10

Blogging and the Road Ahead: What Next?

future3.jpgBlogging is still in its developmental stage. Several of us here at Concurring Opinions have been thinking about ideas to try out in the future. We want to make this the most interesting blog it can be. Are there any nifty things we should be trying out?

At a very general level, I believe that most blogs have one or more of the following elements:

1. Content — providing information and opinion.

2. Links– providing links to interesting stuff on the Internet; serving as a useful filter and resource for locating material to read.

3. Community — developing a community; fostering extensive discussion among readers.

Many blogs combine all of these elements, but each blog has a different balance between them. How is our balance here at Concurring Opinions?

Blogging is an experimental and dynamic medium of communication. It is also interactive. So that’s why we’re posing these questions to you. What do you recommend for the future of Concurring Opinions? Are there possibilities we should be exploring? And more generally, are there possibilities in blogging that aren’t being explored sufficiently in the blogosphere?

Related Posts:

1. Solove, Blog Posts: Conversation or Publication?

6

The Atticus Challenge

atticus.jpgOne of the joys of private practice is that I get constantly peppered with mail from the local bar associations asking me to join this or that group or threatening me with dire professional consequences if I don’t get my CLE all done on time. A recent flyer from the Virginia Bar Association, however, has risen to a new level of non-sequitor advertising in professional junk mail. This is what the front page of the flyer says, word for word:

The Atticus Challenge

Did you know that…

Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird is the most famous movie hero of all time?

Why?

Because he is the paradigm gentleman, father, citizen, public servant and lawyer

“Stand up Miss Jean Louise, your father’s passin.”

Every lawyer should be so respect as to have something like that said about him or her.

What would Atticus do?

Atticus would be a member of the Virginia Bar Association and challenge all Virginia lawyers to give of their time and talent to volunteer bar services — because it is our duty and our heritage.

Answer Atticus’ Challenge

Become a lifelong and active member of the Virginia Bar Association and encourage at least one other lawyer to join.

I am not quite sure where to begin or what to say, other than “What the @#$$%?!” To be sure Atticus was a laudable hero (in a book before a movie, by the way), and I am sure that lawyers would do well to strive to emulate his better points. I am at a loss, however, to see what that has to do with becoming a member of the Virginia Bar Association (which is different, by the way, from the Virginia State Bar, the licensing authority for attorneys in the Commonwealth). As I recall Atticus’ great virtues lay in his honest and willingness to represent an unpopular client who was falsely accused. He stood up against racial bigotry, spoke truth to power, and seems to have been a good daddy to Scout into the bargain. I don’t recall, however, the part of the story where he proudly joined one of the state’s lawyer clubs…

11

The Jurisprudence of Courthouses

sct1.jpgI have a theory about English and American courthouse architecture, which is interesting but probably wrong. I start out by noting that the most prestigious courthouse in the United States — the U.S. Supreme Court building — is a quintessential example of classical architecture, self-consciously modeled on the buildings of ancient Rome. The classical model, of course, has been hugely influential in American civic architecture. In contrast, the most prestigious courthouse in the United Kingdom — the Royal Courts of Justice in London — is a sterling example of neo-gothic architectures, self-consciously modeled on the buildings of the Middle Ages. The neo-gothic model, of course, has been very important for English civic architecture, most notably perhaps in the Houses of Parliament. Why did Americans go for Rome and Englishmen for the medieval?

royalcourts.jpgThere are lots of possible answers: America is a republic, and hence Republican Rome is a natural source of inspiration, while England is a monarchy whose legitimacy rests of long-established practice. The French Revolution is another possibility. Having spent twenty or so years fighting first Revolutionary France and then Bonaparte, nineteenth-century Englishmen were disposed to think of neo-classicism as a precursor to chaos, war, and tyranny. Revolutionary iconoclasts smashed the sculpture of St. Denise, self-consciously desecrating the medieval symbolism of the French state. The English responded by valorizing their medieval roots. Hence the Royal Courts of Justice. Let me suggest, however, that there is also a jurisprudential angle.

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2

Welcome to the Blogosphere

To Joel Jacobson, and his new blog “Judging Crimes.” Jacobson, an assistant attorney general in New Mexico, has a number of great posts up already, including this empirical investigation into deterrence and the Fourth Amendment. Here is a taste:

The Supreme Court has repeatedly told us that the suppression of evidence deters wrongdoing by police. Lower court judges accept this as fact for a very good reason: the Supreme Court says so. But the rest of us can be little more skeptical. Using the sabermetric principle that if a phenomenon exists, it must inevitably show up in the statistics, I looked for evidence that the judiciary’s fourth amendment jurisprudence has had a deterrent effect.

