Deadwood Bloggers

deadwood1.jpgHaving just compiled the census, I’m running into a difficulty. On several large group blogs, there are professors listed on the sidebar who have barely, if ever, made a post. This is especially true for large institutional blogs. The Georgetown Law Faculty Blog has only about 20 posts in all of 2007, mainly by Rebecca Tushnet and Randy Barnett, both of whom primarily blog elsewhere. However, there are 16 professors listed in the sidebar as authors. the University of Chicago Law School’s Faculty Blog has much more activity, as it is regularly updated, but it has 20 professors on the sidebar with only a fraction posting with any degree of regularity. This makes it difficult to tally the census, because these names on the sidebar — what I will call “deadwood bloggers” — are distorting the statistics in the census. In some sense, it is false advertising — the sidebar space is typically used for regular bloggers, but many blogs leave up names no matter how often a professor posts or no matter if a professor even posts at all.

I’ve asked Sam Yospe, our intern, to compile a list of deadwood bloggers. As a definition, I would list bloggers who haven’t posted in the past two months (since May 31). Is two months a fair threshold? The difficulty with requiring a longer amount of time is that it makes it harder to tally, as under the definition I propose, it requires going through two months of a blog’s postings. The problem with a shorter period of time is that it will eliminate a few professors who blog on very infrequent intervals — the occasional bloggers. So I think that two months is a fair time period. What do readers think? If anyone can send me names of professors on the census who haven’t blogged in the past two months, that would be very helpful. When the final version of the census comes out, they’ll be purged from the rolls. Unlike law faculties, there is no tenure in the blogosphere . . . or at least, not in my census.

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9 Responses

  1. The last I read, Technorati, considers blogs updated within the past three months to be “active” for classification purposes in its State of the Live Web/Blogosphere reports. That seems a bit long to me (and to some other observers), but it’s at least a consistent reference point. Thanks.

  2. Eric Goldman says:

    What are you going to do about a solo blogger who hasn’t posted in 2 months or more? Are you going to exclude that blog from the census entirely? Eric.

  3. I understand what you’re trying to do here. One other problem with your proposed cutoff, though, is that the two months you’d pick happen to be the summer, when many of the law blogs are much less active. I bet you would find that some profs who did make reasonable numbers of contributions during the school year — and will do so again once fall comes — take a sort of hiatus for the summer (especially if others in the group are holding down the fort).

  4. Eric,

    Yes — I will consider it an abandoned blog. Since it is too onerous checking each and every blog, I asked Sam just to check some of the big group blogs where I suspect a few deadwood bloggers linger. But if readers point out to me bloggers who have disappeared for two or more months, whether on a solo or group blog, then I will drop them from the census rolls.

    So the motto is: Post or perish!


  5. Bill — You make a good point about summer months, but two months is an eternity in the blogosphere. Perhaps I should stretch the window to 3 or 4 months. That would bring in May and April. Part of the difficulty is not burdening Sam with too much work. And I wonder whether it is worth listing very occasional bloggers in the census if we want to get a true picture of how many are really blogging. I’m not sure dropping in for a rare post constitutes permablogging. That said, there’s really no ideal way to do the tallying, and any solution must mix efficiency with accuracy.

  6. Eric Goldman says:

    FWIW, it’s pretty quick to check the activity of solo bloggers than the group blogs–it should be instantly apparent from the main URL when the last post was made. If you’re going to clean out the “deadwood,” everyone should be treated equally. Eric.

  7. Randy Picker says:

    I think that more distortion is likely to result from the group blogs. It is so easy to add names to the list of bloggers, even when someone makes a single post sometimes, and that means that the group blogs can grow–in a very artificial sense–quite rapidly. For example, our current list, which we presumably will update or drop entirely when we do an overall revamp of the blog, includes folks who have since left the Chicago faculty.

  8. Ethan says:

    Unsolicited advice – go for 3 months. While Sam may rue this comment, I think seasonal variations are a reality worth recognizing. Another potential reason is that, especially on more thematic or author-heavy blogs, there may be a publishing que or desire to give certain posts a minimum amount of “above the fold” time.

  9. Based on the comments here, I have decided to go for 3 months. The updated version of the census will be posted soon, eliminating from the rolls bloggers who haven’t posted since April 1.