It takes a lot of guts to stick up for Facebook these days. Barely a week goes by when some new travesty the company committed bursts into the news cycle: Storing hundreds of millions of unencrypted passwords, providing unauthorized access to user data, or enabling discriminatory housing policies for example.

For this reason, I have much respect for my friend Kevin O’Keefe’s defense of the social media platform regarding my own railings against it.  It takes a brave man to beat back the mob, and I’m just one of the many with a pitchfork in hand.

A year ago I left Facebook, which I chronicled in my blog post “Why I Left Facebook and Never Looked Back.”  I described what once used to be my happy little place becoming an unenjoyable time-suck full of tribal political rhetoric and advertisements.  However, as I laid out in my post, the biggest reason for my leaving Facebook was a lack of trust. I had poured my family photos, thoughts, relationships, and messages into that platform for six years only to find out that they went and sold my data to Cambridge Analytica.

In his rebuttal, Kevin sidestepped my ultimate reason for leaving—this betrayal of trust—and focused on my lack of enjoyment of my News Feed instead. Essentially, he argued that I reap what I sow, and if my friends, interests, and interactions on Facebook were better cultivated, I might be able to derive more value from the network. He added that I might be able to manipulate what The Wall Street Journal calls “some of the most sophisticated artificial intelligence known to humanity,” which at first glance, seems like a tall order.

Still, the News Feed algorithm does require input, so maybe Kevin is on to something.  His idea intrigues me: Imagine if I started with a blank slate and could build a modified version of Facebook. I could friend only people who might provide personal or professional value, register interest in only those items I wish to feed the algorithm, and limit the type and amount of photo and video content I share.

So does it make sense to rejoin the platform with a stripped-down profile?  Would I receive the same level of utility and enjoyment Kevin does?

It’s a tough call, as the platform still has much going against it. The time-suck issue is a real one. As Sean Parker, one of the original creators of Facebook, admits, the platform was designed to have addictive properties. The thinking behind the application was “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?”

Parker continues, “That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you more likes and comments. It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”

More devastating are the results from studies of Facebook’s effect on mental health.  Documented studies, some even cited by Facebook itself, paint a picture that the social network is not a happy place. It fosters FOMO, or “fear of missing out.”  It enables “social comparison,” in which people, especially those under 30, compare their lives unfavorably to others. Lurking and scrolling, the activity favored by non-posters,  is shown to make people unhappy.

With the prevalence of depression in the legal profession, you have a bad mix. As Rocket Matter wrote in our investigative series on mental health in the legal profession,  “Lawyers are 3.6 times as likely to be depressed as people with other jobs. More than a quarter of all lawyers suffer from depression. Many deal with addiction.”

If you have a profession where, statistically speaking, people are prone to depression, in my opinion it may not be advisable to use a tool which is known to exacerbate the condition. Perhaps advising lawyers to invest time on Facebook should be paired with a caveat: They deserve to know the mental health link.

The issue of trust is not going away either.  Since I decided to leave Facebook, it was revealed that the company was storing hundreds of millions of passwords in clear text. For years. For those of us in the software industry, the scale of this lack of security responsibility defies belief. To put this in the context of a law firm, imagine leaving your trust account checkbook in a mall’s food court every day for years on end. It’s a mind-bogglingly foolish thing to do with potentially horrible repercussions.

On the other hand, Facebook is trying to clean up its act.  It recently announced a campaign to battle vaccine misinformation.  It banned white nationalist content from its platform.  In a fundamental shift to the platform, Zuckerberg last month announced that communication would be more private, angling for revenue from a payments platform instead of from advertisements.  All communication is to be encrypted and unreadable, even to the employees at the company. Facebook is reacting and radically changing.

Back to my dilemma: Does it make sense to try Facebook again, with a Larry-lite profile?  All of my hang-ups aside, I’m willing to try it on a limited basis. I’m curious to see if Kevin is correct in that I can manipulate the algorithms. Plus, lately I’ve had a lot of success driving business through LinkedIn, and in the name of experimentation, I’m game to start from scratch and see what I’m able to drum up on Facebook. Also, I achingly miss my interactions with certain friends (you know who you are).

There are definitely advantages to using social media, and I’ll guardedly dip my toes back in the Facebook waters. But Facebook is not all sunshine and roses and comes with some serious warts. Will I trust the platform? No. Will I recognize it’s addictive and soul-crushing properties and attempt to sidestep them? Yes.

As someone who views the legal profession from an outside perspective, I can tell you that every once in a while I get wallopped with something happening in the industry that catches me by surprise.  Perhaps none was more shocking than reports of the Mad Men-esque, old-boys-club stories I’ve heard about sexism in the courtroom.

A while ago I met with a Rocket Matter client firm in Chicago, consisting of a male partner and three young associates, all women.  The women began to describe some of the sexist encounters they faced, and they were as surprised as I was that I hadn’t heard about any of this.  These female attorneys thought this courtroom treatment was common knowledge.

