APIs (application programming interfaces) have already changed the world, but lawyers could be using them so much more. Dennis and Tom offer a variety of examples of how APIs improve our daily lives and discuss existing and potential uses in the legal field that promote better lawyering and more access to justice. In their second segment, Dennis and Tom geek out over the idea of mediated reality, which is considered an umbrella for many other prevalent reality concepts.
As always, stay tuned for the parting shots, that one tip, website, or observation you can use the second the podcast ends.
Have a technology question for Dennis and Tom? Call their Tech Question Hotline at 720-441-6820 for answers to your most burning tech questions.
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Mentioned in This Episode
A Segment: APIs for the Win
B Segment: Mediated Reality
The Kennedy-Mighell Report
APIs for the Win!
Intro: Got the world turning as fast as it can, hear how technology can help legally speaking with two of the top legal technology experts, authors and lawyers, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Welcome to the Kennedy-Mighell report here on the Legal Talk Network.
Dennis Kennedy: And welcome to Episode 282 of the Kennedy-Mighell report. I’m Dennis Kennedy in Ann Arbor.
Tom Mighell: And I’m Tom Mighell in Dallas. Before we get started, we like to thank our sponsors. First of all, we’d like to welcome and give a big TKM or thank you to our new sponsor, Nota powered by M&T Bank. Nota is banking built for lawyers and provide smart, no-cost IOLTA account management. Visit trustnota.com/legal to learn more. That’s N-O-T-A, Nota. Terms and conditions may apply.
Dennis Kennedy: Next, we’d like to thank Colonial Surety Company Bonds and Insurance for bringing this podcast. Whatever court bonds you need, get a quote and purchase online at colonialsurety.com/podcast. Tom and I have noticed that there are so many new podcasts coming out announcing their very first episode soon. We do like to mention from time to time that at 15 years and counting, this is the longest continuously running legal tech podcast out there. So, in our last episode, we took a look at the third pillar of our second brain project we’ve been working on and that pillar is called Action. We recommend that episode. In this episode, we dive into a really fundamental topic that more of a should be making more use of and because the rest of the world certainly is. It’s a three-letter acronym with great power API and it’s a good topic to follow our action pillar episode frankly. Tom, what’s all on our agenda for this episode?
Tom Mighell: Well, Dennis, in this edition of the Kennedy-Mighell report, we will indeed be discussing how APIs are changing the world and what our listeners need to know about them. In our second segment, we are going to look into something known as mediated reality just in case you don’t already have enough realities to worry about. And as usual, we’ll finish up with our parting shots that one tip website or observation that you can use the second that this podcast is over. But first up, we return to the world of APIs because we’ve talked about them many times on this podcast. No matter how many times we talked about it, we still either get or see blank looks when we or someone else mentions that acronym to other people or maybe even more frequently lawyers will tell us about something that they wish they could do with technology that actually can already be done with you guessed it, APIs.
So, we thought it would make sense to revisit the topic because the usefulness of APIs continues to grow, it’s growing all the time and we really think lawyers should be taking more advantage of them. So, Dennis, if that acronym is only three letters the definition should be simple, right?
Dennis Kennedy: Well, it’s sort of is. So, API stands for Application Programming Interface and I like to go just to Wikipedia because they do a good job with this. So, it’s a computing interface that defines interactions between multiple software or mixed hardware-software intermediaries. It defines the kinds of calls or request – in terms of requests that can be made, how to make them, the data formats that should be used, conventions to follow and all of that. So, that’s a definition, but I like this way of explaining APIs. So, when we, we as humans interact with computer programs, we use something called a user interface and so that might be Windows or the way our programs are designed. So, think of that as the human user interface. APIs are the analogous version of an interface, but it’s the interface for machines or code to operate other programs and it’s useful I think Tom just to blazed past the definition point and just give some examples. So, there’s a couple that people are probably familiar with but do you want to talk about maybe one or two that the people experience and illustrate the concept?
Tom Mighell: Yes, but I want to come to my own definition or at least the one that I’ve found is more useful to me because I want to boil it down to something even more basic than what you described and I would describe API which Application Programming Interface is and here’s how I like to describe it.
