Fanshawe eMarketing Conference – legal issues

Fanshawe College is putting on an eMarketing conference March1st entitled “Turning Clicks into Customers“.   The keynote speaker is Mitch Joel, author of  Six Pixels of Separation”.

I’m speaking at a breakout session on “Legal Issues for a Digital World” .

I’ll be commenting on issues including copyright, cloud computing, the Streisand effect, and social media and privacy.   

There are several factors that make digital law different from analogue law.  As I’m putting my presentation together, I’m realizing that the concept of  practical obscurity plays a big role in explaining some of the differences.

Computer tinkering can pay dividends

For the London Free Press – February 9, 2009

Read this on Canoe

In 2007, the Ontario government blocked its employees from accessing Facebook. This is common in many companies and organizations where YouTube, MySpace and various other networking and online applications are also banned.

But banning innovative online tools on the basis of potential misuse stifles creativity and highlights the mistrust of employers.

Businesses and organizations should create web-browsing and technology-use policies that make the most sense for their situation. But it’s important to recognize that exposure to new technologies can often lead to new ideas, valuable information and connections.

And remember that distractions are nothing new for employees. There will always be personal phone calls, newspapers, radio and “meetings” around the water cooler.

The benefits of online tinkering are not always readily apparent, but valuable ideas are often conceived by chance or built upon ideas formulated by others.

For example, Linkedin, an online networking website, is targeted toward professionals “seeking to exchange information, ideas and opportunities” and stay informed about their contacts and industries.

Businesses encourage their employees to network to establish relationships with as many people as they can in the hopes that it might be beneficial down the road.

Linkedin focuses on business networking, but in the virtual world where everyone is connected, the lines between business and casual networking are becoming blurred.

Some businesses can gain more than others by not restricting access. For example, for organizations trying to reach teens and young adults, websites such as Facebook are essential to understand emerging trends in media.

Often an environment that encourages experimentation and the possibilities of using new tools and ideas can lead to new and beneficial ways of doing things. In other words, it can often be better to try to understand new technology and take advantage of it than to simply ban it.

Some employees will always find ways to abuse the tools at their desks, and spend too much time on personal business. But that is the case for anything employees have access to, ranging from phones, to computer solitaire, to photocopiers, to paper clips.

The key to avoid employee abuse of tools or the freedom to tinker with them is to make expectations clear, and deal with problems as they arise.

Blocking sites inevitably leads to exceptions being made in individual circumstances. It can take as much time and effort to block sites and manage exceptions as would be wasted by a few employees.

Businesses spend a significant amount keeping personnel updated with current skills. If there’s a computer at a workstation, chances are good the person sitting there can benefit from staying up to date on current Internet applications. Online networking and applications can be helpful tools for enhancing business skills and people should be encouraged to stay in the loop with emerging trends.

Skills acquired by personnel from online tinkering become skills at the disposal of the company or organization. And let’s not forget the creativity that online exposure promotes.

You never know when a few minutes of browsing the Internet might spark the next big cost-cutting strategy or inspire a new way to go about doing old things or reach customers.

Social Media vs. Knowledge Management: a generational war

That’s the title of my Slaw post from today, and the title of an article from

My post reads:

That’s the title of an article worth reading at social computing (And speaking of social media, this article came to my attention via a Twitter post by Mathew Ingram.)

The article says:

KM and SM look very similar on the surface, but are actually radically different at multiple levels, both cultural and technical, and are locked in an undeclared cultural war for the soul of Enterprise 2.0.

And the most hilarious part is that most of the combatants don’t even realize they are in a war. They think they are loosely-aligned and working towards the same ends, with some minor differences of emphasis. So let me tell you about this war and how it is shaping up.

The article goes on to explain how boomers, gen-Xr’s and millenials approach this subject from different viewpoints. Its partly based on a top down control perspective vs a lets just create it perspective.

Another quote:

If you are wondering how a significant corporate cultural war can be in progress without making headlines, it is because the three generations involved process the world with different primary cognitive stances. The Boomers attempt to understand the world with words, and the best they can do is talk to themselves. The Gen X’ers try to avoid conflict by seeking solace in data and a relentless focus on reality. The Millenials are blissfully unaware of larger dynamics and just go ahead and create.

The article is interesting from the perspective of generational differences, and of KM vs SM.

So what does this have to do with the practice of law?

We all know that lawyers are hard to govern. We don’t like to do what we are told by the firm. Many lawyers are also traditionalists and are not keen to change. (Perhaps we are too rooted in precedent as an operating manual rather than as context – but that may be the subject of another post.) The top down approach usually doesn’t work. Knowledge management is a logical tool for lawyers to take advantage of to better practice and serve our clients – but its hard to get lawyers to buy in to it.

Perhaps there is hope in that as millenials start to take root in law firms they will just start to use social media tools to bring knowledge management into law firms from the bottom up.

Wiki anyone?



I’m officially banning “Nice to meet you” from my vocabulary

That’s the title of my Slaw post for today.

It reads as follows:

With all the exposure we get these days – including published articles, speaking engagements, blogs, websites, twitter, facebook, linkedin, flickr, … – when do we actually “meet” someone for the first time?

