In a few days I will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the day I published my first post on this blog. I had no idea what was going to follow after that first post, but having come so far after so long, it seemed appropriate on this occasion to reflect on the enterprise. It has been an interesting, unexpected, and ultimately rewarding experience.
In May 2006, I was still in the early stages of my current job. The phone had not yet started to ring, so to fill my time I started fooling around with the Blogger application on Google. I launched The D&O Diary with little planning and no expectation that it would amount to anything. That first step pretty much characterizes the approach I have taken all along since that first post – I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and I wait to see where the path will take me.
The timing of my blog launch was fortunate, as it turned out. Shortly after I got the blog set up and organized, the whole options backdating scandal broke. And after that in quick succession came the mortgage meltdown, the credit crisis, Madoff, the wave of bank failures, a host of Supreme Court decisions, Dodd-Frank, and a multitude of other scandals and events large and small. Many of these developments involve truly terrible news, but they all provided great grist for the blogging mill. Even now, a bunch of Chinese companies are enmeshed in a terrible accounting scandal, which is bad news for them, but quite helpful to me (at least in my blogging capacity).
I have been fortunate in another way, which is that I have acquired a loyal and supportive readership that keeps me supplied (usually with accompanying requests for anonymity) with a steady stream of case decisions, pleadings, news article, books, academic articles, questions, comments and queries. I get my best material from readers, and I could never have kept this project alive without the regular contributions from readers.
I have been even more fortunate to be able to publish guest posts from and interviews with leading attorneys (both plaintiff and defense), academics, and journalists. These individuals’ willingness to publish their articles or comments has added both depth and breadth – not to mention variety – to this site.
And so with all of these fortunate things going for me, here I am, five years into this crazy experiment, with over 2,000 email subscribers, another 1200 RSS subscribers, and countless other readers who access the blog through one of several aggregation services that pick up my content. The site itself has had over 2.5 million page views. It is fair to say that I didn’t anticipate any of this. The blog’s reach never ceases to amaze me.
From time to time, I get notes from readers with kind words about the blog, which I very much appreciate. (I also get notes with, shall we say, constructive criticism as well). But truthfully, no one gets more out of the blog than I do. It is not just that writing the blog is a regular source of amusement and an avenue of creative expression for me. It is rather that the blog has done so much for me personally and professionally.
First, on the most practical level, maintaining the blog has ensured that I am always up to speed on the latest developments in my field. The blog’s constant content requirements mean that I am aware of and have usually written and thought about just about everything of importance out there.
Second, and more importantly, the blog has allowed me to form innumerable connections around the world. I have email pen pals on almost every continent (no readers in Antarctica that I know of – yet). I have regular communications with a large number of lawyers, academics, journalists, financial analysts and regulators. I have also formed fast friendships with many of my fellow bloggers, all of whom have been supportive and helpful over the years. These friendships and communications have not only enriched the blog, but they have expanded my own horizons and enhanced my awareness of and appreciation for important trends and developments.
Third, I have the recurring delight of hearing from completely unexpected sources that they have read my blog. Once I was stopped while walking through Times Square by a total stranger who wanted to tell me that he reads my blog every day. Several different times I have had people come up to me in airports to say they recognized me from my blog. (That’s why the picture is up there in the upper right hand corner.) I have even had guys at my golf club comment to me about posts on my blog. And I have to say that is about the last thing I ever expected, that I would get recognition at my country club for, of all things, having a blog.
But the most important thing for me about my blog is that I enjoy doing it. For me, the blog itself is like having my own personal Fourth Plinth (pictured above) – that is, I can put anything up there I want. A blog post can take just about any form – it can be a case note, a news report, an editorial, an interview, a book review, a statistical analysis, or anything else that I choose. My imagination is the only limitation.
The ability to imbed pictures, videos and hyperlinks to other sources affords a richness and depth that simply is not possible with the traditional written document. And the ability to publish content immediately means that I can quickly reach out to a vast audience of friends, peers, colleagues and casual readers. I get a big charge every single time I post an item.
All of this comes at a price, however. The actual content posted on the site is the culmination of a lengthy process that can take hours and hours and hours. The hardest step in the process is the first one, which is deciding what to write about. Blog topics are not self-revealing. Occasionally, somebody has sent me something that obviously needs to go up right away. But the rest of the time, blog topics have to be hunted down in the endless ocean of information and conversation that surrounds us all. The search for blogworthy topics is never-ending – the worst part about adding a new post is that at the moment of publication the pressure to find another topic starts all over again.
