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November 30, 2005

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» BlawgWorld 2006 (The Non-Virtual Dimension) from Adam Smith, Esq.
Despite the fact that there's been a minor dust-up in the blogosphere over BlawgWorld 2006, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Brandy Library in Tribeca and again thank Neil Squillante, his ace assistant Sara Skiff, and TechnoLawyer in general... [Read More]

» BlawgWorld 2006 from jurabilis - juristisches Weblog aus Berlin
According to various studies, approximately 80,000 new blogs launch every day, including dozens of legal blogs (blawgs). No one knows how many blawgs exist, but whatever the number, monitoring them would amount to a full-time job. For this reason, we'v [Read More]

Comments

Ted

So the first thing one has to do when registering is agree to a gigantic terms-and-conditions and unsubscribe from eight newsletters. And then there's nothing on the site that tells you how to get the BlawgWorld book, and I'm not even confident that I want to bother--why is it an e-book rather than simple page with a blogroll? Very poorly-designed and slow-loading website, and the whole thing feels like a scam to inflate its number of subscribers for advertisers.

Evan

Ted: You're right that there's nothing on the site that tells you how to get the book. They should fix that. You get the link to the book in an email after you register. It confused me too.

Sheryl

Even more troubling - how about those who are already members? TechnoLawyer is actually one of those rarities - a useful free service - and I have been receiving most of those 8 newsletters going on a year now. But this? Flummoxes me. I just searched my email and I can confirm I received nothing from TL about this book.

Evan

Sheryl: As I understand it, as a member you can also download the book.

Mike

Ted, they'll send you an e-mail with the link when you register, but when registering, make sure you opt out of about ten newsletters they want to send you. My thumbs are hurting from all that opting out. Anyhow, I wouldn't bother reading the book if I were you.

It's yet a bunch of pages written about the law-and-tech clique. There's no mention of the many criminal law or many law-professor-network blogs. But there are at least three patent blogs! Many high hit, high profile blogs are omitted. Why? Simple.

To the people who generally write about blogging, unless you're in the clique or close to someone in the clique, you don't have a blog - no matter how many readers one might have. (And, no, I don't care that I'm not included; and anyone familiar with me knows that I turn down the opportunity to be quoted/profiled pretty often.) Now, that's all well and good if you want to re-live your high school days. But if you want to promote blogs qua blogs, you can't leave out huge slices of the blogging world.

Now, since it's the TechnoLawyer, I can understand the obsession with the law-and-tech clique. But in the preface to the book, they note: "In [this book] you'll find thought-provoking essays from the most influential blawgs — 51 essays from 51 blawgs to be precise." Some on that list deserved to be there (like Legal Underground), but many don't. Unless they have some weird definition of "influential." A blog is only influential influential to the extent it can influence something - that requires readers.

This is yet another failed project. All of these projects are going to fail until someone realizes that there are other blogs than those on one or two persons' blogrolls. To do this right, the next person should just read an edition of Blawg Review for a sampling of the many blogs that exists (and that focus on many subjects). Each Blawg Review has much more diversity than any of these supposed books.

Neil J. Squillante

Sheryl, we just distributed the eBook to all TechnoLawyer members -- you should have it by now. As Evan pointed out, new members will receive a free download link in their welcome message. We updated the welcome message late last night, which explains why some new members received the eBook before we officially launched it a few minutes ago.

Regarding Ted's comment, we designed this eBook to introduce our members (and new members) to the world of blawgs, especially the 51 featured in the eBook (including Evan's). Not everyone regularly reads blawgs. This eBook will provide Evan and the other bloggers with some increased exposure -- and yes, it will also increase our exposure. It's a win-win-win situation -- the last win for the readers because the 51 essays are excellent in my opinion. Reprinting these essays in a blogroll would not have achieved the purpose of exposing these blawgs to a new audience.

Ted, if you don't want to receive any of our newsletters, you're free to deactivate your TechnoLawyer account and keep the eBook. Most folks who join TechnoLawyer typically subscribe to at least one newsletter.

