Behind the Blogs

This is my 38th and final Mother of Invention blog post of 2021, a personal experiment I kicked off in January. Over the course of this year, I’ve published nearly 45,000 words, on topics as varied as climate change, summer camp, hybrid cloud, corporate jargon, resilience, and artificial intelligence. My posts have been viewed almost 20,000 times — some more than others. In this “meta” blog, I reflect on the experience — what worked well, what didn’t work out quite as I imagined — and what’s next.

Writing regularly has sometimes felt like a daunting task, requiring my diligence to prioritize thinking about, drafting, and refining an essay each week even when I struggled to find the time. Yet, to me, writing has proven cathartic. It has helped me get clarity on subjects I care about — to articulate my point of view, document relevant evidence, and share experiences and perspectives. It’s also been a bit scary to be so open about topics, many of which are deeply personal. Anyone who has read my posts knows how my husband and I divide up household chores; when my ancestors immigrated to America; what odd jobs I had growing up; my kids’ various activities; and my love of books, puzzles, and Broadway. I’ve tried to walk the line of being authentic without oversharing or exploiting my children.

From the start, I decided to write about topics I wanted to explore — and not worry too much about my “audience” (since I didn’t yet know who that was). I began with a long list of ideas, but what I actually wrote about each week depended on what was on my mind: Something happening in the world, at work, in my family. Timely topics that felt right. I thought about these on and off during the week — making a few notes on my phone, discussing ideas with friends or family, looking up relevant articles before going to bed at night. And then I got up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to write — reclined on my couch in the living room, with my dog by my side. My youngest son often came down to find me: “I knew you’d be here!”

I love that my blogging became a family affair. My 19-year-old daughter was my webmaster, designing the WordPress blog site and taking the lead on photo editing. My 11-year-old came up with clever titles, offered song lyrics to quote, and lamented the “boring parts” (when I presented too much data). My 16-year-old son kindly read drafts when I asked him to and usually replied simply, “That was really interesting.” My husband previewed what I wrote and encouraged me when I was squeamish about sharing personal stories. Most importantly, my entire family supported this strange weekend ritual that undoubtedly took my attention away from other things at home.

My blogs are on average 1,200 words long (so it’s sort of like writing two college essays every week!), which can be read in about five minutes. I posted new blogs on Sundays and shared a link and summary on social media (Twitter and LinkedIn), which drove traffic to the blog.

According to the WordPress site analytics, I have a global audience. More than half of all views were from people in the United States, along with at least a dozen views from readers in 50 other countries: India, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, Israel, Hungary, Japan, Italy, South Africa, and more. Here’s a shoutout to my singular readers in Ghana, Cuba, Venezuela, Latvia, and Fiji. =)

My most-read blog was She’s So Bossy in which I explored gender stereotypes that impact career opportunities and experiences. Second most read was Fostering a Blameless Culture where I discussed the importance of shifting away from an organizational culture based on finger pointing to one focused on solutions. Third was When the Chips Are Down where I provided some context and perspective around the global semiconductor chip shortage.

My early Physics is Life post from January received my largest number of Twitter impressions. Here I told the story of my introduction to physics and shared some perspective on notable scientists who have inspired me. On LinkedIn, the topic that got the most views was The Joy of Books and Lifelong Learning, where I wrote about the enjoyment and value of reading, which generated some fun exchange of reading lists in the LinkedIn comments.

LinkedIn sent the most traffic to my WordPress site, as topics seemed to resonate with the business audience there. Based on LinkedIn, about 20% of my readers work at IBM, with others from a smattering of other tech companies including Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Cisco, Amazon, and Google. My LinkedIn readers are predominantly software developers, technology managers, salespeople, engineers, business strategists, and IT consultants.

So, what didn’t work so well? I didn’t get a lot of traction on Twitter. I hoped my regular postings would drive engagement and increase my Twitter follower base, but I didn’t have much luck there. Some of my blog posts didn’t get very many views or reactions. My least-viewed blogs were Defining Moments (a reflection on the defining moments of a generation, including crises like 9/11 and COVID-19 as well as events that inspire celebration and hope) and Stick-to-itiveness in Sports and Science (a perspective on key sports lessons that are critical for success in science and business). I suspect timing may have played a role here, as these were posted during busy news cycles (9/11 weekend and Super Bowl Sunday). Posting weekly became unsustainable. As the year progressed, I posted less frequently simply due to the other demands on my time.

My favorite part of this whole experience is that these posts have been conversation starters that fostered connections and provoked intriguing debate. I’ve valued reconnecting with people from all different parts of my life to reflect on shared experiences. I’ve enjoyed discussing related topics with colleagues and friends, who contributed valuable insights. I’ve found it so satisfying when something I wrote resonated with others many of whom I’ve never met — that it got them thinking or inspired them in some meaningful way. I’ve loved reading thoughtful comments from readers. I’ve appreciated others’ willingness to put themselves out there too — sharing their own household chores and passion projects, their personal experiences with bias in the workplace, their perspectives on gratitude and crisis management and techlash.

THANK YOU to all who have joined me on this journey. I plan to continue writing in 2022, at a slightly less ambitious pace. I look forward to many more engaging dialogues.

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