In My Humble Opinion

  • Being (law) technology competent

    technology competence

    The following is a summary of a continuing legal education class on ethics of law and technology I was invited to co-present:

    Lawyers (in the US) are bounded by the rules of the American Bar Association known as ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. They prescribe the standards of legal ethics and professional responsibilities for lawyers such as conflict of interest, fees, confidentiality, scope of representation , and of course competence (Rule 1.1.)

    In the past, lawyers were evaluated on their competency based on their experience and knowledge of the substance of the law in their practice areas. As technology evolved, so did the rules and the scope of competency.

    In 2012, the ABA modified Rule 1.1 to require lawyers to stay abreast of changes in the law and its practice including the benefits and the risks associated with relevant technologies. As of 2019, 36 states adopted the ABA section regarding the need for lawyers to maintain their technology competency.

    While the Model Rules do not require lawyers to be technological experts, all lawyers are required to have at least a basic understanding of technologies they and their clients use.

    Furthermore, lawyers should differentiate between technology-related security measures that are ethically required and security measures that are merely considered best practices.

    Being hang-up on best practices, may result in unnecessary expenses that will be passed on to clients or worse, decide to abandon the idea of adopting new technologies that can potentially improve processes and provide better services to clients.

    My reasoning is based on my personal experience talking to lawyers and other professionals on this topic. The common example I hear is the use of encrypted emails. Email is the less secured mean of communication and best practices is to avoid using it when sending sensitive information. One solution to mitigate this risk is to install an encryption system to secure the transfer of messages and eliminate the risk of having them intercepted in the process. However, email encryption is a complicated process and constitute a huge inconvenience that most people either not use email for this purpose at all or use it and shift the risk to the client through disclaimers as an example.

    This is where training and staying abreast with changes in technologies become necessary. In the past years, several secure and affordable alternatives became available to allow users to engage in secured communications without breaking the bank while still having an pleasant experience.

    There are several ways lawyers can learn about new technology trends and learning opportunities. The most common ones is to check continuing education programs offered by community colleges and schools. They often provide programs focused on one subject over a short period of time. They are also tailored toward adult learners making the material practical and less overwhelming. Public libraries are another place where learning about technology take place. In addition to regular technology workshops, some libraries provide access to dedicated online training programs such as LinkedIn Learn (formerly as part of their free resources.

    The ABA TECHREPORT is another place to learn about technology trends in the legal field and what other lawyers are using or lacking for that matter. The report is published annually and provide analysis of the ABA Legal Technology Survey as well as some valuable recommendations.

    Finally, we live in age of Youtube tutorials and DIY attitude. If you have a question about how to (fill in the bank), someone else probably published a step-by-step guide on how to do it online. With simple search techniques and ability to quickly identify relevant content out of the noise, you should be able to teach yourself anything you want.

    I find this topic very fascinating and I‘m glad I had the opportunity to share what I know. I you are a lawyer, I have one advise for you. You need to up your game on technology competency, for your sake and, even more so, for the sake of your clients.

  • Children videos are ruining internet

    My son checking on a an eggplant in our backyard
    My son checking an eggplant from our potager

    Before having kids I thought that the alkaline battery industry was dead. However, as soon as we had our first child, I was chocked how many battery we go through each month.  the battery industry is not just alive, it is thriving. Rocker, bouncer seat, play mat, lamp, etc. Anything you buy for a child nowadays will probably require some sort of battery.

    Another thing I learned thanks to my kids is that they can watch the same stuff over and over again and not get bored. I'm amazed how they can watch a Wild Kratts episode on PBS in the morning and watch it again in the afternoon and still get the same chuckle and excitement on their faces.

    This is exactly what is driving the popularity of Youtube children videos. Kids love them and parents love them even more. For parents, it's literally a free nanny on-call. When I'm tired after a long day at work, I will just put a Princess Dress-up or Toy Cars video on Youtube and my kids will be glued to their screens for hours. It's helpful during a trip to the store, on the airplane or during long doctor appointments.

