Christine is rightly featured in the National Law Journal for a story on "professors who have made blogging a mainstream medium." Christine is the only woman featured in the story, but she is not much interested in talking about that angle. For my money, the more interesting story is that Christine is the only blogger among the pioneers who was untenured when she started blogging. I still get questions from junior faculty about the wisdom (or not) of blogging, and I always refer them to Christine's essay, with Tung Yin, Blogging While Untenured and Other Extreme Sports.
By the way, my favorite part of the feature on Christine is the discussion of traffic. "The Conglomerate has a devoted, although not overly large, readership compared to some other law professor blogs. It averages about 1,000 unique Web site visits a day with an additional 2,000 who read the blog via an RSS feed. That's just fine with Hurt, who said that obsessing over blog traffic is 'so 2006.'"
Doug Berman, Paul Caron, Brian Leiter, and Eugene Volokh also get well-deserved kudos in the story.
On a personal note, my own foray into blogging in 2003 -- the blog was the horrendously titled "Venturpreneur" -- was inspired by Glenn Reynolds, Eugene Volokh, and Larry Lessig. At the time, I remember thinking that I was very late to the game, but when my across-the-hall neighbor Ann Althouse started blogging, it just became too fun to stop!
It's been just about 2 years since I joined the Glom. That anniversary alone, plus receiving the same survey Christine did, would probably be enough to trigger some blogger introspection. Add to the mix that we are expecting our second child any minute now, and cue outright navel-gazing.
The first few survey questions focused on that age-old question of productivity, otherwise known as time suckage. You know, the fact of your blogging comes up at a conference cocktail party and you get the quizzical look of "How do you find time for that?" which I often interpret as "you're not spending enough time on serious scholarship" or "you're frivolous" or "you don't have a life, do you?"
All of which may be true.
But I still love blogging, for reasons I articulated in this comment last year, most notably:
For me, writing begets writing. You know when you're reading and thinking and struggling with a draft and don't feel like you're getting anywhere? Sometimes the act of articulating a thought--even something completely unrelated to what you're writing your scholarship about--can get you unstuck.
Unlike Christine, I see my posts not as a form file, but more as a kind of professional-sometimes-personal diary, that I happen to share with the corner of the world that reads the Glom. Occasionally I incorporate posts into articles, but more often I post because it's fun to think out loud for 150 words or so.
All of which is to say, with regret, that I may not be posting as regularly for the next few months as we enter the insanity of life with a newborn. Or who knows? I might be late-night mommy-blogging every other day in an effort to remind myself that I can have a coherent thought. Either way, I'm glad to be a Glommer.
From time to time, someone will ask me what I think the benefits of blogging are for me. My first answer is "My blog is my form file." So, when a student comes into my office and asks for note ideas, or I'm preparing a course lecture on poison pills, or a new colleague comes by and asks about a particular doctrine, I'm pretty good at remembering that I (or Gordon, or Lisa, etc.) blogged on that once. Then, I find it on the blog, and there are my thoughts, with links, etc. (In transactional practice, one's form file is where you keep all your great agreements so you can cannibalize them later.)
But what if are old posts disappeared? This is something I never thought about until this morning when I participated in an academic research survey about bloggers' perceptions about digital preservation. I was asked a lot of questions that just stumped me. Do I archive my blog? Um, I don't know. Gordon, do I? Who do I think has the responsibility for this? Me? Typepad? Google? (I'm pretty sure it's not Google.) Did I ever have a different blog? Yes. Did I delete it? I don't remember. So, now I have one more thing to be neurotic about. Thanks.
Last week, the NYT Magazine ran a cover story by law professor Jeffrey Rosen on the perils of not being able to erase information on the Internet: will you ever be able to outrun the pictures from the 8th grade banquet? But there's also a reverse problem: some of us rely on the internet to retain copies of information for us. What I went to search my form file one day, and I found that Typepad had deleted everything over five years old? This was recently a topic of interest to those who upload photos to a service like Shutterfly, Snapfish or Kodak Gallery when Kodak announced it would require minimum purchases in order not to delete older photos. Many users realized they had no backup for the photos they uploaded to these services and could only download in low res or purchase pricey archive CDs to preserve their photos. (Kodak later changed its plans.)
