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The Tao of Law Librarianship: The Truth About Blogging

By Connie Crosby, Published on June 18, 2006

Unless you are a blogger, you are probably aware of only about half the reasons for the rise of this phenomenon. You may have even perused a few blogs and wondered "what’s the big deal?" That was certainly my case a few years ago. I read about blogging by lawyers and librarians, and wanted to know why these two groups were attracted to this mode of communication. Rather than read others’ blogs, I wanted to play with the software and figure it out myself.

Quick and easy self-publishing

You may not realize how insanely fast and easy setting up a blog can be. Using Blogger, and allowing them to host my blog at Blog*spot, I literally had my first blog set up in about fifteen minutes. And it was free with this particular provider. Thus, an obsession was born. A five minute post here, a ten minute rant there, add a feature or two on the public face of my blog, and soon I had a small body of writings that seemed like something almost substantial. I played with different styles or looks to the blog (many pre-developed styles are available), and learned to tweak the underlying HTML code to have fonts and colours looking the way I wanted. What a fast way to get my own opinions out without going through others’ editing and editorial policies. True digital democratization in action!

The next step was to tell others about it. I sent messages to two email lists inviting colleagues to read what I had posted. I had long been a prolific contributor to email lists, and could see how the blog would become my new outlet for professional news and opinions that might not be of interest to everyone on the lists. I also found some blog search engines and submitted mine to the mix.

Those fascinating web traffic statistics

One of my first readers told me how to track web traffic statistics: yet another free web-based application. Soon I was checking two or three times a day to see the number of hits, the popular pages, and where readers were from. New York! Brazil! South Africa! I really get a kick out of seeing where readers are located. Bloggers don’t like to admit to it, but we all watch our stats like hawks. Any sudden increase in hits is a triumph; an unexpected drop is just discouraging. Thus the obsession is entrenched in our psyches.

Testing out the SEO

For most bloggers, an increase in popularity is made in small increments. One or two blog posts receive some notice from more popular bloggers, and a few more people discover you. Or perhaps you happen to write a post title that jumps you to the top of the search engine results. I certainly had plenty of mileage out of a post mentioning David Duchovny’s blog. It had little to do with the content of my blog, but certainly brought lots of casual hits over to my site. Bloggers who pay close attention can quickly discover the types of content and titles that rise to the top in search engine results. Every post is a little mini experiment in search engine optimization.

Taking this a step further, bloggers can watch their popularity according to links to their sites with services such as Technorati and The Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem. We are tracked, ranked and re-ranked, moving up and down according to varying esoteric means of measurement.

Instant Expert

We often hear “to be seen as an expert, write a blog,” but how quickly this medium opens doors has really been a great surprise to many. It is not unusual for those blogging about professional issues to be invited to write articles, speak at conferences, and to take part in a range of collaborative projects. I frequently compare notes with fellow bloggers, and have found many have been approached to expand on the perceived expertise demonstrated in their blogs.

My own blogging has led to guest blogging on others’ blogs, regular participation in collaborative blogs, increasingly prestigious speaking opportunities, invitations to teach, requests to have blog posts republished as newsletter articles, and invitations to contribute articles to newsletter type publications. One opportunity often leads to another, and it is quite breathtaking to answer that door when opportunity is knocking. In two short years I have gone from being known by a few in my local community to having some recognition across this continent and in other countries. Not everyone has been this fortunate, but I have come across others with similar stories.

A Biblioblogosphere Community

The use of blogs as a quick, self-publishing platform for opinions, the quantifiable evidence of one’s own popularity with statistics services, the ability to quickly experiment with search engine listings, and an increased professional profile are all things that hook the blogger. Probably the best thing about blogging, however, is the community. I really had no idea a community existed until I actually experienced it. As bloggers discover each other, we contribute comments to blog posts, reference each other, and email each other support. The biblioblogosphere (i.e., the community of librarian bloggers) is very supportive. We email back and forth, consult with each other, and often collaborate virtually. And meeting a fellow blogger in the flesh is like meeting a long lost friend. Instantly there is something in common and news to catch up on. After all, even in blogs about professional issues, there is a human behind the posts expressing frustration, elation, and triumph. This makes it so easy for us to connect one with the other on a personal level.

The world of blogging, therefore, has very much the feel of the World Wide Web when it first came into existence. There is a sense that we have found something others have yet to discover, and that we are quickly making the globe a smaller place. While we do want others to experience the same thing, in other ways we don’t want the community to become over-populated, over-commoditized and over-commercialized. But give me a business proposition that allows me to remain true to my voice and my community, which gives me some remuneration for all this work, and I will probably at least entertain the idea.

The Truth About Blogging

If you are about to embark on setting up a blog for the first time, you should now have a better idea of what to expect. The truth about blogging is you will be disappointed that a million readers don’t find you immediately. We can’t all be Boing Boing or Cute Overload. You aren’t going to become rich from blogging. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. On the other hand, you will likely be surprised at who contacts you and professes admiration. You will likely find it gives a boost to your career if you are professional in attitude and find your own honest voice. And there can never be too many clear, truthful voices on the web.

Do you have career-related anecdotes or ideas for professional development that you would like to share with Connie Crosby? Email her.