Friday, December 10, 2010

Electronic Discovery Reference Model –Production and Presentation

Well we now in the final phases. You’ve identified, preserved, and collected all information relevant to the triggering event. You’ve winnowed it down to a potpourri of email, Office files, rich media, and highly complex things like CAD files . Now you’re in the final stretch, getting that Electronically Stored Information (ESI) that both sides in the lawsuit agree is relevant and must be handed over. If you’re lucky, both sides have agreed to have a settlement conference where the matter can end there. If you’re not lucky, you proceed with the two final steps.

How do you complete these last two steps, Production and Presentation? What unexpected hazards should you watch out for so you can be confident that you’ve done everything legally required and can step aside, letting the prosecuting and defense lawyers take over from here?



Here is where opposing attorneys “meet and confer,” agreeing (among other things) on the format that the relevant material will be produced for presentation, how to preserve or select metadata, and redaction rules. Production of ESI is not as simple as you might think, for two reasons – one that is just emerging, and one that is obvious.  Let’s take the obvious one first: Format. And to keep things simpler than they are becoming, lets restrict this discussion to email, Office documents, and complex design files. You may not be so lucky to be able to exclude social and rich media. Rich media can be everything from recorded voicemail to video. Social media means everything from Text messages to blog entries, and often is produced collaboratively.
For simplicity’s sake, the EDRM standard presents four options:
  • Paper (gasp!)
  • Quasi-Paper
  • Quasi-Native and
  • Native.

Essentially these options range from the easiest to produce to the easiest to use.  Printing to paper may seem both archaic and easy. Paper is fragile but stable and usually easy to produce. However, volume can be an issue (think time and money), and paper is not easy to search with anything but eyeballs. Still, paper is easy to understand and often a favorite.  However, if the information is not in your country’s most common format –- 8 and 1/2 inches in the U.S.—you will have to decide whether to tile information (hard to use) or find and pay for services to print non-standard sizes like architectural drawings. And if your firm is international, you’ll have to deal with several dimensions of paper.  And of course if Computer-Aided-Design or other multi-layer artifacts are in the mix, “printing” the CAD file just got immeasurably harder. Tiling or printing on large format paper can make it hard to correlate the layers. And always remember: If the files can have attachments or links to other files, those other things are also in the collection you must produce.
Quasi-paper refers to a high-fidelity digital format that looks like the paper original but can offer the advantage of speedy production and full-text (or simple string) searching.  The two most common forms of quasi-paper are TIFF for images, and Adobe PDF.  TIFF can be slightly higher fidelity than PDF but does not allow for text searching. And TIFF –even when compressed—can be very large.  Yet once again, problems arise that are similar to those of paper.
Even more easy to produce, and possibly easier to use, is “Quasi-Native” digitization.  Quasi-native formats are often exports from databases to flat files, ASCII, CSV or similar formats. They have the advantage of not requiring the opposing attorney to scrounge up the application to match your particular database or other complex information. Yet clearly the export formats, while searchable, do not capture much structure and can be quite hard to use.
Lastly, the easiest format to produce and use, with limitations, is native format. This simply means the format –whatever it is—that applications containing the information normally use to create, edit and store the files. This is the most useful format of all, and may require the opposing side to acquire applications (of certain versions) that they do not have. Additionally, native formats may be impossible to redact or to select and extract “pages” from the native files for the case.
What else could go wrong? After all, you’ve covered the formats and earlier you secured those files. The biggest issues could be where those files are located.  If inside a content management system, access controls could slow down the process. If inside an email backup file, they could be very difficult to selectively find and manage.  Those examples are inside your firewall. Suppose, like many firms you’ve begun storing your files or using applications in a public or multi-tenant web cloud. Who cares? It’s the same data, right? Yes, but where is the cloud, are there many clouds, and what agreements with the cloud service providers do you have for eDiscovery?

If your firm is located in only one country, the job gets easier but can still be difficult. Let’s take the example of your cloud service being only in the U.S. There are many privacy laws that could be barriers to complete production. These could affect both you and your cloud provider. Examples include the Health Insurance Portability and Protection Act (HIPPA), the Gramm-Leach-Biley Act (GLBA) also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act. And if your information is kept internationally (or if your cloud vendors are), each country has its own privacy law counterparts, most different from the others.


Finally, there is presentation, where the rubber meets the road.  The definition provided by EDRM.NET is “Displaying ESI before audiences (at depositions, hearings, trials, etc.), especially in native & near-native forms, to elicit further information, validate existing facts or positions, or persuade an audience.” EDRM.NET decomposes this final stage as a series of processes, from start to finish: “Develop Presentation Strategy / Plan, Select Exhibits / Format, Prepare and Test Exhibits, Present Exhibits, and finally Store / Maintain Exhibits.”
You can think of this as the lifecycle of a CSI show, running from the initial script and production planning through the actual courtroom drama. And since the presentation materials may be needed in an appeal, or at least must be treated as an official record, you must keep and maintain them in ways that meet recordkeeping and legal requirements.