And the actual blog content is only a small part of the operation. The fact is that I am for all practical purposes in the publishing business. I am not only responsible for content, but I am the copy editor, the fact checker, the proofreader, the typesetter and the art editor. I am the research department, the customer service department, and the subscription department. I am the managing editor, the business manager, and the chief operating officer. With all of these duties, the process of maintaining the blog takes an insane amount of time.
Another problem is that the blog has required me to dwell among the demons of technology. No one would ever believe (except perhaps another blogger) how many weird technological challenges I have had to confront. To cite just one example, one day out of the blue, for no apparent reason and without any warning, our firm’s IT manager changed the IP address of the server on which I housed all of the self-hosted documents to which I had linked on my site. That meant that every single one of the hundreds and hundreds of links on my site to self-hosted documents (pleadings, case decisions, etc.) was broken. I was on suicide watch for several weeks. I eventually repaired the links in the most recent posts but the links in many older posts simply don’t work, and at this point, alas, probably never will again.
Sometimes the blog can feel like a full-time job, but the fact is that my job is my job. And my job is often demanding, stressful and time-consuming. Finding the time, energy and intellectual residue to work on the blog after a long day dealing with my real job can be very difficult at times.
The point I am trying to make is that maintaining a blog is a lot harder than it looks. A blog is a harsh mistress – and she can be a needy and temperamental bitch too.
Just the same, I can’t imagine stopping the blog. When I have my teeth into something I really want to write about, I am fully engaged. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of creating a blog post on a topic that has captured my imagination or sparked my creative energy. And when I hear someone refer to the blog, even to challenge something I have written, I get a huge charge. And so I intend to keep right on blogging, damn the torpedoes.
Even though this project is five years old, there are still a lot of things I want to try to do with the blog. I would like to attract more guest posts, particularly from attorneys, academics and even regulators .I would like to publish a lot more interviews, with practitioners and observers who have an interesting perspective toa dd. I would like to introduce more international topics, particularly with respect to Asia. I would like to do more book reviews and I would like to include more posts with observations on other topics, like movies, wine and travel. And wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way to imbed sound on the site? How about smell – maybe a scratch and sniff version. Hmmm…
The one thing I know for sure is that I will have to continue to try new things, because the blogging environment is changing all the time. One way the environment has already changed during the years I have been blogging is the rise of the social networking sites, particularly Twitter and Facebook. These outlets have for many readers occupied the space and time that other media (including blogs) used to inhabit. I also think they have resulted in shortened attention spans. By contrast to these newer media, blogs (especially one like mine) can look slow, bloated and out-of-date. At the same time, I sometimes worry that the constant chatter can be deafening. Or at least numbing. I worry that in that kind of environment, I become one more ditto head in the chattering class choir.
As I said at the outset, one of the great advantages I have had from almost the very beginning is that I have gotten a lot of support from my readers. As I look forward to this blog’s next phase whatever it might be, I could really use some advice. I want to stay (or perhaps, become) relevant. I want to provide content that is useful, interesting and entertaining for my readers.
So as I wind up this retrospective essay, I want to ask everyone to let me know what they would suggest for me to develop this site and make it better. I welcome everyone’s thoughts on possible topics, books I should review, persons I should interview, possible alternative approaches, analyses or formats, anything and everything that could add the content on this site. And in particular, I would really like to encourage anyone who has ever given a thought to submitting a guest post for publication on this site to put their post together and sent it to me any time.
There are many rewarding things about having this blog, and without a doubt one of the best is the sense of community I feel with my readers. When I hit that “publish” button, I know that readers around the world are going to open their emails and click through to the blog and read what I have written. The idea that I have my own little corner of the Internet that thousands of people willingly visit every day is absolutely amazing to me.
Thanks to every one for stopping by during the last five years. I look forward to having you visit again – frequently – in the future.
Finally, I would be remiss is I did not thank my colleagues at OakBridge and at RT Specialty for all of the support they have given me and this project over the years. This thing would never have gotten off the ground without their help and I would never have been able to keep it going without their backing. Thanks for everything, guys.
Prepare Ye, The Harmonic Convergence Approacheth!: : The Cleveland Indians are in first place in the Central Division with the best record in all of baseball. The have won six straight games and thirteen in a row at home. They won their last three games in their final at bats. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, saw any of this coming. (Hello? Hello? Is this thing on? [Tap, tap] Testing, testing, one, two, three…)