My last post ‘Hack the Law to Reinvent the Wheel?‘ generated a lot of debate on Twitter and LinkedIn yesterday (social media comments have now been incorporated at the end of that post).
It also brought out some interesting answers to the question “Why blockchain?” (asked following Pinsent Masons winning the London Legal Hackathon with a blockchain solution to partnership voting).
It has become clear that the competition criteria set by the organisers/hosts of the London Legal Hackathon (Pinsent Masons i.e. they organised/hosted the event and won it) do not necessarily follow that set by the Global Legal Hackathon organisers.
The criteria in London was:-
- The goal is to apply innovative ideas and emerging technologies to progress the business of law or facilitate access to justice for the public.
- Teams of 3 to 6 (maximum 10) will come up with a prototype or proposal at the end of the hackathon to present in front of a panel of judges.
- We expect ideas using technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain, or the Internet of Things.
The first and second of these correspond with the Global Legal Hackathon criteria but the third does not.
The Global Legal Hackathon’s rules do not limit the technology in any way to specifically those “like AI, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain, or the Internet of Things.”
Indeed when interviewed by Richard Tromans one of the co-organisers of the Global Legal Hackathon, David Fisher, stated that they had:-
not been technology specific. Been very, very careful about keeping it open. And that is in terms of technology categories. So it could be AI or blockchain or just traditional development. So we have not taken a position and Aileen [Schultz – the other co-organiser] very much to her credit has kept it wide open and agnostic. We felt this was the right way to do this to engage the largest community.
When I put the criteria used in London to the Global Legal Hackathon they suggested:-
The meaning of the word here was likely “expected” as in “anticipated”… accurate given the current legal industry landscape. Not “expected” as in “mandatory”.
We apologize if it lead to confusion, and suspect what was meant was “anticipated”. Note however, hosts were entitled to frame up their focus areas if they wished.
We hope there was never any confusion around the goals of the #GLH2018, it has been open from day one, use of any technological solution welcome across the board.
There was a global judging rubric intended to keep consistent criteria across the board. However, judges were permitted to “debate” their decisions and scores to come to a consensus of the winning teams.
I don’t think “expected” can be interpreted as meaning “anticipated”!
The definition of “expect” includes:-
- regard (something) as likely to happen
- require (something) as rightfully due or appropriate in the circumstances
- require (someone) to fulfil an obligation
The definition of “anticipate” includes:-
- regard as probable; expect or predict.
I believe competitors seeing as part of the criteria “We expect ideas using technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain, or the Internet of Things” would proceed on the basis that they had to use “technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Blockchain, or the Internet of Things”.
Immediately that limits the range of technology and might therefore go someway towards answering the “Why blockchain?” question.
Orlando Conetta who led the winning Pinsent Masons team has written about his experience of so doing on LinkedIn.
Orlando also seeks therein to answer the “Why blockchain?” question:-
Like children presented with a large box of Lego, we wanted to have some fun by constraining ourselves on the tools we would use. In this instance we would focus on blockchain. The challenge would be to find a problem for which blockchain could be a natural fit.
So, rather than identifying a problem that needed resolved and then applying appropriate technology to it, team Pinsent Masons did it the other way around. They focused on one of the technologies from their now restricted list and then found a problem they could use the technology to solve.
Therefore the “Why blockchain?” question was answered in that it had to be blockchain. That was a given regardless of whether the ‘problem’ could be solved using other technology.
However, Orlando probably doesn’t see it quite like that and tried to answer the “Why blockchain?” question thus:-
There are other vendor solutions in the space of polling and collaboration, but from our analysis they are not ubiquitous and innovation polling is far from a solved problem. We think the application of blockchain is relevant and unique amongst existing players in the market, and would offer anonymity to voters and integrity in the auditing of results….
Is the use of blockchain a sledgehammer to crack a nut in this instance? Well, I would say not as blockchains are not as complex as one may imagine to deploy, integrate and manage. Indeed, there would be a similar amount of complexity and effort required to scale anonymity and ledger integrity using other technologies.
I will not try to challenge that as I am nowhere near technically adapt on the question of blockchain to even try. I will leave other techies, who are, to come in on this point if they so wish. However, I do wonder if Orlando’s team checked out doyouneedablockchain.com first.
One other interesting point that Orlando revealed was:-
For our prototype, we used the existing tools we have within Pinsent Masons to develop the submission curation workflow. So, while the process functioned, it did so through technologies we could not share.
Hmm… Is such use of already developed proprietary tools allowed in a hackathon?
A look at the official global rules (although we now know they might not mean a lot in London) suggest perhaps not. These three entry requirements might be relevant:-
Do not include or make reference to any external data, except those specifically designated during the Competition, or those available through
open sourced and public platforms.
Entries that attempt to harm the Sponsor or otherwise create an unfair advantage over other entrants will be rejected.
By submitting an Entry, you warrant and represent: (a) that it is your (or your team’s) original work; (b) that it has not been previously published, sold or submitted in any other competition, promotion, or contest; (c) that it has not won previous awards; and (d) that it does not infringe upon the copyrights, trademarks, rights of privacy, publicity or other intellectual property or other rights of any person or entity; (e) that is was not developed in any substantive form prior to the event, though ideation, research and material gathering are permitted.
It is also the case that the organisers provide all entrants with access to the same resource toolkit for fairness. Bringing your own just might not be cricket.
Whilst looking at the rules can a host/organiser also compete? The rules state:-
Entrants who are employees, officers, directors, agents, representatives and their immediate families (spouse, parents, children, siblings
and each of their spouses regardless where they live) or members of household of Integra, Inc., the Global Legal Blockchain Consortium, or
their respective parent companies, affiliates, and subsidiaries (the “Competition Entities”) and any individual connected with the production
or distribution of this Competition are not eligible to enter or be awarded a prize.
Are Pinsent Masons, as hosts/organisers of the London event, not in effect agents and representatives of the “Competition Entities” and/or connected with the production or distribution of the competition?
Anyway no doubt different interpretations can be put upon the rules but there has perhaps, at the very least, been a bit of rule bending going on.
You would have thought a firm of lawyers would have checked the Ts & Cs!
David Halliwell of Pinsent Masons has pointed out that “R&D is about lateral thinking, not literal thinking“. When it comes to rules, David, I would suggest that you are best applying those literally and not taking your chances laterally. You just might get found out.
I understand the London event was organised in a bit of a rush at the eleventh hour and this may go someway towards explaining the lack of attention to the detail in the rules. Perhaps next year the organisers will be able to reflect on this year and ensure a better adherence to the global rules.