January 4, 2007

When a blogger skips a topic you think he should be blogging about.

Do you make noise about his silence? Eugene Volokh tries to explain why you shouldn't expect a blogger to cover things that are not directly in his area of expertise. It seems that some Volokh Conspiracy readers think it means something that such a prominent lawprof blog has not followed the Duke rape case.
Look, if some of us want to take the time to develop an expertise on the Duke rape case, we'll post about it. And occasionally some of us may post non-expert comments based on some outside coverage that we found interesting; you'll generally notice that the posts are non-expert posts, and should be taken either as potentially useful pointers to others' work or as light entertainment, as the case may be. But why not appreciate the fact that we tend to post about subjects we know well? Why try to goad us into commenting about subjects that we don't know well?
Hardcore goaders can come back with outrage at the failure to be sufficiently interested in the subject to post in the nonexpert style.

Since a blog looks like a series of updates -- one on top of the previous one -- readers develop the illusion that if news happens, it should register on the blog. On a blog that allows comments, I think readers come over because they want to talk, and then they're disappointed that the blogger hasn't opened up a place to talk. You've come to think of the blog as your little coffeehouse, and you look in and see that there is no table.

Sometimes, I'll post just to set up that table. But I'd still want to have a line or two to say that is distinctive and not just a statement that I saw the news today. (Oh, boy.) But then if you do add that distinctive line or two and you're a prominent lawprof blogger, there's a decent chance it will show up quoted in MSM somewhere (with the name of your school). In that new context, people won't be able to tell that it was just an offhand remark in bloggerly style, as opposed to sober expert reflection.

Oh, the travails of a lawprof blogger!

13 comments:

Dave said...

Isn't Volokh's point implicitly obvious? Are people really so stupid and presumptuous as to try to determine bloggers' agendas?

Or better yet, why are you and Volokh wasting so much time and energy explaining the obvious to the stupid?

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: Because it isn't obvious enough to people and the subject keeps coming up.

Dave said...

Ok, then. Here's my agenda for you to blog about: the chances that the Yankees will win the World Series in 2007, the increased use of credit derivatives in the capital markets, and the impact of global warming on Vermont's tourism industry.

Never mind that you're expert in none of these subjects. You should blog about them. Because, you know, I say so.

Simon said...

" On a blog that allows comments, I think readers come over because they want to talk, and then they're disappointed that the blogger hasn't opened up a place to talk. You've come to think of the blog as your little coffeehouse, and you look in and see that there is no table."

I don't think that's necessarily true. I read Volokh every day, but I almost never comment there. True enough, when something happens of some import, this is often my first port of call, but that's because people generally read blogs written by people they like, respect, and whose opinions on subjects they're interested in. So, for example, when the ACLU v. NSA opinion came out, my first port of call was Orin Kerr, followed by you, because I figured that these were matters within your and Orin's areas of interest, and I was interested to see what you had to say. I didn't visit to chat, because I hadn't read the opinion yet.

"I saw the news today. (Oh, boy)."

"...About a lucky man who made the grade..." That seems apt if you have a stack of exams you're grading. ;)

dklittl said...

Unfortunately, Eugene has run up against the middle/upper-class hysteria that is the Duke rape case. It's truly unbelievable to hear people consider this one of "the most important" issues in America. The notion that DA misconduct is some new unusual occurrence truly boggles the mind.

Brent said...

What Simon says.

And, the coffeehouse analogy is the best I have heard for blogs and commenters. Coffeehouses: you visit some occasionally because you just happen to be near them at the moment. Some you go to because friends like them, even though you wouldn't probably hang out alone there. And then there are those, like Althouse, where you want to go and settle in for awhile, and take in the interesting surroundings. You can even feel that you know the regulars - which is interesting for a partisan like myself.

I actually wish there were a sort of Althouse Convention for regulars. I would love an evening of conversation with Elizabeth, Drill Sgt., downtownlad, dave, Simon, palladian, and so many of the regulars.

Hey, Ann could have guest speakers - maybe Glenn and Andrew and Jonah - and seminars the next day on certain topics, and . . .

Maxine Weiss said...

But, you've repeatedly said that your posts are only about what piques (peak, peek?) your interest.

