I started The D&O Diary with my first blog post on May 10, 2006. Ten years later, I am about to celebrate the blog’s tenth anniversary. It has been a great ten years for me, and to celebrate the milestone, I have posted this special tenth anniversary issue. Following a brief reflection below on ten years of blogging, I have posted three lists: a list of frequently asked questions; a list of my top ten favorite noninsurance-related posts; and a list of my top ten favorite travel post pictures. In addition, to allow everyone to be a part of the celebration– and even more importantly, to ensure that everyone reads this post all the way to the end– I have also included a special Tenth Anniversary offer to readers.
A Blogger’s Reflections
In March 2006, I changed jobs and started a new phase of my career. Right at first, things were a little quiet. The phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook. With the idea of keeping myself usefully occupied, I decided to try some professional writing. Out of curiosity, I started experimenting with the Blogger app on Google.
I once heard it said that starting a blog is about as difficult as making urine. So before I knew it and without any real intent, I found myself with a blog. Since day one, that has been the way this exercise has gone – I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going. I will say that I never had any idea that ten years later I would still be working on this blog and enjoying it.
It has turned out to be the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my career. Nothing I have done professionally has provided me with as much satisfaction. Through the blog I have connected with many people and made so many new friends. I have also deepened my thoughts and understandings about the issues and challenges facing our industry. In addition, as a result of having the blog, I have been able to travel around the world. It has been so amazing to me that wherever I go – from Barcelona to Berlin to Beijing and from São Paulo to Stockholm to Singapore – I meet people who tell me how much they enjoy my blog.
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. And the most important thing is that I enjoy doing it.
The idea that I can have my own little corner of the Web that thousands of people voluntarily and repeatedly choose to visit is just so inexpressibly cool. I sit in suburban Cleveland and tap out my blog posts and people all over the world read what I have written. It never ceases to amaze me.
There are many people to whom I am grateful for making all of this possible. First, there are the many readers who have sent me court decisions, news articles, and story ideas. I get my best material from readers, and I am grateful to everyone who has contributed. Second, I have been fortunate to publish guest posts from leading attorneys, academics, and other professionals. These guest posts have added to the breadth, depth, and diversity the content on this site, and I am grateful to all who have allowed me to publish their articles as guest posts.
I also want to thank everyone at RT Specialty for their support, particularly my partners Alex Jezerski and Jose Medina, without whose constant support, encouragement, and friendship, this blog would never have been possible.
Finally, I thank my wife for putting up with my blogging obsession and enduring my frequent blog-related rants. Her steady partnership, good humor, and emotional and intellectual support have sustained me through everything. Fortunately the children got her looks and her brains.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Much Time Do You Spend on the Blog?
I am always interested to get this question, which suggests a perception that I spend a lot of time on the blog. I do, in fact, spend a lot of time working on the blog. The deeper reality is that no matter how much time you think I spend working the blog, I spend more time than you think. Readers see only the final product – that is, the blog post that I have conceived, written, typed, edited and published. Those things all take time of course, a lot of time. But those activities represent only a part of what I have to do to maintain the blog.
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 marketing and distribution 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. My wife thinks I am crazy. As always, she is correct.
When Are You Going to Start Charging for Access to the Blog?
I have to say I like it when I get this question, because it implies that people think I could charge for access. Though it is nice to know that there are some people who might be willing to pay, I am not going to put up a pay wall. First of all, I think it would introduce a bunch of complications and hassles that I would just as soon not have to deal with. But more importantly, I think the modest amount of revenue that I might realize would not compensate for the loss of the many readers who stumble on my site and wind up becoming loyal readers, or even better, wind up reaching out to me and connecting.
So, no, I am not going to start charging for access. As I have said before, The D&O Diary is free, always has been, always will be.
