Reading Brewster Kahle’s comments on the 25th Anniversary of the Internet Archive he founded, I couldn’t help but feel the significance of blogs, particularly legal blogs, in this mammoth library many of us are building via the web.
Small town high school kids like me wading through the card catalogue or the periodical guide to literature were no different than those chasing information, centuries before.
But who knew in 1970 that I would some day access this information via a computer in my pocket connected without a wire to a worldwide network of machines. Or publish valuable information to the world on the same device.
“Universal Access to All Knowledge has been the dream for millennia, from the Library of Alexandria on forward. The idea is that if you’re curious enough to want to know something, that you can get access to that information. That was the promise of the printing press or Andrew Carnegie’s public libraries — fueling so much citizenship and democracy in the United States. The Internet was the opportunity to really make this dream come true.”
I knew sitting at my law office desk in the same small town that this World Wide Web thing I was using in 1996 was a game changer. I was nutty enough to one night go home and tell my wife that we needed to move to Seattle to find out how we (guess it was I) could harness this library on the Web being created by average people with common interests with the law.
Kahle saw it long before, and makes clear the continuing importance of the net.
“What we have is an opportunity that happens maybe only once a millennium. The opportunity that comes only when we change how knowledge is recorded and shared. From oral to manuscript, manuscript to printing, and now from printing to digital. I was lucky enough to be there in 1980 and thought: what a fantastic opportunity to try to influence that transition.”
The key thing was not the computers, per Kahle, it’s the network. Us, communicating effectively.
“It was the ability to communicate with each other. Sure, anybody could go and write word processing documents. That’s good. But can you make everybody a publisher? Can everyone find their voice and their community no matter where they are in the world? And can people write in a way that allows others to build on their work? By 1996, we had built that. It was the World Wide Web.”
For lawyers looking to contribute to our legal library that will be built through an archive of legal blogs, means knowing how to communicate and network – not just write – via a blog.
Any lawyer can write a legal summary or a brief like document, that may as well be on a word document as on a blog on the Internet. But can a lawyer find their niche community and write in a way that allows others to engage them and build on their work.
Thousands of lawyers are there, but we need thousands more who publish in the way Kahle refers to. Fortunately, there are thousands of caring, experienced and passionate lawyers, who with some publishing training and the right platform could contribute to this growing legal library.
Unique in legal is that there is a also pecuniary motive for lawyers to blog in the manner that Kahle references – business.