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Glenn Reynolds

Bloggers on Blogging, November 2005

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Glenn Reynolds started his immensely popular weblog Instapundit in August 2001., hosted by MSNBC since January 2003, contains "longer, more op-edish stuff".

Glenn, 45, has a J.D. from Yale Law School. He has lived in Cambridge, Heidelberg, New Haven, Washington D.C., Nashville, and Dallas. He is currently a professor of Law at the University of Tennessee. He now lives in Knoxville, Tennesee, USA.

What is the first weblog you read?

I'm pretty sure it was the inaugural edition of Mickey Kaus's Kausfiles.

What about that blog appealed to you?

I remember following the link from Slate to Kausfiles and thinking "Wow, there's no real difference — the personal site looks just as good as the expensive Microsoft site". Plus, I've always liked Mickey's style.

Why did you start your weblog?

I teach Internet Law, and try to do things to keep hands-on. (I had run the site for a while, defending electronic music against the DEA, before the EMDEF took that over with an actual budget). I also thought it would be fun.

What is Instapundit about?

Anything that interests me, though I've wound up doing a lot more war-bloggiing and political blogging than I expected.

“ I’ve wound up doing a lot more war-blogging and political blogging than I expected. ”

How has your site changed over the years?

Looking back at my archives, I think the older stuff is more self-assured and more likely to call people stupid. I still do that sometimes, but I'm more inclined to let things speak for themselves.

Where do you find interesting links?

I have a variety of sites I cruise, I often use Technorati to find posts about stories I'm interested in (and responses to my own posts), and I get a lot of reader email.

How do you choose items to link? What test do you apply?

It's hard to say. Some stuff is interesting, but just doesn't fit with the flow at the moment. I sometimes go back to it later, and sometimes just let it go by.

What method do you use to track "possible" links?

Generally I just leave an open browser window to remind me. I usually have 30-40 open at any given moment. Other times I save the post as a draft, and revisit it (or not) later.

How long does it take you to write an link entry? Do you spend time editing link entries?

Not terribly long, usually. I'm a fast reader and typist. I edit as I post, and sometimes go back after posting. I find that sometimes things look different once posted than they do in the preview window.

How do you handle corrections?

I correct the original post. If it's important, and the post has scrolled down significantly, I also put a correction post at the top of the page with a link to the original post.

Any surfing secrets?

I'm shocked how many people don't know how to use Control-F to find a word on the page.

“ Less is usually more. I’ll often finish a post with a two or three sentence zinger, then cut them before publishing. ”

Do you have a formula for writing a winning entry?

I think that less is usually more. I'll often finish a post with a two or three sentence zinger, then cut them before publishing.

Do you ever write to deliberately provoke a reaction?

Occasionally, but not often. I like to put up the occasional post that only makes sense to people who follow the link.

How much time each day do you spend on your site?

Probably 2-3 hours most days. It's hard to tell because I do it in 5-10 minute increments in between doing other things.

How many weblogs do you follow?

2-3 dozen closely, 200-300 occasionally.

Do you use an RSS reader or do you have another method?

My main source for the occasional blogs is my blogroll; I just randomly check. I've tried a few RSS readers, but I prefer Technorati — and the intelligent searching and flagging provided by thousands of reader/emailers.

How do you find new weblogs?

Reader recommendations, Technorati listings, links from other blogs.

In your reading, do you actively seek out differing points of view? How?

It depends. Technorati is a good tool (when it's working reasonably quickly) for getting multiple takes on a story or blog post. Memeorandum is good for that, too, though I think I liked the old format better.

Is the blogosphere "self-correcting" or "an echo chamber"?

The answer is "yes." It's pretty good at being self-correcting on factual matters. Opinions, however, are likely to be mutually reinforcing.

“ We’re witnessing a change in which individuals will exercise powers previously reserved to big organizations and nation-states. ”

Is blogging itself important, or is it something else? What are we witnessing?

Blogging — and for that matter everything on the web — is just a part of a larger phenomenon of individual empowerment at the hands of technology. It has shown up first in the information field because information technology is ahead of the curve. But the process of individual empowerment will soon extend elsewhere. (Read Neil Gershenfeld's book Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop: From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication.) We're witnessing a change in which individuals will exercise powers previously reserved to big organizations and nation-states. That's what my book is about.

Why is blogging important?

It's a conversation. It's self-expression (my wife started blogging recently and has found it really therapeutic). And it gives us practice at self-organizing spontaneously, which we're likely to need in the future.

What is your blog's rank on Technorati?

