Balkinization  

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Little More on the Citation of Blogs in Legal Scholarship

JB

Over at Law Librarian Blog, Joe Hodnicki has some statistical evidence about the assimilation of blogs into legal literature, as I discussed previously:

According to this estimate, blog citations in law reviews and court opinions have grown from about 70 in 2004 to over 500 in 2007 (and still counting since many law reviews have not completed their 2007 publishing cycle). I believe it is fair to say that for 2005 and 2006 blog citations probably grew exponentially on a document count basis, doubling every year.

Hodnicki speculates that the rates of increased citations will level off fairly soon, reflecting a maturation of the system.

Meanwhile, Matt Berns, a 2L at Georgetown, writes that we can't understand this phenomenon without taking into account law students, who are from a younger generation and more accepting of blogs as sources of information:
[Your] post was interesting but I think it missed an important point regarding causation: it's not only law professors (authors) who can increase citation numbers but also law students (read, law journal editors). If authors are becoming more familiar and comfortable with the blogosphere, the editors are either doing so at a faster pace or are already there. The increase in citation numbers for blogs might be contrasted with citations to wikipedia (not many, but perhaps growing in number), which authors commonly include in their articles only to be told by journals (mine at least) that an alternative citation is necessary.

My guess is that blog citations will continue to increase over the next several years, but the full assimilation of blogs into legal scholarship will require a generational shift, as law students who grew up with blogs and may be more aware of their comparative strengths and weaknesses enter the legal profession and the legal academy.

Finally, there is this curmudgeonly analysis from my friend Brian Leiter, who, generally speaking, sees little good in blogs and doubts that anyone should take them seriously in scholarship. As he explains, if the number of law review citations to blogs is going up
Legal scholarship is really doomed if that is true! Alternatively, it reveals something very unflattering about what counts as legal "scholarship." In any case, this reminds me of an article by someone about "Why Blogs Are Bad for Legal Scholarship." Which I think is still true, even more so, if Balkin is right. (And notwithstanding my own very modest experiment with slightly more scholarly blogging, which really operates more like a listserve for like-minded scholars.)

Of course, blogs are the perfect medium for circulating information about the academic profession, and news and views about matters of little intellectual substance!

I should note that Brian also runs two blogs with very serious academic discussions, one on jurisprudence and one on Nietzsche, somewhat undermining his own suggestion that the medium is pretty much good for nothing. This creates something like a blogger's version of the Liar paradox: "'Everything you read on blogs is worthless,' said Brian on his own blog."

Comments:

Are there any citations to "Blogs in Legal Scholarship" critical of a posting that point to "comments" in support of such criticism? That could prove embarrassing.
 

Touche!

You'll note I've not been too good at keeping either the Legal Phil or Nietzsche blog moving; as it is, they are operating more like scholarly listserves, which do work pretty well.
 

Ah, but Prof. Leiter's take on the matter is more nuanced than the posts here. The comparison to the liar's paradox is quite inapt, despite his concession of defeat, since Leiter isn't remotely suggesting that "everything" on a blog is worthless. He's referring to blogs viewed as cognate with legal scholarship.

While I think Matt Berns' point is insightful, namely, that student editors as well as faculty scholars are contributing to the increasing appearance of citations to blog posts, I think he begs the question when he remarks that younger students "are becoming more familiar and comfortable with the blogosphere." Comfortable with it as what? I'm familiar and comfortable with billboards, but that doesn't mean I'd cite one in an article. If he's suggesting that younger students are more inclined to view blogs as scholarship, then "legal scholarship [as we know it] is really doomed!" (That result may or may not be a bad thing.)

Now take the latest comment to the original post, another student's characterization of his own citation to a blog in a case note, "a preliminary point of reference to the general academic discussion about my note case at the time it came down." The post, in other words, would seem to be data, a sample of the contemporary "general academic discussion," not a source of analytical authority. It's the difference between my citing Hart's Concept of Law for the intellectual work it embodies versus citing it as, say, a book of legal scholarship of more than 200 pages.
 

JB says,
>>>>> Hodnicki speculates that the rates of increased citations will level off fairly soon, reflecting a maturation of the system. <<<<<

Joe Hodnicki is an uscrupulous jerk who has no credibility. He and Ron Jones, his nefarious co-blogger on the Law Librarian Blog, also blog on the Law X.0 blog (formerly Law Blog Metrics), where they have been refusing to post any of my comments.

There is still lots of room for growth in the annual number of blog citations in law journals. There are several hundred law journals (some law schools have several) and several articles per year per journal, so just think what would happen if there were an average of several citations of blogs per article.

There seems to be this phobia that a visitor's comment on a blog might contain a bad idea. The solution is simple -- either (1) don't quote that bad idea or (2) if you do quote it, rebut it.

IMO it is the comment sections that make blogs especially attractive as references because the comments can present a variety of views and may help to make the blog self-correcting on the facts. Obviously, arbitrary censorship of comments shows a desire to present just one side of a controversial topic and blogs where there is such censorship have no credibility.

Also, a problem with citation of blogs and other Internet websites is that they are subject to change and even disappearance. There is now a free service, http://www.webcitation.org/, that archives websites for future reference.

"I'm always kicking their butts -- that's why they don't like me."
-- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
 

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