However, while the blog is free for its users, it is hardly free for me. I pay a hosting service to host the site; I pay an email service for the daily email distributions; from time to time, I pay for web design services of various kinds. Other things, like the D&O Diary coffee mugs (as well as the postage to mail them out), also cost money. If I were to add all of these costs up, I would quickly conclude that it is really kind of expensive for me to maintain the blog. This is another example that illustrates why I think anyone would have to be a little bit insane to want to have a blog.
How Many Readers Do You Have?
My blog has a narrow, specialized focus, but just the same it reaches quite a number of people. Since February 2011 (when I instituted the tracking system I currently use), I have had over 4.8 million page views and 3.1 million visits. I have nearly 5,000 email subscribers. There are also a lot of others who access my content whom I am not able to count. For example, I don’t have a good way to track how many people access my content via an RSS feed, but I know that this group includes many more readers. My content is also picked up by various syndication and consolidation services, so the blog content reaches even more readers this way. All I know is that I am always pleased to meet someone new and learn that they read my blog.
True story – when I was in Singapore a couple of years ago, a women came up to me at an industry event. She introduced herself, told me she was from Mauritius, and asked if she could get a picture with me on her iPhone. I asked her why in the world she wanted my picture, and she said “Because you’re the D&O Diary guy! You’re world famous!” As I said to my wife when I returned home, if someone from Mauritius tells you you’re world famous, by definition that means you’re world famous. To which my wife replied, “That’s nice dear. Now take out the trash, please. “
Where Did you Come Up With the Idea for the Coffee Mugs?
A couple of year ago, I read an article in the New Yorker about Henry Blodgett’s website, Business Insider. The article made me think a lot about the Internet as a publishing medium. In the article, Blodgett talked about how important it is for a website to connect with its readers. This observation set of a tumble of different thoughts, at the end of which out came the idea for the D&O Diary mugs. I couldn’t possibly reproduce the thought process, but the basic concept was to try to do something to make my readers feel like they are part of the blog.
The project was an immense success. I was continuously amazed at the places people would take the mugs in order to get just the right mug shot. I had readers send in pictures with their mugs from inside the U.S. Supreme Court, at the Wailing Wall, on the Old Course at St. Andrews and in jungle covered ruins in Cambodia. People sent in pictures that were taken from mountain tops, in vineyards, on safari, in the snow, in the sunshine, at sea, on vacation, at work, and even from their back porch. (My most recent mug shot post, which has links back to all of the prior posts, can be found here.)
I had people send in pictures taken in Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi, Rotterdam, Shanghai, Paris, London, Montreal, South Africa, Hong Kong, Scotland, Warsaw, Toronto, Jerusalem, Sydney, Cambodia, and Bermuda, as well as at the Grand Canyon, the Baseball and Hockey Halls of Fame, Fenway Park, Mesa Verde National Park, in Napa Valley, at the No. 2 Course at Pinehurst, on Wall Street, at the America’s Cup races in San Francisco Bay, at the original Cheers bar in Boston, at the Naval Academy, at Stanford, in the Press Room at the White House, with their dogs, with their kids, with elephants and zebras, and always with the D&O Diary mug in the picture. I even published one picture of a mug that arrived in Shanghai in pieces.
I liked all of the pictures readers sent in, but I would have to say my favorite, simply on the score of most unusual, was the one taken at the veterinarian artificial insemination clinic at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. The picture was taken with the mug in the foreground while an insemination procedure was underway in the background. Yep, I didn’t expect that one.
How Do You Come Up With Your Ideas for Blog Post Topics?
This is another question I like to get, because it shows an awareness of what it by far the hardest part of maintaining the blog, and that is coming up with good topics that I am interested in writing about. Sometimes, I will get lucky and a reader will send me a copy of a court decision or an article that I obviously will want to write about. But most days I have to hunt the topics down out in the great Internet ocean. The ideas do not just show up and present themselves, I have to go and find them. I would say, conservatively, that I spend at least two or three hours (or more) looking for things to write about for every hour I spend actually writing blog posts.