I don't know. [Ed. note: #6.]

How much traffic do you get?

A typical weekday is 200-250K pageviews. More when there's big news, less when things are slow. I don't count uniques.

Why not?

I don't because Sitemeter doesn't. (I used to use Extreme Tracker, which did, but some people complained that its Java did weird stuff to their browsers.) The counter on my server has never worked right (it's usually stuck on some day several months in the past) and I've never cared enough to do any more. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about traffic.

“ I’ve never been tempted to quit my day job. ”

Do you make money on your site? How?

I sell ads, and accept donations. I've never been tempted to quit my day job.

Which tool do you use? Why?

Movable Type. It's got a nice UI, and does everything I want.

What would your ideal blogging tool do, that available ones don't offer?

Handle video, and support video and photo moblogging seamlessly.

Did you set out to be widely read? What steps did you take to do that?

No, I thought I'd be lucky to have a couple of hundred readers. I never had a marketing plan or anything; I sent links to people I knew or thought would be interested, and it was just viral after that.

Why do you think your site is popular?

Beats me. Regular updates help, and my interests are quirky enough to be amusing, I guess.

What do you think makes a successful weblog?

A personal voice, regular updates, and good writing. And NO TYPOS! Well, not no typos, but a blog full of typos is a big turnoff to me.

What is your advice for a new blogger?

If you blog it, they will come. And get an easy-to-read template.

What catches your attention in a weblog?

Content, content, content.

How much reader email do you get? Are you able to answer it all?

About a thousand emails a day, I think. I don't even try to answer it all; I do what I can.

Do you ever receive abusive email or comments? How do you handle it?

All the time. Usually I just ignore them. Occasionally I respond, to the people who seem somewhat reachable, but I sometimes regret that.

Has your blog led to any opportunities that wouldn't have arisen otherwise?

I think so. I mean, I'd done the pundit trifecta -- Larry King, O'Reilly, and the PBS NewsHour -- before the blog, but I've definitely done more in the TV and oped department than I did before.

Do you have a background in writing?

I've published several books, and quite a few articles (both scholarly and popular) if that's what you mean. But to be an academic is to be a writer, really.

How has your writing changed since you started blogging?

I think I'm less opinionated than I used to be. My early blog entries were more argumentative; my later ones more descriptive, overall.

Has blogging affected your non-blog writing?

I think I'm faster and better. A longtime coauthor of law review articles says that my later stuff has more "snap" to it. That's probably the blog.

Before you began blogging, did you consider yourself a writer? Do you now?

I wrote books and op-eds before. A writer is someone who writes.

Whose writing do you particularly admire?

Online: James Lileks, Mark Steyn, Caterina Fake. Offline: Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, Arthur Leff.

“ I make a point of reading novels; I find that whenever I try to be ‘more efficient’ by dropping that my productivity goes down. ”

What about books and other offline reading - do you have time for it now?

I make a point of reading novels; I find that whenever I try to be "more efficient" by dropping that my productivity goes down. The big losers due to blogging are TV, which I almost never watch now except when my wife and daughter have it on in the background, or when there's a big breaking news story, and my hobby of writing and producing music. I haven't done anything along those lines since I did the soundtrack for my wife's documentary, "Six," a couple of years ago.

How does offline input contribute to your blogging? To your other writing?

I often notice things that feed into the blog, and I often write about books I'm reading.

Why do you blog?

It beats yelling at the TV.

How has your weblog changed your life?

It's brought me into touch with a lot of people around the world that I would otherwise have never known.

With regard to blogging, what was your most memorable moment?

I think it was the way bloggers from all over spontaneously organized in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami. That's a template for the future, as noted in my forthcoming book, An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths.

What are three blogs you think deserve wider recognition, and why?

The Belmont Club, which has better military analysis than I see anywhere in the big media. Derek Lowe's In the Pipeline, a blog about pharmaceutical research, a subject near and dear to my (and especially my wife's) heart. And EduWonk, a blog about education, a subject that deserves more attention.

What are your hobbies?

Music (somewhat in abeyance these days), photography, shooting.

What is the most telling thing about you?

I think you'd have to ask someone else that question. How would I know?

Mac or PC?


Would you read your site?


Previously: Rashmi Sinha | Next: Adam Greenfield

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bloggers on blogging

2005: matt haughey | jessamyn west | heather armstrong | rashmi sinha | glenn reynolds | adam greenfield
2006: david weinberger | megan reardon | fred first | jason kottke | tiffany b. brown | scott rosenberg
2007: bruce schneier | trine-maria kristensen

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