Because I don't see the URL listed above, anyone interested can get a free copy of the eBook at www.blawgworld.com

In publishing, you can't please everyone, so you just try to please as many as possible. Take care.

Sheryl

Aha! I was just coming to unsully the good name of TL with the news of the arrival of a very informative (and, I might add, timely) email in my accont, and I see Neil beat me to it. I would add that little stumbles like this absolutely do not, in my opinion, have any bearing on the overall value of TL's offerings. And I encourage Ted (and others) to give those newsletters a try. The breadth and depth of the practical tips I've gleaned from those emails is dizzying, really, and helpful for the entire gamut of techno-savviness, from the illiterate to the merely competent (like me) to the proficient.

Sheryl

And forgive me for replying twice in a row, but I have to say it's premature, to put it mildly, to call this a "failed project." Pardon me if I decide to read the book first before I pass judgment on its utility and success, or lack of either.

Kevin Grierson

I think that some people would benefit from a good dose of Prozac in the morning before they venture off to work. Neil made his book available for free TO MEMBERS OF TECHNOLAWYER. Gosh, it's so terrible that you actually have to JOIN TECHNOLAWYER to take advantage of something Neil is providing for free to its members. Maybe you could just get a friend who's a member to give you a copy so you won't have to injure your fingers unsubscribing from the newsletters.

Neil, no good deed goes unpunished. And it just goes to show you--even if you have something intelligent to say in a blog, that doesn't mean that your readers will.

Mike

Sheryl, you're correct that "failed project" was a bit inartful. What I meant to say - but did so with undue snark - was this: It was a good attempt, but the author's view of the blogosphere was too narrow. He only showed us one or two countries. While showing someone a small part of the world has value, the author presents his work as if it was global. I was trying to be constructive, but again, I was too snarky; and I apologize for that.

But the book can be made a lot better. Not just a little. But a lot. How?

The book's author should send an e-mail to "Ed." of Blawg Review; and also take a look about some past editions of Blawg Review. (I do not speak on behalf of "Ed.") The blogging world is much more rich and diverse than presented in the book. "Phosita," which was profiled in the ebook, is the latest host. Notice the great representation of the blogging world contained in just one Blawg Review. Why is Blawg Review so good?

It's so good because it's so diverse. When I link to Blawg Review, I know my readers (who especially enjoy crim law and con law topics) will find at least 6 or 7 posts of interest with each edition. That's because each host ensures that every "zone" in the blogosphere is represented. A Blawg Review offers a little something for everyone because there are enough blogs that there is literally something for everyone to enjoy. Show me a lawyer and I'll show you three blogs he or she would enjoy reading.

Now, as the author rightly notes, "In publishing, you can't please everyone." But the book didn't merely fail to "please everyone." It failed to give an adequate picture of the blogosphere. If there are only 51 slots, why give 3 to patent blogs (and 6 or more slots to IP blogs in general)? Every blog noted was good, but again, the book's scope was way too narrow. Where was TalkLeft and Overlawyered? Where was the White Collar Crime Prof Blog, Concurring Opinions, and Point of Law? By focusing on too much on a few subject matters, a lot of excellent blogs - and thus entire hemispheres of the blogging world - went unprofiled.

If I were new to blogging and read his book, I'd think: "Well, there sure are a lot of interesting blogs. But there is really nothing for me to read." That, most emphatically, is not the message a book on blogs should send.

So everyone can either get pissed at me for what I said (or somehow think I'm personally attack their blogs), or think about how to write a better book.

Ted

Kevin: TL can operate its website however it wishes. I'm free to note that the website is sufficiently un-user-friendly that I'm not inclined to go back there. I've been using the Internet since the 1980s and I had an e-mail address with several percent-signs in it, and if I find a site too frustrating to use, I daresay that's a useful datapoint.

