in Miami was impressed with the keyboard and ended up buying one but he bought the Brydge+ Polycarbonate. He said that he didn’t like it nearly as much as my silver one (Brydge+).

The layout. Every keyboard other than a full sized keyboard makes compromises and this one is no exception. The right shift key is small and that took some getting used to.

The speakers. If I had to do over again, I wouldn’t spend the extra money for the model with the speakers. They aren’t that great. Instead, I really like a simple device developed by a Rabbi: SoundBender. Supposedly, the speakers on the BrydgeAir are greatly improved.

What else would I recommend?

Office365. Sure, the iPad versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are not as good as their desktop counterparts but they definitely “good enough.” And now that Microsoft is offering 1 terabyte of storage bundled with the service, this is a great value.

If you are looking to add a keyboard to your iPad, Brydge+ is the one to get.

Question: What is your favorite iPad productivity app or accessory? Leave your thoughts in the Comments.

Featured image courtesy of Brydge Keyboards.

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The Secret to Secure Data in the Cloud? Know What You’re Up Against

ABA's tech feedTue, 09/30/2014 - 12:30

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Tech

The issues of data security and sovereignty have become hot topics in recent years as increasing amounts of sensitive, confidential and personal information is stored in the cloud. With these concerns have come revisions to laws in many countries and jurisdictions to keep up with the changing landscape of data privacy.

The trickiest thing to legislate is managing the exchange of information across borders, simultaneously allowing the transfer of data while maintaining the maximum level of security. This requires multi-national agreements in an attempt to get different countries with different laws to comply to a unilateral level of data protection.

However, this can mean that data is not always as well protected as we think. For instance, the Safe Harbour agreement sidesteps legal obstacles to transmitting personal information between the European Union and the United States by setting out “the adequate level of protection for the transfer of data from the [EU] to the United States [that] should be attained if organisations comply with the Safe Harbour privacy principles for the protection of personal data transferred from a [EU] Member State to the United States.” This is separate from the privacy policies of the EU and the US, requiring only adherence to the Safe Harbour privacy principles of notice, choice, onward transfer, security, data integrity, access and enforcement.

Throw in the Patriot Act, Edward Snowden and PRISM and it’s safe to say if someone really wanted to access your information (legally or otherwise) they could, no matter where you store it. The point is that global legislation doesn’t provide any guaranteed cross-border data protection.

The best thing you can do is to mitigate risk by understanding it. For example, know that governments and litigants may find it easier to access your data in foreign territory. Also know that foreign privacy laws may be considerably different to the ones in your own country. What’s more, contracts with foreign data centres may be unfavourable or silent on key terms.

So when it comes to privacy and data security you need to do your research. Ask your data hosting company the important questions, such as:

  • Are they audited?
  • Are they ISO27001-accredited, which will ensure the highest level of security for your data?
  • Who has access to your data?
  • Is support staff access to your data audited?
  • Can you access these logs easily along with the audits of your own users access to the system?

Carry out further due diligence by understanding the host country’s data legislation. You can find this out by investigating data protection laws in the country that your data may be hosted in, checking first that the country has data protection laws at all, and delving deeper to check who these laws apply to and what access the government has or allows to other countries’ governments.

Once you know what you’re up against, deploy and enforce a robust cloud data location and jurisdiction policy to protect your interests. Make sure you choose a cloud provider that offers hosting in your country of choice, but also make sure you investigate the country in which the provider is based as this can affect the security of your data.

For instance, my company HighQ is a registered UK company with data centres in Europe, US, Channel Islands, and the UAE and Australia. Our customers can choose which jurisdiction their data is held, and being a UK registered company, we can ensure (based on existing legislation) that non-US customer data is protected from US laws.

Feature image from Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

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Reconnecting with Your Passion for the Law

ABA's tech feedMon, 09/29/2014 - 12:30

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Tech

Tom, a corporate lawyer, was ready to jump ship. He hated his life. In particular, he couldn’t stand his job. He felt his work was meaningless, serving no greater good.

Elizabeth was exhausted by years of big law time demands. She loved the idea of practicing law—working to help clients move through difficult life situations—but her passion was being crushed under the weight of pressures placed on her by a few toxic coworkers and opposing counsel.

Chris had an audible tremor in his voice when he talked about his future. He felt he was trapped in a profession that sapped his creativity and energy. “I’m just not sure how I can do this for 20 more years,” he said.

These lawyers expressed common fears and concerns—ones I have heard over and over again from individuals in the legal profession who have reached the end of their rope and are seeking help. Perhaps you recognize a degree of your own situation in their stories. And while each of these lawyers shared a sense of dissatisfaction and frustration, they each found a different path to fulfillment and reconnection with their professional passion.

At some point, most lawyers express a sense of meaninglessness in their work. While this is not unique to lawyers, their philosophical and analytical tendencies often seem to make these feelings more acute. And the negative public perception of law can compound these feelings, depriving lawyers of the social adulation and approval that may help buoy those in other highly demanding professions.

A sense of meaninglessness and lack of passion are common symptoms of professional burn out. Feelings of hopelessness and impotence at work can intrude into other aspects of life, creating a general sense of malaise. That’s why reconnecting with your professional passion is key to building a balanced, productive, enjoyable life. If you spend less time questioning whether your work really matters, you’ll have more time to focus on what you enjoy about your job and your life.

