New Survey on Bootcamp Graduates

I have been investigating how to get more talent in the tech industry for a while. There is not a lot of data on precisely how people select into tech and what might cause more people to train for in-demand jobs. Gordon Macrae, in his substack The View, has a recent relevant post Issue #9: Tracking 100 bootcamp graduates from 2015.

Gordon ran his own survey of 100 graduates of coding bootcamps. Coding bootcamps are a fascinating element that help fill in the skills gap. They are not well-understood, and we don’t have much publicly available data of the sort that helps researchers measure the outcomes of a traditional college education.

Here are some of his results from this preliminary survey:

Of this total, 68% of the graduates surveyed in 2022 were doing roles where the bootcamp was necessary for them to work in that role. What I found fascinating, though, was that this figure varied wildly depending on the bootcamp they attended. 

On the lowest end, just 50% of graduates from Bootcamp A were doing jobs in 2022 that required having gone to a bootcamp. Conversely, 90% of Bootcamp D graduates were working in technical roles seven years after graduating.

What is more, the percentage of bootcamp graduates in technical roles at 7 years after graduation has gone done by 15%. The average immediately after graduation was 82% working in a technical role. 

Other resources:

There is more work to be done in this area.

Postmodernism to Poastmodernism

Authors of the kinds of books I read present themselves as a voice of reason against our declining society that no longer can evaluate arguments or define moral principles. (I’m fun at parties.) “Postmodernism” has been attacked all my life.

For a while, I have been looking for a successor of postmodernism. To simply define our age as the one that came after modernism seems unsatisfactory. How many more decades can we coast along on this antithesis idea?

One reason I don’t like the term postmodernism is that it gives a sense of progress where we might be losing ground. If you aren’t modern, then you are pre-modern. If you aren’t a verbal culture, then you have regressed to pictographs. If you aren’t engaging arguments, then you have degenerated to tribalism. So, postmodern might be dressing up a decline with a word that is too respectable sounding.

Calling people who use smartphones premodern does not seem right. But, what information are they consuming on those screens? Is it mostly low-quality videos and quick poasts? That doesn’t seem like what someone in 1900 would expect of a modern person.

Here’s an idea for the new century. We are in an age of poastmodernism, beginning with the founding of Twitter. This is different from the kind of skepticism or moral relativism that defined postmodernism. The poasters and their followers can be earnest. They retweet like evangelists. (A “poast” is a message posted in an internet forum.)

Poasts are short. This does not allow for nuance or traditional rational forms of argumentation. A poast could be referencing a rich history or body of literature, but if this generation has not evaluated those original sources then they are really just getting the meme. The poast does not provide its own context. Tyler Cowen says that people who think “modern art” is absurd have no context. Context for modern art would be the classical art and realistic landscape paintings that came before. Most Americans including myself are pretty ignorant about classical art. Similarly, how much value would teenagers get from Lord of the Rings internet memes if they have never seen the movies or read the books?

I’m on Twitter. The pace of discourse is more fun than reading a 50-page econ journal article. I get the appeal of poasting. It’s easy. Our first pediatrician told us not to let our baby use touchscreen games. She told us that it is good for a child to struggle to touch a ball that is two feet away across the floor. Better that they cry over the ball then get the dopamine too easily on a tablet game. Tapping on a screen trains kids for instant rewards. Something that concerns me about a generation that was not raised on books is that they will actually enjoy poasting less than I do, because they will be used to the rapid pace of reward. Twitter as a company benefits from the current generation of people who did not grow up with Twitter.

Poasting affects politics. This week two US Senate candidates had a debate. What would someone who gets most of their news from social media learn about the debate? Some top poasts about the debate have almost zero positive policy substance. Campaigners use the internet medium to dunk on their opponents instead of offer solutions to problems. What attracts engagement is the fire emoji.

This is not meant as a comment on either men as candidates. I share these jabs because lots of Americans are consuming their “news” in this form (see Pew Research chart). In postmodernism a successful political candidate has to appeal to feelings as much as reason. In poastmodernism, they only have 280 characters to work with. (Donald Trump was a skilled poaster.)

