There’s blogging about Minnesota, bad Minnesota IP blogging, and then there’s great Minnesota IP blogging. Steve Baird’s Duets Blog is based in Minneapolis, is the last of these, but its influence and significance far exceed the penumbras of the Star of the North. If you’re not reading it regularly, you’re missing out on analyses that offer high-level branding insight, trademark law expertise, social media savvy and excellent writing.
You’re also missing out on the definitive demonstration of what great law blogging can still be.
This recent post about the Snapchat icon is Exhibit Z. On a simple level, the post is about the evolution and possible future direction of the Snapchat brand and trademark strategy. But it is also a demonstration of a rare trademark-and-branding mind in constant spin and the way is uses blogging to capture at least some of the sparks it shoots out.
Steve starts the Snapchat story with a human, “relatable” observation about rapid change in the technological and social landscape around what we now call “messaging.” Old Internet hands, of course, remember how the quaint institution of instant messaging slew the online chat rooms, which replaced, if you’re with me on this, “bulletin boards.” Indeed, now I get professional inquiries via Facebook and LinkedIn messaging with the expectation (not justified in my case) of real-time responses.
At the heart of it all, though, you might well think that good old SMS text messaging, and its quasi-proprietary sibling iMessaging, would still be the basic unit of exchange for children of all ages. You would be mistaken, however. Texting, it turns out, is passé, as Steve demonstrates with a slice of life (I’ve played a little with the formatting here for my own purposes):
Question: “Son, who are you texting?”
Answer: “Oh, I never text anymore, I’m snapping Joe” (or “I just snapped Joe”)
Note the verbing success most social media brands would envy and welcome.
After jumping from the teen talk to an irrepressible — for him — observation about genericization, Steve uses the dominance of Snapchat as a leitmotif to touch on questions concerning the phenomena of trademark and business-name truncation, trademark registration portfolio management and strategy, the relevance of brand development and protection to capitaization, color trademarks, and even an incidental introduction to his sort of hall of fame for great trademarks he calls the iconic Non-Verbal Logos.
Steve uses evolution of real-time Internet verbal interaction as a launching pad launch a discussion of every conceivable consideration bearing on the trademark aspects of Snapchat. Ironically, Steve’s blog treatment of a product that has supposed renders texting extinct is a master class in how that old dinosaur of public social media — blogging — can dominate in a way that can’t be matched by “modern” social publishing platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Now, Duets Blog is in a category all its own. I could write an encomium just to celebrate how much I envy Steve’s unique achievement of surrounding himself with professional colleagues s who actually contribute to a group blog written on a high level. But let’s just talk about Steve Baird’s own blogging, which in terms of both quality and quantity would easily justify his going it alone.
The content is great. The rhythm is right. The level of depth is what it should be for a law blog. But lots of people do that. What is it about Steve Baird’s blogging that puts him in the pantheon?
It’s the links, stupid. Crazy linking! Profligate linking! Linky linking! Why, just for instance, that Snapchat post has 40 links!
You can’t link like that on LinkedIn.
Why does that matter, besides making it worthless to print out blog posts on paper to read on the train home, collect in a binder for your waiting room or assemble into a printed book? What makes a blog post that’s chock full o’ links a heavenly blog posting — blog posts a BigLaw firm’s money can’t buy?
Because it’s a post that uses the Internet and its basic raw material, HTML, the way they’re supposed to be used: To connect fruitfully. To bind together access to ideas, concepts, information, disciplines, and others. Steve’s blog posts are more than vehicles for reporting on a world seen through his trademark-law and brand management eyes, though that would be plenty — and indeed many great blogs stop there and add tremendous value.
He’d never put it this way, but Steve approaches a blog post as a particular moment in virtual time and cyberspace where conceptual axes converge, where the reader can be offered the benefit of previous discussions, or where those pulsing neural switches can be roughly translated to hyperlinks.
You can’t go that deep on Twitter.
In theater they call it “using the space.” It’s mostly a lost art in blogging. In fact, though, once you get the hang of it can be a little addictive.
You know someone loves to link — has to link — when he links in the oddest places. The offer just has to be made whether or not anyone will ever click through. What’s the harm? At worst it’s a bookmark for the bibliography of your mind. When a lively, dynamic mind gets connecting — with the ideas, the energy, the facts, the law, the readers, and all the different parts of himself — it’s hard to stop.
That’s what Steve does.
And, by the way, unlike most “business development” law bloggers or vanilla-flavored law firm newsletters that call themselves blogs, Steve does not just link cases, documents and himself. He links to other people whose ideas bear on what he’s writing. Though this is a form of networking, I know Steve doesn’t link “to network,” much less to generate SEO juice (i.e., by hoping the linkee will pick up the ping and reciprocate while boosting his own authoritativeness by pushing the post himself).
He’s linked here so many times I can’t even keep track, but not because he wants a Twitter or other link-building push from me (not that Duets Blog needs it). Steve links because it’s the right way to blog. Linking “out” draws on content generated by others to enhance your presentation. It acknowledges that no one is relying on your little blog for the alpha and omega about a topic. It tries, at least, to initiate a conversation that transcends your own platform, your own ideas and your own business development.
The now virtually-abandoned practice of bringing other minds into your Internet conversation is why blogging was the original social medium.
And as Steve demonstrates, it’s still how you do it if you’re passionate about the ideas your blogging about, have the knack (or have developed a technique) for synthesizing what you know with what you’re learning, and have the confidence to invite comparison with others.
It’s blogging candidly, for free, in your own voice, for your readers but primarily for yourself.
It’s what you do for love.
You can have 10,000 “friends,” but this won’t work on Facebook.
Yes, old-school real blogging is hard, just as work is hard — unless you are doing what you want to do. The payoff, however, is unique, if you’ve got the right stuff. While I must admit I see Steve as a kindred blogging spirit, that is mainly because he is fascinating by many of the same things I am and, like me, he can’t stop the linking. But I do not claim the rigorous discipline, depth of legal knowledge and professionalism that makes his posts and his blog what they are.
Reading well-written posts is interesting and, these days, a professional necessity no matter what your field. But watching great blogging happen is something special — a kind of connection.
And that is why I love Duets Blog and Steve Baird.