In working with many lawyers, I’ve identified two primary goals that attorneys often want to attain: a sense of meaning and passion in their professional life and a greater sense of life satisfaction overall. To achieve these, the first step is often to address immediate work pressures that suck the joy and energy out of professional activities.

For example, Tom was driven by a desire to serve others, but his contract work did not provide the individual contact and satisfaction he sought. “No one’s really better off because of what I do,” he said. We determined that by serving others in his local area, Tom might begin to feel an increased sense of fulfillment in general. As a corporate attorney, he brought invaluable skills to a local nonprofit board and offered to provide some pro bono advice to local service agencies. Connecting with his community in this way helped Tom achieve more overall life balance.

As Tom found, developing a sense of meaning in one’s work is critical to reconnecting with professional passion. Every profession contains both negative and positive aspects. Sometimes the negative overshadows the positive, and this can lead to a spiral in which one’s attention is increasingly on what one doesn’t like at the expense of the parts of the job one does like.

In Elizabeth’s case, shifting focus was crucial. As she began to focus more on the positive aspects of her work, she found her outlook in general improved. We began by dissecting her typical day. When we looked at all the tasks she performed, we found there was a lot to like. She enjoyed editing briefs, speaking with clients and mentoring associates. Yet her focus on a few difficult colleagues and opposing counsel could distract her from the things she enjoyed and affect her mindset for the entire day.

By compartmentalizing the unenjoyable portions of her work as much as possible, Elizabeth found a sense of relief and renewed vigor in her attention to the things she liked to do. She also trained herself to consider all the meaningful moments of each day during her evening commute. Conscious appreciation amplified her positive feelings and put her in a better frame of mind for the evening ahead.

Another method for reconnecting with professional passion involves revisiting the reasons you originally chose the legal profession. Some people seek a career in law because they liked debate even as a child. Others truly want to change the world.

Chris was in the latter group, but he was completely burned out. He was in a brittle state of mind and already looking for alternate career options when we began working together. However, it was clear from our first conversation that he cared deeply about the law—so much so that he had become afraid of the amount of passion he felt. He was dismayed at the failures of the legal system nationally and in his own cases. His challenge was using his passion to help regain a sense of efficacy in his work.

Over time, Chris broadened his practice to include more cases that were likely to succeed. Instead of working solely with economically disadvantaged clients who were not able to successfully navigate the legal system due to their extreme circumstances, Chris found he had to balance his life by seeking out work which felt more banal but was more likely to have a positive outcome, providing some important successes and closure to help balance and mitigate the stress of the most difficult cases.

There is more than one path to professional passion, and everyone should find his or her own way to reconnect with the passion that brings meaning and balance to one’s life. The important thing is to seek that path. Don’t settle for a career that saps your energy and makes you miserable. Your life is worth more than that, and the path back to your passion awaits.

Featured image from shutterstock.

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In Depth: Social Media

ABA's tech feedFri, 09/26/2014 - 12:30

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Tech

Surprise! Social media is not a fad. From networking to marketing to eDiscovery and picking and monitoring juries (yes, really), it plays a role in the practice of law. But what, exactly, is social media? Community. Communication. Storytelling. Social media is an elastic media, meaning it changes and adjusts the more it is used. Twitter started as a way to send quick status updates about what you were doing, and now it’s a news source and a way to organize groups–be it a friendly meetup or political uprising.

Social media’s elasticity makes it useful, challenging, and sometimes frustrating. Here is what you need to know.

What is social media/social network?

Social media is generally defined by the sharing of articles, blog posts, images and other content through various online platforms or networks. The more familiar ones are Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Other networks include FourSquare, Yelp, SnapChat, and Pinterest. See Wikipedia for a mostly complete list.

Most social media sites require you to setup a profile.

How do I setup a profile?

With an email address.

Really. With an email address.

The important thing is to completely fill out your profile on each network, especially if you are making the profile public. Referral sources, clients, potential clients, reporters and anyone looking for you want to find you. Completely filling out a profile gives search engines content and context, and for some networks, like Google+, what you put in your profile impacts your search results.

Most social media profiles contain the following elements:

  • Your Name
  • Your Handle/Username
  • Profile Picture
  • Link to your website
  • Your Bio

Fill out each element.

Each network also has its own set of nuances, and sometimes what seem like a standard fill-in-the-blank can get you into ethical hot water–LinkedIn, with its “specialties” and “skills and expertise,” for example. Allison Shields, who co-wrote the book on LinkedIn for Lawyers, also wrote a post explaining legal ethics and social media. Check with your bar association or local ethics body to be safe. The New York State Bar released Opinion 972 related to LinkedIn profiles, and the Philadelphia Bar Association Professional Guidance Committee issued Opinion 2012-8 addressing “skills and expertise.”

To maintain consistency across networks, a rule of thumb is to pick a phrase or three to four words that best describe you and/or your practice and use those in all of your profiles.

When it comes to the profile and cover images, you can get creative with graphics, backgrounds and such, especially on Facebook. Doing so can strengthen your brand, make visual connections between your law firm website and social networks, and help you stick in visitors’ minds.

