Celebrating 6 Years of Blogging — Law Blogs & How the Online World Has Changed (Part I: Birth of a Blawg & Blogging’s Evolution, 2003-09)
Birth of a Law Blog (Blawg)
A bit over six years ago (on May 12, 2003, to be precise), I stumbled out into the blogosphere, then in its infancy, with a short post explaining my humble purpose in becoming a law blogger:
Most days I read recent cases and materials on labor and employment law. But too often, by the time I need to cite a case or whatever, I’ve forgotten what I read and can’t find it. So one purpose of this is to have my own personal archive. While I’m at it, why not share it with the world?
Simple enough. I’d use my new Blogger account in the original sense of a “weblog” — to save links and excerpts of cases and articles. It would be like a personal electronic clippings file.
I figured if I really wanted others reading my lawyer’s blog, I’d have to undertake some kind of publicity and link-building campaign. My simplistic understanding of Google prominence was that it required lots of carefully cultivated inbound links.
Less than three months after starting this blog, I found out I had been wrong — my Internet visibility was much higher than I had imagined. I got the following e-mail:
I’m a staff writer for Workforce Management Magazine and I’m doing an article about H.R. blogs. Can I interview you?
How did that happen? I didn’t think anyone knew about my law blog! Turns out he had just done a Google search, and Google was giving blogs great search rankings. I conjectured this was because along with inbound links, frequent updating and quality content were key factors in the magic (and secret) Google popularity formula.
So with that confirmation that I actually was sharing my blog with the world, I was hooked.
I’m honoring this personal blog-anniversary with a series of posts containing some personal observations about the changes I’ve seen in blogging and Internet content throughout these six years, and about my own meandering personal journey as an attorney maintaining a blog.
Such reflection and reminiscence is my privilege as such an old-timer, I suppose — and more famous, more venerable bloggers have done similarly. E.g., Robert Scoble and Rebecca Blood, the latter already looking backwards as an experienced blogger when she wrote a fascinating retrospective on blogging way back in September 2000.
And, in any event, periodic rambling, thinking-out-loud writing is my privilege as a blogger answerable to no one — the very editorial freedom that is one of the huge attractions, and possible perils, of blogging.
Status of Blogs and Bloggers
When I started blogging, most people to whom I mentioned this new
activity obsession of mine had never heard of a blog or blogger. Even a verbal explanation left many uncomprehending. Today, these terms are commonplace and well understood by virtually everyone I encounter.
“Blog” is in many dictionaries, as it should be. Same with “blogger. “While bloggers are sometimes referred to with derision or ridicule, at least as often status as a blogger is viewed as a badge of expertise, such as:
- When I’m driving home listening to NPR and hear a “Bloggers’ Roundtable“
- When I read a quote in Newsweek by blogging law professor Steven Davidoff, “perhaps better known by his nom de blog: the Deal Professor.”
- When I see on TV that a celebrity blogger with a Google Page Rank 7 site, major corporate advertising, and a name confusingly similar to a hot hotel heiress has flamboyantly added a litmus test on gay marriage to the Miss America pageant requirements.
Back in 2003, it would have seemed delusional to predict that in a mere six years:
- Conventional print journalism would be on the ropes, fighting for survival.
- Bloggers would appear to many to be the “new journalists.”
- Many newspapers and magazines would be creating their own blogs.
- Some bloggers would be migrating the other way — from Internet to print.
But here we are!
Functional Evolution of Blogs From Casual Personal Expression to Corporate and Marketing Tool
Initially, many viewed blogs as nothing more than frivolous, narcissistic personal journals. Who, people wondered, really wanted to read about what you had for breakfast? [click link for a great Web 2.0 photo-cartoon.]
When a critical mass of lawyers started blogging on serious legal topics, and other professions began doing likewise, it signaled the evolution of a business-oriented segment standing in contrast to the blogs that featured everyday personal content, though some early blawgs kept a light and personal touch while they led and observed this expansion of the legal blogosphere.
Soon, along came advocates of blogging-as-marketing and blogging-as-cool-corporate-communications. Businesses large and small joined the party, including increasing numbers of law firms (as opposed to individual renegade bloggers like me). Some began paying consultants and writers to build and maintain blogs.
And I soldiered along, just trying to continue posting good content that not only summarized and linked to others’ work, but also always provided some added value.
Additional Blogging History Resources
- Roundtable by four long-time St. Louis blogging lawyers (including me): A Blogging Guide for St. Louis (and Other) Lawyers (and Others)
- Weblogs: a History and Perspective, Rebecca Blood, (September 7, 2000)
- History of Blogging Timeline, wikipedia
- The Early Years [of Blogging -- 1994-2006], New York Magazine