How agreeable are econ bloggers?

by on April 1, 2009 at 7:35 am in Weblogs | Permalink

Leigh Caldwell offers up some data:

Surprisingly (at least to me), economics bloggers are more
agreeable than not. "Agree" articles (category 3) showed up more than
twice as often as "disagree" (category 4). When measured by titles, the
trend is not so clear, with a majority "agree" articles (category 1)
when measured over the last two months but more "disagree" (category 2)
when taking the last 7 days alone.

So far, so good and indeed Leigh is a smart fellow to see the truth of that.  There is, however, a villain in the piece and dear reader it is you:

However, blog readers are
not so magnanimous. On the content measure, the mean number of comments
on an "is right" article (category 3) is 3.66, while there are an
average of 6 comments on an "is wrong" article (category 4).

When
the title filter is used, the difference is even greater: there are no
comments at all on the category 1 ("genius") articles, and an average
of 21.6 on category 2 ("idiot")!

Are bloggers simply nicer people than readers?  (Or should I say "all you idiots"?)  How would blog comments change if they were attached to your real name like glue and came up any time someone googled the commentator?  Which of us is the real human, the blog reader or the blog writer?

Ben Casnocha theorizes as to which is the most natural "you."

1 Alex-O April 1, 2009 at 8:48 am

Casnocha could not be any more wrong about the setting in which the most natural “you” emerges. Either that, or he and I are very different people. At a dinner party featuring your significant other, your boss, your parents, etc, you couldn’t talk about anything that you wouldn’t talk about with *any* of those people. All the limitations that you experience in talking to any one person superimpose. You would be, if anything, at your most constructed; you’d probably talk about the most generic and banal things. I would suggest, in fact, that the most natural “you” arises in something like the opposite circumstance. When I am sitting at my computer and I have a dozen close friends online, I have something of a “menu”, and whatever thought arises I can discuss with the person I would feel most natural discussing it with.

2 dearieme April 1, 2009 at 9:35 am

I’ve been banned from an economics website for attempting to post the comment “Krugman is a cad”.

3 Blackadder April 1, 2009 at 10:33 am

I’m not sure that the concept of ‘the most natural you’ or ‘the real you’ is very helpful. There’s only one you. If you act one way in one setting and a different way in a different setting, both of those are the real you.

4 anonymous April 1, 2009 at 11:22 am


How would blog comments change if they were attached to your real name like glue and came up any time someone googled the commentator?

Perhaps one day, when there is full-blown artificial intelligence and enormous amounts of computer processing power available, future researchers will run a massive global textual analysis and unmask the identities of a number of anonymous blog posters, in much the same way that Joe Klein was identified as the author of Primary Colors and Ted Kaczynski was identified as the Unabomber.

For instance, I tend to overuse the expression “in much the same way”. Maybe I should start rephrasing that?

It might be harder to do with shorter fragments of text, though. Perhaps brevity is not merely the soul of wit, but of anonymity, too?

On the other hand, correlating the routine log files of websites, ISPs, and spook agencies will probably reveal much more. I had to Google to confirm the exact name of the author of Primary Colors, not too long before the timestamp on this post. Will that be a telltale fingerprint? If storage costs keep falling as rapidly as they have in recent times, such log files might well live forever.

At some point, this kind of datamining global mass trawl will probably happen. Not because it will be important, but because it will be easy, and future humans will probably retain the characteristic of curiosity. They will care about as much about the privacy of long-dead persons as modern-day anthropologists digging up skeletons care about the sanctity of ancient burial customs, ie not at all.

5 Bill Harshaw April 1, 2009 at 4:10 pm

And then there are those who both blog and comment. I guess we qualify as half human, half asshole?

6 Lord April 2, 2009 at 1:38 am

I always thought real names are for people without imagination, so I wouldn’t presume real names would lead to more agreeableness. I would say commentators have less invested, often are less thoughtful, more idealogical, more graffiti oriented, and we all know graffiti is not about anonymity.

7 SkeeWCU April 2, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I have only recently entered the blogging scene, but I have been involved with online communication programs for around ten years. I have seen how communication is altered between person-to-person and online, especially with younger generations.

I believe that initially, a person seeks to review other people’s opinion, but ends up being more entertained by their own or other people’s opinion of that opinion. In another blog about econ blogging, a Keynes quote was used that sums up this belief:

“Americans are apt to be unduly interested in discovering what average opinion believes average opinion to be…”

This, in turn, leads to the growing popularity in blogging on any topic. However, along with the growth in giving opinions comes opinions from readers that turn down or derogate other people. With agreeing and disagreeing comments growing, people begin understanding the fact that there are little to no consequences when belittling other people through this type of communication.

I believe this is one of the biggest factors in understanding what many readers and bloggers may post. A great portion of the bloggers and readers have been raised on communication technology, so this idea is well-built into their psychology.

I do not agree that blogging or commenting brings out a real personality. Instead, I think many posters shape their attitude and content according to the minute amount of consequences that one will suffer with posting, increasing the negative and derogatory comments that are found.

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