There seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle about whether the blawgosphere is “stagnant.” Here’s David Hoffman’s (Concurring Opinions) post asking the question, and contrasting law blogs with progressive political blogs. Citing Stephen Bowers of Open Left, he characterizes the “short tail” (the highly trafficked sites) of the progressive political blogosphere as:
marked by: (1) a norm of group blogging and a resulting wealth of new content even on weekends; (2) blogs produced by institutions; (3) professional bloggers; and (4) Self-Reinforcing communities
Scott Greenfield commented on the new wave of blawgs bringing vitality back to the blawgosphere. I think he’s right — but Scott and David are talking about entirely different places on the web. Just as law professors and criminal-defense lawyers inhabit different places in the real world, Scott’s Blawgosphere is not David’s.
Whenever (albeit admittedly rarely) I go to the old line blawgs, it seems, I see yet another comment on the news story of the day (why would I care to read your opinion about the Paris Hilton case, a case that will make less difference in anybody’s life than the smallest misdemeanor on my docket). I had one of these blawgs on my blogroll for a couple of months, but found it devoid of interesting original content of any use to a trial lawyer. Such blawgs are, as David writes, “parasitic on the main-stream media.” With all due respect, if I want to know how to pick a jury, or how things really work down at the criminal courthouse, I’m not generally going to ask a law professor. The few law professors I know who are exceptions to this rule are not blogging.
Blawgs like Scott’s Simple Justice, Gideon’s A Public Defender, Anne Reed’s Deliberations, and Jamie Spencer’s Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog (to name four that most influenced the direction I took with this blog), by contrast, generally have new ideas bouncing around, not dependent on the news story of the day. They are producing content that will be relevant and important to people other than historians long after the story of the day is forgotten. They are what I will call the Practical Blawgosphere.
Criminal defense trial lawyers are independent souls. If three of us find ourselves at the same table for lunch, it’s because of an exceptional organizational effort. In the Practical Blawgosphere, the bloggers have lives and practices trying to help other people. They are not going to get together for group blogging because, as Scott says, the tail does not wag the dog. So group blogging will not become the norm in the Practical Blawgosphere.
Law schools are not generally hotbeds of creative or original thought. If you want creative ideas on trial lawyering strategy and tactics or anything to do with the practice of law, you go to the lawyers who are trying cases, not to the law schools. If you want creative ideas on anything, you don’t go to an institution (I’ll write soon on how and why institutions are inimical to creativity). Blogs produced by institutions will never be the norm in the Practical Blawgosphere. When blawgs are institutionalized, they are no longer practical.
If you want to know something about practicing law, likewise, you are going to ask someone who practices law for a living. Professional bloggers are unlikely to have much impact in the Practical Blawgosphere. Fordham Law School’s criminal clinic had a blog that is collaborative and institutional, but the lawyers speaking were practicing lawyers as well as law professors, and the videos are professionally produced. The blog is also defunct, with no new content since last year.
Finally, I’m not quite sure what a “self-reinforcing community” is; David writes, quoting Stephen,
Specifically, through software platforms such as Scoop and Soapblox, several highly trafficked websites now give registered users the ability to produce their own self-directed content in the form of user diaries. This has not only increased the amount of content produced on many blogs, thus further enhancing their competitive advantage in content production, but in many cases it has actually deterred people from starting their own blogs.
That sounds like institutionalization and entrenchment to me. If that’s desirable somewhere, I don’t want to see it in the Practical Blawgosphere. And, again, because institutionalization impedes the flow of ideas, when the blawgosphere becomes institutionalized it is no longer practical.
Three final thoughts:
All rules have exceptions.
The law is not politics. Politics is about dogma and the law (by which I mean its successful practice and not its study) is about imagination.
Most of the blogs in the Practical Blawgosphere will not weigh in on this discussion. Like most of the old line’s content, this will be relegated to history in a couple of weeks. Scott, get back to work.