Monday, April 30, 2007

Microsoft's Marketing Genius....

Given Microsoft's magnificent success with the iPod-killing Zune, snatching up 2.5% of MP3 player sales as compared to Apple's mere 72.3%, perhaps I underestimate CEO Steve Ballmer:
There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.
Personally, I expect the iPhone to be a huge seller.

I was highly skeptical of the iPhone... until I saw it. And that was before I heard some very favorable commentary on it from non-technically oriented people.

I also suspect that by the time it hits the market, the iPhone will be even more fully featured than it was at the time of its introduction. I expect that, as with the iPod, there will ultimately be a family of iPhones which compete with (and outshine) competing products at all comparable price points.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Flattering The Court

From a motion for reconsideration in a state supreme court:
It would be an aberration and an abomination for this Court to on the one hand, suggest that it follows statutes as written, and then in this case, [disagree with our preferred interpretation]. ... Considerating [a prior case] and the plain language of the statute, the Court's decision does not make sense.
Talk about playing to the justices' egos....

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Compatibility of Religion and Science

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler endorses the correct belief that science and religion don't have to be regarded as incompatible, but then (as is his wont) extrapolates into the absurd.
Evolution does not purport to answer the question of how things began, or whether there was a Prime Mover who initiated the evolutionary process or perhaps even guided it. It is a scientific explanation about the natural world that we experience. When evolution advocates embrace atheistic evangelism, they not only misrepresent evolutionary theory, they also undermine their ability to communicate with a largely God-fearing public.
While giving due respect to Adler's bromide that scientists need to speak differently to the public than to other scientists, this is not a debate scientists can win simply by following "Speech 101" precepts of knowing their audience.

Within the context of evolution, the primary subject of Adler's post, certainly it is possible to propose "evolution without atheism". But even if a scientist follows the suggestions Adler endorses, he should spend some time thinking about the obvious limitations of scientific advocacy of evolution.
Do scientists really have to portray their knowledge as a threat to the public's beliefs? Can't science and religion just get along? A "science and religion coexistence" message conveyed by church leaders or by scientists who have reconciled the two in their own lives might convince even many devout Christians that evolution is no real threat to faith
For a public which attends churches which view the Bible as allegorical, and are receptive to the idea that God might have had a hand in creating or guiding evolution, that can work. But that's not the primary audience that needs to be persuaded to the possibility of evolution. The problematic audience for scientists is the population of religious individuals who view a religous narrative of creation (which may be more elaborate than the literal Biblical account) as irrefutable fact.

Even assuming that a scientist can work up a simple explanation of evolution which is largely compatible with religion, yet consistent with known science, problems would arise with follow-up questions, ranging from how the scientific explanation is compatible with specific religious teachings to the inevitable "Do you believe in God and Creation" gotcha. It is also naive to believe that such a simplistic construct would be particularly educational - a narrative of evolution which is non-threatening to religous belief is not one which is likely to win any converts from those who prefer their pre-existing religous explanation. Further, this explanation won't occur in a vacuum, and thus would invite the question, "If this guy is right, why are all those other scientists making arguments which are inconsistent with my religous beliefs."

The article Adler endorses also seems to conflate religiousity with the Republican Party:
Global warming is another issue on which scientists continually fail to reach key segments of the public. The real inconvenient truth here is that scientists aren't doing a good job of packaging what they know. No matter how solid the science gets, there remain "two Americas" on the subject: A strong majority of Republicans discount the science and the issue's urgency, while an overwhelming number of Democrats believe the opposite. Once again, the facts aren't driving opinions here. Instead, selective interpretations - delivered via fragmented media and resonating with the public's partisan prejudices - are winning out.

Thus, despite ever-increasing scientific consensus, prominent GOP leaders such as Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma still use conservative media outlets to describe climate science as too "uncertain" to justify action. If scientists and their defenders seek to answer such charges by explaining how much we know, they become enmeshed in the technical details (for instance, does climate change really contribute to more intense hurricanes?). And this only creates new opportunities for Inhofe and his flat-earth friends to sow doubt.

