Blogonomics: Peer Effects

On Friday, David Harper asked me to introspect a little: he was impressed at how many blog entries I produced last week, and wondered how that happened.

I try to answer any genuine questions which are asked of me, so I’ll give this a stab. My gut feeling is that it’s a combination of three factors:

  1. The debt markets are crazy right now. From municipal bonds to auction-rate securities to negative-real-interest-rate TIPS, everything’s topsy-turvy. And I’ve always been much more of a debt person than an equity person, so this plays to my strengths. Ask me why the stock market is down, I’ll have no idea. But ask me why the bond market is down, and I might actually have something vaguely intelligent to say.
  2. The quality of the econoblogosphere has never been higher. Fantastic new blogs are launching all the time, and the quality of many of the older blogs is going up as well. Ideas get passed around between blogs more quickly and at a higher level than ever before. Blogging is much more enjoyable when it’s a genuine conversation as opposed to simply me providing commentary on whatever happens to appear in the WSJ that day.
  3. Standard statistical variation. I’ve been blogging at Market Movers for almost a year now, and some weeks are always going to have more posts than others. Maybe the posts were shorter than normal, or maybe I was just in a particularly ebullient mood last week.

I think the most important of these factors is the second. It’s well known that if you take a worker and move him from a group with average productivity to a group with above-average productivity, his productivity will increase: it’s a simple peer effect. It’s not done consciously, but I’m sure it’s going on here: I probably had to pick up my game, just in order to keep up with the level of discourse in the econoblogosphere generally. It’s like when you’re on a treadmill, and you automatically adjust your running speed to the speed of the track below you.

On the other hand, it might be much simpler than that. Blogging is a skill, and like any skill you generally get better at it the more you do it. I’ve been blogging at Market Movers for 11 months now, and I’ve been econoblogging full time at one website or another since September 2006. If you keep my hours constant and assume that a bit of experience helps to reduce the time spent per blog entry, then the number of blog entries I write more or less has to go up.

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