No wonder some defendants simply throw in the towel and agree to pay at the very beginning.

In Summary

The final two steps in the EDRM model depend on the quality and quantity of ESI collected in the earlier steps. There are many dimensions of risk, some of which are legal, organizational, and IT subject matter experts.  Responding to an eDiscovery mandate requires many disparate resources and skill sets.  The proverbial proactive ounce of prevention applies here. Having an ongoing, documented, and understood information management process at the beginning is key. Part of that plan, an up-to-date file plan, is also required. Do these proactively and you’ve invested an ounce that can become worth a pound of after-the-fact cure.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Electronic Discovery Reference Model - Processing, Review and Analysis

Next Phases: Processing, Review and Analysis

Well we’ve made it half way through the Electronic Discovery Reference Model and are now at the stack of blue processes: Processing, Review, and Analysis. The triggering event has occurred, and it is now time to execute your eDiscovery plan as cost effectively as is possible.

What distinguishes this point in the eDiscovery process is its cost. Even though you’re half way through the model and nearly at the point where you’ve culled the content down to the point of increasing relevancy, this is the ouch point. Luckily you’ve culled the collection somewhat, because this review is labor intensive, considering relevance, privilege, confidentiality, and then tagging what you’ve found. According to Attorney Ralph Losey at the recent EMC Writer’s summit, the cost to process and review each digital file averages $5. With 16,000 files on average per gigabyte, that’s $80,000. Suppose there are 10 custodians (those responsible for controlling and granting access to enterprise electronic files and protecting them) and each is responsible for 50,000 emails with attachments. That’s a half million pieces of electronically stored information (ESI). You can see how costs can mount up.

Yet the processing phase is where lots of problems can occur and the money meter is spinning. IT (custodian for enterprise information) and attorneys speak very different languages. Information –in the gigabytes—are all over the place. Moreover, general purpose ECM systems in general do not manage email well – and email could provide a modern-day paraphrase of Willie Sutton: “because that’s where the evidence is,” the treasure trove for litigation.

Not to harp too much on the Information Management part of the model, but it is critical to prepare for triggering events by having a litigation response plan or LRP. Without a well managed Information Management plan, you will have too much information to deal with. You do not want to produce information that is outside the discovery timeframe (more time to process and potential legal exposure). You also want a credible, effective way to comply with the request for information in the triggering event. If you have been proactive regarding eDiscovery events, you already have a litigation response plan or LRP. Among other things, this plan includes a data gathering strategy for ALL your Electronically Stored Information. In essence, the LRP includes creating a map of all your information systems. Among other things, this includes network drives, content management systems, PDAs, cell phones, personal computers, email, even instant messages and text messages. You also need an efficient backup strategy that is more than just backing up email PST files once a week to tape. And of course, document all your LRP work and keep it up to date, saving each version so you can refer to the scope of the plan for the timeframe relevant to the triggering event. If it isn’t documented, opposing counsel may rightly assert that it doesn’t exist.

I believe that, among other things, you need the right kind of tools to manage email. You also should have enterprise policies for using email that reduce legal exposure as part of an overall litigation response plan. You can’t overestimate the importance of that very first step, Information Management – getting control over all information, including email, to reduce effort and cost throughout the cycle. Ursula Talley of StoredIQ told me that eDiscovery is a systemic concern, and that “. . . proactive information management will reduce costs and time of eDiscovery” while providing better long-term results. Analysis requires the use of search systems, but this goes way beyond a Google Appliance. She suggests full-text indexing for relatively static content and “thindexing” (an index of metadata) applied to content such as email belonging to the custodians.
Even assuming you have somehow transformed your Digital Landfill (unmanaged and unmapped content of all kinds) into a digital Greenfield (managed and mapped), you must still be sure that any underlying eDiscovery tools you have to work through all your content is scalable. Andrew Cohen, EMC’s VP for Compliance Solutions, said to me that the critical functions for your eDiscovery technical solution include: The ability to scale across 100’s of Terabytes of content within your enterprise; the ability to apply that tool to all content repositories (even laptops and desktops), and a consistent set of policies managed by Legal and IT.

How much does an eDiscovery system cost? Assuming you’re merely adding to your technology stack from a single ECM vendor, the costs go way beyond product costs. Again, Cohen said that the cost breakdown over an eDiscovery implementation is roughly as follows: product cost (35% of the total), implementation costs (10%), planning/policy making (50%), and annual maintenance 5%.