So once again, scientists and their allies would be better off shifting their emphasis, as well as the messenger. For example, church leaders can speak to the evangelical community about the necessity of environmental stewardship (a message that's already being delivered from some pulpits), even as business leaders can speak to fiscally oriented conservatives about the economic opportunities there for the plucking if Congress passes a system for trading carbon dioxide emission credits.
Those two examples leave not room for the scientists. This argument appears to be, "Scientists can't win this one, because when they are asked about the details of scientific theories they answer scientifically, so they should let church leaders and businesspeople make religious and economic arguments to achieve their desired end, even though neither will do a jot to advance scientific understanding."

To the extent that shifting public sentiments have shifted toward stem cell research, I don't agree that the shift has resulted in a change in how scientists address that issue. It has shifted because some powerful interests, including pharmaceutical companies and advocates for people with brain and spinal injuries (as well as celebrities suffering from neurological injuries and illnesses) have worked hard to change the public's perspective. The acknowledgement that some of these proxies for scientists overstate their case follows inexorably from the fact that they are neither scientists nor trying to make a scientific case.

In a sense, this argument reduces to, "Scientists should stay out of the way, except perhaps to try to coax advocates of the position most compatible with science to refrain from overstating their case (too badly)." Will this work with evolution? I very much doubt it. Nor do I think that the shift in public opinion is based on a greater understanding of science or a regard of science (such as stem cell research) as compatible with religion, as opposed to compassion or a reflexive cost-benefit analysis ("If I get paralyzed, I want there to be a cure").

Should Prosecutors Defer To A Jury's Acquittal

Over at TalkLeft, Jeralyn Merritt describes an acquittal in a rape case, adding,
Prosecutors are not respecting the jury's verdict. They spent a year preparing their case.
It should be no surprise that the prosecutors believed the defendant to be guilty. Although there have been some appalling exceptions, as a general rule prosecutors pursue cases only against people they believe to be guilty. (We'll leave discussions of overcharging for a different day.)

It's counterintuitive to expect a prosecutor, after an acquittal, to shug her shoulders and say, "Oh well, I guess I was wrong." If a prosecutor were to have more than a few moments of such ambivalence during the course of a career, I would be questioning the prosecutor's judgment when it comes to deciding which cases to prosecute. It's not a civil trial, after all, with a "preponderance of the evidence" standard. A prosecutor has to establish that a criminal defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor is ambivalent about the evidence, the prosecutor should reconsider the decision to charge the defendant.

I know of cases where I was surprised by a defendant's conviction, given the flimsy weight of the evidence. I also know of cases where I was surprised by acquittal. I don't personally always agree with a jury's verdict, but at the same tie I have yet to encounter a jury, though, which did not take its role very seriously and try to follow the judge's instructions in deciding a case. By virtue of the standard of proof, there should be a lot more errors committed in favor of a defendant than in favor of the prosecution.

I recall a misdemeanor case where a jury came back shortly before 5:00 PM on a Friday and told the judge that they were hopelessly deadlocked. The judge told them that they would have to come back on Monday. They returned to the jury room, within ten minutes reached a verdict, and returned to the courtroom to acquit the defendant. The prosecutor expressed to me that he wished they had been willing to come back on Monday, but that given the circumstances they did the right thing - that if they were going to break their deadlock and come to a verdict within ten minutes, it would be quite worrisome if they had come back with a conviction. That's something apart from agreeing with the verdict, but it's a healthy perspective for a prosecutor to hold.