A software intermediary that allows applications that otherwise would have no relationship to talk to each other and it’s more than that but to me, that’s the important part is it is a piece of software that stands in between two other applications that otherwise would not be able to communicate with each other and allows them to talk to each other. So, examples, one of the biggest example that you will see is — and that you probably seen this before is Google Maps. So, when I am in another town and I get to the airport and I’m trying to figure out how to get to where I’m going, I’ll plug in an address and at the very bottom of that address of that Google Map, it will tell me that if you would like to take a rideshare service, then there’s an Uber that’s five minutes away. There’s a Lyft that’s 10 minutes away. I forgot any other rideshare services, but it tells me where the closest car is that I can get that’s because Uber and Google Maps, they’re not the same software. They’re two different companies. They have two different tools. But that is the use of an API. It is a software intermediary that allows Google Maps to talk to Uber and bring that information back into Google Maps so that it can be useful to me so that I can figure out how to get from one place to the next using an Uber or Lyft vehicle.
Another way that I like to think of APIs is just something as simple as looking at your phone or your tablet and that is let’s say that you are reading a news story or you’re seeing a website or there’s a tweet that you like and you want to share that and you want to share it either via a text message or you want to share it to a Facebook page or you want to put it and save it as a bookmark. Apple with the iOS they have what they call the share sheet, you have the share button, and you can share things. You’re interacting with an API as part of that process in order to get it from wherever it is in a browser and Twitter and Facebook wherever to wherever you’re sending it to, to an email, to a text message, to whatever. It’s an API that’s working that way. So, those are two what I would consider to be fairly straightforward examples that you’re probably using a lot these days. I don’t know if you have any examples or any useful analogy is that we might want to think about.
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah. So, I think the other aspect is people are probably thinking about as they listen to this is there is a form of standardization that’s happening here. So, you can think of APIs as a way to standardize so that what data is being used is put in a form where it can be used by the requesting program so that I’ve done an app and by the Google Maps service by going through the API. So, everything so my request, the address or latitude, longitude those sorts of things are in a format that can be handled and return that actual map that we see into the application. So, there’s a really great three-minute YouTube video by someone named Abbey Cahill of Uncubed and that will be in show notes. Great three-minute explainer that will be really helpful even better than Tom and me on this but there are two analogies that I think can be really useful and they’re often used. So, one is the electrical plug and the outlet. So, the idea is if we go to anywhere in our house, any building we’re in within a country that we know that there’s outlet on the wall and we know if we have the right kind of plug, we’re going to get certain behaviors and certain outcomes. So, we know that the prongs are going to work. We know that there’s a ground wire, there’s positive, negative, all those sorts of things and we can rely on that and by doing that then we’re able to move the electricity from the socket into the appliance that we’re using. And we know that it’s always going to work. So, we have that standardization.
The other one I really like is the cargo container. So, with a cargo container, we know that if we start by loading a cargo container that it will fit and work on to the truck that’s taking it. It will fit onto a railroad car.
It will fit onto the cargo ship when it comes off the car. It will ship wherever it is. It will fit on to a train onto a truck and be unloaded. So, there’s that standardization that everybody can rely on and it’s requires one side so that the person shipping the goods, they know if they have it in this format and its container the outcomes are going to be exactly as expected. And so, if you think of that happening in the software world that I think is a great analogy for APIs.
Tom Mighell: I’m going to add one more API because Dennis, I have to admit, your APIs don’t make as much sense to me as the one that I — excuse me, your analogies don’t make as much sense to me is what I’m thinking about here and the one that I see most frequently that resonates with me is that an API is like going to a restaurant that I am in the restaurant and the server is the API and I tell the server what food I want and the server goes into the kitchen and he says so and so wants this food and the kitchen delivers the food to the server and the server brings me the food and that’s what I’ve asked for. I’m calling for that information. I’m calling for that food. The food is being delivered to me back where I am and to me, that’s what closest to me about helping me understand what an API actually does.
Dennis Kennedy: So, those are analogies but let’s talk about some of the common API usage that you see every day. So, you could be in any number of apps or in a website and you’ll see weather forecasts and weather information. Okay. So, that’s using a weather API. You will notice I think more commonly that you’ll go to than ever before that you’ll go to log in or create an account and you can log in through Twitter, you can login through Facebook, you can log in through LinkedIn or you can do your normal email login. The Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn logins are APIs. So, that’s working through what you’ve already done with those services. So, the authentication happens through the API. I spent time with my Mastercard. So, what you’ll find you see more of these things are the pay with things that are popping up or sometimes you can see pre-populated your credit card information. You just have to put in the CVS number. So, you see Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, those sorts of things, Google Pay that will do that. And then there’s a range of sometimes see bots on Twitter or social media or Tom, I know that you want to talk about the example of travel booking which is like a whole universe of APIs.
Tom Mighell: Yeah. I mean, with travel booking if you go to a website, that is an aggregator, you’re not going directly to the carrier, but you want to figure out where can I get the best hotel deal or where can I get the best airline price? Those systems pull all of that information together. They reach out and they reach out to American and United and Hilton and Weston and all those places and they bring back the information that they get using those API tools. So, that’s I think one of the biggest examples and biggest users of APIs because they’re pulling tons and tons of information from multiple sources and aggregating it all in one place so that it’s more useful to you.
