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Chris Daming launches Legal GPS at the CWE’s TechArtista

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings Services Web/Tech  TechArtista Co-Working Environment Legal GPS Lauren Daming Hemker & Gale Greensfelder Chris Daming
photo courtesy of Chris Bauer
Last month, Chris Daming celebrated the launch of Legal GPS, a proactive legal solution he created for use by entrepreneurs. The event took place at  TechArtista Co-working Environment. Daming, a former litigator, and his wife Lauren, a lawyer with Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, are shown above with their son Jude. Daming grew up in St. Charles, spent 4 years in the military and then attended DePaul University in Chicago where he met Lauren. Following graduation, they moved to St. Louis where they both earned law degrees from Washington University.
 
Three years ago, Daming left his work as a litigator with a local law firm to go into private practice as an entrepreneurs’ attorney.  “I was excited about the entrepreneur scene developing in St. Louis, and wanted to be part of it. But I could never have taken this leap without Lauren’s incredible support.”
Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings Services Web/Tech  TechArtista Co-Working Environment Legal GPS Lauren Daming Hemker & Gale Greensfelder Chris Daming
photo courtesy of Chris Bauer
“Make something people want,” a popular theme in the startup community, is straight out of Daming’s playbook. When Daming opened his new office at TechArtista he discovered that entrepreneurs, “do it yourself-ers” by nature, relied on Google searches to get answers to their legal questions. They didn’t want to hire an attorney because they thought it would cost too much, or were intimidated to make the initial call. When TechArtista members would stop by his desk to ask a legal question, he would answer, but he realized they were overlooking a lot of other problems they hadn’t thought about. “They didn’t know what they didn’t know, and this could lead to costly legal mistakes,” Daming said.  He interviewed 100s of entrepreneurs in several co-working spaces to find what type of legal product they needed.
 
“It’s taken 2 1/2 years to build Legal GPS and there have been incredible highs and lows, but I can’t describe the relief to see it skyrocket so fast,” Daming said. A team of 9 has been working with Daming on the app, including 3 members of TechArtista (Jorik Ittman, Brandon Jones and Jeff Pusczek), and a professor of marketing at W. U.  “We are not trying to replace attorneys with Legal GPS, as there are definitely times when it is absolutely necessary to hire one,” Daming said. In fact, the app is designed to notify users when an issue requires a specialized attorney.
 
Legal GPS costs subscribers $35 a month, with a money back guarantee and no long-term contracts. The app uses a unique Legal Checkup to determine users’ needs and anticipate problems ahead. Users can look for a specific topic, such as how to start a company and hire a staff. Users can find contract documents and search the legal library on their own.

Daming hopes that before long every entrepreneur in St. Louis, and 50% of those across the country, will have access to Legal GPS. He is currently partnering with several local co-working spaces (TechArtista, Nexcore, Exit 11, and Multi-Pass at the OC) that are offering the app as a benefit to members.

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Events, Sightings Services Web/Tech  TechArtista Co-Working Environment Legal GPS Lauren Daming Hemker & Gale Greensfelder Chris Daming
photo courtesy of Chris Bauer
Finally, meet Templeton, the Damings pot-bellied pig, who’s sporting a Legal GPS tee at the launch party April 1. The family lives downtown and have gotten to know many of their neighbors when they take their unusual pet our for walks.  Pigs are hypoallergenic and, according to Chris, make wonderful pets. “Templeton has a complex personality. He’s quite a manipulator,” Daming said, “though I know exactly what he’s thinking.” I bet he’s thinking, like many people who’ve tried it, that Legal GPS is a really great idea. Build something people need, indeed.
 
For more information visit the website, or contact Chris Daming: chris@legalgps.com.

CWEnder Jack Grone launches “McPherson,” an independent journalism outlet

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Web/Tech  The Atlantic's City Lab TechArtista Co-Working Environment Park Plaza Next STL McPherson Jack Grone Independent Journalism for the Public in St. Louis and beyond City of St. Louis Central West End Al Anderson

Recently, on one of the few sunny mornings we have had this Spring, I had coffee at Techartista with CWEnder Jack Grone to learn more about his new independent journalism outlet McPherson, of which he is publisher and editor. Though we’ve been aware of each other for several years—we seem to pick the same nights to attend St. Louis Actors’ Studio performances—I never had an opportunity to learn more about him. What follows is another example of why I love writing this blog.

The first topic Grone introduced is why he chose the name McPherson, which is also the street where he lives with his husband Al Anderson.”I hope my new venture won’t be confused with ‘The McPherson’ ” (the CWE’s new event venue).  The choice of title is explained on his website: “The changes underway on the street (McPherson) reflect not only the ongoing evolution of the CWE but raise important questions about the city’s past and the shifting demographics of large cities across the United States. I plan to address some of these questions in a future post.”