Before Gordon and I joined forces to create the Glom, I had started a blog in 2004 called Biz Fems Speak, featuring a lot of other female corporate law professors that just didn't get off the ground. I never really thought about it until today, but I can't find it anywhere. I stopped paying the hosting fee, so I guess it just disappeared. I didn't expect Typepad or Google or anyone to archive it, so I'm not upset, just sort of surprised.
Anyway, I guess I better ask Gordon about this before I wake up someday to find my form file has been tossed!
I guess the first wave of the legal blogosphere is really over. My friend and colleague Larry Ribstein is shutting down his solo blog Ideoblog, which he started February 1, 2004, and moving to the group blog Truth on the Market. Larry's first archived post compared Howard Dean to the dot com bust. Ah, history!
Where the choices range across the academic spectrum, from feminist legal theory to constitutional law theory. I only wish that a tax option had been included.
I'm biased, but I'm also delighted to see that the Penn Program on Regulation has created RegBlog, a blog designed to get the word out on PPR work and regulatory developments more generally. I will contribute on occasion over there, and it is definitely one for your RSS feed. The Administrative Law Prof blog has more here.
Welcome to the blogosphere!
Orin Kerr is rethinking blogging as scholarship. Orin and I were on that same panel at the Harvard Bloggership Conference a few years ago. He argued that blogs were not well suited to contribute to the scholarly debate, and I disagreed (see "A Case Study in Bloggership"). Orin thinks "the legal academic culture has changed [in that] legal blogs have become an acknowledged and accepted part of the world of legal scholarship." While I agree that blogs are being cited more often in law review articles than they used to be, this does not seem to me like a fundamental change in circumstances, but rather a fulfillment of the promise of academic blogging.
Orin believes that "advances in the technology widely used by legal bloggers have facilitated the changes," and he is particularly interested in the role of comments. VC gets a lot more comments than we get here, and I suspect that informs our different perspectives, but I just don't see comments as the driving force behind bloggership. As noted in my essay linked above, we were doing citable work on The Conglomerate way back when, and I suspect that the change in citation rates has more to do with the fact that more law professors are blogging, and we are blogging more often about law. See Christine's post about this phenomenon. Christine was actually longing for the old days:
Back then, we used our blogs for rants, raves, reviews, and ramblings. Grammar pet peeves, funny things in faculty meetings, annoying airline ticket representatives -- all bloggable. Now, we have Facebook and Twitter. And now I walk around all day thinking "will that make a catchy status update?" So, I rant and rave on Facebook/Twitter, and not so much here.
Steve Bainbridge has a very similar perspective:
I ... believe that blogging about corporate law and governance can be a useful companion to my scholarship. On the other hand, I'd be bored to tears by a blog that was only about corporate law. So, as I've said before, I like mixed blogging. Mixed blogging is recreational.... It's a hobby.... Mixed blogging is fun. But is it scholarship?
Some of it. And I like it that way, too.
Thanks to the editors of the ABA Journal for listing The Conglomerate among the 100 best law blogs. This is the Third Annual ABA Journal Blawg 100, and The Conglomerate has appeared on all three lists. We have never been a top contender in the voting portion of this promotion, but for me the value of the list is that it introduces me to new law blogs.
Apparently, I am not alone. I first learned of the list from a reader who received a hard copy of The ABA Journal, but shortly thereafter I noticed a (small) flurry of subscriptions to our Twitter feeds. I couldn't make sense of that until I saw the entry for us on the Blawg 100 site:
For those looking for more than just casual musings and rants, these academics provide substance over sensation.
