Category: Weblogs

Life after Google Reader

Via Michael Rosenwald, here is one list of options, with attached evaluations.  I have been using Feedly and it is working fine for me.  I expected high transition costs, but within a minute or two, and then a system reboot, everything was up and running without a hitch.  I did not feel confused by the shift in visual fields, as I had been expecting.  I don’t pretend to know it is best, and I may not stick with Feedly forever, but this has not turned out to be a crisis and there is no reason to resent Google for axing their Reader.

How do blogs differ from the economics profession?

Ari Timonen asks me:

Just as a reader request I would like to suggest a post about the intellectual disagreements or differences of economic opinions of econosphere and academic economics. That is what kind of biases does a person generate by reading econosphere. I’m not talking about basic economics which you can learn from a textbook but the intellectual discourse on some more nuanced subjects. An example would be maybe macroeconomics of current financial mess but anything goes. The more contrast the better.

It is hard to know where to start with this one.  Focusing on macroeconomics, here are just a few points of many:

1. The blogosphere is more likely to believe that activist monetary policy can lower the rate of unemployment like turning a faucet or flipping a switch.

2. The blogosphere is more likely to accept a hand-waving approach to labor markets and nominal wage stickiness, whereas the broader profession is more interested in matching models, the microfoundations of unemployment, and whether activist policy will make as much of a difference as Econ 101 models might suggest.

3. The blogosphere is more likely to criticize DSGE models, whereas the profession is more likely to see such models of as providing discipline for any business cycle explanation, Keynesian included.

4. The blogopshere is more interested in morally judging macroeconomic policy and macroeconomic policymakers, and for that matter judging other bloggers and writers.

On all of these questions my views are closer to those of the specialists in the economics profession.  That said, I don’t mean to favor the profession outright.  On any specific question, the profession likely will look better than the blogosphere, if we dig deeply enough into the accumulated stock of research (and if we dig with the talents of a blogger).  Where the profession fails is its excess specialization and also its inability to make speedy, direct, and publicly observable progress on important debates of the day, and on these questions I would give the economics blogosphere relatively high marks.  There are very large numbers of quite smart and accomplished economists who a) don’t really read blogs, and b) don’t have much of a clue as to what is going on.  That is changing, funeral by funeral.

How much do narcissists benefit from recent technological advances?

Michael Makowsky writes me an email about a conference he was invited to:

Predictably, the lineup of speakers are people who no one cares about, but tickets remain $45. This is analogous to something in stand-up comedy and music called a “bringer show” i.e. you can perform if you sell X tickets, thus “bringing” a crowd. At least, this is my suspicion.

But it got me thinking about your various “benefit to infovores” theories of recent advances in technology. I think you have underplayed the other side of that coin – that recent advances are also especially valuable to *narcissists*. You can foster a sense that a people are watching/care about you much easier than 30 years ago. The market for enabling narcissism is…substantial. I actually expect TedX and similar bricks and mortar portings to lose money. But that is besides the point. Vanity presses and the such have existed on the periphery forever. The internet is a vanity press upped several orders of magnitude. My point is that this is, I think, a near perfect inversion of the “infovore” concept, but with the identical result. It’s an advance that yields tons of consumer surplus, but little additional opportunity to increase anyone’s marginal product, i.e. help the labor market.

There is something almost recursive about an academic building a theory around the demand for enabling narcissism.

A new economics blog (self-recommending)

As reported from Kids Prefer Cheese:

Me and Mrs. Angus have decided to get bloggy about development, growth & macro over at a new site, Cherokee Gothic. You can read about why it’s called that here. While it will mostly be us, we hope to enlist other OU faculty to contribute to the site as well.

I’ll still be blogging here with Mungo at KPC, bringing the crazy like nobody’s business, but please check us out, follow us, put us in your blogroll, and just generally show us some mad blogosphere love.

The word that is Swedish

1. Bloggbävning, n.
Definition: Literally translating to “blogquake,” the word describes the process by which a topic explodes in the blogosphere and is then picked by by more mainstream media outlets.
Used in an English sentence: “Man, that ‘ogooglebar’ thing really caused a bloggbävning today.”

Somehow I don’t think this post itself is going to Bloggbävning.  Here are fourteen other Swedish words you should know, interesting throughout.

RSS bleg

Google Reader is shutting down in a few months, so what to do?  Your suggestions would be most welcome, please leave them in the comments.

A related question is which blogs will be harmed the most by this development, assuming that the #2 choice of reader isn’t as good.  Very old blogs may be reevaluated as choices to follow, since we all will have to fill out new feeds all over again.  Blogs which post not so frequently will be hurt too, in relative terms as well as absolute.  If you know a blog will post frequently, you simply might substitute into site visits.  This will also likely hurt blogs with a lot of ads, such as the Forbes blogs which I know, again speaking in relative as well as absolute terms.

Addendum: Here are comments from Matt.

Paywalls for blogs?

