Hi everyone, The blog has been down for a few days due to a server failure, but that’s fixed now. I’m currently on the road, so posting will be light for a while.
Anyone who’s spent time in the blogosphere has seen it happen, and most of us have been on the wrong side of it once or twice. A blogger or commenter says something silly, gets called on it and doubles down. Before long, they are engaged in meta-disputes about who said what about whom. As the flame war escalates, all sense of proportion is lost, and innocent remarks produce threats of litigation. Somewhere along the way, Godwin’s Law comes into play. If the process runs its full course, the blog in question is taken down (but of course the Internet never forgets), or the commenter identity is abandoned, leading to suspicions of sockpuppetry when someone with similar style and opinions turns up.
Of course, most of us stop before it gets that far. The wisest and most gracious recognise error, thank those who set them straight and may even emerge with an enhanced reputation. Those of us not quite as sensible stump off in a huff before making complete fools of ourselves.
But some go all the way. That’s sad for a blogger, but disastrous in the case of a national newspaper.
Update It appears that the problem may have been related to the server, and fixed by some emergency maintenance at Joyent. If anyone is still experiencing errors or slow loading, please advise me (assuming you have enough access to read this). Conversely, I’d appreciate confirmation in comments from readers for whom the problems have been fixed.
Problems with access to the blog have re-emerged. I will post via http://johnquiggin.posterous.com until they are resolved. Posts should propagate here in due course, but readers may prefer to visit the posterous blog.
My last post responding to Paul Howes led me to this piece by him in the Daily Telegraph, denouncing anonymous Internet commenters for their unfair attacks on politicians, with specific reference to Joe Tripodi. I don’t want to spend too much time on Tripodi, but my non-anonymous view is that he is a prime representative of the type of cronyism that has ruined the NSW government, and also of the culture of impunity which has led so many members of that government to sail close to (or over) the edge on matters of personal and financial propriety. Moreover, his political views aren’t noticeably different from those of, say, Peter Costello. Howes’ observation that
Tripodi is a nice and fiercely intelligent man, in real life. He loves his family and he loves public policy. He’s been described by another paper as ‘the smartest man’ in NSW politics
doesn’t (for the relevant values of “nice”) contradict this assessment in any way. Tripodi’s resignation is welcome and would have been more so a year ago, when it might at least have saved Labor from a landslide.
Coming to the notion that anonymous comments on blogs and Twitter are making life impossible for politicians, I have a couple of thoughts
First, what’s mostly happening is that things that would have once been said at the pub, and heard only by those present are now out in cyberspace, easily detectable by Google. Some of that stuff is nastier than most people are used to hearing, or seeing in print, about themselves. That’s part of life for bloggers as well as politicians. On the other hand, politicians have long used, and on occasion abused, the privilege of saying what they like about anyone in Parliament.
Second, as regards anonymity, I’d be more impressed by these complaints if journalists and politicians hadn’t long since developed their own self-serving culture of anonymity. I don’t know anything specific about Joe Tripodi’s media contacts, but he’d be an unusual politician if he’d never gone on background to bag out his political opponents or (very likely) his Labor colleagues. This kind of cowardly dirt-dishing, which forms the basis of much political journalism is the opposite of the principled, and personally risky, whistleblowing that journalists like to invoke when they defend their own use of anonymous sources.
See also: Andrew Elder on Howes and a similar whine from Leigh Sales.
I just got an automated message from my hosting service saying my bandwidth limit had been exceeded. I’m not sure what this means, but it’s possible the blog will go off air without warning. In the meantime, please don’t download any big files, and use the RSS feed if you want to check the site regularly. I will see if I can get the comments feed working again.
If the site goes down, I’ll post directly to Posterous
As I’ve mentioned a few times, the Oz is extremely sensitive to blogospheric criticism. In response, its typical MO has been an unsigned editorial, or a piece by a ‘staff writer’, in which unnamed and unlinked (but easily identifiable) bloggers are castigated for their sins. Typically, the piece ends with a flourish of bravado, in which the brave, though anonymous, editorialist, backed only by the multi-billion dollar resources of News Corporation, pledges to carry on in defiance of the powerful, but unnamed, bloggers arrayed against it.
The script has been reversed, however, in the case of Grog’s Gamut, a pseudonymous political blog which made some useful contributions during the election campaign. Apparently acting under the misconception that public servants aren’t allowed to engage in political activity, Oz journalist James Massola took on himself to out the blogger concerned. He works in the film section of what was the Department of Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts, which suggests that the potential for political activity to compromise his public service role is, shall we say, limited.
There are still some decent journalists working for the Oz, but the paper itself is a sad joke. On the other hand, as Steve Hind observes, the downmarket spiral of the Age and SMH (at least in their online versions) means that there is not much competition.
I’m about to close down comments for the duration. Anyone who would like to continue discussions is welcome to start up a blog or maybe some sort of social media site – email me and I will link to it.