It is a constant challenge trying to come up with ideas. But that isn’t the worst thing. The worst thing is that if I have found an idea that I like and I have written a blog post about it, as soon as I hit the “publish” button, the whole process starts all over again. I have a constant fear that I won’t find anything. I am absolutely miserable until I find another topic. (As I have said before, you have to be more than a little bit insane to want to have a blog.)
Have You Ever Gotten Any Business From Having the Blog?
Let me put it this way — no economist would ever be persuaded that I was getting a fair financial return on the amount of time I have invested in the blog. If I only measured the blog’s success by the amount of business it has directly generated, the whole exercise would have to be judged a failure. That said, I have landed a number of accounts and business relationships because of a contact that originated with the blog. And to be fair, the real economic value of the blog is not the direct business effect, but rather the indirect effects of reputational benefit and recognition.
As any marketing student would confirm, those indirect effects are valuable and quite difficult to achieve. Bottom line – I don’t care whether I persuade any economists, the blog is worth it to me.
My Top Ten Favorite Non-Insurance Blog Posts
The whole point of this blog is for me to write about topics relating to directors and officers’ liability and insurance. The blog’s readership is made up of people who are interested in those topics. Isn’t it interesting then that the blog posts that have attracted the highest number of readers are the posts that don’t have anything to do with those topics? I don’t go off-topic frequently, but when I do, I usually get double or triple the number of visitors and hits. I really enjoy these occasional off-topic frolics and detours. When I look back at the 2,120 posts I have published over the last ten years, my favorite posts are the off-topic items. So in descending order, here are my all-time favorite off-topic posts:
- One Man in Dakar (Here): Even before the most recent wave of migrants, I worried about the masses of people who were struggling to migrate to Europe from Northern Africa and the Middle East. Based on an unexpected pen-pal relationship I have developed with an intelligent and observant teacher in Dakar, Senegal, I have gained an insight into the circumstances that might drive someone to take on the difficulties, dangers and uncertainties involved with fleeing to another country. I have also gained a deeper appreciation of the common humanity we all share.
- Congratulations, Dude, You’re Moving to Cleveland! (Seriously. You’re Moving to Cleveland.) (Here): Most of the 20th Century was about moving water to where people wanted to live. The 21st Century is going to be about people moving to where the water is. When people wake up to this fact, they are going to realize that over 20% of the world’s fresh water (and 80% of North America’s surface water) is located in the Great Lakes. Because of the Great Lakes Water Compact, the water isn’t going to come to you. If you want the water, you have to come to the Great Lakes. The time to buy that lakefront property in Cleveland is now, before the rush.
- An Inconvenient Bacon: What the Internet Has Done to Me (Here): What would happen if you substituted the word “Bacon” into the titles of movies? Well, it isn’t pretty.
- The Great War: A Book List (Here): In August 2014, in conjunction with the centenary of the start of the First World War, I re-read Barbara Tuchman’s classic account of the war’s first days, The Guns of August. This set off more than a year of reading of books about the war. From among the many books I read, I put together this list of the best books I read about the war’s origins and consequences.
- Winter Poems (Here): One of the great things about having my own blog is that I get to decide what gets published. And so I was free to go ahead and publish some poetry written by the then-nine year old daughter of a couple of my old friends. I was glad I did it at the time, and it brings a smile to my face every time I go back and read the poems (which are actually quite nice). Take a minute and read the poems, it will brighten your day.
- You Are Here – So What? (Here): I have lived in Cleveland now for over two decades, and so I am quite accustomed to the idea that as far as the rest of the world is concerned, I live in fly-over territory. I know that many people are really not that sure which state is Ohio, and which is, say, Iowa, or Idaho. Still, it catches me short when people ask me if I am in the Central Time Zone. Friends, Cleveland is in the Eastern Time Zone. So is Quito, Ecuador. Please read this post. Thank you.
- A Half-Dozen Essential Business Books (Here): There is a booming business in books about business. But in my view the best books from which to learn about business are really not about business as such; rather, they are more about life. So I put together this list of books about the business of life and the life of business. I wrote this post several years ago, but I think it stands the test of time.