    As a Youtube user and creator, I thought those videos were cute until I saw first hand how manipulative they can be for a child. It's a recipe for raising children with low self-esteem, hating the way they look, not appreciative of what they have and just simply messed-up.

    Thanks to Youtube autoplay feature, one video can quickly turn into a binge-watching party if parents are not around. What is even more alarming, is that the video suggestion on Youtube is totally automated and it is not perfect. You may start with a sing-along video and end up with a masturbating Mickey Mouse video(1).

    Many tech-elites(2) limit the time their kids spend on technology. The Waldorf School(3), an exclusive private school in Silicon Valley, ban tablets, smartphones and other personal electronic devices from their elementary classrooms. At the end of the day, this epidemic is affecting poor and working families who can't afford to have their kids engaged in meaningful activities or have a quiet time to relax after a long day at work.

    Fortunately, and especially after the 2016 US elections, we are witnessing a long awaited digital data privacy awakening among internet users. We are also seeing many groups and organizations raising awareness about smartphone addiction and pushing for a non-addictive design principles(4).

    Protecting my kids from electronic devices addiction is one of the reasons I switched to a dumb-phone. If I don’t want them to watch Youtube all the time, I fee that I should do the same and be a role model for them. If I want my kids to read books, I should perhaps read books too. If I want them to engage is meaningful activities, I should do so myself.

    This is a very complicated problem where the solution can change the way we design and use the Internet. The business model of internet giants is built on advertising and harvesting customers' private data. The more they know about you, the better they can target you with advertisements and the more money they make. It's a very simple formula, but it's also invasive and easy to manipulate.

    While I still let my kids watch Youtube from time to time, I make sure they don't get sucked into the vortex of Youtube autoplay. I also make sure they stick to children-friendly channels I can "tolerate". There are plenty for excellent educative and entertaining content on Youtube. But there are also some pretty bad channels that should be shut down.

    1. The nightmare videos of childrens' YouTube — and what's wrong with the internet today | James Bridle
    2. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs raised their kids tech-free — and it should've been a red flag-  The Independent
    3. Tech-free schools for children of Silicon Valley - The Times
    4. Our society is being hijacked by technology - Center for Human Technology
  • E-Textbooks for law school

    My e-textbook and note-taking setup
    My e-textbook and note-taking setup

     When it comes to textbooks, law students are in a big disadvantage. Law textbooks are expensive. In one semester, a law student can easily spend well over a thousand Dollars in required textbooks alone. The frustration is even worst, when a book is rarely if ever used in class.

    Some students opt to rent a textbook which is cheaper than buying new or even a used copy. This is a wise choice knowing that after the exam, most textbooks (especially casebooks) are pretty useless. However, for classes that spread over two semesters, renting a book will cost the same as buying a new copy.

    Some books can be purchased used if you are lucky enough to be able to use an older edition for your class. However, it's hard to get a used book without any marking or highlighting.

    Finally, some student organizations also collect donated books and make them available to students for free or at a very low price.

    However, another option that few students are aware of is to buy e-textbooks. A Civil Procedure book, for example, from West Academic Publishing (west) costs $261 and comes with the print book, a lifetime digital access to a downloadable eBook, a 12-month online access to self-assessment quizzes, study aids, Gilbert® Law Dictionary, audio lectures, and an outline starter. For $195.75, you can get the whole package minus the print book. Same book new on Amazon costs $236.99 but it doesn't come with any of the other resources provided by the publisher.

    So, having the eBook format not only will save you money, it also comes with additional resources to supplement the lecture.

    I have been using the e-textbooks from West exclusively for my classes and so far, I like it.

    In general, I prefer to read eBooks rather than paper-based books. It's more efficient. I can take notes, highlight, search, and I can print if I have to. My current setup is to have Microsoft OneNote and my e-textbook side-by-side. I can read and follow the discussion during the class, while reviewing and taking notes. Switching between books is easy as switching between tabs. And my footprint is limited to my computer.

