online essentials

Online Essentials

When it comes to utilizing the internet, everyone has their own unique set of “Online Essentials” they need to get tasks accomplished. This month we asked the LTRC board what online outlets they prefer to use when it comes to getting things done.

Our Panelists:

Sofia Lingos (SL), Britt Lorish (BL), Steve Embry (SE), Pete Roberts (PR), Dennis Kennedy (DK), Allison Shields (AS), Mark Rosch (MR) and Chad Burton (CB).

How often do you use Yelp? If not Yelp, what alternative online business review site do you utilize? (Yahoo local, Google local, City Search, Four Square)

SL: We eat out a lot and I do rely on the reviews of my Yelp colleagues to decide what and where.  With regard to online reviews for professional services I find Google to be the most helpful, as I am often already performing a Google search and it is readily accessible.  A number of clients have noted that they found Avvo reviews helpful.  I believe Avvo spends money on SEO so it also pops up on page one.  For product reviews I tend to turn to Amazon.  Oh and for recipes (don’t forget to read the comments to spice things up a bit)!

BL:  I probably use Yelp a few times a month, typically for things like restaurants and services, particularly when I’m traveling.

SE: Other than the occasional personal needs (plumber etc.), I rarely use Yelp or other services for online business review. I travel a lot for work and pleasure so I will use Yelp to help with restaurants and hotel reviews. I also use TripAdvisor, Zagat etc. and usually decide after consulting at least 2 and sometimes more of these services. Finally, although not directly on point, I use TripIt quite a bit for travel purposes.

PR: Yelp is my preferred resource and while recognizing that not all reviews may be legitimate, Yelp is helpful for perspective.

DK: I rarely use Yelp these days, in part because many reviewers seem so crabby and comments seem to date very quickly. How much does a poor review from 8 months ago really tell me? I will sometimes use TripAdvisor when traveling, but I find that it has limited utility and I have to read critically and take bad comments with a grain of salt. In general, I’m bearish these days on crowdsourced review sites, even Amazon reviews. A good piece of advice I heard recently was to concentrate on the 4 (out of 5) star reviews because the comments were likely to be especially helpful.

AS: I’m not a big user of online business review sites. Usually if I’m traveling, I’ll get recommendations from someone who lives locally about restaurants, hotels, etc. I will then generally go to that business’ website to see their menu, photos, etc. and then I might look at the reviews that are posted on Yelp or other business review sites, but I take reviews online with a grain of salt, since I know there are lots of ways businesses are trying to ‘game the system’ to get good reviews and there are many companies out there that will manufacture fake reviews.

MR: I’ve been traveling extensively for work since 1999. I’ve cycled through a number of different apps to help locate businesses, restaurants, or other addresses in a strange city. I started out using UrbanSpoon 9 or 10 years ago, but the novelty of its selection engine wore off after awhile.  I used City Search briefly and don’t remember why I stopped. I still do 2-3 of these types of searches per day and mostly rely on Yelp, then Google Local, then Trip Advisor (in that order). But mostly Yelp. For whatever reason, I’ve never been a Four Square user.

Looking back at this 2011 conversation I had with the NY Times ( about the apps I used to navigate business travel, makes it clear for me how some apps like Yelp have staying power – I’m still using it very similarly to the way I did a half-decade ago – and how some apps like Taxi Magic (now Curb) can be completely replaced by a category of app/service that didn’t even exist at the time – like Uber. Regardless of what app(s) I’m using, I wonder how I ever managed business travel without a smartphone.

CB: I use Yelp quite regularly, especially when traveling to find new restaurants. The Yelp/iOS integration makes finding local options super easy.  Yahoo? Hahaha.

When choosing a search engine, what site do you use and why? (Google, Bing, etc)

SL: GOOGLE (it has become it own verb)

BL: I have traditionally used Google, but have recently begun using Bing on occasion to compare results.  Bing has become more like Google recently with the filtering by News, Images, etc. and it has a nice look to it.  Both also allow filtering by date/time range.  I think the Advanced Search features are a little better in Google, but I like some of the image information and other little user friendly nuances of Bing.  So they have become pretty interchangeable to me.

