Blawging - The Burst Bubble?

I know that there are some ‘blawgers’ out there who object to the term ‘blawg’ for reasons which I still don’t fully understand. Never mind. If you are one of those people, particularly if you’re mentioned in this post, I apologise. I'll continue to use the term as it’s a useful and convenient means of distinguishing blogs per se on the one hand, and law-related blogs or general blogs written by someone with a connection – however tenuous – to the law, on the other.  Any blog I deem to fall into this latter category will hereafter be referred to as a ‘blawg’.

As I see it, there are 3 types of blawg and, though there are sub-categories within the big three, I’m not getting into that.

1. The blog per se. A blog which fails to transcend into the bona fide category of the blawg. It fails to be so classified despite being written by someone who has dabbled or is dabbling in the study or practice of law. Posts might touch upon legal topics, though not necessarily. These tend to fall by the wayside with the greatest frequency and have the shortest life-spans.
Example: Legal Seagull, Los Havros.

2. The typical blawg with a ‘small b’. This is the most common category and covers blawgs which deal with a plethora of topics. They don’t take themselves too seriously and are always worth visiting for interesting, insightful and sometimes unexpected content.

Examples: Android’s Reminiscences, Charon QC , Law Actually, Law Minx, Law Girl, Legal Lass, Lost London Law Student, ASP Bites, Ramblings of a Scottish Student, Bar Maid, A Girl Walks into a Bar and all the rest – I think you know who you are. Members are also known as the ‘UK’s inner sanctum of blawgers’. Just kidding.

3. The Blawg with a ‘big B’ – these handle hardcore legal issues exclusively and resist the temptation to wander between topics and veer off at tangents. They tend to have the longest life-span and are typically written by academics, legal publishers and even law firms. While useful and informative, you’ll rarely head on over to one of these for light-hearted entertaining reading during a spare 5 minutes.

Examples: Pangloss, Head of Legal, Binary Law.

Regardless of why and how it all started, why we all still respectively blawg, surveying the current blawging landscape in terms of this ‘blawg with a small b category’, it hardly fills the interested observer with a great deal of optimism. Could this species of blawg be on its way out, into eventual extinction?

No matter how you slice it, it seems the honeymoon period for blawging has long ended and the harsh realities have dawned, dark and brooding. Blogging of any description has become a bit ‘last year’ and some of us seem to have become a bit disillusioned with the concept of blawging. Others have become just plain bored. Some, even, have disappeared without trace and, apparently, without cause. What happened, for instance, to Accidental Law Student , Law Dent, and Diary of a Law Student? The on-again, off-again nature of Barrister2B remains an unfathomable mystery with his propensity for postings seemingly governed by a combination of personal circumstances and the phase of the moon. Some don’t even make it that far, though: the sadly abortive Legal Seagull and Wigging Out blawgs had a paltry 8 and 9 postings respectively before, inexplicably, a perpetual silence descended – a particular shame given the promise that those few posts showed. While Law Dent at least had the decency to officially wind-up his postings with a ‘This is the End’ entry, the others just seemed to disappear in mid-flow.

A Far Cry

During the latter part of 2007, it seemed as if a new blawg was springing up each day, each offering a unique take on the world and the topics it handled. What a difference a year makes.

Perhaps we’ve all gotten busier, more focussed or just more grown-up (just kidding). I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that there is a real dearth of new blawgs out there and some of the better established ones have withered and died.

One thing that’s long been apparent and was pointed out by the stalwart blawger Charon QC some time ago is that while many BVC student blawgs have sprung up, the same cannot be said for those students on the LPC.

For a while in the previous academic year there were 3 LPC student blogs in existence that were prolific in the UK sanctum of blawging: ASP Bites, Law Actually, Susie Law School (or is that Legally Blonde in London? – make your mind up, Susie....... oh forget it, you’ve disappeared anyway!) and..... well that’s about it. I mean, I suppose you could regard The Diaries of UK Law Students as one but no one counts that for anything, do they?

And of the 3 who were LPC-ers and were actively blawging... well, we’ve all finished on that course and moved on to pastures new. While Susie has gone completely, and ASP and myself are carrying on blawging about our new adventures on a training contract and an LL.M respectively, there are no new blawgs out there which have stepped in to fill the void that we collectively left.

