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Three months on: looking back

by Michael Keizer on May 18, 2009

'Rear view mirror' by Robert FornalA Humourless Lot is now slightly over three months old: my first post (on Somali pirates) was published on February 6th. Time to have a first look back.

Judging from the number of unique visitors and page views, by far the most popular posting is my review of logistics contingency planning and pandemics, posted on April 29. This is perhaps not surprising as it played directly into the news cycle on pandemic swine flu (and equally unsurprisingly but perhaps disappointingly, it has received very few visits after attention in the press wandered elsewhere).

What is more surprising (and encouraging) is that second place is taken by my review of Harvard professor Michel Anteby’s antics around (business) ethics. Ethics is an important issue in any profession, but in view of the plentiful opportunities for fraud , it is even more so in logistics than in many other fields.

This agrees more or less with how I feel about the postings on this blog: these two articles are definitely not bad. However,  if you would ask me to name my favourite posts, it would probably be the one on overhead and how to deal with it in a more rational way than we do now, and the mini-series on the logistics of logistics. These posts get surprisingly little attention, something I would definitely like to see changed.

When I started this blog, I gave myself three months to see where it would take me and to decide whether to continue after that – a decision that I wanted to base on whether or not it would add to productive discussions on logistics for health and aid. That three-month period has passed, so it is time for an evaluation.

I think that I have succeeded in contributing to some necessary debates. I have received some positive feedback, but more importantly, I have seen some conversations that I have been able to trace to articles that I posted here. Still, I am not yet where I would like to be. For one, I had expected more discussion on the blog itself (especially around controversial issues like applied ethics or air ship transport); instead I have been engaged in some interesting and invigorating dialogues by email – something I was very happy with by itself, but which by its nature does not contribute to public discourse. I was also a bit surprised by the mismatch between my target group (mainly logisticians and logistics managers) and the people who actually actively participate in the discussions: I get more response from aid and (global) health generalists and from programme managers than from logistics specialists. But perhaps I should not be surprised.

One unexpected advantage: I have discovered that I really enjoy writing, something that is new to me. Most of my writing up to now has been in the form of technical papers and policy documents, something which does not inspire unending daily joy. I have now found out that writing for a wider audience is a much more interesting and joyful experience (and it seems to help making my technical writing a bit less dry too).

So all in all, the experience has been a very positive one, and I feel that the (not negligible) amount of time I invest in researching and writing for this blog is more than outweighed by the effect it has, as well as the fun I have doing so. In other words: I will definitely go on doing this.

The question now is: how can I further improve? One issue that has been pointed out to me is that postings are a bit irregular: sometimes weeks go by between posts. This is definitely something that I can improve on, so my public commitment here is that I will write at least four posts every week.

I would appreciate any further pointers: how can I improve this blog? Any subjects that should really be covered and aren’t yet? How can I stimulate more discussion? And how can I get more logisticians to join? Please let me know.

(Image: Rear View Mirror by Robert Fornal.)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul C May 19, 2009 at 9:36 pm

I wouldn’t worry too much about the lack of discussion on this blog proper – I think the conversation more often takes place “out there”. Blogs where there is serious discussion in the comments are fine, but those blogs have become communities of their own, and most of the discussion is dominated by a small cluster of individuals. If you have interesting email discussions, why not ask your correspondents if you can post them, or snippets of them?


Michael Keizer May 22, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Thanks, Paul, that is a good idea. I operated on the assumption that people would send me email because they do not want to see their remarks in public, and hence never even asked — but they might have a host of other reasons. So in future I will follow your advice and just ask.


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