Chris Blattman

Is this my final blog post?

Two years ago yesterday I launched this blog. Somehow I convinced myself to post several times a week to just a loyal few readers. (Thanks Mom!). Then, unexpectedly, the rest of you appeared.

From the beginning, I decided blogging would be a two-year experiment. After that I’d pause, reevaluate, and maybe stop.

I’ll save you the suspense: I plan to keep going for now.

I still made myself pause and reevaluate, however, and I thought I’d share what I learned. Blogging has been more rewarding than I expected, and I think more academics should give it a try. Maybe these words will influence a few.

First and most important, I like blogging. That is probably reason enough. I like sharing ideas, hearing opposing views, inspiring students and, maybe if I’m lucky, shifting the views of a policymaker or two. I don’t have the time to advise all the students I’d like, or harangue policymakers one by one. The blog is a technology, one that makes me orders of magnitude more productive.

Some almost-bloggers worry for their academic careers. I think the days are over when a blog imperils the junior faculty member. On the contrary, if you can keep it professional, I think the opposite is now true.

Why? Well, I learn a lot. Writing daily forces me to read things more carefully and critically, and distill ideas to their essential points. This in turn stimulates research ideas, several of which are cooking as we speak.

Dani Rodrik called his blog his academic memory (but with Google). I agree. If I’m trying to remember an article I liked, or a old research idea, it’s only one search away. Since memory is not my greatest strength (this morning I left my suitcase in a taxi) an online diary has its uses.

Blogging also keeps me outside my comfort zone on big questions. When you run surveys and experiments for a living, you become obsessed with the world in miniature. Now I’m forced to raise my head and think about problems beyond my narrow expertise.

Finally, I learn because you send me interesting things to read, and pounce when my logic or leaning is weak.

Certainly there’s an opportunity cost to blogging. It’s probably 15 or sometimes 30 minutes a day I don’t spend writing research papers. But there are diminishing returns to that nth hour of research, and it’s not nearly as fun.

Either way, I can confidently say that blogging more than pays back that investment. I’d trace about a quarter of my current research funding to the blog, and more than one field opportunity. (Plus my mother has stopped asking what I do for a living.)

New and longtime readers: thanks for following. And Happy Blogiversary.

23 Responses

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  3. many of us political science phd students follow your blog religiously. thanks for all the ideas, opinions, advice, articles, and links that you share.

  4. glad you’re sticking around.
    ha. it turns out spam blockers don’t enjoy sarcastic answers. it wouldn’t let me use:
    “hot. at least on earth. usually” as an appropriate response to, “Is fire hot or cold?”

  5. I discovered your blog when I was living in Malawi, loading it up on our terribly slow internet connection to get a broader perspective of thoughts on development. It’s always been consistent in its excellence, and eventually convinced me to start one up myself. I’m glad you’ve decided to keep at it. Stay away from twitter.

  6. Delighted to learn you keep your blog going. Thanks for sharing inspiring thoughts and links with us, as well as your helpful professional advice. Happy Blogiversary!

  7. Dr. Blattman,
    I started my masters last fall and your blog made me think it was possible to actually finish after I was SO overwhelmed at the beginning of the semester. Your postings are helpful and make the discipline in general more accessible so thank you for continuing. I recommend this blog to all of our incoming graduate students when they tell me they too are SO overwhelmed.

  8. Prof. Blattman,
    Glad to hear you’re staying on. Your work is greatly appreciated: enjoyed your class last year and your blog. Looking forward to you eventually caving and getting Twitter…

  9. Good to hear – I’ve recommended your blog many times since meeting you very briefly in Stockholm in 2008, and the recommendation has been very well received on all occasions!

  10. I’m an undergraduate majoring in International Relations, and I have no idea how I originally found your blog, but I’m really glad I did. Your posts led me to a lot of other interesting things, such as that article from the Boston Tribune on slums which is inspiring my potential research project this summer.

    So, in short, thank you for continuing to write!

  11. Count me as another student who is glad you’re not stopping.

    And 15-30 minutes a day, really? I would like to know how much time you spend on reading through your blogroll a day.

  12. I would miss your blog if you stopped. I’m not a student of economics, but I’m a person who cares about the state of the world. Your blog gives me thought-provoking insights I couldn’t find elsewhere. Plus, you just seem like a decent guy. Thanks for what you do!

  13. Chris
    Your blogs are always informative , great to know you are not going to pause!

  14. Cher Chris,
    Ouf !!! Tu va continuer à blogguer. J’adore lire ce blog et je le recommande aux étudiants que je connais.
    Merci pour tout.
    Keep blogging, Chris. C’est indispensable pour nous, lecteurs !!!
    Encore merci.

  15. Way to scare us. :P But seriously though, 15-30 minutes per day. I find that hard to believe. My concern with blogging is that I’d lack self-control and too often spend much more than that. I’m not sure how much thought you put into constructing that 15-30 estimate, but my guess is that’s closer to your median time spent blogging per day, not your average, because there must have been days where you were sucked into spending hours on the blog, and it did keep you from getting important things done, though I agree that your net long-run benefit of blogging is likely positive. Given that there likely were tradeoffs involved on several occasions, thanks for making the sacrifice for us.

  16. You had me worried there for a moment. Here’s one non-economics student who much appreciates your work here. Thanks very much, and looking forward to the next 2 years. Would be interested in knowing why you think twitter isn’t a good fit.

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