Conglomerate, aka The Glom, is a group effort by academics who emphasize, however loosely, business, law, economics and the catchall—society.
Quick Take: The Glom has hosted a Junior Scholars Workshop since 2005 as a way to mentor untenured law professors and those just entering law school teaching.
We take some pride in our promotion of junior business law scholars, so I am happy that the editors noticed. One of these days, I am going to have one of the those junior scholars explain how they follow blogs on Twitter. I am still using Google Reader.
As a first time blogger I realize that I am entering this debate quite late (see for example here, here and the series of terrific essays from 2006 (Volume 84-5) in the Washington University Law Review) for just a few of the many prior discussions about this issue), but yesterday I came across this interesting post by Brian Leiter on recent stats about the rising number of law professor who are now blogging. Since entering the academy I have been fairly hesitant and somewhat scared to blog. Now that I am guest blogging at the Conglomerate, I am glad to have entered the blogosphere at least for a short time. Nevertheless, it is surprising how many people are blogging regularly and have started new blogs given how much time it takes. While I certainly read some blogs and appreciate the dissemination of ideas that happens through blogs, I am still looking at the same blogs that I read two to three years ago and even then rarely do I have the time to consistently keep up with them. Where is everyone getting these extra hours a day to devote to regular reading and writing of substantive blogs? I do wonder (or worry) whether blogging is now de rigeur (as Brian put it) at many law schools. For many junior faculty balancing scholarship, teaching, service and a personal life (especially if they have children) is more than a full time job. What do you think readers, is blogging moving toward becoming required activity for faculty, even if informally? Will/should tenure standards change to take into account informal blogging requirements (if you could even call it a requirement)? Of course, the answers are obviously tied to local standards at each school. But I wonder about the extent of the shift in the academy as a whole. As for me, I really appreciate the people who post blogs sharing their scholarly ideas and the people who have reached out to me this week both about my blog posts and my scholarship.
A few months ago, I participated in a survey on working moms and work-life balance. The authors of the survey, Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, are using the data for a book entitled "Good Enough is the New Perfect: Why Modern Moms are Aiming Lower -- Yet Reaching New Heights." To kickoff the project, the authors have a blog. Both of the authors have journalism backgrounds, and Hollee Schwartz Temple is a law professor at West Virginia University. The blog's subtitle "An Inside Look at a Balanced Life" seems very aspirational to me! I would never claim a balanced life. My life is very imbalanced -- my trick is to overcompensate the other direction and so on and so forth so I never quite topple over!
Of course, blogging about this today I'm reminded of yesterday's NYT article in the Style Section about Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay and Naptime is the New Happy Hour. These books, and her blog BabyOnBored, were embraced as a fun backlash to being the perfect mom. Unfortunately, there may be a dark side to the "Bad Mommy" movement. Ms. Wilder-Taylor, a former stand-up comedian, announced two months ago that she was going on the wagon -- that her answer to livening up a playdate was actually masking a much more serious drinking problem. Assuming that her announcement is genuine (she does have a new memoir released this summer), I can imagine that her announcement was very difficult to make; among the many rationalizations a person can make for not acknowledging any addiction, I'm sure the fact that you make a lot of money and a lot of people happy being the chardonnay-sipping homeroom mom is a pretty good one. But, she does have this new memoir coming out. . . .
I'm not a huge fan of the bad mommy club because it makes me feel nerdy and boring, like high school. But, so far I'm a huge fan of the Good Enough is the New Perfect blog!
Some blogs that I follow, like Althouse and Volokh, have very active comment discussions, while other popular lawprof blogs, such as TaxProf Blog, Concurring Opinions, Prawfsblawg, and The Glom generate fewer comments. Sometimes when I read nasty comments sections on other blogs or newspapers, I wonder why they don't follow Brian Leiter's usual practice of keeping comments closed.
