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Th point is to know exactly the reasons why one is blogging. Most of us bloggers feel simply the need to say something and to write it (and some hope to get eventually paid for that...). Yet it is likely that for some people those same rasons are better served by doing that on Facebook. It's also a matter of visibility rather than content... But I agree that "Blogging can be a very lonely occupation; you write out into the abyss,” whereas Facebook it's the voice of a "lonely crowd"...https://mgiannini.blogspot.com/2011/01/future-of-facebook-is-in-past.html.

I haven't posted in 10 days. Felt like I had run out of ideas (there's a fixed stock of ideas in my head, and I had already mined all the vaguely relevant ones and dumped them out onto this blog). Or maybe just my annual Spring decline. Anyway, you Frances have been keeping WCI rolling fine.

But I've just been reading Steve Williamson on Roger Farmer, and something is maybe beginning to percolate in my brain. What I think this shows is that bloggers feed off each other. There's a conversation between blogs, as well as withing each blog.

Nick: "What I think this shows is that bloggers feed off each other. There's a conversation between blogs, as well as withing each blog."

You and I blog very differently Nick. For me the blog fulfils the same psychological need as a diary. I enjoy the comments here, but rarely read and comment on other blogs. For me the question is not "should I write?" only "what/where should I write?" Your comment suggests that you read and comment on other blogs a fair amount. (You've probably seen this.) Partly this might reflect the nature of the blogosphere - there are more macro blogs - and the nature of macro - everyone is at one level working on the same problem (the macro economy) not thousands of different problems. The question I have for you is: are there new bloggers joining the macro conversation? If people like Sumner start writing less often, and others aren't replacing them, will the conversation become less interesting? Without intellectual food, will you become starved of ideas?

M.G.: "Most of us bloggers feel simply the need to say something and to write it" I'm in that category too. Though looking at your blog, I notice a falling off: 2008 (29 posts, 2 months only); 2009, 57 posts; 2010 24 posts, 2011 9 posts to date. For a once a week or once every two weeks type blogger like yourself, being part of a larger blog would work well - because the blog always had new content, it would be continually attracting eyeballs, so you'd get more readers.

I don't know. These things are cyclical; my own blogging is light because my day job has suddenly intruded itself more forcefully on my agenda: my grad students all seem to need my attention at the same time. And sometimes you do hit dry spells.

Perhaps the blogging oligarchies will take the form of group blogs that are large enough to cover for individual bloggers' moments of lack of of inspiration, yet small enough to retain a coherent voice.

The bit about human nature making us want to have leaders may be the point we should most question, I think. Isn't there also a counterbalancing tendency to want things to be different, and to get bored real quick with predictable stuff? I know the old pendulum metaphor is worn out, but what if you had cycles in the Schumpeterian sense here, with periods of consolidation/oligarchization through downswings in the collective conversation (everyone too busy to be creative) and periods of free-for-alling impulsing upswings (everyone too bored with their day job anyway)? Just thinking out loud here, sort of.

As long as we have WCI everything will be ok :D

I think its always sad when we lose someone like Scott Sumner but it just opens up opportunities for others when readership from popular blogs goes looking for new and interesting talent. I think its a good thing that the conversation will never be dominated by a few popular voices. In a couple of weeks I'll be done my master's program and have been giving serious thought to starting up my own blog, I just could never imagine that there would ever be a lack of people trying to get into blogging. While in the short run things might seem bleak, in the long run I can only be optimistic about the future of economics blogging.

Yvan "The bit about human nature making us want to have leaders may be the point we should most question, I think."

The description I gave of the iron law of oligarchy theory in the post is really a caricature. Yes, one way of thinking about it is that some people are sheep and some people are sheepdogs.

A more sophisticated story is that large organizations make possible a division of labour which is beneficial to everyone involved, so people gravitate towards them. Rugged individualism is too much like hard work.

I don't think consolidation necessarily means that there is a downswing in the collective conversation in the sense of less people talking or twittering or whatever, it's more about
- where that conversation happens and
- who gets heard, that is, who is talking and who is listening.

Frances - I'm saying that what large organizations provide is just one side of the story. They also make certain things more difficult to obtain, such as originality or provocative thinking, and there is a demand for that as well.

Then, we do need a sort of numeraire for measuring conversation as a good - number of people involved can't be it, because we'll want to have a per capita measure as well I suppose. So maybe some measure of the quantity of distinct ideas or memes multiplied by distinct locations, to be defined as well, would correspond more to what I'm attempting to refer to. The fact that a meme located in a given URL is seen by gazillions of people or just one person should make no difference at all to that measure, no more than a piece of asphalt on a road where thousands of people drive daily should mean a higher contribution to the GDP than if only one person drives on it. No?

some factors:
- cultural attention deficit disorder breeds demand for immediate gratification for the next new thing - e.g. something to replace blogging in its current form
- blogger attention surplus disorder (wheel spinning and burnout)
- bloggers (like university professors) are the ultimate outsiders, with little influence in nearly all cases, but with some notable exceptions; failure made more public and depressing in this regard
- but this is really worth a listen, about one blogger's lament, and a chance to see the amazing Steve Randy Waldman in person:

https://www.kauffman.org/KauffmanMultimedia.aspx?VideoId=877326106001&type=R

Yvan: "So maybe some measure of the quantity of distinct ideas or memes..." Interesting. I've been wanting to write on the economics of memes for a while, but couldn't find a way to crack the subject open. Perhaps this is one.

