Blogonomics: Spelling Things Out for James Ledbetter

LedbetterIs James Ledbetter really incapable of using his remarkable schnozz to sniff through a blog entry and find out what SWF might stand for? The words “sovereign wealth funds” are in there, if you look hard enough.

But even if they weren’t, there’s this wonderful thing online, it’s called Wikipedia. Or investopedia. Or any number of other reference sources.

More seriously, one of the great things about blogs and bloggers is that they take full advantage of their online nature to write in a shorter, more easily-digested manner. If I write about SIVs or CDO-squareds or CDSs, I’m not going to spell them out each time and spend three or four laborious paragraphs explaining what they are. It’s a waste of my time, and it’s a waste of my readers’ time. Anybody who doesn’t know and wants to find out can do so, online, easily enough; the rest of us can get straight in to the nitty-gritty.

Besides, it’s good blogging practice not to speak down to your readers. Here’s Tyler Cowen, arguably the most popular econoblogger in the world:

I’ll write a post and I’ll say “marginal rate of substitution”, which to an economist is straightforward, but even to a very smart social scientist who doesn’t know a lot of economics, they might not know exactly what this means. And certainly the common man won’t know. So when I write “marginal rate of substitution”, why don’t I put in a link to Wikipedia, or define it in parentheses? Won’t more people read the blog then? I think actually that more people actually will read the blog when you don’t define “marginal rate of substitution”. By not defining it you make your blog a smarter blog, it feels to the people who are reading it that they’re being aspirational, and that they’re learning more. It’s higher demand through exclusivity. If you link everything to Wikipedia, people think that blog isn’t so smart after all, it doesn’t feel that wonderful of a club to belong to.

Or maybe it’s just a question of bedfellows. Would Ledbetter like to be ahead of the curve, reading finance blogs, or would he like to join the ranks of NYT journalists who genuinely have no idea what a sovereign wealth fund is?

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