One of my first posts with Opinio Juris remains one of my all time favorites — Strawberries versus Skin Cancer. Looking back, that post marked a transition point for me as a scholar and an academic; in it, I began to allow myself to think more critically about my former employer, the U.S. State Department, even as I remained loyal to its employees and their mission. Certainly, the post benefited from my work on the Montreal Protocol while I was in the Legal Adviser’s office, but I also began to feel free to call out U.S. non-compliance where I saw it (and to flag the politically motivated rationales that lay behind it). At the time, I figured this sort of post would typify my new academic self — detailed doctrinal analysis of specific treaty regimes especially in the environmental arena.
As it turns out, my assumption proved only half right. True, I’ve ended up spending a lot of time thinking about treaties and their alternatives; it remains a core focus for my blogging and scholarship. But along the way, blogging also brought new lessons and served as a catalyst for my career in ways that I could never have anticipated in 2005. What follows are nine takeaways from my blogging these last nine years:
1) Somehow I became a scholar of cyberspace, particularly questions of how to govern over (and within) this medium. For those who have known me for a while, this is pretty surprising. Until 2007, I openly described myself as a Luddite; my only claim to cyber-expertise was my (small) role in negotiating the final clauses of the Cybercrime Convention. Today, I still can’t code, but I do think the experience of blogging gave me enough self-confidence to take advantage of opportunities that came my way to opine on how international law translates into cyberspace and offer some new ideas for dealing with cyber insecurity.
2) People find cyberspace issues really interesting; I had multiple friends and family ask me if I was going to blog about the Sony Pictures Hack (I didn’t). In contrast, no one ever asks me to blog about treaties. This makes me a little sad sometimes.
3) I love treaties; I like blogging about treaties, hosting symposia on treaties and treaty interpretation, drafting lists of the best treaties, and calling out those (e..g, the Supreme Court) that seem willfully ignorant of treaty terminology and processes.
5) International lawyers love underdog efforts to create a new state, especially if it’s a small pacific island.
6) I can never blog more than once a week, and I remain in awe of those who toss off daily blog posts (cough, Kevin, cough). At least once each year, I’ve made a resolution to blog more. But don’t hold your breath; I seem to be slowing down the pace of my blogging rather than speeding it up of late.
7) Major writers and Hollywood producers need international law consultants. For those of them reading this, e-mail me. We still need to talk.
8) Opinio Juris has helped make the “invisible college” more collegial. I’ve met so many people through blogging and credit it for starting several friendships that formed here on-line or via some in-person conversation about my blogging. Meanwhile, Opinio Juris has become a place where we can opine on the state of the profession; celebrate our champions, and mourn the passing of our giants.
Being a law professor can be an isolating experience, but Opinio Juris has done so much to make me feel part of a larger community; it’s made me appreciate that, whatever our substantive disagreements, there is among my co-bloggers and so many of our readers a passion for international law (both its potential and its pitfalls).
Let me close with a thank you to those readers that actually care about treaties (or cyberspace for that matter). It’s your interest and dedication that make this enterprise worthwhile and what keeps me doing it (even if I don’t do it enough — see comment 6). You’ve helped make this blog what it is and you offer the promise of it continuing to grow and flourish in depth and breadth for years to come.