Quote of the Day - If it weren't for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we'd still be eating frozen radio dinners.
Let's Talk RSS FeedsWhile surfing around the internet today, I paid particular attention to the placement and availability of blog RSS feeds.
What surprised me is that some of my favorite blogs didn't have them. In fact, I'm embarrassed to tell you that some of the Law.com Blog Network blogs didn't have them. Tom Mighell even commented on some other Law.com issues. Qualifier here, MIPTC has RSS feeds, in spades. What surprised me more, though, was how hard it was to find the feeds on the sites that did have them.
So, here's ten ideas (and MIPTC will be instituting a few that we don't presently have):
1. Make your feed easy to find. Like the blog in the last link, put your feed link up high.
2. Offer your readers a choice. Take a cue from the Professor (look on the right under "Subscribe"). Offer different types of RSS feeds: Headlines only, Headlines and a short summary and Full content. People have different tastes.
3. Try it out and make sure it works. I use Amphetadesk as an RSS Aggregator, and several of the blogs I tried to add today, Amphetadesk couldn't negotiate. So, if you offer an RSS feed, download the other news aggregators and test them out to make sure your blog's feed comes through.
4. Post a wide selection. You know the internet is huge. There are a lot of aggregators out there, and they all have different formats. Remember the edict of Heinz 57.
5. List just one. OK, yes, this advice is directly contrary to #4. But if you don't have the time or capability to mimic MIPTC's page-o-rama of aggregators, just list one. Otherwise, your readers have to find you instead of you finding them.
6. Read your own feed. See if you like it. If you don't, it's likely that your readers won't either. One of the feeds I added today changed the size of the font to something around 16 point. The funny thing was that the top post advised against using ALL CAPS to post. That site's big font size wasn't much better.
7. Write for your feed. Try snappy headlines (sometimes that's all your readers look at). If they get past that you're lucky. If they do, remember the mantra of journalism: an interesting lead draws readers into your post.
8. Keep the number of posts in the feed limited. OK, an admission here: not that long ago before I started following the advice listed here, I was a neophyte. MIPTC's feed was only full content, and every single post I had ever written (then, just under 500). Now, our feed is the last ten posts and a short summary. We'll be changing it to follow the advice in #2.
9. Watch where you post photos. Aggregators (at least Amphetadesk) grabs photos and adds them into the feed. If you want the photo there, great, but remember that it doesn't look as good in an aggregator as it does on your blog.
10. Add a podcast or a videocast. Step out there on the cutting edge, and readers, listeners and viewers will follow.
Reel Reviews - To Kill A MockingbirdAs promised, MIPTC goes to the movies. Here's Michael Geoghegan's review:
Reel Review #16: This is terrific movie that should be a “must see” for everyone. Gregory Peck puts in a career highlight performance as Atticus Finch, the small town attorney who is defending a black man accused of raping a white woman in the depression era South. Not only did Peck take home the Oscar for his performance, but also Atticus Finch is rated as the number 1 movie hero in American film by AFI. Get ready, it is time for a classic: To Kill a Mockingbird.
To Kill a Mockingbird
AFI's 100 Heros and Villains.
Nota bene: Michael's full audio review is contained in the 11-minute Podcast below. To hear his Podcast, click on the link, or download it (and MIPTC's Podcasts) to your iPod or PocketPC from here.
Audit Response Letters Protected Under the Work-product ShieldAttorneys who represent clients in litigation have to respond to auditors all the time. They're called audit response letters.
Boring, in a word. Just imagine. Lawyers and auditors in the same room.
Not only boring. Snoring.
But, some big news for both lawyers and accountant auditors today from our local court of appeals.
It's new law here in California. Federal courts have come down on both sides of the issue, but we've never addressed it before.
The court decided that audit response letters are protected by the attorney work-product privilege, and not discoverable by litigation adversaries.
Big deal, you say? Well, maybe not. But to lawyers, accountants and many audited companies, it is. So if you're a lawyer and looking for a practice tip out of this whole thing, here's a freebie. It's the language we already use on our audit response letters:
This communication is protected by the attorney-client and attorney work product
privileges, must not be disclosed to any other party, and should be treated in a confidential manner. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 26(b)(3), Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 501, California Code of Civil Procedure section 2018 and California Evidence Code sections 950, et seq.
