Over the past few days, the Product team at LexBlog has been busy launching a few bodies of work that have been a long time coming. While our Success team launches sites and solutions on a hourly basis, the product side of LexBlog has the luxury of spending weeks, sometimes months, working on new features (what luxury!). It’s a truly fortunate situation, and one that we don’t take for granted.

This week, our team had the pleasure of being in the same offices together with our Lead Developer, Scott Fennell – who blogs over at Code in the Cold – and Director of Design, Brian Biddle making their quarterly visit to the LexBlog Mothership (now at WeWork!), and we made sure to capitalize. This Thursday and Friday we celebrated our team’s geographical unity, short-lived though it may be, by launching a new admin color scheme, a redesigned LXBN – named The LexBlog Network from here on out – and LexBlog Network subscription options for each author on LexBlog’s publishing platform.

While our authors may not find the new admin color scheme groundbreaking, this update was the source of some headaches for yours truly, and served as a great technical opportunity for Mr. Biddle and Angelo Carosio, LexBlog’s in-house DJ and developer extraordinaire.

My frustration was primarily around the notion of the update itself! As a curmudgeon, UI changes annoy me (I avoided Bitbucket’s new UI for months!), and while the old admin color palette was not my favorite, making changes for the sake of making changes is a bad habit. Ultimately, I overcame these mental challenges (which were primarily self-inflicted) by making a simple decision: To give our authors control.

To that end, the new admin color scheme comes with a default palette that reflects our updated brand and falls in line with our new LexBlog Network design and two additional options for those that want something a bit different from our off-the-rack option.

The three new color scheme options on each author’s profile page

The technical fun was that Brian got the chance to stretch his legs (and mind) and learn a bit of Sass and Git – a huge departure for a self-proclaimed lover of Photoshop. Meanwhile, Angelo dodged around some core WordPress issues, which has it’s own expectations for color schemes, to make sure that publishers and admins logging in for the first time were greeted by the new look.

Here are each of these three options in all their glory:

LexBlog Classic - the default for all users!
LexBlog Classic – the default for all users!
LexBlog Slate – my personal favorite 🙂
LexBlog Turquoise – I think Brian just wanted some pretty colors here

This update was launched Friday, shortly after our team finalized the new Lexblog Network’s design. The LexBlog Network (a.k.a., The Artist Formerly Known as LXBN) is LexBlog’s portal to all of our client’s content. Built in 2011, the site had not received a proper facelift in years, and feature additions were managed in an ad hoc fashion, creating a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a theme. The featured image on this post is a look at the new design, but you can check it out for yourself!

Over the past several sprints, Angelo and Scott – with guidance from Brian – updated our core theme to support the site. This forced us to engage in a practice called dogfooding, or, put differently, use the same products for our corporate properties that we use for our clients. Now The LexBlog Network, Real Lawyers Have Blogs, and this blog, all make use of the same core technology that our publishers use everyday. Eating our own dogfood, as it were.

For The LexBlog Network, this is just the beginning. This facelift is part of a larger effort for LexBlog to reinvest in our publishers’ content and engage our network of over 15,000 authors. This, in large part, is why the third major update was targeted at helping these authors subscribe to specific channels. Over the last few years, we’ve added the capability to subscribe to the site by category, allowing authors that are interested in only employment law to get content from blogs focused on employment and labor concerns. Until now, the subscriptions were managed entirely through a form on the site, but with some hard work from Angelo and Scott each publisher on the platform can manage their subscriptions through their user profile!

To view this yourself, just log into your blog (if you have multiple blogs with LexBlog, any blog will do), click on the “Howdy, [your name]” link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, and navigate to the bottom of your user profile. Here you will see an option to click on a button to manage your subscriptions to content from The LexBlog Network. For Premier blog admins, this capability is present in the Network User Management screens for individual users as well, giving you the capability to expose your authors to content from hundreds of blogs on subjects that matter to them.

At first you don’t see it…..
And now you do!

Our intrepid document writer, Ted Cox, has put together an article on our help center that should guide you through the process better than my feeble attempts at explaining, and if you’re a publisher on our network you should be seeing some emails coming to you shortly from our marketing team, led by Mellina White-Cusack (who has a blog of her own – also on our network – The Seattle Conservative).

Overall, a great week, and fun things to get out the door. Moving forward, The LexBlog Network will continue to be a focus for the LexBlog team, both in terms of how content gets to the site and how we use it to shine a light on our publishers, giving our team a lot to bite off and chew over the next few months.

In my time at LexBlog, I’ve seen three different office buildings and worked in two.

