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Magnificently Obtuse

I don't have a copy of the 18th Edition of the Bluebook over here, but if PG's quotation at De Novo is correct, the new rules for citing blogs seem spectacularly daft. At least according to that quotation--I can't find an online source at the moment--the correct citation for this blog entry would be:

Three Years of Hell, http://www.threeyearsofhell.com/ (July 28, 2005, 20:40 EST).

There must be a justification for this format that I just don't see. How useful is the time and date stamp if you actually want to visit the blog entry? Why not use the simple expedient of the permanent URL?

And what's that EST doing there? On my blog, that's only really identifiable if you look at the source code for an individual entry, or maybe in the RSS feed. (Where, of course, it's not in EST format, but as GMT - 05:00.) I have no idea how you'd figure that out on a standard-issue Livejournal or Blogspot site. You could just try to figure out where the blogger lives, but what about bloggers who modify their timestamp when they're in a different country?

It's as if there was a conscious attempt to make the citation format as unhelpful as possible for an actual practitioner to find, as difficult as possible for a member of staff to check [1], and as unlikely as possible for an article author to comply with the standard. I suppose one should just sigh in resignation when the Bluebook insists on citing to a paper source no one uses in favor of electronic sources freely available and more commonly referenced, but when there is only an electronic source, would it be too much to ask that the Book try to match itself to electronic reality?[2]

UPDATE: A reader asks what my preferred citation format would be. I'd probably respect the fact that blog posts generally have titles, their authors might like to see their name in print (especially academic authors who otherwise wouldn't be picked up in a citation check), and all information to be collected should be available on the webpage. So something like Author (if available and not a pseudonym), Title (if any), on Site Name, URL (to source if available, to root otherwise), (date, no time unless necessary). So this post would read:

Anthony Rickey, Magnificently Obtuse, on Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil, http://www.threeyearsofhell.com/archive/003609.php (Jan. 27, 2005).


There may be some problems with that--I'm by no means an expert in the Bluebook, so it may conflict with another citation format--but it accomplishes everything the "proper" citation does, while giving better information to the reader and avoiding unnecessary staff time.

[1]: Here, again, that EST requirement befuddles me. If the information required by a citation is only commonly available for those who know how to read the right bit of a blog's source code--and that only if it's run on MT--who is going to train the staff to do this?

[2]: True, there are blogs that don't feature permalinks for their entries, but they're certainly not standard, whereas I can't think of a single set of blogging software that makes timezone stamps an out-of-the-box feature. Certainly a rule stating "use permalinks when possible, and if necessary identify the post by date and time; otherwise, use only the date" would be more sensible.

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Comments

So, the whole point of a citation is to find a specific reference, right? And the whole point of permalinks is to point to a specific reference, right? And the bluebook authors complete ignore this because....? There's another problem with their citation form: cites to my site under their format would be extremely confusing, since my site is untitled and unnamed. Admittedly, this may be an outlier, but...
Perhaps it's formulated to deliberately discourage citing to blogs? :) Although, I think these days most blogs feature permalinks, but many (mine included) have eliminated a timestamp. That is a really bizarre way to reference a post. Then again, I don't get the impression the Bluebook authors spend a lot of time in the blogosphere.
With URLs, the Bluebook's rules reflect a principle of parsimony. When I explained it, we used to use the "one-click" rule as a helpful heuristic; if the page was click-able from a webpage that didn't require a lengthy /archive/2005/july/gobbledy-gook.html at the end of it, we'd usually prefer the shorter address. That's my suspicion, at least.
TtP: As I said, "magnificently obtuse." First of all, why make one's users make the extra click? Secondly, I know it's anethema to the law-review mentality, but give two seconds to think about how most users actually access law review articles: through Lexis and Westlaw. By not including the whole URL in the article, the review is preventing any sensible indexing or electronic data-mining of how often a specific blog post has been cited. And of course, the blogs themselves--whose authors like to know who is linking to them--will now know that they've been cited in a law review, but not which post or from which article. Against this, there's an argument of "parsimony." Anyone who has ever cite checked the obscenely-long string citations commonplace in most law review articles can be forgiven if they spill their drink laughing at a Bluebook defense of "parsimony" in citation.
I agree w/Anthony completely on this. The point of citations is to help readers find sources; these citation rules hardly fulfill that purpose.

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