Why do I blog on forensic engineering?

I had occasion in the past week to reflect on how readers benefit from my blogging.  I was drafting e-mails at the time to potential readers.  Then, last Thursday evening while swimming in Halifax, the somewhat related question popped into my head, “Why do I blog?”

Why do I blog?

  1. To increase the justice system’s understanding of what’s involved in forensic engineering – the nature of this engineering discipline and the methods used
  2. Also, to help readers understand why it takes time and money to thoroughly and objectively investigate the technical issues of a case
  3. To better understand this field myself, to learn by writing the blogs and “thinking on paper” – particularly, on how addressing the technical issues supports the resolution of disputes
  4. To increase my understanding of the civil litigation process
  5. Because of a sense of obligation to my readers who have seen the blog for over two years now and perhaps have come to expect it – to fill a void I think was there
  6. For that satisfied feeling that comes from creating something – a piece of literature that did not exist before

More detail on why I blog

Increasing my reader’s understanding of the forensic engineering work I enjoy doing and its contribution to the resolution of disputes – that’s a big reason.  Also to help you appreciate the reason for the associated time and costs.

This by raising the awareness of counsel and managers to what`s involved in the forensic engineering investigation of the technical issues in your cases and claims.  Some disputes are so very technical in nature.

I also blog to increase my understanding of the civil litigation process.  I do my work better when I understand the process I’m part of and how my work fits in.  Readers might not know that most books on forensic engineering and science have a quite detailed chapter or section on the civil litigation process.

I blog because I like to write.  After years of investigating the cause of engineering problems, failures and accidents - initially specializing in civil engineering, and soils, foundation, and environmental engineering, and writing reports on these problems - often for non-technical readers, I feel I can write.

I’ve always written for readers at the interface between my area of expertise and those in other specialities, as well as for the general public.

Another interesting reason: A few months after I started blogging in mid-June, 2012, I noticed a feeling of satisfaction after posting an item, a mild elation.  It was subtle but there.  On reflection, I realized I felt good because I had created something - I created a piece of literature that did not exist until I put pen to paper.  So, I blog for that satisfied, creative feeling.  You all know how elusive that feeling is in our busy work-life-balance-challenged lives.

I do feel obligated to keep my blog going for the benefit of my readers.  It`s out there now and I`m certain some do look for it.  I`m certain the chap does, who “…loves that stuff“ and the claims manager who “…reads every one“ (see below).

How long does it take to write a blog?

How long does it take to write a blog?  I`ve been asked that several times.  From first draft to posting, typically about 8 to 10 hours, sometimes a good bit less.  But, sometimes longer when I have to research the literature and flesh out my knowledge of the subject matter.

An idea for a topic comes to mind.  It tumbles around in my head for a little while, but not too long – a few minutes, an hour or two.  I then quickly sit down and knock out a draft in one or two hours.  You have to capture these ideas when they’re fertile.  Then over the next few days I edit quite ruthlessly during several sittings – I`m doing that now.

What you read sometimes bears little resemblance to the original draft.  A piece of writing truly can take on a life of its own.  Some of you are certain to have read this comment by authors about writing.  I’ve experienced it – actually, to a degree, this particular blog took on a life of its own; I’m just along for the ride at this point.  It’s a good feeling when this happens.

Where do the blogs come from?

Where do the blog topics come from?  The topics come from everywhere.  It seems sometimes they`re just out there in the ether.  Some, however, are triggered by news items.  Also, I see a lot of technical literature in connection with my forensic practice and no end of topics come to mind then.

Like I said at the beginning, this blog, on why I blog, just popped into my head last Thursday evening – out of the ether?, while I was swimming a few lengths of a pool.  The topic seemed timely after posting blogs for two years.  So, I put aside the draft of a blog on ‘bias in forensic engineering’.  You’ll see this one another day.

Readers’ comments

Feed back suggests you do get something from my descriptions of the nature and methods of forensic engineering, and my comments on related matters.  A senior lawyer in Atlantic Canada said, “I love that stuff..!!”.  Another senior legal chap here on the east coast commented, “…like reading them.”  And an insurance claims consultant said, “I read every one”.  It’s hard to beat testimonials like that.

Two senior counsel helped me with two of the blogs on the role of professional engineers in the civil litigation process – critiqued them before posting.  One of these noted that experts are invaluable to civil litigation.

A fellow who blogs on business ethics, and truly has an international reputation in his field – he’s on a list of 100 influential business people that includes Barack Obama, saw fit to advise his twitter followers of my blog.

A monthly periodical on engineering construction – with an international distribution of 10,000, sought permission to publish one of my blogs in an issue of theirs a year and a half ago.  The issue had a forensic engineering theme.  Then they came back a couple of weeks later requesting permission to publish two additional blogs in the same issue.

In two years, I`ve only had about six readers request being taken off my distribution list.  This because they were retired or the subject did not relate to their field of practice.

Overall, quite a good reception – suggesting there was a void, and that I`m making a contribution to the civil litigation process and to insurance claims management.

Future blogs

There will be more blogs in the future; there’s a number of topics identified in my files, and very rough drafts of some of these.  And another topic just came to mind as I drafted this piece.