My working hypothesis was that if the exclusionary rule has any overall tendency to deter police from making unconstitutional searches and seizures, the number of cases in which the legality of a search/seizure was challenged should have peaked relatively soon after 1961 and then gone into a steady decline. As more and more officers were deterred, it seems reasonable to suppose, ever-fewer would still need deterring.

4

Monument Law

memorialhallvandy.gif

Ah, public monuments. They’re how we remember important events and help define who we think we are. Dan Solove’s recent posts on courthouses reminds me of how much we’re concerned with presenting the right image to communities. And there’s been a lot of writing about the function that courthouse architecture has served in American history. Moreover, lots of folks are writing these days about monuments and their meaning. Sanford Levinson’s charming book, Written in Stone covers a lot of ground in a little bit of space. And people are talking more about removing monuments from parks or renaming them (such as the Nathan Bedford Forrest Park in Memphis). Sewanee: The University of South is going through something like this right now.

I haven’t seen any serious commentary (in the blogosphere or elsewhere) on the United Daughters of the Confederacy v. Vanderbilt University, decided last May by the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Perhaps, though, it warrants a little bit of attention. It has some things to say about long-term contracts, the right of donees to alter monuments (like changing the names of buildings), and even how we remember the Civil War. The case arose from the effort of Vanderbilt University in 2002 to rename a dormitory on its campus from “Confederate Memorial Hall” to “Memorial Hall.

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15

The Power of Shopping

shopping.jpgWith the holidays upon us, I figured that now would be a good time to do a post on shopping and its importance for contract theory. As everyone who survived a first year contracts course can tell you, one of the central problems for contract law is what has been variously labeled as boilerplate, contracts of adhesion, and fine print. What we are talking about here are all of those contracts that one is offered on a take-it or leave-it basis that no one ever reads. In true late-New-Deal-lets-find-a- new-frontier-for-saying-o h-my-heck- the-corporations- are- taking-over-the-world-FDR-come-and- save-us fashion Friedrich Kessler wrote an influential article (“Contracts of Adhesion — Some Thoughts About Freedom of Contract,” 43 Colum. L. Rev. 629 (1942)) arguing that boiler plate represented a form of private law making that corporations imposed on helpless consumers. Such private law making, he argued, was illegitimate in a democratic society, where law making ought to be democratically accountable (or at the very least accountable to the FTC). Shopping, however, leaves me somewhat doubtful about Kessler’s claim.

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8

Blog Post Piracy

piracy1b.jpgSteve Rubel of Micro Persuasion writes:

Two weblogs are republishing my content without permission. One is called “Advertising, News & Information.” This site is profiting off my content by running Adsense. The other is called Podcast Rebroadcast.

This appears to be a common problem. Jason Calacanis wrote in June that we should call these people out. I am doing my part. Beyond going to partial text RSS feeds – which I am loathe to do – I have really no other course of action right now other to email the site operators, which I have done.

There is, of course, copyright law. The creative commons license for Rubel’s blog states that the work must be attributed to its author and it cannot be used for commercial purposes. The pirated post doesn’t contain his name on the post or the name of his blog, but it does at least have a link to the original post on Rubel’s blog. Is this sufficient enough attribution? As for commercial purposes, the blog copying Rubel’s posts is displaying Google Ads.

The Advertising News & Information blog appears to go by the name of Surferdiary.com Advertising Blog, and it appears to contain copied posts from a variety of different blogs. All say “Posted on [date] by Administrator” at the top, and all seem to have a link called “Source” that links back to the original post.

surferdiary2.bmp

One of the ironies is that the Surferdiary.com blog contains Rubel’s very post complaining about the piracy of his postings.

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1

Vlogging: The Future or a Passing Fad?

vlogger2.jpgThe New York Times has an interesting recent article on “vlogging,” a term for video blogging:

Amanda Congdon is a big star on really small screens – like the 4½-inch window she appears in on computer monitors every weekday morning or the 2½ inches she has to work with on the new video iPod. Ms. Congdon, you see, is the anchor of a daily, three-minute, mock TV news report shot on a camcorder, edited on a laptop and posted on a blog called Rocketboom, which now reaches more than 100,000 fans a day.