- The Travel Issue (Here): One of the great, unexpected pleasures of having this blog is that it has afforded me the opportunity to enjoy some pretty terrific travel. I have had a lot of fun with the travel, but maybe even more fun writing about the travel. I like all of the travel posts I have written, but my favorite one is the first one, which describes my October 2011 visit to Amsterdam. I also like my posts about Mumbai (here), and Beijing (here). And for sheer escapism, I like my New Zealand post (here), especially the pictures.
- The Best Single Night of Baseball Ever? (Here): I write a blog about insurance and legal issues, but of all the blog posts I have published, the one that attracted the most readers is the post I wrote in the middle of the night during the 2011 baseball playoffs. Over 100,000 people visited my site the next day. Even though that events described in the post are now ancient history, the post is still a lot of fun to read. Kind of makes me wish I had the chance to go off-topic more often.
- Summer Time (Here): I am fortunate to have the opportunity each summer to spend time in Pentwater, Michigan. In my blog post about Pentwater, I tried to describe how I feel about the place and what it means to me. The reason I like this post so much is that I managed to say exactly what I meant to say. The blog post also reminds me of summer, which is a nice thing to think about. (Last year, I added a follow-up post about the end of summer in Pentwater, here).
My Top Ten Favorite Travel Pictures
As I mentioned above, one of the great and entirely unexpected benefits of having this blog is that I have been able to enjoy some really fantastic travel opportunities.
As I have traveled, I have taken many pictures (as the examples above show). Now, I am no photographer, and I use a small digital camera for my pictures. In addition, in order to publish the pictures on my blog without crashing the website, I have had to skinny them down, which basically means reducing the data content. Somehow, despite these constraints, I have managed to take some pictures that I think turned out great. In descending order, here are my ten favorites.
- São Paulo Skyline: When I traveled to São Paulo for a conference in June 2015, it was not only the first time I had ever been to Brazil, it was the first time I had been to South America. I wanted to see everything, so I kept my eyes wide open. And I took a lot of pictures. I took the picture below at the Parque Ibirapuera, which has the same urban oasis feel as Central Park.
- The Forbidden City, Beijing: Beijing is famous (or perhaps, infamous) for its air pollution, but I was extremely fortunate when I visited Beijing in April 2012 that the air was completely clear. On the first morning of my visit, I toured the Forbidden City, the vast imperial compound in the center of the city. I took many pictures, but I like this one best because the silhouettes in the foreground contrast with the bright light and colors behind, and because the combination of the figures in the foreground and the palace behind highlights how vast the distances are inside the Forbidden City. The place is enormous.
- Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris: I have published several travel posts about Paris and I have posted many pictures of the city. There are so many pictures that I love that it is hard to choose among them. But if I had to choose, I would choose this one, taken at the Jardin du Luxemburg on a blustery Sunday morning in November 2013. Paris is such a wonderful place, and this picture comes closest to capturing how I feel about the place.
- St. James’s Park: I love visiting London, because it is such a great city just to walk around in. I took this picture during my most recent visit, in early March 2016. We had just arrived in London, and I was showing my sister and her husband around the city for their first time. We entered St. James’s Park just as the sun began to set. The colors were particularly nice, and fortunately even my cheap little camera managed to capture the scene.
- Berlin Wall: I was in Berlin in October 2013. I was only there for a couple of days at the end of a business trip, but the visit was long enough for a thought-provoking encounter with the history surrounding the Berlin Wall. Most of the Wall was demolished and removed following reunification, but a few stretches have been preserved. I took this picture of one of the preserved portions during a huge downpour. The wretched weather gave the scene an appropriately somber tone.
- Auckland: Of all the places I have visited, possibly the most beautiful is New Zealand. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Auckland, New Zealand in February 2015. While I was in Auckland, I took a ferry across the harbor to Devonport, a pleasant seaside suburb with small shops, cafes and restaurants on the harbor’s north side, to meet some friends for drinks. I arrived early so I took advantage of the opportunity to hike to the top of Mt. Victoria, a volcanic outcropping that affords great views out beyond the harbor to Hauraki Gulf.
