Blogosphere

I’ve recently discovered a new member of the legal blogosphere, and I’d like to tell you a bit about how I found her. Although actually, she found me.

I like getting comments on my blog. Years ago, I used to get a lot of comments. However, my blog traffic crashed a few years back when I was dealing with my parents’ passing, and it’s never really rebounded to past heights. Consequently, I’m always excited when somebody takes the time to leave a comment.

So when someone named Allison Williams commented on my post about bioethicists

It’s the race against time and the inevitable death that is making these doctors and sorts go way beyond ethics. While it is a good thing trying to get medicine and science is helping mankind live better or longer but scrupulous attempts and greed should be stopped.

…I didn’t understand the point she was trying to make, but I appreciated her stopping by to read what I’ve been writing. Like I said, I don’t get a lot of that lately.

She also stopped by to comment on Part 3 of my review of Radley Balko’s Warrior Cop, where she wrote,

When the very people entrusted by law to protect the people go against the law and behave like criminals, where and who should the people trust for their safety?

And then 9 minutes later she commented on Part 5 of that review by quoting me quoting Radley:

“Bad cops are the product of bad policy. And policy is ultimately made by politicians. A bad system loaded with bad incentives will unfailingly produce bad cops. The good ones will never enter the field in the first place, or they will become frustrated and leave police work, or they’ll simply turn bad. At best, they’ll have unrewarding, unfulfilling jobs.”

How true is that!

This is where I began to get a little suspicious. For one thing, parts 4 and 5 of that review are almost 6000 words, and I find it hard to believe she read them in 9 minutes. Of course, the quote she picked from Part 5 is from the epigram at the top, so she didn’t really have to read all 2800 words…

I also notice that she added “Esq.” to her signature, so everyone would know she was a lawyer, and she linked it back to her family law website. Combined with the fact that she’s commenting on a lot of my older posts, that strongly suggests that she’s some kind of spammer.

A few weeks later, Allison Williams Esq. pretty much proved it when she left comment on my rant against Sprint, which is my most popular post ever.

Wow, so much anger from so many of you. Sprint really is in trouble.

What was the point of that comment? The only people who ever comment on that post are people who join in the spirit of saying terrible things about Sprint. It’s not the sort of post that invites affirmations by other commenters.

And then fifteen minutes later she comments on my recent post about how the Navy’s new fuel synthesis program really doesn’t spell the end of big oil:

This is good news! Technology is getting better and better and I believe the Navy’s new technology will eventually develop to give us better and cheaper oil.

Unfortunately, that’s not what I was talking about. In fact, I was explaining why the Navy’s new technology does not promise a cheap oil revolution. It’s like she’s not paying attention, as is illustrated by the next comment on my post about idiotic child porn laws:

Very interesting. This is a very sensitive issue and having different laws in different places is complicating.

The somewhat perverse law I was criticizing is a Florida law, and I jokingly slam Florida in the post by implying the law is unique to Florida, but other than that, “having different laws in different places” is not really the point of the post at all.

By now I was getting pretty irritated with Allison Williams Esq. and her spammy ways, so I started writing a post that would make fun of her social media marketing. As often happens, however, I lost interest before it reached a publishable state.

Fortunately, Allison Williams Esq. is nothing if not persistent, and she left three more comments on my blog a few days a go. Two of them are on a post about Florida apparently gutting the intent element in the drug laws. The first was at 12:55 am, and Allison Williams Esq. seems to disagree with me:

It could be tiresome but if its for our own safety, then I guess no Law is bad Law.

Or maybe she’s just going through a phase, because 43 minutes later she posts this positive affirmation:

We are a nation of laws. Accountability, Integrity and Justice are principles we believe in.

A common enough sentiment, somewhat undermined however by the passive voice. But perhaps she was just having trouble concentrating that early in the morning. She did leave one more comment at 3:50 am (trouble sleeping?) where she had a bit of a fangirl moment after a comment by Mark Bennett on my rambling post about how I feel about criminal lawyers:

Mark Bennett I think I just became a fan.

Sigh. Both of those posts are observations on the legal system, and yet none of those comments shows even a little bit of legal knowledge or experience.

I searched for comments from Allison Williams Esq on Bennett’s blog, and I didn’t find any, so clearly she’s not as big a fan of his as she is of me. (Hi Allison!) However, I’m not the only blogger she likes. When Gerry W. Beyer at the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog wrote about the Supreme Court’s approval of Michigan’s decision to eliminate affirmative action, she left this brief note:

I feel that was a good decision taken, since we cannot wish away racial inequality!

