Twin Cites to Cupertino: On the Road Again
By Monica Bay
THE tech circuit's in full swing during the summer, and we've been enjoying everything but the humidity.
First stop, Minneapolis -- for the American Association of Law Libraries convention; and for a media briefing at West Group, in suburban Eagan. If you've never seen the massive empire of West, it's worth a visit the next time you're in the Twin Cities. The campus rivals the Pentagon in sheer magnitude.
It's also right on the flight path of arriving planes at MSP airport; so they've even got a "bunker" with key equipment and shelter in case of disasters or plane crashes!
At the media sessions, West president Michael Wilens gave an opening intro, followed by presentations on the latest tools for Westlaw, (including the new "Smart Tags," hyped last year by Bill Gates at last fall's Comdex), and developments in other areas.
Forrest Rhoads, West's vice president, legal product development, (who, btw, is a very funny speaker), reported on West's new "Most Cited Case" Westlaw feature. It allows researchers to find a list of cases most often cited for the particular point of law.
Launched last April, it now draws about 4,500 hits a day, said Rhoads.
Minneapolis is one of my favorite cities, and an old stomping ground. (I spent graduate years at the University of Minnesota back in the '70s.) While MSP retains its sense of intimacy and warmth (at least as far as people are concerned, certainly not the weather), it has grown dramatically in the last 20 years.
Cathy DeMarco, of Accurint, at the ABA meeting.
The word "gourmet" was rarely in a Minneapolitan's vocabulary back then, but the city has evolved into quite a culinary-savvy venue. (In fact, The New York Times just did a spread on its restaurants.) It's famous for Aquavit's Scandanavian fare; and my pals also rave about Goodfellows (American).
On this trip, I tried out Chez Bananas, which I just loved (Caribbean, reasonably priced, great peanut sauce, fun atmosphere) and the Monte Carlo Bar & Grill (very masculine, clubby, steak-and-potatoes American food, and great service). But my favorite restaurant was a hole-in-the-wall out in Bloomington (near the Mall of America), Da Afghan. Extremely reasonably priced, and realllllly good food.
Christy Hubbard in front of an amazing glass sculpture at Adobe headquarters
Fiber Art Diversion
Minneapolis is known internationally for its passion for the arts, a well-deserved reputation. I snuck out of exhibit halls and lecture rooms long enough to visit the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for the opening reception of Nothing New: Fiber Art from Recycled Materials, a clever and witty exhibit sponsored by the Textile Center of Minnesota.
It featured works from 40 artists, including my long-time friend, Nancy MacKenzie, who does positively amazing things with everything from string to wine corks.
Earlier this year Nancy and her family were in Manhattan for a double-header: husband, potter Warren MacKenzie, was showing at the Babcock Gallery, and daughter Erica Spitzer Rasmussen, who does fabric work, was simultaneously displaying at the AIR Gallery.
The latest in 'drop down' technology in an Adobe briefing room
Anyway, we digress:
Back to technology: Hands down, the most popular, if spookiest, exhibit at both AALL and at the American Bar Association's annual meetings was Seisint Inc.'s booth, showcasing its new Accurint public records search service. (See President's Corner, page 1.)
The demo area was mobbed with folks who couldn't believe their eyes (myself included) at what this service could deliver.
With a bit of hesitation, I popped in my name, but didn't put New York as an address (I used my old home state of California to see if it would thwart the system.)
From left, behind the table: Michael Kraft, John Tredennick, Neil Aresty
Within seconds, the database started churning out pages and pages of a report that listed more addresses than I could even remember (Hey! I moved a lot as a grad student in Mpls.!), including all my current N.Y. venues.
Not just that: out popped data about my current apartment building neighbors (phone numbers, etc.); and even acres of information about all my sisters' ex-husbands and their long list of relatives. (We won't go there.)
Plaintiffs' lawyers and collection agencies are going to have a field day with this product, I suspect.
Also with booths at both AALL and ABA was isinolaw.com, a very interesting venture based in Hong Kong. Its Web site, isinolaw.com, is a bilingual site (English/ Chinese) on China law.
