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'Net Pioneer Puts Challenge to Blogs

For me, lawyer Erik J. Heels is like that old Merrill Lynch advertising slogan: When he talks about the Internet, I listen. "Trailblazer" can be an overworked term, but not when applied to Heels, who first showed lawyers the way online in his 1992 book, The Legal List. All these years later, Google still finds more than 9,000 references to the book. As Heels writes, "When I am dead and buried, The Legal List will live on."

Two years after writing the first edition of The Legal List, Heels wrote another influential article, "Why Lawyers Should Get on the Internet," for the American Bar Association's Law Practice Management magazine. Today, one can find no trace of that article on the ABA's Web site or of any but the most recent of the 85 articles Heels has written for ABA publications over the span of a dozen years.

In his most recent Law Practice Management article, "Steal This Article: It May Be My Last," Heels is critical of the ABA's policy of closed publishing, through which articles appear online only for a brief window of time and then disappear. The policy pulls these articles out of the conversation that is the Internet, he suggests, taking a cue from The Cluetrain Manifesto. "There are no new ideas, there are only good ideas," he writes. "Interactivity is a good idea."

For authors, the policy deprives them of their audience, of feedback, of interaction, of being part of the conversation. So Heels issues a challenge:

Read this article. Steal this article before it disappears into the archives. Forward it to a friend. Visit my weblog. Leave me feedback. Link to me so that I can link to you. Let’s show everyone what a people-powered conversation machine the Internet can be. Then, in December 2006, when this article goes into the ABA archives, check back on my weblog to see the results, to see what’s more powerful, a dynamic open web 2.0 or a static closed web 1.0.

That was Oct. 28. This week, Heels reported that his challenge drew only one comment, "and that was from somebody with whom I'd spoke about the issue in person." This lack of response leads him to ask, "So are blogs dead? Are we really having conversations or just talking amongst ourselves?" He renews his challenge, inviting readers to comment on his article and "make the case that blogs are not, in fact, dead."

Are blogs up to Heels' challenge?

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 10, 2006 at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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