Of blogs and magazines – my 2012 CLawBies nominations

It’s CLawBies time again. The CLawBies – an unfortunately-named (how, exactly, does one clear up a stubborn case of the CLawbies? Are they contagious?) but well-meaning accolade – recognize the best in Canadian law blogging.

Its promoters / judging panel encourage the nomination of three worthy blogs. As they note, part of the fun comes in seeing what blogs the nominators themselves read.

It is hard enough at the best of times to limit the selection to three, but I find it especially difficult this year as more and more online publications converge to the blogging aesthetic.

So here’s my dilemma: Does an online legal magazine become a blog simply because it has (to its credit) abandoned the constraints of print when re-imagining its online presence?

For the purpose of the CLawBies, I hope the answer is yes because I want to give an enthusiastic vote of appreciation to the CBA and its reinvigorated site nationalmagazine.ca.

In the context of a post announcing the new look, editor-in-chief Beverly Spencer observed as follows:

Sixty per cent of those surveyed read the magazine within the week it arrives; readers spend a median time of 20 minutes with it.

In my personal experience, if I hadn’t looked at the print version within a day of it crossing my desk I was unlikely to go back to it and my engagement with it tended to be a one-time event. 20 minutes? Maybe….if the articles caught my attention. More often than not my experience with the print version mirrored my approach to a mid-week morning paper: skim as quickly as possible to make sure nothing important escapes my attention. In other words, a chore.

The new format lends itself very well to blog-style consumption where I can read a single piece or I can explore current and old articles at my leisure. I am certain that I have spent more time on this new site in the past month than I had with the magazine (print and its prior digital incarnation) in the past year.

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If Google has changed the way we research, then Amazon has changed the way we – or at least, I – read blogs. Call it shiny-object syndrome if you’d like, but when I find myself on a blog, I look for a reason to stay and explore and I willingly surrender to enticements of the “you might like” variety.  I’m a big fan of blogs with a deep archive of interesting content and a simple way of enabling both self-guided and serendipitous discovery. Slaw.ca and now nationalmagazine.ca meet these criteria for me, and so does nomination number two: Droit-inc.com.

Likely well known to others for a very long time, it’s only in the past year and a half or so that I’ve come to know and frequent this French language law blog. With a professed focus on business issues, but touching a much broader range of topics of concern to Quebec legal practitioners and others with an interest in local and national justice issues, this blog ranks second only to Slaw.ca among my “go-to” sources for staying current on issues of interest to the legal profession.

If nationalmagazine.ca is more magazine than blog, droit-inc.com is more newspaper. With a reasonably predictable publishing schedule and a regular roster of contributors, visitors get a steady stream of fresh and interesting content. But like all good blogs, there are links-a-plenty to take you deeper into the subjects discussed, including links to primary law as well as to many excellent English and French language blogs.

Finally, as I need to carry out many aspects of my role on a bilingual basis, my visits to droit-inc.com are a big part of my ongoing efforts to develop my French language skills.  (Although, I must confess to occasionally allowing Google to translate a few bits and pieces!)

 Is there a blawger’s code? If there were…

…who would enforce it?

I am of the kumbaya school that says the internet is large enough for all manner of law blogger and that we can all co-exist in peace and harmony, even if doing so means we ignore those whose approach grates or whose arguments, motives, or even ethics we might wish to challenge. Of course, if we all felt that way, things would get pretty boring and homogenized pretty quickly. Thankfully, there are others who approach things differently such as my third nominee: Antonin Pribetic of thetrialwarrior.com.

Across his blog and his twitter stream, you can be assured of receiving clear and considered opinions, and, as befits the “warrior” moniker, a robust defence of the principles by which he guides his writing. Topics vary, but thematically readers will see recurring reference to free speech, criminal justice and international law matters. Regular readers will also have little difficulty sensing a wry and occasionally biting sense of humour. To be clear, while his output includes a certain amount of “tear-down”, the focus of his blogging is on “building-up” through informative posts and defence of principles.

Finally, as Antonin’s blog posts tend to come in bursts of activity followed by fortnightly or longer lapses, I’d recommend adding him to your twitter stream to get the full experience!

And to all the others….

With few exceptions, I tend to visit blogs via twitter links rather than through regular visits or RSS subscription. I suspect I am not alone in this.

That said, my clicks come much more easily when I know the destination blog is of high quality.  Too many to list, but know that if you are making an effort to provide legal information, education and entertainment through blogs and twitter, you have my thanks.