Orin Kerr revisits an old debate:
Back in 2005 and 2006, a lot of law-professor bloggers wondered whether blog posts could and would serve as ways to advance scholarly ideas about law. At the time, I was very skeptical...
In the past five years, [however,] legal blogs have become an acknowledged and accepted part of the world of legal scholarship. Exactly why is open to debate. It might be because more law professors are blogging. It might be because our experience has been that what profs say on their blogs is usually the same as what they say in their articles. Perhaps the new online journal supplements have blurred the traditional paper-vs-on-line distinction. Whatever the reason, there seems to be more of a convergence between scholarly blogging and “traditional” law review articles today than existed 4 or 5 years ago. That convergence encourages more scholarly blogging and recognizes its value.
Citations in the Westlaw JLR database are an imperfect metric, but they tend to confirm the change. ...
In short, I think we’re seeing a shift in how law professors and legal journal editors view blogs. The old lines have blurred. Blogs have become a significant part of the scholarly conversation. I didn’t expect this to happen, at least so soon. And I don’t know whether the trend will continue. But I think the trend is a real one.
Advances in the technology widely used by legal bloggers have facilitated the changes. ... Blogs are indexed and available via Google minutes after they are posted. The culture of comment threads has developed more, encouraging more feedback between authors and readers. It has become easier to link posts and hide long text. All of these changes have helped create an environment much more conducive to scholarly blogging than existed in 2005-06.
I think he's got a good point, but it raises the question of which blogs counts as scholarship.
I have tremendous respect for the success that law professor bloggers like Glenn Reynolds and Hugh Hewitt have had, but I don't regard what they do as legal scholarship (and, I suspect, neither do they). They are instant pundits.
At the other end of the scale are blogs that focus almost exclusively on law to the exclusion of politics, culture, sports, and other non-scholarly topics. Larry Solum, the guys at Truth on the Market, the Harvard Governance blog and so on.
But where does that leave those of us in the middle who do mixed blogging? I've puzzled over this problem ever since I started blogging. On the one hand, I do 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 (as Larry Solum opined). It's a hobby (as Larry Ribstein opined). Mixed blogging is fun. But is it scholarship?
I also worry about about audience. I'd like a big one.
I mean, while one lives for ones Art, so to speak, and cares little for the public’s praise or blame and all that sort of thing, one can always do with something to paste into ones scrapbook, can one not?—P.G. Wodehouse, Bertie Wooster Sees It Through
Do left-leaning judges and lawyers refrain from reading my blog out of fear of encountering an Obama rant? Do conservatives refrain from reading it because of long posts on some obscure corporate law doctrine?
These concerns led to my infamous experiment with a magazine format. Never again. I'll doubtless continue tinkering with the format at the margins, but I'm back to a single mixed blog for good.
If we turn from daily hit counts to citation counts in legal opinions and law review articles, however, I think the technological developments cited by Orin have made a huge difference. I suspect most citations to my blog came not from daily readers but from researchers who found the cited post via a search engine. After all, almost 1 in 5 hits on my blog came from a search engine and the most common search words almost all have something to do with law (or wine).
Bottom line? I think Orin's right that "blogging actually does provide an effective way to present new scholarly ideas in many cases," but it's also fun. And I wouldn't do it if it weren't fun. After all, when it comes to work, my attitude tends to be the same as that of the unnamed author of Three Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog) :
Update: A commenter to an earlier post asks a question that seems apropos to this thread:
I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the
idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.
You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a passion with me: my study is so full of it now, that there is hardly an inch of room for any more. I shall have to throw out a wing soon.
And I am careful of my work, too. Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn't a finger-mark on it. I take a great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of
preservation than I do.
It's weird how, in virtually every single political opinion piece you write, you cite exclusively to hard-core right wing think-tank hit pieces and right-wing bloggers, with nary a fact to be found. And yet your academic work is undeniably first-rate and, of course, includes proper citations to valid authority. You do notice this, don't you?
It's a fair cop, in part. A couple of answers, however: (1) I don't think it is an unusual phenomenon. I've noticed a tendency towards tribalism in the blogosphere. Liberals tend to read liberal blogs and vice-versa. The political blogosphere thus tends to be more two disconnected echo chambers than a forum for cross-fertilization. I offer this not as a defense, but just as reality. It is what it is.
(2) Except when I'm blogging about technical corporate law, I do tend to shoot from the hip more than I would ever dream of doing in scholarship. It's the nature of the beast. Blogging doesn't lend itself to rigor, at least the way I do it. In order to post quickly, I tend to rely on my memory rather than doing new research. Sometimes that produces real gems; for example, I'm quite pleased with myself for having pulling the Wodehouse and Jerome quotes out of what Sherlock Holmes called the lumber room of my mind (there's another!). But it does tend to mean that I write about stuff I remember having read, which brings us back to point 1 above. I don't read Kos or Brad DeLong or, for that matter, Brookings Institute position papers very often.
(3) Just because there tends to be a bias in my sources, doesn't mean we don't have facts. In the post on which you commented, for example, the data on the composition of Obama's administration is fact. You may not like what I did with those facts, but they are the facts.
(4) I am reminded (here's yet another pop culture reference for you) of this spot of dialogue from Top Gear:
Let's flip that around. If you don't find the blog factual, at least I hope you find it entertaining.
Maximus: [after swiftly dispatching another gladiator] Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?
Crowd: Spaniard, Spaniard, Spaniard...
Update: Brad DeLong says in the comments that I should "read smart people who think differently from" myself. Fair point. But I still wouldn't read DeLong. After our last run-in, I decided life's too short to waste time on a thin-skinned jerk like DeLong. See DeLong Tries Again. (Others have reached the same conclusion. E.g., Why not to bother with Brad DeLong)