The new era

With a lot of changes going on lately, I’ve taken a bit of time to think about the future of this blog. It will be ten years old in June, which makes it one of the longest running Australian blogs (a few, like Catallaxy, are a little older, IIRC, but their archives seem to have been lost). Those ten years have seen the rise and decline of blogging, particularly individual, independent blogs like this one. The XKCD cartoon linked in this Crooked Timber post tells the story.

The writing was on the wall as early as 2004, when I saw lots of my favorite blogs being assimilated by the Borg that became Crooked Timber. Seeing that resistance was futile, I joined the rush, but have kept this blog going with lots of crossposting, but more specifically Australian content here. Still, group blogs were clearly the wave of (what was then) the future. The most successful in Ozplogistan (the briefly popular name for Australian political blogs) have been Catallaxy, Club Troppo and Larvatus Prodeo. But there haven’t been any new entrants successful enough to attract sustained attention, and now LP is gone.

There are two obvious reasons for the decline of blogging. First, after disdaining everything to do with blogging for years, the mainstream media embraced the idea with enthusiasm five years ago or so, putting much of their content in blog form. The big media blogs now attract much larger audience than independent efforts like this one. Second, there has been the rise of Facebook and Twitter, both of which supply a lot of what attracted people to blogging in the first place. Twitter, in particular, can be quite close to the original form of blogging, based on short (very short in the case of Twitter) links to interesting material found on the web.

So, with the closure of LP and getting booted from the Fin, it seemed like a good time to reassess what I’m doing here. I’ve decided to put most of my effort into work that I can post in larger sites (I’ve had invitations from several, and at this stage I think I will try to play the field, rather than picking just one), but I will make it a condition that I can crosspost here. That will enable the discussion that goes on here to continue, and also make this blog a convenient point to collect all my material.

I’ll close by reproducing this post from 10 years ago

My blog is just about a week old, and I haven’t found the Internet this exciting since I discovered Usenet in the early 90s. Even setting up my website five years ago was not as good. Despite wildly varying ideological views, I’ve had a friendly welcome from bloggers across the board, and I’m already getting links and referrals (My return links will be up soon, I promise). It really seems as if blogs might deliver on the original promise of the Web – certainly the technology seems ideally suited for individuals and small groups, with no obvious way of scaling it up to corporate level. No doubt I’ll get jaded and disillusioned one day, but I hope it will be a long way in the future.

82 thoughts on “The new era

  1. dear John Quiggin
    thanks for your site & your time. Thanks also for seeking in future to keep us here in the loop. all much appreciated.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  2. There has to be an alternative to the poisonous ignorance of the Murdoch press. You sometimes hear or see people who get most of their ideas from the tabloids or talkback radio. We can cast our minds back to the anti-whatever rallies on Parliament lawns where busloads of ‘Australian’ readers and Alan Jones listeners held sway. It would be a shame if the general level of debate was dumbed down to that standard due to the absence of critical blogs.

  3. Ditto, (especially re keeping things going here).

    Over at “Spring Hill Voice” we’ve only been plugging away at it for 9 years, so we’ll never catch up to your status as “elder” of the webs!

    Far from ‘decline’ our numbers are better than ever so I’d suggest there is still plenty of demand for non-Murdoch-style scribblings. Of course, there’s no money or glory – but if those were your motives you’d boil up a baby and send your CV to News Ltd.


  4. Happy Birthday, for June.

    Time flies, when you’re having fun – I assume the 10 y o posting is reproduced because the sentiment hasn’t changed, much.

    Keep up the good work. Here’s to the next 10!

  5. For a minute when I started reading this post I thought you were about to announce that you were shutting down the blog! I’m so pleased and relieved that you aren’t. This is, for me, the most accessible economic writing I’ve come across. Long may it continue. Thanks Prof, and please keep up the great work

  6. John,

    Keep up the good work. I don’t always agree with you but respect your dedication to public debate and there simply aren’t enough academics out there like you.

    I would be interested to hear your views on the LNP’s Commission of Audit in Queensland. Particularly considering that they are quoting current Budget figures the Commission was set up to investigate to justify their tokenistic cuts to date. Today Jeff Kennett has praised the idea. It seems like more privatisations might on the horizon?

    I would be interested to know your views on this.

  7. Thanks for all you have posted here over the years John. It has been an education.

  8. JQ, Very pleased you will at least be keeping this as the “blog of record”! Commenting via other substantial outlets makes sense – but in sticking to your guns about cross-posting here as a requirement, you will be doing people a considerable service. Unlike some of the confected MSM efforts, a sustained independent, individual blog with lively commenting generates a much more fulfilling and enlightening read.

