July 17, 2009
Is the Death of Blogging Highly Exaggerated? More on the Maturing of the Blogosphere
Posted by Christine Hurt

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.

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