In the last year, that seems to have become a common theme: while many of the established blawgers out there still publish the odd post regardless of how pressing their schedules (tip of the hat to Law Girl et al), we aren’t really getting any fresh blood in the blawgosphere. Granted, there was a period early this year when we had an influx of new blawgs entering the fray such as Swiss Tony, A Girl Walks into a Bar, Bar Maid, and Bar Boy, but, that was about the extent of it. Sadly, I’m beginning to resign myself to the fact that this, perhaps, really is it. The hay-day of the blawg has been and gone. While we might always get the odd one pop up – Uni Looney being a case in point - I think that special era of blawging has ended. For a while it seems there was a little online fraternity of blawgers in existence and, while some might like to think it’s still in existence, I think the death knell will be imminently sounding, if only by virtue of the undeniable lack of postings on those constituent blawgs. Plus, as I mentioned before, even well established blawgs have either started disappearing, have disappeared, or have at least had a sizeable wobble; I know the blawgosphere is still reeling from the shock of Minxy’s thankfully short-lived hiatus from blawging, for instance. Sadly, her return ‘to the ether’ as she would no doubt dub it, has not been entirely convincing either. Inescapably, then, the fact remains: if Minxy could disappear from the blawgosphere, so could any of us!

Why?

I’m not even sure it’s because another technology has superseded blogging. I don’t think micro-blogging, for example, has taken away much if any of the incentive to blog in the conventional sense; if anything, you could argue, it merely incentivised posting. As Facebook and other social networking sites make up a quite distinct part of the web 2.0 paradigm so as to allow blawging to quite happily co-exist, I don’t think it’s that either. Maybe, though, I’m looking in the wrong place for an explanation; what if blogging is just seen as passé now?

Perhaps the true explanation, then, is that blawging, as a niche of the wider concept of blogging, was just ‘of its time’. Plus, now it’s no longer novel, there’s no incentive to start. I’ve also heard it said that blogging is frowned upon and a person can unleash no end of trouble on themselves - and particularly their reputation – by starting. Given the seriousness with which potential and existing lawyers (and others just working or looking to work in the legal sector for that matter) regard their professional reputations, maybe they’re discouraged from running the risk of being ‘found out’ and opt to concentrate their efforts on their studies or work. That makes sense, I suppose, in this age of an ever-increasing scarcity of training contracts, pupillages and well, just jobs generally to be honest.

Nevertheless, I don’t find that argument entirely convincing: virtually all of us keep our full names off of our blawgs and regard our anonymity as of prime importance. Equally, it does nothing to explain why the world seems happy to throw all kinds of embarrassing and compromising content on their social networking profiles with little regard for the consequences. That type of conduct is far more revealing, less anonymous and potentially more damaging than the content on a typical blawg.

The future?

I think the immediate future is fairly clear: the majority of the blawgs which have withstood the test of time (or at least a year or so) will remain active to their characteristically varying degrees. Inevitably, though, if the current dearth of new blawgs remains, this rich vein of ‘blawgs with a small b’ will begin to drop off the map as a change in circumstances forces a re-evaluation of the importance of blawging in the blawger’s life. Human nature being what it is, some of us might just get plain bored and give up, too.

Comments

  1. Aww you mentioned me! Lovely!

    I try not to mention things that incriminate myself on my blog, so that people can identify me.

    Other bloggers do know my name though and some have even added me on the ghastly facespace.

    Nice difference between the blawg and the Blawg... I for one hardly ever try and put an academic spin on my writing, I just normally have a good moan :)

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  2. Good post - enjoyed reading it. Thanks for describing me as *stalwart*... I may adopt this .... :-)

    Blogging / blawging takes a fair bit of effort to sustain.

    I can't make up my mind about where I want to go with my blog. I'm experimenting with tools - parody, captioned pictures and even text to speech movie tools.

    My podcasts tend to be reasonably 'serious' in the sense that I try to cover important issues or use the podcast to get an insight into the world of law as seen and practised by others.

    Twitter is another way of communicating - but, again, I tend to abuse it and use it purely for chat.