SE: I use Google quite often. I have found its generally the best.

PR: I usually use Bing but will use Google as well depending on what I am searching. I recognize that Google, particularly Google Scholar, can be useful while being aware that maintaining confidentiality is uppermost in my mind.

DK: For better or worse, and more often for the worse these days, I’m still a Google person. I find that I move to the Google advanced search features and filters more often these days than ever in the past. Many times Google search results read like an SEO awards list than useful search results.

AS: I generally use Google, mostly because I use the Chrome browser on most of my devices and I have an Android phone. If I’m too lazy to type or am somewhere I can’t type, I can just ask Google a question on my phone. If I’m home, I’ll tend to ask Alexa, so I guess in that case, I’m using Bing.

MR: Which? Google Why? Advanced Search. The Advanced Search capabilities of Google make it easier for searchers to create sophisticated, targeted searches.

There’s no doubt that Bing and Yahoo have made great strides in the depth and relevancy of their search results over the past 5, or so, years. That said, no search engine is perfect, nor has any one identified all of the potentially useful pages that might answer my web query. So, I still suggest that people be familiar with at least two search engines to help locate information if their first choice isn’t delivering on a particular search.

Yahoo still offers an Advanced Search page, but doesn’t make there’s as easy to locate as Google does. This makes it my second choice for search. I’m still on the fence whether the way Yahoo retrieves results from (some magical mix of) Bing and Google’s indices is a benefit or a hindrance to the quality of results. It will also be interesting to see what effect Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo will have on search results. Bing eliminated it’s Advanced Search page altogether, a couple of years ago. This makes Bing my third choice for searches.

My third choice is the “alternative” search engine It offers a variety of different kinds of searches – both from its own index, as well as being able to retrieve results from Google or Yahoo’s indices. DuckDuckGo also doesn’t store any information about your searches (like your IP address, search terms, search history, etc.) that can be stored by some of the “traditional” search engines already mentioned.

CB: Google. Because I’m not an animal.

How did you make the decision to use the e-mail platform you currently use? (Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, etc)

SL: I use Gmail for personal e-mail and Outlook for professional.  I also have a Hotmail account from the 90s that I must use sign into Windows which is pretty interesting (e-mail content wise I mean).  Outlook continues to build tools to support business.  One of my favorites is the LinkedIn integration.  I understand the Google Business also has a number of professional tools, but I appreciate the consistency of one platform.  I prefer the desktop version, and am not fond of the online version.  I believe both Google and MSN have a better online option.  I love the calendaring and scheduling with Outlook.  My contacts are organized and tagged and can be imported via a scan.  I find the folders robust and searchable.  I think overall Outlook is the most user-friendly business platform.

BL: I just think it makes sense to use the entire Microsoft Office suite for the work we do.  To me Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail and those other similar services are more consumer email products, rather than business/enterprise.  I have a Gmail account for my personal email, but I use a proper business domain for my work and take full advantage of Exchange features and Outlook functionality.

SE: For work, I use Outlook mainly because it’s the platform our office has set up. It works pretty well. I also have a gmail account I use more or less for personal stuff that I don’t want to clog up my Outlook account. Finally, I have a Yahoo address I usually give out to those sites I know will send me promotional stuff once I sign up for something. Frankly, I rarely check that account.

PR: I have a Hotmail account for commercial purposes such as vendors. I am a MAC user so the Mail function there is my platform. I am a big fan of Outlook and how it can be molded, so to speak, into a helpful practice management tool.

DK: I chose Gmail many years ago for all my email after my web host recommended shifting my troublesome domain name email server program to Gmail. I like the fact that email to my domain name easily and simply is powered via Gmail. I was also persuaded that Gmail’s search tools relieved me of the need to do much in the way of actual email management. Interestingly, at least to me, I’ve never seen a Google ad associated with Gmail that ever seemed tailored enough to me to click on it. That’s something to think about.