How do I get the most out of social media?

First, decide what you want to achieve. Remember, social media is just one weapon in your arsenal, and it may not always be your best weapon. Used strategically it is an asset, so figure out what you want to get from social media. For example, some use it to stay abreast of legal technology trends, while others find it a useful research tool, a method of networking with other small businesses or potential clients, or a platform to establish themselves as an authority.

Once you’ve listed the goals you want to achieve, spend some time exploring the different networks. A key goal is cultivating social interaction. Each network has different ways of building connections beyond the simple posting of updates. There are Google+ Communities, Facebook Groups, entertaining animated gifs, even chats centered around a hashtag like #legalchat or #cbafutureschat or conferences such as #MILOfest and #ABATECHSHOW.

It is not uncommon to find social media overwhelming at first, especially Twitter. We’ve got some quick tips for connecting on Twitter and some hidden Twitter tricks to help you get the most out of Twitter without drowning in tweets.

Another key consideration: it IS NOT NECESSARY to be on every network. Spend some time exploring the networks and then focus on the ones that are best suited to your goals and your law firm.

Watch the video below to learn more about making social media work for your law firm.

What tools can I use to better manage my social networks?

Tools abound for social media management.

HootSuite is one such tool. LTRC Marketing master Rose Frommelt walks you through some of its finer features that make it easier to follow, share, engage and track your social media.

The most robust tool for social media management is probably Radian6, now the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Other tools include Buffer and SproutSocial. Such tools help automate functions in order to help you better optimize your social media marketing. Find the one that fits your workflow and your budget.

Do I need to be concerned about ethics with this social media stuff?

Short answer: Yes.

It doesn’t take much to run afoul of ethics rules or otherwise embarrass yourself. It’s useful to have a social media policy, even if just for yourself, to avoid pitfalls. Check this list of social media policies from businesses large and small, universities, and state and local government agencies to get some ideas.

The Digital Edge has a nice podcast on ethical pitfalls of social media that includes judges’ (mis)use of social media. It is also important to keep in mind what you share on social media. It isn’t always just an update or a beautiful picture of a sunset, and you don’t always have control over what happens to a post.

What other social media is there?

The social media space is fluid, so while Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn may grab all the headlines, others like reddit, Instagram and Pinterest are also quite popular.

Google+ in particular keeps evolving with its Hangouts function. Hangouts on Air, for example, presents opportunities for lawyers. The most obvious is marketing, and the second obvious opportunity is group communication and collaboration. But it is possible such platforms can develop into tools for the law firm of the future or more distributed law firms as physical borders continue to fall. Its evolution could make it the new legal interface.

There are also new apps on the market, like Wickr, Secret, and SnapChat, that can pose challenges. They are part of a new breed of privacy-first apps where content self-destructs and the user remains anonymous. There are companies like Datacoup and Handshake (out of the UK) that aim to pay consumers for the use of their data, effectively turning the data broker model on its head, and potentially forcing Facebook, Twitter and other sites that rely on the volunteering of information for ad dollars to rethink that model, too.

One More Thing

Social media is elastic; it changes and evolves as people use it. Your use of it will change and evolve, too, so remember to measure your interactions against the goals you set for yourself.

Simple yet often forgotten: keep your profile information updated.

 

(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

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In Brief: The Shellshock or “Bash Bug”

ABA's tech feedThu, 09/25/2014 - 18:26

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Tech

Introducing Shellshock.  Also known as the “Bash Bug,” Shellshock exploits a system application found on many computers called Bash that translates “shell” commands into something your device can understand. It impacts Linux and Unix Systems and — brace yourself — Mac OS X.  Confused? Keep reading.

What is it?

The very geeky answer comes from RedHat’s Security Blog:

It is common for a lot of programs to run bash shell in the background. It is often used to provide a shell to a remote user (via ssh, telnet, for example), provide a parser for CGI scripts (Apache, etc) or even provide limited command execution support (git, etc)

A more simple explanation from Mashable:

Typically, the shell needs to check information separate from the command, such as what software is running, to do its job. What Shellshock does is open a way for hackers to add some malicious information into that process.

Then there’s the more detailed answer from James Lyne from Forbes:

…may allow [hackers] to modify authentication information, start other programs and otherwise gain access to information they should not. It is a foothold in a device which you can use pretty creatively.” In other words, it provides access to information you don’t want unauthorized parties to access.

Why is this important to me?

There are machines, devices, and applications running Linux or Unix everywhere.  Most notably, the Mac sitting on your desk or your lap, the iPhone in your pocket, the router connecting you to the Internet, and that Internet-enabled camera used to monitor goings-on at home. They may all be vulnerable. Run Microsoft Windows and think you’re immune? Think again as there may be non-Microsoft components between, for example, your Microsoft laptop, your Internet connection, and the online applications you use.

This is of concern because, unlike Heartbleed, exploiting “Bash Bug” doesn’t required sophisticated skills.  As Lyne explains:

The attack can be performed using nice, easy to script commands which means you don’t need to be a 31337 (sorry, I couldn’t help myself that is ‘elite’ for the uninitiated) hacker to do it. It’s actually quite easy. The code to attack (and many variants) is already widespread.