Grone, who has returned to journalism after a recent stint working in public relations, is realistic about the challenges of attracting readership to an online publication, but feels he will add a fresh voice to a field crowded with many choices for local and national news “via a mix of analysis, investigative reporting and commentary.”

One of his first moves to garner attention was to partner with more established news organizations, including NextSTL and The Atlantic’s City Lab, which snapped up A Towering Disparity. The Park Plaza is worth more than some neighborhoods in St. Louis… 45 minutes after he pitched it. That article, which was published on April 3, traveled around the neighborhood like wildfire and, serendipitously, offers an interesting counterpoint to my recent posts about what’s happening north of Delmar—Kevin Bryant’s development plan for the Kingsway District, and STL Village’s panel discussion on Bridging the Delmar Housing Divide.

Grone, who grew up in Kirkwood, earned a degree in English Literature from Washington University in 1988. While there he developed a passion for journalism and was a contributor to the university’s Student Life. Following graduation he worked as a reporter for the St. Louis Business Journal. In 1993 he left St. Louis and joined the Peace Corps to teach English in Hungary. Following that assignment, he stayed on in Budapest to work for an English language newspaper—”without a work permit,” he added—and later joined a 2-person office there writing for Dow Jones Newswires.

In 1999 Grone was transferred to the London Bureau of Dow Jones, where he lived and worked until 2005. There he met his future husband, “a red-head from South Africa,” who now runs a private investment firm. “That was a very exciting time to be a journalist working in London, as I was covering the new member states of the European Union such as Hungary and Poland, and the founding of the Euro.” He left journalism to work in public relations for Credit Suisse in London & then New York. After he and Anderson moved back to St. Louis to be closer to Grone’s mother, he continued commuting to New York until 3 years ago when he began working for Wells Fargo Advisers here in St. Louis. Grone found that he missed journalism, so he decided to dive into the online publishing world and launched McPherson in March of this year.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Services Web/Tech  The Atlantic's City Lab TechArtista Co-Working Environment Park Plaza Next STL McPherson Jack Grone Independent Journalism for the Public in St. Louis and beyond City of St. Louis Central West End Al Anderson

Grone said the stories he is eager to explore are those that were front and center 6 months ago, but now seem to have been forgotten. “The best stories are hiding in plain sight. Wherever there is lots of noise, or lights and cameras, I want to be elsewhere.”

The Park Plaza piece originated from a deep dive into 2016’s PFM Report (Public Financial Market) commissioned by St. Louis Community Development Corporation (SLDC). PFM partnered with St. Louis University and University of Missouri-St. Louis on some facets of the report. The introduction (here) explains why the report (which covers the period from 2000 to 2014) was commissioned.  It seemed to Grone there was a lot more to this story.

During his research he found figures showing that some St. Louis neighborhoods have seen big increases in the total assessed value of their commercial and residential real estate, while  other neighborhoods have seen the opposite. “Certain neighborhoods seem to be booming while others are sinking,” he added.

Grone explained that this particular part of the PFM report did not include data on taxes or incentives, but incentives can truly be the spark that get a project going. The Chase-Park Plaza project is an example. “There’s lots of rehabbing and new business evident in the city of St. Louis—the Tower Grove neighborhood, Tower Grove East and Fox Park, are prime examples. Those neighborhoods were beginning to show up on the PFM Report, which is where you’ll find a real example of the huge value created in the city over the past 30 years.”

Jack Grone is realistic about the significant challenges we face in St. Louis, but wants McPherson, Independent Journalism for the Public in St. Louis and Beyond to focus on more positive, nuanced stories about our city.

You can find other articles on McPherson’s website, and follow the latest news via Facebook and Twitter. To contact the publisher email jgrone@mcphersonpublishing.com

What to do about social media?

Following what we’ve learned about information shared by Facebook during the 2016 election cycle, some of my friends are signing off altogether and headed to MeWe, another social media site. That action had me wondering what I should do too. I have purposely used Facebook more as a way to attract readers to this blog and less about my personal life. However it’s easy enough for Facebook to learn a lot about a user by the company we keep and the feeds we “like.”

Looking for advice, I emailed CWEnder David Strom who has been writing about IT-technology for 25+ years and publishes a newsletter called the Web Informant. (Strom has written a few guests posts for this blog too, look here, here, and here.) His answer appeared in a detailed newsletter he published this morning, which he has given me permission to share.

