An article about a text editor for linux, named Kate, popped up at me today. I'd never heard of it before, and being pretty unhappy with the usual assortment of Linux-based text editors, I was initially interested. Maybe I'll fire up my Ubuntu partition and give it a try. My reaction to the screenshots, though, is "meh."

A bit of hilarity from the article:
Having a spell checker built into a text editor is a rarity.

All the text editors I use on a regular basis have spell-check. Moreover, I can't remember the last time I used a text editor that didn't have spell-check.

I think my ideal text editor would be a combination of TextMate and Acme, with the proviso that copy and paste had better be mapped to ⌘-C and ⌘-V, because that's what I learned when I was 10. Cx-y, for "yank," makes no sense to anyone who grew up in the '80s. I really want contextual side windows that show me other occurrences of highlighted tokens, documentation, etc. It should be automatic, and know that I have a big monitor and therefore do not want my focus replaced to save screen space.



Dateline: Washington, D.Cyber.

Today, the Biparticyn Policyber Cynter held Cyber Shockwave, a wargame of what would happen in the event of a large-scale CyberCrisis. Real wars in Afpak, Yemen, Iraq, and Somalia got you down? Take the day off and have a fake one about those evil, evil computers.

The exercise featured many former officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Of course, "former officials" sounds better than "current consultants." It was sponsored by government contractors.

Unsurprisingly, the outcome of the event was to highlight cyber the cyber need for increased cyber-awareness cyber cyber, the idea being cyber that the more cyber times cyber one can fit cyber the word cyber cyber in, the cyber more cyber funding one can cyber get to cyber talk about cyber things that neither cyber legislators, cyber policy-makers, or cyber current consultants/former officials cyber understand. Ergo, more tax-cyber-payer money cyber should cyber be spent on cyber studying the cyber issue.

Oh, hey, look at the time. With all those cybers, I've managed to bill my 40 hours this week. Have a good weekend! Maybe cyber next cyber week cyber cyber we can, like, cyber patch some cyber systems or something.

P.S. Don't tell the brass, but the dude who invented the word "cyberspace" dodged the draft.


Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling text ads, or do you want a chance to change the world?

Google Buzz was the topic of the week. I woke up on Wednesday, logged into Gmail, and there was Buzz, with a message from my Googler buddy, Gavin. I tried replying with a comment to his Buzz, and it made me realize I had something called a "Google Profile" and that I had to make it public to comment. Taking a look at what was in my profile, I decided commenting wasn't worth exposing my profile. By Wednesday evening, a lot of other folks had figured this out, too.

Buzz and its privacy settings are not what this post is about, though. Google was forefront in my mind this week. I use Google services for everything: searching, navigating, reading, writing, calculating, emailing, chatting, blogging, scheduling, and organizing. For this, I pay nothing. I only trade a bit of my privacy. Frankly, it's a fair trade. As long as I can keep the big G from exposing my contacts to each other, I'm happy. I probably spent 50-60 hours talking to Google servers this week, maybe 70-80.

What pays the bills at the GooglePlex are those funny yellow text ads you see in search results. Ever click on them? Me neither. I guess some people do, though. When they do, the advertiser gets charged a penny. Get enough monkeys clicking on enough links to build up enough pennies, and you get a wildly profitable public company that can lash together dozens of data centers into the world's largest supercomputer and hire the world's most effective computer scientists (the ones who peg the needle on "smart, gets things done").

The thing I noticed this past week, though, is that all these Google services I use are... beta, or, maybe 1.0. Google Docs table of contents don't let you exclude sections that come before the TOC, footnotes can't be styled separately from your body text, your spreadsheets must be organized just-so in order to get useful labels in charts and graphs, Buzz annoyingly makes my lizard brain click on it just because some person I don't know has commented on a buzz I haven't commented on (even Facebook isn't this demanding). Still, these are extremely useful products. I groan every time I have to fire up Word or Excel on my Mac.

