Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Getting to Know: James Daily, Ryan Davidson and Law and the Multiverse Part 2

Please read Part 1 of the interview before reading Part 2

The Coming of The Law and The Multiverse

So far their experience running and writing for the site has been full of “positive surprises.” It also helps to have a positive support system; their colleagues have been very supportive of their blog and book, The Law of Superheroes, but how did the dynamic duo come together?

I understand that Daily teamed up with Davidson through MetaFilter. Till this day, the internet is not considered a safe place for many. Plus, one may not know who s/he is really talking to. Now my question to the lovely gentlemen is how did they know that the other person is who they were really talking to and that they were going to provide the same amount of dedication to the site as they would?

According to Daily, when he launched the site, Davidson has been a member of MetaFilter for about three years, while he himself was over five years. “We both had a pretty good sense of who the other person was, even if we hadn’t communicated or collaborated directly before Law and the Multiverse.”

As Davidson explains, MetaFilter has an ability that allows users to “connect” with other users. This is almost similar to Facebook’s “friend” idea. However, when User A connects with User B, it does not mean that User B can connect back to User A. This connection with an individual provides an ease in keeping track of what others are doing. “I make it a point to connect with other lawyers on the site—and believe it or not, it’s hard to fake being a lawyer—and that’s why I saw James’s post to the Projects page right away. But that also meant I’d been reading his comments for several years at that point.”
As to how we knew the other would be a reliable contributor. . . one doesn’t graduate from law school because one is unable to complete assignments.
Now that we understand how and why the duo came to be, let’s dive into the creation of the site. How did Daily come up with the title? He recalls thinking through a variety of ideas for more or less than an hour. What he wanted was something descriptive, but not too long. Plus, there had to be an available .com domain name. “I honestly can’t remember any alternate ideas.” For the site logo, it was designed by John Leavitt. The logo depicts a judge’s gavel being struck in comic-book style art. “I felt it concisely summed up the idea of the site: comic books and the law.” In regards to the technological aspects, they use a blog hosting service to maintain the site and Daily does “occasional HTML tweaks.”

So what’s the work schedule like for Daily and Davidson? They usually write posts about three days per week. Sometimes the post that is published is written the same day. Daily begins by reviewing the “source material (e.g. reading the comic book the post is about).” Plus, he might do some additional online research by looking at the DC and Marvel Wikia, just to mention an example. After reviewing the source material and/or doing some online research, he will research the legal issues, “which is really just like researching any other case.” To get a general overview, he looks at general secondary sources, such as legal encyclopedias and treatises. Following that, he “narrows down and update the issues with specific statutes, regulations, and cases. Usually this process takes anywhere from 1-5 hours, depending on how familiar I am with the factual and legal subject matter.”

For Davidson, he is a morning person. Much of what he does for the site is worked on “before the sun comes up.” When he had a day job, most of his writings occurred either before sunrise or on the weekends. “Now it’s a little more flexible, but I imagine I’ll return to that sort of schedule in the next few months.”

Besides doing legal research, the duo had to consult individuals “a few times”, who may have more knowledge on a certain subject. Here’s an example provided by Daily:
We had two military lawyers offer their thoughts about The Avengers movie because we did not have access to good resources for researching military law
I was curious if there are any ups and downs in being a writer/blogger. Davidson responded with “there are downs?” Some might say their experience has some negatives like not getting paid or simply not having enough time to update. However, for him, it’s been “uniformly positive experience.” Why? He loves to write. “Having the excuse to spend time researching and writing about things I think are interesting has been a blast.”

As a writer, Davidson did learn something about writing. However, it is not about the postings; it was when they were writing the book. “Editing is an enormous project.” He believes that the time they spent on writing the first draft was about the same amount of time they took editing it. This does not include the amount of time the publisher looked at it. “You think you’re an okay writer, and then you see the first round of copy edits. . . .”

Because of his positive experience as a writer for Law and MultiUniverse, is there more to being a writer then just getting your work done and growing a fan base? Davidson believes there is:
Unless you count keeping a constant ear out for new ideas to be part of “getting your work done. Writing is great and all, but having something to write about is, in many ways, an entirely different project. Developing an idea to the point that it’s worth writing about takes its own kind of effort. Right now, we’re pursuing several different opportunities for additional projects, and it’s a very different sort of thing than just writing a book.
To all the readers, who want to become a successful writer or blogger, the duo has some pointers and experience to share with you. From Daily’s experience, he learned that successful blogs fall under one of two categories. “Either they cover a particular subject exhaustively or they have a unique twist.” For Davidson, it’s important to READ and he means a lot. He provides two reasons for this:

-First, you may find that someone else has already covered the ground you want to cover.

-Second, writing without knowing that means both the possibility of redundancy and failing to engage in what could be a productive conversation.

For example:
This is obviously true in non-fiction, but it’s also true in fiction. Asimov’s Foundation series couldn’t be written today, but any work that has to do with some future galactic empire would be lacking if it failed to at least mention some of the basic ideas and problems that Asimov prototyped.
© 2013 Linda Thai

Photography by Linda Thai

Stay tune for Part 3 of the Law and the Multiverse interview.

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