About this blog

A replica Broad Street pump, sans handle, installed in 2018. (Photo by Atlas Obscura user AmunyAnkhesenra )

A few years ago I attended a lecture by the astronomer David Hogg on the merits of open data. One thing that stuck with me from talk was his discussion of his blog. Every workday, he writes about something he’s worked on. It serves as a personal searchable archive of ideas and progress, but because it is open to the world, it occasionally leads to unplanned conversations and collaborations with other scientists. Once, if I remember correctly, it was helpful in ferreting out a case of academic fraud – someone claimed to have discovered something that had appeared in the blog long before. Since that day, I’ve aspired to imitate this practice. But in my previous career as a state government employee, too much of what I worked on simply wasn’t shareable, or it as least was not up to me to decide. So I kept it on paper, but I missed a lot of days. I also found it quite difficult to go back and find something I might have written a year or two earlier. Now, as the owner of Pumphandle, I am realizing this goal. As this point, you might be thinking, “There are eight hours in a workday. If you spend the last one writing about what you did in the first seven, doesn’t that make you less productive overall?” I am finding this to be quite the contrary. Writing about what you have worked on clarifies your thoughts, inspires connections between disparate projects, reduces redundant thinking, makes it easier to pick up where you left off. Every so often I take a peak at David Hogg’s blog to make sure it is still going (it is). I can understand almost none of it, which is an unfortunate aspect of scientific specialization. Here, I’m doing my best to make it readable by the educated layperson, but sometimes technical language is hard to avoid.

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