    Since you are clearly in blog-reflection mode, I’d be interested on your thoughts, as an Elder Blogger, on a couple of new issues re political/social/economic commentary. First, what about the often opaque, and sometimes inconsistent/selective/biased nature of MSM blog (and, come to that, regular new story) comment practices? I sense they are increasingly being used as a form of media-controlled astroturfing. Second, when an individual blogger hangs up his or her hat, what could be done to help preserve and archive their efforts? Pulling the plug on the best ones is a bit like burning books!

  9. 10 years?!!

    i wonder if that means if i’d known about your blog ten years ago……….

    all the deleted junk?
    (mine included)
    hows about a Bile File.
    a bit like a Darwin Award for nong commenters.
    could be fun or at least a “what not to do”.

  10. As a common lurker and infrequent poster I would add my voice to the chorus of “don’t shut down”. If I had a criticism of your blog it would probably be some of the posters who are fixed in position but fluid in argument (you know who you are and it certainly isn’t limited to any one area of the political spectrum).

    Your own postings are entertaining, flexible and rigorous. As others have said, their loss would be a great one. Please ‘keep on keeping on’

  11. I too am a lurker and very infrequent poster, and only discovered Australian blogs relatively recently. I would like to say thanks for your welcome contribution to public debate, and hope that it may continue!

  12. Dear John
    You’ve made an extraordinary contribution with this blog. That you’ve devoted the time and knowledge you have has been generous beyond parallel. Thank you.
    I look forward to your future ventures

  13. My feeling is that back in the early years of blogging those from opposite sides of the political debate actually engaged with eachother more and tried harder to grapple with the substance of their differences. Is that a general view amougst the old timers or is it just me?

  14. @TerjeP

    Probably learning (or degenerating) by doing took place. People probably perfected their talking points and learnt rationalizations to defend against the risk that new ideas might penetrate their fascade

  15. One wonders if they didn’t boot you from the Fin. simply on the grounds of you not toeing the bankster line. Others at Troppo and Catallaxy haver never let any hint out on the aether that they are even the least bit suspect of our financial system. Actually they can be extremist about it. Putting about openly idiotic ideas like the “efficient capital markets” theory. Our capital markets are a joke and a running sore, but no-one who wants to be employed by the Fin. seems to be able to notice this.

  16. @Terje Iraq put a big dent in that. It was obvious from the start that the Bush case for war was dubious, obvious from April 2003 that the claims about WMDs were false and obvious from the end of that year that things were going much worse than the Administration claims. But the right (with hardly any exceptions) kept on denying the obvious. It became clear there was no point in talking to them. Now that the whole fiasco is pretty much over (trillions of dollars wasted, hundreds of thousands dead and essentially nothing to show for it) they want to change the subject.

    But climate change was the real killer. The orthodox rightwing view (though they fudge on various occasions) is that the whole thing is a conspiracy got up by scientists to promote some dubious agenda. Anyone who gives any credit to such a theory is either a liar or a fool. Since there is no point in engaging with liars and fools, I don’t.

  17. Prof Q, I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.

    I’m convinced that the main reason the right are so virulent in their denial of AGW is because they know that accepting it means they must also accept that growth capitalism is at an end.

  18. Add me to the immensely grateful frequent lurker/infrequent poster list. Thanks Prof. Q…here’s to another decade.
    Nathan A….are you Australian?….I and perhaps some others would be interested to know your general location and perspective, if you’d care to reply.

  19. Very sad of course but relieved there will be some challenging ideas still appearing on your blog, just the frequency will be lower. The comments on your blog are also frequently worth reading and thats a good sign. There’s no point reading comments in most places just people re-stating the standard position, no illumination. Here there are frequent pointers to genuine information and data from those keen to back up their views. Concurring with the comments above – daily reader but rare commenter.

  20. John I’m another lurker/infrequent commenter relieved to hear that this blog will continue. I find that a regular dose of Quiggin is indeed good mental exercise when there is not much to found elsewhere. I too regard you as Australia’s foremost economic commentator. And the comments/community of commenters here: the second comment on the CT post you linked struck a chord when it said that reading comments at blogs over a certain threshold of popularity is unbearable…

  21. Well , I must admit after blogging for about 5 years on a few other people’s blogs I have become jaded and disillusioned. So JQ has done well to run a blog for 10 years.

    My blogging and reading of blogs has made me realise that very many people talk (write) and very, very few ever listen. Almost nobody changes a single opinion they hold though I suppose those who are undecided and those who haven’t thought about an issue can have an opinion formed. Most opinions held by most people are uninformed and prejudiced. The best we could hope for is the collective intelligence of democracy whereby the aggregate of self-interest (hopefully a little enlightened) leads to a broadly enlightened outcome.