And now that I've downloaded the thing, I agree with Mike's assessment that the book is a failure by its own terms (though I will disagree with him on his assessment that every blog in there is good, because several simply aren't). Aside from the curious choice of pdf without html links, I read far more than the average number of blawgs, and somehow the "51 most influential blawgs" includes just one I regularly read and two I occasionally read, and a third that I occasionally click through Technorati searches and have never found anything useful in. It'd be one thing if the book were focusing entirely on practitioner blawgs, and thus omitted the academic blogs, but then why include "Goldman's Observations" over Volokh, Bainbridge, Conglomerate, Prawfsblawg, etc., etc.? (And when Maule's most representative post is a commentary on TaxProf Blog, that also says something considering TaxProf Blog is omitted.) I can understand excluding the law student blogs. I can understand excluding the blogs with a political bent, but how can one justify including Drug Injury Watch (fourteen sites link to it sez Technorati, and most of them appear to be spam-logs) and excluding Point of Law, Overlawyered, RiskProf, Kirkendall, and Ribstein? Even in terms of practitioner blawgs, the two most useful general law blogs, Scotusblog and How Appealing, are entirely omitted.

Jim Maule

Maule here. Quite a surprise to learn that my representative post is a commentary on TaxProfBlog. The reference to TaxProfBlog is an acknowledgement that TaxProfBlog is what clued me in to the existence of the story, which is precisely what Paul Caron intends to do with TaxProfBlog. I then take the opportunity to write a commentary on the issue(s) raised by the story.

If I were going to write a commentary on TaxProfBlog I'd sing its praises, something I've done elsewhere more than once. Or, if appropriate, I'd criticize something, but that hasn't happened.

For those who didn't see the ebook, or the representative posting, it's a commentary on a proposal in Denmark to repeal an income tax exclusion for amounts paid to sperm donors. A far more interesting thing to subject to commentary than another tax blog. :-)

George Lenard

Wow. I probably don't deserve to be in there (I am). Though I wiggle my way into Blawg Review quite regularly.

Seriously, one point shines out brightly through the sharp discussion above: there are WAY more than 51 Blawgs that have gained significant audience and support. Hooray! People complaining about non-inclusion is a great problem to have.

Though I personally feel it is far from a "failed project," the key is that it was attempted. We are part of an exciting blogosphere full of innovators. Where would we be without the folks who worked up projects like Firefox, Bloglines and Feedburner -- all of which might have been "failed projects" -- but they took that risk? The list goes on and on, with new projects born every day.

You can bitch critically about the hard work of others, you can just freeload off of their successes, or you can put yourself on the line and take on a "project," with a risk of failure. I am confident that sooner rather than later, just rewards will come to those who lead rather than following, and who work towards positive networking at all times rather than trying to piss people off.

One last point. If the editors thought as hard about which Blawgs to include as they did about which posts from my Blawg to include, this was no high school clique, and there were good reasons for the selections. Sara Skiff and I went around and around searching for a good submission, and then polishing it. Our extensive emails over several months would be evidence of how hard we both worked on just my 1/51st of the "failed project." I suspect others had similar experiences.

Kevin

Mike: I think Blawg Review is also so good because of that damn excellent editorial board. I think that technorati can tell you something about influence -- Evan had a post on the topic some time ago -- podcast 29, 30 or 31 I think.

Carolyn Elefant

I will have to chime in and agree with Mike that the blawgs mentioned in blog review, while generally all top quality (nd many deserving of inclusion like Legal Underground), are hardly what I would call influential. First, some of the blogs included have only been around for a few months and there's no indication that they'll even stay around. Second, I think that some of the blogs included are already defunct.

I'm assuming that the inclusion of "Between Lawyers" was a way to capture both Ernie the Attorney and Denise Howell (who coined the term blawg - talk about influential!). But other than that, it left out many blogs and including in my own self-serving opinion, the omission of MyShingle is one of them. I've been blogging at MyShingle for almost 3 years. My blog pre-dated blogs by bar LPM advisors like Jim Calloway and Reid Trautz by at least two years, it predated law.com's Small Firm Business insert and even the Washington Legal Time's small firm focus. Yes, there were still periodicals like Lawyers' Weekly and a monthly ABA column on small firm practice, but nothing like what there is now. I think my blog has been somewhat influential in showing solos and small firm lawyers that we have a voice in the legal profession - and now that voice is being heard.