The danger comes in the poorly managed, often ignored devices it may impact.

Troy Hunt’s post points out that there “is no authentication required when exploiting Bash via CGI scripts.” He explains why this is problematic:

“getting shell” on a box has always been a major win for an attacker because of the control it offers them over the target environment. Access to internal data, reconfiguration of environments, publication of their own malicious code etc. It’s almost limitless and it’s also readily automatable. There are many, many examples of exploits out there already that could easily be fired off against a large volume of machines.

Client files and law firm data can be exposed and, given the worm-like potential, other people connecting or communicating with you may be exposed. That is problematic.

 What can I do?

Check your systems for exposure, check for patches, and update your software–particularly if you use Macs in your practice.

If you’re comfortable using the command line on your Mac via the Terminal app, Ars Technica offers an easy way to check for the vulnerability:

To check your system, from a command line, type:

env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"

If the system is vulnerable, the output will be:

vulnerable this is a test

An unaffected (or patched) system will output:

bash: warning: x: ignoring function definition attempt bash: error importing function definition for `x' this is a test

If you’re vulnerable, again, make sure to check Apple for patches and updates and apply them promptly.

Fluidity of Updates

This is a fluid situation, so keep an eye on the news and sites like Akamai and Errata Security.

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Keynote Highlights from the Clio Cloud Conference

ABA's tech feedThu, 09/25/2014 - 12:30

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Tech

Everything is Awesome!

That was the theme of this year’s Clio Cloud Conference. In an attempt to outshine last year’s inaugural conference, Clio upped its game this year with a new (gorgeous) venue, more than 450 attendees and more vendors to boot. It started looking like a real technology conference this year, but better than most.

Jack Newton and his childhood friend, Rian Gauvreau, started Clio almost six years ago and as the product has matured and added features, their tech conference has done the same. With big names in legal technology including futurist Richard Susskind, the speaker line up was much more planned this year with a variety of excellent speakers.

In addition to the speakers, the new additions of a food truck breakfast, optional yoga and basketball in the morning as well as a Zen room (I’m not kidding), rounded out the more technical features of the conference including the Clio Lab and Smart Bar.

This year, attendees were able to choose from a variety of different tracks that are seen at similar technology conferences. The practical features were still available for folks looking to take Clio to the next level as well as excellent technology sessions, including what I consider to be the best session in Digital Marketing that I have seen at a technology conference by Jabez LeBret of GNGF.

As a second time attendee, I wanted to focus most on the keynote speakers. Jack Newton, CEO and Founder of Clio greeted the crowd the first day with the announcement of product features including a long-awaited Android app (the iPhone app was last year’s big announcement), FastCase integration (Excellent!) as well as some upcoming features including an integrated document management system and Zapier integration, a huge win for them.

The highlights of the conference for me were the main keynote speakers: Richard Susskind, Cindy Cohen and Carolyn Elefant. While Richard Susskind may be a household name in the legal technology community, Cindy Cohn may only be known in a small tech-savvy group. Well known solo attorney and author of the blog, MyShingle, Carolyn Elefant was a perfect match to bring the technology and efficiency message back to the solo and small firm attorney.

As usual, Professor Susskind is very engaging and delivers the message of the future of the legal profession. While his message hasn’t changed in the past few years, his audience may be listening a little more as he asks, “What value do you bring?” and how can attorneys do “more for less” in terms of using cloud-based applications like Clio.

Cindy Cohn, Legal Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, opened everyone’s eyes as she brought the NSA and US government’s data collection strategy to light. While she “taught a little tech to the lawyers”, she was quite eloquent in her message that the government’s data collection strategy was unconstitutional. This was a perfect venue for tech-savvy lawyers who need to know the implications of this data collection on attorney client privilege, and a call to action about how to do something about it.

Finally, Carolyn Elefant rounded out the third, non-Clio keynotes with practical advice for this solo and small firm audience including take-aways of things that firms can do to be sustainable. Her suggestions included making the intake process quick and looking at different ways of bringing money into the firm, including annual and/or subscription services for clients. She ended with the great suggestions of using the same technology non-lawyers are using, and building your firm to last by utilizing the flexibility and nimbleness of the cloud.

Overall, the Clio Cloud Conference was better than last year, but not as intimate an affair. While the Clio’s staff rocked every detail, I think some of the personality was missing from last year. More people, more things to do, made for less networking time between attendees and I missed that. Having said that, I am headed back next year to see what Clio has in store.

Featured image via Shutterstock.

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The Future of Wearable Technology for Lawyers

ABA's tech feedWed, 09/24/2014 - 12:47

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Tech

Along with the release of iOS 8, there has been much excitement around the Apple Watch. Arriving in 2015, it is Apple’s addition to the growing wearable technology market. Wearable technology holds promise for lawyers, and some early adopters are already finding wearable technology beneficial in their practices.

In this episode of The Digital EdgeSharon Nelson and Jim Calloway interview legal technology expert Richard Georges about wearable technology, how smartwatches enhances his ability to be productive, and what lawyers need to consider when adopting this new technology. Having a smartwatch, Georges explains, actually decreases court disruptions and car distractions while making him accessible to clients at all times. Most of the issues concerning data security are due to human error rather than technology. As long as lawyers learn how to properly embrace wearable technology, he says, it can improve any practice from big law to a solo firm. The risks are not greater, they are simply different.