In Summary

Efficient, credible processing, reviewing and analyzing your electronically stored information requires a litigation response plan, developed collaboratively with your legal, records management, and IT organizations. The more conscientious you have been in the earlier stages, the less costly will these phases be and the more likely you will survive the eDiscovery challenge. It is expensive and time-consuming to clean up your digital landfill and step-by-step get it under control as a virtual Greenfield, those costs pale compared to the costs of ad hoc reaction to eDiscovery events.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Electronic Discovery Reference Model – Identification through Preservation and Collection

Information Management – Essential Beginning for Identification, Preservation and Collection
In my earlier post, I provided an overview of the eDiscovery process and emphasized the critical nature of the very first step: Information Management. Information management can leverage the value of IT processes and increase stakeholder satisfaction. Information management is also key to an effective records management program, which itself is fundamental to an effective eDiscovery program.

Information management is one of those concepts that every organization salutes, but the devil is always in the details. Do you have guidelines or governance for using email, including commonly overlooked items such as “Send links to content in your repository; do not send the content itself”? Do you have guidelines for using your information repository –hopefully a formal document management system—to assure that there is always one version of the truth, one single document or file that always represents the most current version of that file, and is easily found by all those with rights to view or modify it?

Most organizations do not manage content to that level, but are happy to be able to guarantee that they have a rational backup and restore strategy, assuring a credible, dependable strategy to routinely save and restore network, repository, and email files. However, complete information management goes way beyond that, including managing policies for information sharing and discovery.

Many organizations have a duty to share information, such as federal agencies responding to the Freedom of Information Act. However, the difference between disclosure and discovery is that there is no underlying dispute (or threat of one) with disclosure.  Both disclosure and discovery require effective information management policies, procedures and processes. And remember, a so-called “triggering event” requiring eDiscovery processes to be activated include not only a judicial order, a formal discovery request, but even knowledge of a pending or future legal proceeding likely to require information to be produced.

Let’s take a look again the EDRM Reference Model, with both it and the IMRM model repeated below courtesy of EDRM ( I discussed Information Management in my previous posting, but it is still central to the next three steps in the EDRM model.

Notice the two sloping lines, “Volume” (yellow) that decreases as “Relevance” (green) increases through the model, left to right. Volume is greatest at the start of the model, while Relevance is greatest towards the end. When you get to the processing-review-analysis phase, you want as all relevant documents, but as few others, as possible, to reduce the costs of work in this step.

At EMC’s recent “Writer’s Circle” symposium in New York City, attorney Ralph Losey asserted that it costs from $3 to $10 just to review files as part of an eDiscovery effort, and that it can cost $500,000 to review relevant files, including emails. And that’s at the point in the EDRM model where volume is decreasing and relevance is increasing (i.e., you’ve already culled lots of the volume). Losey and his colleague have created an incredible You Tube video about the problem of information overload in general and eDiscovery efforts in particular spiraling out of control. You owe it to yourself to view this 7 minute video. You’d never guess (until you get to the end) that a lawyer crafted this gem. More about Review in an upcoming blog posting, but Losey’s insight makes it clear how important the early steps in eDiscovery are to the whole process.

It’s easy to see why an information management program to reduce redundant files benefits not only your backup and archive processes, your records management program, the legal and compliance departments, and other members of the enterprise business community. And of course it also facilitates action when your organization receives that inevitable triggering event to supply relevant information.   

EDRM and the Information Management Reference Model (IMRM) shows Information Management as the first process in its separate EDRM model, when the volume of information is at its greatest.  However, EDRM ( also refers to the IMRM Model for the next 3 steps in its EDRM Model: Identification, Preservation, and Collection.

“Information Management” seems like a no-brainer, yet its meaning depends on who is using the term. This prompted the EDRM group to sponsor a project to fill out the details in the IMRM model. In fact, much of the EDRM model simply refers to IMRM, for details concerning the first four steps in the EDRM model: Information Management, Identification, Preservation, and Collection.

Identification, Preservation, and Collection

The duty to preserve information, and thus first to Identify it, begins when there is a triggering event. This can be a judicial order, discovery request, or merely knowing that a pending future legal request is likely (think BP Oil Spill).

According to one vendor I spoke with, Craig Carpenter, VP and General Counsel of Recommind, the most important stages for reducing cost and risk are Preservation, Collection, and Review. “Increasingly, however, enterprises are realizing that the more they do to effectively manage information, the easier and cheaper eDiscovery is to handle further down the process.”

The scope of the data to be preserved or disclosed depends on the subject matter of the dispute and other legal issues. If data is at all likely to be relevant to the dispute, it is discoverable.

After you’ve identified the likely data (its location, those responsible for it), your organization has a duty to preserve it from change. You may not even be sure you have it all identified, and so you must identify a team to anticipate change and have procedures in place to capture any new information that may be deemed relevant.

