[Published in the OSALL newsletter of November 2010]
Web 2.0 is hardly news but it has marked one of the biggest turning points in the history of the Internet and we haven’t looked back. The power of the Internet was symbolically moved into the hands of the public and it’s been fascinating to watch how responsibly it’s been handled on the whole and how a new self-imposed etiquette has developed. Just last week we were advised via Twitter that social networks now account for a greater part of the Internet than pornography.
Web 2.0 has fascinated me from its inception. Having been afforded the opportunities to address the audience on the topic “The practical application of blog- and wiki- technology in the South African legal information community” at the SAOUG/OSALL/SLIS Conference on 23 June 2005 and to contribute a column, Using Web 2.0 and Social Networking to Weave a Web of Perception that appeared in the OSALL Newsletter of December 2007 (http://www.osall.org.za/newsletters/Newsletter 2007 Nov_Dec Vol 18 no 4.pdf), my interest had been piqued and hasn’t waned. Regular readers of this column will have read my comments on Twitter, Facebook and blogging but, with the end of 2010 approaching all too rapidly and talk of Web 3.0 cropping up more frequently, it seems timeous to step back from the individual and generally personal feeds to which we are likely most accustomed and be aware of the information well-known names in the legal publishing world are making available via Web 2.0 applications. Sadly, all too few of us seem to be availing ourselves of these services.
In order to make the playing field as level as possible, this article is based on the information that was accessible online on 18 November 2010. I also asked each of the publishers for any comments relating to their implementation of Web 2.0 services that they would like to be drawn to the attention of readers. In this article, Web 2.0 refers specifically to Facebook, Twitter and blogs.
Because of my reputation for fair play and despite my determination to break free of the habit of alphabetising almost anything that comes my way, the publishers are arranged in that order. [We are moving home next week and the biggest test will be whether our extensive collection of herbs and spices finds itself arranged by another system. I excuse this inexplicable habit on the grounds that at least I can find things in the dark if/when Eskom fails us – again].
I was unable to locate any online references to Juta Law’s use of social media but the response replicated below from Wayne Staples, JutaLaw’s Marketing Manager, gives us much to look forward to.
“Juta Law is starting to move into the social media space and we are currently revamping our website and once this is launched we will provide links to facebook, twitter etc. We have a twitter account for Legalbrief and have sent a couple of tweets but have decided to hold back on this to put in place the editorial capacity to ensure that we are able to offer a sustainable twitter feed once we start promoting this as a regular service.
“We have been exploring social media over the past year and Wendy Moulang who is our Special Projects Manager, has conducted a series of workshops for our publishers, sales and marketing and productions teams on what social media entails and how we would – or should – be leveraging these powerful tools to market our services and product offerings to customers who wish to communicate with us and who are willing to receive communication from us.
“We are strongly of the opinion that we will make selective use of social media to further build relationships with our customers by providing content that is of real benefit to legal and information professional and to this end we are at pains to ensure that we understand the challenges and opportunities presented. Much of our existing communication with customers, including advance notifications and publication information and new book notifications where customers have invited us to communicate with them will be easily migrated to social media channels when these become available next year.
“We currently have a Juta Linked-in Profile”.
Nothing for me to add except I’ve moved up to make space in the front row for all who will be watching this space.
I didn’t find LexisNexis (South Africa) on Facebook but, to be fair, I find Facebook’s internal search facility a bit of a nightmare.
Twitter – @LexisNexisSA
“LexisNexis is South Africa’s leading provider of content-enabled workflow solutions designed for professionals”, reads the biography. The posts encompass news links and information relating to upcoming seminars. The service has 10 followers.
Blog – www.law24.com
Although this isn’t blogging by the publisher for which I was primarily looking, the Law24 facility is a LexisNexis initiative. The homepage offers links to (a) topical matters such as employment, financial, family and property matters ; (b) “Ask the Experts” with current posts relating to paternity tests, rental deposits and restraining orders ; (c) latest news ; and, finally, my revised target: (d) “Latest Blog Entries”.
Ten most recent blog posts are visible and the standard layout includes tags and government gazette references. For comparative purposes, the subjects included :
– Violence in public schools / Saber Ahmed Jazbhay. 10-11-2010. (Reference to a recent WCC judgment in which the responsibility of the education department to protect teachers was raised) ;
– SA Customs modernization amendments published / Leon Marais. 31-10-2010. (Four of the top ten blog posts were by this author on the same subject, indicative of frequent updates) ;
– Cohabitation / Roy Bregman. 31-10-2010. (Legal status) ;
– About debt counselling or restructuring / Saber Ahmed Jazbhay. 27-10-2010. (Responsibility of consumers) ;
– Settlement agreement : divorce / Bertus Prelier. 02-10-2011. (Link to full post) ;
– House lease / Roy Bregman. 27-09-2010. (Reference to Rental Housing Act) ;
– Shared parenting after divorce / Bertus Prellier. 27-09-2010. (Explanation of arrangement).
