As we near the end of 2012, the “blogosphere” as we know it is now, depending on your estimate, about ten years old. Of course, there were precursors to what we now know as blogs, and those proto-blogs, or whatever we want to call them, pre-date what came to be known as the blogosphere. A few months back, Overlawyered celebrated is thirteenth anniversary, meaning that it began its existence in 1999.
I can remember reading Overlawyered in the law library of Baylor Law School in Waco, Texas way back in 2000. (Ah, the days of yore and legal studies.). Considering the amount of work involved in perpetuating a blog, it is amazing that the site has endured as long as it has, especially in light of the fact that it is run by just one person: the indefatigable Walter Olson.
2002, though, was the year blogs officially burst onto the scene, and a handful of sites that began that year celebrated their tenth anniversaries this year.
However, many of the blogs that began that year – or in the years that followed – have sunk into the depths of the Internet ether. I recently stumbled across an old folder of Internet bookmarks from the 2000-2002 timeframe, and most, if not all, of those websites are now lost to history. So too are many, many forgotten legal blogs, which began years ago and failed or died somewhere along the way. But blogs like Overlawyered and others have long endured, and it’s fascinating to chart their evolution. One of the joys of a blog’s archives is that a reader can revisit commentary and case law and trace the origin of issues over the past ten years. We can learn legal history from a blog’s archives, just as we could from a collection of a newspaper writer’s collection of editorial columns, and there’s some great value in such a repository of wisdom and commentary.
But, all this got me thinking about the nature of the legal blogosphere and how blogs evolved and what the future has in store for them. Are their efforts to preserve the state and federal legal commentary that has accumulated over the past decade? Are there really readers who revisit blog archives to ascertain how issues were debated and consensus evolved? With courts themselves now citing blogs, what efforts are being made to preserve and protect those entries? What use is a court’s citation to a legal blog entry if the blog no longer exists? What can we learn from 10 years of blog posts and accompanying reader commentary?
We here at Abnormal Use do not have answers to these questions. We’ve only been doing this blogging thing for two and a half years. But they are questions worth asking.