Likewise, I didn't see any blogs like Anonymous Lawyer, which has spawned a succession of other blogs like Opinionista and Biglaw Associate who write about disatisfaction with bigfirm life. Up until those blogs, unhappiness at big firms, while reported, didn't have a face to it, thus making it less credible. Now, it can't be ignored.

OK, now I am officially on record as being a sour grapes blogger. Oh well.

Carolyn Elefant

I just want to clarify that I don't think the book was a failed project - it is a nice piece of work - and very well done. I'm just criticizing some of the criterial used for selecting blogs to include - and maybe the editors' opinion of "influence" is different from mine.

Kevin Grierson

Ted, maybe your copy didn't have html links, but mine certainly did. As for the selection of blawgs, that's sort of like picking the top 50 movies/songs/etc. of all time--you're never going to get anyone to agree completely. Sorry you disagree with Neil, but you haven't explained why you think he's wrong, so it's tough to put much stock in your criticism.

I am not a big fan of blogs (or blawgs) in general. Too many people post to their blog because they feel that they have to write *something* even if they don't have anything insightful or at least interesting to say. If Neil and his crew want to do the work of sorting through the dross to find information that's relevant or helpful, more power to him.

George Lenard

I'm certainly hoping this can be an annual book, as the title implies. I'd have given up my spot to Carolyn's My Shingle in a heartbeat. It's been influental and high quality, no doubt. An obvious compromise suggests itself for the next edition: include a well-classified and much more comprehensive blogroll as a key feature and minimize the overlap between the blawgs selected this year and those featured next year. Articulated criteria would help as well. E.g., not only influence as measured by link volume, but also originality, utility, longevity, graphic and technical design, writing quality, individuality.

Evan

These comments are all very interesting. I became involved in the
BlawgWorld project because I received an email--sort of a form email, I guess--inviting me to participate, which I decided to do because I thought it would expose my weblog to TechnoLawyer subscribers who don't read weblogs.

I assumed--wrongly, I guess--that the email went out to hundreds and hundreds of law-related weblogs. (How many legal weblogs are there? Probably thousands. Denise Howell said on one of her podcasts that she was going to start a project to collect and organize them all using OPML, but I don't know if that's off the ground yet.) Anyway, when I signed on, I figured that lots of others wouldn't due to time constraints or disinterest or whatever. Then when the book came out, I assumed the weblogs I'm most familiar with that I didn't see had declined as I'd imagined.

Apparently my assumptions were wrong. It seems like a lot of law-related weblog authors weren't invited to be in the book. I'm glad I was asked and don't regret participating, but I'd like to know more about the selection criteria. Also, if I were calling the shots at TechnoLawyer, I'd get the next BlawgWorld off the ground right away and sweep in all those weblog authors who wished they'd been included the first time.

Ted

Ted, maybe your copy didn't have html links, but mine certainly did. As for the selection of blawgs, that's sort of like picking the top 50 movies/songs/etc. of all time--you're never going to get anyone to agree completely.

Completely? Of course not. For example, I wouldn't include "Anonymous Lawyer", while Carolyn would. But this is like a list of "Most Influential Movies of the 1970s" that omits "The Godfather" and "Star Wars" and "Annie Hall" and "Taxi Driver." At some point it goes beyond a matter of personal taste and ceases to be useful.

What stuns me about this list is how far off the mark it is. If I were to ask ten blog-reading lawyers to name their ten most-read/best/most-important/most-influential legal blogs, I'd get a list of about thirty to forty blogs, and, no matter what criteria one used, maybe one or two of them would overlap with the TechnoLawyer list. I don't read fifty blogs, and if I did, perhaps I'd drill down into more overlap. And it's not necessarily a bad thing to see fifty law-blogs that don't have a wide readership. But just don't call it the fifty most influential blogs, because it's very evidentially not true that "Drug Injury Watch" is influential in the slightest.

My experience with lack of linkage may reflect my reading the report on a Mac instead of via Acrobat. If so, I retract the statement.

