I am in Hong Kong, cursing that I left behind the USB thingie required by my wireless headset so that I must type everything by hand. I am here for InnoXcell’s Asia eDiscovery 2012 Exchange, and specifically for panels on social media and on the convergence of eDiscovery and information governance. This is an odds-and-ends post, a collection of loose ends of the type which gather when you flit from place to place and subject to subject, as I have been doing lately, including a bit about my own experiments with social media, some reflections on liberty derived from what I am reading and from the Jubilee – oh, and a little about eDiscovery.
Recent Google Plus posts and the breadth of the subject-matter
The variety of topics encompassed by the broad heading “eDiscovery” appears from recent posts here on my blog and on Google Plus. The most recent blog posts cover costs management, early data assessment, metrics, social media, predictive coding, the duty of competence in eDiscovery, and US extradition demands, amongst other things. The range of related subjects does not end there: my Google Plus posts have the following headings:
In between, there have been a couple of webinars, a paper or two, a three-hour UK eDisclosure seminar and planning calls for conferences yet to come. There has, in addition, been rather too much opportunity to observe that the poor project management skills shown in many eDiscovery exercises are as nothing compared with the incompetence, indolence, stupidity and sheer contempt for others shown by the sort of people who manage public transport, immigration queues and airport processes. Hong Kong provides an honourable exception under all these headings.
Google Plus and Facebook
I remain undecided about the right place to put short posts and pointers to third-party resources. Twitter remains unbeatable for ephemera, despite its tiresome habit of silently dropping follower links and the random way it shows you some re-tweets but not others.
My love-hate relationship with Google Plus continues. I saw a recent tweet which read “Logging into Google+ feels like logging into a seminar, or stumbling into the wrong conf room at an airport Marriott.” I agree, but the SEO you can get from it is superb, particularly if you cross-link to and from its posts – the list given above may appear as part of my narrative, but is in fact there to widen my audience by boosting G+ visibility. I searched in Google recently for an eDiscovery topic, and turned up one of my own G+ posts in response and, since getting topic attention is what my sponsors expect from me, I cannot ignore this means of reaching new audiences. Whether or not Google is fixing its results in its own favour – see The effect of Google’s Search Plus Your World on Facebook Traffic – or not on this point – the fact is that it gets results.
Google Plus still feels curiously lifeless, however, and that, coupled with the way Google keeps frigging around with the interface, is infuriating. Having hitherto resisted the alleged charms of Facebook, I decided recently to join the herd and create a Facebook page – if Google Plus is turning into a mini-me version of Facebook, why not use the real thing? I am unsure whether to be impressed or alarmed at the way two eDiscovery-related friend requests came in within seconds of my creating my Profile, and far from sure what I will use Facebook for. Its photograph display is inferior to that of G+. It confirms all my prejudices about the decline of literacy among the young. It purports to allow you to choose UK English but still refers to universities as “schools”, offering me, yuk, oh yuk, connections with my “classmates” in the “School year 1976 at the University of Oxford”. That is not English, it is crap (see how infectious this abasement of language is, when even I use “yuk” and “crap” in successive sentences).
Facebook has also given me domestic issues. Looking for something useful but undemanding to do after my flight to Hong Kong, I went back to the barebones profile which I originally created. I added the fact that I am married, and completed the box marked “Current location” to state, correctly, that my current location is Hong Kong. The question does, not, it seems, mean what it says – “Current location” translates in the public profile as meaning “Lives at”. One pictures, as so often, a super-intelligent geek-type at Facebook with no idea at all what words actually mean, a specialist in database relationships, building a web site dedicated to connecting people, who has no concept of human relationships.
The upshot was a post from my wife: “Should I worry that on Sunday he states he lives in HK and is married. On Friday he lived in Oxford and he bought me a beautiful bunch of flowers to mark 27 years of marriage.”
Thanks a lot for that, Wayne Dimgeek of California. I hastily removed the entry which said that my “Current location” was Hong Kong.
Speaking to an AsiaPac law firm
I went yesterday to speak with Browning Marean to an audience from DLA Piper’s AsiaPac offices. The original invitation was (as I thought) for an informal chat to a few people in the Hong Kong office. In no time at at all, that grew into a live audience supplemented by others in Beijing and Singapore via video links, with Powerpoint slides and a suit and tie.
I called the talk “eDiscovery Round the World” and took a quick skate round developments in rules, practice and aspiration in the UK, the US, and other common law countries: Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, I said, had all had rule changes in 2012 whose common theme was transparency and judicial control; the UK’s eDisclosure Practice Direction was about to be supplemented by Lord Justice Jackson’s new Rule 31.5 with its “menu” requiring judges to decide, on an informed basis, what is right for the case; even the US has the SDNY Model Order for Complex Cases, and words like “proportionality” and “cooperation” are beginning to be heard even there (they have always been part of the rules, of course, but only now are they being heard about).
More on the Megaupload extradition
It appears from the reaction to my post New Zealand judge gives Megaupload founder the right to disclosure before extradition hearing that some people were unaware that Tony Blair gave away the right of UK citizens to oppose US extradition demands as part of his ingratiating grovelling to George Bush. Shami Chakrabati’s article Where’s the urgent extradition reform we were promised gives some more background on this.
The worst aspect of it, to me anyway, is not that Blair was as cavalier with other people’s liberty as he was with the truth, but that David Cameron has failed to do anything about it. Liberty takes many forms, and its erosion at the hands of our own politicians is no more acceptable than when it occurs through subjugation to foreign powers.
Home thoughts from abroad
That last thought stems in part from my current reading, the wartime diaries of Jock Colville, who was Churchill’s Private Secretary in 1940-41. In parallel with that, I am following the progress of the war on Twitter through the excellent @RealTimeWWII. At one point, by chance, these two sources came together, Colville describing the very events of early June 1940 which the tweet stream was listing. One tweet read Wild jubilation at Dunkirk; French evacuee: “If this is how the English celebrate defeat, what do they do for victory?”. Meanwhile, in real time on the Thames, the British were celebrating their Queen’s Jubilee on the river in the rain, prompting similar reflections from some tweeters – if the British can enjoy themselves so much when soaking wet, how much fun could they have in the sunshine?
The #Jubilee hashtag was interesting. The vast majority of tweets were from people who wished the Queen well and were enjoying themselves; they rubbed shoulders with sour republicans promulgating anti-monarchist views, with dismal relativists who thought we should not enjoy ourselves while [insert your own worthy cause here], with opportunist marketeers flogging tat at inflated prices, and with ladies of dubious virtue offering alternative entertainment.
These are grim times, not just economically and not just because of threats to national security, but in terms of the erosion of the liberty which was fought for at Dunkirk and after. The Jubilee is not panem et circenses, nor is it (as David Cameron claimed vapidly but opportunistically) an example of his meaningless “Big Society” at work, but a chance (amongst other things) to show that we can still say what we want to say, fervid monarchist or drab republican, tart or purveyor of tacky jewellery. Today’s enemies are not massed armies across the Channel: they include our own ambitious civil servants and security service people who drop fear into the ears of weak and gullible politicians, the corrupt institutions of Brussels and Strasbourg, the Tony Blairs who justify every anti-libertarian step by saying that they did what they thought was right, and those who collect our data for their own purposes. Rot the lot of them, and God Save the Queen.