A commenter on my last post interpreted it as a general post on best practices in law blogging. I didn't think it was, but I thought the points deserved a reairing and expansion in a full post. The questions are: What is the purpose of law blogging? Is there a purpose? Is it all about analysis? When it is not about legal analysis, is there room for the personal point of view, or is that just narcisissm?
On the one hand, these comments might be discarded as simple grousing by a bored reader. On the other hand, I've seen enough comments like this through the years to wonder whether there are different views on the whole endeavor. Indeed, I limit this to "law blogging" because the early rise of such blogging came at a time when blogs, to me, were often little more than expanded "What I had for breakfast" Facebook posts. Law blogs were different. But now that blogging in general has essentially become alternate news service, perhaps expectations have changed so much that the occassional "Why I blogged this morning" posts are intolerable in law blogging.
Let's take the three concerns of the prior commenter:
1. Too much hyperlinking to prior discussion. The primary objection is that this is merely self-indulgent self-promotion to materials that no one cares about. The link to my last post above, in other words, is merely a self-promotional ploy to get the reader to read yet another one of my posts. Another commenter defends the practice, arguing that links can provide context and lead to discussions that might have been missed. My best practices takeaway is that links are helpful, but posts in which every single word seems to be hyperlinked are a bit much.
2. Too much me, me, me. Posts should be in the third person, and should be neutral analysis. Well, sure, dispassionate analysis can have the most widespread impact. But this is really the heart of the question: is there room for anything else? And does it depend on the website? Some people like me, me, me postings. I know because I get them shared on my Facebook wall every day. Even Stephen Colbert stepped out of character sometimes, didn't he? The question is, what's the best mix? I have no idea. But I will share one of my favorite comments on this discussion by Bruce Boyden from a prior debate at PrawfsBlawg:
It's an odd, odd view of the scholarly enterprise (but one that I've encountered before) that we are supposed to toil away for months or even years on our pet projects and NOT LET ANYONE KNOW ABOUT IT. It's a tragic fact of life that much of what professors produce is not read (and some subset of that is not worth reading) -- but that's not the ideal!
3. Too long. Bloggers shouldn't expect readers to read a 1000 word post. It's just gasbagging in this tl;dr world. I think length is not the issue, but quality. My own target is usually 800 words, because it forces me to be succinct (and also allows me to make two posts out of one, which keeps the content rolling when I'm busy). But that said, I think tl;dr is ridiculous. Posters should have good intros and conclusions, but shouldn't accede to the desires of those unwilling to actually read the neutral, dispasionate analysis that they claim they want. I frequently read long, long blog posts that are way better than many shorter posts that simply gloss over the same information.
All of these points are really stylistic, though. It's possible to have a completely irritating, self-indulgent blog with really great content. This leaves me wondering whether best practices are in the eye of the beholder: should bloggers deliver how they want to write, or how people want to read?