I’ve been meaning to give some recommendations for alternative blog reading. Apart from the big group blogs (like Larvatus Prodeo, Club Troppo and Crooked Timber) you can find interesting reading from some of the smaller ones like David Horton, Tim Lambert and Gary Sauer-Thompson, or just stroll random through the blogroll.
I’ll be doing occasional posts here and there possibly including Crooked Timber, Crikey, The Drum and The Daily Bludge (http://dailybludge.com.au).
See you all in September.
With various commitments, I’ve been finding increasingly difficult to post to the blog, moderate the comments section and so on. Unfortunately, my commitments are only going to increase over the next few months, so I’ve decided to take a three-month hiatus, until early September. According to my current plans, I should have plenty of free time to return, refreshed and ready for more by then. No doubt things will turn up to derail those plans, but hopefully I will still be less busy than I am now.
Possum at Pollytics reports that Andrew Leigh, economist and blogger has won Labor preselection for the seat of Fraser. A great choice by the preselectors.
I’ve just edited several comments from sockpuppets ‘Julia’ and ‘Colin’ posting Liberal Party talking points. Both posted using IP 220.127.116.11, then ‘Julia’ switched to another one, also in the range 114.78.2x.xxx. Spurious email addresses [email protected] and [email protected] Anothe commenter advises ‘Julia’ has been seen at LP.
If anyone can out these pests, I’ll happily publicise the results.
I did a couple of interviews earlier this week on South Australian legislation banning anonymous blog comment on the forthcoming election. The same idea came up at the Commonwealth level after the last election and I testified against it at the Parliamentary inquiry – they decided not to go ahead. This time around, the result has been the same. Facing a storm of protest, the SA government has backed down.
For me the big change that came with the last decade was blogging. I started in 2002, and it’s been a big part of my life (sometimes too big) ever since. So, when it came to review the decade, the obvious place to look was the Wayback Machine, which captured my old blogspot blog on 27 July 2002. Looking at the blog as it was then, two things jump out at me
* Looking at the blogroll, I feel like the last of the Mohicans. The bloggers of those days have nearly all retired, and almost no-one runs a solo blog like this one anymore.
* I’m singing the same song now as I was all those years ago. The top post on the page is about how the financial crisis has discredited the efficient markets hypothesis, trickle down economics, privatisation and so on. Of course that was the dotcom financial crisis of 2000-01. I think a few more people are paying attention this time around, but we will have to wait and see.
The blog has been patchy for some time, and down altogether for several days. I’ve installed the WP Supercache plug in on the advice of my hosting service. I’d appreciate any feedback (+ve or -ve) on whether people are still having problems getting to the page and any suggestions from WordPress experts on other possible measurs.
I’ve started doing occasional posts for a new venture, Asian Correspondent. You can find me here. Only occasional, so RSS is probably the way to go.
Another “Internets makes you stupid story” from the Brisbane Courier-Mail (irony detector overload alert !!).
The original source is something called the Levitt Institute and the Courier-Mail story is a pretty fair summary of the Levitt Institute report, which is here (PDF). I’ll leave the deconstruction as an exercise for readers, with a bonus mark for the question “Which basic concept of classical hypothesis testing is ignored in this study of ‘ability to detect erroneous information’”
Update xxx ????? sex ????? ?? ??????? Sucked in! It turns out the whole thing is in fact a hoax by Andrew Denton’s new show.. Sad to say, with the irony detector already blown, it’s hard to tell the difference between genuine and fake stupid. ??????? ?????????
Here’s my piece from the Fin on Thursday
Gov 2.0* is an interesting exercise in trying to use new communications technology (Web 2.0) to promote the public good. Blogger and economist Nicholas Gruen is running the show (or playing a big role anyway) and is looking for tenders on a variety of issues. Take a look.
* To anticipate the standard joke, I’ll be waiting until the 2.1 release.
A combination of work, travel and my book commitment means that blogging here will be light for the next few months. I plan to post excerpts from the book in progress, and I’ll try to put up open threads from time to time.
BLOGS attack newspapers all the time. It’s rarer for a broadsheet to launch into an ezine.
I’ve had an increase in disruptive troll comments here and at Crooked Timber, and have now discovered that a large number of them appear to be from someone who has posted here and elsewhere in the past as “John/Jack Greenfield”. I discovered it when “Greenfield” put up a comment at Catallaxy identical to one posted by a trollish commenter here posting as “S. Haines”. I challenged Haines on the point and he/she/it promptly disappeared. An IP check has now revealed numerous similar trolls several of whom had already been banned. The list includes:
IP numbers vary, but all begin with 203.171.192 or 203.171.195. If any of the above want to dispute their sock puppet status, they are welcome to email me. Bloggers who don’t wish to encourage trolls, sockpuppets and other such lowlifes are welcome to contact me for further details, and are urged to ban “Greenfield” and associated socks.
Blogs kill books. At least, that’s what I always thought. Between 1988 and 2000, I wrote four1 books and edited a couple of volumes. In 2002, I started blogging, and I haven’t done a book since then.