Andrew Sullivan will give it a try, as you probably have heard by now.  I wish him well with it, but I also hope no one else tries too hard.  (Note by the way that Sullivan will allow a free RSS feed, with complete posts, and free links from other blogs, so this is hardly a full gate.)  In the limiting case, imagine a blogosphere where everything is gated for some price.  What could we at MR link to?  There would be every day “What I’ve been Reading,” with links to Amazon (they’re not going to gate), rather than every few weeks.  More from Wikipedia, and more travel notes.  More abstract requests from readers (“what should I do with my life?”, and “does she really love me?”).  More government statistics and more BBC.

I’ve long thought that the last ten years have been a golden age for the blogosphere, and that soon the financial constraints are really going to start biting on MSM.  Many of you already get upset at FT links, which have a fairly strict gate, and perhaps the few remaining newspapers will all work that way within two or three years’ time.

What do you all think?  Here are comments from Felix Salmon.

David Brooks on the conservative future

It is an excellent column and here is one good bit:

Soft Libertarians. Some of the most influential bloggers on the right, like Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok and Megan McArdle, start from broadly libertarian premises but do not apply them in a doctrinaire way.

Many of these market-oriented writers emphasize that being pro-market is not the same as being pro-business. Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago published an influential book, “A Capitalism for the People,” that took aim at crony capitalism. Tim Carney of The Washington Examiner does muckraking reporting on corporate-federal collusion. Rising star Derek Khanna wrote a heralded paper on intellectual property rights for the House Republican Study Committee that was withdrawn by higher-ups in the party, presumably because it differed from the usual lobbyist-driven position.

There are additional shout outs to many other writers I admire (and like).  And this:

Most important, they matured intellectually within a far-reaching Web-based conversation. In contrast to many members of the conservative political-entertainment complex, they are data-driven, empirical and low-key in tone.

But do read the whole thing.

Addendum: Paul Krugman comments.

The EconLog team winning strategy

Pretend Arnold Kling has departed, get under the salary cap, take on Garett Jones and Luigi Zingales (sixth man), keep Bryan and David in the starting line-up, and then get Arnold back again.  Here is Arnold’s very important post on NYC recovery.  I don’t myself have any particular prediction, but I will say this is a real test of how well this country can these days do infrastructure.

From the Institute for New Economic Thinking

We would like to introduce our new blog on the website of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) entitled ‘Reading Mas-Colell’, which will initially run in the fall of 2012, alongside our teaching of a course which uses the textbook on microeconomics by Mas-Colell, Whinston and Green. We hope to make a modest contribution to economic thinking by engaging in selective close reading and commentary on a very influential text, which in certain ways has become a ‘Bible’.

Our goal is to help through the blog to change the way in which economics teaching is approached at the Ph.D. level (many agree that it is limited and limiting). We hope to generate a lively conversation on how economics is taught and practiced today.

You can find the blog on the INET website at:

http://ineteconomics.org/blog/reading-mas-colell

We very much hope that you and your readers will participate in the conversation that we hope to generate.

Best wishes,

Sanjay G. Reddy and Raphaele Chappe

From the excellent Yichuan (Lulu) Wang

You all should be following him, or so it would seem to me.  Here are excerpts from his post What China Could Be Building:

The real risk is not that the housing won’t be used, but that the crash would have secondary effects. Local governments are dependent upon land sales for revenues, meaning a housing crash could have serious implications for government. In Guangdong province, some local governments are actually tearing down mountains to make new land in the ocean, all to sell the land. This, along with the recent reversal of capital flows and possible insolvency of private wealth management firms, represents a serious liquidity risk that can have disastrous consequences.

…So let’s answer Scott’s [Sumner] fundamental question:

So here’s my question for all of you China skeptics that insist they are building way too much housing, infrastructure, heavy industry, etc.  What precisely do you want them to build more of?  And what are the 100s of millions of Chinese living in tiny ramshackle homes to do?  Sit tight for a few more decades while resources pour into nice urban services for the pampered elite?I want them to start building leaf blowers, so we don’t have so many Chinese people in the low productivity position of sweeping streets. I want them to start building farm equipment, so we don’t have so many Chinese farmers tending the fields. I want them to build more laundry machines, to free the rural Chinese from scrubbing clothes on washboards. I want them to build electric stoves, so my Grandpa can put away the coal fired outside oven. I want them to build computers that can deliver cheaper education to the masses.

Instead of just focusing on “building,” I want them to invest in human capital, so productivity can be at a level that we don’t need “make work” jobs. I want them to build more schools and hire better teachers, so classes aren’t as large and you’re not damned if you can’t make it in a top elementary school. I want productivity to be high enough that high end stores don’t need more clerks than actual customers.

I want these things among many others that will only be more obvious in a freer market.

That Scott can get a haircut for $4 or an ice cream cone for 50 cents shows how low productivity and wages are in China. Yet they will not grow any faster with more housing or more state directed investments. Cheap subway rides are nice, but are they not just another sign that transportation infrastructure has been built too quickly? I’m not saying China is hitting a ceiling for growth, or that vast swaths of China are condemned to poverty. But what I am saying is that we need to worry about the systemic fragility that underpins the Chinese system, and be very, very concerned about the unknown magnitude of the downside risk.

His full blog is here, his short bio is here.