Getting elected today might require great poasting, but that has little to do with being good at governing. Most people think the details of government are dull. Ten minutes into a city council meeting, I’m bored and ready to check the notifications on my phone. And yet, we cannot just poast about poasting. It’s the physical political world and the classic books that make the best subjects of conversation. So, I’m not sure if the era of poastmodernism will last for a long time, or simply to the end of my lifetime. Millennials are not going to give up the dog fire meme.

You’ll have to pry it from our hands after our large generation has passed on. But will it inspire people in the future? I have already been informed that teenagers are calling our gifs “cringe”. They seem to prefer 90 second videos of their peers dancing to pop music. Don’t ask me what comes next after that.

I’ll end on a positive note by saying that sometimes shorter is better. Get to the point quickly, if you can. Some of the novels produced in the modern era were too long. Adam Smith’s books would be more widely read if they were shorter. Long-winded speeches are not necessarily good and I’m glad I am not forced to listen to them. (I get the tl;dr the next day.)

A lot of bad ideas were dressed up in pages of smart-sounding language and then passed off for wisdom in the modern era. It might be harder to pull that off today. Authoritarian regimes in the past relied on being able to lie about conditions on the ground. Today, we know what is happening because of Twitter. American elites believed lies about what was going on inside the Soviet Union for years. That would be impossible today.

Recent Podcasts about Data Analytics

My students recently assembled a list of podcasts about data analytics that are a click away if this is a topic of interest.

The show they pulled from the most was In Machines We Trust produced by the MIT Technology Review.

Attention Shoppers, You’re Being Tracked

Hired by an Algorithm” (“I would recommend this podcast to anyone who will be applying for a job in the near future.”)

Encore: When an Algorithm Gets It Wrong

Can AI Keep Guns out of Schools

How retail is using AI to prevent fraud

Other episodes, not from In Machines We Trust:

More or Less Behind the Statistics: Can we use maths to beat the robots?  (Might be of interest to the folks who like to debate “new math” in schools.)

How Data Science Enables Better Decisions at Merck

Data Science at Home: State of Artificial Intelligence 2022

Emoji as a Predictor – Data skeptic

Data Skeptic: Data Science Hiring Process 

True Machine Intelligence just like the human brain” (Ep. 155)

How to Thrive as an Early-Career Data Scientist” – Super Data Science

No matter how you feel about intelligent machines, you’ll be talking to them soon.

They are delivering food already.

Dog Cartoon Information Warfare for the 21st Century

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has generated a lot of attention. Many people care deeply about this unfolding crisis. I wondered back in March 2022 where all this energy would end up getting channeled?

What I had in mind was not an army of “cartoon dogs”, and yet here we are. Official coverage of the #NAFO dog memes this week has come from the Economist and Politico.

The North Atlantic Fella Organisation (spellings vary) is a tongue-in-cheek label adopted by a virtual army that champions Ukraine’s cause and harangues its foes on social media. Its members don the avatar of a cartoon shiba inu dog…

When your enemy is as humorless as Putin, there is an advantage to being funny. After circulating in internet backwaters for weeks, official Ukrainian accounts have acknowledged the help offered by the movement.

The effects of #NAFO are 1) to influence the flow of information/opinions and 2) raise money for Ukraine defense.

For example, you can buy a “ticket” to a “beach party” in Crimea: https://www.saintjavelin.com/products/crimea-beach-party-early-bird-ticket-sale-1-entry

Mike posted earlier about donating to the Kyiv department of Economics.

And this is a just an aid organization that is not very funny but helps refugees in Lviv.

An explainer of a different Very Online thing is https://www.slowboring.com/p/dark-brandon-explained. Dark Brandon and #NAFO are similar in the sense that supporters are made to feel like they are part of a brotherhood of winners who share fun jokes.

Balaji Srinivasan recently released a book called The Network State suggesting that online communities of likeminded people are so powerful that they could supplant what we have known as “countries” for a few centuries. From what I can tell, families want to live in a real place that has tangible services and security. The interesting thing about #NAFO is that it’s purpose is to support an old-fashioned country defending its physical borders.

Meanwhile, in the country of Russia, as reported by the WSJ, “The chairman of Russia’s second-largest oil-and-gas giant, Lukoil PJSC, died Thursday after falling from a hospital window in Moscow, according to Russian state media agency TASS.”

Ambitious Parenting

Things go by online about moms and kids that bother me. Here I will Be Like Pete and try to articulate a positive vision. We could talk more about parenting small children.