I assure you, sexism in the courtroom is not common knowledge.  The idea that officers of the court, or judges for that matter, are denigrated because of their gender is an idea that doesn’t compute for a 21st-century inhabitant. I thought we left these attitudes behind thirty years ago or more.

Some may think I’m naive, not informed, or that I don’t keep my ear to the ground (all those things might be true, by the way).  But self-deprecation aside,  there’s a good chance that if I haven’t heard of this, as someone who’s very close to the legal industry, very few people outside the world of lawyers, judges, and courts know about this either.

I tasked our investigative reporting team to look into the issue.  This group has already researched and raised awareness about substance abuse, depression, and sexual harassment in the legal profession.  The result is a five-part series we’re running this week.

Perhaps there’s a contingent of people who don’t care, or agree with the judge who shouted at a female litigator “Don’t you understand? We need you at home with Manhattan in hand waiting for us because we earn the income!”  After all, on the day we are beginning our series, Twitter is alight with recordings of a misogynistic and unapologetic Tucker Carlson saying the crassest things about women (and who is defended by Donald Trump Jr.)

But as our reporting uncovered, we seem to be on a continuum that is heading towards fairness. As we’ll discuss, women judges and attorneys are leading the charge to understand the issues involved in gender bias and raise awareness in the community.  And in spite of some of the horror stories, one attorney spoke up about the professionalism of the judges and counsel she works with.

Sexism in the courtroom needs awareness and it needs men and women to combat it.

Update:  Lara Bazelon, who wrote an article on sexism in the courtroom for The Atlantic, share her thoughts on our podcast here.



It may sound quaint, but I am a huge proponent of reading books.

I realize for a lot of people, picking up a book (or Kindle or Nook) doesn’t happen so naturally anymore. Even people that used to love to read can have trouble getting into a novel.

In fact, if you have a nagging suspicion your attention span is not what it used to be, you’re not imagining things. In Nick Carr’s book The Shallows, he explores the effects of the internet and smartphone on our ability to concentrate, which in turn results in increased anxiety.

What’s the antidote? Deep concentration. And by reading, you’re able to achieve this state and retrain your brain off of the havoc wrought by the ceaseless information flow coming from your phone. Continue Reading Disconnect and Jumpstart Your Reading with a Great Book this Holiday

They’ve arrived.

Like a kid on Christmas, my excitement was uncontainable this morning when I walked into Rocket Matter HQ.  Sitting on my desk was a box of twenty or so pads of daily planners I had custom printed to my specifications. I pulled out one of the pads, which consist of twenty-five 8 1/2″ x 11″ color printed pages with a gummed strip at the top, closed my eyes, and pressed the fresh planner to my face.

I love my daily planners, and this is the second version of one I designed last year. Daily Planner #2 improves on the first version by allowing me to list tasks, track Pomodoros, and increases the size of the note-taking section.

It might seem odd for the CEO of a software company to rely on paper for a daily planner, but to me, there’s something helpful about using pen and paper for the day at hand that reinforces what it is I have to accomplish. Plus, there’s a certain analog from the computer world that informs how I work. Continue Reading I Design My Own Daily Planners, and Version Two Raises the Game

This month I celebrate seven months Facebook-free.

I’m shocked by how I little I miss it.  In fact, I haven’t looked back. Turns out it was one of the most positive moves I made in all of 2018.

I had been on the fence about whether to leave Facebook or not, but leaving seemed unimaginable:  How would I stay in touch with the people from all walks of life I reconnected with? Friends from elementary school through college; friends from South America and Spain when I lived there.  It seemed crazy to leave those connections behind.

At the same time, I found the toxic politics and the pointless arguments very distressing. I’m ashamed to admit that I was part of the problem: I damaged a few relationships (that I know of at least) because of overheated political discussions that did nothing to help anyone.

Continue Reading Why I Left Facebook and Never Looked Back

At Rocket Matter, we have completely rebuilt our application programming interface (or API for short). Partner technology companies can interact programmatically with almost every aspect of the Rocket Matter system.

For companies that would like to offer cool tools and services to our clients—including thousands of the most technology-advanced and forward-thinking attorneys in the world—integrating with Rocket Matter is straightforward.

Our integration philosophy is to make our product as simple as possible for our end user, build outgoing integrations with the tools those customers work with, and provide support for inbound integration for the universe of tools that can be built on the Rocket Matter platform.

Continue Reading Inviting Technology Companies to Build on Rocket Matter’s New API

2017 is in the bag, folks! Let’s pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Round of applause and pop the champagne.

It’s time get ready for a brand-spanking-new 2018. We at Rocket Matter are big planners, and here’s how we suggest you achieve greatness in the new year.

1. Have an Offsite Meeting with your Strategic Thinkers

In order to gain the proper understanding of your business (and your law firm IS a business), you have to see it from outside, not from within. Leaving the office for a day or two is like climbing a mountain and surveying the view. You gain a perspective you don’t normally have when you’re consumed with the day-to-day struggles of your office.

Continue Reading The Law Firm’s Guide to Planning An Incredible 2018