As some may know, friend of the Glom Todd Henderson has been on the receiving end of some spectacularly personal attacks following a post last week at Truth on the Market on how taxing families who make over $250k is not the same as taxing the "super rich." (The posts are gone, so no links are necessary). The controversy was picked up by established bloggers and even professional journalist-bloggers, who capitalized on the passions incited instead of calming them with objective reason. The end result is that Todd has decided not to blog any more, which is surely a loss for the blogosphere.
As an observer to this blog controversy, I am reminded of many similar incidents over the past six years of my blogging. I can certainly remember posts that I authored that (1) were taken the wrong way; (2) really upset folks in an unpredictable way or to an unpredictable degree; and/or (3) prompted personal and quite vindictive attacks. I remember the awful way I would feel for a day or two, afraid to even look at my email for fear of comments that felt like knives being thrown my way. The feeling (let's call it "bloghorror") is hard to describe. First, bloghorror is in part just a reaction to being attacked, but it's also a shame at having hurt someone else, even unintentionally, and it's also an anger at the completely unfair nature of the response. But most of all it's this feeling of being misunderstood. And unfortunately, there's no way to cure this. In 2005, my first reaction would be to explain myself, so that the blog audience would say, "Ah, I understand now." It took me a year or two to learn that once your audience has concluded that you are the devil saying devil things, any effort to explain will just add to the arsenal of the ammunition that will be hurled back at you.
In the wild west of the early blawgosphere, Gordon and I occasionally went off-brief and blogged about controversial topics that got us into trouble. Of course, knowing what will be a barn-burner is not easy to predict. The one regrettable post I remember was about how I got scammed into buying a subscription of Entertainment Weekly at the Best Buy. (Here's the post, go have fun.) My point was that if a fairly educated and savvy consumer could get scammed, the the scheme is probably trapping a lot of people. Man, did commenters want to tell me how stupid I was! (I even got a call from a network television show wanting me to be on the air telling America how stupid I was. I declined.) I laugh now, but at the time I was pretty upset with bloghorror. Maybe Gordon can remind me of other times when I was horsewhipped by the blawgosphere -- I think I've blocked out some of the pain. In addition, I think most long-time bloggers I know can think of a time when they wished they had just stepped away from the keyboard.
I think the one thing that strikes me as strange about Todd's ordeal is how other bloggers, established bloggers, went for the low-hanging fruit there. What has changed? Has the blogosphere become so saturated that bloggers are pandering for heavy traffic? I think that is what disappoints me. Bloggers are supposed to link to and disagree with one another, but hopefully in a non-tabloid manner where we give people the benefit of the doubt.
I'm leaving comments open because our readers are reasonable and well-meaning.
Yesterday, I attended our David C. Baum Memorial Lecture on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, given by Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University and Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. President Bollinger is also the author of Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century. (As a blogger, I can confess that I have not read the book, or even started it and finished mid-stream.) Readers of this blog may already know that President Bollinger is the Deputy Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
President Bollinger's talk had many excellent insights that I had not focused on before. As newspaper publishing becomes less profitable and newspaper budgets shrinks, foreign correspondence, presumably the most costly type of reporting, shrinks. In our era of global interconnectedness, the diminishment of first-hand reporting of events in foreign countries would seem to come at exactly the wrong time. President Bollinger made a cogent argument for state-supported newspapers, given the success of public universities in developing knowledge and objective commentary; the U.S.'s robus traditional of first amendment rights; the success of public-sponsored radio and television (NPR and PBS); and the success worldwide of public-sponsored news (BBC). (He has also made this argument in the WSJ.) But, what interested me was his consideration (and dismissal from consideration) of a substitute to traditional newspaper reporting in foreign countries: bloggers.
Actually, President Bollinger never used the word "blogger." He used the term "citizen-journalists." He brought up the argument that citizen journalists could replace traditional institutions of a free press in the sphere of foreign correspondence, and he said "no." I was not sure, however, that I caught his reasoning. He had already mentioned the lack of a free press culture (censorship) in many of these countries (particularly China), so he may hae suspected that bloggers in those countries would never be able to replace professional U.S. reporters with more resources and legal protections. Or, he may have just assumed that citizen-journalists did not have the expertise or wherewithal to be a good substitute for a professional press.
On the heels of this talk, the NYT today runs an op-ed from Thomas Friedman, Power to the (Blogging) People, which is very optimistic that the 70 million bloggers in China may begin to act as a "third party" in U.S.-China relations.
"Top blog" contests always make me a bit queasy, but things are a little slow on Labor Day, so I will alert you to the LexisNexis quest for the Top 25 business law blogs. The Glom is one of the initial top 25 based on their review of the blogs and comments from Community members. If you feel inspired to nominate the Glom, we offer our undying appreciation.
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!