Christine Hurt on law blogging today:
Yesterday, Paul Horwitz at Prawfsblawg posted about some of the reasons he has been blogging less these days. One of his points hit home with me and echoed one of the reasons I have posted less the past year(s).
Anyone who has blogged for a long time knows it can be difficult to keep it up. Some of it has to do with the usual peaks and valleys of a person's life, including his writing life. A good deal of it has to do with the heated nature of many discussions and comment threads (including from professors), especially around legal education. I think there are good reasons for that, although it does not excuse absolutely any kind of rhetoric in my view. But heated discussions on any topic are more time-consuming to monitor, which I think one must, and can reach a point of exhaustion (both as to the discussion and as to the individual blogger involved) fairly quickly.
I'm assuming that Paul is referencing the "law school scam" meme that has overpowered almost every online discussion of law school and anything having to do with law school. ...
I have to say that now, I hardly ever post about teaching law. Though the benefit might be helping a junior law prof who is reading or getting advice from other law profs, the the downside is a torrent of comments that can be summed up in one sentence: "Law school is a scam and you are an overpaid, underworked fraud who will soon be out of a job and unfit for the legal profession." A person can only see that so many times without taking it personally.
Now, you might be thinking that I should get a little tougher. Real scholars don't shrink from valid criticism, whether it's pointed or sugar-coated. True, and I have never shrank from criticism on the merits of my work, whether long-form scholarship or short-form blog posts. Of course, blogging, strays from the traditional norms of academic presentations. The audience is larger and doesn't seem to have the same discourse community norms. But still, columnists and journalists write on-line pieces that receive comments. Am I more of a sissy than those guys? I don't know if Gail Collins reads her comments or not, but law school blogging is in a strange "sour spot" between presenting in front of colleagues at a conference and writing op-eds commented on by 300 strangers. Getting bitter comments from 10-20 readers, all of whom seemed to be named "anon" seems more personal.
Finally, Paul notes that much of our talk now about life as a law professor goes on facebook. Our grading highs and lows, our blegs for advice and materials. And the comments never begin with "Law school is a scam. . . ." Even though the folks that could comments are former students who have plenty of reason to spew vitriol. But, they can't do it anonymously.
My attitude towards comments is inspired by the defining moment of the 1980 political campaign:
So here once again is my comment policy:
This is not a public forum. I pay for it. If you want a microphone, pay for one of your own.
Accordingly, my comment policy begins with the assumption that as blog owner I have 5 key rights:
- Control over content and comments.
- Right to edit comments.
- Right to censor comments.
- Right to delete comments.
- Right to block comments by specific persons.
Those rights translate into the following policies:
- Not all posts will be open to comments. I reserve the right to close certain posts to comments from the moment they are published. Generally, these will be posts whose nature suggests they will lead to troll attacks. Other posts will close automatically after one week.
- Comment Form Guidelines: The comment form must be filled in with a proper or legitimate sounding name and URL. Comments using keywords, spam or splog-like URLs, or suspicious information in the comment form will be edited or deleted.
- Email Privacy: Email addresses are required for commenting, and they are not published on the blog, nor shared. They may be used by me to privately contact the commenter.
- Commenter Privacy and Protection: All email, snail mail, phone numbers, and any private and personal information posted in any comment will be deleted as soon as possible to protect the privacy of the commenter. To prevent such editing, never share this private information within the blog comment.
- Language and Manners: This blog is “family friendly” and comments which include offensive or inappropriate language, or considered by me to be rude and offensive, will be edited or deleted. Play nice.
- A Comment is Conversation: A comment which does not add to the conversation, runs of on an inappropriate tangent, or kills the conversation may be edited, moved, or deleted.
- No Personal Attack Comments Permitted: In the interest of fair play, no personal attacks are permitted in this blog’s comments. You may question or argue the content, but not attack me or any other commenters. Failure to respect fellow participants on this blog could result in removal and blocked access.
- Comment Spam: Any comment assumed to be possible comment spam will be deleted and marked as comment spam.
- Commenters Blocked: Anyone who violates this Comments Policy may be blocked from future access and/or commenting on this blog.
- All Rights Reserved: Again, I expressly reserve the right to edit, delete, move, or mark as spam any and all comments. I also have the right to block access to any one from commenting on the entire blog.
- Hold Harmless: All comments within this blog are the responsibility of the commenter, not the blog owner, administrator, contributor, editor, or author. By submitting a comment on our blog, you agree that the comment content is your own, and to hold this site and all subsidiaries and representatives harmless from any and all repercussions, damages, or liability.
- Trackbacks Are Comments: All trackbacks will be treated inline with our Comments Policy.
In short, I alone decide whether a comment lives or dies. And the sort of comments to which Christine refers tend to die.