    I don't think blogging is past the sell by date - on one level a blog is merely a tool for publishing writing....

    It is too early in the morning, after but three or so hours kip, to attempt a more complex response. The hangover doesn't help either - but enjoyed your piece.

    I hope we will see more new blogs and those who have stopped blogging may well come back to it in time?

    I'm orf for a needed coffee. It is raining heavily and one of my friends has nicked the only umbrella I had on the boat. I am going to get wet - but I have yesterday's copy of The Indie - I can put that on my head like a tent hat... and why not?

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  3. Good post. The dearth of student blogs remains curious. Aside from those you mention, there is also Lawclanger, who writes a discursive blog, but that seems about it. One aspect possibly worth chewing on is the age of the student bloggers; all of the BVC student bloggers, with the exception, I think, only of Mel, are in their 40s.

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  4. Thanks for the mention, Michael with a big 'm'! :P

    I agree about the risks to the reputation. Another thing may be commitment - when I was speaking to my BVC friends about blogging (or 'blawging'), some said that they would've liked to start blogging, but didn't think they could dedicate enough time to it and keep up with the regular postings, so they didn't bother.

    And the current situation with blogs being abandoned - that was meant to happen at some point. When something's new and exciting, everyone gets involved, but then many will loose interest and drop out, leaving *us* - the most dedicated and serious there. :D

    The same happened with home pages, didn't it? I remember the time when everyone had a web-site, which then changed to everyone having a blog. Now, everyone has a facebook. People are becoming lazier and lazier!

    Going back to the question why there aren't many student LPC/BVC blogs... I think it's fair to say that one of the reasons for blogging is for people to let off their steam about the studies/interviews/jobs/etc anonymously.

    Have they found another 'channel' perhaps?

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  5. I concur with my learned colleagues, Michael - a thoughtful and very well written post, and I thank you for the mention.
    Blogging, I think, is something that begins with a mood - a determination to record an academic or professional journey, perhaps - but then requires a certain ammount of discipline to sustain, since regular readers come to expect a post or two, even if at irregular intervals; for some that discipline, mixed in with other interests in life, is too much.
    Eventually,Posts become planned and forced not spontaneous, structured as opposed to a stream of consciousness; spontaneity is lost and the whole process gets to be a bit, well, BORING. Sad, but True. Still, we are, I think a continuing and hardcore little community and long may we all prevail!! :)

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  6. Interesting commentary.
    I imagine that blog activity peaks around various times- like at Olpas or exam time, no? More people look at blogs, more people comment, and some of those then think I can start one too. It's probably how I came to blawgs, and then came to start my own blawg.

    As for the dearth of LPC blogs/blawgs (or even Blawgs?) I wonder if this is not to do with the rather different mindset of LPC students than those on the BVC. I believe that the majority of those on the LPC already have jobs lined up, they're done with the difficulties of CV-building, applications or interviews (or at least think they are- these things never really end, do they?).

    The feeling amongst my friends on the LPC seemed to be that they were very close to having a real job, and so had to make the most of the time they had before they were chained to the White Book. Beyond interest in specific areas of law, or enjoying reading the odd well-written and humourous post, there is probably less interest in reading about the hurdles that other aspirants are jumping through for those people. As there are less LPC blogs in existence, there is less traffic, and so less are created, and commented on etc etc - the snowball effect never took hold.

    Pre-during- and post BVC- ers still have many a hurdle to jump through, which probably explains the blawg phenomenon in part. Posts drop off during dull times, busy times, dreadful times, and ultimately when things go really well and someone goes off to pupillage or tenancy.

    For my part, I was a tad cautious about anonymity on starting the BVC. There's bound to only be a few at my provider with my background and profile, and I wasn't very careful to keep information back in early posts. I'm with Lost, I'm neither academic enough nor consistent enough for my blog to be truly 'legal', I just like to have a good moan.

    Maybe the blawg was a 2007 fad. But I think there are some very strong personalities, and more importantly some very good writers in the 'ether' who will continue to keep interest up- even if their blogs start to tend away from the law.

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  7. I thought this post might generate a few comments, given that we all have an interest in the subject matter, and I wasn't wrong on that.