But, in the mysterious way of things, it turns out that blogs generate books, or at least book contracts. In comments at Crooked Timber not long ago, Miracle Max wrote
The discredited ideas theme really needs a book, and JQ appears to be the ideal person to write it.
I will even contribute the title: “Dead Ideas from New Economists.” No charge.
Brad DeLong picked it up, and a couple of days later I got an email from Seth Ditchik at Princeton University Press suggesting that it really would be a good idea. Now, we have a contract, and we’re going to use Max’s suggested title.
The sacking of Dan Froomkin by the Washington Post reminds me a remark attributed (IIRC) to Auberon Waugh on being told that Randolph Churchill had undergone the surgical removal of a tumour that turned out not to be malignant.
It is a marvel of medical science that they could first locate the one part of Randolph that was not malignant, and, having found it, immediately remove it
After suffering from a particularly insidious spam attack, the blog is back on air, still with the iNove theme, and with comments preview now restored, I hope. Thanks to reader Randall Hicks who detected the links injected into my themes, to Martin Ellison who fixed the problems and to Jacques Marnoweck from Joyent who gave some extra help, outside normal support.
One thing I did during my period of enforced absence was to update my complete list of Financial Review articles, published here. Journal articles should be updated soon.
My hosting service is having some problems with the server at present. I’m hoping they will be fixed soon, and I will then try to deal with the problems affecting the theme, previews and so on. Posting may continue light for a while longer, partly because addressing this takes up time and partly because I’ve been busy generally.
BTW, Brisbane readers might catch me on the history segment of Sunday’s Seven News, talking about Budgets and similar.
The site went down this morning and my hosts at Joyent diagnosed a problem with the red theme I was using, so I’ve temporarily switched to blue.
Quite by chance, this matches some words of a song I wrote a long time ago, which, I just found out were sung by Warren Fahey on Radio National Breakfast this AM. You can listen here (near the end).
I’ve added a caching plug-in to speed up performance. Please advise if you notice any benefit, or any adverse side effects. If you are locked out altogether, you can email me or reach me on Facebookfinal conflict the download
Although I’m among the least tightly focused economists in the academic world, I’ve published almost nothing on macroeconomics – even the few things I have done have not taken a standard macro perspective. So, in the absence of blogging, I think it’s safe to say my name would never have appeared in a Berkeley Graduate Core Macro exam.
Of course, there’s a Gerschenkron-style ‘advantages of backwardness’ story here. Having learned old-style Keynesian macro, and seen it come to grief with the inflationary outburst of the early 1970s, I kept waiting for a macro research program that would both explain the Keynesian Golden Age* I grew up in and show how to restore it in a more sustainable way. None of the contenders of the past thirty years (monetarist, new classical, real business cycle, New Keynesian, central bank eclectic) seemed very promising to me, so I left the field alone.
Now, with no intellectual capital invested, it’s easy for me to pronounce the efforts of the last three decades to be largely misdirected. The harder task will be to identify and get active in the new research program that should succeed it. The work of Akerlof and Shiller is obviously a good place to start.
* Not golden for everyone, of course. Full employment really meant full employment for men, many (not all) poor countries missed out altogether, and environmental costs were often disregarded. But it was precisely during the last years of the Golden Age (the 1960s) that these issues came to the top of the agenda. In my more utopian moments, I dare to hope that, with economic liberalism behind us, we can make big progress on these and other issues.
Brad DeLong links to my post on the obsolescence of New Keynesian macro, and concludes
I have to call this one for Krugman, Clark, Akerlof, Shiller, and Quiggin and against Blanchard’s vision of growing knowledge and analytical convergence
I’ve been reasonably successful as Australian academic economists go, but, based on my journal contributions, I would have rated the likelihood of reading the phrase “Krugman, Clark, Akerlof, Shiller, and Quiggin” only marginally higher than that of being romantically linked with Angelina Jolie. Blogging really does have its rewards.
Due to arcane problems with caches, users of Firefox (and maybe some other browsers) haven’t been able to read new posts at Crooked Timber for over a week. You can work around by using Safari, or by clicking on the comments thread of a post, then clicking Home in the expanded view (please don’t ask me why this works). RSS feeds also appear to work normally.
Clive Hamilton has a piece in Crikey attacking the state of discussion on the Internet, in which the comments policy of this blog gets a moderately approving mention. As he says, maintaining a productive discussion isn’t easy, and a lot of blogs and other Internet sites don’t even try. But I don’t think that’s enough to support the conclusion that
If free speech means encouraging a free-flowing dialogue that draws the public into an exploration of alternative ideas and enriches civic culture, then the Internet is its enemy.
I’ll leave readers to point out the problems with this claim, or alternatively to defend it.
But I wanted to comment on one aspect of Clive’s piece, his claim that anonymity is the central problem. Although this seems plausible, my experience on this blog has been that the worst and most persistent trolls have been people posting under their own names (though commonly resorting to sockpuppetry to evade blocks, disrupt discussion and so on). And a couple have been academics.