    Politically and economically, I have been highly disappointed at the way that views and policies which are wholly discredited on all empirical, scientific and humanist levels have continued to hold sway unabated at the public policy and debate level. The obtuseness, stubborness, regression and oppression of conservative and neoliberal viewpoints is staggering and in the end disillusioning. One wondes how false and destructive views can triump for so long.The answer is by oppression and exploitation only. I truly despair of any hope for Western civilization now. We have strayed too far from any reasonably enlightened path.

  22. Many thanks to Professor Quiggin for hosting this blog. Although I haven’t been here for very long, I’ve enjoyed the high quality discussions in this blog presented from Professor Quiggin and from other commentators. I’ve visited a lot of blogs and I simply couldn’t find another that matches the quality of debate this blog have.

    Unfortunately as canberra boy said, the more popularity a blog have, the quality of comments will drop (which I do believe there is a relationship between those issues); conflicted with my hope that I wish more people can read this blog and give some thoughts about the things they believe in. Everytime I read the high quality discussions in this blog, it brings me some hope about humanity; however the reality always shatters my hope.

  23. JQ@18

    Perfect summary, yet the “people” you are arguing with (not) have all the money, or want to have it all.

    Greed trumps Intelligence, Climate trumps Civilisation.

  24. Congratulations on your 10 year blogging anniversary, John. Those of us blessed with lack of imaginative foresight are not as susceptible to becoming “jaded and disillusioned”. And the wonder for a mostly illiterate, copy and paste blogger is to have any visitors at all.

    Still I would differ, your blog has been part of a continuing epoch rather than an era. It is good news that it continues, as others, as they transmogrify. The potential then is that as butterflies, we might change the climate. Communication, despite the organization of English, I suppose has the characteristics of a widening non-linear system.

  25. Just wanted to express my appreciation that you will continue cross-posting here John and I’ll add that I value the quality of the discussion too.

  26. John – so you agree things have changed. I thought so too but good to have it confirmed by at least one other. And you seem to be saying that it is mostly the left that has walked away from the table which is consistent with how it seems to me. Time will tell if that’s a good debating strategy. Personally I doubt it.

  27. “ is mostly the left that has walked away from the table which is consistent with how it seems to me. Time will tell if that’s a good debating strategy. Personally I doubt it.”

    That seems to be a bit of a weird thing to say.

    Are you saying the “Right” has won, but you’re sad to see the end of the battle?

    Or are you saying that perpetual faux warfare is the desireable status quo, and it would be bad for one ‘side’ of that faux warfare to give up – for appearance sake?

    Surely you can’t be suggesting that there is some ‘middle-ground’ to be discussed genuinely and honestly? That may have been the case if the ‘right’ weren’t so devoid of honesty (see e.g.: climate change).

    I suspect that the “right” will be perfectly capable of dividing itself in its triumph into two groups that end up looking remarkably like the ‘right’ and ‘left’ we have been used to conceptualising.

    That might end up being a better outcome than this pretence we have where a whole bunch of ALP operatives pretend that they are not closet libertarians and free-market fundamentalists – all the while co-opting and subverting more collaberatively minded groups who believe in a more cooperative solution to problems.

    I suspect the “right” of the “left” is giving itself a hearty toast right now.

    What, exactly, would be left to ‘debate’ now that the “Right” has virtually total power?

  28. More thanks from another frequent lurker/infrequent commenter (although I snuck in a couple of “guest-posts” back in 04/05). This really is one of the few informed and civilized blogs around and there is a great cross-section of rational ideologies represented and tolerated. That is something to be applauded.

  29. The left has walked away from the table? Is that because the person on the other side of the table is insisting that the table is in fact a purple mongoose with certainty of p < 0.05, courtesy of a conspiracy of Einstein's new world government, Bob Brown and the Teletubbies, all while fearful of a nuclear attack by Baathists within 45 seconds? Makes sense to me. Let me out my glass of wine back down on this purple mongoose. Galileo!!!!!!!

  30. @haiku

    The left has walked away from the table?

    This was just Terje trying to cause trouble. The so-called table is in fact the entire world.

    What, in fact is happening, is that most are walking away from Terje.

  31. yes, haiku, so far so good, but you left out the part where they suddenly began to drink clear liquid from jars & talk a lot about guns.

  32. The Left has moved to the grown ups’ table, but the Right wants to continue the food fight.

    Not all rightists lack table manners but too many of them do.