I believe Jeralyn's perspective is colored by the history of cases where prosecutors have held dogmatically to the view that a defendant is guilty, despite overwhelming evidence of innocence or a wrongful conviction. The tautological explanation is, "If he weren't guilty, I wouldn't have prosecuted him." Yet despite the cases where any reasonable neutral person looking at the situation would be stunned that the prosecutor was still asserting guilt, sometimes that actually is the case. Guilty people get acquitted and, as previosly noted, when our legal system works as designed that should occur significantly more frequently than wrongful conviction.

Perhaps prosecutors should reserve their comments after what they believe to be wrongful acquittals, rather than continuing to assert guilt to the media but, based on what is quoted in the newspaper article, at least they're not bashing the jury. I don't much appreciate the defense lawyer's assertion that the aquittal means "the alleged events never happened," as he knows that's a distortion.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Buy Links For Traffic, Not PageRank

I recently commented on what I see as Google's effect on natural linking. Long story short: With Internet users choosing search engines over directories, and Google's efforts to minimize the prominence of spam websites in their search results, natural linking has plummeted making it very difficult to get new "natural" links to a website, particularly a new website. A big work-around that many SEM (Search Engine Marketing) firms have used has been to purchase links on other websites. While historically these consultants preferred the term SEO (Search Engine Optimization), as on-page optimization (changes you make to your own site) has matured it has become difficult to significantly affect a website's ranking merely by cleaning up its code, adding proper tags, and engaging in other on-site techniques. SEM includes off-site marketing techniques including advertising. Paid links are a form of advertising which, although not as in-your-face as many other types of ads, have proved quite effective in website promotion.

Purchasing links provides two big advantages: being able to control the placement of the link, and being able to control the anchor text.

A natural link is apt to look something like this: - The leading example website on the Internet.

A paid link may look no different, but often different anchor text will be used: The Best Example Websites - Example websites from

By purchasing placement on a prominent location on a website, choosing the anchor text, and choosing the portion of the site to which the link is directed (e.g., to a subdirectory on a particular topic, as opposed to the main index page), an SEM consultant can provide both natural traffic to the desired webpage (people clicking the link) and improved search engine performance. Google, for example, will traditionally see a link on a high-ranking webpage and, paid or not, give the target site credit for having earned that link. The more quality links a site earns, the better it performs. Paid links can be very lucrative for those who sell them, and they are sold in various forms by websites such as Forbes (one-page themed mini-sites) and Lawyers Weekly (see the anchor text, "Michigan Auto Accident Attorneys").

But now according to Google's anti-spam guru Matt Cutts, Google wants to change the rules of the game. It wants its spiders to be able to determine whether a link is natural (added by a webmaster out of the goodness of his heart) or paid, and it wants to discount the value of paid links - perhaps entirely.
As long as we’re talking about links, this seems like a pretty good opportunity to talk about a simple litmus test for paid links and how to tell if a paid link violates search engines’ quality guidelines. If you want to sell a link, you should at least provide machine-readable disclosure for paid links by making your link in a way that doesn’t affect search engines. There’s a ton of ways to do that. For example, you could make a paid link go through a redirect where the redirect url is robot’ed out using robots.txt. You could also use the rel=nofollow attribute. I’ve said as much many times before, but I wanted to give a heads-up because Google is going to be looking at paid links more closely in the future.
This has some of the big names in SEO/SEM up in arms:
The more I think about it the more I realize why Google doesn't like the various flavors of paid links. It has nothing to do with organic search relevancy. The problem is that Google wants to broker all ad deals, and many forms of paid links are more efficient than AdWords is. If that news gets out, AdWords and Google crumble.

* * *

People game Digg, draft stories for specific trusted editors, suggest stories to popular blogs, buy reviews on blogs, create products or ideas with marketing baked in, link nepotistically, etc. There are a lot of cheap and affordable ways to reach early adopters.
Editorial and social relationships have far more value than Google realize, and Matt Cutts's recent outbursts are just a hint at how Google is losing their dominant control over the web. And they deserve to, because...

