by Mike Cernovich
Blogging is fun. Friends are fun. Therefore, blogging with friends is three-times the fun. Not so fast. Whether you blog by yourself or with a co-blogger is a big decision. It was the right decision for me, but before you decide whether it's right for you, let's look at some pitfalls.
What if you don't like your co-blogger's writing style or choice of topics? What if your co-blogger is a first class bore, or worse, is boorish? You might have to part ways to save your reputation, because others will judge you based on the company you keep, including the bloggers you write with.
A friend who recently dissolved a law partnership described it as "half fratricide, half suicide." Although kicking someone off your blog isn't as extreme as divorcing, winding down a partnership, or breaking up with an S.O., it is an emotion-filled event. Essentially you're telling someone, quite likely a friend or colleague, that you do not want to work with him. Feelings will inevitably get hurt. Rejecting your friend as a blogger might harm other parts of your relationship. Why harm your friendship if, to save it, all you need to do is blog in your separate space.
But you're thinking, "I know Joe. He's a cool guy, so there's no reason we'd need to dissolve our blog." Hold on a second.
Do you know Joe's writing style? Is his writing circumspect, angry, obnoxious, rude, contrived, pedantic, melancholy, or what? If you can't describe your friend's writing style in a word or two, you should think twice about starting a blog with him or her. You don't know what you blog will end up looking like.
So, you're still wondering, "Should I blog by myself or with a co-blogger?" I'm not going to give you the answer neophyte lawyers give, namely, "It depends." Of course, the answer always depends on something. But if I can't anticipate what that something is, should I be dispensing advice? Hence, my answer.
If you're familiar with your friend's writing, then blogging with him or her should be appropriate. You'll have a feel for your co-blogger's style and quirks. My permanent co-blogger, Norm, is a bit irreverent: his topic of choice is making hamburgers from sacred cows. Guest-blogger Sandefur is uber-cerebral, and his posts are generally long. Both styles differ from mine, but I'm glad to have them.
I had read their previous writings and thus knew what to expect. They're both tough-talking and controversial. Which is something someone who seeks to avoid controversy needs to know before the blogging relationship begins.
So if you are unfamiliar with your potential co-blogger's writing style, do not, I repeat, do not begin blogging with him or her. People frequently write differently on their blogs than they act in "real life." For some, writing offers a chance to unwind. For others, it's the chance to escape a hum-drum job. For me, blogging offers the chance to discuss issues with virtual people, since ready companions to discuss the Commerce Clause are few. Chances are, the person unwinding will want to raise a little hell; where as the person who toils in document review will use his blog as a theoretical outlet. They might make a good couple. But each needs to know what to expect.
Instead of starting a group blog, I suggest you and your friend begin individual projects. After a couple of months, you'll have a feel for the other's writing styles. Then, you'll have enough information to fully analyze the important question of whether to join forces. There are, after all, many good reasons to group blog.
First, every blogger will have his own circle of readers. Those people will read your co-blogger's post, and in the process, likely read yours. I enjoy some members of the Volokh Conspiracy more than others, but I tend to at least skim every VC post. Thus, those people who might read the VC only because they like David Bernstein will likely read the entire blog. Hence, you'll have more readers.
Second, it's fun to open up my blog and wonder whether there's something other than myself to read. Reading the blog I started becomes just as fun as reading someone else's blog: it's better than navel gazing. It's also fun to discuss and debate with your friends in the open air. Between Lawyers is an excellent example of a public discussion between like-minded people. I'm sure Howell. et al. enjoy the back-and-forth.
Third, it's fun to see your friends get taken to the woodshed. When I solicited feedback for Crime & Federalism, one commentor basically told Norm to go to hell. On the one hand, Norm's my friend, and I don't take it too well when my friends are insulted. On the other hand, I know that Norm lives for controversy. So it was nice to see his life's goal granted.
This, while starting a group blog is a big decision, it could be the right one for you. If you pick the right contributors, chances are that your blog will be more fun, and more widely-read. Like other activities, blogging is more fun when there's more than one.
About the Author: Mike Cernovich, a recent law school graduate, started off as a solo blogger at Crime & Federalism before taking his own advice by adding a permanent co-blogger, Norm Pattis, and by inviting other guest-bloggers. Mike's last guest post at Notes from the (Legal) Underground, published under the pseudonym Federalist No. 84, was titled "Turning a Blog Into Your Blawg: Fourteen Steps to Finding Your Voice in the Blawgosphere."