Reading Time: 9 minutes

This blog is a multi-purpose outlet for me. It was fun to have to really stop and think about why that is. AALL asked me and Sarah Glassmeyer to do a coffee chat recently. The starting point was what we put out on the internet and why. As with any final product, the coffee chat left a lot on the cutting room floor and I thought I’d touch on some of the things we didn’t have the time to chat about.

The coffee chat was a lot of fun for me. For one thing, for years I’ve watched Sarah’s fascinating career, from academic law librarianship to CALI to a Harvard fellowship to legal technology . So it was a real privilege to be able to have the chance to work with her on something, even something as small as this chat. If you don’t follow her Substack, I’d start there. Also check out her blog and web site for other places to find her on the internet.

The chat format really worked for me. I hope that the people who joined in felt like they were sitting in the same coffee shop, eavesdropping on two people talking about interesting things. That’s what it felt like to me, and I liked how unordered it was. I pinned Sarah’s Zoom box to the top left corner so it wouldn’t move as other people entered or left the chat. The interaction wasn’t recorded, to make it less formal and more comfortable for people who wanted to join in but didn’t want their participation saved for posterity. But I could see how some of these might be useful to record for professional education.

One thing that I’d try if I was doing chats like these is a bit more of a frame for the participants, to bring them visually into a shared space. For example, using something like OBS Studio, you could create a single video output with the chat leaders, keeping them together in one frame. That way, people participating in the virtual chat could make them full screen if they wanted and see the chat-ters together. But I can see the arguments against that, if other participants want to join in, it over-centers the two hosting folks.

We talked about a lot of things, particularly where we share and what we share. An elementary school friend of mine recently tried to find me and said they couldn’t locate me on social media. It was accurate, as I really interact very little outside of this blog, sometimes on Twitter and Mastodon, and perhaps monthly or less on LinkedIn.

One take away from that is that you don’t have to be everywhere. I share text on my blog and photos over here, but both are on my own platform. I know a lot of libraries try to have a Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other media presence. You probably are over doing it. Depending on what you want to accomplish, there are probably ways to figure out which of those makes sense. Each platform reaches a different audience and requires different tradeoffs (like privacy for Facebook users) and choices (like organizational pages for LinkedIn and Facebook). But if you’re approaching them all the same way, with the same content, you may want to think more about (a) what you’re trying to share and (b) with whom.

What Is “Success”?

When AALL pitched the idea of the coffee chat, one of the things we discussed was the “why”: what is the point of sharing content? Some people need to create public awareness about an issue. Some people want to raise their professional profile by creating a public presence, including both pundits and professors. Some people want to share their knowledge. Some people just want to record their thoughts.

I write because I enjoy writing. The blog is the easiest and, professionally, as legal technology and law library publications have disappeared (Law Office Computing, anyone?), it is the most reliable way to know that I can share. Many of my posts are read by more people than bought my books. If metrics matter to you, having something that’s open and easy to find – and probably in text rather than video or audio without transcription – is probably a good place to start.

Success for me is “getting it out of my head.” I find that, whether I’m blogging about Irish dance stages or law libraries or technology, someone finds it interesting. I’m often surprised by which writings people find interesting, so I tend to not try to write with a particular audience in mind. But mostly it’s to get ideas out of my head. That it’s useful to others is a bonus.

I reflected on this post before I published it. I use scheduling tools in WordPress so that I can write and queue up a post. It is rare for me to write and post within even a few days of each other. Then I have time to edit, rethink, rework, and, sometimes, retract. Another benefit of this to me is that it equates to a form of journaling for me. Sometimes I won’t have clarity until I’ve put something down in text.

We touched on our process a bit. In my case, I use Google Keep and a running note in it called blog ideas. It is a great way to keep track of those idle thoughts that might become something more. Some of the ideas on my list have been there for a year or more. Others I want to get to right away.

The same goes for writing. I will sometimes start a blog post and then leave it as a draft. It may never see the light of day. Or I’ll start something and realize I’ve already written about it recently, the idea was that exaggerated in my head.

In all cases, I schedule the post. This gives me the opportunity to return to it, fine tune it, potentially still discard it. If I’m in a good space for writing, I often write 2 or 3 blogs at a time. Then I schedule them out over future weeks. This gives me the extra benefit of being able to share on a regular basis – which is one of the few audience-oriented behaviors I have – without getting into a feast or famine cycle.

I tend to write a single draft and publish it. I often finds errors because I may mistype or misspeak and not find it between scheduling the post and it going live. You can fix it later. People can be forgiving on the internet.

If your idea of success is more specific, you will want to consider this. If you are writing primarily for exposure or revenue, you will need to feed the beast. Like advertising, sharing will require repeated interactions to gain effective frequency and conversions, i.e. people following your content. Make sure you have access to scheduling and cross-posting tools if you want to make sure to reach people who are not already following you.

You should also find your own truth about what people want from you, if that drives your sharing. I seek no revenue so I give my content away for free. Some content marketers recommend types of posts, frequency of sharing photos, ideal length or content and so on. I routinely write 1,500-2,000 word blog posts because that’s usually how long it takes me to say what I want. You will want to take some time to find out what works for you. It may be that 300 words once a week makes more sense for what you want to accomplish.

