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Eric Goldman, professor at Santa Clara University School of Law [LexBlog Q & A, part 1 of 2]

January 17, 2008

Another two part LexBlog Q & A begins today, as we offer up part one of our e-mail interview with Eric Goldman.

Eric is a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law who focuses his teachings on legal issues surrounding technology. He writes two blogs – Goldman’s Observations Blog and the Tech & Marketing Blog – and is well-known among law professors around the country for his active role in the blogosphere.

1. Rob La Gatta: When did you first start blogging, and what prompted you to do so?

Eric Goldman: I started blogging about 3 years ago, in February 2005. In Fall 2004, two particularly net-savvy students in my Cyberlaw course repeatedly encouraged me to blog, and they promised to regularly read my blog. Thus, I figured I would start with 3 readers — these two students, plus my mom.

Ironically, I don’t think my mom has ever read my blog, and I’m not sure if my two students (who have since graduated and become lawyers) still do. Fortunately, in the interim, I’ve added some new readers.

2. Rob La Gatta: How do you think you’ve grown, both professionally and personally, as a result of your experience monitoring, reading and writing blogs?

Eric Goldman: Blogging has changed my life in a number of ways.

First, it has forced me to efficiently organize my data in-flows, which has made me a better researcher and a more informed community member. Not only do I have a carefully selected roster of RSS feeds that I monitor constantly, but I have set up alert systems in various databases that help me identify important new developments. If it wasn’t for blogging, I would not have taken these steps.

Second, I like writing, and blogging has given me an outlet for my works. I was always writing before blogging — I wrote op-eds, articles for bar journals, even consumer reviews at Epinions — but I never had a natural home for my written work until I launched my blog. Now, I can write whenever I want and publish my works without having to seek out a publisher.

Third, blogging has definitely elevated my profile, especially among journalists. I remember that when I first became a law professor, I rarely got reporter calls. So when there would be a new development in my area of expertise, I would sit in my office thinking, “Hey reporters, call me, I have brilliant thoughts about this!” But the phone rang only occasionally.

In 2005, when I launched my blog, my media appearances roughly tripled from 2004. In 2007, my media appearances roughly tripled from 2005, meaning I’m now getting about 9x the number of reporter calls I got in 2004. Spending this much time with reporters creates other challenges, but it’s a good problem to have.

Finally, I’ve made some fantastic friends through blogging. There’s an inherent kinship among bloggers, so I immediately became part of a special club just by blogging. Further, I frequently cross paths (both physically and virtually) with like-minded bloggers, which has allowed me to befriend some really interesting and nice people.

3. Rob La Gatta: Do you believe blogs have played a positive role in how law professors teach and articulate their ideas? Can blogging have any serious impact on a law professor’s reputation?

Eric Goldman: Blogs are one of many channels that law professors can use to communicate their ideas. This makes blogs a useful new publication option; they allow us to join (or start) a dialogue quickly and informally, and to establish ongoing communications with an audience of non-academic readers. But blogs aren’t our only option for publishing, and we always still have to decide the best dissemination medium for what we want to say.

Blogging definitely can affect law professors’ reputations. Typically, it has a significant positive effect, but as with any publication, there is always a downside risk. Fortunately, the blogging community is pretty fault-tolerant; an occasional mistake or misstatement by an otherwise credible blogger will not be fatal to the blogger’s reputation. Even so, I always remain keenly aware of the effect that blogging could have on my reputation, especially as a pre-tenure faculty member.

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