Sunday, 8 May 2016

Celebrating Six Months!

This day exactly six months ago (182 days) I published my first blog post here at Life Of An Econ Student. I had been thinking about it for a while and eventually the pros overthrew the cons, and I decided to start again. It was definitely not my first experience blogging, and I had had several flirts with various ideas over the last couple of years. Something like 4-5 different blogs with different intentions, vaguely-stated goals and varying results.

The common denominator in all of them have been that I was really excited for the first few weeks until the novelty of the blog wore off and the routine of everyday life caught up. After about 2-3 months there's a marked drop in the excitement and number of blog posts I wrote. I simply got bored with the blog and stopped producing material. Eventually, at all.

That was my number one fear starting Life Of An Econ Student. I wanted to do it differently this time, write about economic debates, studying, things happening on campus and generally the life I was living in far-away Sydney, AUS. I also had some small hope of keeping in touch with people that I miss. These were the intentions I formulated back then:
This time around me and ze bloggin' are trying a different kind of approach; common things, what happens in and around the hours spend with numbers, economic statistics, ideas and models. About life in lovely Sydney, about exam anxiety, finding jobs, balancing life and all the lovely food I cook from time to time. Simply said, just another student ranting about life, lectures, classes and if you're lucky perhaps some academic contents from time to time.
Apart from the stated intentions I had an idea of 3-4 posts every week. I also had a vaguely stated idea to debate economists in the blogosphere and engage with its spin-off discussions on twitter and comment sections of blogs.

How Well Did I Do?

Persistence: I must give myself much praise for staying with the blogging rather than loosing interest after a month or two, like I have in the past. 6 months on, still going strong! Half a year on, it's still exciting to be an economist! *Pat on the back*

Regularity: My idea of 3-4 posts every week was a balance between a regularly-updated blog, create the routine of writing, and not putting too much pressure on myself. That turned out to be slightly over-optimistic. In total I have written about 46 posts including today's, which averages out to about 1,75 posts a week. Pretty far from the target. In fact, I ever only reached 4 posts during the first week (and, peculiarly, last week of April). Good weeks, when exciting things happened or I had lots of inspiration, I posted around 3 posts. Unfortunately for my average, that has to be balanced with quite a number of weeks with only 1 post - and two weeks without a single post.

It should also be noted that in January I started writing bi-weekly for the Swedish Mises Institute, where I've posted 8 articles roughly twice the size of my average blog posts (and two smaller blog pieces), which of course limits the amount of time/inspiration I have had for Life of an Econ Student. As I've noted many times, the course of the heterodoxy means that reading requirements pile up. A lot. If I account for those (counting every Mises blog post as equivalent to two Life of an Econ Student posts), my average number of posts since January is around 2,5 - as opposed to the 1,75 described above.

There's also the difficulty in blogging while travelling - especially backpacking as I did in NZ, or the very limited access I had to WiFi while travelling over Christmas.

Content: I had a feeling that I would quickly move from the "everyday story of my life" into more of a economic blogosphere style of blog. Not only because that's what I ultimately find exciting but also because that's the style of blogs that I follow. My favourite historian, Deirdre McCloskey, gave an interview a few weeks back of her development as a writer (and I also recall her having made the point in one of the Bourgeois Era books) that people tend to take on the writing style of those they read often. That probably happened to me too. It's remarkable how the first three months of blogging had a ratio for personal-to-academic of 3:1, while the period since I got back from New Zealand has completely turned around to 1:4.

In other words, I largely stopped writing about boring routines or the half-meaningless "Last week I did this" stories, in favour of academic disputes.

Attention & Readers: I never really put much emphasis on readership or view counts before I started blogging. That wasn't my purpose: I wanted a platform to tell a story. To practice my voice. To establish a writing-routine etc. If people read that, I'm flattered - if not, no biggie. I quickly realized, however, that it's a great feedback mechanism. If I'm writing exciting, challenging or relevant things, the view count gives me a rough estimate of how interesting my words are. And the numbers kinda strengthen my unconscious decision to write more academically; those posts see way more readers. Nerdy as I am, I ran the regression and found that going from personal content to academic content on average increases the amount of viewers by about 80 per post (R2 = 0,28) and the result is statistically significant. Hehe.

The Top-3 most popular posts became the most popular simply because somebody else, with a much larger network than me, picked up my post and tweeted it, linked to it, republished it or attacked it:

  • In Debts, Wits and Crappy Economics, I attacked Prof. Steve Keen's claims in his interview about money and tweeted him the link. He's very active on twitter and quite a decent guy in person, and we had a few tweets forth and back - which of course made some of his 30k followers come over here and see what was going on.
  • Exam Days - was a post I wrote trying to calm myself down after intense exam periods. Somehow, Sydney Blogs (part of University of Sydney) saw it, contacted me and re-published the piece on their blog. After which they posted it on their Facebook page with almost 300k followers. Slightly scary, and the quality of my reflections was really not ready for that sort of audience. Being universities, I had a whole bunch of comments there ridiculing me. Big surprise.

Bottom Line

I'm pretty happy with how the blogging has turned out. It's almost an addiction these days, and I keep coming up with interesting things I wanna write about. Obviously there's room for improvement in terms of persistency and regularity. Judging from the much higher readings I have whenever I speak on economic matter, especially when I'm attacking someone, I probably have to leave the ambitions of "personal life" slightly behind.

In addition, I have produced a couple of texts that I'm seriously proud over. In a few of my posts, (the PhD post, the discussion of heterodoxy & Embracing Your Enemies and my optimistic comment on the excitement of the future of Economics) I managed to scribble down thoughts & ideas abstractly lingering in my mind for a while into reasonably concise and well-structured points. They're the posts that probably changed my view on things forever and impacted my life more than words on a piece of paper - or blog - normally does. They pinpointed and formulated exactly what I had previously lacked the means or effort or time to have seriously thought about.

All in all, blogging is cool. And, like most things in life, the pleasure is largest when you're doing something for yourself rather than for others.