Dennis Kennedy: So, if you move into the world of law, we’re starting to see a fair amount of API usage and I see a lot in the practice management tools. Avvo has an interesting one where you can pull up lawyer – Avvo profiles of lawyers. So, you can get their experience, background, disciplinary history, reviews, that sort of thing. So, a number of things happening out there. There is some access to court legal data that’s a truly promising area. And if you start to think about these things in legal if you say if we want to redo the entire court system and standardize it, that’s a big expensive process, especially during a pandemic. But if we were to use the API concept I’ll call it or we were to say if we can structure the data in a way so that we can use API so we can actually make use of the data we have and have different programs and software communicate with each other in a various essential ways to pull the information that’s needed, that actually becomes an intriguing possibility.
So, Tom, I don’t know if you have others one specifically in legal, but I think once people are aware of the idea they might exist in legal, they’ll probably start to see them but I think that probably the practice management tools are one of the best places to find them.
Tom Mighell: That’s the best place is the practice management tools who are integrating with the bill payers with the e-signing, with the document management and part of the reason why you and I have talked about APIs or the notion so long is that we’ve always recognized that software is limited that really great software can sometimes just do one thing really well and it doesn’t do anything else. But the beauty of APIs is you can extend that usefulness. You can bring other things into it and that’s why we have really talked about it so long as is that it really is helping out helping us make things more useful. So, within that practice management tool, pay your bills or receive bills or have document signed or manage your information, but I guess the other example I want to use really quickly, what’s intriguing to me is there’s a some APIs out by West and one is related to practical law, but the other one is litigation based where they are like you say court access and court information I think is huge and I was really intrigued looking at kind of a dashboard view where it takes a lot of the court information that West might have so you can see attorney experienced or motion outcomes and cases by year, cases by court, you’ve got access to court records there and attorney cases and clients and judge information. But what was really intriguing to me was is that it was combining that information with the information of the law firm already had about its own litigation. So, it was allowing you to compare what your experience was with what other experience was being found across the country or in that particular jurisdiction. And so, I think that the ability to do great analytics on your court information is really where — I think that’s one of the biggest areas I think that APIs are going to have an effect here and I already having an effect. I sense that that’s more for larger firms right now, but I’m looking for the time where that becomes more commoditized and it’s something that solo and small firm lawyers can take advantage of to.
Dennis Kennedy: My reaction is I need to see access to justice as those applications are the place where the APIs are in some cases are already starting to be game changers, but with the use of APIs say that I wanted to do an app so it creates a sort of modularity if I can use that work. So, I could say I’ve created this app that I want to have my clients or others use and it could be just a simple web app. And what I’d like to do is to have them be able to do signatures in it. And so, if you said oh, I just have this really simple app. But to do the signature part of it are say like voice recognition or something like that, how many programmers would I have to hire? Like how would I even do that? If I able to use an API, then all of a sudden that signature functionality is right in my app. So, that’s one intriguing piece of it. And the other thing is the flip of that. So, I like to ask all the legal tech vendors I talked to like what is their API strategy? Because I want to understand like what can they integrate meet with and so what can I – what if I’m using something, can I use their product through an API? Their API allow their product to work easily with other tools that I have or maybe even within an enterprise. So, it’s really fascinating things there and in the simplest form – Tom, I kind of go back to — I mean, it’s that share thing that you were talking about or in the old days, we used to say hey it’s like a sin to think because a lot of times all we really want is this ability to take what we have and send it to another program and work with it. And that’s why sometimes we didn’t use this example. Yeah, but if this and that and Zapier are also great examples of making some APIs available for certain functionality. If you have something to add to that Tom, I know we wanted to kind of take a look at maybe some of the potential we see in law.
Tom Mighell: Well, Dennis, can you go a little bit more. I mean, when we were talking about this before we started recording you kind of had a separate and different take on court access than what I described. Can you maybe go into that a little bit?
Dennis Kennedy: Yes. So, what you’re talking about is the potential of pulling out of the courts. And so, I think the APIs is a way to get things into the courts and potentially in consumer or access to justice apps where I finally able to say the court has an API. Let’s say it’s the expungement process API and if I can structure my data, in a user-friendly form let’s call it in a way that meets the API requirements for the court then all of a sudden, the person wants the expungement can enter their data and it will go into the court system. So, the APIs can help you going in and going out and that’s where I think there’s some really fascinating opportunities, but I don’t know maybe we should just talk a little bit about how to get started and we kind of touched on a little bit with some really easy to use services, but I’ll let you take that time.