You can’t preserve the information if you aren’t sure where it is. Thus a critical part of your litigation plan is accurate and current knowledge of the company’s information repositories, including network drives, content repositories, and –of course—email, both current and archived. And don’t forget rich media – even voice mail can be subject to the duty to preserve.

Having identified the data in all its forms and locations and preserved it, you must then collect it.  This means having (or developing) a data collection strategy, preparing the collection plan which includes the methods you’ll use to collect it, and then executing that plan.

Notice that to make all these steps work, the IMRM shows governance surrounding the entire organization.  The model shows a unified governance plan, highlighted with benefits to each (and not just for eDiscovery): Legal (reducing risk), Records Information Management or RIM (reducing risk), IT (achieving better efficiency), and other Business areas increasing profit for the enterprise.

But what is governance, just another fancy way of saying “managing your information”?
EMC Corporation, one of the 80+ participants in the EDRM effort, created and sponsors the Council for Information Advantage, with C-level members from large organizations. Click here for more information about this initiative. These members – in EMC’s words are —“an advisory group made up of global information leaders from ‘information-advantaged’ enterprises. In its first report, released in 2009, the group defines governance as “an enterprise-wide information … policy to control how information is kept, shared, and used.” Governance assures transparency in business processes, allowing everyone to work together, as information flows through the lifecycle –paused by legal holds—from its creation through its eventual disposition. Note that the process includes an appreciation for the asset-value of secured information, key to sharing and reuse.

When you apply the IMRM model to your enterprise, as a continuously improving business process, your organization positions itself to get midway through the eDiscovery model, starting with Information Management and extending through Preservation and Collection. With the right planning, you’ll be able to identify key documents, preserve and collect them in response to an eDiscovery trigger. Managing information will also promote both more effective response to litigation events but also better day-in/day-out use of corporate information assets.

In Summary

In summary, managing enterprise information throughout the information lifecycle has benefits going way beyond responding to eDiscovery events, although it is critical for eDiscovery. Every organizational group benefits from good governance and good information management: IT (which has to back up and archive fewer files), Legal, Records Management and everyone trying to find and use information wherever it resides. While eDiscovery is the stick, gaining an information advantage over corporate knowledge assets can be the carrot.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Using MS Word to Create Blogger Posts

Using Microsoft Word and Google Docs to Create Blogs and Post

Them to Blogger

I have been having a deuce of a time trying to use MS Word as the word processor for blog posts to Blogger. Google no longer supports the Word blogger add-in, and Word reports simply that it can’t publish the blog (if you started in Word to create a document of type blog). This started happening just this week for me, although research tells me it has been going on for some time for others.

I am posting this so if you want to use MS Word to create posts for Blogger, you can see how to do it. Too bad Google doesn’t have the grace to post this for all of us earlier.

Start with an MS Word .docx File

This title is actually a Heading 2 style (the start of the blog uses a Heading 1 style).
This document originated in MS Word, was saved-as an MS Word .docx document with graphic picture placed where you see it now. That’s me, several years ago, with my Superman suit. Quite a few years ago, actually. You could just as easily have used a “.doc” file instead of an Office 2007 version of Word.

I then uploaded it to Google Docs, selected all (by highlighting the whole thing), then CTRL-C copied it (copy doesn’t work; it simply creates a link), and pasted it into a new Blogger blog (the one you are now reading). Bottom Line: You can use MS Word in .doc mode to create blogs, then post them to Blogspot via Google Docs.

Table Test

I was curious if an MS Word table would survive the process. As you can see, it did.
Here is a test table, 2 columns x 3 rows, with the first row a heading and shaded:

Heading 1Heading 2
Row 1 column 1Row 1 column 2
Row 2, column 1Row 2, column 2

The shading didn't show up really well, but you can see a difference.

Graphics Test Too

Here’s a picture test to see whether it would survive the trip to Google Docs, and then a copy/paste to Blog. You can see that it did. This is much better than the old “paste a picture to the top of the blog, then try your darndest to move it where you really want it to be placed.”

Bottom Line

This process works, not perfectly but it works, although I don’t know what happens if I delete the Google Docs version of this document and the accompanying in-line picture. For now, I’ll leave well enough alone.

If you are as frustrated with Blogger as I am when it comes to creating blog posts with Word, I hope this helps. For now, I'll leave well enough alone.

October 22 2010 update:
This funky procedure that worked a month ago now fails. I've posted many questions to Blogger support about how to use Word as an editor for Blogger blog posts, but have heard nothing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beginning of iPad Buyer's Remorse

Well, it's been several months now since I bought my iPad and in many ways I love the device. 15 seconds for a cold boot; very easy to get to my email and to the web. However, some things are not
quite as smooth as I'd hoped.

