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August 31, 2005

Congratulations, Jeremy. Now Stop Worrying.

The ever-more-famous blawger Jeremy Blachman (of Anonymous Lawyer fame) today has an op-ed in the New York Times. It's certainly cool that he's managed it, but like many NYT op-eds, I think he's getting worried over nothing much.

Will Baude has already explained why adopting Jeremy's position (a law protecting bloggers) is unlikely to be good for them in the first place. But in any event, my experience suggests that the risks worrying Jeremy are overstated.

His op-ed focuses on the case of Nadine Haobsh, who has been fired from two magazine for keeping a blog. (Ladies Home Journal and Seventeen, for those wanting to boycott, write angry letters, etc. I'm half-tempted: I mean, I don't feel that strongly, but who ever thought I'd get to boycott Seventeen? [1]) It seems that Ms. Haobsh wasn't perhaps the most discreet person in the world to be blogging. An example of her work:

My boss (and sometimes even I, only a mid-level editor) regularly gets Marc Jacobs wallets and coats, plane ticket vouchers, iPods, overnight stays at the Mandarin Oriental, year-long gym memberships, and—of course—all the free highlights and haircuts your poor dyed, straightened and styled hair can stand. It's almost embarassing.

Of course, the entry pay is crap. When my parents found out how much I made at my first job (good ol' Condé Nast!), they questioned the legality of paying somebody that little. (Nope, not slave labor, just your standard editorial assistant position.)


Ms. Haobsh would have been well-served by my rule of not mentioning a non-blogger (like your boss) online without asking them first. Not exactly the expectations that an HR manager in any beauty department wants to set.

Then again, it's all fairly harmless. Having read the whole four months of her blog, I can say that there's nothing in there as damaging to any organization as an NYT editorial castigating the firing. Further, that single editorial probably drove the young lady's hit count through the roof. (At least, it would have if the NYT had included a link in the text...) She wasn't talking about the sex lives of her bosses/clients. In the end, this may end up a Seventeen own-goal.

My guess is that over time, a kind of market truce is going to emerge. Responsible bloggers will worry--as Heidi Bond has done recently--about what others (including, presumably, their employers) will think of their writing. They will be reasonable about what they write. [2] Good employers, in the meantime, will realize the positive power of having a blogging employee.

Here I like to think I was ahead of the curve. Back before I entered law school, I was introduced to blogs by a friend and colleague who was a bit of an evangelist. (Actually, he was good friends with another blogging evangelist who showed me a great deal about the form, and can tell you concisely why politicians need weblogs.) Both of them had some great ideas about how a blog could help a firm.

Marketing departments, for instance, can get a heck of a lot of bang for the buck by sending a product sample to someone like Engadget--assuming it's a good product. Gradually, the marketing departments have come around. It's a matter of getting comfortable with openness and trusting your customers: putting your marketing in the hands of an independent blogger can seem scary to someone used to dictating advertising schedules (or being friendly to "professional" reviewers at established magazines). Similarly, a PR or HR department has a lot to gain from a blogger giving a realistic and credible view of what it's like to work at a company. (Read Ms. Haobsh, for instance, and you're likely to come up with a favorable view of her job.)

The risks are there for both sides: the blogger can say something unkind about your company an in uncensored forum, and that's likely to hurt. Of course, it's likely to hurt a lot more if what the blogger said is true, and hurt a lot less if other employees are in the blogosphere to contradict the first one. On the other hand, the blogger takes the risk of blogging too far and convincing the company to make him or her redundant. Yet once the dust settles, I'm convinced many companies will be making the realistic assessment: how much will they lose from firing a blogger who didn't make them look bad in the first place?

Of course, I'm not sure I'd put my money where my mouth is on that one, which is why this blog will cease upon my graduation...

[1]: Looking at the advertisers on Seventeen, I seem to be managing my boycott pre-emptively....

[2]: Actually, the worry about my readers is one reason I've not blogged much recently. First of all, I know that I get a number of hits from various courts, and I'm applying for clerkships right now. I have about half a dozen draft articles on MT that have been "put in holding" so that I can make sure they don't say anything about me that might worry a judge I for whom I might want to work. And for any clerk who looks at this: yes, it's error-prone, but this is what I write for fun. Part of that is putting my normal proofreading aside.

The other reason for my silence on many matters is Model Rule 1.6, which I probably interpret more expansively than necessary. I learned a lot of things this summer that fascinated me, especially with regards to the state of the law. However, even though I wouldn't name my firm, I know some associates there read what I write, and for all I know, some of their clients do. Therefore I've not said anything even tangentially related to a case, even if I might have mentioned it anyway, especially not something that might relate to a client. Sadly, given the amount of my summer that was spent working, this rendered a lot of interesting stories unbloggable.