Over at Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites Blog, he was promoting his podcast discussing whether the implementation of the public defender system undermines the promise of Gideon. (My opinion: Pretty much, yeah.) Allison Williams Esq. had another fangirl moment and complimented him on his podcast series:

One of my favorite show. I never miss it.

Speaking of Gideon, Allison Williams Esq. has also visited a public defender, where she responded to Gid’s post about a lawyer who got hit with a 30-day sentence for contempt for some strenuous objections:

30 days!!! May God bless us lawyers.

Over at Library of Law and Liberty, she has this to say about Mike Rappaport’s evaluation of Justice Hugo Black:

He had a good run but then could have done much better. While it is evident that there will be differences in opinions regarding his tactical efforts, it is unavoidable when certain decisions had to made on a bigger and a broader level. You cannot please everyone but can at least try to do the right things in the right way.

That’s one of her longest comments, but does any of it sound like something a lawyer would write about a Supreme Court Justice’s service? When asked by other commenters to explain what the hell that means, she never responded.

Some of my readers will be happy to know that Allison Williams Esq. is bucking the iPad trend, as she reveals in a comment at The Droid Lawyer:

I have a Chromebook and its pretty handy for some simple stuffs. No heavy duty.

Allison Williams Esq. really gets around. When Paul Caron at TaxProf Blog posted about Admiral William H. McRaven’s commencement address at the University of Texas, she was there:

This is truly a remarkable post. It’s really inspiring.

When Jeffrey Kahn at Concurring Opinions posted about allegations that the FBI used the No Fly List as a way to pressure people into becoming informants, Allison Williams Esq. was there too:

It’s sad when people are forced to act under threat. That’s a serious violation of human rights.

When our own Eric Turkewitz got sued again, Allison Williams Esq. was there to cheer him on:

This sure is going to be interesting.

When Discourse.net went down because of server problems, Allison Williams Esq. commiserated:

Oh great.

She was similarly concise in response to a memorial day post by Adam Smith, Esq. that consisted in its entirety of a photo of Arlington National Cemetary:

Awesome!

At first I thought Allison Williams Esq. was being disrespectful, but perhaps she’s using awesome in the original sense of “inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear” instead of the common vernacular sense of “those thousands of dead soldiers are way cool!” However, she undermines that option in her visit to ExCop-LawStudent, where he was promoting a new blog he had found:

Awesome. Looks like something I should look forward to reading!

Allison Williams Esq. also drops some wisdom on the Wrongful Convictions Blog:

Jonathan Fleming’s case is a sad incident. 24 years is a long time. That’s like a lifetime.

And she has this to say about Jonathan Turley’s post about a woman suing over an attack by a duck (and you really should read that story):

Some people just need an excuse to make a fuss and earn some easy buck.

She even reaches out to the Texas Bar blog:

This is great. I love how this will help a lot of people. Volunteering work is such a noble idea.

And when Judge Kopf at Hercules and the Umpire calls out the Center for Public Integrity for stupidity, Allison Williams Esq. is there to cheer him on:

So interesting. Waiting for more to come.

It’s all a little less funny, though, when she comments on Jeff Gamso’s touching story about a woman who forgave her son’s murderer on the brink of his execution:

I think after a certain point of time, the intensity of the pain and the angst subsides. No doubt there’s still a void and love for the departed. But eventually with time, people start looking at things with a different perspective. At the end, it’s the loss of the faith departed that we grief and mourn about but they will never come back.

It sounds nice. But it has nothing to do with what Gamso wrote.

Still, perhaps Allison Williams Esq.’s most entertaining response is to a Bitter Lawyer post on 5 Obsolete Legal Technologies that Shouldn’t be Obsolete:

This is a good post. I mean who would have imagined carbon paper would go obsolete. It was such a blessing having it around in the office. And the typewriter was something god sent for a lot of us.

WTF? Allison Williams Esq. isn’t that old. Her CV says she had her first experience in the legal world as a Law Intern for Judge Bryan Hedges in 2001. I know that lawyers are notoriously slow to adopt new technologies, but I don’t believe that the real Allison Williams Esq. has ever actually seen carbon paper. And probably not very many typewriters either.

And can we talk about the language in these comments? Carbon paper was a “blessing”? “The typewriter was something god sent”? Seriously, WTF? It’s not just these phrases, though. I’ve been reading legal blogs for a long time, and I have some familiarity with how lawyers write. They’re highly educated people who earn a living with words. Even when writing informally, that background tends to show though. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing in any of these comments that indicates the person writing them thinks like a lawyer.

