Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts

26 February 2014

Why are there so few blogs by British academic economists?

In the US, to name just a few, you have

McKenzie/Ozler et al

In the UK I count

Simon Wren-Lewis
Henry Overman
Danny Quah
Matt Collin


1. The bandwagon effect - Mankiw and Krugman are really high profile and have been blogging for years - when the leading textbook author and a Nobel prize winner are blogging then its probably ok (although this bandwagon effect could also effect UK academics)

2. Differences in administrative/teaching burdens?

3. A selection effect - in the UK terminal masters programmes are more common, so natural writers quit before then complete a phd and get sucked into academia

4. A simple quantity effect - some fixed % of academics are likely to be interested in blogging, and there are just many more top economists in the US than the UK (about 6 times more according to this list).

What am I missing?

03 December 2013

22 August 2013

Lean in: A call for (female) guest bloggers

Andi called me out the other day for a slightly skewed gender distribution of guest bloggers. I like to think of myself as a feminist, so before I post yet another guy (tomorrow), do any female readers want to write something?

Some suggested style guidelines:

Keep it short (though up to 800 words ish)
Keep the words and sentences short
Go heavy on data, charts, and references
Go heavy on tenuous links to celebrity or scandal (think buzzfeed)

Keep it tightly focused on my narrow areas of interest and expertise (ahem, absolutely anything even vaguely related to absolutely any part of development and/or economics)

My blog reading list is also relatively light on women - suggestions there are also welcome.

30 June 2013

After Google Reader

I've left it to the very last minute to switch. For what it's worth - I'm now using feedbin, mostly because it lets me keep using the excellent Reeder app on my iphone. And until the new Reeder app comes out for ipad (with feedbin support), I'll be using Mr. Reader on the ipad (which is pretty decent but not quite as good as reeder). Something about feedly didn't quite do it for me.

19 March 2013

How (and why) to do a corporate blog

Jason Fried and David Hansson of 37Signals argue in their book Rework (and the video above, HT: my favourite business writing blog) that companies should "emulate chefs." Why do you know some chefs better than others? Not because they spend money on advertising, but because they teach you their secrets - they explain recipes on TV and they publish their recipes in books. And all of this is free advertising for their restaurants. Why don't businesses do this? Because they are scared of competitors stealing their ideas. But the truth is it isn't about the ideas as about the execution and the mastery. Chefs aren't worried about someone stealing all of their recipes and opening a new identical restaurant next door and putting them out of business, it just doesn't work like that. Nobody is going to steal your idea and put you out of business. But when you share your ideas, you teach people something for free and you build an audience and a relationship based on trust and openness rather than marketing and selling. This is both more interesting for the reader, as well as being a strong signal of confidence, that you are good enough to let it all hang out. It's countersignalling, that you are so good you don't need to really bother with marketing, and that you are so confident in your expertise that you can teach others how to do it and not need to worry about whether people will keep paying for your services, because you are confident that you can do it better.

And you see this in the development blogosphere. The best blogs are written by experts in their field who are being open about their process and teaching you something with honesty. Look at Chris Blattman's advice posts or field stories, Development Impact's super-technical stats posts, or Duncan Green's internal Oxfam wrangling. All of these guys have built massive audiences who trust them and are interested in what they have to say because they are open and not just trying to sell you something. Most corporate blogs suck because they are all marketing and promotion, and readers smell that in a second and turn off. It is the opposite of countersignalling, it's trying too hard, like using complicated words in an attempt to sound clever when writing simply is actually harder and it shows. Smart writers write clearly and let their ideas do the talking, and let the words get out of the way. Smart business bloggers open up and say something of value that isn't directly selling and is playing the long game, building an audience and building trust. And once you have an audience, they will forgive you a bit of promotional guff.

All of this may or may not be written a prospective new OPM blog in mind. 

19 November 2012

Probably the best economics blog in Rwanda

There are actually quite a few economists here in Kigali, but as far as I can tell, none of them are blogging. So... I'm laying claim to the title. I'm here for three months. Get in touch if you have any good ideas on policies for productivity and job creation, have a better Rwanda-based economics blog than this one, or want to buy me a beer. Cheers!