Ambitious people, both men and women, might want to be parents. Time spent on parenting takes away from other projects, so the earlier you start planning the better. Hearing about the experiences of other parents is both instructive and inspiring.

Parenting, like modern creative careers, is an unpredictable enterprise. Maybe one reason people are not encouraged more to plan is because the disappointments can be so devastating in this arena. There is a risk that I will sound insensitive if I am too positive. That said, I feel like discussions I see in public miss the point too often and fail to use the “billboard space” we have effectively. There is an ocean of thoughtful honest free content for How to Achieve Your Writing Goals, but there is very little on how to achieve your parenting goals that resonates with ambitious young people. The writing advice can be ignored by those who don’t want to write; parenting advice can be ignored by those who don’t want kids.

Economists talk a lot about parents and children, especially now that the US is near population decline. One particular point I have heard is: “Data shows that piano lessons do not have a causal impact on lifetime earnings, so your problems are solved. Everyone sit back and enjoy your kids.”

This message may be helpful to some people, but it seems like primarily a lie to me. “Enjoy your kids” assumes a lot. I’d prefer an honest approach about the sacrifice involved, or the “opportunity cost”. I think that the benefits of parenting outweigh the cost, but it’s not inspirational to say “selfish lazy people will enjoy parenting.” Raising kids who you enjoy being around is not easy, but there are tricks and proven methods to help.

The economist who gets it is Emily Oster. Her books go more like this: “You probably aspire to having family meals that you can enjoy. Sit down with your co-parent 6 months ahead of time and plan out how you are going to achieve such a wonderful ambitious goal while also being able to schedule other events and pursuits.”

Emily Oster books/newsletter is a great place to start. She’s not for everyone, but if you are reading an econ blog then she might be for you. The good news for ambitious parents is that many books have been written that explain how to achieve certain results. Ambitious smart people can figure out good techniques, although as I said earlier be prepared for things not to go as planned. It helps to start on the learning process before you have kid to care for. Once you become a primary caregiver, you will have less time to read, so read widely and often whenever you can.  We have a /Parenting category in this blog, to curate some of the good stuff.

This boy’s ambition was to dig a trench from a tidal pool all the way to the ocean.

Kids could come up in conversation about ambition more, as a possible complement not just as a substitute.

This Elon tweet has layers: “Being a Mom is just as important as any career” What do you think the subtext is? How would a college student would understand this?

Why use this hackneyed phrase when he could say something to actually inspire both his male and female Gen Z fans to become parents? If Elon is a good parent, then teach us how he combines it with an ambitious life. And if he’s a bad parent, he should say less about it. If he’s trying to elevate mothers, then retweet a mother.

Similarly, a male economist who writes books about how easy parenting is should explain how he got through the first 5 years. Either someone else raised his children or he worked hard to maintain a routine and boundaries. Did he create his own routine from scratch or did he borrow from someone else’s model? Were his children in daycare 40 hours a week?

It can be hard to write about these topics honestly, because of privacy issues. So, we are back to Emily Oster, because she has been willing to tell the world what really goes on in her own family. Elon should just tweet out her newsletter every week if he’s such an advocate for mothers.

Dr. Oster is not the only one. There are millions of mothers creating content who would value the exposure. What if Elon (or some other ambitious person with a large platform) retweeted a trick for getting children to try carrots. “Wow, genius technique. Follow this Mom for more…” Or, Elon could highlight a man who being a great parent.

Ambitious people just talking about their kids and their own honest personal experiences is a good way to achieve Elon’s stated goal of getting more people to have kids. If Elon wants to tell us that he loves his kids, then that’s inspirational, and I don’t think it’s a lie.

I will engage in some introspection here, not because I think I’m so interesting, but because I see pro-natalist men talking past everyone else on how to raise the birth rate. I had a parenting win this past week. I solved a behavioral problem in a creative way and I’d love to talk about it. I’d like to feel like I’m part of a community conversation. I’d like to be recognized for my expertise. That’s what most people want, right? More resources in the attention economy devoted to parents is a form of compensation that I have not heard discussed before.