Mike

Blogs that weren't included but should have been (in no particular order):
White Collar Crime Prof Blog
How Appealing
SCOTUSblog
Overlawyered (or Point of Law)
TaxProf Blog
Appellate Law & Practice
Greatest American Lawyer
CrimLaw (the guy's "week in the life of a defense lawyer" is about as good as it gets)
Crescat (maybe - it's a student blog, but the people are sharp, so student status shouldn't be held against them; then again, why not include it to show there are students blogging about something other than getting drunk?)
Concurring Opinions (or PrawfsBlawg)

See what I just did? I included a good sampling of blogs covering a wide range of subjects. That's what a book on blawgs should do.

Mike

I hope the author reads the criticism with this in mind: He has just received a free consultation from a lot of people who know blogs. If I were the author of BlawgWorld, I would literally be pleased to receive the criticism.

If he views the book as a first draft, he should be really excited, since the next edition has major potential. BlawgThink's author obviously has the time and means to put out a book. If he listens to the commentators, at the next go-around, he will publish something excellent.

I look forward to reading the new-and-improved edition.

Melody

I find it sad that so many of you are so critical of Technolawyer's efforts of posting its favorite blogs. I am virtually a newbie to blogging and had absolutely no problem to their website, with the PDF format (which is not intimidating), or the sites they listed. I personally love my computer and love technology. I'm always looking for ways to improve my skills, make my job more efficient, etc. My boss will be opening his own firm in approximately 1 year and I may open my own litigation support business, so I was searching for technology information to get him technology savvy.

Nashville Nick

I (sort of) agree with Melody. I'm a civil guy doing labor and employment, so for me, it was really cool. I guess I see the point of the crim law guys. But (and I feel bad saying this), there aren't a lot of crim law guys doing high-tech stuff. It's us civil lawyers who are on the cutting edge of technology. Maybe next year, guys and gals!

Neil J. Squillante

Happy New Year!

Mike wrote:

"If I were the author of BlawgWorld, I would literally be pleased to receive the criticism."

I think Mike meant the publisher or editor, but semantics aside, we do indeed welcome all the criticism. So much so that we pointed our 12,000 members to this thread.

Sorry for the delay, but I wanted to wait until the debate settled down so that I could respond in one fell swoop.

A LITTLE HISTORY ...

First, some background since many posting here do not seem to know much about us. TechnoLawyer is a newsletter network that consists almost entirely of user-generated content (most of our newsletters are written by our readers). We've been publishing blog-like content since Pyra Labs was just a gleam in its founder's eye. (We also have a blog.)

Because we literally immerse ourselves in user-generated content every day, we have quite a thick skin. This thread pales compared to the attacks we endured in the early days -- from our own subscribers! -- when we set out to merge professional publishing with the rough and tumble world of listservers.

Now, with regard to all the criticism of BlawgWorld:

A MISERABLE FAILURE ...

I'm a little surprised that a project -- a version 1.0 project -- designed to generate interest in legal blogs has been deemed a "failed project" by, of all people, legal bloggers. How ironic.

To date, BlawgWorld has been downloaded 19,702 times. Call it what you will -- flawed perhaps (what isn't -- even the iPod has flaws) -- but it's not a failed project. Failed projects don't generate this level of interest. Indeed, look at this very thread.

I do hope that those criticizing BlawgWorld have read the eBook rather than just the Preface and Table of Contents. I read it cover to cover just before we published it, and found it quite diverse and interesting. It even has some laugh-out-loud moments.

MEASURING INFLUENCE ...

We did make one mistake in BlawgWorld. We should have written "51 OF THE most influential blawgs" in our Preface. We included those two magic words on the BlawgWorld home page, but didn't catch the omission in the Preface. You can proofread a 108 page book dozens of times, but you'll always miss something.

I do, however, believe that each of the blawgs in the eBook is influential in its own right. You can measure influence in many ways. Ted intimates that we should have measured influence by the number of inbound links from other blawgs. I disagree because doing so lends itself to insularity.

Let's look at some better ways.

Traffic anyone? BlawgWorld contains several high-traffic blawgs such as Legal Underground (approximately 25,000 readers per month) and Adam Smith, Esq. (approximately 100,000 readers per month). I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a lot of readers than a lot of inbound links.