    However, West eBook viewer is based on an outdated open source Flash library from the year 2007 called Yahoo! Astra. It looks and feels like a 2007 website. It's slow, non-responsive, won't load on modern mobile devices, and is missing many of the features you would expect in any modern eBook viewer.

    But this lack of features and flexibility is not limited to West Academic Publishing. Many vendors are developing their own digital rights management (DRM) methods to control access to their resources. This is perhaps the biggest concerns for the eBook industry and the main reason while we still don't have an eBook standard that allows for the interoperability of eBooks independently of software and hardware.

    So sticking to a paper-based textbook is not a bad idea after all. If you can swallow the cost and support the heavy weight of the books, you won't have to deal with DRM and the non-standardization of eBooks.

    Final note: the issue with eBooks is not limited to academic resources. If you are engaged in leisure-reading, you will face the same limitation. If you buy an eBook from Amazon, you are stuck with a MOBI file that only works on an Amazon Kindle device. Same if you buy from other providers. However, the cost for academic books is outrageously expensive. Perhaps it is time to seriously push for Open Educational Resources.

  • First-Party Data, the "Holy-Grail" for marketers

    Interview by Andre Hawkins (@andyjayhawk) - The Verge (9/26/2019)


    For Uber, increasing user engagement in their Mobile App is the key to a better return on investment.

    "We will be able to monetize it one way or another" says Uber CEO (1).

    In post General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) era, marketers are struggling to make use of third-party data pushing the first and second-party data adoption to new heights. Under GDPR, companies are required to gain explicit consent from their customers to collect and share their personal information. Third-party data is aggregated from various sources bought and sold on data exchange markets. Often buyers of third-party data have no means to verify how the data has been collected, and if the consent was obtained making it useless for any legitimate use.

    Second-party data, on the other hand, is obtained from the collectors directly making it transparent and secure. In 2018, LOTAME, a data management platform, registered a 460% growth in second-party data adoption globally (2). 

    But, first-party data is regarded as the "Holy-Grail" for marketers:

    "First party data is defined as data that your company has collected directly from your audience -- made up of customers, site visitors, and social media followers. "First party" refers to the party that collected the data firsthand to use for re-targeting." Lotame (3).

    As explained by Uber's CEO, the pure quality of data allows companies to better understand their customers and eventually achieve a stronger return on investment (ROI). With machine learning and predictive analytics, companies are now able to predict their customers' patterns and personalize content and advertisements.

    In 2019, the average U.S. adult will spend 2 hours and 55 minutes per day on their smartphone (4). The more time you spend in an app, the faster the machine will learn about your online behavior.

    While the GDPR and the soon to take effect California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) aims to protect the right of consumers to freely navigate the web without being followed and harassed by unsolicited advertisements, no regulation is in place yet to control or limit the use of data "consensually " obtained. After all, Cambridge Analytica didn't break any laws by harvesting the personal data of millions of Facebook users. Using complex terms of use, companies are free to aggregate, track, and make sense of their users' digital interactions to increase their ROI. Their excuse is that it is the "right thing to do" in order to provide better services to consumers.

    On the other hand, policymakers are now looking at ways to curb design techniques responsible for the proliferation of technology addiction and its harmful consequences among users. In July 2019, Senator Hawley of Missouri introduced a bill to do just that (5). The bill referred to as the ‘‘Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act’’ or ‘‘SMART Act’’, if enacted, will prevent social media companies from using techniques such as infinite scroll and autoplay. It will also force companies to proactively limit the time users spend on their apps and be more transparent about their usage.

    It is without a doubt that the time has come for technology companies to join forces with regulators and privacy advocates to find better ways to collect, use, and share data in a responsible manner.









