So there's this great new paper on the impact of economic blogs (confirming the things you would expect, but which are sort of hard to confirm.) The introduction talks about some of the perceptions of blogs and two things really jumped out at me:
- "Bell (2006, p.75) summarizes another common perception of blogs, as '…a largely harmless outlet for extroverted cranks and cheap entertainment for procrastinating office workers.'" [Note, this comment is made about blogs generally.] ...Extroverted? Really? I am pretty confident that your average blogger is substantially less extroverted than average. Certainly one of the reasons I like blogging is because I like talking about these things... but not so much in person. Surely this must be the case for people more generally: after hashing something out or sharing whatever it is with whomever you run into at the water cooler, surely the impulse to write it down is lessened. Introverted people just don't like hanging out at the water cooler as much.
- "...the freedom to write about topics outside their area of expertise (what Jacob T. Levy called `public-intellectualitis' in his blog)". Well, clearly this happens, but I would say it's mostly a disease in interpretation rather than a disease in blogging. Sure, `blogger' columnists for the New York Times and other reputable institutions need to stick to their areas of expertise, and there are many ways of subtly asserting authority that anyone who says anything publicly should pay attention to, but on a normal blog that covers anything more than the tiny sliver of knowledge that the author happens to be an expert in (which I'm convinced can never sustain an interesting blog for more than a short time, despite many such attempts) I'd say the first interpretation should be to give the author the benefit of a doubt. Especially if their motivations are in line with what I described above, simply to have a casual interesting conversation in a public setting, or to work through thoughts in writing, or anything similar, then even if the post defends a particular view or claim, this type of writing is very different from providing an authoritative view on something. As with all things, a good rule of thumb for getting the most possible value from something is to be logically skeptical and sympathetic to the intentions of the writer.