My year in blogging

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The author in her home office.

What’s new?

I published the first issue of Make Technology Work for You one year ago, on 9 May 2020.

What does it mean?

I started this blog with several goals in mind, but mainly out of curiosity about what it feels like to write to self-imposed deadline every week. I was certainly familiar with the pressures of teaching a course that met two or three times a week, so I thought writing a blog might be similar, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to maintain the blog as being retired grew on me. I am certainly active in my retirement, so I didn’t really need to have another activity, but writing was attractive.

Secondarily, I thought I had things to say that others might want to read. As the heading on this blog says, I have “40 years’ experience teaching engineering and a lifelong interest in technology.” I hoped that I could help make technology interesting and useful for others.

So what has happened in the last year with me and with this blog?

When I started, the week had a high level of panic. Once I identified a topic each week, the panic level went down and once I published on each Saturday morning, it disappeared. For about two hours. I have always been good at keeping up the pressure on myself and at worrying and the blog did become a cycle of worry. However, as with teaching, the worry (it is no longer panic) has become an old friend. Once I have identified a topic (often early in the week, even sometimes on Sunday, sometimes as late as Thursday), I enjoy thinking about what I will write. When I finally sit down to write, I find that I have whole paragraphs almost ready in my head.

Identifying a topic has become harder, much to my surprise. Some reliable sources (newsletters) have fewer interesting articles; some new sources have emerged and others have faded. I structure the blog around a current news article, so I am restricted to topics that have been mentioned in some news source in the previous week, but that is not a great limitation, of course. Am I running out of things to say? I don’t think so, but I am puzzled about why I am having more trouble identifying topics.

I worry that I have become repetitive and that I wrote only on the same topics over and over (additive manufacturing, for example). Since I love data, my obvious approach was to make a database and analyze the data. I reread each blog post and coded the contents into categories, with multiple categories allowed for a single post. This table shows some results.

Topics of blogs, by number of mentions. Source: author

My top topic, certainly not to my surprise, is Systems. Yes, that is my top topic; that is how I think, how I analyze, and how I view the world. You should have that as your top topic, too. As an industrial engineer and as someone active in the maker community, I was also not surprised that my second topic was Manufacturing/makers/making.  The topics that all got 5 to 8 entries were also no surprises, although I sometimes feel that I am obsessed with additive manufacturing and writing too much about it. I am pleased to find that all the topics in this table, save one, are topics about which I write positively; I am in favor of the world doing more of all of these. The exception is Artificial intelligence, where my postings were sometimes positive but sometimes cautious about hype.

What have I learned and how will I proceed in the future of this blog?

I remain committed to finding a good image to head each blog and to using only images in the public domain or licensed for public use. Wikimedia Commons and the Library of Congress continue to be my reliable source of excellent images. They have almost never failed me. I have also used my own photos occasionally. Only once did I omit an image. On 9 January, 2021, I wrote about the crashes of the Boeing 737 Max and was unable to find a publicly licensed image of any of the crashes. I really like the animated images I have been able to use a few times, most recently comparing vertical axis and horizontal axis wind turbines.

I remain committed to never writing about military technology, a decision I made before my first post. A former colleague once said that military technology is not engineering since engineering must be for the benefit of mankind; war is never of such benefit. Since this colleague comes from a country that was bombed by the United States (that statement does not narrow down his country of origin much), I respect and value his opinion.

I remain committed to posting a typo-free blog and have done fairly well. In rereading all the articles, I did find a few typos I missed, but not many.

I remain committed to taking stances and giving my opinion. I am not just giving information about technology, although I always want to educate. I am also evaluating that technology for its usefulness for you and for its usefulness to society.

I find I am losing my commitment to publishing by 7 am on Saturday; I have failed to meet that goal several times (including today) and it doesn’t bother me. I apologize if it bothers you.

Finally, I remain committed to writing a weekly blog. I enjoy writing this blog, even when I am having trouble finding a topic.  In the last year, I missed only one day (25 July 2020) during the week I was attending virtually the annual meeting of the Engineering Accreditation Commission (ABET-EAC). For some reason that I don’t remember, I have two postings dated 9 May 2020, my first day of blogging. Thus, I have posted 52 posts in the last year. I also remain committed to using the structure I established in my first post: What’s new? What does it mean? What does it mean for you? And Where can you learn more?

I am still musing about building readership, advertising my blog, and monetizing my blog. I care most, I think, about having my words be meaningful and helpful to others, so I will think more about how to accomplish that goal.

What does it mean for you?

Only you can tell me that. Please leave a comment below or email me at janemfraserphd@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Where can you learn more?

I use WordPress with the WEN Business Pro theme. I had to learn how to use WordPress and I like it.

Optinmonster publishes this list of blogging statistics.  Blogging Wizard has more blogging facts.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2 thoughts on “My year in blogging”

  1. Jane, your posts have expanded my perspectives on the subjects of systems thinking, design strategy, especially as it relates to modeling and making, and the importance of keeping sustainability front-of-mind – thanks for sharing and explaining your engineering-oriented insights and experiences!

    1. Thank you very much, Bill. Your loyal readership and your incisive comments (mostly offline) inspire me.

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