Tom Mighell: And we talked about this on multiple podcast before which is sort of the old standby that I got has it been 10 years that we’ve been talking about it. It’s called IFTTT if this, then, that, which is the idea that if you do — if an app does something then another app shall do something else. In my opinion, IFTTT is the simplest tool to use and I think it is a good entry level tool to kind of experiment with APIs. Another one that lawyers are using a lot of and it’s getting a lot of play as we’re sitting here today listening is ABA TECHSHOW is Zapier, Zapier gets a lot of attention, Zapier has great integrations, too. I think it gets a little bit more complicated than IFTTT and then I personally am a big fan because I am a Microsoft 365 fan of Power Automate and if you use Microsoft 365, this is a no brainer, I would say use this over either of the others because you get this for free. You can literally select from over 450. I think a total number right now is 463 services that will connect either to your Office 365 applications or really what you want so it can be something as simple as saying I want to push notification when I get an email from my boss or an important email from a client. I want to save an email attachment directly into OneDrive or into SharePoint, you can create a simple workflow. You can create a complicated workflow but it’s not limited to Microsoft 365, for example Power Automate lets you also save a Gmail attachment to Dropbox for example, so if you’ve got Office 365, Microsoft 365, I would say take advantage of that first, it’s free. You can play around with it. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want. But these types of services we think are a great way to get started.
Dennis Kennedy: Another great thought Tom, is that when you’re thinking automation, a lot of times you’re thinking APIs and just getting a sense of what’s all that’s out there because when you were giving it some examples — once you get to the smart home, you have all these things like you can — she will know that you’re elderly parent took their medicine because your lamp turns — light bulb turns a different color or something like that. So, there’s all kinds of things that are automatically triggered. And I just want to revisit our last podcast and why we talked about Notion which we want to use as a basis for our second brain project and the Notion APIs play a key role in our selection of Notion because we know they’re coming and the ability to use that sort of share or send to functionality to put things right into Notion in an automatic way is really attractive. So, the API Notion is very key to how we’re going to use that. Tom, to wrap up, I would say and I’ve said this for many years and I thought this all while I was at Mastercard working with our API Group is that if there’s one area of technology that you should be excited about and want to learn more about in 2021, I think it really is APIs.
So, I don’t know whether I can convince you on that, Tom but I’d like to convince a lot of people that this is the one that really is changing the way the world works.
Tom Mighell: Well, you’ll get no argument from me that it’s important but we’ve talked about APIs in some format or other for a number of years and like you say we still get the blank stare. So, let’s promise to meet back here in two or three years and see where we are and see if you say that 2024 is the year of the API. We’ll see where that heads. All right, we’re ready for our next segment. But before we get there, let’s take a break for a quick message from our sponsors.
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Tom Mighell: And now, let’s get back to the Kennedy-Mighell report. I’m Tom Mighell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I’m Dennis Kennedy. Over the course of this podcast, we’ve covered virtual reality, augmented reality, real world reality and often what passes these days for lawyer reality and there’s COVID reality and economic reality. And since that clearly won’t be enough reality is for many of us, Tom has found a new one for us. So, Tom, what the heck is mediated reality? And why should we be looking into another form of reality?
Tom Mighell: Okay. I initially found this and I thought this is a cool thing to discuss and I really think that this is just going to be a theoretical second segment and we’re going to geek out a little bit here and talk about what’s interesting. Here’s where I got started. I found this website. I’ll put it in the show notes. It’s basically just called what is mediated reality. But the concept is mediated reality which believe it or not is actually the umbrella term under which virtual reality and augmented reality fall. So, it is an umbrella term for any technology that seeks to alter human perception via computer processing. Anything that is going to try to alter the way you see something by computer doing it. So, if you’re familiar with VR. VR replaces the real world with a simulated experience. Augmented reality allows a virtual world to be superimposed over the real world. So, like we see with the Google Glasses that we should talk about, you hold up your glasses and you can see map directions over the street that you’re on or if there’s a picture next to the tourist attraction, it tells you more about it. That’s augmented reaction reality, but there’s also mixed reality, augmented virtuality, modulated reality, modified reality and diminished reality. Under the umbrella of mediated reality. They are all variations on a theme. The one that really sort of interested me the most was the idea of modified reality because this is where real elements are modified or filtered to show something different or something completely missing.
