How I Decide Which Blogs to Read (Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on Blogs)

Last month, I gave a talk at a Minnesota CLE program about law blogging (along with Marty Schwimmer of Trademark Blog and John Welch of TTABlog). We discussed some rather basic points, like:

* what is a blog? (Answer: just another form of electronic-mediated human communication, with certain structural conventions/norms like putting the latest posting at the top of a page)

* how should I read blogs? (Answer: use an aggregator, either a client-side aggregator like SharpReader or a web service like Bloglines…forget bookmarking or trying to sign up by email).

I’m going to discuss some additional points from the presentation in a three-part series. Today’s topic: how I pick blogs to read. I use the following criteria to decide if I’m going to add a blog to my aggregator:

Topical Relevance

This is the most important factor–am I interested in the blog’s topical focus? I have tightly defined interests, and my subscriptions hew to those interests pretty closely.

I know that many “general interest” and topically-expansive blogs are popular, but not with me. I subscribe to a few, but usually there’s a personal relationship behind that subscription. A little topical diversity is fine, but too much diffuseness and the signal-to-noise ratio gets out of whack. Also, I avoid blogs where the blogger is a troll for controversy. Life’s too short.

Recency of Updating

I don’t expect blogs to update daily, but I usually avoid (or drop) dormant blogs. If the blogger hasn’t blogged in a few months, I figure the blogger is out of business.

Author Identity

A number of my subscriptions are attributable to some out-of-the-blogosphere personal relationship. In many cases, the blog becomes part of our relationship, and we might communicate via blog posts, email or offline. At the same time, as I’ve explained earlier, I rarely subscribe to anonymous blogs. I need to know the blogger’s life experiences and biases before I can give them full credibility.

Volume of Posts

There can be too much of a good thing. High-volume blogs are tough to keep up with.

Post Uniqueness

There are several styles of blogs:

* personal diaries

* clipping services (i.e., links to news reports with little commentary)

* policy rants

* commentary on recent developments

* true news reporting (some blogs break news)

I tend not to be interested in personal diaries (unless the blogger is a close friend) or policy rants (especially political ones).

I do subscribe to some clipping services, but only if I think the person is monitoring sources I wouldn’t otherwise track. At this point, when something interesting happens, I usually see multiple blog posts through redundant sources, so I definitely don’t need more of the same.

I like blogs that provide some personalized commentary on recent developments. I think of these blogs as a way of capturing the word of mouth–“hey, X just lost a lawsuit, what do you think?”

I also like blogs that break news or originate content. At this level, it’s hard to distinguish blogs from traditional news media.

If you’re interested, my blogroll.

This post is part of a three-part series:

Part 1 of 3: How I decide which blogs to read?

Part 2 of 3: Should I blog?

Part 3 of 3: If I decide I want to blog, how do I get started?