Monday, June 01, 2009

Has the time for listservs passed?

Greg Lambert asks (as reported by Joe Hodnick) on the Law Librarian Blog: "Is it time to retire listservs"?

Not yet, according to Greg Lambert, library and records manager for King & Spalding LLP in Houston and blogger at one of my newest favorite blogs, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. See Lambert's Where Do Listservs Fit in a Social Media World? AALL Spectrum, June 2009. The networking tool of the 1990s is inefficient but remain easy to use, convenient and useful. "As long as we have e-mail, we’ll have listservs" writes Lambert. "That said, their heyday has come and gone. Social media tools and Web 2.0 resources are becoming the communication tools of choice and will eventually push listservs to the background." Lambert proceeds with a discussion of his two favorite social networking alternatives to listservs: Twitter and Nings. Of the two, Nings gets my thumbs up. [JH]
I raised a similar question on the lawprof listserv a couple of weeks ago in response to an AALS initiative to create new member-only listservs for the various sections. I asked whether listservs are really relevant anymore when I get most of my important law-related discussion from blogs. Most of the professors responding, however, said they relied heavily on listservs.

I don't think Twitter will ever catch on among law professors; the vast majority of them still sneer at Twitter. The reason why, I think, was well explained by one of my JD/PhD colleagues on the law faculty here. Scholars--especially those who have gone through rigorous PhD training, like most new law faculty entering the profession today, have had perfectionism drilled into them. They are literally incapable of committing to online words ideas that have not been fully worked out, rigorously analyzed, exhaustively cited, and tested at a series of faculty workshops. Spontaneity is not a value to them.

Of course, there are a few law professors currently on Twitter, and will no doubt be more, but I don't think Twitter will ever be a significant medium for communication among law professors. As for communication between law professors and those outside the academy: few law profs have any interest in communicating with non-academics. The reasons for this are left as an exercise for the reader.


Johnny B said...

When I was still a grad student, working in the northeast at a university bookstore, I had experience dealing with law professors. It was really easy to tell the difference between adjunct law professors and full-time law professors.

Full-time law professors were gruff, brusque and would only talk to the law school contact. Adjunct law professors (almost always practicing attorneys) were friendly, personable and trusted that anyone in the department could handle taking their textbook order.

I have found being a law librarian that many faculty members also view some or all of the library staff the same way they did the bookstore employees at my previous school. In short, the rest of the world doesn't miss the company of a bunch of cranky old law professors. The fun ones are already on Twitter.

Marie S. Newman said...

I understand what you mean about spontaneity, Jim. A few years ago, I set up a blog on a particular topic and enlisted several professors as bloggers. No matter how much I worked with them, they could not understand the concept of the short, timely blog post. Rather, they wrote essays, and by the time the essays were ready to be posted, the potential readers of the essay had probably lost interest in whatever the topic was. Eventually, I quietly took down the blog. Some get it; others never will.