The Web Doesn't Want to be Controlled
I agree that paid links can be much more effective than advertising. I received an excellent free link a few months ago which created an incredible spike in traffic to a subsection of my site, all by people reading an article and clicking the link provided. If I were able to identify webmasters with similar traffic who were willing to sell me links at a reasonable price, I would take them up on it even if I knew that Google would never see or credit the link because it was an incredibly effective source of traffic.

I disagree, however, that Google is going after paid links to build or maintain a monopoly. Google has no problem with websites getting natural links of the type I enjoyed. It has no problem with webmasters buying similar links, provided the link is identified as sponsored to both website users and to search engine spiders. Google's own AdSense links are not even identified by most spiders as they are usually served with javascript, and they are redirected such that they provide no benefit to the advertiser in search engine results.

I suspect that part of the vehement reaction to this new policy is that it take the juice out of one of the biggest SEM tools presently available, the paid link. A lot of SEM professionals have spent a great deal of time and energy identifying how to structure paid links, where they can be acquired, cultivating relationships with webmasters who sell links, negotiating price, and building website promotion models which are largely centered on dozens, hundreds or even thousands of paid links. If Google takes that away, the current leading alternative is "link baiting" - writing blog entries or articles specifically designed to generate natural links as well as traffic through social media sites - but, despite what its biggest proponents suggest, link baiting does not work well for all topics and sites. For a lot of customers, until another trick comes along, they may find that their SEM consultant can do little more than broker ad deals and manage their ad campaigns.

Google and the other search engines still need to consider their role in the death of natural linking (at least, as it existed when they built their algorithms which still value that type of link over pretty much any other). But SEM consultants need to take some responsibility for the apparent forthcoming demise of paid links. When link building was first recognized as valuable, it was achieved by convincing webmasters "This site is good enough for you to link to." Then it became, "You don't think it's good enough, but President Jackson would like you to reconsider."

Paid links are simply another form of advertising. Google has no problem with their being used to generate direct traffic. I don't see why a website backed by deep pockets should be able to buy itself better position in search engine results by buying links that would not come naturally, and I think that the search engines have every right to differentiate between natural links and those which are actually ads.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sending A Computer Forensics Expert To The RNC?

No... I want a forensics expert from the RNC. Microsoft Outlook hangs every time I try to empty the trash for my email, and it's tedious deleting 70,000 messages in small increments. (In case you're wondering, most of that is automatically filtered spam, which seems to be arriving at a volume of 600 messages per day. I hadn't emptied my trash folder since Christmas.)

(In case you've missed the background to this post.)

Harry Potter and the Billionaire Author

Book seven is already setting sales records, with ninety-nine days go to before its release.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Legal Web Blog That Got Noticed informs us,
Ford & Harrison, a national labor and employment law firm, was interested in a creative way to communicate with current and prospective clients about the difficult and complex legal issues facing employers in today's workplace. The firm has always been aggressive when it comes to marketing, and is constantly looking for ways to stand out. Launching a blog seemed to be one way, but without a clever idea to break through the clutter, blogging seemed to present too many significant challenges.

* * *

The firm considered these challenges and decided it would move forward with a blog only if they were overcome. The first, and most important, step was to develop a focus unique to the HR sector, one that hopefully would enable the blog to generate a following. With this and Ford & Harrison's other concerns in mind, the idea to use NBC's hit comedy "The Office" as a backdrop seemed like the perfect fit.
The blog itself can be found here. So, what's not perfect about a blog which develops a decent readership, gets media attention, and covers human resources issues in an amusing manner? Probably nothing if you're the author of the blog, Julie Elgar. But from a law firm online marketing standpoint, there are some aspects which coud be improved.

First, the blog is dependent upon a TV show, and moreso upon new episodes of a TV show. This shows in the blog's popularity, as measured by Alexa, which appears to show a big influx of traffic corresponding with the media attention the blog received, and subsequent smaller peaks of traffic corresponding with new episodes of the show. That raises the question, are people visiting the blog to learn about human resources law, or to see the latest amusing legal take on the show's antics?