Katrina Relief

Thankfully, most of my friends in the New Orleans area have checked in to say that they're OK, although some of them have no idea what they'll come back to when they do go home. In the meantime, once Amazon gets its charity house in order, the same donation link I provided for the tsunamis will be on this site. I like giving through Amazon, but mainly because it's the devil I know. If you have a preferred way of giving to help, please do so when you can.

In the meantime, it's interesting to read Professor Bainbridge's take on how bankruptcy law should affect giving to Catholic charities. He's right, of course: anyone giving to an individual parish risks their donation eventually ending up fodder for a lawyer's contingency fee. For sheer strength, the Law of Unintended Consequences beats the Laws of Gravity any day of the week.

Question on Managing Projects

Once again I've been silent for a while. A lot of things have happened, including a visit to my parents, a new computer, and planning my schedule for the new academic year, as well as more Law Review work than I'd really planned for. I've just not felt like staring at a computer screen for long enough to write anything recently.

Indeed, I'm having an organizational problem that, with any luck, you can advise me on. I have little problem scheduling projects with definite end dates, such as clerkship applications. (That was done using MS Project and Excel.) Day to day tasks for things like coursework, personal accounting, or remembering to back up my PC can be put into an Outlook task list. But there's a kind of intermediate category of tasks that fall off my radar.

There's a number of projects I've started that are second-priority: updating the Journal of Law and Social Parody, updating Three Years of Hell to be compatible with the new Sixapart style system, or working on a novel. These "when I have a minute" projects slip through the cracks and never seem to make much progress. Because they don't have definite due dates and generally are a bit amorphous, I don't set them up in Microsoft Project. On the other hand, if I were to include them on my Outlook task list, it would go on for more than the two pages it already covers.

Some of you will be saying, "You've got to be kidding me? You use the task list in Outlook? I can't even keep that up to date." But I'm sure one of my readers has a pretty good system for keeping themselves focused on these second-order tasks. Some of you might even have little techniques you use to make sure such things get done. Feel like sharing?

August 28, 2005

Resurfacing for Katrina

For my friends in New Orleans who are currently preparing for Katrina, I hope it's not going to be as bad as everyone's saying. Good luck!

August 21, 2005

Lull in the Action

I'm sure my regular readers will have noticed that my posts have become less frequent of late. I'm trying to catch up on a number of projects that have fallen behind schedule, and have been trying to cut back on serious blogging until they're on track. With any luck, that should happen this week. Until then, I can only ask for your understanding.

Peppermint Zen

Since agonizing over which MP3 player to buy earlier this year, I've become quite fond of my eventual purchase, the nicely-tiny Creative Zen Micro. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with quite the range of accessories made for the more popular iPod, and in particular the cases you can buy to protect it from falls and scratches are pretty feeble.

On the other hand, it does seem to have a very dedicated userbase with an ingeniously creative bent. The niftiest proposal in build-your-own case technology? A dremel, a little felt, and a tin of Altoids. I'm taking a quick trip back to see the family pretty soon, and they've got a workshop. Maybe soon I can be keeping my Zen with the mints made infamous by Clinton/Lewinsky sexplay. (I wonder if there's a commemorative-edition tin?)

(For all the Mac-addicts out there, apparently Japanese DIY-tech is keeping pace with Frisk Mint cases for the iPod shuffle.)

links via Gizmodo

August 13, 2005

Damn the Wildcats

I may or may not be leaving London tomorrow. It will depend upon how far British Airways has recovered from wildcat strikes.

The British have a charming knack for misnomer. A petulant union making sure that thousands can't travel, produce or consume anything, who do so by not doing any working themselves, are repeatedly referred to as taking part in "industrial action."

And you wonder where they get that wonderful dry sense of humor.

August 07, 2005

Big Charlie and the Corpse Factory

I've just been to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Not altogether bad: sweet mental candyfloss with impressive performances from the kids and enough going onscreen to make it interesting. If you see it, go to a theatre with good acoustics, or you'll never be able to understand the songs when the music starts thumping.

Is it just me, though, or has Tim Burton gotten to be so much of a brand experience that you could mix scenes from any of his films with one another and end up with pretty much the same thing: you'd have some incomplete father-son relationship (Big Fish, Batman, Edward Scissorhands), Johnny Depp (The Corpse Bride, Ed), an aging British actor as father figure (Edward (Vincent Price), Charlie (Christopher Lee)) and frenetic music by Danny Elfman (no way I'm doing that list)...

