Simple Justice and Blogging Exhaustion
posted by Dave Hoffman
“Recently, it’s struck me that some of the new blawgers have written posts that mirrored things I had written years earlier. They wrote good posts, and they did so without any clue that anyone had discussed the same issues before them. It dawned on me that I’ve gone through another circle, as happens when we get older. Every year, maybe day, new people come into the blawgosphere and it’s a rebirth, where everything old is new again. As this thought occurred to me, I realized that my work is now part of the old, forgotten blawgosphere. This is probably how it should be.
Five years in real time is a blink of the eye. In internet time, it’s an eternity. Thanks for reading, and keeping me honest. With that, I offer this concluding video.”
Scott’s commentators are bewildered. Was this a farewell post, written (uncharacteristically) in an obscure style? Was it some kind of publicity stunt? Who knows – you’ll have to click to find out!
Regardless, I empathize with Scott’s complaint. Though the Internet remembers everything you’ve done, what it reminds you most of all is that you are less than a speck in the eye of the multiverse. Everything you write has been (will be) written by someone else, and no one will know your name next month. You’ll find yourself drafting posts to reiterate points you’ve made before – not because you can express the idea any better, but because you’d like to climb a bit higher on the pile of sand in the hourglass. (In fact, I am 99% sure I’ve written this exact post before, but I can’t find it!)
I should know. This is my tenth year blogging! I started at Cravath in summer of 2002, when I created a small blog on constitutional law with a friend. When I joined Temple in 2004, I switched to Prawfsblawg, and then to CoOp, which has been my blog home since the fall of 2005. In that time, I’ve written several thousand posts (like Scott). Very little I’ve written has managed to stick. On this blog, and others, things I’ve said in the past are repeated with no awareness that I once said them. How could they not be? There’s nothing new under the sun, and the very point of blogging is to get to not do preemption checks! Of late, this blogging ennui, and despair about the possibility of productive conversation on some topics, has made me less motivated to blog, though I think it’s a temporary lull.
I’ve managed to stick with it this long mostly because I find blogging to be an ideal outlet for small ideas, which I wouldn’t write about in articles, and which I’d prefer to have some evidence of having came up with. That’s not a utiliarian position. I doubt that blogging has made me a better scholar. I don’t think my blog posts have made a bit of difference in public debates. (It might have, but the effect is incidental and contingent, not by design.) I certainly don’t think that Concurring Opinions has built a deep virtual community (cf. Volokh) to play with. (Maybe we should?) When I look around, I can think of only a few examples of law professors whose blogging has moved the needle. Then again, the same is true of long-form scholarship! Blogging is a cheap form of self-expression, and it’s nice to own my own printing press. It is as simple as that.
I thought I’d let this serve as an open thread for folks who’ve been at this for more than five years. What keeps you going?