The first LexBlog offices where my first “real” desk job began was on 95 South Jackson Street in Pioneer Square. The building was near the waterfront, and a stone’s throw away from the Seattle Ferry Terminal. Our CEO, Kevin O’Keefe (he of Real Lawyers Have Blogs), lives on Bainbridge and so LexBlog has always stuck near the ferries. The offices were nice; brick walls, open layout, corner offices with good views, but toward the end of LexBlog’s lease we were neighbors with one of the largest construction projects in Seattle’s history.

Continue Reading LexBlog is Moving to WeWork

This post was written using Gutenberg, the code name for the WordPress core team’s effort to overhaul the WordPress post editor.

One of the things that we strive to do at LexBlog is help data drive decision making processes. The fetishization of data in business is somewhat akin to the fetishization for new specs and frameworks in development, but data is still a helpful tool (just like arrow functions in ES6) and should not be ignored. And so we track actions in the admin – clicks, navigating to a certain page, performing an action – all the data that a product manager like myself craves. One thing I’ve noticed in watching how our customers use the LexBlog platform is that people post. A lot.

That simple fact shouldn’t be surprising. We run a network of digital legal publications. Lawyers are trained writers, so they write constantly. Basically, if you give a lawyer a blog, be prepared to see them log in, go to Posts -> Add New, and begin writing away. So when I heard that Matt Mullenweg included the editor in the list of primary focuses for the core team, my interest was piqued. When I saw Aaron Jorbin’s post on using Gutenberg last night, I had to try it out for myself.

Continue Reading Gutenberg – The Future of WordPress’s Post Editor

At LexBlog, my team is responsible for keeping a lot of sites up and running. We help manage the reputation of lawyers and law firms, where each pixel matters. As a result, our product team performs a host of functional tests before launching updates, and we lean on test driven development practices to catch things that functional tests cannot.

An unfortunate blind spot is that humans aren’t machines. We’re prone to miss simple things, and after staring at a screen for hours on end, our brains and eyes get tired. To help catch things that we may gloss over, we use an internal application built using Node.js, React, and Selenium that integrates with the WordPress REST API and an external service, Applitools.

Continue Reading Building a Visual Regression Testing Application Using React, Selenium, Node.js, and the WordPress REST API

Every Product Manager that I’ve had the opportunity to speak with, listen to, or read about makes one thing abundantly clear: Knowing your users is your job. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. If you take a moment to peruse career pages or job boards with Product Management positions, you’ll notice that each listing notes an ability to simultaneously be an Excel/SQL/database master and product expert. The nature of product management requires you to live, breathe, and eat the customer’s experience while understanding why their experience is the way it is.

Continue Reading Getting To Know You, Getting to Know All About You

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year wrapping my mind around what it means to build a content management platform for lawyers. For nearly a year and a half, LexBlog has completely turned our model of delivery on its head, and shifted our focus from a project-to-project business, to one that focuses on developing new products. As you may guess, the cost of this shift has not been small.

Continue Reading Building a Legal Blogging Platform

Here at LexBlog, we build, launch, and support a lot of WordPress websites and blogs. In many ways, that’s almost all we do! There are certainly other day-to-day tasks that the technical team takes on, but without a doubt, our most pressing responsibility to our clients is ensuring the stability and availability of their digital properties. This is especially true given that our clients, with the unique position that they have, are often suited to write in-depth analyses faster and more proficiently than a journalist or general content producer, but all that is for naught if their blog is inaccessible.

This is why I take the maintenance of our many sites incredibly seriously. When we perform plugin updates, the update is reviewed by a member of our development team (often a product manager like myself or a developer), a fully replicated staging environment is utilized for smoke testing, and each site is backed up before the update takes place. Unfortunately, when you’re talking about hundreds of sites that make use of various (and endlessly shifting) plugin components and themes, that’s just not enough. Fortunately, we’ve developed a few tricks up our sleeves that greatly simplify matters.

Continue Reading Selenium, Python, and Managing Hundreds of Blogs

The order of questions in the title is important. From general to specific. Why blog? Why am I blogging?

First off, I like to hear myself talk. It’s a failing, vanity at its worst, I know, but the sound of my own voice and thoughts is something that’s soothing. A child of Montana, being alone and in my head is a comfort. Blogging, in many ways, affords that same comfort. My internal voice gets a chance to stretch its legs while writing – a meditative exercise.

This is also a natural progression. After working at LexBlog full-time for going on three years, going from Account Manager to Technical Product Manager, my lack of a blog has always struck me as hypocritical – especially since I truly do believe in the power of blogging. For me, this blog is purely about love and knowledge – love of knowledge? Either/or, really. As my understanding of various technologies has grown, so has my desire to keep track of all these bits of information that come my way. Beyond being a place to record my thoughts, this blog is a way for me to grow professionally through writing about the subjects that are near and dear to my hear. Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you feel the same way about these things that I do.

Continue Reading Why Blog? Why WordPress? Why LexBlog?