Brief Lifespans

During dinner last night, I was trying to explain to Dr. SJ why I hated the new version of tweetdeck, a twitter interface that was created by somebody else, bought by twitter and improved to the point that it’s gone from great to awful. She, unwed to anything techy aside from me, asked why they would do such thing.

I explained that every six months or so, everything on the internet seemed to change. Nobody left anything alone, and even though it wasn’t broke, they were always fixing it until everybody moved to the next new thing. I told her I hated it.

“Does everybody hate it or just you,” she asked?

“I probably hate it more than most people,” I responded.

“Because you’re so adaptable,” she laughed.  When my children aren’t around to keep me humble, she picks up the slack.  The  New York Times public editor writes about the elimination of numerous blogs, with more to die soon. The age of blogs was born, matured, and died, according to the Times.

At The Faculty Lounge, where lawprofs openly seek only the company of their intellectual equals, Alfred Brophy asked whether law blogs were still relevant. I  semi-snarkily commented whether he was talking about law blogs or law prof blogs.

A few years ago, I tried to get law profs to engage with lawyer blogs. It went nowhere. They didn’t like they way they were treated by lawyers, which ranged from disrespectful to vulgar. And there was nothing in it for them, as they write for appreciation, some might say adoration, of their own kind. What lawyers think of profs is no more relevant to them than what non-lawyers think of lawyer blogs.

On the other hand, the lawprofs offered law bloggers a bit of an inside joke when they openly admitted that they were  happy enough to get spam comments rather than no comments at all. It really was an insight into how sad and desperate the need for validation can be within the Academy, and why their purpose for blogging was so very different than lawyers’.

One of the only blogs that was never really focused on gaining the adoration of the Academy was created by Eugene Volokh. It was a by-product of the politics, like an intelligent version of Ann Althouse meant for people who think rather than pander. But then, Eugene wrote a post yesterday that I found deeply unsettling, A Warning to Lawyers

He apparently just found out that lawyers were using marketeers to spam comments and offer guest posts.  Either Eugene was immune from the forces of evil that bore on the rest of us for the past five years, or he was shaken from his complacency by a conceit that really pissed him off.

Most recently, I got an e-mail asking whether I would take guest posts from a law firm’s lawyers — but the e-mail was badly written (which doesn’t augur well for the future guest posts) and also began with “Hi Eugene,” a salutation that many people find off-putting when it comes from a total stranger.

Like Eugene, I find it offensive when someone I don’t know presumes to be so informal as to call me by my first name. It’s not that I demand to be called “Mr. Greenfield,” but that the decision of what I’m called is mine, not some stranger’s. 

Still, it’s become so commonplace that in the scheme of bad things these marketeers are doing, it barely registers anymore. I’m told that within the commonly held beliefs of marketers and such, the use of the informal puts everyone on the same plane, thus making the target of the scam feel less inclined to turn away the scammer and more inclined to accept their pitch, as if they were equals.  It’s not true, but it’s just one of many marketer theories that don’t work.

But while Eugene’s main post left me scratching my head, thinking “seriously, Eugene?” because of this being an everyday experience for the rest of us for many years now, it was the update to his post that really got my goat.

UPDATE: For comments along a similar line (with more details), see Ken (Popehat). Ken has a good way of putting it, which paraphrases Eric Turkewitz: “when you outsource your marketing, you outsource your reputation.”
comment to the post pointed at Ken, and I suspect that’s the genesis of Eugene’s update. Now I’m friends with Ken and Turk, as well as Eugene, and have no issue with linking to Popehat per se. But just as Ken thought well enough to credit the attribution to Turk, Eugene chose to link to Ken instead.

Turk’s admonition has been repeated hundreds, maybe thousands of time. Turk has written much about it. So has Ken. So have many others, including me. This has been going on for years, and Eugene knew nothing about it?  He had to be told by a commenter that this was an issue about which someone else had written. I was offended by Eugene’s handling of it, and told him so.

Many of the old gang of the blawgosphere has gone. Some post sporadically, but unreliably. The signal to noise ratio in comments has gotten far worse over time, with the most persistent being easily identified from their tin foil hats. The number of blogs that seek to sell rather than illuminate has fallen precipitously. And as I’ve just learned from one of the grandmasters of the blawgosphere, he has somehow managed to remain so isolated as to be clueless of either the problems or benefits of the blawgosphere.

Just so you know, Eugene, Eric Turkewitz was one of the ten blawgs in the inaugural class of the ABA Hall of Fame.  Just like your blawg, Eugene. Didn’t you notice that either?