Anon - looks like there's loads of interesting videos on that site.

I don't know about university professors being influence-less outsiders. The market for influence varies a lot from place to place; my impression is that the US market is more competitive than the Canadian one. I think a lot of people care much more about status within the profession than influence outside it.

March and April are the end of the academic year and full of grading, meetings and other tasks that intrude on one's ability to d other things. There is also the general tiredness that comes at the end of the term that can fuel a slowdown in creativity. Other than that,should I surmise from the discussion that are we about to be bought out by a large organization?

While university profs may not be outsiders, it seems true that blogging appeals to outsiders with something to say. Many people involved in some outsider activity like radial unschooling or sewing all their own clothes keep a blog as a king of on-line journal. My favorite is "Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords" written by a rough-around-the-edges guy raising a child with a rare disability that is related to my son's disability.

Rachel - thanks for the link, I enjoyed that blog, especially their most recent adventures with consumer representatives, printers and baseball bats.

The Fighting Monsters blog is an example in many ways of how the iron law of oligarchy plays out. Independent writer/dad starts writing on the internet about his life simply because he needs to write, people start reading, the blog gains a substantial following, wins awards, and has now come out as a book. The blog is still there, but I can imagine it becoming increasingly tied to the book/publisher etc, and gradually becoming integrated with the larger publishing industry. That's the "I'll enforce your property rights for you and share some of the revenue with you" story.

Livio - "are we about to be bought out by a large organization?" Nope, no cheque in the mail!

i have been reading sumner, but i don't think i would continue should the economy go back to trend.

Well, Stephen and Frances also do the Globe's Economy Lab. A tie in, I guess you'd call it.

Too bad the Globe doesn't really do Macro.

"So I go back and forth between optimism and pessimism."

What interests me more than an answer about oligarchy is why you see one outcome as 'optimistic' and the other as 'pessimistic'

Determinant: "Well, Stephen and Frances also do the Globe's Economy Lab. A tie in, I guess you'd call it."

Or perhaps one could call it gradually succumbing to the Iron Law of Oligarchy? The Globe does do macro, the greater limitation is the (soft) 400 word limit which means that each piece has to be a "think-bite" i.e. no more than one idea per piece. Also, it attracts a different readership.

Declan: "What interests me more than an answer about oligarchy is why you see one outcome as 'optimistic' and the other as 'pessimistic'"

It's not just that I'm undecided about what the outcome will be. I also don't know what the best outcome would be. Oligarchy is great for the people on the right side of it.

And that's another factor I didn't mention in the tendency towards oligarchy. Competition happens when barriers to entry are low. But once there are established incumbents, they have an incentive to create barriers to entry - in the blogosphere a barrier to entry would take the form of anything that would make it difficult for a new entrant to attract eyeballs.

"Bloggers feed off each other. There's a conversation between blogs, as well as withing each blog".
And the "added value of this conversation tends to be zero...just a conversation between "smart" people. I believe that the marginal contribution of this kind of activity is very low and tend to zero as well.
My point is: why people should pay bloggers while actually they do something for themselves or they psychological? It's not just a matter of envisaging property rights for your diary and needs...Should we expect to be paid for what we are writing here now?

M.G. in Progress: "My point is: why people should pay bloggers while actually they do something for themselves or they psychological?"

People will make bloggers an offer if if it's profitable for them to capture the blogger's work and charge for it. This is what usually happens - the blogger is blogging just because they enjoy doing it, and someone comes along and says "that's terrific, I'll pay you for it, but I'll just put a few ads up in the side bar."

It's the same reason that professional athletes get paid - they would be willing to play for less, perhaps even for free, but they don't have to.

(There's actually an interesting parallel here with academic conferences. People will sometimes say "I'm speaking at the conference, why do I have to pay the registration fee?" The conference organizer will then point out there *everybody* would like to be speaking, you're paying for the privilege of being able to get up and have people listen to you.)

Sadly, no one has yet figured how to make money from my writing, or if they have, they aren't telling me about it.

Every now and again, I do get spam-like email asking if they can advertise their somewhat dodgy wares on our sight. But my favourite was the one where we were informed that we had been provisionally selected for a list of 'best blogs' by some startup I had never heard of. It would be made definitive if I put up a link to their site.

Some blogs - like MR - do have advertising. But I never really considered it. Too much hassle, it would clutter the site, and it wouldn't be very much, anyway.

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