Despite the Title, Craig Ball Discusses Encoding of Data in a Way that DOESN’T Make Your Head Explode: eDiscovery Best Practices

It’s a three-post day!  Why? Two words: Craig Ball!  His new post on his excellent Ball in Your Court blog discusses encoding of data in a way that, despite the title, doesn’t actually (or even symbolically) make your head explode.  Instead, it provides a very educational, interesting, and sometimes humorous look at the foundation of the electronic evidence we all work with today.

The post, titled Then his head exploded!, begins by relaying Craig’s experience in the Introducing E-Discovery and Digital Evidence class he teaches to his law students (which he discussed here last month) and the reaction of one of his students.  As Craig puts it:

“Lately, one of my bright students identified himself as a ‘really bad with numbers person.’ My lecture was on encoding as prologue to binary storage, and when I shifted too hastily from notating numbers in alternate bases (e.g., Base 2, 10, 16 and 64) and started in on encoding textual information as numbers (ASCII, Unicode), my student’s head exploded.


At least that’s what he told me later. I didn’t hear anything when it happened, so I kept nattering on happily until class ended.”

Craig notes that the challenge for this student is like it is for many others: “distinguishing the many ways that numbers (numeric values) can be notated from the many ways that numbers represent (“encode”) text and symbols like emoji.”  He also explains why you should care about encoding data this way:

“Electronic evidence is just data, and data are just numbers; so, understanding the numbers helps us better understand electronic evidence.”


Craig goes on to describe ways to encode the same numeric value in different bases (i.e., base 2, base 10, base 16) and then goes on to discuss various encoding schemes (i.e., ASCII, Windows-1252, Unicode) and concludes by noting how encoding issues routinely lie at the root of e-discovery disputes, even when the term “encoding” isn’t mentioned (giving a few examples).  He does so (as always) in a way that’s clear and easy to follow.  And he throws in a very funny Aggie joke in there to boot!

Craig’s post doesn’t make my head explode, but I do consider myself a numbers guy.  If you’re not a numbers person, let Craig know what you thought about it – assuming your head is still intact!  😉

So, what do you think?  Do you understand encoding schemes and how they relate to electronic evidence?  And please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.


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