Internet reading that has shaped me

For the first time, I’m starting my day by writing in my blog. EWED for short. That’s the past tense of a female sheep.

I’m going to dedicate this post to some of the online resources that have been useful to me. As I said before, Marginal Revolution is a blog that I have checked every day for years. I never intended to make that into a habit. It’s just so interesting and fun that I would go there to avoid doing my actual work. There is a lot competing for my attention when I sit down at my computer to start my work day. Social media is fun but not always a good use of time. MR never leaves me feeling guilty like I just wasted the time I should have spent working.

Aside from MR, I do read other blog posts written by economists that interest me as a citizen or help me with my work. No matter what is broken in your house or what you dream of cooking for dinner, today you can always find a blogger who has explained it all for you.

I read articles by publications, not just individual bloggers. There is not much to say about that, except that I do think good writing is worth paying for. If an article is behind a paywall, I never get resentful. In theory, the rational version of me never gets resentful.

Lastly, I have gotten excellent advice from the comments in message boards. Hackers have provided me code snippets that I use for my work. I learned to code primarily from message boards that I found through Googling. There are dozens of us. Dozens!

A student once wrote in my teaching evaluations, “Dr. Buchanan doesn’t know anything because she told us to Google our problems.” Since getting that comment, I have tried to be more intentional with the way that I explain to undergraduates how real professionals search the internet for answers all the time. I feel indebted to the people who write good comments. Sometimes they can leverage their reputation professionally, but most truly want to help.

It was the puzzle of unpaid labor that contributes to open source code bases that sparked my first idea for an economics journal article. If I’m being completely honest, it was also the experience of watching the loading bar creep forward for two hours in middle school while I waiting for one pop song to come to me free courtesy of Napster.

An experiment on protecting intellectual property” demonstrated that people will sometimes tinker with creative output even if they are not making money from it and have no IP protection. We found that when we did provide IP protection, entrepreneurs emerged who were able to create value for others (and capture money for themselves) by specializing in the creation of non-rivalrous knowledge goods. Experimental subjects who had never experienced IP protection in our environment did not call it theft when their creations got copied. However, if we provided IP protection and then took it away, then we got the following objection from one subject:

The entrepreneur in NoIP12 complained in the chatroom, “why do you
sell my colors? stop re-selling my colors or ill stop making and no1 will have”. This
is the only explicit objection to piracy in our experiments. Experiencing protection in
the IP treatment led him to demand that his intellectual property be respected in the
No IP treatment.

Buchanan and Wilson (2014)

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