On the other hand, a really good comments section, like the one at Fred Wilson's A VC blog, often contains interesting and useful contributions. I suspect that comment quality depends to a large extent on the norms encouraged and allowed by the bloggers. Fred recently posted on Why Comments Matter, and one of his commenters observed, "There is a general tendency for everyone in a community to adopt a common discourse.... [H]ere, through your engagement and restraint, you've taught everyone to be thoughtful and civil; it's one of the only places on the Internet where that happens on such a broad scale, which is why we all come."
In several behind-the-scenes discussions, all of the bloggers here have expressed an interest in developing a more vibrant blog community. Perhaps we are not as solicitous of comments as we should be, but we agree with Fred Wilson that one reason comments matter is that we learn from our readers. And, of course, readers can learn from each other.
How to develop such a community? First things first: I hereby publicly solicit your thoughtful, civil comments to anything posted on The Glom. As noted in our blog policies, "We enjoy honest and intelligent feedback. We do not enjoy profanity or vulgarity, inflammatory remarks, ad hominem attacks, or marketing."
To facilitate the exchange of ideas in the comments sections, I have installed a new comment system called Disqus, which is on display for the first time on the Glom in this post. You can see how it works with lots of comments over on Fred Wilson's blog.
Disqus seems like an improvement over Typepad's embedded comment system. Disqus allows for replies to comments (threading), and you can indicate that you "Like" a comment (a la Facebook) or, if a comment is offensive, you can "Report" that comment to me. The "More" button provides a permalink to the comment, and it gives you access to the commenter's profile, which includes other comments by the same person. But the big feature is that you can log into the comments under one of your social networking identities, so your names are linked to Disqus, Twitter, Facebook, their blog, etc. Whatever you choose. This authentication feature is designed to invite the formation of a community.
Will technology make a difference? Only on the margins, I suspect, but I am willing to experiment ...
UPDATE: Speaking of technology, I figured out how to get the comments working, but I haven't yet figured out how to display the number of comments on the main page. But that's coming, if it's possible under Disqus.
UPDATE2: Another issue is that we have long displayed "Recent Comments" in our sidebar, but that function is dependent on Typepad. I will investigate the possibility of providing that feature through Disqus.
This week, the Glommers have been trading emails about what we see as the future of the Glom and the future of the blogosphere. At the same time, as Usha already noted, Law.com's Robert Ambrogi tried to beat anyone to the punch recently by declaring the blawgosphere dead in his The Blogosphere 2.0.
I actually agree more with Ambrogi than Usha does. I started blogging five years ago this summer (and Gordon had already been blogging for awhile then), and the landscape has radically change The reasons why I started blogging are very different from why I blog now. When Tung Yin and I came up with a draft article entitled "Blogging While Untenured and Other Extreme Sports," blogging was a high-risk, high-reward strategy. I think guest blogging as an untenured person now is almost par for the course. However, I'm not sure all the changes in the past 5 years are super, and I think I would say that blogging was more fun then. As the result of our discussions, I'm committed to making blogging fun again. But until then, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the maturing of the blogosphere -- and many of my points will echo Ambrogi's.
1. The blogosphere in 2005 was really, really fun. Posting, seeing who linked to you, linking to other people, getting comments, leaving comments, watching the Sitemeter, it was all part of a day's work. Dan Solove blogged about this in "A Day in the Life of Blogging" in October 2005. Notice how many links/comments there are. People linked, people read, people commented. Comments are different now. I hardly ever comment on anyone's blog anymore. If I see something on VC, am I going to make a reasonable comment as #98 between someone claiming that the author believes in genocide and someone else saying that this is the problem with tenure? No. And we don't have many comments either. If someone wants to say something to me about a post, that person usually emails now. Or, if they are like me, means to email and then forgets. Links are few also. We'd rather post on something new than add a little to something someone else said.
