June 09, 2002
FAQJ: Frequently asked questions by journalists
I've been interviewed a lot by journalists lately, and I've noticed that they ask a lot of questions that don't tend to wind up in the final pieces. That's probably evidence that they're just not very interesting questions, but on the off chance that some people might be interested, here are some of them, with my answers:
How do you find time to do this?
It takes less time than people think. Much of InstaPundit gets squeezed into the cracks of the day: with always-on Internet connections at home and at work, all I need is five or ten free minutes to come up with a post. (Longer stuff, like this, is done -- as this is being done -- on my laptop. Right now I'm sitting in the playroom while my daughter plays with Barbie dolls). There are a lot of wasted five-minute intervals in most people's days. I've managed to put more of mine to work.
Of course, it still takes up time. My other hobbies have suffered somewhat. But that's okay. I have a lot of hobbies.
How does it feel to be a celebrity?
I wouldn't know. Being a blogger celebrity is like being a star bowler or stamp collector: you may be well-known within the group that cares about that stuff, but most people don't know who you are. Because journalists read weblogs, there's a little more crossover into the general world, but there aren't that many people who have heard of weblogs, much less any particular weblogger. It's nice, but it's nothing to get a swelled head over.
Does your wife object to your blogging?
Everyone asks that. (Would they ask a woman if her husband objected to her blogging? I doubt it). Not too much. My wife is a forensic psychologist who writes books and op-eds, appears on TV shows, and is currently producing a documentary film. She understands about extracurricular activities.
What about your academic work? Do your colleagues like InstaPundit?
For the most part, to the extent that they're aware of it, they seem to like it. People occasionally email me things that they think will be good for InstaPundit, or comment that they like a particular post. My Dean has been very supportive.
Part of a law professor's job description is "public service and education." I'm supposed to write op-eds, talk to community groups and alumni, etc. InstaPundit is just that sort of thing writ large. I've got several law-review articles in the pipeline, so it's not interfering with my other writing. If it were, I guess I'd scale it back. And it's definitely helped my teaching in Internet Law -- there's nothing like hands-on experience after all. It's even changed my views on some questions.
How do you find the stuff you link to?
I follow links to pages from which I follow links to others. I have a variety of places I tend to look, but I try to branch out and find new stuff. I don't want the Blogosphere to become too much of a self-referential echo-chamber, so I've been making an effort to link to sites different from mine: Christian bloggers, lefty bloggers, etc. (Some people say it's a mistake to try to drive traffic to other sites, but that's precisely what I've tried to do. I'm not trying to build an empire here, and I want to see the Blogosphere as a whole flourish.)
I also get a lot of helpful links from readers. Two of my readers, S.E. Brenner and Paul Music, are virtual one-person news services, and a lot of other readers send interesting stuff from time to time.
Do you think weblogs are having an impact on the mainstream media?
Yes. Not least because of the occasional angry email from mainstream media folks who don't like what I say about them, or the more common email from mainstream media folks calling attention to something they've written. That indicates that they think weblogs matter.
And you can see ideas percolating out from the Blogosphere into the general world. But I think the biggest influence is just the sense that people are being watched. People write for two audiences, someone once said: the people who don't know much, and the people who know a lot. Forgetting the second audience tends to make for bad writing. The Blogosphere helps remind people that it's out there.
Do you think weblogs will replace mainstream media?
Probably not. I think you could aggregate weblog content to produce a decentralized version of a newspaper or magazine -- a little like what Oliver Willis is doing with The American Times -- but whether that will actually happen I don't know. I think that the relationship between weblogs and mainstream media is probably more symbiotic than competitive.
Do you think people will be able to make money from weblogs?
Andrew Sullivan kind of is already. I'm not -- at least not on any kind of hourly-rate basis -- though InstaPundit is more profitable than a lot of "mainstream" publications, which is to say it's not in the red. And if you consider the Drudge Report a weblog (something about which some people disagree) then someone already is. I don't know what he makes, but it's certainly a better living than the average journalist.
A bigger question is whether weblogs need for people to make money. I think the impulse among humans to share opinions is pretty well hardwired, meaning that as long as weblogs aren't expensive, people will happily do it at a loss. Bigshot journalists may care more about whether they can make money out of blogging, but even there I'm not sure it's all rational economic calculation. Andrew Sullivan blogged himself out of a steady gig with the New York Times and I doubt that made sense economically. People value being able to say what they think at a non-economic level.
What do you think will come next? Have you considered audio or video?
Yes. In fact, as soon as my audio hosting service finishes a server upgrade, I'm going to roll out InstaPundit Radio, with more-or-less weekly features of audio commentary and interviews. As for video, well, we'll see. I could offer the kind of 30-second talking head video clips that MSNBC offers -- but does anyone really care about those? I'm not sure. I might try it just for fun.
Fun is what this is all about. If I really wanted to make money, I'd be spending my time doing consulting work for liquor companies.
How do you decide which sites to add to your permalinks?
I'm not very organized about it, and I'm constantly noticing that I've left someone out that I meant to include. (I have a memory like a Ferrari -- when it works it's great, but there's a lot of downtime involved). Anybody that I find interesting is likely to be included, whether I agree with them or not. Some things that keep people off: a consistently nasty tone, lots of spelling errors, or too many emails pestering me to put them on. I don't mind being asked, but I do mind being spammed.
Why did you leave Blogger and Blogspot?
Pyra Labs and Blogger deserve a huge medal for almost single-handedly starting the blog explosion. And I found Blogger and Blogger Pro entirely adequate. Pro was somewhat more reliable, but not great. Blogspot's hosting was basically free, but also not terribly reliable: as I write this it's been down for about 8 hours. Plus, I felt (slightly) guilty about how much bandwidth I was consuming. I talked with Stacy Tabb of Sekimori and she found me a great hosting deal and set me up with Movable Type as part of the site redesign. I wasn't actually anxious to make the move, but Blogger's reliability problems meant I wasn't opposed to it, either. Movable Type isn't perfect, but it's been much more reliable than Blogger and every bit as easy to use.
Nonetheless, I encourage people who want to start a blog to start with Blogger. It's an easy way to get started, and it's entirely adequate for most people's needs. I ran InstaPundit on a Blogger/Blogspot combination for nine months of very heavy traffic, and it worked fine. I hope that Pyra makes it big: they deserve to.
Do you think there's a feud between the older-line techbloggers and the newer set of "warbloggers"?
No. Some people like Nick Denton have said some things along those lines. I read some techblogs -- mostly Doc Searls, sometimes Dave Winer or Jason Kottke -- but for the most part we have different interests. I like the techbloggers just fine, though I don't agree with everything they say on politics. And I'm sure they don't agree with what I say sometimes. Big deal. People don't have to agree on everything.
Will the blog bubble burst?
Sure. But it'll be like most Internet bubbles: the real bubble is in attention. Napster got a lot of attention a couple of years ago. That bubble has "burst," but there's actually more filetrading going on now than there was then. It's just not on the cover of newsmagazines. Similarly, someone will soon announce that blogs are "over," but weblogging will continue at a higher rate than it's going on now. It will just have become part of normal life. We don't hear much about the "electric light revolution" anymore, but that doesn't mean we've all returned to candles.
Will you miss the attention when it's gone?
Maybe a little. But this is a hobby. I've got a life.