Sunday, January 12, 2014
A Couple of Thoughts on Blogging
A belated happy new year, although I have posted one thing since January began. A quick apology for blogging so little in the past year and letting my colleagues, both guests and permanent members, do so much of the work. Some of the paucity has been due to personal and professional commitments of various kinds. In general, my not blogging is a net gain for both writers and readers, so an apology is probably unnecessary. But since I still occasionally get kind words from people I meet who say they effectively got to know me through the blog, I thought a word or two were due.
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.
Much of it has to do with a simple desire not to be unduly repetitive. Some people manage to be both prolific and novel on blogs. Others maintain a high quantity of posts by sticking to the aggregation model ("Here's an interesting piece, news story, etc."). I tend to want to read something fully and be ready to comment on it before I link to it, and aside from being too busy to do so in a timely fashion sometimes, by the time I might be ready to post something I think the discussion has moved on and am much less willing to post at that point. And there are certainly many bloggers who don't seem to mind riding the same hobby-horse again and again: who think an issue or position is endlessly fascinating to themselves or others and worth repeating many times, or who get a charge out of high moral dudgeon in general or attacking some real or imagined Internet adversary in particular. And our "service" threads on hiring and publishing are very popular, although I'm not always crazy about them. I don't fall into those categories by way of inclination, and I increasingly think that if you don't have something that's especially worth saying to a general audience, you should remain silent. That's not very consistent with the general model of blogging, unfortunately!
Although this point is sooo 2008, Facebook is another reason. When we started blogging, some of us especially dilettantish or thin-line-between-professional-life-and-everything-else sorts thought we would mix up posts on law and law teaching with posts about how great Hem is, or why Gavin Harrison is such a great drummer, or why Broadchurch is such a funny show, or what have you. But Facebook seems to fulfill a lot of those needs, without either requiring one to blog on such matters for a slightly more professional audience or to flyspeck the post for errors of fact or tone deafness. Professors moaning about how unpleasant grading exams is, for example, is an extremely self-indulgent enterprise, even if it's a natural personal reaction. When law blogs started, that kind of thing was more common in the blogosphere. It has since rightly died down a great deal. (I should say that I got an earful from my students this week about how long professors take to grade exams, how foolishly long the grading deadlines are at many schools, how much it interferes with choosing and dropping courses, decisions to withdraw while tuition refunds are still at full-rate, and how the students themselves must and do meet their own deadlines. They were quite right and I am frequently quite guilty.) On Facebook, however, it's more possible to do that sort of thing (although I don't, I think) without anyone assuming you're engaging in anything other than a first-person description of your own life, or without airing a totally minor gripe to an audience of understandably impatient students. And you can post pictures of cats, and your fabulous meals, and hilarious memes about offensive coordinators, and news of your above-average offspring! Or curse a blue streak. Or joke about shooting your children. Given the long list of lawprof friends that one amasses on Facebook, it may be that this is equally professionally damaging in the long run. (I have only shot my children in laser tag, I should clarify.) But it is marginally safer and more intimate. So I feel free to post half-baked and/or cultural stuff there, or ride the occasional hobby-horse, while saving the most well-worked-out, non-repetitive stuff for this blog. Which means blogging a lot less, as I said. I probably ought to cut down on or cease Facebooking too. But it can be a nice outlet and is very useful for purposes of local political organizing (which Tuscaloosa always needs) and maintaining a sense of local and professional community. Plus, cats and Lane Kiffin.
Anyway, I hope to blog more this year, and I suspect that my work on a book this year (on social class and the American legal academy--write me if you're interested or have some input or insights or experiences) will give me more occasions and energy to do so, but I would also be perfectly happy with extended silences. I suppose I could add that if you miss my brand of nonsense you're welcome to send me a request at Facebook, although I assume those of you with lives have other things to do and those of you without them have already done so.
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I am still very early in my blogging career, so I haven't run out of blog ideas yet. But I am interested to hear how others determine what topics to write about. So far my very few blog posts have been based upon a combination of trying to address common questions from clients, items in the news, and random topics that come to me (in one case involving the movie "It's A Wonderful Life," from my wife).
An academic blog has different purposes from a blog by a practicing lawyer (even one with an academic bent), but I think that in the end we are all trying to write interesting and informative posts that we think people will read.
I'd love to hear any thoughts or advice.
Posted by: Jarod Bona | Jan 12, 2014 8:44:43 PM