Also, given that this blog is more popular than the law firm's website itself, why was the firm apparently advised to create the blog on a separate URL rather than integrating it into their firm website?

Had I been advising the firm I would have had them include this as what would essentially be a "channel" of their HR law weblog(s), as presented on their website. People could read or subscribe via RSS to the blog as a whole, or to particular channels or subjects based on their interest. Those who wanted to read only the HR Hero blog could do so through a specific URL (perhaps a subdomain - which could look like the standalone site - one of the joys of database-driven websites is that you can easily present the same content in more than one manner. But I would design the blog such that readers would be encouraged to visit the firm's other blog content, to sign up for email newsletters, or to otherwise interact with other firm content and website features.

In my conception, a significant goal of the blog would be to lead readers to subscribe to a greater RSS feed - the amusing "HR Hero" anecdotes plus other content, such as more traditional HR legal advice, articles or legal updates. And that should keep them involved with the firm's expertise and services even after the novelty wears off, or (as always eventually happens) the show which inspires the blog gets cancelled. (Does anybody remember the "Titanic Virtual Trial" site created by Anderson Kill, which capitalized on the popularity of the 1997 movie?) The HR Hero blog is great bait - both for getting new people to look at the firm's services an in terms of generating links - but without much additional work they could do a lot more to "set the hook and reel 'em in."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How Dare Mothers Work

When I first read about Monica Goodling's student essay about how poorly our society treats children, I thought it was an undergraduate essay which demonstrated decent writing skills. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I thought that it might have been written as a persuasive paper as opposed to a balanced treatment of her subject matter. But even assuming it was meant to reflect the full scope of her research skills, it wouldn't be the first time an undergraduate fell into the trap of relying exclusively on sources that support his or her thesis, and believing that constitutes "research". Except, reading some more recent news coverage about Ms. Goodling's law school, I realized that I wasn't reading her undergraduate work. It was a paper she wrote while in law school.

This paper begs to be ridiculed.
For centuries it has been known that the greatest duty of being a parent is to raise the child. And yet, study after study shows that millions of America's children are neglected every day. The reason for this failure to act must be due to a change in parents' philosophies. It is there, in their innermost parts, that the devaluation of their children begins.

From the time that America was first founded until around the 1950s, our society has been described as a "collectivist" culture balanced with a "communitarian" individualism.

These terms simply mean that while parents were individualistic in spirit, their own self-fulfillment and desires were secondary to the welfare of their social organizations and institutions. Hence, "doing one's duty" within a family was elevated above personal goals and independence.
She is seriously arguing that the modern concept of childhood existed from the dawn of American culture, and only started to fade away in the 1950's. Sure. The children who labored six or seven days a week in factories or in farmers' fields had it great, and we should all be so lucky.
Being a child of a single parent means that, often, one is deprived of many things a child needs to flourish and grow into productive citizens: attention, proper medical care, love, intellectual stimulation, financial support, security, authoritative guidance, structures, and time. The maxim that "quantity" is not important as long as a parent supplies "quality time," has been described mockingly as a satisfying delusion. Another author wrote, "Deeply embedded in the disorder of our society and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots is the most poignant have-not of all--a child without two parents."

However, if Dan Quayle really was correct, then why would so many women be willing to give birth to a child absent marriage? For many, babies are a ticket to independence, a ticket sponsored by public assistance programs. But the ultimate cost falls on the child itself.
What a school this must be where everybody automatically knows what Dan Quayle has asserted - yes, that's her first (and last) reference to him.

The "haves" versus "have-nots" observation is interesting, because throughout history that's probably the biggest predictor of how idyllic a childhood is apt to be. The wealthy have, on the whole, always provided a better childhood environment for their offspring. The poor, on the whole, do they best they can within their means. That has improved during the course of this century, where the children of the poor have access to public education and are restricted from working the types of jobs and hours of employment many of them would have historically suffered.