Supposedly it has nothing to do with expertise, it's all about what grabs your attention, you've repeatedly said.

But the question is ...'why' ?

Why are certain things grabbing your interest but not others.

Perhaps it's all about the NYT. If it's in the NYT, you're interested. If it's not, you are not.

Your interests seem to lack variety these days, and only extend to the political.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

Example: I've been going back through all the December blogs, looking for all the Christmas stuff. Pictures of your Christmas tree...the big Christmas parties, the decorations throughout Wisconson.

And, and and.....nothing! Not a single post on Christmas.

Christmas doesn't exist in Wisconson, apparently.

Christmas doesn't warrant a single acknowledgement on the Althouse Blog?

That's fine. It's your blog, it's your legacy, not mine.

But, I think people, readers are strongly asking the question "why"?

Why does one thing interest her, but something else goes completely unacknowledged ?

Peace, Maxine

Dave said...

"I would love an evening of conversation with Elizabeth, Drill Sgt., downtownlad, dave, Simon, palladian, and so many of the regulars."

I'm not nearly as interesting as my comments imply.

Kent said...

dklittl,

I can take your comment two ways:

1. You are annoyed that the elite are uninterested in the serious issue of prosecutorial conduct until some of their own fall victim to it. In which case, I think you would do better to see the Duke fiasco as an opportunity, and take advantage of it.

2. You are annoyed because you do not think prosecutorial misconduct is a serious issue. In which case, you have serious issues yourself.


To be honest, I would be really interested in what Ann has to say about the Duke case. However, if she doesn't want to follow the case, that's her privilege.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I've been blogging under an illusion all this time---

I just didn't know that Ann was the sole arbiter of 'important.'

I guess I will have to go back (just over the past week) and delete posts on (chronologically):

The Gerald Ford interview with Bob Woodward, Bill Richardson, NCAA rules and families of college athletes, Betty Ford's legacy, How Bush has shifted the frame on the debate over Iraq policy, Boise State, Pat Robertson's latest revelation of apocalyptic doom to hit the U.S. this year, new allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanimo, and talk show host Hal Turner suggesting the people assassinate members of Congress if they vote for a path to citizenship for illegals.

Yup, that's it. From now on, I will dutifully check here first before I put up any new blog posts, and if Ann hasn't blogged about it then it obviously isn't important so I won't write about it. (except when she does, then it will become 'important' and I can blog on it.)

Anonymous said...

Eli: Could you do me a favor and clarify to whom here that comment was directed? I'm curious, because I think I must have missed something.

Cedarford said...

I would say that while Volokh, Althouse are free NOT to cover the Duke Rape Case - the public sees it as of great significance and from the "non-expert public" voting or agitating - it may have long term impact of a serious nature on the legal and academic community.

More perhaps that the SCOTUS decision of the week that most law professors feel obligated to cover.

1. On the "Prosecutor's rubberstamp", no transcript, total secrecy orders imposed in the grand jury system in America.

2. On the question if white males are also protected from civil rights violations.

3. On radical faculty's latitude to damage a University by engaging in community actions outside academic freedom that bring discredit on the institution. On how much intellectual diversity should exist to prevent Groupthink in Departments.

4. On the relationship of police and DA's office and the extent of independence that must exist to prevent one from being suborned to another.

5. On the evident need for quicker-acting corrective mechanisms inside the Bar so visible rogue behaviors before the public do not go on unabated for several months, years.

6. What the legal community needs to do with cases like "Distinguished Law Professor" Wendy Murphy and "Former Top Prosecutor" Nancy Grace regularly lying to the public through mass media and undermining the professionalism and integrity of the legal profession.

dklittl misses the point - Unfortunately, Eugene has run up against the middle/upper-class hysteria that is the Duke rape case. It's truly unbelievable to hear people consider this one of "the most important" issues in America.

No, what it could be is the middle/upper class now joining blacks as of being of the opinion that the legal community and police forces have many bad actors in them that will go after the innocent and railroad them if it means bettering their positions of wealth and power.

That could trigger some very profound changes in America if the Duke situation and systemic failures underneath it like a black hole hornswaggled grand jury system are not fixed to the public's satisfaction.