So here’s the thing: Allison Williams seems to be a reasonably accomplished lawyer. She’s a member of several associations, she’s received awards, published articles, and given presentations. She has a straight 10 in Avvo, and she’s appeared on the Katie Couric show. I’m not saying any of that makes her a terrific lawyer (because how would I know?), but the Allison Williams Esq. writing those comments doesn’t sound like the Allison Williams Esq. who has been a lawyer for a decade.

Here’s what the real Allison Williams sounds like:

I often sense that judges consider potential child abuse to be so egregious that almost anything on the other side is a de minimus intrusion that should not be avoided. The problem with this mindset is that it fails to recognize that the agency often overwhelms and antagonizes families, making the situation worse than it actually was. Then, interventions are implemented for the purpose of addressing family distress that was brought about by the agency’s involvement, rather than by the family’s inherent functioning. This is akin to breaking someone’s leg, applying a cast and applauding yourself for having “solved” the problem of the broken leg. But for your breaking the leg, your cast would have been unnecessary.

On the flipside, the agency often does provide necessary intervention and assistance to families. The threat of removal often does force people to make necessary improvements in their family situation that otherwise would not have been undertaken. Parents going to substance-abuse treatment, undertake counseling and commit to diligent thoughtful consumption of prescribed medication to avoid the potential removal of their children. So, in effect, the agency can and does accomplish many worthwhile interventions in many circumstances.

However, where a family resists the division’s intervention, courts tend to hold that against them and work to effectuate the divisions forced involvement, where a judge may otherwise have been able to resolve the issue without such involvement. It is not unheard of, and in fact is rather common, to have a family judge order a parent to have supervised parenting time pending completion of substance-abuse treatment. The agency is not needed in this circumstance.

Unlike all those comments, these paragraphs actually say something. They convey information and make an argument. They address issues that arise when representing a client. They sound like a lawyer. Because Allison Williams is an intelligent, educated professional.

Unfortunately, she’s hired a social marketing firm to publicize her web site, and not only have they decided to go around the blogosphere and use a bunch of other people’s blogs to promote their client, but they’ve done it in a way that makes her look kind of spacy.

(Oh, I suppose it’s possible that the real Allison Williams is actually leaving these comments. But if she is, she’s sure got a flaky side. Maybe it’s because she stays up so late. And I’m pretty sure she’s used more exclamation points in my comments than she uses on her entire professional website. And she must visit India quite regularly, because that’s where the comments are coming from.)

To paraphrase an old blawgosphere saying: Outsource your marketing, outsource the ability for other people to make you look like an ass.

 

I don’t normally write about the blog marketing annoyances, but this one deserves a comment. Mark Bennett received a request from someone (I’m guessing this guy) asking for permission to repost some of his stuff:

I have recently started a blog and would like to cross pol­li­nate with peo­ple such we your­self who obvi­ously see the world the same as I do.  So I’d like to start by re-printing your blog with your per­mis­sion, and to have a lit­tle “about the author” at the end.

Mark Bennett’s response was blunt, but full of good advice:

No.

Who is advis­ing you on this “cross-pollinating” thing? Because the way to do it is not to reprint other people’s stuff. It’s to join the con­ver­sa­tion. Com­ment on other people’s blogs, dis­agree with them, write your own blog posts with links to their stuff.

This is work.

James sent back this response:

I have to say I’m a lit­tle sur­prised by this angry response, as the goal of my blog is to get impor­tant infor­ma­tion out there, whomever writes it, with attri­bu­tion —

Stop right there, James. If you really wanted to get important information out there, whoever writes it, with attribution, all you have to do is something like this:

Robb Fickman has a great guest post at Mark Bennett’s Defending People about prosecutor Ken Anderson’s ridiculously short sentence for wrongfully sending Michael Morton to jail for 25 years. I think they should have at least forced him to make a public admission of what he did.

There you go: Attribution, a short comment, and getting important information out there in just a couple of sentences.

James, you’re on the friggin’ World Wide Web. It’s been around for over twenty years, and an entire generation has grown up with it. At the base level, everyone knows how it works. In particular, everyone knows how to follow links. So if all you really want is “to get important information out there,” then all you need to do is link to it.

No, the reason you want to copy entire articles from other people into your blog (and I see you do that a lot) has nothing to do with getting important information out there. You just want to fill your blog with content about current events to attract readers and search engines, but you don’t want to do the hard work of writing it yourself.

That’s not very sporting, and it’s not going to work very well, because everybody already knows that trick.

