Electronic Discovery Trends and Blogs: Thinking Aloud about Information Overload and Information Underload

The smartest decision I’ve made in my blogging career (other than starting this blog) was the decision I made a couple of years ago NOT to start a blog on electronic discovery.
I had the notion then that there was a need for a blog that focused on the actual technology and practical issues in e-discovery, not case law, rules and law-related news. I had the probably misguided notion that I could do exactly that. There were only a few EDD blogs around then.
I had a conversation at the time with Julia Wotipka about what she was planning at DiscoveryResources.org (a sponsor of this blog) and about Mary Mack’s about-to-be-launched blog, Sound Evidence. I realized that I could contribute more to the EDD world with the Thinking E-Discovery column I’ve written with Tom Mighell and Evan Schaeffer on the DiscoveryResources.org site.
Instead of starting a new blog, I simply created an electronic discovery category on this blog with an archive into which all EDD posts get saved. It now contains around 70 posts on e-discovery topics that I’ve tagged to that category, all available in one place. It was designed to work more or less hand-in-hand with the set of electronic discovery resources on my website (on the “must get updated soon” to-do list).
Over time, I subscribed to the RSS feeds of E-discovery blogs as they’ve arrived on the scene. There are some excellent ones, and I’d single out Rob Robinson’s Information Governance Engagement Area blog and Sharon Nelson’s new Ride the Lightning blog as ones that I especially enjoy. To those who know me (and my tradition of the Blawggies), it’s no surprise that I have a lot of respect for the EDD blogs that have been around for a long time.
I’m giving a presentation next week that will be an update (and a rethinking) of the Electronic Discovery Trends presentation that I’ve given over the last few years. That’s the one where I first had my “electronic discovery 2.0″ epiphany early on the morning before I gave it and wanted to rewrite the whole thing, but decided against it. I’ll add some development of those ideas and a few new things to the presentation next week, but that’s not the focus of this post.
As I have been researching the presentation, I’ve been paying attention to the posts on EDD that have been showing up in my newsreader and noticing several new EDD blogs. I was also reading Bob Ambrogi’s excellent new article on EDD resources and comparing it to the article “EDD-ucating Yourself on Electronic Discovery” about EDD resources that Tom Mighell and I wrote last year, just to get a feel for the changes in the resources that have occurred in the last year. And I’ve also been noticing the increase in the number of EDD-related press releases I get by email lately – I must be on a lot of lists.
On a couple of days last week, I saw at least 50 items each day in my email and newsreader alone.
Now, e-discovery is a hot topic and I want to stay informed, but I guess I’m not convinced that there are 50 “news” items a day on the topic.
In other words, is getting 50 or more items a day the functional and practical equivalent of getting no items a day? At what point are you trying to drink from a firehose?
The interesting aspect of the phenomenon is that each individual blog or resource is great in its way, but, in the aggregate, they delivery something overwhelming. For me, it’s even more overwhelming because I see the same case summaries and press releases in several places. One EDD article might get posted about, often excerpted, in several places over a period of time. If you follow my Google Reader Shared Items. you’ll note that I’ll sometimes share the same underlying item several times because I’m not sure whether it’s a new item or one I’ve seen before.
I’m sure that people who get other print and email newsletters and publications on electronic discovery get even more information and duplication than I do.
I’m curious about how others are coping with this EDD information overload.
I’ve written and spoken before about the combination of information overload and information underload. In fact, my post on info underload is the post from this blog used in TechnoLawyer’s BlawgWorld.
As I research my EDD presentation, I realize that I’m experiencing a classic example of information underload. I have mountains of information about EDD, yet it is very difficult to put my hands on information that’s most relevant to my task at hand. The noise-to-signal is quite high. I have some strategies I use, but the problem seems to have increased lately.
Anyway, that might be my problem more than it is your problem, but I’m curious to hear if others are experiencing the same problem.
But back to my original point . . .