In case you think this information is way out of your league, try to at least click on NY Times reporter Brian Chen’s piece about what he found out about himself on Facebook, and read what Strom found out when he did the same thing. Be sure to watch the video at the top of the NY Times article for a clearer understanding on how Facebook works. That should get your attention.

Toward the end of Strom’s  Learning about what data your social media keeps about you (in its entirety here), there is an Action section, which is available below.

From today’s Web Informant by David Strom:

Nicki's Central West End Guide Web/Tech  Web Informant David Strom's Web Informant David Strom Central West End

Brian Chen’s recent piece about social media privacy in the NY Times inspired me to look more closely at the information that the major social networks have collected on me. Be warned: once you start down this rabbit hole, you can’t unlearn what you find. Chen says it is like opening Pandora’s box. I think it is more like trying to look at yourself from the outside in. There is a lot of practical information and tips here, you might want to file this edition of Web Informant away for future reference when you have the time to absorb all of it.

Why bother? For one thing, the exercise is interesting, and will give you insights into how you use social media and whether you should change what and how you post on these networks in the future. It also shows you how advertisers leverage your account – after all, they are the ones paying the bills (to the news of some US Senators). And if you are concerned about your privacy or want to leave one or more of these networks, it is a good idea to understand what they already know about you before you begin a scrub session to limit the access of your personal information to the social network and its connected apps. Also, if you are thinking about leaving, it would be nice to have a record of your contacts before you pull the plug.

None of the networks make obtaining this information simple, and that is probably on purpose. I have provided links to the starting points in the process, but you first will want to login to each network before navigating to these pages. In all cases, you initiate the request, which will take hours to days before each network replies with an email that either contains a download link or an attached file with the information. You need to download the file(s) within a certain time limit, otherwise the links will expire and you will have to issue another request.

The results range from scary to annoyingly detailed and almost unreadable. And after you get all this data, there are additional activities that you will probably want to do to either clean up your account or tighten your privacy and security. Hang on, and good luck with your own journey down the road to better social network transparency about your privacy.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/dyi?x=AdkA0Kau6MLj_7I0

Facebook sends you an HTML collection of various items, some useful and some not. You download a ZIP archive. There is a summary of your profile, a collection of your posts to your timeline, a list of all of your friends (including those who have left Facebook) and when you connected with them, and any videos and photos that you have posted. Two items that are worth more inspection are a list of advertisers that have your information: I noticed quite a few entries to more than a dozen different state chapters of Americans for Prosperity PACs that are funded by the Koch brothers. Finally, there is a list of your phone’s contacts that it grabbed if you ran its Messenger application, which it justifiably has been getting a lot of heat for doing. Note that this is different from your friend list.

There is much more on other social media sites in the newsletter here.

And here are the Action items mentioned above:

Action items

So what should you do? First, delete the Facebook Messenger phone app right away, unless you really can’t live without it. You contacts are still preserved by Facebook, but at least going forward you won’t have them snooping over your shoulder. You can still send messages in the Web app, which should be sufficient for your communications.

Second, start your pruning sessions. As I hinted in the Twitter entry above, you should examine the privacy-related settings along with the connected apps that you have selected on each of the four networks. The privacy settings are confusing and opaque to begin with, so take some time to study what you have selected. The connected apps is where Facebook got into trouble (see Cambridge Analytica) earlier this month, so make sure you delete the apps that you no longer use. I usually do this annually, since I test a lot of apps and then forget about them, so it is nice to keep their number as small as possible. In my case, I turned off the Facebook platform entirely, so I lost all of these apps. But I figured that was better than their hollow promises and apologies. Your feelings may be similar.

Third, protect your collected data. Don’t leave this data that you get from the social networks on any computer that is either mobile or online (which means just about every computer nowadays). I would recommend copying it to a CD (or in Google’s case, several DVDs) and then deleting it from your hard drive. Call me paranoid, or careful. There is a lot of information that could be used to compromise your identity if this gets into the wrong hands.

Finally, think carefully about what information you give up when you sign up for a new social network. There is no point in leaving Facebook (or anyone else) if you are going to start anew and have the same problems with someone else down the road. In my case, I never gave any network my proper birthday – that seems now like a good move, although probably anyone could figure it out with a few careful searches.

If you want more of this kind of technical information about your digital life, subscribe to David Strom’s Web Informant newsletters here. Contact information: david@strom.com.

P.S. –  I removed the Facebook Messenger app from my phone as soon as I read the newsletter. Strom also suggests removing your real birthday from Facebook, which I did following one of Web Informant’s seminars last summer. That task wasn’t exactly a piece of cake, so am not sure how much of this I can do on my own, but I think it’s worth a try. Hope you get something out of this post too.

Thanks as always for this great information David!