The organization, lead by Priscilla Leung, has the imprimatur of key Chinese authorities (including the Supreme People's Court) to offer translations and other services on the site.
Jackie Ewing and Leo Hobbs, at Ricoh's ABA booth
For example, subscribers get an alert service about new laws, and the site even includes a "bilingual split screen" function to allow content to be viewed simultaneously in both English and "Simplfied Chinese Characters."
Behind the Microphones
Before we leave Chicago, thank yous are in order to my co-panelists at the ABA meeting. First, to John Tredennick, Neil Aresty and Michael Kraft, for handling, superbly, the discussion of Extranets and the Paperless office.
Secondly, to marketing wizard Martha Sullivan, for our dueling banjos (moderated by William Henslee) on how lawyers, vendors and others can work with news media. It was also nice to visit with Larry Bodine, the guru of www.lawmarketing.com, at the media sessions.
On to San Jose
Finally, I made my way to San Jose, for briefings at Adobe Systems Inc., Ricoh Silicon Valley, ecrio inc., Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems Inc.
John Cristofano, Hubbard, Rick Armstrong, Sean Conley and Kathi Rauth
It was an intense 48 hours, jam-packed with new information. Despite the tech slump, this trip reinforced my confidence that Silicon Valley will triumph, and that tech sure ain't going away.
Adobe's stuff is nothing short of breathtaking, as is the sheer beauty of its corporate headquarters in downtown San Jose. I'm a complete slave to good graphic design, and I'd move to this building tomorrow. Even the bathrooms are well designed. (Non sequitor: Have you noticed that bathroom design has become a barometer of how good a restaurant is?)
The coolest thing of all had to be the drop-down projector in the briefing room -- which hides behind a ceiling tile when not in use. No, I won't say it. Oh, O.K.: Very Star Trek.
Anyway, we had an amazing tour, thanks to product marketing manager Christy Hubbard and her colleagues. Christy gave us an overview of Adobe's vision; Rich Armstrong demo'd Acrobat 5.0, complete with -- I'm not joking -- a video testimonial from Mr. CaseShare Systems: John Tredennick!
Bill Henslee, Larry Bodine, Martha Sullivan
Sean Conley followed with a demo of Acrobat Capture, and Kathi Rauth brought us up to speed on Acrobat 5.0 security and the latest developments in digital signatures. You'll read more about all of the above in forthcoming issues.
Adobe also announced the latest upgrade of its page layout program, PageMaker 7.0, which brings us full circle back to Minneapolis. When I was at the Minnesota Daily, my first editor-in-chief was Paul Brainerd, now head of The Brainerd Foundation, which focuses on environmental issues. But you might recognize him more as the inventor of Aldus PageMaker. (What a small world, huh?)
Racing into the Future
At Cisco, we reconnected with marketing chieftain Joe Diodata, and met Ray Hadulco, who's handling public relations these days. Although Cisco is decidedly feeling the heat of the slowdown, these two remain optimistic about the future. And it's hard not to share their enthusiasm when you are in their company.
On a blissfully beautiful California morning, we headed to Cupertino. First, to ecrio inc., for a meeting with Michael Becker, who told us about his company's efforts in the wireless messaging arena.
Then to Ricoh Silicon Valley, where we next met with Laura Deaton, Jeff Thayer and other colleagues who showed us Ricoh's eCabinet storage device. (See page 1.) Another fascinating presentation.
Hewlett-Packard's facilities sprawl all over Silicon Valley; on this trip, we drove up bucolic Page Mill Road in Palo Alto for a quick visit to the research labs, organized by Valerie Enes.
We got a sneak peek at the next upgrade of HP's Jornada handheld computer (watch this space); and a preview of technology that you're likely to start using in the not-so-distant future. For example, HP is working on ways to help businesses "beam" information to handhelds. Imagine passing by an intriguing restaurant, flashing your handheld against a small spot on the restaurant wall, and voila! The restaurant's info and menu are loaded into your handheld. Yep, it's coming soon.