October 18, 2006

"The model of an eclectic, general interest blog is a less viable one."

Says Stephen Bainbridge who's cocooning into business law.
Perhaps more importantly, I'm just getting tired of the punditry style of blogging. I'm not enjoying writing that style as much; for that matter, I'm not enjoying reading other punditry blogs very much these days.
Gordon Smith approves:
I can understand Steve's decision. General interest blogging is hard work. Conglomerate has become more tightly focused on business and law over time, partly because we have expanded the number of bloggers and our common interest is business law. But I suspect that another explanation for this development is that those of us who blog here find that blogging about work is easier than blogging about all manner of other subjects.
And Steven Taylor says:
I wonder how much of it is a response to the general malaise that is settling over politics these days and how much has something to do with blogging burnout and the intermixture between academics and blogging and how such a person wishes to present themselves to the general public....
Of course, I disagree, guys. But there are different paths in blogging as in life. You go your way and I'll go mine.

ADDED: There's a matter of perspective here. Should you ask how can I have less work or how can I have more fun? If you'd approached your blogging as a pleasure all along, having more of it would seem good.

IN THE EMAIL: Stephen Bainbridge objects to that last sentence (about pleasure):
So you never burnt out on a hobby? Pardon me for expressing it in economic terms, but the basic point was that blogging in a partcular style had stopped being rewarding. I don't know why that would invite snark.
MORE: I should add that my post is not offhanded snark. It's a longstanding theme here and is, if fact, what I wrote my paper about for the Bloggership conference last spring. The theme of most of the other papers was that lawprof bloggers should find ways to make blogging more ostensibly like legal scholarship, and I passionately took the contrary position.

19 comments:

Maxine Weiss said...

Why is one form of writing more valid than another?

It's all writing, is it not?

Hieroglyphics. Chicken-scrawl.

Do those count?

It's all communication as far as I'm concerned.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

General Interest Blogging:

Not everyone fits into a nice neat format.

There's too much I want to say that won't conform to a narrow, or any, category.

It's hard to hard twist, and contort yourself into a small box.

People are a muddle of contradictions.

Although it is fun to watch some people try to deny that, as they twist and contort.

Peace, Maxine

Nasty, Brutish & Short said...

Ann, you have general interest blogging down, and I salute you for it. You go your way and I'll go mine? Talk about something that's easy for you to say!

But, I think Bainbridge is making a mistake. I certainly won't read him now. I'm a litigator, not a business lawyer. Besides, how boring would it be just to read (or write) about one thing all the time?

Maxine Weiss said...

One-trick pony.

George said...

As the old line goes, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

A blog is a billboard, a platform upon which one can further one's career. If you're blogging and you're not generating decent ad revenues, getting good clangs in the tip jar, winning a book deal, or otherwise enhancing your existing day-job, it's unclear what the purpose is.

And then there are those lower down on the food chain...the people who apparently content themselves with commenting on other people's blogs. What are we to make of them? Are they remoras? Little birds who clean the teeth of rhinoceroses? Or worse...mere gnats?

Ann Althouse said...

Derve: LOL. That's actually pretty close to what I do when I arrive home at night. Splice in a blog post at the 2 minute intervals.

Maxine Weiss said...

"A blog is a billboard, a platform upon which one can further one's career. If you're blogging and you're not generating decent ad revenues, getting good clangs in the tip jar, winning a book deal, or otherwise enhancing your existing day-job, it's unclear what the purpose is."---george

What's the purpose of yammering on the telephone? What's the purpose of stopping and making small talk on the street?

You show me the most purposeful, goal-oriented individual...

...and I'll show you someone who engages in dozens of aimless, superflous, obsolete activities, endlessly throughout their day.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

It's all supply and demand.

If the commenters would demand the blogger write about this or that....then the Blogger is forced to write about this or that.

But if you look on Bainbridge's comments... the commenters just passively go along with his new format, and give loads of encouragement ...to a choice that yields far less creativity.

Commenters need to start demanding the kind of writing they want. Leaving the Blogger has no choice but to supply it.

Peace, Maxine

Steven Taylor said...

For what it was worth, I was musing about a) why I thought Steve might be inclined to change his blogstyle (is that a word?), and b) the fact that while my blogging energies have not run dry (and yes, it is a pleasure) I do find myself tired of shrill partisanship (which the linked post talks about).

I do think while initially (now over three years) blogging made me inclined to be more partisan than I tended to be in other situations, the more I have blogged the less partisan I have become--although as I noted in my post, that doesn't mean my philosophical perspectives have been diluted. Rather, I find that the more I comment on daily politics, the more obvious it is to me that the parties (especially the party I normally support) does not conform as well to my ideals as I once hoped that it would. And as a result I find myself growing impatient with those who are blindly partisan (*cough* Hugh Hewitt *cough*).

Let's just day that I am not planning to retreat into blogging solely about Latin American politics (which is my main academic specialty). I prefer to remain a generalist in my blogging and to hopefully be seen as a reasonable commentator on our politic world.

