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In “Silicon Valley” versus in the Real World

Posted 09/15/16 8:09 PM by Quan Luc

In the episode, “Binding Arbitration,” from the HBO television show “Silicon Valley,” Thomas Middleditch, the founder of Pied Piper and Gavin Belson, the CEO of Hooli, agreed to participate in binding arbitration to resolve their pending litigation issues. 

In the episode, as a strategic maneuver, Hooli ended up sending over a hundred boxes of paper documents as part of their discovery obligation for the binding arbitration.  As the Pied Piper team was staring at the 132 bankers’ boxes being rolled into their home/incubator, which the team needs to review in a week, Gilfoyle asked the question that most of us would ask in this situation: why could these documents  not have been sent to them in an electronic format, since they were mainly emails anyway?  Jared, Pied Piper’s CFO, explained that this litigation tactic is a classic “document dump” maneuver by Hooli. This method precludes the ability for the data to be digitally searchable and made therefore much harder for their team to review and analyze the data in the short amount of time that they had to prepare for the upcoming binding arbitration.

During the binding arbitration, it ended up that the case hinged on whether Thomas used any Hooli equipment or resources while he was employed there to work on or develop any of his work for Pied Piper. Thomas and his counsel were aware of the fact that Thomas had inadvertently tested his Pied Piper software on a Hooli work computer when his personal Macintosh laptop (that Thomas refers to as “his girlfriend”) was being repaired.

In real life, we in eDiscovery deal with these same issues that are faced by these characters in “Silicon Valley” – the pending deadlines to review a massive amount of documents, and the production of documents in a format that is not as readily accessible or easily reviewable through typical electronic discovery review platforms.  But more recently, we have also had to face the increased prevalence of Apple devices and Macintosh files in the collection and processing of electronic discovery.

According to a 2012 Forrester report, about 46% of corporations now issue Macintosh devices, (1) with Macintosh computers accounting for about 8% of all company computers used by employees(2)  Apple has reported that enterprise sales of Macintosh platforms accounted for a 34.9% of year-over-year growth. (3)

Specifically, in the real Silicon Valley, Macintosh computers are the “de facto” choice for many Silicon Valley start-ups and many larger high-tech companies.  For example, Cisco has reported that 25% of Cisco’s 60,000 plus employees use Macintosh computers. (4)

In fact, Richard Toyon, the production designer for the show “Silicon Valley,” indicates that they decided to outfit Thomas with a Macintosh laptop to give the show an authentic feel.  He says, “When I went to Facebook, the overwhelming weapon of choice was the MacBook Air.  They were also everywhere at TechCrunch, probably 90% of the machinery we saw there was all Apple.” (5)

As Macintosh computers and Apple devices become more ubiquitous in the corporate environment, it raises a slew of technical issues for the collection and processing of electronic data, of which we need to be aware and raise with our corporate clients as there are data differences between Windows and Macintosh files that impacts processing and review.

For example, have you ever seen and asked yourself about the “._” files that appear in Macintosh data sets?  Why do you have a file with the same filename but with a “._” before it (e.g. Presentation.key and ._Presentation.key)?  It is because, in contrast to Windows files, files that are created in a Mac OS environment may be created as a bundled file, with a data fork and a resource fork. (5)

According to Wikipedia,

“The resource fork is a fork or section of a file on the Apple Mac OS operating system used to store structured data along with the unstructured data stored within the data fork. A resource fork stores information in a specific form, containing details such as icon bitmaps, the shapes of windows, definitions of menus and their contents, and application code (machine code). For example, a word processing file might store its text in the data fork, while storing any embedded images in the same file's resource fork. The resource fork is used mostly by executables, but every file is able to have a resource fork.”

In addition, have you ever tried to process and review Macintosh keynote files (a presentation file created in Apple’s Keynote application as part of the iWorks software), identified by a “.key” file extension?  In contrast to an Apple environment that views keynote files as a single file, when loaded into a Windows environment, the keynote file is viewed as a container file, like a bundle of files and data.  When processed in a Windows environment, the keynote file will be treated like a zip file, with each component of the original presentation file treated as an individual file comprising the index, metadata, or data of the original keynote file.  For example, a recent data set with about 200 keynote files processed in a Windows environment expanded to more than 30,000 individual files. This situation can cause headaches and unnecessary costs for the corporate client and litigation counsel during review.

These two examples are merely the tip of the iceberg in dealing with the complexity of collecting, processing, and reviewing Macintosh data, which should be identified and addressed with the corporate and/or law firm as soon possible in the electronic discovery process. 

Whether faced with a client that has Macintosh data or one that has received a document dump of hundreds of paper documents, in contrast to the course of action in the television show “Silicon Valley,” it may be the best course of action to enlist the help of your trusty electronic discovery professional.

a tale of trust

(1) King, Rachel, “Macs Invade the Enterprise,” Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2012
(2) Jonny Evans, “Macs replacing PCs across enterprise at ‘unprecedented rate’, survey claims” Computerworld, December 9, 2015
(3) King, IBID.
(4) Evans, IBID.
(5) Aly Weisman, “Here’s How ‘Silicon Valley’ Chose Which Tech Gadgets To Use On The Show”, Business Insider, May 20, 2014.
(6) Wikipedia,

Quan Luc

About The Author

As a senior project manager at Inventus, Quan provides creative solutions and strategies for clients facing complex electronic discovery demands. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Pomona College, a Master of Science from Carnegie Mellon and her Juris Doctorate from UCLA School of Law. She practiced as an associate attorney, specializing in antitrust and large-scale civil litigation matters, after being admitted to the California Bar. Prior to joining Inventus, she led and managed reviews of large-scale electronic discovery projects.


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