Judges may already discourage smart phones in court and many clients worry about a decrease in information security. But if used properly, a smartwatch can actually increase the productivity, availability, and even safety of any lawyer’s practice with fewer disruptions. What are the best practices for using wearable technology to benefit your practice?

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Making The Move: Taking My Law Office to Abacus Private Cloud

ABA's tech feedTue, 09/23/2014 - 14:30

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Tech

I am a solo attorney, with a criminal and traffic ticket defense practice at Anchorage, Alaska. For the past 16 years I have had my own law office. For 25 years I have closely followed the use of computers in law offices.

The Problem

About six years ago, during a time when I had no paralegal, I put my entire law office on a business grade laptop so I could be mobile and use my time more efficiently by working between court hearings and appointments, rather than driving to a desktop computer at my home office. However, that solution was not workable.

I was so active with multiple court hearings and appointments, week after week, that my laptop simply could not take the constant mobility and use. The risk of laptop or hard drive failure became too great. I needed to find a computing platform that would let me retain the mobility and efficiency I enjoyed with my laptop, yet safeguarded my digital data. In short, I a computing platform where my data and applications were stable, safe, and secure; yet were also accessible via an Internet connection.

First, I put my entire law office on a single desktop computer in a small building on some recreational property I owned. However, after months of trial and error, this proved unworkable due to unstable electrical power and a slow, unreliable DSL Internet connection.

Next, I tried hosting my law office desktop computers at a local office center, which had an expensive, high speed business-grade Internet connection. My legal assistant and I would then access those computers via standard, off-the-shelf, remote access software. This solution was marginal at best — no tech support for local connectivity or hardware issues; plus there was significant expense in all the equipment and time involved in attempting to keep three desktop computers operational 24×7. I was not satisfied with this temporary solution. I desperately needed a turnkey, real-life, workable solution to my legal computing needs.

Rejected Alternatives

I wanted a secure, fully integrated, turnkey private cloud solution, run by a reputable vendor, who was technically competent, and which I could fully trust. Therefore, I rejected piecemeal or patchwork alternatives, which might give me consumer-grade, partial solutions to certain aspects of my problem, such as software as a service (SaaS) and common cloud data storage products (Google Drive and Dropbox).

I also rejected hosting my desktop computers in a rack at a commercial data center in the Midwest as it is too expensive. Likewise, even though I already owned most all of the equipment I needed to build my own private data center, I rejected that idea as too expensive and time-consuming, and because it was beyond my technical expertise to achieve the level of data security and reliability that I needed.

The Solution

In mid-2011 I moved my entire law office to Abacus Sky, a first generation private cloud platform for attorneys.  Using this product demonstrated that private cloud computing is stable, reliable, and makes economic sense in a dynamic, real life, working legal environment.

Then five months ago, I was given a chance to move to Abacus Private Cloud, a a cutting edge private cloud platform, solely for lawyers and law firms from Abacus Data Systems. It runs in state of the art data centers within the United States and is specifically designed to run legal applications.

I migrated my practice to Abacus Private Cloud. Doing so involved transferring all of all my data onto an encrypted USB drive, which was then shipped overnight to Abacus Private Cloud, who reloaded that data onto my virtual server. The tech people at Abacus Private Cloud built my virtual server and behind the scenes they did all the detailed, technical work to make the migration as easy and painless as possible.

Why Abacus Private Cloud Works for Me

I had very high standards for my cloud computing vendor:  I insisted their product  consistently have superior performance, and excellent reliability. I can honestly say that Abacus Private Cloud has fully exceeded all my expectations. It is very responsive, stable, reliable, and economical (when compared to traditional law office computing models).

The benefits to my law practice from Abacus Private Cloud are:

  • My data is secure and safe in the Abacus Private Cloud data center. No more local data backups, because all data is on the private cloud server, and is backed up there.
  • My local equipment costs are drastically lower than before I switched to a private cloud. I eliminated the three desktop computers that I was previously accessing remotely.
  • I don’t need costly application software on each local access device. All law office applications can be run on the private cloud server, not on local hardware. The local devices are there simply to display and interact with the private cloud server.
  • My private cloud server can run any software, whether related to Abacus or not. Therefore, I can run the application software that my meets the specific needs of my law practice, regardless of the vendor.
  • My local IT and tech support costs are $0.
  • My staff and I have become totally mobile, without sacrificing efficiency. This means that each employee, as needed, can work on their own schedule, and from any location with cell phone coverage, electricity, and an Internet connection. This creates a flexible, modern, and dynamic work environment, resulting in a better quality of life, happier attorneys and staff, and a better work-life balance for all involved.
  • All law office applications and data are accessible 24×7 for each user via any device: desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • Private cloud technical requests (e.g., email configuration, remote access from a new device, etc.) are promptly resolved by the Abacus Private Cloud support staff.
  • System reliability (uptime) is outstanding. In five months of constant operation I think my virtual server was rebooted twice, resulting in a 5-10 minute outage each time, during off hours. Users are given advance notice of periodic night/weekend system downtime for maintenance upgrades. Also, tech support staff are on-call to respond to after-hours emergencies. The high level and degree of support for this product indicates to me that Abacus truly is concerned about the viability of my law practice, both now and in the long term.
  • Abacus Private Cloud is scalable. My firm only pays for the actual number of users, which can be simply increased or decreased to match changes in firm staffing.
Conclusion

My experience with Abacus Private Cloud proves that it really works! Abacus Private Cloud provides all attorneys and law firms with a simple, easy-to-implement, modern, secure, and customizable way to use the private cloud to practice law more efficiently, with more flexibility, and with much less cost, than traditional law office computing methods.

