Interestingly, this question comes from someone whose
blogging history seems very mistake-free to me. I've made
plenty of mistakes. Still do. You really should expect
to make a few mistakes and be prepared to admit them,
correct them, and move forward.
Here are a few big ones:
1. Launch a blog without trying to understand
the blog culture or the blogging world. So
many mistakes fit into this category. I'd spend at least
a month or two trying to get a good feel for (1) the
legal blog world and (2) the blog world at large. This
definitely means getting a newsreader and understanding
RSS feeds and how people consume RSS feeds. People with
experience on email lists and other types of discussion
groups tend to do a lot better at this than people without
that experience. Many of the same issues come up –
netiquette and the like.
2. Don't post on a topic that you clearly got
from another blogger without crediting that blogger
for pointing out the link, article, or resource to you.
Most bloggers subscribe to a lot of RSS feeds and it
is very obvious where you got the "idea" for
your post. In legal blogging, this issue is more pronounced
because many of the legal bloggers know each other and
we usually will not post on the same topic that another
blogger has discovered out of courtesy. In the business
blog world, on the other hand, you'll often see many
bloggers post the same item. Neither way is better,
but in legal blogs, bloggers tend not to do "me
too" posts. Instead, you'll reference another blogger's
post and comment on their post to make sure they get
credit. If you "echo" another legal blog,
believe me, you'll get noticed, but not the kind of
notice you want.
3. Falling for the common advice about getting
reciprocal links and treating prominent bloggers as
if they offer a free search engine enhancement service.
There are some very generous legal bloggers who routinely
mention new legal blogs. They do that because they are
good people. They do not offer a free marketing service
to which you have some entitlement. They'll mention
your blog when they get the chance. Similarly, I mention
other blogs because they have great information that
is useful to my audience. If you want me to mention
your blog, work on producing great content, not on emailing
me to ask me to mention your blog or to link to it or
to add it to my "blogroll." Let me give you
an example. The legal bloggers who know Jim Calloway
love Jim Calloway. When he launched his blog recently,
we could not do enough to mention his blog, link to
it, and give it a rocket launch. Even though we told
Jim what would happen, Jim was stunned how quickly he
zoomed to the top of Google on a search for his name.
It happened in not much more than a day or two. The
current approach of Google gives some of the prominent
legal bloggers enormous power to enhance your Google
search rankings. That has enormous value to a new blog.
Think carefully before you make requests for reciprocal
links and mentions without planning to offer anything
in return. I see the economic benefit you get from me
mentioning your new blog, but I really don't see what
benefit I get in return. At the very least, you want
to say thank you to someone who mentions your new blog
and mention or link to their blog in return. I have
no doubt that Tom Mighell has mentioned many more new
legal blogs than the number of blogs that have links
back to his blog. He's a saint – I'm not quite
4. Being overly-familiar with existing bloggers
or taking pot-shots at existing bloggers to make a name
for yourself. This is a variation on #1, but
the level of politeness and courtesy among legal bloggers
is very high. Yes, that does surprise people. Again,
most of us now know each other; we will know if you
truly are our pals.
5. My Pet Peeve: Being a New Blogger Who Lectures
People About the One True Path of Blogging.
Yikes! Don't launch a blog and start throwing around
definitions of what is and isn't a blog and making other
pronouncements. Settle in and do your own thing for
a while. Look, listen and learn. I'm interested in questions
you raise, your unique viewpoints and the like, but
I grimace every time I see a new blogger start lecturing
people about blogging, almost always without knowing
what they are talking about and the history of the issue.
I value your fresh voice, not your know-it-all voice.
There's a big difference.
6. Think Carefully About This Anonymous Thing.
I really struggle with the idea of anonymous
legal blogs, but I'm an old-school kind of guy. On the
one hand, I am very disturbed by the current legal culture
in which associates in law firms live in such a state
of terror that they will not blog unless they are anonymous.
On the other hand, I don't understand how blogging anonymously
helps you. Of course, look what I named my blog.
7. The Biggest Mistake – Not Using Full
Text Feeds in 2005. Almost all of the other
bloggers will subscribe to your RSS (Atom, RDF, etc.)
feed and read your posts in a newsreader rather than
actually visit your page. Anything other than a full
text feed makes you a candidate for deletion whenever
someone decides to prune the number of feed subscriptions
that they have. I believe that you really have to understand
newsfeeds and their role in Blogosphere 2005 to be most
effective as a blogger, but that's just my opinion and
I'll respect your reasons for taking another approach.
Bonus: Not Treating Your Blog Launch Like the
Launch of a Publication. Coming up with regular
blog posts is surprisingly hard work. I suggest getting
some material together in advance to help you sustain
the first few months.
This article was originally posted on Tuesday, February
8, 2005 on his blog, DennisKennedy.blog.
practices information technology transactions law and
provides legal technology consulting services. A frequent
speaker and an award-winning author, he covers law and
technology topics on his blog (www.denniskennedy.com/blog/).
He is a member of the ABA Law Practice Management Section's
Council, Webzine Board and TECHSHOW 2005 Board.