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Thursday, March 15, 2007

“I Missed The Boat”

The other day, I heard that a local technology company had a lot of pain around ediscovery. Within hours, one of our board members had contacted the General Counsel who informed us that they had just purchased a product for eDiscovery 3 weeks prior.


That evening over dinner, I summarized the situation by saying to my wife that “I missed the boat.” My 3-year-old son, who was also at the table, immediately started to quiz me: “You missed the boat? The boat left without you? You were late so the boat had to go? There wasn’t room on the boat for you?” For days afterwards, when I left for work, he would ask me: “Are you going on the boat today?”


The thing that really struck me is that we often speak in metaphors, and it is not just 3 year olds who have trouble understanding. One of our customers is a large manufacturing company. On deploying Clearwell to analyze its email, the company discovered a large number of messages with the expression: “The eagle has landed”. That struck them as rather odd, so they investigated and discovered a group of employees were illegally selling company equipment on the grey market and every time they made a sale, they would let those involved know by sending out an email saying “The eagle has landed.” Viewed alone, the expression looks innocent enough; once viewed in the context of emails flowing back and forth, it was clearly a statement of guilt.


Examples like this illustrate why simple keyword search is not enough. Companies need more sophisticated tools which, among other things, group emails into topic areas and link them into discussion threads, to surface coded expressions and analyze them in context. To rely on keyword search alone would be like someone at Proctor and Gamble seeking to analyze point-of-sale data from Walmart with a pocket calculator.


Of course, that doesn’t help me explain missing the boat to my son. So over the weekend, we took him on the ferry between San Francisco and Sausalito – just so he knows I don’t miss the boat every time.

1 comment:

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