Vanity, Thy Name Is Blawger

In the continuing symposium on lawprof ennui at PrawfsBlawg, Dave Hoffman adds to the academic angst with a list:

Why, I wondered, has the energy left the building?

  1. Because there are fewer fans.  This is most of it.  Prawfs started in the seven years of hiring plenty, and we’re now deep in the middle of the seven years of drought.  There are many fewer young law professors than there were in 2005, and those few that remain are well-advised to keep their heads down and do what’s necessary to survive increasingly difficult internal climbs to tenure. Prawfs’ and like blogs’ rise  had many parents, but a hiring glut has to take place of pride.
  2. Because of status and everything that comes with it.  When Prawfs began it looked possible that academics from elite institutions would join the fray. That’s – by and large – not what happened. True, there are some faculty blogs at Chicago and elsewhere, and some subject-matter-specific  blogs where elite academics occasionally deign to write.  But very few academics from top ten schools blog regularly. That means: (1) blogs are still largely written by those who’ve not yet “arrived”; (2) bloggers generally work at schools with worse employment numbers, which makes them embarrassed to noodle in public; (3) it’s harder to move the needle on public conversations (excepting, as always, the VC, which is sui generis); (4) institutional support for blogging is resource-constrained. (See #5.)Because the party is elsewhere.  You may have noticed that Concurring Opinions, my home, has been relatively quiet of late.  But have you read Frank Pasquale’s twitter feed (7000+ followers).  Or, better yet, followed Dan Solove’s LinkedIn privacy forum (~900,000 followers!!)?  LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, etc. are where the action is. People read law professor blogs, by-and-large, to learn who has died, who is moving to what schools, and to guesstimate if their article will be accepted.  Also, there are recipes.
  3. Because of preemption.  Everything has been written before, including this sentence. Law professors care more than most about preemption. The weight of past posts is starting to press on our heads,< no?
  4. Because we didn’t innovate.  Again, generalizing, blogs have remained stagnant in form.  That wasn’t inevitable. But even blogs about cutting edge topics are conventionally organized. Economy plays a large role here – as do law schools’ IT support, which has other fish to fry. Just a for-instance: compare Stanford Law’s fantastic landing page to a blog they’ve nested inside. Get the sense that the money for the renovation started to run out at some point?  Being stuck in a reverse-chron, wordpress, format has meant that symposia can “disorienting” and unwelcoming to outsiders. At Temple, I’ve been pushing hard against the trend, and we’ve started a business law newspaper using Hive, a nice wordpress-based platform that at least looks fresh. But if law professors wanted to be unconventional, technologically-savvy, innovators, they wouldn’t have become law professors.

But then, much of what’s happened to the lawprofs have similarly happened to the Practical Blawgosphere.  On my sidebar is a largely nostalgic list of blogs and blawgs I’ve read and held in high-esteem over the years. Click on them and check when they last posted.

A few stalwarts of the blawgosphere remain, at least from time to time.  But aside from the fabulous wealth and fame we obtain from being a blawger, it’s not nearly as much fun as it used to be.  As Max Kennerly wrote,

Blogging is a pie eating contest in which the prize is: more pie.

I like pie, but even I can only eat so much.

14 thoughts on “Vanity, Thy Name Is Blawger

    1. SHG Post author

      You say that now, but after your 7000th slice?

      Glad you found this. I was just about to send it to you. I doubt many readers here remember the good old days, when we used to spar over whether lawprofs and practicing lawyers could engage, given our differences in approaches and language. I don’t know about you, but as much as we differed, at least there was a sense of vitality to it all. For better or worse, the pie doesn’t taste as good as it used to. At least to me.

    2. Fubar

      Eat more pie? My most humble advice is
      To cut infinitesimal slices.
      Eat sundown to sun up.
      You will never fill up.
      Keeps it cheap, too, whatever the price is.

  1. John Burgess

    Yet there’s something positive to be said for a reliable pie, the one that’s there every day. Sometimes it’s sweet; sometimes, sour. But it’s there and it provides nourishment for the mind and sometimes the soul.

    Pie is a great advancement over hunting and gathering across vast acres of mostly wasteland.

      1. John Burgess

        Ever come across a Mennonite minced-meat pie? It’s a meal. Actually, it’s probably two meals. You just need salad for your third meal of the day. Tres healthy!

  2. Richard G. Kopf

    Scott,

    Your post reminds of the discussion in literary circles about the death of the novel. Will Self, a British novelist of some repute, wrote about this in the Guardian last year.

    The Guardian summarized his views this way “[I]n the digital age, not only is the physical book in decline, but the very idea of ‘difficult’ reading is being challenged.The future of the serious novel, argues Will Self, is as a specialised interest. ” Will Self, The novel is dead (this time it’s for real), The Guardian (May 2, 2014).

    Self was perfectly fine with writing for himself and others who shared his “specialised interest.” Despite the evident ennui of your post, I hope you come to the same conclusion.

    All the best.

    RGK

        1. SHG Post author

          He has Article III dispensation. When you get confirmed by the Senate, you get it too. In the meantime, have some pie.

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