Gordon Smith said...

Ann, Steve is weary of "the punditry style of blogging," but I don't have strong opinions on that, since I avoid most of those blogs anyway. (Althouse excepted!) My point was merely that general interest blogging was harder for me than specialized blogging.

Ann: "If you'd approached your blogging as a pleasure all along, having more of it would seem good."

This may be hard to believe, but I love corporate law, so blogging about it is fun!

Maxine Weiss said...

Yes, but there's a whole big beautiful world out there...

"Life is a banquet"

The well-rounded blogger.

Balanced and well-versed in a variety of topics.

Corporate Law is about so much more than....corporate law.

The general informs the specific. Can't have one without the other.

Peace, Maxine

johnstodderinexile said...

I have a feeling this blog-ennui has a lot to do with the current political situation. Elections used to be called "Silly Season." Now they're "Icky Season." Bloggers who were thrilled to write about Donald Rumsfeld three years ago now are forced to deal with left-wing gay gay-baiters and it's ... bleah.

Lately on my blog, not too much politics.

Hugo Black said...

Some bloggers, like those at the Conglomerate, speak what they know. If only all bloggers exercised the same discretion...

Maxine Weiss said...

I don't see that though---large groups of Bloggers proclaiming their Expertise on all matters they take on.

My sense is that you have a group of people simply trying to better understand the world around them, whatever the subject. Just tryin' to make some sense of it all.

I must confess, it does bother me the lack of profit. But then again, there's no profit in yammering on the phone for hours, or saying "Hello" to someone on the street.

Hello. Nice weather, today.

Nobody ever turned a profit on that type of small talk/polite niceties either.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

Everyone make a list of the things you do in your life that you get absolutely no remuneration for....not even so much as a piddling 'thank-you'.

Doing something for it's own sake.

Must everything yield big returns these days?

Unconditional Love, and nothing given back in return----Bainbridge has issues with that, I can see.

Wine gives back, yields returns...doesn't it?

Peace, Maxine

Derve said...

Some bloggers, like those at the Conglomerate, speak what they know.

And sometimes, what they don't know.

(But they are open to comments, and seem to learn from others and revise opinions. So higher marks than the average corporate mindset there.)

I suspect a lot of bloggers like to talk politics, strategy and Republicanism when times are good, but know enough to keep quiet and focus elsewhere when their theories and education prove un-useful. Nothing wrong with that. I suspect when things get a bit safer, they'll be venturing opinions and congratulations once again.

David said...

Maxine;

Good point! The beauty is in the journey! As far as the blogs are concerned, they remind me of the street preacher on the corner and the townsquare in days when there was only print media to take exception to!

Things go better with a good wine properly presented!

Richard Dolan said...

It's interesting that Bainbridge's idea about lawprof blogging is reverting, at least ostensibly, to a more typical academic arc -- narrowing and specializing, writing for a smaller, presumably better informed and like-minded audience about a very specific range of topics. On that view, lawprof blogging replicates in an informal setting the same sort of discussion that happens at academic conferences, and in its informality suggests more of the quick conversation among colleagues in the hallway than the more formal presentations in the conference room. I say "ostensibly" here because I doubt that Bainbridge (whom I've read off and of for a long time) intends to give up his blogging about wine. In time, I think that will lead him back, at least occasionally, to broader topics of more general interest.

The "eclectic, general interest blog" is in the tradition of the public intellectual of yore, but made informal by the need to write daily to keep it going. In its informality as well as its occasional flashes of brilliance, it reminds me of Dr. Johnson's dinner conversation. I think that this is also what the Partisan Review crowd would have done, while also keeping up their more formal writing in the Review, if the technology had existed back then. Eminent literary critics once regarded the role of "general interest" public intellectual as part of their job description (e.g., Lionel Trilling). Today, with the exception of a very few (Harold Bloom and Stanley Fish come to mind), academic literary critics don't do much of that anymore. The main book review (NYT, NYRB, TLS) do some of it, but there main focus is elsewhere. And the op-ed pages have pretty much become a predicable partisan wasteland.

So, there is both room and demand for informed but informal commentary by tenured faculty in that tradition, addressing topics of general interest. Bainbridge's exhaustion with the burdens of that role is perhaps understandable. But it also reflects an unfortunate, self-imposed narrowness of vocation -- who are better placed, by training and otherwise, than tenured faculty at major research universities don't take up that challenge? A professor could do a lot worse than keeping alive the "eclectic, general interest" conversations that Dr. Johnson and Lionel Trilling, among many other practitioners, once fostered. And Steve Taylor's comment in this chain suggests an added bonus -- perhaps not surprisingly, by staying engaged in the conversation, one learns quite a bit about one's own views, which sharpen and grow in depth by doing so.

Richard said...

According to Bainbridge your comment was "snark"?! When one’s skin gets that thin, it's usually time to leave academia. He’s become soft in such a sheltered environment.