Gods Whom the Gods Drive Mad?

So a blogger calling himself (and presumably not really named) Mithras published a particularly bile-filled "taxonomy" [1] of the right-wing blogosphere, including some language that would fall afoul of hate-speech codes at many universities. As pointed out on Volokh, it's pretty typical these days, barely enough to warrant a yawn, though it has gotten a lot of attention from
the usual suspects.

As I said, yawnworthy, except for the name of the blogger, who I'd not much followed before: Mithras. I've known some bloggers to pick pretty impressive names--take a look at Ex Post for some pretty impressive pseudonyms--but I don't think I've ever seen someone who chose a god as a nom-de-pixel.

Besides being a particularly interesting mythological figure--the Mithras legends bear some striking resemblances to Christianity in places--the name sticks out for me because there's a Temple of Mithras in London not far from where I now work. I've not been there, but maybe I'll put it on my list now.

In any event, I'm now curious: does anyone know of any other deific (or demonic) bloggers?

Update: The traditional welcome to Instapundit readers.

[1]: I'm a bit befuddled by Mithras' claim that his list is a "taxonomy." I'd think that the bare minimum required for anything to be a taxonomy would be an attempt at classification useful for blogs that aren't listed. What Mithras has published is useless for such purposes: for instance, is Three Years of Hell a "Volokh" or an "Instapundit"? I write about things Japanese a lot, so maybe I'm a "Malkin"?

Actually, it looks like Mithras has just decided it would be funny to spit out a list of insults and tack onto it some "science-y" word. I might take it more seriously the next time someone starts wailing about the poor state of science education in America.

August 01, 2005

Some Questions You Just Don't Ask

Howard Bashman, the uber-blogger of things legal, has started a contest:

Dumb-ass questions contest: Why should seven Democratic U.S. Senators and their staff have all the fun? Why indeed!

Accordingly, I am hereby launching a "How Appealing" contest to identify the most dumb-ass question that could possibly be asked of U.S. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts, Jr. at his upcoming confirmation hearings. Unlike last time, when U.S. Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) put himself in charge of deciding whether or not questions for Roberts were appropriately characterized as "dumb-ass," this time I'm the sole referee of this admittedly entirely subjective contest.


(links omitted) Please, Howard, no, no! If you publish those, you're giving talking points to Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer. I know you think you're joking, but really, Howard, you're playing with fire here. What are you going to say when D.J. Teddy K gets up on the podium and says, "Judge Roberts, as Pennsylvania attorney Howard Bashman has asked. . . ."

OK, OK, I guess I'll take one moment out of my clerkship preparations to comment on the latest from Howard Dean:

"The president and his right-wing Supreme Court think it is 'okay' to have the government take your house if they feel like putting a hotel where your house is."

Anyone who knows the voting lineup of the Kelo decision knows exactly how laughable that statement is. Either that, or Dean's so far to the left that Justice Ginsburg has become right wing.

Of course, don't hold your breath waiting for the New York Times or Slate to comment on this. If Republicans make grammatical errors, it's funny. If Democrats make factual ones, it's just not news.

(Quote from Townhall.com, but also reported at DailyKos. Hat Tip to Instapundit and Patterico.)

Arnie Chasing the UK California Vote?

I don't know why, but they've been showing a lot of Arnold movies on TV here recently: Terminator 2, Eraser, and now the seriously silly True Lies. This is the second time they've shown it on ITV2.

Anyway, there's lots I'd like to talk about, including this and this and this, but clerkship applications need to take priority this evening.

Giving The Devil His Due

Congratulations, Jeremy. Now Stop Worrying. (0)
Katrina Relief (0)
Question on Managing Projects (0)
Resurfacing for Katrina (2)
robert wrote: My sister lives in new orleans, and... [more]

Lull in the Action (1)
Niels Jackson wrote: Please post the email(s) from Brian... [more]

Peppermint Zen (3)
Tony the Pony wrote: Grr. "Hardware," rather. ... [more]

Damn the Wildcats (2)
A. Rickey wrote: Not sure I buy that analysis, Paul.... [more]

Big Charlie and the Corpse Factory (3)
Tony the Pony wrote: Wasn't there some press around the ... [more]

Gods Whom the Gods Drive Mad? (9)
PG wrote: rmg, Don't be too amazed by the ... [more]

Some Questions You Just Don't Ask (1)
PG wrote: The random "D.J. Teddy K" appellati... [more]

(3)
A. Rickey wrote: "Swoof": Also, hanging your h... [more]

Arnie Chasing the UK California Vote? (0)

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