Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nicole Black: On the Cutting Edge

For those who are interested in following lawyers on the cutting edge of technology, Nicole Black is it. In addition to being a well respected criminal defense lawyer, she is a whiz at various technology issues. Her main website is Nicole Black, Esq., and she is also one of the most followed lawyers on Twitter: Niki Black - Twitter. On top of that she has at least a couple blogs. All recommended reading.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Traffic Court News

So here's the latest with our directory of traffic courts. For starters, the directory now covers all or part of 19 states, the District of Columbia, and even a few in Toronto. We've completed Illinois and North Carolina, and are almost done with Maryland and Georgia. We're making progress on Texas again (it's a really big state). We're now over 140,000 visits and 125K unique users a month.

The biggest news is our successful mailing to the courts themselves. We sent postcards to approximately 5000 courts, asking them to notify us if they see any problems with how we listed them. We received over 300 responses. The mailing wasn't cheap, and making the corrections took quite a few hours, but it was worth it to make the directory more accurate.

The traffic lawyer article directory is in its early stages. There are only 45 articles but they are getting read. Below is an image of the top 10 most read articles:

Most of the articles have been read more than 100 times. That's a good sign.

The traffic lawyers club now has over 100 registered attorney members. We are working on some efforts to spread the word about it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Google Similar Images: Andrew Cuomo and ... is that Jamie Lynn Spears?

Saw Google Similar Images mentioned on Twitter. Was goofing around. Disappointed that there were none for my images. But here's the link to what happens with an Andrew Cuomo photo. Image below in case the results change.

And while I'm disappointed that I'm not famous enough to merit similar image treatment, neither does Kirsten Gillibrand, and she's a US Senator.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Phil Steck

--Update: New letter at the bottom--
I got a letter from Phil Steck. An image is below and I think if you click on it you get a bigger version.

I love this line: "Please cease and desist from using philsteck.com without my permission."

Mr. Steck - I don't need your permission. You let your own domain name lapse. I'm just recycling your waste. And you had plenty of notice of this kind of thing: All Over Albany told you so over a year ago.

I did send him an e-mail offering to post a link to his firm website, if he asks nicely. No response so far.

I also provided him with web stats showing that the philsteck.com site is not promoting my law firm business. The sad truth is that very few people are looking for Phil Steck on the internet. Even Phil himself didn't notice until the reporter called him - Times Union.

I wrote a blog post about the legal issues not too long ago, related to Ken Runion and the Lanham Act (cybersquatting) that Steck mentions.

The text of my e-mail is below the letter.

Mr. Steck,

Thanks for your letter. I am not using your name to promote my law business. I'm not sure why you think otherwise. My primary purpose is for political speech about you, especially since I think it's likely you will run for office again.

If I were using it for my law business, it would be horribly ineffective. My law firm site has been visited nearly 19,000 times since mid-February when I acquired control of the domain name. Only 8 of those visits have come from philsteck.com (see the attached report), and none of these visits generated any business. Of course, most of the 8 visits were probably you, the TU reporter, and maybe me and a couple of my friends. As best I can tell the 8 visits came from 5 different computers. Another report (attached) shows that the 3 visits yesterday came from your firm.

You claim I'm violating a number of laws, such as the Lanham Act, "state unfair competition law," and "legal rules of ethics." I disagree, but am willing to review any cases, statutes or rules if you want to provide more specific information.

Please let me know if you want any more information on web traffic to philsteck.com. I'd be happy to provide you with reports. I've also attached a general report showing traffic for the past 2 1/2 months. I'm providing these reports to save you the expense of litigation. I thought you should know any damages would be trivial. You would get this information in discovery anyway.

You may want to consider a different approach. Instead of a threatening letter, you could try nicely asking me to do something I might be willing to do, such as add a link on the site to your firm's website. While I disagree with you strongly on some policy issues, I do have a great deal of respect for you as an attorney.


Update - Got a new letter from Mr. Steck. See below. I went ahead and posted links to his law firm even though he didn't ask nicely.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bad web marketing: Fidelity HR/Payroll

Something caught my eye yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. It was an ad for Fidelity's HR/Payroll service. We use an online payroll service now. I'm happy with it, but I've always liked Fidelity and figured it might be a better option because of the potential linkage with retirement accounts.

The ad referenced a website: http://www.fidelitypayroll.com/think

It's an attractive website, but it defies some commonly accepted principles of web marketing. The main content of the site is some very slow "videos."

I think it's supposed to provide an overview of the service. After looking at it, I have no idea why I'd choose Fidelity over my current provider. I couldn't find any information on pricing, which is one of the first questions on the mind of most prospective customers. But it also failed to show me the benefit I expected - linkage to retirement accounts.

The main flaw is that the site focuses on these videos. Looking at the page source, they appear to be running Flash through Javascript. Most web users are looking for text content. You can dress it up in pretty design, but we want to read more information. And we want interactivity. Where are the links to more information?

Of course there is a web form for the user to give them information. That's backwards. I came to your website to get more information from you. They do provide a phone number. I called - a bit after 7 am in the morning. They have a very pleasant recording with a woman's voice telling me that I called outside their business hours (which, of course, were not listed on the site) but my call is very important to them.

Instead of me clicking for more information, Fidelity got one final click - me hanging up the phone. That's bad web marketing.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ian Tomlinson: Are Police The Good Guys?

Troubling story from London:

So often today police are offered as the solution to this problem or the other. Could be drugs, DWI, prostitution or the latest - sexting. We need to remember that police are far from perfect. This video is a reminder.

With drugs, we keep arresting more and more people, and stuffing our prisons, despite overwhelming evidence that treatment is more effective. Not to mention lengthy history showing prohibitions don't work. With DWI, we ignore mass transit even though heavy police enforcement obviously hasn't stopped drunk driving. We've turned cops on the highways into revenue agents.

As for the Ian Tomlinson incident: If a black guy in the US had done this to a cop, and the cop died shortly thereafter of a heart attack, the black guy would have been charged with murder and no one would be asking if the incident could have caused the heart attack.

And this is not just about the one cop who hit and shoved Tomlinson. Watch the video again. How many officers watched it and did nothing? The assailant still hasn't been arrested, now more than a week later. In the way blacks are treated in America, the cop who did it is a murderer, and all the cops on the video are accomplices as members of his gang.

I actually represented a defendant in a vaguely similar case - a "gang assault." My client was an innocent bystander. The only witness to his conduct said that he pulled one of the assailants off the victim. But my client was charged with gang assault along with the other two assailants. The charge was eventually dismissed by a sensible prosecutor (there was no corroboration of the co-defendants' testimony, which was, by the way, horribly inconsistent).

Police are absolutely necessary in some situations. But we have to recognize that they are a blunt tool. Complex problems are often made worse by throwing more police at them. The main focus of police should be on violent crimes and property crimes.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Red Light Cameras Increase Accidents

In a previous post I mentioned that New York was set to add speed cameras to our highways. That has apparently disappeared from the budget.

The budget does have a substantial increase in red light cameras. They say it's not for the revenue but rather for safety. Right. Check out this Corpus Christi article on red light cameras. The National Motorists Association has a great page on it too.

It's not about safety folks. It's about the money. That's why it's in the budget bill.

Two thoughts:

1. Beware politicians who talk about being tough on crime. They're talking about you, your children, your friends, and others you care about. We've always been tough on murderers and rapists.

2. Beware politicians who use police and courts for revenue. Courts should be about justice. Police should serve and protect. Instead we've turned our police into trolls under bridges.