I’m now thinking that it was a smart move for me not to start a new e-discovery blog for several reasons, especially as events have turned out, but I still think that there’s an attractive niche for an e-discovery blog that focuses on the technology and practical aspects of EDD with a unique voice and a focus on education, and that posts a few items a week. I think of Craig Ball‘s award-winning EDD column and how it might translate into a blog or Sharon Nelson’s new blog as possible examples.
I also think that there’s a place for a blog with a unique voice that steps back and offers perspective and analysis on developments in EDD a couple of times a week, rather than simply reporting and excerpting new cases and articles. For example, I like when Rob Robinson offers the occasional analytical post.
In the past couple of weeks, there have been a number of new EDD blogs that have gone live. The one that’s gotten the most attention has been the Law.com EDD Update blog, with a splashy launch and some well-known Law.com-related names in electronic discovery. I subscribed to the feed immediately and was surprised by the sheer number of posts each day. Although it’s seemed to have tapered off a bit, this blog really added to the duplication I experienced because it had a general coverage, multiple voices, and posts about press releases and announcements that I was getting elsewhere. On the other hand, if you are not following any other EDD blogs, it’s a pretty good place to start (even though I always hesitate to recommend a blog before it’s been around for a while). I’d generally suggest that people start with the Information Governance Engagement Area or the Electronic Discovery Law blog, as two examples, or some of the others Tom and I listed in our article.
At the same time, I noticed the launch of Mark Reichenbach’s On the Mark blog. It’s interesting to compare and contrast. On the Mark has a single voice and shows a personality even in its first few posts. There’s a sense of perspective and analysis, and opinion more than just reportage. It’s caught my interest, as did Sharon Nelson’s blog did for the same reasons. It’s worth noting, however, that some believe that the single-voiced blogs are losing ground to group blogs these days – I sure hope not. I’ve grown to like Dave Winer’s definition of a blog as “the unedited voice of a person.
Those reading e-discovery blogs have a bit of a dilemma. How do you sort out what blogs to read and where to begin? Do you want general or specific blogs, analysis or news? How many posts, even if duplicated info, are too many? I don’t have the answer, but am interested in what other people are doing?
Those starting EDD blogs have a larger dilemma. What direction do you go? Will your EDD blog be a case of “carrying coals to Newcastle” in already crowded blawgspace? What is your uniqueness and who is your audience?
We’re past the early days of blogging when the few legal bloggers all knew each other and would (seriously) feel that if a legal blogger started a blog in a certain topic area, you probably would stay away from that area. There’s a lot more to think about these days than ever before.
I’m fascinated to see how this stage in the evolution of law-related blogging plays out.
Adding a simple category for electronic discovery posts was the best approach for me, since I had an established blog. As I always say, let’s see a thousand flowers bloom and see what all works.
I’ll be curious to see next year, when Tom and I update our EDD resources article and/or Bob updates his, how much changes in the course of the next year.
In the meantime, I expect to be writing more about information overload and information underload. I found today two fascinating posts that address the notion of information underload and some of the other ideas I touch upon in this post that I highly recommend for further reading if this subject interests you.
The first is Robert Scoble’s “Content Commodities” (money quote: “So, now that we’re awash in great blogs and other news, what does that all mean?”). Robert mentions his linkblog – my Google Reader Shared Items can be found here, to give you an idea of what he is referring to.
The second is Dave Pollard’s “The Short Shelf Life of Information (and the Long Life of Memes),” which struck me as one of the most important and thought-provoking blog posts I’ve read in a while. It covers some similar topics as this post of mine, but touches on knowledge management, blog archives , and much, much more.
The money quote:

The only sustainable value you bring to an organization is what you show and teach and inspire in other people you work with.

Pollard’s post gets my highest recommendation.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
Read the blog posts and RSS feed items I find most interesting on my new linkblog or subscribe to its RSS feed High volume, but lots of things I find interesting and so might you.
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  1. says

    Thanks for the mention of “On The Mark” in your great post. I appreciate you noticing some “personality” is cominging through, even though my wife may argue that point…I digress
    I will continue to strive to the level your fine blog reached some time ago!
    Mark R.