Imagine standing in the middle of a crowded restaurant, surrounded by the din of hundreds of simultaneous, unrelated conversations. Then, imagine you were expected to figure out which of these conversations were about lawnmowers—more specifically, which brand of lawnmower was best, what features it had, how much it cost, the active participants in the conversation, the people listening in and the name of the person who recommended a specific lawnmower. Before, during and after the pertinent points about lawnmowers, that discussion (still happening in a crowded space surrounded by unrelated noise) was intermixed with comments about landscaping tips, the cost of real estate in the area, next weekend’s plans, the 10-day weather forecast, the best items on the menu, etc., etc. Pinpointing the details about lawnmowers would be an impossible task.

Similarly, if all those busy restaurant conversations were transcribed as electronic chat messages, it would take days to read through an excess of irrelevant conversation records to find the few pieces about lawnmowers. This hypothetical illustrates only a sliver of what legal teams are now beginning to face as messages from chat and collaboration applications become primary sources of evidence in investigations and litigation.