2. In 2005, I basically walked around all day wondering "is this bloggable"? (Sort of a change from law practice: "is this billable?") And I had a pretty low bar for what was bloggable. Gordon and I always said we had to watch our "cheese ratio," or how many non-substantive posts we had compared to meaty, corporate law posts. Now, I just do the meat. And, over the years, many readers told me they love the blog, even though they didn't read the corporate law posts. Well, I guess they don't read much any more. But back then, we used our blogs for rants, raves, reviews, and ramblings. Grammar pet peeves, funny things in faculty meetings, annoying airline ticket representatives -- all bloggable. Now, we have Facebook and Twitter. And now I walk around all day thinking "will that make a catchy status update?" So, I rant and rave on Facebook/Twitter, and not so much here. But I think that's going to change. Bring back the cheese!
3. Blogosphere 2005 was like a freshman dorm. I felt like I was great friends with all sorts of law professors, and we all sort of new about each other, just from the blog. We knew what Steve had for dinner and Orin linked to a picture of my dog. Sure, we all had different specialties, but we were thrown together for intramural sports and mixers. On our blogs, we spent a lot of time talking to each other just about law school in general. Now, we're like in graduate school. We each focus on our own stuff, and link to primary sources in our field. We link to each other occasionally, out of nostalgia, but not often. Back then, we had a lot of conversations that were rarely discussed in big groups: getting into lawschool, going through the meat market, whether students should be on law review, whether students should clerk, what the standard course package was, etc. One of our posts that got the most traffic was on blind grading! But now, these discussions seem stale. Do we really need to have another round of "where are the women bloggers?" or "what should professors wear to class" or "what do you call your students?" It's almost like your freshmen buddies asking you five years later "Is Goofy a dog?" and you think, "Didn't we already cover this?"
4. If you notice, a lot of the fun 2005 bloggers are a lot quieter now. I won't name names, and I'm sure I could say the same for myself. Did the fun wear off? Are we cynics now, the Lost Generation? Will we move to Paris? I don't think so. But the dynamic has changed. Some blogs have morphed into large group blogs with rotating guest bloggers keeping things going. Much of the blogosphere has become professionalized. Remember Wonkette and David Lat when they had day jobs? Remember the great law student bloggers? Now it's Huffington Post and the WSJ Law Blog. In 2005, Gordon and I were blogging about things that were in the back pages of the NYT and the WSJ, with almost no legal commentary. Now the WSJ Law Blog has five or six people that analyze every angle of every thing before 7:30 CST. And there's Dealbook, Deal Professor, Clusterstock, etc. Remember the Disney case? Conglomerate was the Disney case. But now there isn't as much we can arbitrage. Meat blogging is definitely harder than it was.
So, for years, if another law professor asked me should she start a blog, I would say emphatically "yes." Now, I'm not sure. The industry has changed. I still think there's a lot to be gained out of blogging for the junior scholar looking for a voice, looking for an audience. Now, I have to think about why middle-aged scholars like me should blog. Maybe, as someone distinguished said in my breakout group at the AALS Mid-Year Meeting, I'm just a writer, and I blog because I write. I'm still thinking about this, but I thought I woudl share.
Law.com's Robert J. Ambrogi proclaimed the demise of the legal blogosphere last week, citing posts from Mike Cernovich of Crime and Federalism and 11D. Both posts cite a kind of prelapsarian egalitarian blogging world circa 2005 where every voice was heard and it was easy to communicate meaningfully across traditional boundaries. Cernovich provocatively claims that now:
Law blogging is like high school or college. The black kids, white kids, and Asian kids are all sitting at separate tables. The law professors, lawyers, and law students all link to members of their respective subcultures. There thus isn't much debate worth reading.
Maybe it's just me, but I don't think that's true here in our little corner of cyberspace. I know from comments and conversation that we boast a readership of law profs, big law and small firm lawyers, regulators, and students.
If you're looking to branch out to a different discipline, though, today's WSJ describes the "new stars of the blogosphere": economists. Check out its Reader's Guide to Econoblogs. But don't stay too long! Return to us and prove that reports of the blawg's death have been greatly exaggerated.