In terms of subject matter, Rocketboom is actually quite a standard – one might even say traditional – Web log: Ms. Congdon comments on intriguing items she, and the site’s producer, Andrew Baron, have found on the Web, and includes links to them which appear just below clear, smooth-playing video. The items tend to be developments in Internet culture (robots and flash mobs, say, or flash mobs of robots) with a sprinkling of left-leaning political commentary (Ms. Congdon announced the posting of Representative Tom DeLay’s mug shot while wearing a party hat and blowing a noisemaker) and samples of Web video from around the world. . . .

In case you’re wondering, it has occurred to Mr. Baron and Ms. Congdon that they just might be sitting on a gold mine. At a cost of about $20 an episode, they reach an audience that some days is roughly comparable in size to that of, say, CNN’s late, unlamented “Crossfire” political debate show. They have no background in business, but Jeff Jarvis, who tracks developments in technology and culture on his blog, BuzzMachine.com (and who has served as a consultant to The New York Times on Web matters), pointed out to them that they might be able to charge $8,000 for an interactive ad at the end of the show, which would bring in about $2 million annually.

Is vlogging the television equivalent to blogging? Will vlogs have the impact that blogs are having? One can imagine that some vloggers may become celebrities — perhaps the next John Stewart. On the flipside, one can imagine vlogging as just a passing fad, something that will not take off as vigorously as blogging. Video is still not as easy to search and stumble upon as text on the Internet; nor is vlogging as interactive as blogging. But all that might change. What will vlogging become?

Related Posts:

1. Solove, Are Bloggers Having an Influence Inside the Beltway?

2. Solove, A Day in the Life of Blogging

3. Solove, Exponential Growth of Blogospheric Proportions

4. Solove, The Most Expensive Blog Ad Ever?

9

Judge Moore and the Motion to Kiss My Ass

lawbooks300x200.jpgJustice Sandra Day O’Connor once told students at Stanford Law School how annoying she finds it to be woken up at night with an emergency application to stay an execution.

District court judges receive lots of frivolous filings. Normally, they are dealt with in a simple order denying relief and nobody hears much about them. Sometimes, a more stringent response is needed.

I recently came across a 1996 opinion by District Court Judge William T. Moore of Georgia prohibiting Matthew Washington, a pro se inmate, from filing any future lawsuits or motions in any district court unless he first posted a contempt bond of $1,500. The bond would be returned after the adjudication of the case if Washington’s conduct throughout complied with the federal rules. In addition, before Washington could proceed in any matter, a judge would conduct a preliminary review to ensure the filing was not frivolous.

What prompted these measures? Washington had filed a civil rights suit against various judges, including Judge Moore. Pursuant to that lawsuit, Washington filed a “Motion to Kiss My Ass” in which he moved “all Americans at large and one corrupt Judge Smith to kiss my got damn ass sorry mother fucker you.” Judge Moore ordered Washington to demonstrate why he should not be sanctioned. Washington ignored the judge’s order. Judge Moore dismissed the lawsuit and imposed the above restrictions on further litigation.

This incident apparently followed a long history of Mr. Washington’s courthouse antics.

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1

Update on the Seigenthaler Wikipedia Defamation Case

Wikipedia.jpgPaul Secunda over at Workplace Prof Blog brings news about an update to the Seigenthaler Wikipedia defamation case I blogged about recently. In the case, an anonymous individual wrote in Seigenthaler’s Wikipedia entry that Seigenthaler was involved in President Kennedy’s assassination. Seigenthaler complained that he was unable to track down the identity of the alleged defamer.

Enter Daniel Brandt, who earlier had complained about information in his Wikipedia profile he claimed was false. I blogged about Brandt’s case a while back. According to the New York Times:

Using information in Mr. Seigenthaler’s article and some online tools, Mr. Brandt traced the computer used to make the Wikipedia entry to the delivery company in Nashville. Mr. Brandt called the company and told employees there about the Wikipedia problem but was not able to learn anything definitive.

Mr. Brandt then sent an e-mail message to the company, asking for information about its courier services. A response bore the same Internet Protocol address that was left by the creator of the Wikipedia entry, offering further evidence of a connection.

Paul Secunda nicely explains what happened next:

Chase later resigned from his job because he did not want to cause problems for his company. Seigenthaler has urged Chase’s boss to rehire him, but so far Chase is still without a job.

Oh, the wrath of bloggers!

More details at the NY Times article and at Paul Secunda’s post.

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