Making Blogging Count

More good news on the blogging-while-untenured front: Wasserman joins Henderson as a newly tenured blogger who pitched blogging’s value to his tenure committee. Howard comments:

It also seems to me that the level of needed explanatory detail will decrease as more and more bloggers gain tenure (say, within the next five-seven years) and blogging becomes a routine and understood part of our writing activities. In about 5-10 years, it should be enough to say “I blog at ______” in the “other scholarly activities” section of the tenure folder. The interesting question will be whether committee members begin reading some blog posts for evaluation–not in the same way or with the same interest as they review scholarship, but with an eye towards evaluating how good this person is at this particular, accepted scholarly activity.

Yeah, I wonder about that too. The problem is volume & heterogeneity. As I wrote to my tenure committee, in “the last three years, I’ve written 550 blog posts, with an average length of 400 words. This works out to 220,000 blogged words, or 1,400 a week. Assuming that the average law review article runs for 25,000 words, I have written the equivalent of about nine additional law review articles in blog posts.”

But of course some of those blog posts were substantive, and others weren’t. I’m not sure how a committee could possibly be expected to read anything other than a self-selected sample of such posts (which I provided). But self-selected samples are unrepresentative. Committees, unless very pro-active, won’t see that post you regretted writing as soon as you hit publish, the uncharitable comments, the flashes of foolishness. That is, there’s a risk (from the administration’s perspective) in counting blogging for the purposes of tenure: it’s a ratchet that only goes one way. Since tenure in law school is already significantly cheaper to get than in the undergraduate departments, it seems sort of like piling on.

You might retort that this ratchet is a subsidy for an exciting new medium. The argument would go that blogging provides schools an opportunity to cheaply distinguish themselves from the pack — a point highlighted by the relative lack of bloggers from top ten law schools. Clearly, blogging (as a market) desperately would like such a subsidy. As I’ve written many times now, I think that academic blogging, in its present form, has peaked. As Nick Denton recently pointed out, the “world does not need more blogs . . .there is approximately one reader for every blog out there.” If schools don’t subsidize blogging, moreover, the market won’t either: advertising revenue for online media activities is likely to plummet in the next 12 months.

But I think that this kind of subsidy argument is misplaced, at least without a smart way to think about the value that professors’ blogging has for schools and their students. What we ought to do (as a bunch of bloggers) is spend some time talking about how to evaluate faculty blogging, instead of merely celebrating it. Outside review letters that focus on blogging would be a place to start. Other ideas?

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3 Responses

  1. TGP says:

    The blogging of a particular professor could be viewed in relation to the impact an importance of the blogging. Does the blogging of the faculty improve the standing and visibility of a school both in the legal community and in the eyes of the public? Blogging in a vacuum without the generation of a discussion or impact on the way lawyers and laypersons evaluate the law is meaningless. A committee could look at the quality versus the quantity. That is a subjective measure but what else are committees for? This would remove the need to read everything written as the focus is on the visible impact of the writing.

  2. Miriam Cherry says:

    Outside review letters for blogging? Oh, no, my friend. Having just finished this process, with twenty three external review letters, you do not want such reviews for blogging. In my mind, that’s the joy of blogging – just putting your ideas out without a care and the worries that come along with being evaluated. My committee wanted to list blogging as a type of conference (intellectual exchange off campus) while I listed blogs under “service”.

  3. dave hoffman says:


    I understand the impulse to think of blogging as a sort-of hobby, but that’s not my view. If it were, I imagine I’d be drawn to more personal & revelatory blogging (I just saw a movie! This brand of coffee tastes good!) But since I largely blog about my professional life and activities, I think it fits within the category of stuff that the school ought to think about for the purposes of tenure.