Blawgers and the Inquisition

By | October 18, 2011

The Tribunal in the Inquisitor's Palace in Birgu, Malta

Is blogging an inquisition of a sort? (Photo: The Tribunal in The Inquisitor's Palace in Birgu (Vittoriosa), Malta)

Emotions appear to have been running high on Twitter and the Blawgosphere following publication of my last post. I managed to avoid becoming too embroiled in the Twitter exchanges over it as I was offline for most of the week holidaying in Malta.

Whilst I was in Malta I visited The Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu (Vittoriosa). On one of the displays a panel informed that the Inquisition took it upon itself “to communicate the truth, fight ignorance and heresy”. This made me wonder whether modern day blogging was an inquisition of a sort.

Through comments to an original blog post and other blog posts written in response, an inquisition can take place where the reader (who can seek to draw out facts through the comments section) is perhaps left to judge where the truth lies.

Lawyers in the UK are used to an adversarial judicial system and this perhaps lends itself well to blogging. In any court case there are two opposing views that battle it out. You must become hardened to the fact that, as a lawyer, you will not necessarily win every argument and must be gracious in defeat.

As a blawger you must be prepared to be put in the stocks from time to time with other blawgers hurling comments at you that you may find to be rotten.

Blawger in The Stocks

Please... not another rotten comment! (Photo: Brian Inkster in the stocks at the Mdina Dungeons, Malta)

Like in a legal case you can lesson the chances of this happening by ensuring that there is as little as possible in your blog post to take issue with. In a civil court case proceedings commence with written pleadings (in Scotland we call it the Initial Writ). Sometimes that Initial Writ is produced hurriedly, perhaps to ensure that the action is raised before it becomes time barred and in the knowledge that the pleadings can be adjusted before a hearing date is fixed.

If the Initial Writ is produced hurriedly it will be less exact and more likely to be open to challenge when the Defenders lodge their written defences. If, however, time and effort is spent at the outset on that Initial Writ it will be less easy for the Defenders to immediately pick holes in it.

So lawyers should perhaps utilise their skills in drafting written pleadings when preparing a blog post and ensure that there is little for other blawgers to attack. Otherwise be prepared for criticism – you will have no one to blame but yourself.

p.s. If you get a DM via Twitter Saying “So I guess there’s a bad blog going around about you, seen it ?”, or similar, then don’t worry that you have been put in those stocks. It is a hacker trying to hack you. Don’t click on the link. Or am I missing seeing lots of bad blog posts about me? 😉


9 Comments

Gavin Ward on 18/10/2011 at 9:19 am.

Great post, Brian.

Perhaps a relevant saying would be “The only risk in blawging is to take no risk at all”.

In respect of the Twitter/Klout list debate, I think that although we may not yet have seen a complete, objective list in one post, multiple posts with their comments do manage to fill the gap. In any case, the good thing is that there are so many legal people and firms looking to engage on modern platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs etc. It’s also good to see more legal information being shared than ever before. Nevertheless, there are improvements that can be made and I think it’s right that suggested improvements should always be welcome.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 7:52 pm.

Thanks Gavin

Lawyers often tend to be be risk averse. Whilst we are seeing an increase in legal blogging it is still a very small percentage of lawyers that are willing to do it (and often only in a personal rather than a professional basis). So maybe many lawyers prefer to take no risk at all.

See ‘Do lawyers try to kill good uses of technology?’ by Kevin O’Keefe:-

http://kevin.lexblog.com/2007/11/articles/blog-law-and-ethics/do-lawyers-try-to-kill-good-uses-of-technology/

Although written four years ago I think the points made are still relevant today.

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Tessa Shepperson on 18/10/2011 at 1:21 pm.

What a great picture Brian!

Blogging is also a very good way of testing things. If I write an information post on something and I make a mistake (it happens!) usually some kind person will put me right. So often I don’t mind if people pick holes in what I say – they are helping me.

For example I did a Foundations In Landlord and Tenant Law series on my blog a while back. During this I strayed a few times outside my area of specialistaion and made a few howlers. However thanks to m’learned friends they have now been corrected and (hopefully) it is now fairly accurate.

Also picking holes in what I say can be a very good incentive to get people posting comments – which I what I want. I have done a couple of ‘gung ho’ posts which brought forth a magnificant crop of comments, all good stuff which has enhanced the blog no end.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 8:05 pm.

Thanks Tessa

Yes… now taking holiday photos to fit in with my blog posts!

Very good points, Tessa.

I have also seen the usefulness on blogs of the testing, correcting and enhancing that you refer to. All good stuff and bloggers should take all of this on board as part of the blogging experience.

Your reference to m’learned friends has given me an idea for a future blog post on legal blogging. Again this shows the benefits of the comments section!

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Gavin Ward on 18/10/2011 at 2:44 pm.

Good to hear that, Tessa.

Perhaps more approriately it should be “The greatest risk in blawging is to take no risk at all”. There are some risks if not careful but ultimately any ‘mistakes’ will often indeed be clarified.

As with everyone, I’ve also had times where I’ve posted material where improvements could have been made e.g. I had written about domain name issues and had linked to the ICANN website by saying “click here”, after which I was advised correctly by Iain Nisbet of the Absolvitor blawg (http://twitter.com/#!/absolvitor) that having an html link in the word “here” is not good from an accessibility / disability discrimination point of view. My practice has since changed to put links in wider anchor text.

A former mentor of mine once taught that sometimes with writing you’ve got to put your foot into the icy water. With conservative law firm newsletters, often you cannot do that, which is why I think it’s important lawyers and other legal professionals should publish their own blogs with an appropriate disclaimer about tweeting in a personal capacity.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 8:11 pm.

Thanks Gavin

I would personally like to see less disclaimers from lawyers on blogs/twitter and a greater willingness to be themselves in a combined professional/personal capacity. Which takes me back to my earlier comments about risk averse lawyers.

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Legaleaglemhm on 18/10/2011 at 3:44 pm.

Brian

Another great post. The nature of blogging is that it is very different from traditional methods of communicating.

Post now are published quickly and often in response to something else seen on-line and despite (lawyers) being trained in making calculated judgements I have witnessed many lawyers post remarks and comments that totally amaze me. Emotional responses and people taking the huff put me off reading.

I am also amazed by some of the blog posts I have seen.

I hope that lawyers (especially in the UK) can see the value in blogging and not waste time arguing.

As a new lawyer , my peers and I look to the established profession for guidance in this ‘new landscape’ . Surely in the scheme of things we all have better things to do than another twitterati argument.

As for the ‘bad blog’ that going round Brian – no worries we would all tell you any way, yes its another scam.

Hope you and mrs BI enjoyed your holiday.

Michelle Hynes
legaleaglemhm

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 8:38 pm.

Thanks Michelle

I agree that the emotional/huff comments are often quite amazing. Also the numerous anonymous ones that you see on the likes of The Law Society Gazette blog, which must mostly be by lawyers.

Mrs BI and I did indeed enjoy our holiday – even if it might not look like it from the photo of me in the stocks 😉

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