Today I happened to read a tweet from @furrygirl:

It may seem like a childish metric, but as a general rule, you know how effective your activism is by how fiercely the state comes after you.

She should know. In 2011, out of curiosity, she sent off FOIA requests to several government agencies for her record, and got a bit of a shock:

I’d actually pretty much forgotten about it after getting form letters back from a number of agencies saying they had nothing on me – or at least, nothing they felt like releasing.  Then, I got a padded mailer from the FBI yesterday.  My FBI file had arrived!  The contents were not what I was expecting.  I don’t think I’m that terribly interesting to the government, but I have had the fortune/misfortune to have socialized with, dated, and befriended a number of wonderful people who definitely would be considered “interesting” to law enforcement.  I was expecting a few pages about my friends and lovers, but what I found was that I was physically followed by a group of FBI agents for five days of my life when I was 18 and involved in organizing a protest/campaign.

The FBI released 436 pages of intelligence related to or about me, none of which dates later than 2002.  436 pages!  Printed out, it would be almost a whole ream of paper.  And the most exciting things contained within are reports of us doing things like making photocopies, buying beer, riding the bus, and eating at a restaurant.  99% of it is mundane or mildly creepy, 1% of it is hilarious, and I hope there is something to be learned.

Basically, the FBI had spent a few days documenting her public life in mind-numbing detail. “Her sweatshirt had a skull and crossbones on the back. She was also wearing glasses.” “Observed standing up, picking up trash and placing it in trash can.” It’s the kind of stuff agents on a boring detail would write down just to prove to their bosses that they’d been on the job.

I could use this to launch a post about the depressing waste of the surveillance state, or something like that, but that’s not why I remember this post of hers. I remember it because I originally found it when I followed a link to a post by Mike Masnick at Techdirt, where he wrote about it:

When you read stuff like this, and then think back to the various cases we’ve seen of the FBI manufacturing their own terrorist plots, it really makes you wonder if the money we’re spending on law enforcement for these kinds of things is money well spent… or if the FBI really just has way too much time (and money) on their hands.

I could have used that to launch a post that said pretty much the same thing. But Masnick’s commentary is not why I remembered Furry Girl’s post either. No, I remember it for slightly more personal reasons because of a comment on Masnick’s post:

Oh, as a side note: Mike, you do understand that you basically linked yourself to porn, right? She makes her living as a porn girl, specializing in hairy and natural menstruation porn. Classy. Now you know why you are blocked in Germany.

I have no idea if that’s an accurate description of what Furry Girl does for a living, but when I read that, all I could think was: Thank God I’m not running the kind of blog where readers get upset over a link to porn. What a sad, sad blog that would be.

 

A couple weeks ago, Jack Marshall wrote a post criticizing the ethics of George Zimmerman’s legal team. Later that same day, California criminal defense lawyer Mary Frances Prevost at California Criminal Lawyer Blog wrote a post about the same subject. Her post used many of the same words. And rather a lot of the same phrases and sentences.

Marshall decided to call her out for plagiarism on Thursday. Given that Prevost’s blog is basically marketing her lawfirm, my guess was that Prevost had hired someone to ghost-write her blog, and that person had figured they could just steal Jack’s post instead of doing actual work. I figured that she’d probably apologize when she found out.

That’s not what happened, according to Jack Marshall in a followup post a few days later. He had emailed Prevost, asking for “an explanation, and failing that, an apology, a retraction, and proper credit.” Instead, according to Jack, she responded via Facebook with a message that included this:

I have counseled with one of the country’s premiere ethics attorneys. Here’s the result: 1) accusing me of a crime is defamation per se and unethical; 2) suggesting that my entire law practice has been based on unethical conduct is defamatory and unethical. I maintained copies both of your email and blog. It is clear that you are hell bent on engaging in systematic harassment and unethical conduct, the likes of which can, and most likely will, develop into a lawsuit unless rescinded forthwith.

It is clear you have little to do in your life besides sent me emails accusing me of crimes, and writing poorly written blog posts accusing me of immoral behavior. Interesting how one making such claims, engages in most egregious conduct himself….But the sheer amount of energy really suggests something more: a lack of work; too much time; off your meds. I suggest you take a look inward and remove your defamatory and unethical blog post regarding me. Indeed, you should come clean on your blog. You’ve practiced law only two weeks before giving up. Yet, your resume suggests far more experience. I think you should rethink what you’ve done.

