Tuesday, July 23, 2002


So what are my thoughts on blogging lately, you ask? Or perhaps you don't. I'll answer anyway.

As a studious observer of blogs for the past 9 months, I've come to a few conclusions about blogging. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Things change really quickly in blogosphere time. When I started blogging way back last fall, Glenn had just started; now, of course, he's seen as the Father of Us All. And most of the blogs I now consider worth reading didn't even exist back then. I recall chatting with Eugene Volokh at his annual Halloween party, and he was inquiring about this new phenomenon that he had just heard about -- blogging. Now, of course, he has one of the best blogs out there. And other worthwhile blogs have come and gone in the meantime. I wonder what blogs I'll be reading a year or two from now.

  • As I see it, there are only four types of bloggers that are worth reading (or perhaps I should say, four qualities that make any given blog worth reading):

    1) Bloggers with outstanding wit (Lileks comes to mind);

    2) Bloggers who supply a plethora of links to stories about a vast array of subjects (Instapundit, etc.);

    3) Bloggers who concentrate on a particular issue and can be counted on to track down all the news on that issue (Howard Bashman for appellate law; Amy Welborn on the Catholic scandal, Joanne Jacobs on education, etc.); and

    4) Bloggers who simply have interesting and incisive thoughts about various subjects (any and all of the above, plus many others such as the Volokhs).

    None of these categories/qualities are mutually exclusive, of course, nor are my examples exhaustive in the least. I think, though, that what I enjoy the most is the latter quality.

  • Why do people have blogs that merely detail their personal activities from day to day? Such blogs are almost entirely worthless drivel, an opinion that would remain the same even if I knew the blogger personally. It takes an extraordinary talent -- again, Lileks comes to mind -- to make an interesting story out of quotidian details.

  • It’s been said before, but it deserves to be said again: There are many, many smart people out there who don't work for the mainstream media.

  • Some people can, by themselves, do a better job than most newspapers at selecting which stories, out of all the day's news, are worth reading.

  • Official news stories and op-ed writers often deserve a resounding debunking. And they usually get it, thanks to blogging.

  • Out of the blogs that I enjoy reading, a disproportionate number are written by lawyers. I don't know exactly why this is, but I have three theories: 1) Legal training imparts qualities that make a blogger successful -- training in argument and logic, an interest in public affairs, etc. 2) The sorts of people who go to law school in the first place already have qualities that make them good bloggers. 3) There's actually nothing about lawyers that makes them good bloggers; I just happen to prefer lawyer-written blogs because I'm a lawyer myself. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  • Most blogs are, in a somewhat disturbing way, written in a format that perfectly fits our modern age (I include my own here). Almost every thought is in soundbite form, at most a few paragraphs long, perfect for readers (and authors) with attention spans too short to bother with longer and more complex thoughts. A crude and over-generalized history of the printed word over the past few hundred years would look like this: Books > pamphlets > articles > shorter USA-Today-style articles > blog postings.

    Of course some subjects deserve no more than a couple of paragraphs or sentences. But what are we doing to ourselves here? Are we encouraging habits of mind that are too jumpy, too nervous, too accustomed to flittering from one topic to another like a bee in clover? By reading blogs (creating them is a different matter), are we undermining our own abilities to truly comprehend a lengthy and detailed factual description or argument? I'm not trying to be the Neil Postman of blogging here, but someone should think about this issue.


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