Festivus for the Rest of Us

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If you were born before 1985, it’s likely that you immediately get the reference to Festivus, the anti-commercial holiday “for the rest of us”, that was invented by George Costanza’s father and celebrated on Seinfeld. Of course, Festivus wouldn’t be complete without an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, a dinner where the guests engage in the "Airing of Grievances" and recognition of "Feats of Strength" as well as proclaiming easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles".

The “Festivus” episode from Season 9 (1997) - ranked as a top fan favorite of the entire series - also popularized the concepts of “two-face”, when someone is not as good looking as first thought due to lighting and other environmental conditions, as well as “The Human Fund”, a fake charity George makes up in order to get out of spending money on his co-workers for the holidays (its motto being "Money For People").

If you have no clue what I’m talking about then I strongly encourage you to stop whatever you’re doing and spend 4:37 minutes in laugh therapy watching highlights from this memorable and much-quoted episode. Your life will be richer for it - and you’ll be in a much better position to grasp the balance of this blog post.

The title for this post popped into my head as I perused the agenda and session descriptions for Relativity Fest 2016. Taking place this week in Chicago, kCura’s annual user conference (referred to by insiders simply as “The Fest”) is 3 days of Relativity-centric content delivered across 138 sessions with 190 speakers and a whole heap of upselling excitement.

For those of us selectively outside of - or the many disenchanted with - the Relativity ecosystem, I’ve officially declared this week as ediscovery Festivus Week - complete with ‘airing of grievances’ if you’re so inclined.

Digging into the session content, I can’t help but notice some interesting trends as well as a few curiously absent topics.


First, blatantly obvious - which I am therefore good at recognizing - is the very close alignment by Microsoft this year. The tech giant is the sole Platinum Sponsor for The Fest and has provided key contributors for many of the educational sessions.

No doubt, as Relativity forklifts to the cloud, the session “Azure: The Path to Microsoft’s Cloud Services” indicates the key driver for Microsoft’s deep support and involvement in the conference. However, given the rumored stagnant topline growth since the substantial $125M investment over a year and a half ago - even after the acquisition of Content Analyst earlier this year - one can’t help but wonder if the relationship might not have more corporate development undertones.   

Continuing on with the next Trend-o-Fest, I’m harkened back to the mid-90’s Seinfeld era when I see session titles such as “Advanced Regular Expressions for dtSearch” and “Building a Fast, Reliable SQL Server for Relativity”. As I review the related course descriptions, I can practically hear the dial-up modem sound effects in my head.

The description for “Building a Fast, Reliable SQL Server for Relativity” session (a title that doubles-down on oxymorons) teaches participants to “choose between virtual and physical servers...and discover why clustering is such a no-brainer.” As exciting and cutting-edge as that sounds, another back-by-popular-demand ‘Fest Favorite’ session is sure to amaze as “members of kCura's engineering and support teams will walk you through how Relativity takes your search and turns it into a list of results...this session will refer to SQL, but will not focus on it.”  

For those already doing (and enjoying) end-to-end ediscovery in the cloud using next generation platforms born in the cloud, these sessions conjure up pain from a time long, long ago and technical limitations all but forgotten. When you are reaping the performance, scale and economic advantage of serverless computing and Elasticsearch, many of the sessions at The Fest seem as dated (and as humorous) as The Puffy Shirt.       

The Left Behind Sessions

While ample 90’s era content is being delivered this week via The Fest curriculum, it seems a few more timely topics are not being covered (at least not during formal sessions). Based on recent discussions with friends and former colleagues who, under their current flags, find themselves firmly inside the Relativity vortex, I offer the following suggested topics which, I believe, encapsulate their in-flight concerns:

  • “Eating Your Lunch: the reconciling of RelativityOne with the existing reseller channel”
  • “Time for a Haircut: transitioning to the new reseller licensing agreement”
  • “Combating Consumerization: how to make your already overly-complex and opaque pricing model even more confusing to buyers yet present it as new and simplified!”
  • “A Tail of Two Roadmaps: forklifting to a future in the cloud while using the remaining engineering resources to maintain the old, installed codebase”  

Maybe these sessions will make it into Relativity Fest 2017 agenda? If anyone at kCura is interested in picking my brain for even more ideas, I can be reached attripp@thehumanfund.org

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Tripp Hemphill

Tripp Hemphill is the Vice President of Enterprise Markets at DISCO. Over the course of his nearly two decades in the legal technology industry, he has advised leading corporate legal departments and law firms in their evaluation, implementation, and optimization of practice-focused technology at both matter and enterprise levels.