I'm pleased to be hanging out in the Faculty Lounge for a bit. I hope to be able to discuss some topics that don't fit in my regular (new) blogging home, Written Description. For my first post, I want to discuss blogging. I'll just discuss some of my own experiences, which may be interesting or useful to others deciding whether to spend time doing it.
I began blogging in late 2008, when Dan Markel invited me to guest for the first time at PrawfsBlawg. I had only been a tenure-track faculty member for a little over a year at the time, so I ignored whatever "don't blog pre-tenure" advice there might be out there. I soon became a regular guest contributor and also joined the group as a permablogger at Madisonian. I thought of blogging as having two primary purposes: 1) writing about things that I don't normally write about, and 2) writing about things that I normally write about. I suppose that covers the waterfront.
Starting with the latter, I often used my blogging to evangelize or to get comments on in-process papers. One particularly brutal set of comments on a paper led to a substantial rewrite and improvement of a paper on the fringe of my expertise (or, I suppose the commenters would say well outside my expertise!). But I also shared my long papers with the masses, with bite-sized chunks presented at a time. I received few comments on these, but am hopeful that people without the time to read the whole paper understood my key points.
Once or twice, I posted naked "here are links to a couple papers" posts. This practice is much debated at PrawfsBlawg, and my post (which I took down) received a snarky comment about self-promotion. But before I took it down, Dan Markel backed me. Guest bloggers at Prawfs are sharing their memories of Dan this year. Since I am not guesting there (more on that later), I'll used this platform to share a happy memory that I keep with me and try to pay forward: getting attacked and knowing Dan had my back.
As to the former category, I enjoyed writing about topics that I am interested in, have an opinion in, but don't have the time to fully research. In other words, I could present half-baked ideas, discuss recent cases, or float new ideas. One set of posts about a Supreme Court case wound up so fully developed that they formed the basis for a later supreme court review article. Thus, there can be value in taking the time to blog about new things.
I figured that post-tenure I would have even more time to write, but it turned out the opposite was true. I wound up taking on some articles that were out of my usual range and required a lot of background reading. I was also working on finalizing a five year empirical data gathering project and verifying/cleaning the data took immense amounts of time. As a result, I haven't guest blogged at PrawfsBlawg since 2013, and I rarely blogged at my home site, Madisonian.
That's how it goes, I suppose, except that at the beginning of this year, Madisonian retooled to become an individual blog of its namesake, Mike Madison, again. This made good sense for him and for his co-bloggers, none of which were active. But I found myself blogless for the first time in several years, and it bothered me. If I had a random thought about a new case or paper, where would I post it? (I'll discuss Facebook and Twitter in a later post.) How would I maintain relevance in the world of current events?
I know it sounds a bit narcissicistic. I don't have any illusions about how many (few) readers I have, and my posts usually generate very few comments. But I've always been buoyed by the occasional reader who says they enjoy my blog posts when I had no idea I was on the radar. And a few of my posts have generated attention in important current debates. So, the thought of not having an outlet was difficult for me. Maybe it shouldn't have been, but the fact that it was told me that I have blogged too little in the last year.
Luckily, Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, who runs Written Description, heard about my bloglessness and invited me to join her blog. I'm grateful to have nice new digs, and also motivated again. The focus of that blog is new scholarship and law in IP, so it's not like I'll ever run out of ideas to talk about.
But I also thought it was time to accept an old invitation here at the Faculty Lounge, to maybe blog about stuff I know a little bit about but don't write about -- like blogging.