♫ Looking forward,
All that I can see,
Is good things happening
to you and to me…♫
In these trying and troubling times, perhaps the hardest thing to imagine in looking forward is things getting better. Yet, the coaches out there continually emphasize that, in order for something to come true, you have to imagine it in your mind – first – before executing the necessary action. This holds true whether you are practicing a golf swing, a ski turn or a business plan. In this regard, I prefer Carl Sandburg’s way of stating this: “Nothing happens unless first a dream”.
So – picking up on the idea of Simon Fodden’s “What’s New” post, I am asking the question: “What would you like to see in 2009 that would be good from a legal technology standpoint?”
To start the discussion, I offer the following:
1. Communication Plans that Follow You: We are all wired to the net these days. That means that we have to arrange data and voice access wherever we happen find ourselves. While we have voice and data plans at home, most of us also need access to data and the web while mobile, necessitating mobile access data plans. The cell phone has largely supplanted the land line for the simple reason that the need is for phone access that follows you. We need the equivalent for data – whether you are at home, at the cottage or hotel or in a business meeting. In a recession it simply won’t do to pay for two or three different web access methods on two or three different devices i.e. a home computer, a laptop and a BlackBerry or iPhone. We need a plan that will work the way you do – from anywhere – for one simple monthly fee – on a number of devices that you may have.
2. Applications that are Operating System Independent: InfoWorld reported today that Windows’ market share has slipped below 90%. Now in many cases this would not be cause for concern – but the increase in interest for Mac’s is at an all-time high with no end in sight. Anecdotally, the calls that I get from lawyers looking at or using Macs are increasing dramatically. While Windows still has the lion’s share of the market, we have a situation similar to Blu-Ray and HD DVD – dual platforms that only confuse and divide the audience. I would love to see applications written for a common platform that would run on either a Mac or a Windows machine – without the need for virtual machines and dual operating systems and all that this entails.
3. Secure Web Storage: These days we are all mobile and require our data to be available to us wherever we are. There are many solutions to this – not the least of which is remote access software, the use of web-based applications like GoogleApps and SaaS. What I would love to see is your internet provider offering the ability to back up all your data to a secure server, in encrypted form, accessible to only you – in other words, a virtual filing cabinet. Furthermore, this data should be available to you from wherever you are (web-based). This way the user doesn’t have to worry about remote access software, hard-drive crashes and the like. Your data is as mobile as you are. I know that others will say that there are providers out there – now – that will back up your data. My concern is whether or not these third-party providers will be around tomorrow, given the economic climate. I would hope that my ISP is financially strong enough to survive…and has every motivation to house my data securely and safely – since they are my local internet provider.
4. A Common User Interface: One of the drawbacks to any new piece of software is adjusting to the ‘look and feel’ of the application and simply being able to find what you are looking for without a lot of wasted time. One of the ways to do this is to adopt a common software design interface so all of us ‘carbon-based units’ can find what we need and thereby flatten the learning curve.
I know that many will say that this will result in less-exciting software or a boring look. I would counter this by saying that the time-saving that would result from not having to ‘hunt and seek’ obscure menu items would be well-worth it. We have groups that develop common standards for technology in almost every area – witness the growth of wireless networking and the ability for devices made by myriad manufacturers to work together seamlessly as standards develop. I submit that the development of such standards for the look and feel of commonly used software functions is upon us. Others will say that we already have the beginnings of this in the “File, Edit, View …” menu selection. I think that there is a LOT that can still be done to further this and make it easier on all concerned – and to ensure that these do not get changed at the whim of the developer, provided that they agree to abide by such standards.
5. Courtesy in the Use of Technology: This one is a biggie for me. I find it amazing that the telephone, an old technology at this point, is not used as effectively and as courteously as it could be. Callers rush through their voice mail messages, hardly bothering to say their name clearly, much less take a moment and spell it out for the hapless listener trying to discern who called while listening to a poor recording. Telephone numbers are not repeated. Worst of all, people end up playing seemingly endless games of telephone tag trying to figure out why someone is calling them. Leave a short message! Repeat your name and spell it. Say your number slowly – and repeat it.
The ways that technology can be improved with courtesy and forethought abound. Turn off cell phones in public spaces, or better yet, leave them at home if you are going to the theater or a movie! Play attention in meetings – don’t take out that BlackBerry! Respect the ‘out of office message’ on email and don’t dump a ton of emails on the hapless vacationing person that they will have to dig through on their return. Don’t ‘reply to all’ on multiple party emails – that just adds to the load that we all have to read and discard.
That is the start of my list of things that this humble scribe would love to see changed in the New Year. I am hopeful that by talking about these, visioning them and hopefully building a consensus, that we can start to make a change and see good things happening as a result. Nothing happens unless first a dream…