[paragraph breaks added for readability]

Perhaps this is a good aggressive response in the legal arena, but it doesn’t go very far in the blogosphere. For all I know, she could very well be right to question Jack Marshall’s motives and knowledge of legal ethics, not to mention his sanity, honesty, writing skils, and personal hygiene. Lord knows, I strongly disagree with a lot of what Jack says. But when I quote what he writes, I follow the standard blogger ethic: I give credit and a link. And that highlights what this response is missing: She never addresses the substance of Jack’s complaint. She neither admits nor denies the alleged plagiarism.

What really bothers me about Prevost’s response, however, is her accusation that Jack is obsessed and has too much time on his hands. For someone who’s been running a blog for five years, she really doesn’t know much about blogging.

An email and a blog post do not come within a mile of being systematic harassment by blogosphere standards. Jack was just passing by. He says he sent one email, and he’d only written the one post at the time. Prevost could have just ignored him and he’d probably have moved on to something else. Instead, she responded in anger, triggering a second blog post. And now Jack says he filled out a bar complaint.

[Update: Jack says he hasn’t filed the bar complaint yet and isn’t sure that he needs to. See comments.]

As a criminal defense lawyer, Prevost probably gets the question all the time, “How can you defend those people?” I can almost see my defense lawyer readers flinching as they read that. It’s not that they don’t have a good answer, it’s just that they’re really tired of the question, and of the implication that there’s something wrong with them for doing what they do.

For bloggers, I think the equivalent question is “Why are you bothering with this?”

I get that a lot. I’ll read some news story, and some aspect of it will stick in my brain, and eventually a blog post will come out of it. This is how blogging works. Quite often, we leave the big, obvious stories to the news media and focus our attention on an interesting detail. And for some reason, this upsets people.

They say we’re missing the big picture, as if the details couldn’t possibly hold an important lesson. They accuse us of bias in picking a subject, as if having a point of view was sufficient to prove us wrong. They tells us we’re ignoring the important story, as if life was a television script, and it would be confusing if too many things were happening at once.

This is the weakest possible criticism of a blog post. If you’re not interested in what we’re writing about, just stop reading. If you actively dislike what we’re writing about, then write your own blog. In your own words.

One of my regular blog reads is Ravings of a Feral Genius where Jennifer Abel rants about libertarian topics. Jennifer’s a writer by trade, not just by virtue of having a blog, which means she gets paid and published in real publications, the most prominent of which is probably her column in the Guardian.

This last Wednesday, however, Jennifer made this stunning announcement:

If you go to the newsstand and buy the May 2012 issue of Playboy, YOU WILL SEE ME INSIDE! …. no, wait, that came out wrong. Let me try again: if you buy the May 2012 Playboy, you’ll find my latest anti-TSA column inside. It’s on page 42 (which, as any Douglas Adams fan knows, is the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything).

Whatever else Playboy is about, they’ve often attracted quality writers, so that’s a pretty cool publication credit for Jennifer. Naturally, I wanted to read it.

That turned out to be harder than I thought. Playboy‘s website doesn’t let you read much of its content without paying, and the May issue isn’t even online yet. This meant I would have to go out and buy a printed copy of a magazine. Yeah, I know. Back before the web was big, I used to buy a bunch of magazines, but they were mostly about either computer software or politics, and these days you can find plenty about either of those subjects online. I had no idea where to buy a printed copy of Playboy.

I drove out at lunch time to a nearby magazine shop, but they turned out to have closed a while ago. The next day I tried some nearby convenience stores, but they all apparently stopped selling magazines without my even noticing. Last night I stopped in at Barnes & Nobel, but I could only find a single copy of Playboy, and it wasn’t the right issue. I guess all that print-is-dead hype was pretty real.

Finally, I found out that City Newsstand in Evanston had the May issue, so I drove out there today and sent my wife in to get a copy. Score!

JenniferPlayboyCredit.jpg

The article is in the Playboy Forum section (which is nothing like the Penthouse Forum section). If you’re a regular reader of Jennifer’s blog, it will be a familiar subject, although as an amateur writer, it’s fascinating to see how she’s adopted her style to the publication. I don’t quite understand what’s different, but it feels like there’s about 20% less scorn and derision which, given her feelings about the TSA, is pretty amazing. It almost feels a bit (dare I say it?) playful.

Anyway, check it out. (Normally, that would be a link but, you know, dead-tree media.)

I think I first heard of Marc Randazza when one of the other bloggers around here started calling him a “First Amendment Badass,” and that’s how I always think of him.

