Saturday, December 30, 2006
Roger Alford (Pepperdine) and Peter Spiro (Temple) question the value of law prof blogging at Opinio Juris:
- Roger: I don't think that law blogs are really that important. They are not genuinely creating community are they? ... Sure, sometimes law blogs can be quite substantive .... But often law blogs offer no more than the latest news clip for people who care about a particular subject. We're not an army of Davids trying to slay Goliath. Sounds inspiring, but I rather doubt it. More like a gardener sowing a neglected patch of ground who, after a season, discovers to his delight that he has a nice little garden.
- Peter: I tend to agree with Roger's sober assessment of the value of blogging — if we can till a small patch of otherwise unplowed soil, that's something accomplished, but we shouldn't assume much more value than that. One sign that the blogging phenomenon may have peaked is the number of abandoned blogs one comes across these days — blogs that are still up, but on which nothing's been posted for months. ... There's something a little saddening about these sites, like a nice house that's gone vacant or a favorite restaurant that is closed "for renovations." (A related development: individuals who sign up as contributors to group blogs and then never make even a single post ...) The number of abandoned blogs shows at least that the medium is still a fluid and unstable one.
Dave Hoffman (Temple) and Peter had this interesting exchange in the comments:
- Dave: I wonder whether the number of abandoned blogs is a good proxy for "enthusiasm" (or faddishness, or popularity, or whatever the blog-academic-metric is). Restaurants fail all the time: that doesn't mean that eating out is passe. That said, it seems unlikely that law professors (the audience and participants I care about) will continue to blog at high numbers for much longer if (a) institutions don't commit to reward the activity; or (b) it doesn't pay. Since I think both of these possibilities are long-shots (and the first possibly normatively undesirable) I too see a downward trend in total bloggers. That doesn't mean that the ones left will die on the vine, just that the gold rush time is at a conclusion.
- Peter: Nicely put -- the gold-rush days are ending. Advantage to the first movers (the Instapundits and Volokhs) and, now, to those who really put some work into panning. To what end? Even if blogging doesn't help the tenure and merit files much (or fatten many wallets), one has to assume that quality blogging enhances reputation in a way that complements reputation established through traditional scholarship. But I think it only works that way where someone blogs on a regular basis (episodic stuff just doesn't stick), and that requires a serious commitment - hence again the high rate of receivership.
(Hat Tip: Brian Leiter.)