18 October 2012

New media, new work

So Newsweek has announced that it is closing its print edition, a few days after Alan Rusbridger was forced to deny that the Guardian has similar plans. Andrew Sullivan, who blogs at the Newsweek-owned "Daily Beast" reflects
The shift in my own mind has happened gradually. Even up to a year ago, I was still getting my New York Times every morning on paper, wrapped in blue plastic. Piles of them would sit in my blog-cave, read and half-read, skimmed, and noted. 
Until a couple of years ago, I also read physical books on paper, and then shifted to cheaper, easier, lighter tablet versions. Then it became a hassle to get the physical NYT delivered in Provincetown so I tried a summer of reading it on a tablet. I now read almost everything on my iPad. And as I ramble down the aisle of Amtrak's Acela, I see so many reading from tablets or laptops, with the few newspapers and physical magazines seeming almost quaint, like some giant brick of a mobile phone from the 1980s. Almost no one under 30 is reading them. 
I sympathise. I look at the Guardian website almost every day, but I can't remember the last time that I actually bought a paper copy. Sullivan continues
I also began to wonder what a magazine really is. Can it even exist online? It's a form that's only really been around for three centuries - and it was based on a group of people associating with each other under a single editor and bound together with paper and staples. At The New Republic in the 1990s, I knew intuitively that most people read TRB, the Diarist and the Notebook before they dug into a 12,000 word review of a book on medieval Jewish mysticism. But they were all in it together. You couldn't just buy Kinsley's perky column. It came physically attached to Leon Wieseltier's sun-blocking ego. 
But since every page on the web is now as accessible as every other page, how do you connect writers together with paper and staples, instead of having readers pick individual writers or pieces and ignore the rest? And the connection between writers and photographers and editors is what a magazine is. It defines it - and yet that connection is now close to gone. Around 70 percent of Dish readers have this page bookmarked and come to us directly. (If you read us all the time and haven't, please do). You can't sell bundles anymore.
Which is exactly how I read these days. The Guardian website is basically the only "bundled" media I consume. The rest is a personally selected collage wrapped up in my Google Reader account, consisting of all the important economics, development, and Africa bloggers, academics, with a couple of comics (Dilbert, XKCD), and my favourite Guardian and FT weekend columnists thrown in. This is quite a natural progression, given that it is almost (marginally) costless for me to do this. [Warning: Descent into wild conjecture and ill-thought out theory rapidly approaching]. Coase's theory of the firm bases the existence of companies on the role of transaction costs. As transaction costs external to the firm disappear, so does the reason for the firm. Which leads to an atomised media economy, where individuals are firms.

But I still read the Guardian. I suppose that there is a role for organisations to provide the raw news - the unknown unknowns that I don't know I might be interested in, and thus wouldn't search for or subscribe to. Someone who has a culture and values that I think I can trust. 

What does all of this mean, if anything, for the rest of the economy? In my line of work, we already have a similarly atomised economy. Many consultants are independent, and assemble into temporary teams for specific projects, establishing "mini-firms" that come together for a particular task and then disperse. At present the process of assembling these teams is a costly one. Searching for potential team members for very specialised roles and then assessing their quality is time-consuming. These are Coase's transaction costs, and provide a strong case for the existence of consulting firms - transaction costs can be minimized through a centralized process of quality assessment ("recruitment"), which doesn't have to be repeated for every project. This is also why networking is so important. Diamond, Mortensen, and Pissarides won the Economics Nobel Prize in 2010 for developing new models of "frictional" unemployment, driven by this process of search and matching. So this is a costly process with relevance to the wider economy and significant macroeconomic implications. But this large problem also presents a large opportunity. There are big gains to be made from improving this search and matching process. Already some of the biggest firms in the world are ones in the business of search and information sharing. Whether it be through linkedin or some other kind of online database or network - will further reductions in frictional transaction costs lead to further atomisation of the firm? Presumably there is still a role for a "Guardian" - a multi-purpose provider who can tell you about the unknown unknowns - the things that you wouldn't think to search for to begin with, and whose values and culture you can trust. 

Whether any of this makes any sense, and what the implications of this are for youth unemployment, well, you tell me.

04 July 2012

How aid bloggers should blog

Aaron Ausland is worried that blogging is using up his creativity. He raises some legitimate concerns about time and trade-offs, but with regards to creativity I actually think the complete opposite - that blogging increases my creativity.

Firstly, think of it as reading, rather than writing. Lehrer is a wide-ranging polymath: he is sent, and stumbles across, all manner of interesting things every day. Right now, I suspect, he files those things away somewhere and wonders whether one day he might be able to use them for another Big Idea piece. Make the blog the place where you file them away. Those posts can be much shorter than the things Lehrer’s writing right now: basically, just an excited “hey look at this”, with maybe a short description of why it’s interesting. It’s OK if the meat of what you’re blogging is elsewhere, rather than on your own blog. In fact, that’s kind of the whole point. 
blogging is not at heart about delivering new information, so much as it is about finding and linking and connecting and conversing.
But do just make sure that you add some fucking value.