Abacus Private Cloud completely solved my law office computing problems by giving me the security, reliability, technical support, and mobility I need to effectively practice law competitively, efficiently, and economically in the digital age.

My Private Cloud Environment on Abacus Private Cloud My private, personal digital law office on Abacus Private Cloud contains the following components,  which form an integrated, fully functional digital law office:  On The Private Cloud (remote) Server:
  • Case Management and Accounting Software: Abacus Law Gold, and a legacy accounting system using QuickBooks Pro2014
  • Office Productivity Software for Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Etc. : Word 2013, Excel 2013
  • Email Software: Outlook 2013
  • Software To Create, Read, Search, and Annotate Digital Documents: Adobe Acrobat Professional X
  • An Internet Fax Service To Fax Digital Documents and Convert Incoming Faxes To Digital Documents: MyFax
  • Disk storage space for all applications and all digital law office data
At the Local (user) Location:
  • One or more digital display and input devices (Desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone)
  • A Scanner or Digital Copier To Digitize Incoming Paper Documents for transfer to the private cloud: Assorted Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners and a Kyocera digital copier
  • A Printer To Make Paper Copies of Stored Digital Documents: assorted HP LaserJet printers and a multi-function Kyocera digital copier
  • A Voicemail To Email Service to convert  incoming telephone voice messages into digital files, which are then emailed to the recipient: an Avaya voicemail system, obtained through a local office center
  • An Internet Connection (wireless or wired)

 

The post Making The Move: Taking My Law Office to Abacus Private Cloud appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Day 1 of the Clio Cloud Conference: Fastcase, Data and Android

ABA's tech feedTue, 09/23/2014 - 12:35

Categories:

Tech

The big news from the Clio Cloud Conference is Clio’s exclusive integration with Fastcase.

Exclusive, as the press release states, means that “Clio will be the only cloud ­based practice management tool to offer an integration with Fastcase, and Fastcase will be the only online legal research tool available through Clio.”  Lawyers who use Clio and Fastcase can now track time spent researching and save relevant documents to matters in Clio. No more guess work on how much time was spent looking for cases in Fastcase as it is all pushed to Clio, and no need to download/upload documents. A few clicks and poof! One less workflow interruption.

My first thought:

Interesting. @goclio + @fastcase = cornered market? #ClioCloud9

— Gwynne Monahan (@econwriter5) September 22, 2014

Judging by the crowd’s reaction to the short demo given by Clio co-founder and CEO Jack Newton during his opening keynote, my first thought seemed right. Being able to do research in Fastcase while tracking your time for it in Clio, and save relevant documents to matters in Clio, removes a number of cumbersome steps. Except it sounded familiar, and, yep, Thomson Reuters Firm Central does that. Clio has upped the ante, so to speak, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

While Fastcase was the big announcement, Clio also announced improved integration with online accounting software app Xero, and integrations with QuickBooks Online, JurisPage and Zapier. While JurisPage automatically creates contacts in Clio whenever someone fills out a form on your website, Zapier automates. I have been messing with Zapier and Slack for a  large writing project, and have used Zapier to connect Evernote to Slack, and Google Drive to Slack. Whenever I create a new Note for the project, be it writing or research, it automatically appears in Slack for my editor to review and comment. Same for drafts ready for review from Google Drive. It has done wonders to cut down on the amount of email exchanged. For Clio users? I’m interested to see what Clio users do with Zapier.

Clio Next

Clio also announced Clio Next, which includes a facelift. Like the rest of the Internet, Clio has gone blue. Newton stated that yellow was being used like more of accent color, and is still found in its native mobile applications.

The crowd cheered the absence of yellow, and talking to some attendees, the change to blue is welcome. One key thing Clio Next does is put data dashboards on your home screen, or Practice tab.

The buzzword “big data” was thrown around often during the first day, from the session on metrics to Richard Susskind’s keynote. There was acknowledgement that “big data” is a buzzword and not something new. Little of what is discussed is new; it just seems new because technology makes it so. Now you can do what Walmart has been doing with data. By putting your data dashboards front and center, Clio makes it more convenient to monitor the health of your law firm.

Convenience, I often argue, is what drives adoption. The more convenient, or easy, it is to do something, the more likely people are to do it and keep doing it. Think of how we pay for things. We’ve gone from bartering to cash to checks to credit cards to various iterations of mobile payments. The most convenient wins.

Clio has made it more convenient to see your law firm data and thus more convenient to pay attention to your best referral sources, most profitable clients and whatever else you want to know so you can run your practice efficiently, effectively and get the most out of the extra eight hours a week Clio gives you.