  • Knowledge gives you responsibility - my declaration of independance

    my declaration of independance
    An edited version of a message I sent to all stakeholder of the campaign.

    I tend to say yes a lot. In most cases, saying yes opens the door to great opportunities. But sometimes, saying yes can lead to serious conflicts.

    Recently, I was approached by a friend to build a website to collect signatures for the purpose of an amicus brief (1) in support of plaintiffs in an ongoing case. Without thinking too much about it I said yes and started work immediately.

    We were able to launch the website right on-time to go with the social media campaign planned for this purpose. After few weeks, we collected over 40,000 signatures from 144 countries. Although only US residents of a certain age will be added to the legal brief, we never the less were processing a huge amount of personal information that we were not prepared to handle. In additional to names, locations, and ages of signatories, we were also collecting IP addresses and email addresses among other identifiable information.

    Facing the pressure to release the data unconditionally, I raised legitimate questions regarding its ownership, who is responsible for it, and how it can and cannot be used. My approach would have been different, but in this case, I was the one in charge of the server and the sole responsible for the data collected.

    After several attempts, I was able to get the organization behind the brief to understand the importance of protecting the privacy of the users when taking ownership of the data. I was also able to convince them to build a new online form to collect further support for the case in compliance with national and international privacy regulations.

    At the end, this was another great learning opportunity worth saying yes for.

    But my biggest take away from this experience is that knowledge gives you responsibility. And the date I decided to stand firm and do the right thing became my day of declaration of independence.

    1. According to Wikipedia, an amicus curiae is someone who is not a party to a case and may or may not have been solicited by a party and who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case; and is typically presented in the form of a brief.
      Good morning everyone.


  • My First Week of Law School

    Ayyoub Ajmi and Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal (Matriculation Ceremony 8/13/2018)
    Ayyoub Ajmi and Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal (Matriculation Ceremony 8/13/2018)

    Starting law school was never the plan. But working in a law school, and watching how students "literally" metamorphose into sharp educated adults made me think seriously about it. Additionally, in the last five years, I had the chance to work closely and interact with law professors from all over the world. While my involvement was often under my "librarian" or "tech" umbrella, I got to learn a lot about law and especially the intersection of law and technology. This is a subject that I gradually became aware of, and I strongly believe that I can make a difference in it. Finally, who can pass a 75% tuition assistance?

    My first week was tough. And so were the following ones. I'm still adjusting to the rhythm of law school. The Socratic method of stimulating critical thinking, which most law schools adhere to, is new to me.

    The first-year curriculum of the law school is also not the fun one. I certainly learned new concepts, but the reading can be challenging. I often read a legal case more than once and each time I come up with a different conclusion. My reading pace is slow, and my memory is dispersed. That doesn't help either.

    But, I know that I can do it. And I'm looking forward to an amazing time in law school, meeting new people, and learning a bunch.

  • My five-minutes commute to work

    Early commute to work on RadWagon 2019
    Early commute to work on RadWagon 2019

    In 2013, we moved from Fort Worth, TX to Kansas City MO to start a new job. We didn’t know the area and we didn't know anyone in it. After living in a hotel for a couple of weeks, we finally found a rental property close to my work. The house itself was not great. Moving in the middle of an academic year, we were left with the least desirable properties. However, the location was unbeatable. It's less than 10 minutes walk to my work and is close to all the attractions this city has to offer. What was also cool about living close to work is that you can save your mind and your pocket. Unlike most of my colleagues, I avoided the stress of commuting to and from work and all the expenses that comes with it. We liked the area we lived in so much that when we were ready to buy a house, we decided to limit our search to same block we live in.

    Recently, when my wife started a new full-time job and kids were in two different schools, things got a bit complicated. Hauling the kids to and from school became harder and Lyft was not always an option, especially if you live without a smartphone. But I was ready to buy a smartphone rather than buying a car.

    I love biking! And the idea of taking the kids to school in a bike was always present. While we did use a bike stroller in the past for short rides, it became harder to do so as they grow-up. Until, I heard about cargo bikes!