Also: for me blogging feels about 90% system 1, so it isn't really competing with real effortful work in terms of mental energy.

15 May 2012

Think Hemingway

Andrés Marroquín and Julio H. Cole ran a statistical analysis of the length of words used in Nobel Laureate speeches. Winners for Literature use shorter words than in other disciplines. And as a general rule of thumb I would guess that Nobel prize winners in literature are also better writers. Ergo, use short words dummy. The statistical evidence says so.

08 September 2011

The Development Blog Reader Survey

Hopefully you have already heard about Dave Algoso's blog reader survey, in which case you can consider this a reminder.

Take 5 minutes to fill out this simple survey on your reading habits so the development bloggers can know a little more about their audience.

Take the survey here

19 August 2011

Google Plus

So what to make of this thing huh?

I am sympathetic to Chris' concerns;
"am I seriously supposed to post separate and new content on yet another platform?"
Whilst Google Plus might be better than either Facebook or Twitter, I think there is probably a risk of technological lock-in and path dependence  (like the qwerty keyboard) due to the network externalities (econo-jargon!). Or in English, whilst you might make the switch, can you really guarantee that all of your Facebook and Twitter friends are going to switch too? And if you aren't sure, then is it worth doing in the first place? Its no fun being the first person at the party.

Ultimately these things aren't really all that predictable. I certainly thought blogging and twitter were stupid when I first heard about them. Twitter took on a life of its own, with much of the functionality being driven by users rather than the creators. When I first started getting Facebook invites they seemed pretty indistinguishable from Bebo and MySpace. Jumo totally flopped, and Google too has had plenty of flops.

But seeing as its Google, its probably worth a low-investment punt. You can follow me here, if only to help keep me ahead of Matt. For more cool development kids see here

12 August 2011

The State of the Juba Blogosphere

Not really, but I did just come across the rather entertaining Erin In Juba. It has home-made pictures!

03 July 2011

Definitely the best diary of a Spanish freelance journalist in Juba right now

For those of us who came to Africa looking for otherness and new things to discover and explore (again: that whole ‘changing the world bullshit’ is, well, bullshit), Juba is still a good place, compared for example to the boring normality of Nairobi or (a bit less) Kampala. Juba still has exotic things, is very poor and underdeveloped, there’s no much tarmac and you feel you’re risking your life just by not wearing a helmet and being driven around by 13-year-old crazy boda (mototaxi) drivers who may be high on some shit. In fact, we journalists in Africa like to feel we are risking our lives but we don’t like to actually risk our lives. We just want to have stories to tell other journalist and to tell normal, boring people back home.
Very funny throughout

31 March 2011


Wikio have me at #16 in their ranking of UK economics blogs. Which is clearly horseshit as Tim Harford isn’t on the list, but I’ll take it anyway, so thanks very much Wikio algorithms!

04 March 2011

Too Many Blogs to Read?

Yeah me too. So you might want to give Barometer Intel a try:

we scour the blogosphere on a daily basis for news, analysis and commentary on current events so that you don’t have to. We then select the most interesting, informative and incisive pieces and feature them on our webpage. In doing so, we aim to bring the best of the blogosphere to the widest possible audience, raise the profile of bloggers with talent and integrity, and expose our readers to compelling, independent voices from around the world.

All directed by a bunch of smart cool international development-types.

26 January 2011

Notes of a Subpar Footballer

The organiser of my indoor football team is blogging our travails. This one is probably of limited general interest, with the possible exception of my mum. I scored a goal!

25 January 2011

I made a Facebook page for my blog

I would feel a bit presumptuous spamming all my friends by putting all my blog posts on my personal page, so I made a special page just for the blog, that way you can opt in, or not. Might be useful for those who don’t use an RSS reader or something.

So go look here and Like it.

Or not. Whatever.

16 December 2010

A Sudan Blog by Sudanese

This struggling life continued until one morning in 2005 I heard my friends ululating and shouting. It was breaking news that the Sudan People's Liberation Movement had signed a final peace deal the National Congress Party. I couldn't believe my ears. I had to ask a friend what the BBC was saying, and he told me – so then I knew it was true. My family and friends got together. It called for celebration; at least now we had hope for the future.
In the last five years of peace, my family has been transformed, from living in mud huts to now staying in a place with a corrugated iron roof. And I'm at university studying IT.
That is Morri Francis, a student and radio presenter writing in the Guardian. He is also blogging along with other Southerners at CAFOD.

07 August 2010


So I’ve been playing with the new blog templates from Blogger. What do you think?