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Monday, March 13, 2006

Orin Kerr and the Future of Blogging

Last year I posted on the future of law blogging.  I tossed out three possibilities: 1. We're in the "Far and Away" land rush phase, and pretty soon the continent will be filled up.  2. We're in the early Internet Boom phase, and a big shakeup is coming down the pike.  3. Blogging is a transitional technology that will lead to new forms of connectivity and creativity. Current bloggers will lead the way to these new formats.

In his response, Orin Kerr suggested a fourth possibility: "A continued increase in the overall amount of law blogging until we reach a natural equilibirum, and then a roughly constant amount of blogging with frequent turnover among active law bloggers."  He also noted: "Among law professor blogs, the big variable would seem to be whether blogs eventually will be taken more seriously in the scholarly community than they are now. "

Today Kerr takes a step in the direction of treating law blogs more seriously.  He has opened OrinKerr.com, a new law blog with these features:

  • A focus on "high-quality discussion and analysis of current legal topics, issues in the legal academy, and trends in the legal profession."
  • Registered commentary accounts.  Kerr will offer these accounts by invitation only, and he plans to invite a group of law professors, lawyers, law students, and journalists in the next week or so.
  • Screening for commenters that are not registered.  Kerr suggests the screening will go beyond the normal "no profanity" screens -- only "thoughtful and informed comments" will be posted.  A number of reasoned comments may lead to an offer of a registered account.

So what does this big development mean for the future of blogging?  First, Kerr seems to be embracing a blog with an intentionally smaller readership.  As he notes in his explanatory post over at the Conspiracy: "The new blog will have a much smaller readership than the VC, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing."  At a time of predicted consolidation in the face of declining Sitemeter stats, Kerr is intentionally moving a chunk of his content to a blog with (at least initially) a smaller set of readers.  And I think he's right: there are some conversations that don't need a larger and larger group in order to be meaningful.

Second, I think Kerr's new blog is an example of future #3: current bloggers leading the way to new forms of creativity and connectivity.  Yes, Kerr's new site is still a blog, but it's a blog with a much greater focus on community.  Kerr has seemed more exercised than others in the uncivil or vituperous rantings that can make their way into blog comments.  With stronger protections against such comments, community members can become more open and less concerned about unfair attacks.  Moreover, Kerr clearly hopes that the more restrictive community will lead to a higher level of commentary.  Some readers will be put off by this, but others will appreciate the opportunity to read comments with a reduced "noise" factor.  By inviting members to join, Kerr provides a greater incentive for members to participate actively.

Even though he has achieved a tremendous level of success as a law blogger, Kerr is not content to rest on his laurels.  Best of luck on the new blog.

Posted by Matt Bodie on March 13, 2006 at 09:43 AM in Blogging | Permalink


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Volokh Conspiracy blogger and GW Law School Prof Orin Kerr has launched a solo blog, OrinKerr.com, focused on law, the legal academy, and the legal profession. I look forward to being a regular reader. And can anyone be surprised that ... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 13, 2006 10:10:14 AM


Matt, this was worth reading. You make a persuasive case. I like the idea of a public forum where people own their statements. Less will be more.

Posted by: William Henderson | Mar 14, 2006 3:45:48 PM

Isn't it slightly less restrictive than the gawker model?

Posted by: q | Mar 13, 2006 11:37:15 PM

Dear Matt,

I hv also created a law blog about a month ago. I am a law lecturer and created this blog with my law students in mind. It provides legal links and also a forum for discussion of legal matters and etc. It is still in its infancy and i'm still working on it. It emphasizes on Malaysian and UK Law.

blog address: www.ipohlawsubjects.blogspot.com


Posted by: legalsapien | Mar 13, 2006 9:36:03 PM

Matt, you're a total idiot.

Oh wait, I've proved Orin's point.

His approach is slightly more restrictive than the Gawker Media approach, which has generally led to a decent, but not very large, comments section.

Posted by: David Zaring | Mar 13, 2006 10:13:45 AM

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