    You all make a lot of interesting observations and responses, too many for me to respond to here. It might encourage me to write a follow-up post, factoring some of these ideas in. I'll have to see how much time I'm left in between working on my IT law and Corporate Governance papers and working overtime during the Christmas period.

    What I would say, though, is the quantity and quality of the responses to my post clearly highlights, for the moment at least, the relative health of the blawosphere and the richness and diversity that can be found within it. While many of the concerns I raised about the future prospects of the blawgosphere remain valid and the inescapable fact that there are fewer 'blawgs' than there once were, I think it’s an encouraging sign.

    Many of you picked up on the idea that blogging is an outlet of pent-up aggression and annoyances that we encounter on a daily basis, particularly in the context of our academic courses. That surely will always be the case as there is argubly more, not less to moan about with every passing day. Obviously, then, it does nothing to explain this dearth of new blawgs that has hit the ether in recent months, save perhaps for explaining why the 'risks' of blawging may prevent some potential blawgers - an explanation of fairly limited value itself. I'll hopefully pick up on this further in my follow-up post.

    Barboy: I've had a look at Lawclanger and will add him to my blawgroll.

    Andro: I'm quite taken with the "Michael with a big 'm'" moniker. You hussy! ;-)
    Also the 'new channel' idea is an interesting one, and again something I'll hopefully explore a bit further as it clearly only applies to some potential or previous blawgers who would be or were, less prolific than some of us out there. Generally, I feel that social networking sites and other quasi-competing technologies are not directly equivalent to a blawg. For some who want to write more than the odd sentence or two on Facebook or the 140 characters they’re permitted on Twitter, for instance, will still want to blawg.

    Minxy: It's good that you still regard the blawgosphere as a "continuing and hardcore little community". I'd generally agree with you and, equally, hope it long continues! :-)

    Charon: You're definitely the stalwart blawgger amongst us. I would have thought every blawgger who responded to this post, for instance, would regard you as stalwart without question. :-)

    Mel: You raised a lot of interesting comments, first and foremost, the differing mindsets between BVC and LPC students and how this relates to blawgging. This is definitely something I'll be exploring in that 'post' to which I keep refering. I'd better make sure I just find the time to write it now.

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  8. Good comments all - apologies for coming to this late, but I've been busy working. Which is potentially another reason for the dwindling numbers - when we first started when blogging was "in", we had the time to sit around and write stuff. It was cheaper than going to the SU bar. Now, we're more career focused, and 'free time' is harder to come by.

    I think Android's very much hit the nail on the head with the idea that it was a passing fad - but perhaps only to an extent. I certainly can't see blogging (or blawging) completely dying out imminently - but it's no longer the big popular thing it once was. You can vent on facebook. Unless your name is Michael ;)

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  9. I must concur with the opinions expressed by the learned Michael.

    ‘Blawgs’ do take an awful lot of time in order to keep them going. Depending on the subject I find myself posting about it can take me an hour or more to construct an entry with the right tone to suit what I wish to convey. This could just be down to personal preference, and others take less time to construct their entry. This may be because they’re not too bothered about how it sounds or maybe they are just better at getting the tone right.

    On the subject of leaving, I have no intentions of leaving the ‘blawging’ world anytime soon…my ‘blawg’ is coming up to it’s first Birthday in the New Year. I do hope that I’ll be able to continue it right through until I graduate with my degree (and even beyond). Although, at this present time I am having great difficulty in finding the time to post (maybe when I return to fulltime study in September I will have more time).

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  10. Olly, an hour to compose a blog? Crikey, that's where I am going wrong then.

    Quick walk around the park watching the dog sniffing pooh, whilst thinking about the BVC and up pops an idea, 5 minutes maximum to type it up, and jobs a good 'un.

    If I sat down for an hour I could do a very intellectual and probing blog about the legalities of something sensible, buy hey, why spoil a good thing. Keep it simple stupid, is what I was always told. (Or, get lost stupid)

    Swizz

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  11. Swiss,

    The sort of entry you're talking about composing in an hour is the sort of entry I compose in an hour.

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  12. Some of you guys may remember a photo of a stressed out rabbit on my blog. Well, that post took an hour (to find an appropriate illustration). ;D

    Sorry, Olly :P

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