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The Benefits and Costs of Blogging:
Here (via Glenn) is a nice account of why blogging is great:
I stopped worrying about deadlines, audience, editors, letters to the editor, all the stuff that had smothered me before. I was writing so fast that I didn't have time to double-think my sentence structure or my opinions. What came out was sloppier but also funnier and more honest. I started getting e-mails from people I'd never met, and they were actually encouraging. (At the paper, it seemed like most e-mails from strangers begin with a variant of "Hey, dumbass.") I continued blogging for years, through cities and jobs and relationships, and though the blog entries never amounted to much, they always gave me a fleeting joy, like conquering some small feat—opening a very difficult, tightly sealed jar—even when no one is around to see it.
And why it is not so great:
And yet every once in a while those agents would check in, to ask how that book was coming. And the book wasn't coming, and wasn't coming, and I became one of those people who talk about a book but never write it. At times, I started to feel that jokes and scenarios and turns of phrase were my capital, and that my capital was limited, and each blog entry was scattering more of it to the wind, pissing away precious dollars and cents in the form of punch lines I could never use again, not without feeling like a hack. You know: "How sad. She stole that line from her own blog."

Blogging had been the ideal run-up to a novel, but it had also become a major distraction. I would sit down to start on my novel only to come up with five different blog entries. I thought of them as a little something-something to whet the palate—because it was easier, more immediately satisfying, because I could write it, and post it, and people would say nice things about it, and I could go to bed feeling satisfied. But then I would wake feeling less than accomplished because a blog wasn't a whole story told from beginning to end. I had shelves lined with other people's prose while my best efforts were buried on a Web site somewhere, underneath a lot of blah-blah about American Idol and my kitty cat.
This points out one of the wonderful benefits of group blogs. You can slide for considerable periods of time to meet the demands of your day job, while your readership is preserved by your co-bloggers. The challenge for group blogging, of course, is finding a group of bloggers with a similar enough voice to attract and retain an audience. Part of this is solved for us at the VC by the fact that Eugene is the sole judge of who gets invited to blog here. In my case, I have also found myself adjusting my voice to that of the blog. I suspect other members of the Conspiracy have done the same. Mainly, I have done so because I like this voice, but also because it seems to contribute best to a jointly-produced product.
JLR (mail):
I think the Slate article by Sarah Hepola also points to the specific dangers of blogging for a novelist (or aspiring novelist). To present short fictions and personal stories on a blog while one is attempting to write a novel will create difficulties. Good punch lines and other artful phrases would be used on a blog and could not be reused in a novel for fear of literary cannibalization.

In the realm of the law blog (or "blawg"), it appears to be acceptable to present nascent ideas prior to their being fully formed; the "blawg" allows the professor to share ideas with individuals he may never have been able to solicit input from otherwise. Furthermore, the "blawg" allows a forum to cultivate one's status as a public intellectual, thus raising one's profile within legal academia and giving one's academic work a broader audience.

Therefore, much of the disparity can be attributed not just to the differences between an individual's blog and a group blog, but also to the differences between a novelist's blog and a law professor's (or law professors') blog.
4.20.2006 6:21pm
SimonD (www):
I can vouch for the confirming tendancy of a group blog. I frequently comment, and more occaisionally post, at Centerfield, and while I feel fully comfortable commenting in a similar tone that in which I write my own blog, I very much feel an incumbency to be more careful in terms of tone or content when posting an actual blog entry there.

Surely everyone uses different tones in different blogs, though. I'm well aware that if I post to Concurring Opinions or Orin's new blog in the same tone as I would post a comment at Red State or Confirm Them, I'll get cut to ribbons; you have to be more respectful and more substantive in some fora.
4.20.2006 6:24pm
SenatorX (mail):
The same problems apply to commenters. I feel like some of the best things I ever composed were years ago on now-dead philosophy forums (pre-blog years). I would pour over books finding quotes to shore up my points and be quite proud of my debates. All written in sand though.

Still one could question the drive for permanence over being...I think though we make those judgments all the time on cost/benefit and if the cost outweighed the benefit the blogger/commenter they would just stop and do something else. Aint freedom great?
4.20.2006 9:19pm
Law Student:
While it might be in the individual blogger's best interest to try to get that book published or that law review article finished, what about the rest of us? How might a blogger's time be best allocated to maximize the utility to society as a whole? I suppose much of the discussion over the value of blogging as a medium and comparing it to scholarship and journalism is implicitly addressed to this.

If a well-known and well-read blogger writes semi-daily for his blog, and manages to entertain, teach, analyze ideas, and spread knowledge to a wide and diffuse body of people, and in the process fails to finish X number of law review articles or their books, is society worse off? A mechanical view of a law review article is that each has a certain (Rather low) probability of having a positive effect on their profession/society (even lower for relatively unknown scholars) whereas the gains by blogging might be small and incremental but they add up over time and reach a much larger audience. Even with the high discount rate on blog posts, the present value of time spent on their creation may be much higher than similar work on a given article topic.

Of course this ignores things like actually having a job to pay the bills or getting tenure in the first place, but it just struck me that the analysis was decidedly selfish in the Slate article. Then again, if I'm going to be fair and use a semi-economic analysis, I have to admit that I can't expect people to blog if it is irrational for them individually to do so.
4.20.2006 10:45pm
The Mad Pigeon (www):
My wife asks why I love blogging so much, and I think Glenn hit the nail on the head: the immediacy. Instead of writing a manuscript, submitting to an editor, hoping it gets published, and then maybe getting read, I can post my own work and get feedback immediately.

Does everyone agree with what I have to say? Of course not; but even with far few readers than Volokh, Kos, etc., it feels pretty damn good when a reader tells me my site is one of their daily must reads. It's also nice to see the same cadre of readers and commenters, which gives my little acerbic roost on the web the feeling of a family.

What's not so great? Pouring what I think is some of my best emotion, angst, and humor into a piece, something I want people to read at the scale of a published work... but instead it disappears within the archives read by perhaps 50-100 people. And how many people search blog archives? Heh... or should I say, blogchives? I'm glad I learned it's a good idea to make a link to a collection of your favorite posts, but that still leaves a great deal of writing unread if you're a small fry.

Plus, there's something to be said about having fellow writers, since writing every day ins't always feasable and occasionally leads to a beating from the wife. Currently my fellow author and I are stationed together, but I'm moving to another base in May. Originally I was worried the geographic seperation whould diminish or perhaps end our collaboration, but seeing The Volokh Conspiracy can make such an arrangment work is heartening.
4.21.2006 9:37am