I didn’t really encounter him, however, until Jon Katz posted this bit about Randazza a few years ago. I took the opportunity to poke fun at Marc in the comments about the absurdist severity of his blog’s terms and conditions. I suspect that much of it is unenforecable, and he knows it, but it looks like he had fun writing it. For example, he’s got a wonderful blacklist of people who aren’t allowed to quote from his blog, including any member of the KKK, Stormfront, or the Nazi party, a bunch of politicians, the American Family Association, and a variety of named persons he finds annoying, include Joe the Plumber.

Marc responded in the comments, poking fun at me for some of the things in my blog’s Terms and Conditions. We then exchanged a few emails, in which he gave me a little free legal advice and offered to help me register the Windypundit trademark. (I haven’t actually taken him up on that, however, because one or another of us has always been busy. I should probably get around to it.)

Now, he might not like me suggesting that Marc Randazza will help you for free but, well, he just might. For example, Randazza and Ken-at-Popehat recently teamed up to give free help to a science blogger who was being hassled by a quack.

The fun thing is that Marc Randazza doesn’t just win cases, he wins them with attitude, as when the copyright trolls at Righthaven were demanding the domain names of everyone they claimed had infringed on their intellectual property. Not only did Randazza beat the crap out of them in court, but his actions forced them to auction off their own domain name.

In case you didn’t notice, today is kind of an informal let’s-celebrate-Marc Randazza day in the blogosphere. Other celebrants include:

So Good Luck, Marc Randazza. You’re my first call if I get sued for anything I write in my blog!

Jamison Koehler has a post up on his blog offering tips for new bloggers. Although he wrote it specifically for legal bloggers, and some of the examples might not make sense if you don’t know the personalities, it’s good advice for anyone considering a new blog. If you’re thinking you might like to join the conversation, you should check it out.

Naturally, I have a few thoughts on the subject…

Sometimes I write for other bloggers. At the beginning especially, I was intrigued by the back-and-forth among other bloggers I read and sought to participate in the discussion. The problem with this, I have found, is that these entries don’t hold up very well over time.  I’ll look back at a blog entry I did one or two years ago and wonder what we were ever talking about.  Reading such a blog entry can be like listening in on one side of a telephone conversation.

I say you shouldn’t worry about how well your posts will hold up over time. Just because a topic is short-lived doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time to think about and write about. However, if you want readers from the distant future to understand what you’re saying, make sure to link to other parts of the conversation and quote relevant parts, in case the linked pages go away. It may help to recap a bit. I usually try to do all this in one obvious paragraph, so people already familiar with the context can skip it.

Regarding tip #3, “Find Your Voice,” if your writing skills do not extend to consciously creating a style for yourself (as mine do not), or if you’re just not sure what your style should be, the best way to find a style is to just keep writing. Eventually, you will adopt certain habits — certain turns of phrase, certain narrative structures — and your style will emerge.

There’s also some important tension between rule #5, “Do Your Own Thing,” and rule #8, “Lurk Before Joining the Conversation,” because of the implication that you are lurking so you learn the rules. It’s important to keep in mind that while it’s helpful to know the rules, you don’t have to obey them.

Also, once you start blogging, for God’s sake, make sure you really do join the conversation. Link to other bloggers, and talk about the things they talk about. It’s really the heart of what makes the blogosphere different from other media.

I’ve got to get the word out about Lindsay Beyerstein.

I first encountered Lindsay a few years ago at Magikthise, her original personal blog. (That name sounds like one of the lesser-known Bond girls, but it’s actually a geek reference to a character — a philosopher, your basic working thinker — in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) Lindsay is a liberal, not a libertarian, so I don’t always agree with what she has to say, but I like the way she says it. She’s smart, she’s intellectually honest, and she’s a good writer.

Recently, however, I’ve made the disturbing discovery that Lindsay is the victim of a widespread campaign to wipe her presence off the internet. Surprisingly, the campaign is not the work of the nefarious Koch brothers, as you might expect. It’s much more insidious than that. The conspiracy to silence Lindsay is orchestrated by none other than her own publishers!

It all started with Focal Point, Lindsay’s brilliantly-named blog at big think. Ever since this new blog came online, the original Magikthise home page has redirected to it. Fortunately, this first attempt was not completely successful, and Lindsay’s classic Magikthise posts can still be found at the Magikthise archives.

The next attempt to silence Lindsay was much more effective. It came when the progressive magazine In These Times set her up with a new blog called Duly Noted. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Her posts would be appearing alongside those of key progressive figures such as Noam Chomsky. What could possibly be wrong with that?