We were hoping for just this decision.
Defining the Essence of Spin DoctoringOur Law.com blog maven Lisa Stone has been providing some wonderful reading over at NYU's PressThink. She blogged about "Spin Alley" - the practice of politicians spin doctoring (be careful with this link - it's career advice) presidential debates.
Her piece traced the development of spinning in recent journalism.
She had this to say about spin, "In other words, 'superstars' who performed at peak level in spin situations were admired for their skills. They could 'win' the spin, and winning was admired. Spinning for the press pack was a designated, accepted part of the debate ritual. Those who worked the system well—Messrs. Atwater and Baker—were considered worthy adversaries by journalists. Note: The better the spinner, the better the reporter (listener) you have to be to 'catch' the master."
The current perception of spinning is that it is a technique by political handlers to cast their candidate in the best possible light. The career link above makes the case that Moses, Machiavelli and Rasputin were the original spin doctors. OK, maybe Adam was, as Lisa notes in her post.
Even so, I'd add to that list Cardozo, Patrick Henry, Lord Melbourne, Blackstone and perhaps Daniel Webster.
My list is all lawyers. In fact, after I read Lisa's piece, my theory was that the spin doctors she identified were also lawyers. Indeed, many lawyers are politicians. You see, I thought that lawyers were the essence of the art of spin.
But, I was wrong. Only Jim Baker was a lawyer. Turns out that the other spinners, Lyn Nofziger and Lee Atwater were not.
Now that's not to say that lawyers aren't spin doctors; I dare say as a group, we're certainly some of the most practiced. Even lawyer bloggers claim to be spin doctors. Whether lawyers actually qualify as spin doctors or adversarial advocates is a matter of degree, I think.
At some point, Lisa's post notes that "Spinning is lying." Well, certainly lawyers have been accused of that, so perhaps we qualify by default. But really, we take the factual situation where we find our clients and take those facts and analogize them to the existing law, or reframe either or both the facts and the law to a legal or equitable result - the desired result - needed by our clients, all the time spinning our side and "de"-spinning the opponent.
Advocacy has an element of spin to it, but more important, it frames the issues first. A famous legal writer once commented that all he had to do was put this line at the beginning of his brief, and he'd win: "Defendant should not be approved as a foster parent because he is a convicted child molester."
Correctly framing the issue often not only defeats your opponent, but also dictates the outcome.
Isn't that the essence of spin doctoring?
Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes and Co- Co- Co-BloggersChanges. They're always happening.
MIPTC is trying to help out readers who use RSS feeds to read this blog. As you can see from the link (and on this page, look over to the left, in the black under MIPTC), we've added a new page that will allow you to easily add (don't you love split infinitives) MIPTC to your favorite aggregator. If you use one we didn't list, let me know and we'll take care of it.
Be on the lookout for a new graphic. It's coming soon....
Remember, on Fridays, we'll be going to the movies with the MWGblog's Reel Reviews.
And thanks to a suggestion from a faithful podcast listener (please vote for MIPTC), I'll be changing the way the podcasts are named so that it will be easier to determine when they were recorded.
Co-bloggers. Finally, the call is out. MIPTC is considering applications for co-bloggers. I've been inspired by the Volokh Conspiracy model, and am thinking about adding some new voices.
"Applications," such as they are, should be sent to me at the email address below. See the primer page if you can't figure out the email address, but if that's the case, you probably shouldn't be submitting an app. "Applications" should include a brief bio and a short (250 words or less) sample post. Violators won't be considered. If you need to know what to write about, scroll down and visit MIPTC's archives.
My only advice: be creative.
Oh yes, at the end of yesterday's post, I said I'd give you my ruling on Case No. 4. If you haven't already figured it out, it was Judgment for the Plaintiff in the full amount of the damages she requested.
Finally, a thank-you to you. MIPTC has topped the 10,000 page hits per day mark, and is closing in on hitting 13,000. We used to average just under 3,300 hits a day. So, thanks to you, that's an annualized growth from 1,200,000 hits to nearly 4,700,000 hits.
As Bartyles and Jaymes used to say, "We thank you for your support."
Small Claims Get Resolved (Almost)Just like the big courts do, I'm going to post some decisions. Without the names, though.