First, email. I have 2 personal email accounts, one via Comcast and one Gmail. I create folders in both to store email I want available online, but I can see folders on only one (Gmail). So I've forwarded all Comcast email to Gmail; so far that seems to take care of the folder issue. Moreover, although I really
hate the 'conversation' feature in Gmail (delete parts of a conversation and you may lose what's in your inbox), but it appears to work with my iPad better by far than did Comcast.

I love eBooks, and the promise of being able to view and view and manage digital content on a single
device no matter what the content's format or where it came from. There, as I said in my previous post, the iPad has a long way to go. Not only does iBook do a poor job of presenting PowerPoint files, an
(unfortunate) staple in the business world, but the other reader app I bought, GoodReader, is better
but not much better with PowerPoint in that regard. Still a bargain, but getting its WiFi drag-and-drop feature (from PC to iPad) is problematic. Then there is the Kindle app, a nice free way to download Amazon eBooks with the ability to comment on them, synchronize them with my PC, etc. Except you shouldn't try to
read Kindle books on the iPad in natural light; the shiny touch-sensitive screen produces so much glare that you simply can't use it to read eBooks(or use it in general). And when all is said and done, I have 3 places to store eBooks of various types, instead of one; three interfaces to learn; and three different sets of functions to learn how to use. This isn't "Usability 101."

But photos, there's a kind a rich media that Apple has mastered, right' Well yes, after you get them on the iPad, but getting them there is quite a trick. Using iTunes (a weird application for general purpose transfer of files) is one way, but why not buy the Apple Camera Connection kit, then just transfer files
to your iPad directly via USB cable or maybe memory card? What could be simpler? Nothing is simple I've found, and unfortunately the kit doesn't work. I have 3 digital cameras. I stopped trying after the second one.
My first camera, a Polaroid digital with USB port, could connect to the iPad. I got two device errors
after connecting twice: 'This device uses too much power' (hey, it has 4 AAA batteries; try them!) and 'Device not supported.' The memory card fit one of the two connectors in the kit, and I could easily transfer pix from the card. However, camera #2 is my Sony camcorder, with a memory stick for stills and low-resolution video. The memory stick doesn't fit the Apple connector, so l tried using the USB cable; that works flawlessly with Windows. Nada. No error message from the iPad, no message (and no photo transfer) at all. So one card fit one connector; neither USB cable worked with the two cameras.

Apple deserves credit for vetting applications before it allows them to be sold, but Apple clearly has a long way to go with standards (like USB) and quasi-standards (like FLASH). The iPad remains an engaging device, but not as simple or as functional as I'd hoped.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

eDiscovery - Your Next Crisis?

Litigation has a long tradition in the US. Now, as firms and enterprises increasingly shift from paper to digital knowledge assets, that litigation trend is also moving into the digital arena. Ediscovery is a broad term applying to one of a series of responses to a "triggering event." That event starts begins an obligation to preserve and disclose data that may be due to a judicial order, or even the mere knowledge of a future legal proceeding that is likely to require preserving and finding relevant information stored in your electronic documents. In the Ediscovery world, these assets are now called Electronically Stored Information or ESI. Ediscovery is a relatively new concept. You could be excused if you are not familiar with the term. In the US, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or "FRCP" issued rule 26, and related rules, in December 2007. This update to the FRCP made all ESI "discoverable" just as non-electronic information, usually paper, is discoverable. ESI, eDiscovery, FRCP… these and related acronyms are enough to make your head swim. But keep your head above water and pay attention, because if you are not ready for eDiscovery, you could be in for some serious pain, both to your organization's bottom line and to its reputation.
In my view, eDiscovery is built on a series of tools and best practices that should be present in every enterprise and that everyone should proactively follow. Sadly, few actually are prepared, because these tools and practices are often seen as optional, a distraction from the main business activities. The tools I refer to are Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Records Management (RM) and Search. The best practices relate to the processes and procedures you follow to oversee all your ESI, records and non-records.
So how do you get started? Meet EDRM, the Electronic Discovery Reference Model, and its sibling, IMRM, the Information Management Reference Model. I told you this wouldn't be simple.

Reference Models

The EDRM group, responsible for both these reference models, is a consortium of vendors and other interested parties wanting to develop comprehensive guidelines, standards, and tools to reduce the incidence of eDiscovery nightmares, or provide ways to cope when they occur. The Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) provides guidelines, sets standards, and delivers resources to help those who purchase eDiscovery solutions and vendors who provide them,  improving the quality of the tools and reducing the costs associated with eDiscovery. IMRM, related to one part of EDRM, complements that model.


IMRM, shown below and courtesy of EDRM.NET, aims to "provide a common, practical, flexible framework to help organizations develop and implement effective and actionable information management programs. The IMRM Project, also part of the EDRM industry working group, aims to offer guidance to Legal, IT, Records Management, line-of-business leaders and other business stakeholders within organizations." This project within the EDRM group suggests ways to facilitate a common way among these different groups to discuss and make decisions on the organization's information needs.

