Why I subscribed to NYTimes.com

For years, I’ve been a freeloader. I’ve read the New York Times online (tech and opinion pages especially) and haven’t paid a dime. I was annoyed when the Times adopted a paywall that let me read only ten articles for free each month.

Recently I’ve been thinking about an important decision coming up for an organization to which I belong, and something occurred to me: the dues I pay to the organization do not benefit me so much as they benefit the larger purpose of the organization—making it possible to do its work that I support.

As a legal professional, it pains me when people in my community do not understand basic things about how the legal system works. As a citizen, it pains me when people in the nation do not understand the difference between facts and opinion (see, for example, the alleged debate over climate change).

We attorneys can’t clear up a lay person’s misunderstanding about how the legal system works in two minutes, nor can climate change scientists clear up misunderstandings related to that issue in a short time. Many things in our world today are more complicated than ideas explainable on a bumper sticker.

Good journalism helps explain some of these things. I’m not holding up the Times as the epitome of good journalism—there are plenty of editorial decisions it has made over the years that I disagree with. But, like other major newspapers (Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe) it does good work explaining complicated issues and separating facts from opinion. Our society needs this.

So, I decided that the Times digital subscription is not a matter of what I get out of it. It’s a matter of what my subscription—combined with others—allows the Times to do. Paper newspaper circulations may be dropping, but the work of those journalists is still desperately required. Without it, we cannot understand the issues we must confront or the problems we must solve.

The next time you encounter a paywall, consider whether you might want to pay a little bit of money to make it possible for the work of those behind the paywall to continue.

This principle, of course, also applies to software. The apps we use on our computers can often be easily pirated. We might be annoyed when we see an iOS or Android app that costs money to use. Somehow, we’ve come to believe that free is good (and, indeed, free beer is good) and therefore everything should be free.

As the Gershwins wrote in Porgy and Bess, it ain’t necessarily so.

Turn off automatic app updates in iOS 7?

When Apple announced iOS 7, I was intrigued by the idea of having apps update automatically in the background. At last, no more red badges on the App Store icon to tell me things needed to be updated.

Having had the release version of iOS 7 for a little while now, I’ve turned that feature off. Why? So I can find out when there’s a new version of an app with new features. Most app updates are incremental, containing bug fixes and the like. But some app updates include new features that I might not know about for a while.

By turning off the automatic updates, I know when an app has new features and I can decide whether to go play with them.

Five apps that make life easier

Bay Area lawyer Morgan Smith recently wrote about four iOS apps that make his life easier, and the article got me thinking. (Hat tip to iPhone J.D.) In the past I’ve over-focused on law-related apps without really realizing that non-law-related apps can also make life easier for attorneys. Here are some I use regularly.

  • Intellicast is the best weather app I’ve found. It’s usually the first app I open in the morning so I know what lies ahead for the day. Good data, well presented, and I don’t feel like I have to hunt to find a view I’m looking for (I’m talking to you, Weather Channel app). It’s free, which makes it even nicer. (iPhone version available)
  • Clock Pro HD features all sorts of different clocks: world time zones, alarms, cooking timers, a chess clock, even a metronome and sunrise/sunset and tide times. It costs $2.99 and I use it in place of an alarm clock. (iPhone version available)
  • Feedly with the demise of Google Reader I need something to manage and read my RSS feeds. This does a nice job, is free, and it looks great as well. (iPhone version available)
  • RunKeeper is my exercise-tracking app of choice. Not only does it use the iPhone’s GPS capabilities, it lets me set up specific workouts, use training plans, and more. The fact that it (along with the companion web site) is free is just icing on the cake (that I won’t eat!). (iPhone only)
  • Stativity integrates with RunKeeper (and a couple other exercise apps) to let you geek out about the statistics in your exercise. The people at Stativity were good enough to send me a code for a free copy (otherwise it’s $.99) that I’ve taken way too long to review. RunKeeper does a nice job of letting me see the big picture, but Stativity digs into the deep details to let me see more. I can’t imagine not using Stativity, but that’s because I enjoy looking at the stats (probably more than the exercise itself).

How do the last two make my life easier? The ability to look at my stats and accrued miles helps motivate me to get out and run. I can tell myself all the medical reasons I should do it, but it’s knowing that I’ll add to my numbers and I can look at the new data that gets me out the door. It’s bass ackwards, but it gets the job done.

What apps do you use regularly to make life a little easier? Leave a comment or write a blog post and link back to this one.


Comprehensive list of iPad apps for lawyers and paralegals

The Indiana Law Blog has noted that Indianapolis-based law librarian Cheryl Niemeier has written a wonderful article. It appears in the new issue of Res Gestae, the Indiana State Bar Association’s monthly publication. The ISBA has given ILB permission to make the article available as a PDF. Do check it out.

Lift up your productivity

A new app for the iPad and iPhone, Lift, may be just the mind hack to help your productivity—or any other number of things that you want to do each day, like exercise.

Lift is an app that helps implement Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” method. If you’re not familiar with it, the story goes something like this:

A fellow comedian asked Jerry Seinfeld how he could write better jokes. Seinfeld explained that to write better jokes, you have to write every day. Seinfeld said he gets a large monthly calendar and puts it on the wall. Every day he writes, he gets to put a big red X through that date on the calendar. After a while, according to Seinfeld, you have a chain of red Xs, and your brain likes to see it. All you have to do is not break the chain.

One of the problems with Seinfeld’s method is that it works for only one thing. Many of us have more than one thing that we want to do every day. While putting multiple calendars on the wall is one option, the Lift app lets you put in multiple goals. Each day you can “check in” to show you’ve done that item for the day.

Lift also lets you see your progress in a pseudo-calendar form, along with the length of your streak.

 When you consider that this app is free, it’s hard to pass up. Whether your goal is to exercise every day, return all client calls before leaving the office, or just remembering to say thank you to your staff, Lift can help you out. The app isn’t perfect (some feel it’s too “social,” but I just ignore that part of it), but it’s the best looking and most useful one I’ve found in this genre.

The app is designed for the iPhone (it’s not universal), so it may look a little jaggy if you use it on an iPad at full screen size. On my third gen iPad, it looks quite acceptable.