Clio Next isn’t just about a color change, either. Newton discussed improved functionality, including:

  • More robust document creation, management and collaboration options, doing away with the need to use cloud storage services like Dropbox.
  • One-page billing, so you can generate bills on the fly for new clients, matters and time entries, without having to create the entries first in Clio.
  • New document storage and sharing features.
Android App

Clio isn’t the first to release a native Android app. MyCase released its app in May, while Rocket Matter’s has been out for more than a year. Now Clio users who prefer Android devices have access to a native app “with the same functionality and ease of use” Clio iOS users have been enjoying. In other words, Android users now have a native app instead of having to use the mobile optimized web version. It looks exactly like the iOS version, and its key features include:

  • Track time and expenses on the go
  • Access your matters and associated information
  • Keep on top of your tasks on the go
  • View and reach your contacts
  • Access and modify your calendar
  • Offline access – you can use Clio’s Android app without network access to use your data offline

That just leaves Windows phones without a native app.

The post Day 1 of the Clio Cloud Conference: Fastcase, Data and Android appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Managing Email with Rules and Quick Steps in Outlook 2013

ABA's tech feedMon, 09/22/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

Although email is supposed to make communication quicker and easier, it can often complicate things instead. Most lawyers have email clutter. Many have inboxes with thousands of messages in them. Email has become a major clutter and productivity obstacle. Two ways to help manage that avalanche of email if you use Outlook are using Rules and Quick Steps.

Using Outlook Rules

Outlook uses “rules” to automate common tasks. They’re easy to create and can be used to streamline common e-mail-related tasks. Here’s how to create a rule from a template or from scratch:

  • In the Navigation pane (the column on the left side of the Outlook window that includes buttons for the Mail, Calendar, and Tasks views and folders), click Mail.
  • On the Tools menu, click Rules and Alerts.
  • If you have more than one e-mail account, in the “Apply changes to this folder” list, click the inbox you want.
  • Click New Rule or Create Rule.
  • Do one of the following:
    • Use a template with pre-specified actions and conditions and select the template you want
    • Create the rule by specifying your own conditions, actions, and exceptions

To have this rule apply to all your e-mail accounts and inboxes, select the “Create this rule on all accounts” check box on the last page of the Rules wizard.

Create a Rule Based on a Message

You can also create a Rule directly from a particular message. This is helpful when you’re reading a message and you realize that you would like to create a rule that applies specifically to all messages with a particular subject line, or to all messages from a particular sender. For example, you may want to create a folder for all messages that come from your bar association list-serve or from a particular client, and to have all of those messages automatically sort into those folders when they arrive in your inbox. To do so, simply right-click the message you want to base the rule upon, and click Create Rule.

In the dialog box, select the conditions and actions you want to apply. To add more conditions, actions, or exceptions to the rule, click the Advanced Options button, and then follow the rest of the instructions in the Rules wizard.

Creating and Using Outlook Quick Steps

Some email management tasks are performed repetitively in Outlook, but are not appropriate for Rules, because they cannot be automated; they require you to make a decision about what to do with the email. Quick Steps can be used to perform repetitive tasks easily in Outlook when those tasks are not ones that can be made into Rules. For example, when doing an initial sort of my email inbox, I use a Quick Step to sort emails that require some action or follow-up on my part into a folder I’ve created called “Action.” In one click, I can move the message to the Action folder so I don’t have to go searching through my Inbox later for all of the messages that require my attention.

Quick Steps are located under the Home tab in Outlook, toward the middle of the toolbar. Click the arrow in the lower right corner of the Quick Steps box to bring up the Manage Quick Steps dialog box.

To change an existing Quick Step, click on it and then click Edit.

Under Actions, change or add the actions you want this Quick Step to perform. These might include moving or copying a message to a particular folder, permanently deleting a message, assigning a category and more. You can also assign a keyboard shortcut to the Quick Step using the Shortcut key box, which is found at the bottom of the Quick Step Edit dialog box.

To change the icon for a Quick Step, click an icon next to the Name box at the top of the Quick Step Edit dialog box, click an icon to select it, and then click OK.

To create a new Quick Step, under the Outlook Home tab, in the Quick Steps group, click Create New. In the Name box, type the name for your new Quick Step. Click an action type from the list. If you would like to add additional actions (perhaps you want to move messages to a specific folder and label them with a specific category), click Add Action. You can also assign a keyboard shortcut to the Quick Step using the Shortcut key box. When you are finished creating your Quick Step, click Save.

When you create new Quick Steps, they appear under the Outlook Home tab at the top of the gallery in the Quick Steps group. You can rearrange your Quick Steps using the Manage Quick Steps dialog box.

Once your Quick Step is created, it will be much easier to take action on your email messages. For example, if I want to copy an email message from my Inbox to my Action folder, rather than clicking on Move, then Copy to Folder and then choosing my Action folder, I can simply click on my Action Quick Step.

While Rules and Quick Steps can help you organize and manage your email inbox, you’ll still need an efficient way to deal with those messages and take action in a timely manner. Don’t forget to schedule time to take action on those email messages!

This post was adapted from the upcoming Law Practice Division book, “How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line,” by Allison C. Shields and Daniel J. Siegel. Look for it soon.

