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Hot on the Web

Asking to be sued

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on July 20, 2007
(Issue 2529, MySpace and YouTube)

The site may already have been shut down between the time this is written in early June and the time you read it.

Still, give the operators of props for trying.

What is is an online rating system for attorneys.

Including bad ratings. Meaning negative ratings.

Rating ballplayers or actors or musicians is good, clean (if occasionally mean) fun.

Rating folks who make their livelihood from suing people?

Gotta tip your cap to someone willing to do that.

Bare bones, at least now

While the site allows for clients to rate their experience with specific attorneys, but I couldn't find any when visiting.

And several local attorneys I know to have impeccable reputations received only a "good" rating (6.4 on a scale of 10).

Even former U.S. attorney Charles La Bella, practically a celebrity during his time heading up the Department of Justice's San Diego office, only got a 6.5.

Yet all of these entries contained only how many years each attorney had been practicing in California, and whether any had any disciplinary action filed against them by the state bar.

Given that all three had clean disciplinary records, the relatively low score is a mystery – particularly when other attorneys had perfect scores of 10.

What gives?

Hard to tell from the site.

Not all that usable

Finding info on a specific attorney is no breeze, either. You type in a ZIP code, and then sort through results by score (high to low, or low to high) or alphabetically by first or last name, up or down. You can also sort by practice area or distance from the ZIP code you entered (huh?).

Like I wrote above, finding the specific attorneys I decided to look up was a bit of a chore.

Sorting by score, ascending, brought up attorneys with scores of 1 out 10 – and all of them had been suspended from the bar, according to the site. But it only listed the year of their discipline, and the punishment – not what they'd done to warrant it.

What it might become

Billed as a way of finding a competent, reliable attorney, could turn into something useful – if it gets to a critical mass of client feedback. Much as eBay and both use member feedback to provide ratings (of sellers and products, respectively), aims to use client feedback to flesh out its profiles of each attorney.

But if it's going to be a full-featured service for helping folks find an attorney, it needs to add a search field to allow users to look up an attorney they've already contacted or had a referral to and are interested in learning more about.

Assuming they're not sued into oblivion first.

GameTap offering free accounts

GameTap, the innovative online service that lets you download and play PC versions of classic computer and video games from the 1970s to the present, is now offering free, limited accounts. Launched a year and a half ago, GameTap presently has more than 1,300 games, of which a couple dozen are available at any time on the free accounts.

There are some classics here, some I never heard of (and I started console gaming in 1972 when my neighbor Scott Doll's family got an original Odyssey for Christmas), and even new games like "Myst Online: Uru Live" or the Sam & Max series.

As with the paid membership, you have to install the GameTap program – a games engine, basically, that lets you run old games originally coded for Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Intellivision, DOS and Neo-Geo, among others. Unlike the paid membership, the GameTap Lite Player contains an ad panel that displays ads while you play. And you have to download each game you want to play – depending on the game, the game file can be a couple dozen megs in size. Still, if you have broadband access, it goes fairly quickly. (And you need a Windows PC, not a Mac.)

Each week, a different selection of games is assigned to the free accounts – that's good for getting to play a lot of different games, not so good if you get hooked on one and then it's gone seven days later.

If you've been curious about GameTap but hesitant to subscribe (rates run from $6.95 to $9.95 a month, depending on the length of contract), the free program is probably a good deal for you.