Although this diagram has the ring of endless numbers of PowerPoint slides you've seen on a variety of topics, it re-iterates some basic, commonsensical ideas that all should adopt but most ignore. I won't go into details about this, but the general themes are obvious. These various different business units, often at odds and seldom understanding each other's language and values, must work together to manage ESI, whether records or not. The result could be that eDiscovery nightmare. Some key takeaways: Decide and oversee the ways your organization creates and saves information. Throw away what isn't needed, keep what you must – all within the corporate requirements for both records and other ESI. IT will benefit (less to back up, archive, and index for search); Legal will be happy you are reducing risk; Records Management will appreciate getting all the help with ESI it can get; and business profits will be shielded somewhat from the risks of bad information management practices.


Now what of the EDRM model itself? Again, this is not an easy concept but still critical to prepare for that inevitable crisis. To understand this model, courtesy EDRM (, read left to right and notice how the process sifts through huge volumes of ESI and aims to focus on the important, most relevant pieces. EDRM has eight ongoing projects to fill out the details of their goals to "establish guidelines, set standards, and delivering resources."

IMRM is related to the left-most process, "Information Management," but don't view it as a picture of Information Management itself. Instead, think of IMRM as a way of promoting cross-organizational dialog– always important, critical if that eDiscovery request comes a knocking.

So those two models give you the grand overview. In upcoming posts I'll look at some of the elements of these models in greater detail. I also spoke to several leading eDiscovery vendors recently. I'll also tell you their views and my impressions about . In my next few posts, I'll tell you their views and my impressions about vendor involvement with EDRM in general. Sure, each vendor has an element of self-interest. That's understood. Are these guys just out to make a buck on the "next big thing," or are they up to something truly useful , for eDiscovery and maybe more in this collaborative effort? 

In my next post I'll look at the first element of the EDRM model, Information Management. You'll see what vendors had to say, and I'll give you my assessment about whether their participation in this is just vendor smoke or indeed a way for you to get started preparing for that next crisis.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Exploring the iPad: First Impressions

Well, like 2 million other folks, I bought an iPad (WIFI, 32 gigs of memory). Like others, I couldn't resist the allure of this seductive device, and I'm suffering from Windows weariness:

  • Bloat
  • Security issues
  • Complexity
  • Slow performance
  • Reliability issues
  • Battery life between charges
  • Lack of openness to standards
  • Etc…
Why did I buy the iPad? Primarily as an e-book reader but also as a quicker, lighter web access tool. What do I think of the iPad as an e-Book reader? Marginal, but more about that assessment later. First a few words about my first impressions.

The iPad is seductively beautiful and I don't find the 1.5 pounds to be excessive; it is about the weight of a hardback novel. Getting used to it, if you are not a Mac-head or don't own an iPhone though, is difficult. Using Safari and the iPad is a little like joining a club where you haven't been told the secret handshakes. HELP isn't built-in, although there is an iPad help site automatically listed in your web favorites. After a while I learned to use two fingers to pinch or spread the screen; tapping twice in the middle of the screen enlarges and centers the page (unless you tap on a link that happens to be there). How you do a simple string-search "find" –CTRL F in most other browsers—I still haven't figured out and am beginning to guess that features is just missing.

I'm also realizing that I've traded one vendor's nose-thumbing to standards (or de facto standards) –Microsoft—for another vendor acting the same way: Apple. You'd be surprised, for example, how many sites you cannot use since Apple refuses to support Flash. Forget Hulu and most news video clips from major news sites. They almost all use Flash since it is ubiquitous and has a light footprint.

If you have a Windows PC (I have several), how do you get files from it to the iPad for viewing? First, I was amazed how little the Apple folks (both in the local Bethesda Apple store and the online Apple geniuses) know about --or maybe even have thought about—working with Windows machines. The store rep told me I could use iTunes and essentially drag and drop my files, or just email them to myself. Or I could subscribe for the fee-based MobilMe service to store these files (no thanks). Email all 500 files? No thanks to that either. Drag and drop? Sorry, I misunderstood. It turns out that you can drag-and-drop –as always, there's an app for that. The surprise was that it was built into an inexpensive app I already purchased to supplement the iPad's mediocre eReading abilities: GoodReader.

The notion of using iTunes to get files over to the iPad is itself revealing. I'd never used iTunes before, but its name rightly suggests music, tunes. So you can get your downloaded MP3s etc. to the iPad, and it will also transfer photos. But how about transferring a PDF file, or a folder of PDF files? No, but there's an app for that. Matter of fact there are many apps for that, some with 1 star ratings, some with 4 star ratings. Buy one and try it out. If that doesn't work, buy another and try that one out (I have no idea how you uninstall apps, but presumably I'll learn the secret handshake for that after I've bought several redundant apps.