It was only when I tried to add Duly Noted to my feed reader that I tumbled to their clever plot. You see, the feed link on the Duly Noted home page doesn’t link to Lindsay’s blog feed at all. Instead, it subscribes me to the main In These Times feed, and the main In These Times feed doesn’t include Lindsay’s posts. It was a fiendish trick. A nefarious rip-off. A blatant bait-and-switch to hide Lindsay’s writing from the world.

Finally, just yesterday I uncovered yet another attempt to suppress Lindsay’s voice. She wrote a piece about how and why unemployment is a feminist issue, and it’s gong to be the cover story of the Fall 2011 issue of Ms. magazine. As we’ve seen before, this at first sounds like a terrific career milestone for Lindsay: A chance for her work to appear in the magazine of the feminist movement.

But once again, Lindsay has fallen into trap, as you can see for yourself at the preview page for the next issue of Ms. Lindsay’s story “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” is featured prominently in the image of the magazine’s cover, but it doesn’t name Lindsay as the author. Next, check out the table of contents below. The article is listed, but Lindsay’s name appears nowhere on the page. Most baffling of all, clicking on the name of the article in the table of contents doesn’t take you to Lindsay’s article.

Admittedly, there may be an alternative explanation. If you explore the Ms. magazine table of contents more thoroughly, you will soon discover a shocking truth: None of the article titles are linked to articles. The entire page is nothing but dead text.

This invites us to consider the possibility that there is no conspiracy to silence Lindsay Beyerstein’s promising young progressive voice. Perhaps it’s just another case of the sort of tragic ineptitude that results when old media publications like In These Times and Ms. try to make use of that new interweb thing all the kids are talking about.

I’m not sure which would be worse for Lindsay.

Update: Lindsay’s Duly Noted blog now has its own proper RSS feed.

About a month ago, although he expressed some doubts about the meaningfulness of blog ranking systems, Jamison Koehler published a list of 26 legal blogs along with their ranks according to the Alexa traffic rank tool. His blog’s Alexa rank of 2,011,842 put him at number 12 on the list, just behind me at number 11 with my Alexa rank of 2,011,820.

Koehler took it like a gentleman:

Damn that Mark Draughn: Out of the tens of thousands of website rankings, Windypundit edges me out by a mere 22 places.

Although Alexa is a popular ranking system with advertisers and marketers, I think Jamison is right that these ranking systems are kind of meaningless. To prove it, I applied a few tricks that I’d heard could be used to game Alexa rankings, and then in a comment to Jamison’s post, I offered to demonstrate:

I think Alexa is fairly easy to game. Check back in a month to see if I’m right.

That was a month ago today, and here’s where everybody stands now:

Rank Blog Alexa Rank Previous Rank %Change
1 Simple Justice 184,379 1—232,838 20.812%
2 MyShingle 321,305 2—311,844 -3.034%
3 Popehat 528,917 3—578,385 8.553%
4 Austin Criminal Defense Blog 710,520 4—685,552 -3.642%
5 My Law License 831,052 5—981,356 15.316%
6 Windypundit 871,076 11—2,011,820 56.702%
7 Defending People 888,821 6—983,010 9.582%
8 Underdog 1,263,596 7—1,378,706 8.349%
9 Koehler Law 1,342,653 12—2,011,842 33.263%
10 A Public Defender 1,402,114 8—1,480,538 5.297%
11 Norm Pattis 2,489,081 9—1,687,668 -47.486%
12 CrimLaw 2,750,573 14—2,989,677 7.998%
13 Not Guilty 2,838,498 10—1,692,511 -67.709%
14 The Trial Warrior 3,090,681 15—3,193,703 3.226%
15 Probable Cause 3,322,239 13—2,543,238 -30.630%
16 The Defense Rests 4,325,093 16—4,137,986 -4.522%
17 Infamy or Praise 4,367,654 20—6,343,701 31.150%
18 Military Underdog 4,860,028 22—6,954,695 30.119%
19 Gamso – For The Defense 5,372,044 17—5,412,555 0.748%
20 Blonde Justice 5,588,157 21—6,535,407 14.494%
21 Chandler Criminal Defense 5,812,592 18—6,162,411 5.677%
22 Liberty & Justice for Y’all 7,078,121 24—8,261,282 14.322%
23 DA Confidential 7,376,561 23—7,266,259 -1.518%
24 DC Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog 10,855,009 25—8,860,327 -22.513%
25 Chicago Criminal Defense 11,067,409 26—13,712,119 19.287%
26 In Your Defense 17,005,315 19—6,235,707 -172.709%

As you can see, a few people have moved around, but my blog Windypundit was by far the biggest gainer as a percentage of it’s original position, jumping 56% or 1,140,744 places to land in the number 6 spot on the blog list. Other people jumped more places, but they both started and ended with Alexa ranks that were at least 2 million below mine, and they did not gain as much on a percentage basis.