- Oxford: England is not known for its beautiful weather, but the weather was particularly unpleasant during our March 2013 visit there. It snowed several times during the visit. While we were in England, we made a short excursion to Oxford. It was a blustery day during our visit, but at least it didn’t snow. The skies were quite dramatic , as reflected in this picture below, taken at Christ Church College in Oxford.
- Cologne: The dramatic Cologne Cathedral (or Kölner Dom as the locals call it) looms over the Rhine River city. This shot, taken from the city’s east side on a gloomy winter day in January 2013, shows how the Cathedral towers over the city and dominates the city vista.
- Stockholm: I was fortunate to be have been able to visit Stockholm in March 2014. I was even more fortunate that the weather while I was there was spectacularly beautiful. I am actually quite proud of this picture of Gamla Stan, the city’s old town, reflecting off of the harbor’s still waters. I spent the better part of the morning walking along a very narrow strip of land between the harbor and a very busy roadway, trying to find just the right spot from which to take the picture. The weather that morning was absolutely magical, and this picture manages to capture exactly how beautiful the city was, all wreathed in sunshine and blue skies.
- Je Suis Paris: As I explained in my travel post at the time, I was in Paris just after the November 2015 terrorist attacks. The city’s atmosphere was fragile, jittery, and uneasy. It was a difficult time, but there already were many signs that the city was already pulling itself together and trying to move forward. The dramatic illumination of the Eiffel Tower was a vivid memorial to the victims and a stirring statement of the city’s determination to persevere.
The Tenth Anniversary Frisbee
We are all about spin control here at The D&O Diary, so what better way to celebrate the blog’s Tenth Anniversary than with a Frisbee? This limited edition collector’s item is available just in time for the summer season. The Tenth Anniversary Frisbee is just the thing for a day at the beach, a picnic in the park, or even just an afternoon in the back yard. Best of all, the Frisbee is free. Yes, I said free.
There is just one little catch.
If I send you a Frisbee, you agree that you are going to send me back a picture of the Frisbee in .jpeg format, with a description of the circumstances in which you took the picture. I will publish the best pictures on this blog – “best” in this case meaning most interesting, creative or unusual.
If you would like to receive a Tenth Anniversary Frisbee, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name, mailing address and e-mail address. I will mail you a Frisbee. For free. I promise that I will not use your information for any reason other than sending you the Frisbee. (I am not yet entirely ready to start mailing operations, so it may be the end of May or early June before I mail out the first Frisbees.)
What kinds of Frisbee pictures will readers send in? I don’t know. I have confidence that this blog’s resourceful readers, inspired by the experience of receiving a free D&O Diary Tenth Anniversary Frisbee, will demonstrate unparalleled levels of ingenuity and inventiveness.
To get everyone started, here is an illustration of what a picture and description might look like. In the picture below, I am standing on the Lake Erie beach at Mentor Headlands State Park, in Mentor, Ohio. The Mentor Headlands lighthouse can be seen in the background. The picture was actually taken a few weeks ago, in mid-April. I learned that day that when the weatherman says “temperatures will be cooler by the lake,” he means it. The temperature inland was in the mid-70s, but right on the lakeshore, it was barely 50. Still, the week before, it had snowed. I was just happy to see the sun shining.
So let me know if you are in for a Frisbee. Start thinking now of where you would like to take your Frisbee picture. I look forward to seeing the Frisbee photos!
Wait, There’s More!
I know that one of my faults as a blogger is that I am very long-winded. I really do wish I had the time to make my blog posts shorter. But even though I know I need to rein in my verbose tendencies, I just can’t resist adding a little bit more to the end of this post. (This entire post is essentially just an elaborate exercise in self-indulgence, after all.) There are just so many other pictures that I wanted to include that I felt compelled to add them here. Please enjoy them.