AS: I use Outlook, probably because I’ve been using it since my former law firm started using it many years ago. I am a PC user, rather than a Mac user, so I am usually working with the Microsoft Office suite of tools, including Word and Outlook. Although I have a Gmail account, I never got into using it because Outlook always worked just fine for me and I have always been able to get my email from my Outlook accounts on any of my devices. I have always found it to be very functional so I never saw any reason to switch.

MR: We switched our domain to Google’s hosted (G-mail-based) “Google for Work” platform (formerly known as “Google Apps for Work,” “Google Apps for Business,” “Google Apps Premium,” “Google Apps Enterprise”…please let me know if I left out a former alias) 8 or 9 years ago. When we initially made the switch, we had users getting their email in Outlook (for Windows), Outlook Express (for Mac), and via the web browser (on both platforms). The flexibility to let each user continue using the client they were most comfortable with – without forcing them to change – made it an easy choice. Now, Google Apps for Work makes managing existing users and adding new users easy. Similarly, supporting users on their various devices is also relatively easy.

CB: We have used Google for Work of years (in multiple businesses). Google’s business solution is cost effective, has a low learning curve and the integrations with other apps remain almost untouchable. Also, until the past year or so, Office 365 has been garbage. Is AOL still a thing?

When it comes to getting your daily news, what online news site do you prefer to use? Why?

SL: Twitter.  I consider it the left hand digest of all the news I want to decide if I care to read combined.  I rarely go directly to any sources any more.  Sometimes and  Maybe the local paper like the Boston Globe or Mass Lawyers Weekly for something specific, and usually because – you never know.

BL: I actually use a product called FlipBoard typically because it amalgamates a lot of different news sites into one feed.  Thus, I don’t have to choose one favorite site.  I can see many news sources (CNN, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and many more), as well as my Twitter feed, and any other social media feeds that I want.  All from the comfort of one app.  I can also save articles I find interesting for later, or create boards on various topics and save articles to those.  I can tweet or share to various social media platforms any articles I find particularly interesting or relevant.  It is a great tool.

SE: Good question. I tried several and about a month ok subscribed to the digital New York Times. It carries a relatively small charge which made me avoid it for a long time. But I have found it to be excellent and provides the broadest coverage so the cost is well worth it. Plus the fact that the stories are usually well written, thoughtful and well researched. I also digitally subscribe to our local newspaper and use local TV apps for information about local events.

PR: Flipboard is excellent on my iPhone and then I go to CNN for further details if necessary.

DK: For breaking news every day, I rely on Twitter trending topics. My collection of feeds in Feedly is my other source of news. Social media connections are another source. I also get a daily email from the NY Times that gives me an idea of what the mainstream media will be talking about.

AS: I don’t get most of my news from online sites, so I don’t have many favorites for regular daily news. I look forward to seeing what sites others think are “go to” sites for their daily news.

MR: I don’t rely on any one site for my news. Much of the online news I read is “suggested” to me by friends and “friends” I follow on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

I’ve identified people who I know, respect, and have similar interests as I do. I read many of the news stories that they share on topics that interest me. I’m using them as a way to sift through dozens, if not hundreds, of sources to find stories of interest to me. This brings me stories with varied perspectives from a wider range of publications than I could ever scan through on my own. I also peruse the headlines at Google News (in my browser) or the iOS News app on my phone.

I’m still an avid consumer of “old” media too. I still read a local, print newspaper everyday when I’m home (and whenever I can when I’m traveling).  I also try to catch the late local news wherever I am.

CB: Twitter and Apple News. Twitter is great for real time info and I dig Twitter Moments. Apple News nicely curates the different topics/publications I am interested in. It makes it really easy to find what’s the latest and greatest with Taylor Swift. CORRECTION: I mean, it makes it easy to keep up on the latest trends in how artificial intelligence is changing the delivery of legal services.

Image credit: David M G /

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