But wow... women choosing to have a child outside of marriage. Is Goodling presupposing that the fathers of their children are on bended knee, offering their hands in marriage, and these women are stubbornly refusing to consider that option? Does she think pregnant women are hot commodities on the singles scene, and that young men can't wait to meet and marry them? Because if she doesn't think either of those things, she is speaking of the exceptional case, not the norm. And then the question becomes, is she saying that single mothers shouldn't "choose life"?
In addition to the contributing factors of attitude changes, divorce, single parent homes, and fatherlessness, one other factor contributes to the devaluation of America's children. That is the increasing number of married women who leave the role of being a full-time mom in order to contribute to the Gross National Product. They toss their children into "child care," but often leave the job of mothering their child less than fully compensated. Like the children's game of hot potato, the child himself bounces from person to person, often undergoing development in the midst of casual acquaintances.
Ah yes, the much anticipated screed against daycare. And Goodling speaks to a mythic history in which mothers didn't have to work and were free to raise their own children. She has, in the space of a few words, erased a history of the wealthy relying upon nannies and tutors to provide child care, and of poor women leaving their children in ad hoc care settings such that they could work. And as one would expect, she places no responsibility for child care on the father.

Some of Monica's incredible ideas to resolve these problems:
  • Revising welfare to cut off additional aid for additional children seems an obvious economically valid goal, but it alone is not enough.
  • Sex education classes should be abstinence-based, and students should be taught how to resist sexual pressure.
  • [T]eenage mothers be required to live with their families or in a residential care group home, in order to receive welfare benefits.
  • Parents should be encouraged to give up an extra income, unless it is absolutely essential to support the family.
  • Christian education and development is thus crucial to all children, and should be supported by all parents.
I'll admit that the issue of benefits increases for welfare-dependent families which have more children is not simple. Having more children is likely to prolong the period that a family remains welfare-dependent, and nowhere else in society are you guaranteed more income if you have more children. But I am not convinced that the increased welfare benefit plays a significant role in whether or not welfare recipients have more children, and I am not convinced that plunging a poor family even deeper into poverty is the best approach to increased family size. After all, the quality of the children's lives is likely to be directly and materially affected by their family's finances. This idea, along with the idea of forcing teen mothers into group homes, seems most likely to increase business for Planned Parenthood clinics. Christian teachings and abstinence-only education as a cure for teen pregancy? Once again....

Perhaps it is a bit ridiculous to dissect a ten-year-old essay written by a law student. But unfortunately, I suspect that this type of shallow thinking and regurgitation of platitutes helped her get her job, and helped advance her position within the Bush Administration. And I doubt that there's anything in this paper that she would presently repudiate.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

... And I Made My Own Lunches?

This sure beats PB&J (which may violate "no peanut rules these days, for all I know):
Mimi Ito's "bento blog" is a chronicle of the school lunchboxes that she prepares for her children. Before they are dispatched for the day, she snaps a picture on her camera-phone and posts it online, allowing hungry websurfers to gaze upon them with watering mouths. And wonder whether her children really do happily tuck into meals consisting of so many vegetables.
The photos are here.

"That's The Way They're Supposed To Look"

Seth Godin takes on an unethical florist. (Hyacinths are supposed to come with smashed and broken stems?)

I can see where the florist is coming from, though, when he argues that people who receive flowers don't send them. Most of the time when my wife and I have sent or received flowers, it's been an interstate or intercontinental order. The local florist who does a great job with the flowers we receive doesn't get my business when I'm sending flowers to my mother in Saskatchewan.

If you were to ask which Ann Arbor florist has provided the nicest arrangement we've received, it would be Objet D’ Art Inc., 734-913-0335. If you would ask which florist I now prefer to send flowers to my grandmother in Denver, it would be Yoshi Flowers. Give me the florist who is effusive about the lovely arrangement they will make, over the one who offers the latest standard bouquets as designed by a national corporation.

