If you blog, you don’t frequently receive credible market signals about the value of what you do. You experience psychic satisfaction. You can count the comments under your post. You get emails from friends and colleagues—not to mention the missives from strangers, friendly or otherwise. You can Google your stuff and check for good links. Much of what I, anyway, produce arrives unadorned with more than a token paycheck. So it’s largely untested by a real market test.

I’ve recently looked back on my web journalism after passage of health reform. I’ve received great satisfaction from producing it. Some of it was valuable or entertaining. Overall, though, I’ve somewhat drifted from my distinctive competence and voice. A great thing about a community such as RBC is that one has an available remedy. Mark, Michael, Keith, Jonathan, James, Andy, and others are so productive that I don’t have to constantly generate product to provide oxygen to sustain a site.

I’m not retiring, but I am rebooting. My posts may come somewhat less frequently for awhile. I’ll still occasionally chime in with personal items or political thrust and parry. I’ll be posting more links to my own and others’ academic work. Abstinence is a worthy but unrealistic personal goal. More of my writing will be refreshed with first-person reporting and analysis in areas in which I bring specific experience or expertise. I hope this will increase its lasting value, both for me and for you.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

8 thoughts on “Rebooting”

  1. Having one’s favorite writers declare sabbaticals appears to be an occupational hazard for blog readers.

    I hope you’ll continue your occasional posts on your brother-in-law. In the general interest liberal blogosphere there’s not much written on disability and disability issues, especially about adults with disabilities.

  2. I don’t have good manners. I have probably never told you how much I enjoy your writing here on RBC. I enjoy all of the authors, I just forget to say “Thank you.”

  3. Dear Harold:
    The market tests aren’t that strong in most of our professional and non-professional lives. If you are a doctor, some patients get better (or not); if a trial lawyer, you win some cases for your clients (or lose them). But these are exceptions in the service economy. Did the students get anything from your lecture? Did your academic paper advance the discourse? Please do not undervalue your fine and committed blogging.

    I sometimes look out of vanity at the tail end of the site meter. A few of my old posts still curiously get readers, and the same is true of the output of my fellow bloggers. (I’ll do a post on the phenomenon some day.) How readers find this material I don’t know. The point is that I can’t find any pattern, beyond the fact that the blog posts with a long half-life tend to be longer and illustrated. They are not generally the ones I would have chosen as my best work. Writers are rarely their own best judges.
    Yours ever

  4. Thanks for these comments. I’m not going away. Just trying to raise my game in what I write.

  5. Perfectly understandable, and it doesn’t even need an explanation. But it is a blog, not a refereed academic publication. You can even revise it ex “post”, though etiquette suggests you should highlight any substantive changes. You know not how far the influence of your even less considered pieces extends.

    Somehow I find relevant an old post from our renowned colleague, Judge Posner, when he was a guest blogger in 2004 at the Lessig blog (

    “…you don’t have to be an expert in a field to criticize the experts, provided you know enough about the field to understand what the experts are saying and writing, to be able to spot internal contradictions and other logical lapses, sources of bias, arguments obviously not based on knowledge, carelessness in the use of evidence, lack of common sense, and mistaken predictions. These are the analytical tools that judges, who in our system are generalists rather than specialists, bring to the task of adjudicating cases in specialized fields of law.”

Comments are closed.