Monday, September 11, 2006
This is interesting (as of course I would say). Paul Caron appears to show (if I get his drift) that SSRN downloads are like semi- or quasi-cites, in that they fill out the long tail you would expect in legal scholarship, which my research, looking at citations only, found ended aburptly when 40 percent of articles did not get cited at all. As you can see in Paul's Table 2, even the bottom 10 percent of SSRN papers by download, do get at least a few downloads. There is a big difference between just a few, and zero. So downloads reveal that the long tail is there. If there were some way to measure "read or skimmed, but not cited," undoubtedly law review published articles would have a much longer tail as well.
I have another theory related to these discussions I hope to write about at some point, which might be summed up as -- Glenn Reynolds is completely wrong! That is, I think the operation of Lexis and Westlaw to push otherwise obscure articles more to the fore, is purely a function of their currently very archiac search technology. When legal search technology becomes as sophisticated as Web search, which I pray (and I mean that literally) is soon, then we will be back to a situation where the rich get richer, in terms of garnering eyeballs. Of course, the rich are already getting richer in this respect. But not as much as they would be if the technology were any good. So I agree with Glenn that legal search technology mitigates this "preferential attachment" effect somewhat, but, I think this is only for now, and only because the "randomizing" effect of Lexis and Westlaw is just a symptom of crude technology. But that will change.