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Law blog comments and online discussion could be much more

law blog comments

Excellent piece today in a London School of Economics blog on the importance of science blogs and their resulting Web 2.0 discussion by Jonathan Mendel, a Lecturer in Human Geography at Dundee University, and Hauke Riesch, a Lecturer in Sociology and Communications at Brunel University.

Science blogging has become a prominent tool for researchers to communicate with each other and the public at large. Blogging plays a prominent role in science because of it’s quick turnaround time, editorial control by the author and ease of public access.

Beyond the four corners of an actual blog post, Mendel and Riesch found significant importance in blog comments and the resulting Web 2.0 discussion on forums and social media, ie Twitter.

Interaction between these bloggers and other commentators occurs mainly below the line in the comment space of the blogposts and in other web 2.0 spaces, such as Twitter or the ‘bad science’ community forum (sprung from Goldacre’s ‘bad science’ blog). Bloggers rely on these spaces for various types of support and these interactions help in the construction of credibility. Comment spaces also act as a major window of interaction with the world outside the community (and this network has also been involved in some interesting campaigns, ranging from a successful campaign to reform libel laws to attempts to get the Green Party of England and Wales to move away from ‘anti-science’ policies). This community has thus both sprung from comment spaces and depends on these spaces in important ways.

In a world lacking traditional peer review comments enable bloggers to establish credibility. Professionals can challenge each other in ways that in many cases enable stronger positions with a sounder basis to win out. If nothing more, bloggers learn from each other in these discussions with the one doing the “teaching” gaining credibility.

Comments and open discussion about blog posts on social media enable a wide open window for the public to read, observe, and learn. A public who can draw their own conclusions as to who the trusted authorities actually are.

Sure there are risks with comments. Some people do not play nice.

Mendel and Riesch cited the “ARE YOU A CHICKEN-FLAVOURED NIPPLE BISCUIT” comment arising from the bad science blog. But even such a comment brought positive effects. It brought some levity and helped to build friendships and strengthened the informal peer-review network. It also strengthened a support network should future trouble erupt.

The worst possible approach would be banning or restricting speech out of fear of comments, per Mendel and Riesch.

No question both peer review and public access arise out of comments and online discussion in the world of law blogging. I gave gained tremendous respect for other bloggers and their knowledge. I have learned a ton.

The problem is that most lawyers and law firms take a self-centered approach to blogging. Their goal is marketing and drawing attention to themselves. They are not involved in blog discussion by citing other blogs, commenting on blogs, and interacting on social media regarding the important legal issues being blogged on.

The wild thing is that these lawyers would be better served, if it’s business development they are after, by getting involved in the discussion. It’s this discussion that grows a reputation and network of relationships that grow a life time of work.

This blog discussion holds out the hope of advancing legal discussion and authority in ways that benefit the judicial system, our profession, and the public at large.

Blogging is unquestionably the future of publishing in the professions – science, law, medicine, or whatever. We as law bloggers have much to learn from the other professional bloggers.

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