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May 05, 2006



Professor Silbey’s comment on “dropping in” on blogs raises an interesting question of how visitors visit lawprof blogs. Like blogging itself, regular reading, and to a greater extent, commenting, is largely a function of efficiencies of time. As a relatively new associate at a law firm that takes up a substantial part of my time, the opportunity cost of reading my favorite blogs is all too clear: I’m simply increasing the amount of time that I must spend in the office to bill my required time. I don’t mean to suggest that I face the sort of efficiency problems discussed by Professor Silbey below, but for many lawyers, keeping tabs on our favorite blogs has definite and identifiable costs, and takes a certain amount of commitment. As a result, I don’t do much “surfing.” (At least with respect to the Internet, I associate that term with somewhat directionless wandering.) Instead, I have bookmarked an ever-expanding number of sites that I tend to check fairly quickly at various times during the day. I suspect that this is fairly common pratice. I’d be interested to hear whether other attorneys’ blog-visiting practices differ (could I be doing this better?), and whether practices vary over occupation, including the practices of lawprofs themselves.

Commenting is another matter entirely. Assuming that one wants to leave thoughtful comments, the time required can be much greater, especially when the initial post makes references to unfamiliar and new cases, SSRN posts, or other blogs. This may partially explain the difference in content volume between, for example, recent posts at the VC discussing the “yuck” factor justifies bans on public sex and nudity and the recent post here pointing out Eric Blumenson’s new article discussing Sunstein’s and Vermeule’s article on the convergence of deontological and consequentialist arguments for the death penalty when the death penalty can be shown to have a deterrent effect (read this article, by the way). The former is simply much more accessible. My feeling is that the amount of time required to read the necessary material, form an informed opinion, compose an articulate and thoughtful comment, and respond to other commenters prevents many people in my position from commenting, especially on doctrinally driven posts. (Perhaps these costs should have prevented this post.) Yet commenting not only adds to the blog on which the comment is posted, it also has significant benefits to the commenter, who feels much more a part of the blog’s community. Commenting is therefore often worth the cost.

I don’t mean to hijack Professor Silbey’s much broader post, but I am interested in exploring ways in which we can reduce the costs of reading and commenting on blogs while maintaining our “romantic” view of blogs as an outlet for informed scholarly discussion about law and lawculture.

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