If I were an engineer working on these products, I'd feel satisfied, mostly. I'd be providing pretty good products to people, and doing so in an aesthetically pleasing way, technologically, all HTML/CSS/JavaScript goodness, no win32 calls in sight. But, and it's probably just the way I'm wired, I'd feel a bit unfulfilled. I'd look at my paycheck, laptop, cube, sushi-filled cafeteria, massage chair, cooler filled with those $5 Naked fruit juice bottles, copper-plated espresso machine, and wifi-equipped commuter van, and I'd know that I hadn't paid for them. The smart folks working on text ads had. They're the major leaguers in the organization.

And then I'd think, huh, I don't want to be them, either, even if I were that smart. Sure, I'd get to work for Peter Norvig and Udi Manber, and they'd be nice about how they were a thousand times smarter than me and they'd still offer to fill my brain as much as possible. They'd let me run my Sawzall programs on a thousand-node cluster. I'd get to ask Rob Pike a question at a tech talk. That'd be sweet. But despite all these powerful lures... I'd be selling text ads to monkeys.

It could very well be that I'm rationalizing, and that I'd be happy as a clam if I could make it through the seven walls of Google's HR process (talk about defense-in-depth). I dunno. It's worth thinking about.


LegalTech thoughts

LegalTech was overwhelming (NB: I only hung out in the exhibitor halls). People said that the number of vendors exhibiting was down from last year, which itself was down from the year before, but it's hard to imagine it being any larger.

My primary impression is that there isn't a lot of differentiation among the eDiscovery software vendors. With a few exceptions, they are all the same... at least, their booths are all the same. Everyone can take data and let you cull it in some fashion or another. Most then allow you to review. Some have collection capabilities. Everyone loves the EDRM.

Since the legal market is so fragmented and since the eDiscovery process is so well-defined (if you've lived it, at least), I think it's relatively easy for small software companies to gain a foothold. They can call up local firm offices and make some wins. When they all get together in the same place, though, they're indistinguishable. If I were a CIO, I'd have a very hard time telling them apart...

...which means I'd probably just call up Autonomy. Sure, if I looked hard, I might find better software than Autonomy, but the odds are I'll have to wade through a lot of bad software. Plus, Autonomy is sucking all the air out of the market at the top end. Even if a firm has a better mousetrap, they may kill themselves by mismanaging growth or their product line, or Autonomy may just buy them. I might as well buy Autonomy, run some keywords, ship the results out to counsel, and call it a day. Autonomy is too big to fail.

Or, instead of putting up with enterprise software, I can call my friendly neighborhood service provider. Even just a couple of years ago, this would be asking for per GB bilking, at $900/GB or more. If there's one nice thing about the great recession and the move to take eDiscovery "inhouse," it's that extreme pricing pressure has now been applied to eDiscovery service vendors. Frankly, I see this being a good thing: there's enough data and litigation volume that good consultants can still be profitable, and companies won't make dramatically expensive mistakes when they hire bad consultants.

The service providers do have an easier road to travel. They know they're competing on service. They can adopt new tools and approaches. They'll never grow too fast. They can drop bad clients.

In the few short demos I saw, I was still disappointed in user interfaces. Almost everyone has a web interface, but these still involve a tremendous amount of navigation, clicking, and mouse travel to get things done. With the price premiums no longer such easy pickins', I think this gives the present advantage to service providers. Sure, it's good to have some kind of content management system with a search engine, but prepping, processing, filtering, and reviewing data is still too complex to be handled correctly in-house by inexpert staff.

Another impression I came back with is that everyone can say Early Case Assessment and no one can do it. I mean, yeah, it's great that you can give me some bar graphs and pie charts, but if that's all there is, what's the fuss about? Good consultants have been able to provide the same data in spreadsheets for a long time, and good counsel have been asking for the same for a long time, too.

If I go next year, it'll be interesting to see which software vendors also return. I'm betting some won't.


Empire State of Mind

I'm in New York today for LegalTech. Despite the cold, it's fantastic to be back in the city. In my future life, I will have a pied-à-terre in the village and give Joe Biden a run for his money as Amtrak's favorite  customer.