Technologists have always tried to use parallels from their users’ experience either as an illustration of concepts which might otherwise be obscure or to demonstrate how much better their method is than “the old way”. The document / folder / drawer / filing cabinet metaphor worked very well for a long time, though it is breaking down now that the whole concept of electronic filing is being overtaken. That famous picture of Bill Gates sitting on a pile of paper equivalent to the contents of a single CD made its point well until the capacity of storage devices became so great that the figures ceased to have any meaning.
As both the technology and the users have matured, there is perhaps a closer relationship between the things we use in our everyday lives and the advanced technology available to solve business problems. Olivia Cain, in an article called TAR is the Netflix of eDiscovery on the iCONECT blog, illustrates this by drawing a parallel between Netflix and the technology-assisted review tools within the iCONECT-XERA eDiscovery software.
She is not the first to make use of this parallel (the other common one is the music provider Pandora), but her article comes to hand at a time when I am writing a fair amount about the need for lawyers to understand the concepts. It also explains the parallel well.
You need a lot more than a Netflix parallel to explain technology-assisted review to a judge, but it makes a pretty good example drawn from everyday life if your objective is to get the lawyers to go out and look at technology.
Olivia Cain’s point is that Netflix suggests films to her which she might not otherwise have thought of based on her prior choices. Netflix, she says, “can take what I have liked and shows similar recommendations based on my input”. The article explains how users of iCONECT-XERA can mix the conclusions drawn from the content of documents with the decision-making of users to refine constantly the set for review.
There is more to it than that, of course, both at the stage when you are selecting software and as the review progresses. Furthermore, there are now different types and generations of technology-assisted review software. If you think that Netflix is an unsophisticated parallel, you might like this article explaining how Netflix uses analytics to see trends and make multi-million dollar decisions about what gets the green light in the future.
If your primary ambition is (as mine is), simply to get people to go and look at some of these tools, then the Netflix analogy is a good one.