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Tell me what you want, what you really really want

by Michael Keizer on June 9, 2010

'Tennis ball' by Michal Ufniak

Ì have been posting for a while now, and I think it’s time that I start to listen instead of blathering on. So, here are some questions for you, my readers.

  1. Should I expand the series on push versus pull supply lines? Almost all my points have already been pre-empted by Dennis Bours’ comments on the first posting in the series, so there it might not be much use to just rehash what’s already there. On the other hand, the comments might be a bit cryptic for non-insiders. So, it’s up to you: expand and explain, or go on to the next subject?
  2. Are there any specific subjects that you would like me to write about? No, don’t worry, I have definitely not run out of ideas for future posts, but I might very well have overlooked some issue or idea that is very much alive amongst you.
  3. Any other ways in which I can improve the blog and make it more helpful or interesting to you, or more attractive to new readers? E.g., I have been toying with the idea to introduce the occasional podcast or video – would that be a good idea, or definitely not? Other ideas?

So, this is your turn. Let me know what you think. The ball is in your court.

[Image: Tennis ball by Michal Ufniak]


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Aaaaand… he’s back

by Michael Keizer on November 1, 2009

So that was not cool. To put it mildly.

I write a post looking back on three months of A Humourless Lot, promising to post more regularly. And shortly after that I let things slide (please, let me use a euphemism now and then) to the point of non-existence.

So I apologise. There were reasons (aren’t there always?), but I should have at least posted something like an occasional update here.

I will try to better my life. And thank you if you haven’t totally deserted this blog and am still reading it – it means a lot to me.

[Photo credit: Jen Waller]


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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.)


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My little sideline

by Michael Keizer on May 13, 2009

'Global Health' by Daneel Ariantho

A Humourless Lot clearly is a blog on logistics for health and aid, and even though I very occasionally make small excursions, I try to keep it tightly focussed on that subject. However, even though I am professionally specialised in it, my interests in (global) health range much wider than ‘just’ logistics – interests that I have not been able to really express here.

So you can imagine how chuffed I was when Alanna Shaikh, the ‘guide’ for one of the most widely read and accessible blogs on global health, asked me to become a regular guest blogger. I have started last Monday with a series on global health and human rights, and will post on a weekly schedule. I am not yet exactly sure where my posts will take me, but I am sure it will be an interesting ride.

So if you are interested in my interests outside of logistics, have a look at the global health blog at change.org – or go there anyway, as it is definitely one of the best blogs on the subject you can find.

(Image courtesy of Daneel Ariantho.)


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Comment spam

by Michael Keizer on April 2, 2009

I am getting lots of comment spam at the moment, and not all of it is being intercepted by Akismet. I try to check often, but I cannot be online continously — so I am afraid the occasional piece of spam will remain on the site for a couple of hours. Bear with me please.

(Image: SPAM by Yonezawa Yamagata. Some rights reserved.)


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The Humourless Lot to the Road: thanks, Peter!

by Michael Keizer on March 27, 2009

Humanitarian assistance painting

Some of you might have seen some improvements to this blog: an email form in the ‘about’ page, some explanation around the ‘slightly less humourless search’[1], and some more attention to the download times of the illustrations. All these have been incorporated thanks to critical feedback from fellow blogger and aid blogging guru Peter ‘the Road to the Horizon‘ Casier. High time to put give some praise where praise is due: Peter has been a tireless promotor of aid blogging, coming up with many tools and meta-tools like his aid blog aggregator AidBlogs, his aid news clipper For Those Who Want to Know, and his truly innovative aid news aggregator. And let’s not forget his contributions to the original aid workers community, Aid Workers Network.

All this would be enough to inscribe his name in the annals of the electronic aid community, but apart from that he is a truly supportive guy, who did not hesitate to give me some valuable pointers when I asked him to cast a critical eye on my blog.

So: thanks again, Peter!

(Photo: “Humanitarian assistance” painting by futureatlas.com. Some rights reserved.)


[1] If you wonder what I am talking about, just scroll down a bit and have a look at the bottom of the sidebar.


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Searching anything?

by Michael Keizer on February 28, 2009

The sharpest-eyed will have noticed that two search boxes have appeared on this blog. The one in the top right-hand corner does what you would expect it to: it searches the blog itself for whatever you type in it. However, at the bottom of the right-hand side bar, you will see a search box titled A slightly less humourless search. This one does something much more interesting, courtesy of Google Custom Search: it performs a web search for your search terms within this blog’s link universe, i.e. the sites that this blog links to. As a result, it’s searches are probably much more pertinent for the subject matter (logistics, health, and aid).

Go on, try it. A good start would be to compare the search results for landcruiser in ‘normal’ Google versus this search box.

At the moment I am using the search box without any tweaking, but over the next couple of weeks I will try to make it even more pertinent by getting it to prioritise search results that deal with health and aid logistics.

(Photo courtesy of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Some rights reserved.)


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