    This January, I purchased a new RadWagon Electric Bike (1). It's a life changer and quickly became my main transportation to work, grocery shopping, and anything in between.

    While the weather is still not perfect, I took the kids to school on the RadWagon couple of times and they loved it. With the cargo seat, both kids are able to sit comfortably and enjoy the ride. And the pedal assist, makes the ride easier and fun.

    In the other hand, riding on the street with motorists can be a hazard. Especially, when no designated bike lanes are available. But it's safer to be visible to vehicles by driving on the same traffic direction(2). While riding on sidewalks is also an option (legal in Missouri), I find it harder and more hazardous due to the unevenness of the pavement caused by tree roots pushing the concrete up.

    1. Rad Power Bikes RadWagon Electric Cargo Bike Review | Electric Bike Report

    2. Missouri's bicycle and pedestrian laws


  • Student's Role in Driving Technology Adoption in Classrooms

    Google Glass


    Part of my job is to investigate new technologies and see how they can be used in an educational environment to improve teaching and learning. While the majority of faculty are averse to change and fear that adding new tech to their class will distract them and their students, others embrace the change and are constantly trying new delivery format and tools that will help their students achieve their learning and intellectual development.

    Over the years, I had the chance to experiment and introduce several new technologies to classrooms such as Google Glass, 360-degree cameras, and more recently drones. While the innovative aspect of technology was enough to drive attention to it, I couldn't make these tools permanent in the classroom. (You can read about the opportunities and challenges I faced with Google Glass and Kodak PixPro).

    However, one major factor that I have neglect was the student role in driving the adoption of these new technologies. I would have never considered this factor until I became a law student myself.

    Law students simply don't have any incentives to test or use any new technology while in school. There is a reason why first year students are not encouraged to work. They simply don't have time to do anything else. They can barely keep up with assignments and readings for their classes. Also, students in general study for the exam. While, my goal might be to find better tools for them to understand a subject. Their goal is to find the shortest route to get an A.

    This is mostly true in the core legal courses that have been taught in the same manners for decades.

    Students have more flexibility and an incentive to use new programs and tools in experiential learning courses. These courses are often not available to first year students, generally not required, and definitely not part of the Bar exam.

    While newly graduated law students will be immediately subject to the ABA Model Rules of Competence and will be required to show some understanding of technologies and be able to maintain that competency, law schools, by being stuck in the same old way of teaching, are missing the opportunity to instill technological curiosity early on their students' career.

  • Switching from Macbook Pro to a Chromebook

    Google Chromebook Beta - circa 2011

    When Apple issued its MacBook Pro recall, because of battery overheating concerns, I decided to switch to Google Chromebook while it is being repaired. I have a couple of Chromebooks that we lend to students at the library. Chromebooks are perfect for basic day to day activities. I was wondering if it can replace my regular laptop. So I gave it a try.  

    I used a low-end Acer CB3-532 15-inch model. Other than the screen and mouse track, which are horrible, everything is working just fine. Since most Google Chromebooks now support Google Android Apps, you can practically access any extension you need. Another way to look at it, a Google Chromebook is like a 15-inch Android Smartphone with a keyboard and a mouse.   

    Native Chromebook applications work the best. Other Android applications designed for mobile phones are glitchy or just look awkward in a larger screen.  

    My first challenge was passwords management. It's overwhelming how many passwords I have accumulated over the years. This task was handled in the back-end by my default browser Mozilla Firefox. So, I decided to give Mozilla's password manager Lockwise a try. While it doesn't have a Google Chrome browser extension yet, I downloaded the Android version and it worked just fine.

    Next was email. I often check Outlook Exchange on a browser. With a few clicks, I'm usually able to send and receive emails pretty quickly. But this is not like Gmail, Outlook web version is limited. So I decided again to download Outlook for Android App. The app works great for tablets and it worked fine for a Chromebook as well.   

