The role of a journalist in war, it is said, is to come down from the hills after the battle and bayonet the wounded. I will content myself with a tour of the battlefield.
If this means nothing to you, you may care to refer to my long article Predictive Coding Wars: Recommind Contra Mundum in which I cautiously navigated a war of words which broke out when information software company Recommind issued a press release headed Recommind Patents Predictive Coding. I reported the reactions of others whose technology is of the same kind (I’m treading carefully here with my choice of words) and of market commentators, ending the story with an article of 16 June by Recommind’s CEO, Bob Tennant, headed Of Predictive Coding and Patents.
Recommind’s chief critics were Herb Roitblat of OrcaTec and Equivio. Herb Roitblat was quick to say that Bob Tennant’s article satisfied him. The story comes up now because Warwick Sharp, VP Marketing and Business Development of Equivio, has written an article headed Predictive Coding, Patent Wars and May the Best Product Win – the latter words being an echo of Equivio’s main message in their formal comment about the subject. In the interim, Metropolitan Corporate Counsel has interviewed Bob Tennant under the heading Revolutionizing eDiscovery With Predictive Coding.
It is probably not a coincidence that Warwick Sharp has taken his headings from Shakespeare’s darkest plays, Macbeth, Hamlet and King Lear. Shakespeare, of course, has something to say on every subject, including this one – is this Much Ado About Nothing? Do we say, like Mercutio as he bled to death, “a plague o’ both your houses”? Give me a couple of hours, and I could write a whole relevant paragraph made from quotations from Shakespeare’s plays – you might say, for example, that the whole subject is “Greek to me” as Casca said to Cassius, and that you don’t understand a word of it.
We all have things we do not understand – I would lump string theory, Serbo-Croat and line dancing together as areas of skill or knowledge which I am happy to do without. I do not understand, any more, how a motor car engine works – the “any more” signifying both that they have become more complex and that their reliability removes the need to understand what happens when I turn the key. Do you need to know how predictive coding works, what can be patented and what cannot, and how it differs from potato peeling (to take Warwick Sharp’s analogy)? No, you don’t, any more than I need to know what happens when I turn the car key, but you ought to know what advances have been made in computer-assisted document review.
I take a look at some of these applications about once a year – I saw Recommind’s Axcelerate Review & Analysis solution demo on Friday, as it happens, and it is about time I caught up with changes to Equivio’s Relevance since I last saw it. I do not have to go anywhere to see these demos – they are brought to my desk over the web, and are “live” in both senses – a human is presenting them and they involve real-time searches of live data. I can interrupt and ask the demonstrator to go back to explain something again, and they are a painless and informative way of catching up with developments or, if it is all new to you, of understanding these tools and what they can do for you.
As I say, Warwick Sharp’s latest article repeats what was the theme of Equivio’s first riposte to Recommind’s claim – “May the best product win”. What is “the best” is not capable of absolute measurement or, rather, I am not qualified to give a view as to which is the best even if it were politic to try. There are several choices here (Recommind and Equivio are not the only players) and the important thing to understand is that the competition between them drives the technology upwards and the prices down. Any conclusion reached a year ago about what is right for you and for your cases and clients ought to be reviewed – just as your clients are probably reviewing which external law firms are best equipped and skilled for their eDiscovery.