LexisNexis actively promotes blogging among attorneys 1 and 2 and, as you can read in the former, Law24.com has recorded more than 20 000 unique visitors a month. The article goes on ”the site boasts web 2.0 technologies that enable engagement with potential clients through blogs, forums and a panel of experts”.
An extremely informative website but my first impression was of a cluttered homepage which took some visual navigation before I found what I wanted. I’m very aware of how difficult it is to design a webpage that incorporates a lot of links without overwhelming the visitor but I hope subsequent visits will be more expeditious. I was looking for blogging by the publisher rather than by lawyers. There were no links from the publisher’s main website to these extremely useful services. If you as the consumer aren’t using either of these forums, what’s holding you back?
Facebook – www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54026203978&v=info
”A group for staff and clients, past and present, old and young, witty and dull, trendy and shy, or simply all who *love* the fantastic organization that is Sabinet Online Ltd”. Contact details include physical, web- and email addresses. The profile has 31 members.
Twitter – @SabinetLaw
”South African government, parliamentary and legislative information by Sabinet” says the biography. 84 individuals follow this profile which posts news items, although I find the legislative updates the strongest drawcard.
Blog – http://blog.sabinet.co.za
To the uninitiated, the blog is called Chatter Box and describes its raison d’etre this way : “Chatter Box is our Sabinet newsletter. Here we want to discuss and share all sorts of company as well as industry related news and facts. Chatter Box will keep you up to date with Sabinet products, people, clients, chairperson’s fund activities and industry news (including technology and marketing)”. This blog is RSS enabled which is a huge plus in my list of criteria : who has time to constantly check for new posts when they can be automatically processed in one’s own reader?
At the time of my visit posts related to Sabinet’s support for a CANSA cupcake initiative (15-11-2010), nominations for OCLC delegates (12-10-2010), and a news item on the donation of ten computers to a rural school by the Sabinet Chairperson’s fund (09-11-2010). The nature of these posts was refreshing in that I wasn’t sure what to expect and found variety and news I hadn’t read elsewhere.
Once again, oh dear, where are the supporters and makers of comments?
There are no links from the main website to the Facebook or Twitter profiles or the blog which is a pity as these services deserve to be more “in our face”.
Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Westlake-South-Africa/Siber-Ink-Publishers/44686391963?v=info
“Quality niche South African law and business publishers since 2000”, says the biography. Contact details include physical, telephone, web- and email addresses. 59 people support the profile.
The Wall includes frequent posts with links to a wide variety of relevant news items. The Notes area at the time of my visit related mainly to environmental matters, including notifications of Cormac Cullinan’s radio broadcast and 50/50 debate, and a link to Anne Skelton’s blog post on children’s rights. This area of the Facebook profile is generated by the Book.co.za blog, details of which appear below. Ooh visitors – no comments here either.
Twitter – @SiberInk
“Siber Ink – South African Law Publishers” reads the profile. As a follower I find a broad spectrum of relevant news items are posted fairly frequently. There are 51 followers.
And here I met my comeuppance in this particular quest as Siber Ink has two blogs.
http://www.siberink.co.za/siber-ink-blog makes use of the Creative Commons licensing system and is proving to be the source of numerous topical posts by prominent personalities in the legal world. Recent examples are Anne Skelton’s post Children’s Rights and the Freedom of Expression (03-11-2010), Judge Malcolm Wallis on Reform of the Costs Regime (02-11-2010) and Jeremy Gauntlett SC on the law and land seizure in Zimbabwe (18-10-2010).
http://siberink.book.co.za/blog is the source of Facebook Notes as I mentioned earlier and includes a weekly summary of Twitter updates posted by Siber Ink.
I found Siber Ink’s integration of various applications a lesson in what can be accomplished by even a relatively small team and an encouragement to us all. While the main website links to Twitter, the link to Facebook is so tiny that I’d have missed it if I wasn’t using <ctrl F> – yes, I’ve started wearing glasses selectively but I still think it’s too small! I’d really like to see RSS feeds from those blogs as there is a ton of information that deserves to be even more readily seen.
The publishers are making use of Web 2.0 but it is disappointing that, across the board, so few members of the information sector are supporting these initiatives. Let’s get out there and ‘befriend’, ‘follow’, ‘like’ and comment. We will be the winners.
2010 has been a chequered year but it is ending on a series of remarkably positive events for me. I would like to thank the OSALL community once again for their continued support and email correspondence that frequently follows the publication of the newsletter ; input and feedback are vital.
My daughter currently has one exam left in her school career, has been accepted to study at UKZN next year, we’re moving home next week and I have friends who continually amaze me. All in all, I can only wish for a similar year for all of us in 2011 – and bucket loads of chocolate *at affordable prices*. If the predicted chocolate crisis is to be, let us go down in an explosion of calories.
1 Get listed : Law24.com is an online legal directory that helps you and your firm stand out from the competition
2 Why lawyers should blog / Shamaa Sheik
Opinions expressed in this column are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.