But odds are you won't ask, and you'll instead order a standard bouquet from, Teleflora or FTD. It's easier to pick out one of their standard arrangments from their standard florist websites than it is to speak to somebody on the phone and trust them to create an arrangement that will suit the occasion - even though in my most recent "standard arrangement" orders the flowers as delivered have looked significantly different from what was pictured on the website. That's not a complaint about quality or appearance, and substitutions can be necessary due to the unavailability of specific fresh flowers, but it was a bit surprising when I received digital pictures from the recipients with their thank you emails.

It seems to me that the biggest source of referrals and return business for a florist is the sender. If you anticipate that the sender won't find out about your low quality, won't even remember who you were when they place their next order, or won't recommend your services, perhaps it seems reasonable to leave your company name off of the flowers you deliver and unload smashed hyacinth on your customers. (But let's hope the market catches up with them.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due....

And I think it is due. This is the type of case which can easily be deemed to "small" for a Supreme Court's attention, yet the Michigan Supreme Court stepped in and did the right thing. You may recall my earlier rant about this case:
Many years ago I worked with a highly ethical manufactured home community, such that I was never asked to interpret the boundaries of this statute. But if asked, I would have indicated that to me the immunity extended only to damage incidental to the execution of a court's order. That is, nobody in his right mind would confuse an order of eviction with a court's grant of permission to trash a tenant's property, but if something were accidentally dropped, dinged, dented or damaged during the eviction process the landlord would be safe from a lawsuit. With a manufactured home, that would include damage incidental to the removal of the home from its foundation and utilities hookups, and which might occur during transport due to the contents being unsecured.

Boy, would my advice have been excessively cautious. You see, as it turns out (albeit by the terms of an unpublished and therefore non-precedentially binding decision) the landlord and his agents would enjoy absolute immunity for any damage they caused to the tenant's property, even if resulting in the total loss or destruction of the property.
On Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court held,
On order of the Court, the application for leave to appeal the June 13, 2006 judgment of the Court of Appeals is considered and, pursuant to MCR 7.302(G)(1), in lieu of granting leave to appeal, we REVERSE that part of the judgment of the Court of Appeals that found the defendants immune from suit under MCL 600.2918(3) because "plaintiffs' allegations unquestionably directly arose as a result of the eviction performed by Hometown America and its agent." Slip op, p 5. The plain language of MCL 600.2918(3) provides immunity only for actions undertaken pursuant to an order of eviction. Accepting the plaintiffs' well-pleaded factual allegations as true, and construing them in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs, certain of the defendants' actions, including the conversion and destruction of plaintiffs' property in a manner that was neither necessary to effect the eviction nor incidental to the process of eviction, cannot be said as a matter of law to be within the scope of the July 7, 2004 order of eviction, and hence, may not have been undertaken pursuant to that order. Thus, the circuit court erred in granting summary disposition to the defendants under MCR 2.116(C)(7). We REMAND this case to the St. Clair Circuit Court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this order. The application for leave to appeal as cross-appellant is DENIED, because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.
I remain wary of the Supreme Court's tendency to reverse cases without hearing, and certainly don't always agree that justice results. But they got this one right.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Where Did Everybody Go?

Looking at traffic trends on legal websites, there's a relatively consistent downward pattern. Even dominant sites like, and are taking a serious hit. So what gives?

In recent months Google has seemed much more likely to produce pages from the Wikipedia in response to legal searches. I suspect that Wikipedia's "authority" ranking is leaching away traffic from legal speciality sites.

This, to me, represents a danger of current search engine algorithms. I will grant that some of their articles are very helpful, and some are suprisingly thorough. But with so much "authority" vested by search engines in the Wikipedia, their mediocre content, "stub" pages, and erroneous content can easily outrank professionally drafted and edited content from true authority sites.