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.

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About James G. Milles

Professor of Law, SUNY Buffalo Law School

Posted on June 1, 2009, in Academia, Blogs, Law school, Twitter. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Despite what many may think, there are many who outnumber them that continue to use ListServs for communication. And because of their ability to handle more characters than twitter, their ability to be more easily moderated than forums and to be more easy to manage and learn for multiple users than blogs… and because email isn’t that hard…. listservs are around to stay.

    The same as landline phones throughout the world.

    I do wish the fax would die, though. Hate that thing.

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