When we meet someone in person, we may very well have seen them in those places, or even had a conversation with them in those places. And because us humans have imperfect memories, when we “meet” for the first time in person, there can be that puzzling “haven’t we met before” thought, look, or conversation. And perhaps we have met before – but just not in a face to face conversation.

(Perhaps only a lawyer could put shades of gray on the meaning of the word “meet” – but I digress.)

So effective immediately, when I “meet” someone for the first time, it will be “nice to see you”, or a nod and hello and a repeat of their name – but not a suggestion that it is the first time we have met.

And as an added bonus, it avoids the occasional faux pas when one has actually met the person in person before, but just failed to recall it at the moment.



SCC comments on blogging

Slaw has a post that has a quote from a just released Supreme Court of Canada case where the decision refers to blogging.  The context is a libel case where the judge talks about the “astounding quantity and variety of commentaries on issues of public interest, ranging from political debate in the House of Commons, to newspaper editorials, to comedians’ satire, to a high school student’s blog.

I’m going to write an article that comments on this and ties it into the Streisand effect, but for now:

take a look at the Slaw post



Support fair copyright – buy a T-shirt

Fair Copyright fo Canada has launched a line of apparel, mugs, buttons, etc to promote their cause – ie the fight against bill C-61.

One of the reasons this is noteworthy is that it is another use of a Web 2.0 tool to promote a cause. The items are sold on, which is a site where one can design and sell their own custom products using print on demand technology.

Take a look

Social network sites raise election issues

For the London Free Press – September 24, 2007

Read this on Canoe

Facebook and similar social network sites will change election campaigns and create new avenues for social movements and political action.

When browsing on Facebook in early September, you could find more than 54 groups dedicated to the re-election of the Ontario Liberal Party, as well as numerous others demanding Dalton McGuinty be removed from office. More and more provincial candidates have official profiles or groups online, where supporters can gather, share opinions and organize information rallies and fundraising events.

This is not just an Ontario election issue. The proliferation of online campaigning has reached a fever pitch in the U.S., where all but one Democratic presidential candidate and four of their Republican counterparts have profiles or groups.

It seems that the youth vote, targeting first-time voters and those in their mid-twenties, would rather the candidate come knocking online, than at their front doors.

Facebook has become the accessible way to reach a large number of potential voters at little or no expense. Once members join a group, they can invite their entire friend list to the group, enabling the candidate, party or their message to reach more people, with little effort from the group creator, or the candidate.

The online forum introduces some dangers as well. It’s difficult to track who is responsible for the site and it is often unclear whether candidates are even aware of a group or page.

The credibility of an online source such as a Facebook group is still relatively low and until more candidates start using the technology, and start writing and contributing to their own pages, it may remain unreliable.

The candidates — or more accurately, their campaign offices — often do make official use, providing pictures and documents with the candidates’ position on issues, and replying to messages from supporters.

Elections Canada specifies the types of “volunteer labour” a candidate can accept, and there is a chance that should a Facebook Group provide commercial value to the candidate, it would have to be reported as an expense.

This has not been confirmed, but as recently as April of this year, Elections Canada announced it would be investigating social network sites, and their impact on advertising, organization of fundraising events and other functions performed by the online community and whether that provided a commercial service, or financial benefit to the candidates.

Social network sites have certainly added a new source of information for voters, and a new outlet for candidates to reach the youth demographic, and reach people in remote areas that may not be on the campaign trail.

It remains to be seen what actual impact the groups and sites have on the results of the election, and whether it will draw more voters.

Regardless of its final impact, it has provided an early opportunity to get the platform and messages out to the masses, and may be a means to focus election debates on those issues that seem most important to group members and those online.

10 future Web Trends – from Read/Write Web

This article is getting some attention in the blogosphere. Its worth a look if you are interested in where the Web might be headed, and how it might affect your organization, or how you might take advantage of it.

Of course like any predictions, its hard to know how, when, or if these will pan out, and whether they will be evolutionary or revolutionary. Good food for thought nonetheless.

On the device front, Apple announced a slew of new iPod models yesterday that will make any iPod owner want to upgrade. Microsoft announced a new media extender platform, with new hardware to follow shortly, to connect PC to TV. Note to self – need to buy lottery ticket to fund all these toys.

Read the Read/Write Web article

Read an engadget post about the new iPods

Read a gizmodo article about the media extender

Tim Berners-Lee interview on has an interesting interview with Tim Berners-Lee, described as the inventor of the world wide web, and now director of the World Wide Web Consortium, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Just getting used to Web 2.0? Tim talks about the next step, described as the Semantic web. Essentially, it is about the integration of data accross different platforms and from different sources. Think of it as convergence of data.

He talks about the privacy implications of that. Also about the concept of provenance, meaning knowing where the data comes from and what it can be used for. That concept is important for reasons of accuracy, accountability, and intended use.

He also talks about his support for net neutrality, including a good example of its meaning.

It is a worthwhile read for anyone wanting to understand where things might be headed.

Read the Interview