The post Managing Email with Rules and Quick Steps in Outlook 2013 appeared first on Law Technology Today.

Challenges of Mobile Devices, BYOD and eDiscovery

ABA's tech feedFri, 09/19/2014 - 12:30

Categories:

Tech

The use and capability of mobile devices has increased exponentially over the past few years. There are nearly 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, estimates The International Telecommunication Union. This is equivalent to 95.5 percent of the world population (1). Mobile devices are being utilized as a means of communication and as data stores in workplaces worldwide. As a result, mobile devices have become a popular topic within the eDiscovery market procreating unique challenges that span across the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) (2).

BYOD and the Labyrinth of User-Created Data

The growing number and models of mobile devices and their associated Operating Systems (OS), as well as the increase of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies in today’s workplace have added a layer of complexity with regards to the identification of user-created data. Potentially relevant user-created data from mobile devices can be found in several different locations including but not limited to embedded memory, Subscriber Identity Modules (SIM) cards, and removable storage.

File formats and third-party applications also present new identification challenges and can differ greatly from those associated with traditional Electronically Stored Information (ESI) data sources. Given the increased scope of functionality and the vast amount of third-party applications, additional considerations must be taken into account in order to identify what is or is not relevant user-created data.

4th Amendment and Data Preservation

Due to the increase of BYOD polices in today’s workplace, fourth amendment implications need to be considered as well. Should an employee who uses their personal mobile device for work-related tasks presume a reasonable expectation of privacy? Such considerations will likely shape any potential preservation strategy for mobile devices.

As such, preservation of potentially relevant user-created data from mobile devices has become a hot topic in the eDiscovery market place and is being uniformly recognized as a relevant source of ESI with increased frequency. Understanding the full functionality and capability of a mobile device is absolutely essential to the successful preservation of user-created data. Other considerations such as password protection and remote wipe commands must also be addressed as there is significant risk involved when it comes to data loss. Failure to address such preservation considerations could be catastrophic and may adversely affect collection efforts.

Developing a Collection Strategy

When developing a successful collection strategy for mobile devices, there are a plethora of considerations that need to be addressed as well as the increased cost implications associated with the collection of user-created data from mobile devices. In today’s market place there is a wide variety of mobile devices with varying versions of software being utilized.

Understanding the full functionality of the mobile device targeted for collection is an absolute must in order to formulate a successful collection strategy. Depending on the mobile device, deleted content may or may not be recoverable. Which collection methodology should be used for mobile devices, physical or logical? A large majority of devices have Internet capability therefore the presence of Internet history; multimedia messages such as MMS and SMS; email; videos; as well as third-party applications are also all likely to contain user-created data. Depending on the mobile device these items may or may not be recoverable.

Mobile device data types can also present unique challenges during processing and document review as some of these file types cannot be processed or require conversion to an alternate file type for review. Data massage and conversion efforts for these data types increase the ever-expanding costs for eDiscovery services as additional considerations must be acknowledged. The presence of audio or video files can further inflate eDiscovery costs in most cases as they require a native review increasing review times. The metadata associated with mobile device data types can also present some eDiscovery challenges as well. Take for example text messages (SMS). Unlike email data, text messages contain no record of when the message was first read and may be incomplete if erased from a mobile device. Depending on the case, this metadata may or may not be essential.

Key Considerations when Planing for Mobile eDiscovery

Based on current trends; the functionality, capability, and use of mobile devices in today’s workplace will likely continue to increase in the years to come resulting in additional data sources and potentially relevant user created data. With this increased development, operating systems, file types, and hardware are very likely to evolve. This will force the eDiscovery market to keep pace. Today’s mobile devices are already a hot topic for eDiscovery professionals and will likely be considered as mainstream sources of ESI in the very near future.

Below are some key considerations that should be addressed when planning for mobile device eDiscovery.

  • Have a customizable plan in place for incorporating mobile devices into the eDiscovery process which segregates company data from personal data, eliminating potential Fourth Amendment concerns. Creating a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) device policy to regulate how devices should be used must be seriously considered.
  • Develop workflows and procure the technology to retrieve discoverable data off of mobile devices for review which reduces the amount of employee personally identifiable information (PII) introduced into the eDiscovery life cycle.
  • Know who in an organization uses mobile devices as well as the device type and how the device is used. This will reduce obstacles when planning for the preservation mobile device data.
  • Know the full functionality of the mobile device.  Data generated from mobile devices can most likely be accessed via company servers. However, data might reside in the cloud or on the physical device. Due to the variety of mobile devices and their operating systems coupled with the wide variety of forensic tools available preservation of mobile device data has become a far more complex and rapidly changing evolution.

Looking at the state of the mobile device market, it is difficult to ignore the fact that mobile devices will continue to play a major role in civil and criminal investigations worldwide. Incorporating them into an initial eDiscovery strategy and developing workflows to account for them as potentially relevant user-created data stores will be vital as they are being acknowledged as such with increased frequency. Failure to account for these devices in the eDiscovery life cycle could potentially produce catastrophic results.

(1)   Global mobile statistics 2014 Part A: Mobile subscribers; handset market share; mobile operators.   http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats (2)   http://www.edrm.net/  Featured image from shutterstock.com.

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