A long time ago, Mark Bennett wrote a post about mapping the blogosphere. It came in partial response to questions about whether the Practical Blawgosphere had grown stagnant, an issue arising among the first wave of bloggers who were feeling the malaise of “been there, done that.”
Rereading Mark’s post, I grew nostalgic about the blawgers who have come and gone. Some post occasionally, a flurry of posts here and there, and then disappear again into the mist.
Aside: To those lawyers who pay to hear about how you simply must blog if you want to have a practice in the digital age, ask yourselves why so many have established well-known, well-respected blawgs, and then walked away from them. Hint: It’s not because they became so wildly successful they couldn’t take on another client.
I came to the blawgosphere in the second wave. There were well-established blawgs by lawyers who had been here from the beginning, and Simple Justice wasn’t one of them. It took a while to learn who was who, what interested me and which blawgs and blawgers struck me as worthy of engagement. And I engaged, as did others who came in the second wave like Mark Bennett.
At first, we were ignored for the most part, the first wavers having seen blogs appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. Until we showed that we were serious about being part of the blawgosphere, they wouldn’t bother acknowledging our existence, In time, dialogue ensued. Sometimes friendly conversation. Sometimes argument. Sometimes downright acrimony. But there was life. The blawgosphere was anything but stagnant.
It’s been almost five years since then. And I’ve again noticed friends and enemies who have quietly faded away. More importantly, the noise has died out, gone silent at times, and those times became more frequent. This past week, two posts at Kevin O’Keefe’s Real Lawyers Have Blogs brought some issues home.
The first was a peculiar post about trust, that establishing trust required citing and sharing with other blawgs. Kevin’s gig is Lexblog, a turnkey blogging operation for lawyers. The continued vitality of the blawgosphere is crucial for the continued vitality of his business. What made this post peculiar is that Kevin cited to some others who were long considered the poster boys for what was wrong with the blawgosphere, schemers whose claim to trust was an inside joke.
I took this post as Kevin’s way of telling his disciples to stop existing in their marketing isolation. While there are a handful of Lexblog clients who had become part of the blawgosphere, the vast majority were completely unknown and ignored. They never linked to anyone else. They never engaged in discussion, whether happy or angry. They just did their pro forma thing the way some marketing guru told them to, hoping that one of their 27 readers needed to hire a lawyer.
The second post was by someone named Neil O’Shaunessy, who apparently blogged for Dell for a few minutes. He wrote a post about how to write good posts, an irony if ever there was one. It was as simplistic as could be, but apparently necessary for many of Kevin’s Lexblog clients because, well, their posts were awful. Even someone who so utterly lacked any qualifications on how to write good posts as O’Shaunessy could make it better. That’s how bad it was.
Unlike most readers here, I occasionally check out Kevin’s Lexblog clients. He has a feature, usually done by his son, Colin, called the Best of Lexblog, highlighting some of the posts by his client blogs. The feature is truly awful, like a mother telling the other women how beautiful her baby is. If you have to tell them, that baby must be butt ugly. And indeed, most of the posts highlighted by Colin are butt ugly.
I know that Kevin wants them all to have the depth and interest of Dan Harris’ China Law Blog, the verve and wit of Staci Riordan’s FashionLaw Blog, or even the attitude of Max Kennerly’s Litigation & Trial Law Blog. But they don’t. They are formulaic, safe, boring and isolated. This is what comes of using blogs as marketing devices.
Some fear that links to others will send away their few readers to another blog that is smarter, better, more interesting, and they will never gain their business. Some fear that if their writing comes under scrutiny by their peers, it will be revealed as insipid drivel. That’s because it is insipid drivel. Still others fear that they can manufacture strawmen that will appeal to the insane and stupid, if only they can maintain plausible deniability. And they are happy to take money from the insane and stupid, as long as they’re offering.
There have been some new blawgs and blawgers recently, and contrary to the fears of those who missed the second wave, good idea and good writing continue to be embraced by those who didn’t. This doesn’t mean that blawgers who came before you will agree with you. We rarely agree with anybody, and never all the time. But we respect you, and welcome you as a solid voice in the blawgosphere. But there hasn’t been the consistency, the engagement, that’s needed to keep this place alive.
It’s begun to feel more like punditry than a conversation. While those who can’t withstand scrutiny like it that way, real lawyers don’t . It’s all about the conversation, whether happy, angry, or just pleasantly disagreeable. Without it, this place is a bore. At least for me. And if it’s boring, then it’s not worth the effort.
Like Kevin, I’ve tried to nudge others to take stands, do something meaningful, write as if they give a damn, engage with the larger blawgosphere, and tell the marketing gurus to shove their lies where the sun doesn’t shine. But the question remains, will the third wave want to join the blawgosphere, or is this only about existing in their marketing isolation. If the latter, then the blawgosphere will not survive.