And remember: I bought the iPad as an e-book reader, a reader for all my Microsoft office, Open Office, e-Pub, and PDF files. I also plan to compare it as an e-Reader to Plastic Logic's Que Pro.  How well does the iPad work natively as an e-book reader? What about the app I picked? Details about that later, as I begin learning more. Full details in an upcoming review comparing both products. Assuming I get my hands on a Que, which appears again to be behind schedule.


NOTE: Unfortunate Plastic Logic QUE ProReader update. As of late June, and announced on Que's LinkedIn group, Que has stopped shipping the ProReader due to changing market realities. I pointed out a couple of those in my interview with their Marketing staff: Lack of color (not a complete Que-killer IMHO), and lack of support for any browser (a REAL Que-killer). The lack of browser means you must purchase subscriptions for online products such as the WSJ even if you already have a subscription. And if you have subscriptions to some niche publication for which they don't offer a Que version, you're out of luck.


I wish Que luck, and I'm told I'll get an eval hardware copy when it is ready, but the rumor on the street is that this could be several years in the offing. As I said in my recent column, "the clock is ticking" and –in this case—time is not Que's friend.


But back to the iPad.


Here are a couple sneak preview pictures. First, here is a screenshot of one slide from a recent presentation I gave.


And here is how it look rendered on my iPad (with both the native iPad viewer and with the $1 app). Picture isn't great but it was an early Sunday morning shot in natural light with my Canon EOS. (Figuring out how to do iPad screenshots isn't easy; I found out by Googling. Once you know the multiple secret handshakes, it is easy.



What's wrong with that picture? Quite a few things as you can see.

I'll try to ratchet down my curmudgeon index a bit before my next iPad post.





I Hate Comcast

Oh, did I mention I hate Comcast?
Unfortunately I must have broadband even if I'd gladly give up their cable "services." Rich media is also content, and it is really unfortunate to be at the mercy of this cable company for accessing that content without constraint, including adding our own (subscription-free) devices to use it.

I spent 4 separate days waiting for them to fix the problem they caused with their little "digital to analog" gadget.

Do you hate Comcast too?

Believe it or not, there is a Facebook page devoted to (and named) just that: I hate Comcast. If you'd like to read the details of my rant and those of others, click here.

About all any of us can do is to press our elected senators and congresspeople to vote FOR Web Neutrality. Reduce cable strangleholds as much as we can. I'd do the same, but unfortunately --living in DC-- I have no senator or representative.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

E-Books, E-Readers, and Peak Oil

Huh? Isn't this kind of like mixing oil and water? Not really.

For related reasons, having to do in part with resource constraints, the cost of print subscriptions continue to rise, even sometimes becoming prohibitive. After 40 years as a continuous WSJ print subscriber, I canceled my print subscription. It cost nearly $400/year, and I already have an online subscription that costs around $100. The WSJ is great, but not $400/year great, especially in this economy, when I also have the online edition. So I cut the cord and went completely on-line. With online access I can of course search, save articles, print them to PDF, the way I used to clip print articles. My paper press archive goes back 30 years, but PDF lasts forever, right? Another advantage of online news: the news is always fresh. Besides I'm helping save the environment, or at least I hope so. I reduce the number of plastic bags (that you can't recycle); I eliminate the need to recycle the paper itself. There is even a potential business advantage to the right e-Reader: It can preserve into the indefinite future the opportunity to view important documents. What could be nicer?

Well, there are advantages to print. Print never crashes. You can read print even when broadband is down or out of reach. You can fall asleep in a chair, drop the newspaper, and not have to buy a new one. Can't do that with a laptop. Print is very easy to read, indoors or out in bright sunlight. And print graphically rich, uses color, and is still more familiar and comfortable. Spouse says "I miss the WSJ print edition." Oh Oh.

I tell her to wait, I'll find an e-Reader that is nearly as good or even better than print. It will meet my kind of Turing test for print: doesn't crash, very portable etc. but also preserves the benefits of online: Searching, always current. iPad is here; Plastic Logic's Que reader is coming. We'll find something (but haven't bought anything yet). Now the limitations begin to appear, both from others' reviews and my own discussions with vendors.

iPad is ever so cool, has Apple's trademark usability, color… what could be better? For one thing, it tries to be everything a netbook can be, way more than just an e-Reader. I don't care if it can run my iPhone apps because I don't have an iPhone. In fact, I don't want to be nickled and dimed (more like dollared) to buy lots of little apps to fill in iPad's gaps (like being able to print or use a USB). And iPad doesn't run Flash, which is commonly used on many web sites, including the online WSJ. This feels a little like the "microsofting" of Apple. You can run anything, but not without add-ons that may not play well together. So I can buy another iPad-custom WSJ subscription, right? And do I do that for every subscription? Oh well, at least iPad has a (downsized) browser, so I can get to the WSJ in some fashion if I decide to spring for an iPad. But what about the other constraints? Early reviews say that that beautiful 1 and one half pound product begins to feel very heavy after a while, even can make your wrists hurt. And what kind of netbook wannabe is only single-threaded?

