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BlawgWorld 2007: I Still Don't Get It

When TechnoLawyer Publisher Neil J. Squillante and Editor Sara Skiff released the first edition of their BlawgWorld  e-book in November 2005, I wrote at my LawSites blog that it was a worthwhile experiment, but one that should be shelved. I explained:

"[H]aving now seen the final product, it is clear that the concept simply did not work as a book -- blog postings frozen in rigid pdf pages seemed drained of whatever vitality they once might have had."

I also expressed discomfort at the way it was promoted, seemingly making the bloggers who contributed essays pawns in expanding TechnoLawyer's membership. Thus, with the release today of the second edition of this e-book, BlawgWorld 2007, I was not surprised to receive an e-mail from Squillante pointing out changes in this new edition. "I agree with you that the first edition had flaws," he wrote, "but rather than shelve it, we addressed the flaws."

Well, in my opinion, they did and they didn't. Let's start with the good. Squillante and Skiff deserve high praise for the design and format of BlawgWorld 2007. The book employs a navigation system that takes full advantage of the features of PDF. The concept is "three clicks from anywhere to anywhere." That holds true, enabling the reader to find and get to articles quickly and intuitively. In addition to intuitive navigation, the book's pages are nicely designed. Blog essays include information about the blog and the blogger and even a thumbnail of its main page. Essays are published with all links intact so that the reader can jump from book to web and back.

To some extent, this design addresses my concern about rigid PDF pages draining blog posts of their vitality. But the premise of this book (as Squillante explains in the video here)  is that is serves as the best way for lawyers to discover legal blogs and choose the ones they might regularly read. I still don't see how it does that. Myself, I am able to evaluate a blog only by reading several postings over a period of time. To take one self-selected post and add it to a compendium of posts from other bloggers seems to serve no practical purpose other than to stroke the egos of the bloggers who are included.

Then there is still that discomfort aspect. This time, BlawgWorld is being promoted as two books in one. The second book -- which is not a separate book at all -- is the TechnoLawyer Problem/Solution Guide. This is described as "the product guide reinvented" and a "revolutionary new sponsored resource." The key word here is sponsored. Although positioned as a collection of questions and answers about common technology and management problems, it is really a collection of advertisements. The answers are not objective, they are provided by vendors to promote their own products and services. Here, for example, is a question: "Does a case management solution exist specifically for personal injury practices?" The answer, "Look no further than Needles." Let's call this what it is -- a huge advertising directory.

Squillante says that this e-book costs much more than the first one to produce, so he had to sell advertising. Rather than "turn the eBook into a magazine with big garish ads interspersed with the blawg essays," he chose this approach, which he says was inspired by the yellow pages. He explains: "Participating legal vendors were required to ask a question (Problem) free of superlatives that a law firm might actually ask, and then answer that question (Solution) using 250-300 words."

With 45,000 downloads, the popularity of the first BlawgWorld exceeded all expectations. Squillante expects to see the number of downloads for this second BlawgWorld reach at least 50,000. So even though I don't get it, plenty of people apparently do. Clearly, this second edition is an improvement over the first in many respects. If some readers find it useful in learning about and selecting blogs, then BlawgWorld has achieved its purpose.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 30, 2007 at 03:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (49)


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