    Then I moved to Microsoft Office. I don't have Office 365 subscription with my Enterprise Account, so I had to rely on my personal account to access Word Online. For some reason, you can use Microsoft Word online for free but you need an active Office 365 subscription to use the mobile application. I'm familiar with Word Online, especially within Box environment. I use it all the time for collaboration or for quick word processing. However, the web version is not as feature rich as its desktop counterpart. A whole lot more is missing than I can ignore.  

    The limitations of Chromebook are also noticeable when it comes to advanced photo and video editing. While decent applications like Photoshop Express or Google’s acquisition Snapseed are available for mobile devices, their features are limited to lightweight work, mostly for social media consumption such as applying filters or text overlay. Don't even think about editing a video in a Chromebook.   

    What is clear, is that most of these legacy software that are built originally for desktop computers, unless they are redesigned for mobile devices from the ground up, they will never be able to provide the same experience. You end up with a lightweight solution that allows you to access files remotely on any device but barely do any work.  

    If the whole idea of a Chromebook is to be able to run Android applications then why do we even need another device to do that? Samsung and Huawei have built-in desktop mode for some of their flagship phones. This feature allows users to connect their smartphones to a monitor and peripherals creating a desktop computer powered by the device.   

    Another thing I should emphasize is that when you don't buy into a single ecosystem, you will be doing a lot of gymnastics to get your work done. Life is much easier if you have a G Suite subscription, use an Android phone, and don't mind handling your life over to Alphabet inc. or Apple, or Microsoft for that matter.  

  • What do I do with my 3 hours and 35 minutes?

    iPhone circa 2011
    My iPhone wallpaper circa 2011

    Few years ago, I decided to ditch my smartphone and switch to a dumb phone. What started as a personal statement against the high cost of the service and the devices turned-out to be a big relief with unexpected benefits.

    According to data analytics companies such as eMarketer and Nielsen, US adults spent an average of 3 hours, 35 minutes per day on mobile devices in 2018. Since, I don't use a smartphone, what do I do with my 3 hours and 35 minutes?

    1. I'm taking classes:

    In fall of 2018, I enrolled in a Juris Doctor program. With my personal and professional responsibilities, I can only enroll on a part-time basis. This is the equivalent of two three-credits classes every semester. Preparing for classes and assignments is quite demanding. The rule of thumb is to spend two hours preparation for each hour spent on class. This amount to an average of about 1 hour and 30 minutes everyday.

    1. I'm learning Piano:

    While getting ready to start law school, I decided to pick up two new hobbies (piano and learning new languages) to help with the anticipated stress that will come with school. I have never had music classes nor played an instrument before. When, a friend gave me (to my kids to be honest) a piano, I jumped on the opportunity. The first song I learned was "Greensleeves", a classic and a very basic melody arranged by Hugh Sung (via I'm still perfecting it and planning to move next to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, a piano cover by Lisa Witt (via pianote).

    1. I'm perfecting my Spanish:

    Thanks to Darija and French, I already know quite few words and sentences in Spanish. I can easily find my way home if I'm ever lost in Cancún. However my goal is to be fluent in Spanish by the end of law school.

    Spanish is a fun language to learn. It is also the second language worldwide in term of native speakers after Mandarin Chinese. While eating breakfast, every morning, I spend about 15 minutes on Duolingo, a free language platform. It's a short amount of time, but very effective to build and stick to a new habit. 

    1. And I'm making money:
      This is my favorite productive use of my time. In addition to my job as librarian, I also run my solo company AYYOO SERVICES LLC designing and maintaining websites. It's a great way for me to stay up-to-date with web technologies and refresh my skills. It is also a wonderful source for additional income.

    Although I'm not using a smartphone, I still enjoy infinite scrolling social media platforms and auto played Youtube videos. I just prefer to do it on my own term and on 15-inch monitor which makes it harder to take with you everywhere.