I wrote last week about BlawgWorld 2006, the TechnoLawyer e-book featuring representative posts from 51 “of the most influential” law-related blogs. Since then, I have found it interesting to read some of the reviews and comments posted around the blogosphere. While many had praise and kind words for the effort, others were critical. A cross section of the reviews, both pro and con, can be found in the comments to Evan Schaeffer’s post about BlawgWorld. There are several substantive comments posted there and I encourage you to visit and read them in context. Here are some excerpts:

  • “[T]he whole thing feels like a scam to inflate its number of subscribers for advertisers.”
  • “It’s yet a bunch of pages written about the law-and-tech clique.”
  • “[L]ittle stumbles like this absolutely do not, in my opinion, have any bearing on the overall value of [Technolawyer’s] offerings.”
  • “Though I personally feel it is far from a ‘failed project,’ the key is that it was attempted.”
  • “[T]he blawgs mentioned in blog review, while generally all top quality … , are hardly what I would call influential.”
  • “What stuns me about this list is how far off the mark it is. If I were to ask ten blog-reading lawyers to name their ten most-read/best/most-important/most-influential legal blogs, I’d get a list of about thirty to forty blogs, and, no matter what criteria one used, maybe one or two of them would overlap with the TechnoLawyer list.”

Meanwhile, over at Blawg Review, the editors there question not only the ebook’s pdf format, but the entire concept:

“While this eBook is an interesting marketing idea for TechnoLawyer, the value seems limited by the format and the delivery conditions. The concept of putting a previously published blog post, hand-picked by a writer selected by a publisher, on a pdf and making it available behind password registration on the publisher’s website, seems overly self-interested. And, quid pro quo, presenting the writers’ posts in a self-described collection of ‘the most influential blawgs’ seems to take the concept of vanity publishing to a whole new level of tech savvy.”

Kevin O’Keefe agrees:

“From the standpoint of adding subscribers to TechnoLawyer’s newsletters and in turn the amount companies pay to advertise on the newsletters, BlawgWorld is a wonderful marketing idea. But Like Blawg Review, I question the format and it’s true value.”

And Law Firm IT says it agrees with O’Keefe that BlawgWorld should have been posted in blog format. It adds: “I also think TechnoLawyer needs to be a real blog, and not hide the good stuff in email newletters, behind registration and cost walls.”

Now my two cents: BlawgWorld was a worthwhile experiment, but now it should be shelved. I have always had high regard for TechnoLawyer, the people who work there and the newsletters they produce. When they invited me to participate in BlawgWorld, I was honored. But having now seen the final product, it is clear that the concept simply did not work as a book — blog postings frozen in rigid pdf pages seemed drained of whatever vitality they once might have had.

I was also uncomfortable with the way it was promoted — it all left me feeling slightly dirty. I believe the TechnoLawyer folks had nothing but honorable intentions — after all, they put in a huge amount of work on this and distributed it for free. Sure, you had to sign up for TechnoLawyer to get it, but the sign up was free and plenty of sites require registration before giving you something for free. But I think that some of those who contributed can’t help but feel that they were pawns to some extent in an elaborate marketing scheme. That perception, among contributors and readers, may have cost TechnoLawyer as much good will as it earned it.

More and more, I worry that blogging is becoming a vanity press, and as Blawg Review put it, this project “seems to take the concept of vanity publishing to a whole new level of tech savvy.” Some have suggested BlawgWorld should become an annual publication. My suggestion: Shelve it in the blogosphere’s historical archives.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.