For example, diminished reality is an example of modified reality. It’s where technology is being used to hide real elements. So, if you’re familiar with a racing a picture in Photoshop, then that’s diminished reality. But this is in real time. This is something that you’re seeing while you’re wearing like a pair of virtual reality goggles like we’ve talked about with the Oculus. There is one thing called severely modulated reality where the entirety of the real environment can be removed. You can’t even see it and their videos on YouTube where people seek to remove very simple things like arms disappear or a rabbit disappears and you can’t see it anymore. It actually results in some form of sensory deprivation, which I think is interesting. What’s the point? I’m not really sure what the point is here other than to say augmented reality, virtual reality, they’re things we’ve talked about I think understand that there are many more other types of reality that are possible and that technology makes them possible.
I feel like that a lot of the realities we’ve been used to virtual and augmented are some things that add to our experience but likewise, there are also other realities that subtract from our experience. So, I thought it was interesting. I thought I would just kind of have that and I thank you all for entertaining my little geek moment. Dennis, I don’t know what you think about all that.
Dennis Kennedy: It’s funny the one that interest me was this diminished reality and this is the one I can see could have application for lawyers because the persuasion technology, so if you think about it, you could say oh here’s a room with these things and now we drop out the stuff that aren’t relevant and so you can focus on the things that are relevant and so that’s what you see. So, it’s not as dramatic as Tom says taking somebody’s arms off. But if you’re able to emphasize by taking away the irrelevant elements, so that’s kind of interesting. It also makes me think that science fiction author, William Gibson wrote many years ago that our real world is actually impacted, influenced by the internet because we’re always online and we can access things and that’s somehow shifted our reality, and so if you’ve ever — you know the battery runs out on your phone or you forget your phone or something, you know this reality has somehow changed and I actually take after pandemic when people have this notion of back to normal actually think that part of the normality now is our Zoom interactions and things like that and I don’t think if we took those away, it would actually feel normal anymore. So, we are kicking out a bit, but I actually think there’s something really practical and maybe profound here in this notion of this mixture of computer modulated realities, but now, it’s time for our parting shot that one tip website our observation. You can use a second this podcast ends, Tom, take it away.
Tom Mighell: So, the hot new tool or website of the past couple of weeks as we are recording this podcast is something called Deep Nostalgia. It is a website from a family tree site called MyHeritage and what it does is that it allows you if you’re brave enough to upload an old family photo, a photo from 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, a hundred years ago and it will use artificial intelligence to animate the face. And so, you can go online, you can actually see examples if you don’t want to upload a photo that you have but it will — the face moves round, it smiles, it looks at you, it looks at other people and what I thought of immediately was I’ve never met these people. I never got to know them. What would it be like to see if they actually were real people and they were looking around and smiling and behaving as real people rather than just flat images on a picture? I am incredibly intrigued by how AI is doing this because some of them are not great but a lot of them are really, really good and it’s a little bit creepy but it is a really interesting use of artificial intelligence even if you don’t want to upload a picture of yours, there are enough examples up there to make it worth your while. So, Deep Nostalgia, I’ll put the link in the show notes.
Dennis Kennedy: So, there’s like recreated history reality sort of something. So, I have this really simple one. I always trying to up our Zoom games and I think one of the things is that it’s hard as a Zoom skill is to actually get the eye contact, right? So, to be looking in the camera the way that you need to. So, somebody put this thing up that got actually a lot of traction on Twitter that I thought that was great and they took these little googly eyes that you can put on dolls and toys and they glued them by their webcam, on their laptop so they would see these little googly eyes and that would help them look into the thing. I haven’t gone that far but it did remind me that you can take some colorful tape and that will kind of help your eyes look into the webcam and give you the sense of better Zoom presents. So, just a little tip you don’t have to go full googly eyes, but every little bit helps and we in your Zoom game.
Tom Mighell: And so, that wraps it up for this edition of the Kennedy-Mighell report. Thanks for joining us on the podcast. You can find show notes for this episode on the Legal Talk Network’s page for the show. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or on the Legal Talk Network site where you can find archives of all of our previous podcasts along with transcripts. If you like to get in touch with us, you can reach out to us on LinkedIn or remember, we love to get questions for our B-segment. Reach us at 720-441-6820. Leave us a voicemail. So, until the next podcast. I’m Tom Mighell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I’m Dennis Kennedy and you’ve been listening to the Kennedy-Mighell report, a podcast on legal technology with the internet focus. If you like what you hear today, please rate us in Apple Podcast. We will see you next time for another episode of the Kennedy-Mighell report on the Leal Talk Network.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Kennedy-Mighell report. Check out Dennis and Tom’s book, ‘The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together’ from ABA books or Amazon. Join us every other week for another edition of the Kennedy-Mighell report only on the Legal Talk Network.