Does Calling It “Big Data” Mitigate Information Overload?
The always interesting V. Mary Abraham has a thought-provoking summary/reaction to a KM conference keynote about “big data.” Here’s my favorite part:
We’ve moved from “information overload” to what it is currently called: “Big Data.” (Calling it Big Data suggests that we can cope with it, in a way that we couldn’t cope with Information Overload.)
Priceless comment… and absolutely right.
There are two types of searches in legal that often get conflated in the KM arena, find-one-of and find-all-of:
- Find-one-of: Has any judge raised this issue? Is there an example of this approach, or this type of document? Find-one-of is what Google and Bing search — Big Data, so to speak — are so good at. You don’t want to see every one of 1,543,890 search results; you need just one, any one (or any reliable one) to answer the question you have in mind. What’s the part number for the door handle that just broke on our washing machine? When is the Sounders last game? What, exactly, is a withe?
- Find-all-of: I need all emails that reference a given topic. Find all relevant case law or dicta on this issue. Google and Bing type searching aren’t very effective here, because you have to pore through every one of 1,543,890 search results to gather your answers.
Even in a closed corpus with a limited universe of discourse (a/k/a a KM system) the find-all-of search remains a difficult problem, information overload on a specific topic. Applying tags helps only to the extent you trust them, which with human taggers should be “as far as I can throw them” (the taggers, not the tags – though bits and bytes can’t be propelled all that far either). Consider Twitter hashtags; they help you locate information on a given topic, but they certainly don’t lead you to every tweet on that topic, or even cover all expressed viewpoints without overload.
But that’s cool, because ten years ago, even the find-one-of problem seemed out of reach, not just in the real world but particularly in KM systems of any size. We’ve made a lot of progress on that front.
Is Find-All-Of the Right Problem?
Lawyers have long believed they must solve the find-all-of problem for most or all of their matters. Leave no stone unturned is a common motto.
Unfortunately, “leave no stone unturned” translates into “leave no hour unbilled.” Clients are increasingly rejecting that approach for many1 matters.
Maybe it’s time to rethink the find-all-of problem. If we can’t solve it, and clients don’t really want it, maybe lawyers need not cling so tightly to it. There are many reasons why they do so, though, and so I’m not convinced this problem is going away, or even shrinking as much as it could. The pressure is going to have to come from clients. John Wallbillich, the Wired GC, also has a recent article that talks about this issue from another perspective. So does Ron Friedmann.