Constructive Feedback for Writing and Maybe Living

Writing well requires attention to style and execution, but it also requires interaction. John Gardner’s works on writing explains his views on temperament and talent. In On Becoming A Novelist he also addresses training and education. What he says about writers workshops applies for classrooms, conferences, and more:

In a bad workshop, the teacher allows or even encourages attack. … In a good workshop, the teacher establishes a general atmosphere of helpfulness rather than competitiveness or viciousness. Classmates of the writer of the writer whose work has been read do not begin, if the workshop is well run, by stating how they would have written the story, or by expressing their blind prejudices on what is or is not seemly; in other words, they do not begin by making up some different story or demanding a different style. They try to understand and appreciate the story as it has been written. They assume, even if they secretly doubt it, that the story was carefully and intelligently constructed and that its oddities have some justification. If they cannot understand why the story is as it is, they ask questions. … It takes confidence and good will to say, “I didn’t understand so-and-so,” rather than belligerently, “So-and-so makes no sense.” It is in the nature of stupid people to hide their perplexity and attack what they cannot grasp. The wise admit their puzzlement (no prizes are given in heaven for fake infallibility)… John Gardner, On Becoming A Novelist, p. 81

This attitude reminds me of my introduction to rhetoric class. We had to re-state what the author said for our first essay. We lost points for doing anything more. Saying “I think…” was not allowed. We were not ready to have an opinion. As Philippe Nonet used to say, “That you think it does not matter. Only what you show matters.” Tough advice. But good. He also said we have to let the idea present itself. We have to let it be.

A good workshop is a place where we let the writing be. Take it at face value and root around to see what is being said. Some will be good, some bad, some confusing. We will not agree with all that is said. But as Garder says, if we admit our puzzlement and share well, the writer may see how to improve or explain what was missed. Then all will have learned and constructed a new way forward. I think this approach applies to much more than writing, but leave that for another time.

ICANN Seeks Comment on “Closed Generic” Top Level Domains

ICANN has recently opened a public comment period on the issue of “closed generic” applications under its new gTLD process.  The original application process for new gTLDs was silent on the issue of whether a trademark holder should be granted rights to run a closed registry for a generic character string that may be very significant in the marketplace e.g “.shop”, “.free”. “.store”.  Several markholders (notably Google and Amazon) have spent a lot of money applying for these kinds of gTLDs to run as closed registries, meaning that they would not allow anyone else to register second level domains within those domain spaces.  They argue that they have innovative marketing plans for those domain spaces that would be compromised if they were obliged to allow competitors and others to operate within the domain spaces.  Their competitors and others argue that the Internet should be open and free and that while there are good arguments for “.trademark” names to be run as closed registries, the same should not apply for more generic terms as gTLDs.  If anyone is interested in commenting on this issue, the public comment period runs until March 7 and the instructions are here.

ReInvent Law! How Technology and New Business Models Are Affecting Legal Practice

Anyone interested in where legal practice may beheaded should check out ReInvent Law Silicon Valley 2013 on March 8 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA (disclosure I am a speaker). The conference is devoted to law, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the legal services industry. Dan Katz gave and excellent talk at the mid-year AALS conference. He talked about how automated system, machine learning, and more are defeating outsourcing and changing the face of legal practice. I nodded as what he said mapped to what I learned while I was at Google. In 2008 I started writing about problems with the structure of legal education. Those issues are now with us in full force. I think Dan and this project get to issues within the legal industry that may make the what about firm jobs question obsolete (which it may already be for a host of reasons) but present opportunities going forward.

Here is how he sums up the idea:

At all price points, the legal services market is rapidly changing and this disruption represents peril & possibility. This meeting is about the possibility … about the game changers who are already building the future of this industry. This is a 1 day event featuring 40 speakers in a high energy format with specific emphasis on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. It will inspire you to consider all of the possibilities.

In that Silicon Valley way, it will be a blitz of 40 speakers covering LegalTechStartUp, Lawyer Regulation, Business of Law, Quantitative Legal Prediction, Design, 3D Printing, Driverless Cars, Legal Education, Legal Information Engineering, New Business Models, Lean Lawyering, Legal Supply Chain, Project Management, Technology Aided Access to Justice, Augmented Reality, Legal Process Outsourcing, Big Data, New Markets for Law, Virtual Law Practice, Information Visualization, E-Discovery, Legal Entrepreneurship, Legal Automation … and much more.

Tickets are Free but registration is required.
Please feel free to sign up today.

Dave Brubeck – A great has died

Dave Brubeck has died at age 91. I grew up on jazz from Miles Davis to John Coltrane to the Marsalis family and more. I was fortunate to have seen Brubeck in concert. In the odd coincidence world, yesterday I was listening to one of my favorite albums, We’re All Together Again for the First Time, as I got into a groove for an article I am writing. I thought I should post one the great tracks to encourage students and professors to dive into the song and their work. Perhaps I felt a tremor in the force. Anyway enjoy.

(Not So) Newish Law School Teaching

How do we teach?  How should we teach?

Lots of different ways.  One of the ongoing curses of legal education is the expectation – sometimes explicit, often implicit – that there is one right or best universal way to teach a law school class.  “You are a SON OF A BITCH, Kingsfield.”  I think that Hart used that line to say something slightly different, but it works for me, too.

Earlier this Summer, a portfolio of my Copyright Law course — syllabi, assignments, comments from me, some video with me as a talking head — went online at a project called “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers” (ETL) which is part of the “Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System” (IAALS), which is housed at the law school (the Sturm College of Law) at the University of Denver. Continue reading