Amplification and Syndication

The coffee chat feel was the same as when I did a podcast at the Law Society. Phil Brown and I would mostly just shoot the breeze on whatever legal technology topic we’d (he’d) queued up for the day. I enjoyed the podcast experience but mostly because Phil is a consummate pro at conversation and collaboration. We both got better, though, as you can tell between Episode 1 and Episode 47!

There’s nothing like a transcript to highlight a verbal tic! Mine was to say, “Right” all the time. Like people who start with “Look” or “So.” It’s like back in Trial Advocacy, where we video taped our progress over the semester. Not a pretty sight but full of personal growth.

If you haven’t heard them, the podcasts are a little long in the tooth but are on Apple Podcasts and Spotify as well as the Law Society’s web site. The podcasts were made nearly a decade ago and the Law Society didn’t really know what to do with them. In 2022, they finally decided to upload them to syndicated sites, so it looks like they’re fresh but they’re quite old content.

This is not uncommon with law library content too. We make content we think has value for an audience. And then we put it on our site somewhere without ensuring they can find it. In most cases, we make far more content than we need to. We use amplification tools like social media – despite, for example, knowing on Twitter that links soften engagement and the majority of links never get clicked – without considering whether we get any conversions. We may not consider search engine optimization (like ensuring text analogues for audio or video content, for searchability). Or we may just have poor web site navigation – or have our content on a different domain, like LibGuides – that makes it harder to find.

The podcast was a great example of high quality content, if I say so myself, in search of an audience and the content was left to its own devices, at the end of poor navigation with little SEO help. The only reason to make them was to create practical, helpful audio resources for lawyers. Fortunately, because of Ontario’s accessibility laws, they are also fully transcribed. The text transcripts meant that the podcasts themselves were more likely to be found because their content was indexed. The likelihood of lawyers finding this content on their own, using the Law Society’s web site search or browsing, was very low.

If you are creating content that is not text-based, you need to think differently about amplification. You can’t just put it up on your web site and hope for the best. Web search engines will not understand what is being said without a transcript. One reason to consider uploading video content to a site like YouTube is because you can have it automatically transcribed and captioned. You will still need to clean it up. Another reason is because YouTube can make things more easily findable than your web site, and it works as a content delivery network.

Amplification doesn’t need syndication, though it can be helpful. You may not want to put your content on other platforms like Apple Podcasts or YouTube. There are two useful tools for amplification but they can be slow to build use with on their own. One is RSS, or news feeds, and the other is email.

It has often struck me as funny how email remains the foundational communication tool online. Sites like mine, on WordPress, or Sarah’s on Substack have an email sharing function so that people can subscribe and follow the blog for updates. You could also use email marketing tools like MailChimp or Constant Contact. MailChimp even has a free plan.

RSS should be built into whatever text-based sharing tool you have. Perhaps any sharing tool you have. This helps people follow without needing email. You want to encourage people to follow in whatever way possible. We have gone through a low point in RSS support but the shift by some people away from Twitter has meant that the need for tools for following news and other content has become clear again. I’ve been noodling on a blog post about Feedland and ProtoPage and tools that surface news feeds.

This blog is syndicated with LexBlog. Why? Because I asked to be added to their blogroll. For the last few years, it’s ONLY been me on their Law Library channel. If you blog, and your content fits there, reach out to them and ask to be added. They re-syndicate to other outlets, including Legal Tech Monitor.

When I write for another platform, like Newsweek or the SLAW cooperative blog, I also republish that content here. If you value the work you do, whatever your goal, it can be useful to ensure it will live on. If you publish information elsewhere, including behind a paywall, you may lose control of it or access may become permanently lost.

This means you need to understand that your content may be repackaged but you may increase your reach. In this case, I’ve never registered a click-through from Legal Tech Monitor, and only very seldom from LexBlog. That’s based on what I can see on my end, of referrals. There may actually have been readers on LexBlog but I wouldn’t know. If I was into revenue generation, I would only syndicate with sites that can provide statistics.

That’s the real benefit of YouTube and Apple and so on. They have analytics built in. You can see what content is being accessed and what isn’t. If you are interested in revenue or just a broader reach, knowing what content gets engagement and what doesn’t is useful. Use the email markers in MailChimp or Constant Contact. Use Google Analytics or, in my case, Matomo (the full app, not the WordPress plugin).

These sorts of tools can help you to understand what people view, from where, when, and so on. If you are trying to fine tune your sharing to reach a particular group of people around a particular type of content, this can help. It’s also fun just to open up analytics and see someone from Iran trying to fix their computer, or someone from Finland viewing your design for a Dungeons and Dragons dice box. Again, what success looks like to you will vary.

But as we discussed in the chat, above all, have fun. Do it for yourself. There can be so much joy had by sharing things on the internet. It can introduce you to new people and connect you to new communities. I’ve met a number of new people thanks to this blog, both librarians and others, who I’m grateful to have connected to. I hope to continue to blog but will definitely stop when it isn’t fun any longer.