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Peter Schwartz on the Knowledge Mosaic Vision

October 21, 2010

[Here is the text of the email sent this morning by Knowledge Mosaic president and founder Peter Schwartz.]

Photo by Marc Soller. Some rights reserved.

Dear Friends and Customers,

Let me warn you ahead of time that this is a long email. However, it is also an important email, so I hope you can find time to read it carefully.

Last weekend, we launched KM2, the second release of knowledgemosaic. I include release highlights below, followed by larger thoughts on the future of legal research, with a particular focus on the concept of abundant search.

In the KM2 release of knowledgemosaic:

  • We have greatly strengthened the technology foundation of knowledgemosaic, making the website exceptionally fast, reliable, and complete.
  • We have added data sets from 8 new agencies, bringing the total to 18 regulatory bodies that we cover. New agencies include financial regulators (Treasury, FinCEN, OFAC & NCUA), energy and environmental regulators (EPA & NRC), and congressional oversight and research bodies (GAO & CBO).
  • We have added predictive searching to our SEC Filings page and more complete coverage of new US Code sections in our US Code browse section.
  • We have integrated our Green Mien, Blogmosaic, and Stairway offerings in the top portion of the Keep Current section, and added a Dodd-Frank Rule Tracker.
  • We have advanced significantly our goal of mapping and integrating the entire federal government information landscape.

The KM2 Payoff

The knowledgemosaic platform already offers state-of-the-art transactional search of SEC disclosure documents. We have undertaken path-breaking research to tag SEC disclosure and enforcement data that allows you to quickly isolate language, run reports, and deliver insight to your clients that previously would have taken days or weeks of research.

We will continue to do remarkable work with SEC disclosure and transactional data. However, these achievements represent only the beginning of Knowledge Mosaic’s exciting project to organize information from across the entire landscape of federal government data – including legislation, regulation, guidance, enforcement, and court actions.

This ongoing project will enable us to support the news and research needs of a broad range of practice groups and industries – not only for law firms, but for the legal departments of public companies, the compliance departments of financial institutions and other regulated entities, government agencies themselves, educational institutions, and journalists and other media professionals.

KM2 displays the payoff of this investment in proprietary data harvesting technologies that give us an unprecedented ability to download, index, parse, and map document and data sets from across dozens of federal legislative and regulatory bodies. When we release KM3 next spring, we expect our data set coverage to encompass more than 30 federal regulatory and oversight agencies.

A Philosophy of Abundance: Transcending Legal Practice Areas

This is the important part. knowledgemosaic applies a philosophy of information abundance that transcends traditional legal practice area distinctions. This philosophy of abundance embraces the reality of digital search – we now have at our fingertips millions of documents, boundless fields of golden data – and this philosophy requires us to ask, what does abundant search mean for how we think about, research, and practice law?

To some degree, legal practice areas have always been artificial distinctions, heuristics to help define professional capabilities and client matter expertise, but also serving as the framework for marketing legal services. Think about how often law firm websites assign expertise to attorneys in multiple practice areas.

However, just as a physician cannot be both a heart surgeon and a brain surgeon, can an attorney be an expert in more than one practice area? What one wants from attorneys who must bridge multiple practice arenas is not so much expertise as fluency, the ability to speak to, understand, and translate to clients the opinions of other attorneys who truly are experts in their chosen practice area. Abundant search supports this critical goal of cross-practice fluency by encompassing the spillover of information from one practice area into other adjacent practice areas.

Within a single practice area, addressing their chosen scope of expertise, attorneys need precision search. They know what they know and they know what they are looking for. Beyond the practice area boundary, however, attorneys need abundant search, because they know what they don’t know and so need help finding it. And, if they are truly humble, more often than not, they will acknowledge that a further sphere of uncertainty exists, in which they don’t know what they don’t know (see Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan). Only with abundant search can attorneys and reference librarians locate and experience the satisfaction of finding that which they know they don’t know and, even better, that which they don’t know they don’t know.

It is in these spheres of uncertainty that abundant search can provide the pleasing (and professionally important) experience of learning something unexpected, which generates the universal response of Hey, I didn’t know that!

An Example of Abundant Search: The Bank Secrecy Act

Consider the following example of abundant search on knowledgemosaic, which illustrates the simple idea that if you make use of abundant search, in any subject area, you can learn an awful lot in a very short period of time.

If you enter “Bank Secrecy Act” into the Text Search field of the Agency Materials section of knowledgemosaic, the first ten results (sorted by relevance) encompass four different regulatory bodies: FinCEN, the Federal Reserve Board, the FDIC, and the OCC.

Moving over to the Federal Fundamentals section of knowledgemosaic, entering “Bank Secrecy Act” yields relevant results on Bank Secrecy Act compliance from Titles 12 and 17 of the CFR, along with various significant Federal Register notices from the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve System.

Entering “Bank Secrecy Act” in the Law Firm Memos section of knowledgemosaic yields 154 memos from leading law firms – mini-treatises really – including 24 in the past year.

From an enforcement perspective, entering “Bank Secrecy Act” on the SEC Enforcement and FINRA Adjudication search pages yields detailed information on proceedings against more than 20 defendants with actions associated with violations of the Bank Secrecy Act.

If you focus on the Bank Secrecy Act in the Risk Factors search page of the Disclosure section of knowledgemosaic website, you also will learn some fascinating things, such as that companies transacting business in Florida face an exceptionally aggressive federal program of AML examination and compliance.

Right now, knowledgemosaic only has limited ways to aggregate, annotate, and disseminate all of this interesting information, primarily through our Document Cart. Going forward, however, we will be designing the platform to integrate report generation into the fabric of the search process.

The Solvent and the Glue

Client needs can rarely be contained within the boundaries of a single practice area. Attorneys need to partner across multiple practice boundaries on a daily basis to address a specific client matter. They need to be able to talk to each other and understand each other and translate what they learn from each other to their clients.

Abundant search builds bridges of understanding between research librarians and attorneys, between partners and associates in similar practice areas, and between partners communicating across practice domains. Abundant search is both the solvent and the glue. With the KM2 release of knowledgemosaic, we welcome you to the world of abundant search!

Thanks very much.


Peter Schwartz, President
Knowledge Mosaic Inc.


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