So I've now talked with a marketing rep from Plastic Logic about Que, and expect to get an evaluation device as soon as they become available. Yes, I know it will not display color (hey, the WSJ didn't start using color until it became common in other print editions). And it is very light and also cool in its own way – even has a screen that is more book-like, roughly 8 ½ y 11 inches. It reads virtually every document format known to humankind, and has huge amounts of space for all my books. But wait: It doesn't do flash either, and apparently has no browser, not even a limited one.

Maybe I misunderstood. And maybe when I finally get my hands on Que, I'll discover other advantages that cancel out the negatives.

Or quite possibly there is no perfect e-Reader. I'm guessing that's the case, since this is the real world. And if that's the case, I have to figure out exactly what a document is, and what attributes are optional (like Flash). That is no easy decision, since it requires peering into the future and guessing exactly what I'll be willing to do without.

And that's where the similarity with Peak Oil comes in. Liquid fossil fuels provide 95% or so of the world's transportation fuel needs. Yet liquid fuels will eventually run out, and before they do, they will become erratically less available and more expensive. So we'll also have to figure out which transportation options are critical, which optional. I'm guessing SUVs are optional, and public transit is critical.

And this may even have some bearing on e-Readers: they depend on electricity and broadband. Those are critical resources too, right?

What's your guess, about which transportation choices are critical and which are optional?

What's your guess about what constitutes the essence of a document, so it can be preserved and read generations hence?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Justifying eDiscovery Systems

As I said in my Information Insider October 2009 column, "The landmark 2006 Federal Rules of Civil Procedures Rule 26 and its updates make all electronic stored information (ESI) subject to legal discovery, and ESI continues its unbridled growth." Given the nation's increasing litigiousness, and the exploding amount of electronic information everywhere that could be subject to subject to 2006 FRCP rule 26, I am surprised how little we've heard about such litigation. Is it simply that our attention is elsewhere (whether the US Health Care debate, 2 wars, Global Warming –or is it Global Cooling?, the earthquake in Haiti…)? Or is eDiscovery yet another ticking time bomb that will burst onto the news when we least expect it? Well the vendors supplying eDiscovery solutions have plenty to say about that.

And what is special about eDiscovery? Why not just buy the very best search system available, and use it to do all the "e-lectronic" discovery that you want? After all, isn't it all about "search"? I spoke with Ursula Talley, VP Marketing of Stored IQ, to gather expert opinions on this subject. Here are excerpts from her comments about this, which I find pretty illuminating.

First, "Enterprise Search and eDiscovery Search technology do share a set of core capabilities, specifically crawling, indexing and searching data across a multitude of various applications and storage systems. Enterprise Search is designed to assist knowledge workers with information access and retrieval. The end result is that a user can find some files with information that can help that user complete a task." So what's the difference? Ursula went on to say "eDiscovery Search is designed to support a workflow that can be legally defended in court. The end result is a set of data files that is preserved (saved to a new, target location without any changes to the metadata and recording every system and location for each data file was originally located)." This kind of quarantining of content goes over and above what you can do with any enterprise search system. Moreover, she says that search performed by eDiscovery systems must also be very robust. Such eDiscovery searching can require queries with between 25 – 300 search terms. Moreover (for those of you who have ever posed a complex query on an enterprise search system, then went to have a cup of coffee while you waited for the result to return) eDiscovery search must be able to copy large volumes of content that has been found, "if necessary hundreds to thousands of gigabytes, without disrupting user productivity."

While it's at it, robust eDiscovery systems such as those from StoredIQ can provide de-duplication of email and user files (saving space and attorney time pouring over the same redundant files), while keeping a record of every location where those items originally resided – in case the judge asks. Lastly, searching just email systems can be a real pain, since they are so big and are threaded. Even the best search often is like sorting through low-grade ore, tons of it. eDiscovery systems also can extract both metadata and content from email and export this into a database format that can be queried and re-used into legal document review applications.

So how do you go about justifying the purchase of an eDiscovery system? Not by claiming you can add features to an existing or new Enterprise Search system. Instead, focus on the other features that you'll need if a lawsuit comes a calling. Unfortunately, getting your eDiscovery house in order may be like getting your electronic records management house in order – really hard to justify until after the lawsuit. Still, at least you can avoid the trap of thinking that Enterprise Search can do all you need to find and quarantine your information for a credible eDiscovery defense.