[W]e have seen a rapid growth in legal media outlets, although I don’t think we could characterize all of them as “expert.” Regardless, thousands of lawyers and legal professionals are creating content, and more specifically, analytical material. Little of that content, however, is curated (i.e., evaluated, authenticated, and categorized). And if digital outlets are going to compete against traditional publishing companies, their collective analytical content—which is fast becoming substantial—will need to be managed.
Curating this growing body of analytical content will be difficult. It suggests a person-machine process of locating and separating good content from bad, and categorizing, verifying, authenticating, and editorializing that content. It will undoubtedly require the creation of a rich taxonomy to help organize and manage the content for later discovery, clean metadata, and a good search engine, and raises issues from data permanency to copyrights to brand dilution. It’s a mess. But a worthy one I think.
Edward Adams of the ABA Journal says in the comments that they’ve been "curating" the legal web for years, to which Jason (correctly) replies that the ABA Journal is "more of a ‘news organization’ rather than an ‘analytical destination.’" Perhaps worse, as Scott Greenfield notes, "[they’re] in this for the money, and the idea of putting the power in the hands of a corporation that has its own blogs (and blog advertising) to sell is absurd."
Sites like the ABA Journal, Above The Law, Legal Blog Watch, WSJ Law Blog, and the like will, by design and by necessity, gravitate towards news stories with big companies or scandalous facts, and so have neither the interest nor the incentive to properly tend to substantive analysis posted at blogs hosted by practicing attorneys.
More to the point, though, how much curating do we really need?
Consider Gregory P. Joseph’s Complex Litigation Blog. He does not comment on the top stories making rounds in the press or in the blawgosphere. He is not in the least bit funny and expresses no outrage at the injustices commonplace in the American legal system. Indeed, the blog includes barely any original content at all: other than a handful of sporadic articles, the posts are little more than a descriptive title and an excerpt from a recent court opinion.
But that’s the point: Joseph’s the curator. He’s a distinguished lawyer and, through his blog, an exceptional curator of cases of interest to lawyers who litigate complex cases. Not every post is of serious interest to me, but I wouldn’t want someone else or a computer program to make that decision for me. Joseph thought it was interesting, and I’m willing to spend a second or two skimming each post to see if it is of interest to me, too.
I use Joseph’s blog as an example because his role as "curator" is obvious, but the principle applies just the same to other substantive legal analysis blogs run by practicing attorneys. Are you a civil litigator in Tennessee? Consider following John Day. Do you do a lot of e-discovery? Why not put Joshua Gilliland into Google Reader?
Really, it doesn’t take that long to follow these people — between pouring my coffee and finishing it, I’ll have reviewed dozens of feeds in Google Reader — and each of those personally-curated feeds has already been whittled down to the content that fine lawyers like Gregory, John and Joshua thought was worthy of their readers’ time.
Which is why I question the value of adding another level of curating for substantive analysis by practicing attorneys. For the blogs that are worth reading, the content has already been curated by the bloggers. Although it often makes sense to follow filtering sites that whittle down thousands of mass media stories into the handful likely to interest some particular variety of readers, the same analysis doesn’t apply to blogs like Gregory’s, John’s, and Joshua’s. Once you, dear reader, have chosen to read a blog at that level of specialization and that level of professional editing — i.e., the professional is the one deciding on the content — either you’re interested or you’re not, and if you’re interested, you’re interested enough to at least skim each post’s title to see if you want to read more.
To put it another way, I don’t want less of the blogs I like: I like how they bring to my attention cases and issues that I wasn’t even looking for, but which I can use. Further, when I am looking for specific cases and issues, I can use Google Reader to search the content from those blogs’ feeds; within a second of typing in "spoliation" in Google Reader, I have a link to one such case from Joshua’s blog. Or just use the "site:" modifier in Google on the site for the same effect.
Is this system perfect? Of course not. There’s always room for improvement. But, if anything, we don’t need sophisticated information technology right now, all someone need is a list of good blogs — blogs that the individual reader, not some filtering person or program, thinks are good — and an easy way to read them. That doesn’t require anything more than patience, perseverence, and Google Reader.