We need technology simple enough to be powerful

This post is a follow up to commitments I made in my last, “My upcoming Relativity Fest Tech Talk on … something …” As I sat at the keyboard, I thought some music might help get the creativity flowing.

I fired up the Pandora app on my phone. With a simple click, I selected a playlist and music filled my office. It only took another second or two for me to make the connection between that experience and this post. Music wasn’t always this easy. I’m old enough to remember cassette tapes, and the coolness of using dual cassette decks with auto-reverse to get over 2 hours of continuous music, but I’m not going to take you that far back with me. Let’s just go as far back as MP3 players…

There were many, many false starts before (and even after) the iPod and iTunes. Some were so bad, they now work as instant laugh lines. One example: at the end of “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” one of Peter Quill/Star Lord’s crew members hands him a replacement for a recently destroyed Walkman and mixed tape: the Microsoft Zune – “It’s what everybody on Earth is listening to nowadays.  It’s got 300 songs on it.


It’s even funnier when you see the deleted scene that was supposed to come after, where Quill struggles trying to figure out how to use his Zune. Quill wasn’t the only one confused by it; back here on Earth, “everybody” posted about the complexities presented by the Zune.

I heard good things about the Zune software, but I’m at a total loss as to why. Sorting anything is a total pain. I search for apps and they are rated, yet no option appears to sort by rating, one of the single most useful metrics!! Next, I want to put some music on the device, drag and drop, nice and simple… but wait, I want to make a playlist based on the music I moved from my massive hard drive to my tiny SmartPhone, ergo the music on the phone may have no correlation to playlists set up previously, so I need new ones. Ah ha, says my phone, not so fast. Yes, there’s a column header for synced music but, no, you may not sort by it, nor may you set up playlists on the phone screen. This must be done on the collections screen where you can see ALL your music, rather than just the music you want to put in a playlist on the #$@%! phone.

And of course the whole thing is based on tags with no mechanism to work by folders, so the second my dance compilations are synced, I’m screwed, as hundreds of unique artists flood the list and make the entire thing unmanageable. . . 

ARGHHHH!!!

As one tech culture site said, “the name Zune alone was all that was needed to make audiences laugh.” Instead of being seen as a smashing success like the far more user-friendly iPod, the overly-complicated Zune was a commercial failure; it’s listed at number 8 on the list of “The 50 Worst Fails in Technology History” – ahead of even other massive Microsoft disasters like Windows Vista and Microsoft Bob!

But perhaps the funniest (or rather, the saddest) thing about the Zune, is that it really was built on great technology. 300 songs worth of cassette tapes or CDs, in addition to the Walkman or Discman upon which to play them, would have never fit into even the most generously sized pocket.

It was great technology, but not simple enough to be powerful.

What does this have to do with eDiscovery? A lot, actually. When we brought machine learning to eDiscovery, our industry promised a powerful new way to review documents. We did bring great new technology. A small team could use the technology to review documents far faster than even a much larger team could without it. That said, adoption rates for this great technology are relatively low. Can great technology with low adoption rates really be considered powerful? Perhaps a more important question to answer: Why haven’t we seen the adoption rates and disruptive power we anticipated for this technology?

I suggest we failed to apply the lesson of the Zune. We forgot to make it simple. In fact, we appear to have done the opposite, bombarding our customers with bewildering complexity. As a result, instead of embracing this powerful new technology, far too many of our customers are just screaming “ARGHHHH!!!”

Can we make eDiscovery technology so simple it can be powerful?  That will be the topic of my next blog post – and my Relativity Fest Tech Talk as well.

<Spoiler Alert> Yes, we can.

And even better yet, I’ll show you how we already have.

About iControl ESI
iControl ESI, founded in 1999, is a complete eDiscovery software and services provider, providing solutions in all phases of the EDRM.  Through a combination of expert advisory services, skilled and efficient project management, state-of-the-art technology, and a singular focus on creating the best client experience, iControl ESI provides solutions to the business problems associated with discovery, by lowering the cost of data discovery and increasing document review efficiencies. In addition to working with industry-best technologies, iControl ESI utilizes its own developed technologies, which include ENVIZE, an industry-changing predictive coding solution, and Recenseo, a complete online document review solution. Visit us at www.icontrolesi.com.

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