This morning, I sat as a pro tem judge in a local court and heard four small claims cases. These types of cases never get any notoriety or any publicity, but they are some of the thorniest cases.
So, without further ado, here are the decisions.
Case No. 1. An easy one. Plaintiff failed to appear for trial. Case dismissed, without prejudice.
Case No. 2. Action for rent, cross-action for return of rent due to alleged uninhabitability of leased residential premises. Plaintiff leased a small cottage to Defendant in return for D's promise to provide P with 30 hours of flying lessons, which both parties agreed were worth two months rent, and thereafter an agreed-upon $625/month. D never provided the flying lessons, but paid four months of rent thereafter. P seeks repayment of the first two months of rent. D claims the premises was uninhabitable, but in addition to paying the four following months' rent, was not able to produce sufficient evidence of uninhabitability. When pressed to determine whether he demanded repairs from the landlord, he admitted that he had not, nor had he undertaken to make any repairs himself. D claimed the premises had been condemned, but at most was able to submit evidence that the City had required the premises to be demolished due to setback violations, which did not affect habitability. Further, the City had not ordered D to vacate the premises at all or due to any code violations. Held: Judgment for P for $1,250.00.
Case No. 3. Appeal of decision denying motion to vacate. D had failed to appear for his trial, previously set for September 21, 2004. Judgment of $5,000 was entered for P at that time for damages to P's driveway that D (contractor) had installed that allegedly was cracked, thin in some places and too thick in others, and a damaged lightpost that no longer worked. D appealed, and filed a motion to vacate the judgment, which was denied by the trial court. In this court, sitting as an appeals court from the original judgment and denial, D presented the court with a Notice of Trial that showed a date of September 29, 2004, apparently in the clerk's original handwriting. Upon examination of the court's file, the court discovered a subpoena to attend trial on September 21, 2004, issued by P to D, and signed under penalty of perjury by a licensed process server. The Court accepted the subpoena into evidence and reasoned that since D had received the subpoena, and even in light of a conflicting trial date on the original notice, he improperly failed to appear for trial pursuant to the subpoena, and at a minimum, should have called the court to resolve the conflicting dates. The court did not need to address whether the notice of trial had been altered by D. Held: On appeal, the court affirmed the judgment and denial of the motion to vacate.
Case No. 4. Action for rent and damages in excess of $2,900 after tenant moved out. Cross-claim for D's $2,000 security deposit. P and D attempted to mediate the case during Cases 1-3, but were unsuccessful. The Court heard the case and received into evidence photographs of the damage to the apartment from five years of D's two dogs in the apartment, including urination on the carpet, numerous plumbing leaks and abandoned property left in the apartment that has to be removed before being relet. The damage estimates were in excess of the amount prayed for. D alleged the damage was no more than normal wear and tear. The court disagreed, noting significant damage to the apartment, well in excess of the court's jurisdictional limit. The court gave the parties one last chance to reach a mediated agreement, and if they were unable, then the court would render judgment tomorrow.
Stay tuned for the ruling on Case No. 4.
Don't you almost feel like you're watching Judge Wapner?
Beds Takes You Laughing Through 2005Well, Beds' end-of-the-year A Criminal Waste Of Space column is up, and I haven't stopped laughing yet.
You'll be laughing, too, at his hilarious post, The Year In Preview.
Ho, Ho, Ho!
MIPTC Goes To The MoviesHold on to your computer chairs. MIPTC is going to make a few (more) changes.
On Fridays, you'll be able to hear Reel Reviews from the MWGblog. My friend, Michael Geoghegan, publishes his movie reviews, and they've taken off like wildfire. Actually, he podcasts his reviews, which is why you'll be able to listen.
Never fear, you don't need an iPod. You don't need to have a Mac.
All you need you already have (presumably):
Windows Media Player (or equivalent)? Check.
That's it. Simple.
Rest assured that Michael is not going to just review any movie. He's going to review movies for MIPTC, and that means ... surprise ... lawyer movies, and movies about the law. But, so that you and I don't get bored, we're going to take Matthew Homan's advice, and expand your horizons.
Sure, we're planning on Atticus Finch and some other famous (ahem) lawyers, but also movies above and beyond the law.
Movies you "need" to see, and hopefully broaden yours and my horizons.
So, grab your popcorn, sit back and relax, on Friday, we're going to the movies!