I think this proves that I was able to game Alexa fairly easily. I may keep this going for a while longer to see if I can push it any higher.

That’s right, from now on, Windypundit will have considerably less libertarian content. No, it’s not that I’ve converted to mainstream politics. It’s just that from now on, I’ll be posting most of my libertarian rants over at the new Nobody’s Business blog.

The original Nobody’s Business blog was created by Rogier van Bakel, and named after Peter McWilliams’s wonderful book Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society. Rogier ran it for years, but lately he’s been having trouble keeping fresh content on the home page. Meanwhile, I’d been thinking of starting a new multi-author libertarian-ish blog for a while, but first that meant I’d have to find other libertarian-ish authors. One day, Rogier and I got to talking, and we realized there was a solution to both our problems.

Soon thereafter, we roped California criminal defense lawyer Rick Horowitz into our mad scheme. He’s still exploring his libertarian urges, but unlike pundits like me, he actually gets out there and takes on the leviathon in its lair on behalf of his clients.

We’ve got plans to recruit a few more authors to the blog, and we’re not loving everything about the new blog design (which is mostly due to my iffy design skills and unfamiliarity with WordPress), but we went live a few weeks ago and have been posting new stuff pretty regularly. Here’s some of the latest:

So drop on by, check us out, and say hello.

Bloglines is shutting down. Bummer.

I knew it was coming. They’ve had the same stupid “Try Bloglines Beta!” banner up for about four years now, and as far as I can tell they haven’t released any new features the entire time. That’s no recipe for success.

So now I need a replacement. I know I should try Google Reader like everybody else, but last time I tried it, I didn’t like it. However, it’s probably changed by now.

Anyway, I have a few minimal feature requirements, which I suspect most modern feed readers can meet:

  • Organizes feeds into folders.
  • Can automatically find feeds when given a blog URL.
  • Takes an import of the feed list from Bloglines.
  • Allows easy and fast access to the original blog post’s web page.

That last one is very important. I use the feed reader to find new posts, but I like to actually read the original posts on the web site, with the style, format, and presentation intended by the blog author.

I’m not too particular about where the feed reader lives. I could use another web site like Bloglines, I could use a Windows application, or I could use a feed reader built into one of the major browsers if any of them are worthwhile.

So, any recommendations?

I stopped by the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Chicago after the InsideCounsel Superconference today and finally met the man, Scott Greenfield, who’s a lot friendlier in person than you might think.

Amy Derby and Scott Greenfield
Larger ImageAmy Derby and Scott Greenfield

The young lady with him is Chicago Twitter sensation Amy Derby. That’s probably not how she’d like to be introduced, but I don’t know much about her other than that she has almost 5000 Twitter followers and everybody seems to know her. If you follow Amy’s tweets, I should say that in real life she’s exactly how you think she’d be.

Oh, and all these other people were there too:

Twitter meet-up at InsideCounsel's 10th Annual SuperConference
Larger ImageTwitter meet-up at InsideCounsel's 10th Annual SuperConference

From left to right, they’re Dave Gulbransen (maybe), some guy (I’m bad at remembering names), Ashley Scheck (I can see her badge in the original image), some woman, a guy, another woman, another guy (somebody please help me), Kashmir Hill from AboveTheLaw.com (badge), another guy, Kevin Thompson from Cyberlaw (maybe), Ed from Blawg Review (or just some guy who’s using Ed’s identity to get chicks), Molly McDonough from ABA Journal (she gave me her card), and Adrian Dayton, best known for being Adrian Dayton.

Update: Kevin Thompson helped fill the blank spots in my memory. Here’s the list: Dave Gulbransen, Chris Schneider, Ashley Scheck, Jane Simon, Jeremy Kissel, Gwynne Monahan, R. David Donoghue, Kashmir Hill, Chris McGeehan, Kevin Thompson, Ed from Blawg Review, Molly McDonough, and Adrian Dayton.

Update: In a comment, Mirriam says “I still mentally draw in Greenfield’s mustache.” I say, why do it mentally when there’s Photoshop? Hope this helps:

Scott Greenfield Touched Up To Match Our Expectations
Larger ImageScott Greenfield Touched Up To Match Our Expectations