Archive for March, 2008

The title of Steve Martin’s first album and our approach to software development… “Let’s get small.” This week we’ll be launching a new version of Nextpoint.com that embodies this philosophy. We took a minimalist approach to the design and implementation and are already reaping the rewards.

Steve Martin

What we changed is simple. We cut 90% of the content, 90% of the pages, and 90% of the technology infrastructure. In fact our core site is basically one page with a couple mini-pages that house a brief portfolio and some background on our team. We also have links to our blogs and RSS feeds, simple contact information, and brochure downloads. It’s a great site. Everything you want to know in one simple (and quite attractive) page.

Unlike the previous version of Nextpoint.com we have no content management system or database. The site is composed entirely of html, css, and some nifty little javascript effects. Unless of course you count the wonderful hosted systems we use to manage our blogs and video. And that’s the key. We took advantage of the best resources available to us. We have more than enough expertise in-house to implement and host video streaming, blogs, and maps. But with Google Maps, Vimeo, and WordPress at our disposal it just wasn’t worth the effort. Keep an eye out for the newer and smaller Nextpoint.com!

Website Preview

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I recently met with a law firm to demo Nextpoint and talk about our Vision services supporting lawyers in trial practice. They listened politely, too politely, and said that they found this very interesting. But there was a sense of serenity of confidence and complacency that was disturbing. Even those firms that believe themselves to be at the top of the heap generally see areas where they could be performing better. But not these folks . . .

They really truly believed that their litigation technology strategy was pristine. Perfect, right where it needed to be. And I couldn’t rattle them! I asked them about electronic designations, they said they like manual highlighting. I asked them about search they said they were all “certified” concordance professionals. I asked if their lawyers used it, they responded that they didn’t need to. Oh this was a tough crowd, some of the most intransigent, platform reliant IT and clerical support staff I had ever seen. So I had to bring out the big guns.

“What are you going to do about Vista?”

The silence was deafening. They hadn’t thought about it. Worse, they hadn’t budgeted for it. A re-investment in every software package the firm is using – redeveloped for vista. New hardware, new software, new everything. And with Microsoft pulling the plug on XP there is no choice. It’s a forced upgrade.

And for what? What new functionality are they going to get? How would they explain millions of dollars of new expenditures to the managing partners? What would they be able to do with the new environment.

The answer was silence.

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Our Copacabana rule. If you can find the lyrics to Copacabana easier than you can find evidence, you’ve got a big problem. Google “Copacabana lyrics”. Or click this link.

Uh, oh, was that easier and faster than finding a piece of key deposition testimony? The complaint? That important document that will win your case?

Then you’ve got a problem.

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We’ve all been subjugated to this. The hotel conference center’s tasteless, bland food service. Why does it happen? It’s extremely expensive and the quality is poor.

It happens because it’s a monopoly. There is no choice. No competition. The hotel services win by virtue of just being there. Not because any number of outstanding restaurants couldn’t do a better job for less, because it’s a profit center for the hotels.

We see corporate clients doing this too often with substantial evidence management tasks involved in litigation. The matter is already with a law firm, the law firm is going to be taking discovery, the law firm is going to be doing the motion practice, the law firm is trying the case. So by default, the law firm is going to build the database.

Hold on. Why do it? It makes no sense. The software, hardware and expertise that goes into a good database can be bought for far less on the open market. For far less money. Smart corporations won’t do it. They realize there are choices and better ways to maximize the investment.

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Every now and then I get into a discussion where someone thinks locally installed software applications will always be the dominant player in the market – kinda like the way dinosaurs will always rule the world.

Contrast this attitude with Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, Ray Ozzie. There is no company who would be more invested in saying that that web-based applications are a lark, or unproven, or lack security, or will always be secondary to desktop-based applications. No one is more invested in undermining the credibility of web-based applications and software as a a service model. Is it possible to overstate Microsoft’s dominance in desktop and what that dominance means to their business? If there were any possible reason at all to dismiss software as service, wouldn’t you think they would be the first to say it?

Yet, here’s what their Chief Software Architect says,
“The OS that we’re using today is kind of in the model of a ’70s or ’80s vintage workstation. It was designed for a LAN, it’s got this great display, and a mouse, and all this stuff, but it’s not inherently designed for the Internet. The Internet is this resource in the back end that you can design things to take advantage of. You can use it to synchronize stuff, and communicate stuff amongst these devices at the edge.”

Ozzie goes on to describe how Microsoft is re-engineering all of their applications to be delivered over the web. When Microsoft sees the day of the LAN has come and gone, shouldn’t you?

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Just posting a quick link to our post on the Nextpoint Lab Blog about the iPhone SDK and its implications for law firms. Hope you enjoy it!

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Wayne Smith and Mark Manoukian posted a nice summary of Software as a Service (SaaS), Open Source, and Virtualization on law.com’s legal technology blog yesterday. It’s great to see law firm IT directors seeking out new approaches and showing a willingness to break out of the traditional paradigms followed in our industry. I particularly keyed in on their message regarding the exceptional services that we already use on a daily basis which are dependent on the open source community.

What makes Google, Google Apps, NetDocuments, and Nextpoint unique is that users of these services aren’t focused at all on the technology. It’s accurate that all of these services leverage and/or contribute to open source, but it’s also critical to note that none of them burden users or administrators with the nits of the technology infrastructure. It’s a profound shift in focus. When you go to Google you’re only thinking about searching the web. When you open your case in Nextpoint it’s about searching and managing your evidence. These services have arrived in full maturity in the legal domain and I’m optimistic that the days of folks choosing to mitigate the complexities and costs of an unnecessary technology infrastructure will soon be gone.

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