Quality content anyone? Excellent marketing? I wonder if Ted even looked at Drug Injury Watch or at least read its representative entry in BlawgWorld. It's remarkable stuff. If you want to create a blawg designed to generate business for your law firm (via Google), you can learn much from Drug Injury Watch, especially with regard to creating content likely to attract prospective clients.

Ted cites Drug Injury Watch's Technorati metrics as a reason for noninclusion in BlawgWorld. I've already noted the shortcomings of using inbound links to measure influence, but would like to add that Technorati has well-documented problems. See, e.g., http://www.calacanis.com/2005/08/31/technorati-worthless

If you really want to measure influence by inbound links, you're better off using Google -- the king of inbound link tracking. Remember, Google doesn't just count links, it also assesses their quality.

Just to finish up with Ted's comments, not only did we link to each blawg, but we recreated each link in each essay. And for what it's worth, we worked in Acrobat 7 Professional on a Mac. These links work not only in Acrobat 5, 6, or 7, but also Adobe Reader 5, 6, or 7, and Apple Preview in Mac OS 10.4 (I can't speak for older versions of Preview).

THE ORIGINS OF BLAWGWORLD ...

Let me end the speculation about how we put BlawgWorld together. As an aside, how did something known by 111 bloggers become a secret?

It all started about a year ago in January 2005. Knowing that we would soon launch our own blawg, we began assembling a database of blawgs based on two criteria, one objective and one subjective -- frequency and quality. As a publisher, what interests us most is regularly published quality content.

By the time we launched our blog in April, we had amassed about 300 blawgs. We then invited each of these bloggers (including Carolyn Elefant incidentally) to join TechnoLawyer Blawg Network (TBN), a private mailing list we set up for collaborative purposes. By August, 111 bloggers had joined, including many of the blawgs listed above that some feel we should have included in BlawgWorld.

Concurrently with this networking, we hatched the idea for BlawgWorld. In August, we invited the 111 bloggers in TBN to participate in BlawgWorld. As everyone now knows, 51 signed up -- perfect for this first edition. Working with 51 different bloggers was a logistical challenge.

Keep in mind that it didn't matter who participated since we had prescreened all the invitees earlier in the year for frequency and quality.

With version 1.0 under our belt, we hope to expand the number of blawgs in version 2.0. But there is a little something called copyright law that prevents us from including a meritorious blawg unless the owner agrees to participate.

If you have a blawg and would like to join TechnoLawyer Blawg Network, please email us your name and blawg URL. You can find our email address on every page on our site.

SAME PREFIX, DIFFERENT MISSION ...

Mike and others think we should have followed the BlawgReview model. I disagree because doing so would have defeated the purpose of BlawgWorld.

BlawgReview consists of a weekly blawg Post that describes and links to other blawg Posts. Each week, a different blawg hosts BlawgReview.

I suspect that BlawgReview tends to attract those who read blawgs. We designed BlawgWorld for those who don't. Hence, its PDF eBook format.

As it turns out, the person who best understands BlawgWorld and its mission is not a blogger, but the editor of a print newsletter. Go figure.

Here's what Dan Harmon wrote in his review of BlawgWorld in the January 2006 edition of Lawyer's PC:

"Many lawyers ... remain oblivious to blogs -- or have sampled them and are wholly unpersuaded they can serve useful purposes.... TechnoLawyer has taken an important step to prove to skeptics that legal blogs can be very useful.

"In late November it announced its new e-book, BlawgWorld 2006: Capital of Big Ideas, a compendium of publishings from some of the best blawgs online today. The resulting e-book, carefully edited/assembled by Sara L. Skiff and impressively packaged by art director Gabe Evans, shows you onscreen just how interesting and informative a well-conceived and well-maintained legal blog can be.

"I'm loathe to tout any publication as a 'must read,' but this one certainly comes close .... I'm hoping this is 'volume one,' with periodic sequels to follow."

I can't think of a better note on which to end my response. I'd like to thank everyone who joined this lively debate. Frankly, I'd like to see more debates in the legal blogosphere.

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