I started this blog in May of 2005. Over the next year, I found the experience of writing a blog so exciting and interesting that I posted several entries on my thoughts about blogging the following August and December, and then again in May of 2006.
One of the comments I got on this May 2006 entry was that "You know that someone has run out of things to say when they start blogging about blogging." I guess I took that comment to heart, because until now I have refrained from writing any new entries on blogging itself. While I am still very much enjoying the experience, it is no longer new. For the most part, it now feels that posting an entry in my blog once a week has become part of my work routine.
But given my June 1 retirement from IBM - and despite my continuing, part-time association with the company - I have been wondering what new direction my blog might take. Are there subjects that, consciously or not, I refrained from writing about as an IBM executive that I now feel free to tackle? How will my increased involvement with universities - such as MIT, the University of Chicago and Imperial College - start to influence both the content and style of my blog?
The short answer is that I don't know. From the beginning, I have looked at my blog as something personal, written by a long-time professional in the IT industry who happens to be employed by IBM - not the other way around. The same IBM colleagues who encouraged me to start my blog to begin with, advised me to assume this point of view. They also suggested that I post my entries in an outside blogging site, not one of the IBM sites that many employees use for their internal and external blogs.
While from time to time people asked me if I would consider writing about a subject, my choice of topics – and what I say about them – has always been mine. Several times I have had to explain that doing my blog takes a considerable amount of time, including researching the subject, writing about it, editing it multiple times and concluding with a final round of revisions while posting the blog. Unless the subject is one I am interested in and thus have something to say about, I just cannot do it.
I usually write about subjects related to some activity I have been involved with in the previous week or two, be it a talk I gave, a meeting I attended, an article, blog or book I read, or just something that caught my attention. I will then spend several days thinking whether I have anything interesting to say on the subject and if there is an angle I want to take that particularly reflects my feelings. I do quite a bit of research, looking at news articles, Wikipedia definitions, blogs, web sites and any other information that will prove useful. I then set aside time for the writing, usually on a weekend when I can find some uninterrupted stretches of time.
I find it fascinating that many times I don't know what I am going to say until I actually start writing. The first few paragraphs are the hardest and most time-consuming to “put on paper,” because they frame whatever it is I am going to write and set the tone for the overall entry. Several times I have not been able to get going in one sitting, and had to come back to the blog hours later or the next day, before it finally dawned on me how best to approach the topic. A few times, I have had to abandon a topic altogether because something in my approach was not working, and I then had to come up with a totally different subject for that week's entry. In some cases, I returned to the abandoned topic several weeks later after finally having found the right angle that worked for me.
This blog has thus turned into a kind of trip of personal discovery – a trip that is kept close to the ground and rendered concrete by the fact that its ultimate destination is to write the blog. It has become a way to explore what is on my mind, how I feel about a subject, and whether my feelings are well formed enough to be able to write them down as a coherent entry. I often feel about the blog as I did when for a few years I took on rock climbing in the 1960s while a student in Chicago: somewhat scared as I get going and not sure if I will be able to finish, followed by a feeling of incredible relief once I am done.
A number of times, as the weekend approaches, I consider that perhaps I should skip posting an entry for that week. But so far, I have resisted the impulse, both because I am afraid that if I break the weekly routine once I may be tempted to do so again and again, and frankly, because I have gotten used to the wonderful "high" of relief once I am done.
I suspect that I must sound like a teenager talking about first love, as I am describing cliched feelings well known to anyone who writes. Given that blogging has turned into such a personal journey, I do not expect that the journey will change much just because my career has moved on to a new phase. Hopefully, I will continue to be stimulated by talks, meetings, books, articles and conversations that urge me to explore how I really feel about the subject by writing about it in my blog.