    I congratulate both JQ’s forbearance and his occasional banning of bad mannered bloviators. He has the balance just about right.

  33. Yes it was very different when I first signed up for the blogosphere too, you were and still remain unique however as someone ‘of the left’ who can engage thoroughly with the language of economics. Keep up the good work whatever you do.

  34. NN:

    “Yes it was very different when I first signed up for the blogosphere too, you were and still remain unique however as someone ‘of the left’ who can engage thoroughly with the language of economics. ”

    I think the arts and social science left would be less prone to seeing the world a set silly cliches if they were required to study economics as part of their undergrad courses. I reach for the sick bucket when I hear any of the following: “white privilege” “the Other” “gendered binaries” “discursive” “discourse” “the imaginary” etc.. We had none of this crap when I studied the social sciences in the late 80s/ early 90s.

  35. Terje, since you want to score points on this, let me say straight out that you haves, on numerous occasions, peddled ludicrous conspiracy theories, and repeated nonsensical statistics. To your credit, you’ve occasionally been willing to back down when the worst errors are pointed out. But you’ve never learned the lesson that your tribal allies are, without exception, liars and fools, and that you should never believe anything they say. Instead you keep on coming back with the same old stuff.

  36. It seems pointless to add my voice to the chorus on the value of your contribution to the blogosphere, but in case it isn’t PrQ … well done you and many thanks.

  37. But you’ve never learned the lesson that your tribal allies are, without exception, liars and fools, and that you should never believe anything they say.

    What all of them? On every issue? All the time? I think the right get things wrong, eg Iraq war, but I think your generalisation is a little puffed up with hubris.

  38. @Terje; It’s true that we don’t see the same degree of concerted dishonesty/willing gullibility on every issue as we have on Iraq and climate change, but these issues are big and important enough that those who peddle or accept obvious lies about them need to be judged on that basis.

    Coming back to the question of engagement, what’s the point of debating, say tax policy, with someone who is willing to espouse obviously delusional beliefs on other issues. It’s clear such people can’t be convinced by evidence, and are only displaying an appearance of reasonableness because they think they can win that way on the issue in question.

  39. And, to be clear, there are people of conservative or libertarian views who didn’t push lies about Iraq and who accept mainstream climate science. At least on the latter issue, Harry Clarke is an example, But, as you can see on any Catallaxy thread involving Harry, such people are regarded as outcasts by the tribal right.

  40. To echo others here, I was frightened to see the title and first sentences of this post. Thank goodness you’re not shutting down too. Coming so soon after the demise of Larvatus Prodeo and Levon Helm it could well have pushed me over the edge.

    But it’s time to pause and say thank you, as others have done, for the excellent free education and community you provide here. I have learned a great deal from this blog. Thank you John!

  41. John – I agree Iraq and climate change are big issues. On the later sections of the left, including you in some regards, are delusional about the relative future cost effectiveness of making electricity on mass from wind and solar. I suppose that is rationalisation enough to dismiss you all on issues like tax and welfare. And in fact sections of the right do openly dismiss everything the left has to say because of such delusions. If dismissal of everything said by one tribe on the basis of some things said by that tribe is the way forward for public policy debates then yes, why bother.

    Catallaxy isn’t my cup of tea. I like many of the authors but there is no room for respectful disagreement in the comments. There are three or four enforcers of this culture of disrespect but probably others waiting in the wings. However your position is just as much a disappointment. I used to shop around arguments from left to right and get meaningful debate and insight. Now it just attracts thunder and lightening from both sides. Perhaps blogging has had it’s day, at least in terms of meaningful challenges to conventional thinking. I do think this is tragic and I feel nostalgic for how it used to be. I suppose it is one more tragedy of the commons.

  42. Anyone under 30 who can become ‘famous’ for promoting a sustainable economic model taking us away from the addiction to the current eternal-growth model can win $1,000,000 with a $5,000 bonus for getting it published in the Murdoch press!

    He’s a clever fellow, Dick. A bit disingenuous with his “if only Rupert knew how bad his papers are” line, but that may just be a tactic.

  43. @TerjeP

    However your position is just as much a disappointment. I used to shop around arguments from left to right and get meaningful debate and insight. Now it just attracts thunder and lightening from both sides.

    It ought to be astonishing that you can compare this place with the open sewer over at Catallaxy. Nothing like that occurs here. Sure the right cops a fair bit of curry but it’s always about their ideas and conduct rather than pure vituperation.

    Over at Catallaxy there’s scarcely a topic hat isn’t 50% pure mindless abuse of all things said to have some connection with left-of-centre ideas, including a number of things that have nothing to do with us at all.

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