I have heard advice to female professors to not put up pictures of their children at the office. If colleagues know you care about your children, then you might be ostracized from the intellectual community that you have spent your whole life trying to join. In my own small way, I have pushed back against this norm by occasionally talking about kids and babies, so that other people who want families can feel part of a bigger community online and in academia. My broader point in this post is that there is a kind of rhetoric about family life and parenting strategies that would make young ambitious people think that having kids will not prevent them from having a meaningful life.

It’s not bad to talk about a 14-hour workday or an organizational strategies for achieving professional goals. I wouldn’t want to censor anyone or stop them from sharing how they accomplished something valuable. On the margin, more conversations could also include a discussion of how life changes if you become a parent, so that ambitious young people can build mental categories for this.

The Freakonomics podcast provides examples:

Stephen Dubner brought the teen children of famous economists on his show to talk about what it was like to grow up with those weirdos. It’s funny. Listeners will not feel like they are being told what to do or judged. Dubner is simply lending his platform to parents and children. He’s using the billboard space. There is parenting content on the internet already, but if it’s all siloed over at parents.com then it may not make it to the young person who is trying to figure out what “the Good” is.

Boutique Science

Science keeps getting bigger- more researchers, more funding, and of course more publications. Scientific progress is much harder to measure, but there are good arguments that it’s roughly flat over time. This implies that productivity per researcher is plummeting.

Source

There’s been a lively debate about what drives this falling productivity- is it that the easy discoveries got made first, leaving only harder ones for today’s scientists? Or is something else tanking scientific productivity, like the bureaucratic way we organize scientific research today?

A recent paper, “Slowed canonical progress in large fields of science“, suggests that the growth in the number of researchers and publications could itself be part of the problem. Comparing scientific fields over time, they find that:

When the number of papers published per year in a scientific field grows large, citations flow disproportionately to already well-cited papers; the list of most-cited papers ossifies; new papers are unlikely to ever become highly cited, and when they do, it is not through a gradual, cumulative process of attention gathering; and newly published papers become unlikely to disrupt existing work. These findings suggest that the progress of large scientific fields may be slowed, trapped in existing canon.

What is driving this? They argue:

First, when many papers are published within a short period of time, scholars are forced to resort to heuristics to make continued sense of the field. Rather than encountering and considering intriguing new ideas each on their own merits, cognitively overloaded reviewers and readers process new work only in relationship to existing exemplars. A novel idea that does not fit within extant schemas will be less likely to be published, read, or cited. Faced with this dynamic, authors are pushed to frame their work firmly in relationship to well-known papers, which serve as “intellectual badges” identifying how the new work is to be understood, and discouraged from working on too-novel ideas that cannot be easily related to existing canon. The probabilities of a breakthrough novel idea being produced, published, and widely read all decline, and indeed, the publication of each new paper adds disproportionately to the citations for the already most-cited papers.

Second, if the arrival rate of new ideas is too fast, competition among new ideas may prevent any of the new ideas from becoming known and accepted field wide.

Supposing they are correct, it’s not totally clear what to do. At the biggest level we could fund fewer researchers in large fields, or push more fields to be like economics, where the quality of each researcher’s publications is valued much more than the quantity. But what can an individual researcher do differently? One idea is “boutique science” or “hipster science”, trying to find the smallest or newest field you could reasonably attach yourself to.

Another idea is that the role of generalists and synthesizers is becoming more valuable, as Tyler Cowen often says and David Esptein applies to science in his book Range. When papers are coming out faster than anyone can read, we need more people to sift through them and explain which few are actually important and which are forgettable or wrong. There are lots of ways to do this- review articles, meta-analysis, replication at scale, and of course blogs. But the junk pile is going to keep growing, so we’ll need new and better ways of finding the hidden gems.

Perks in Severance

I have written three blogs on the TV show Severance this summer. My newest post is up at the Online Library of Liberty.

I discuss how job perks are portrayed in the show. The bosses in the show are creepy and we come to find out that they are totally evil. Given the way everything feels in the show, you could come to the conclusion that perks are generally manipulative and false. Someone implied that in an op-ed published by the NYT.

My argument is that free adults can use “perks” to motivate themselves and each other to do the right thing.

We are all just trying to get that dopamine, in the short term. Should people only feel happy when they are doing drugs or playing video games? Should bosses not be allowed to create a fun moment at work?

Trivial gifts and prizes must be cheap, so that their cost does not start to outweigh the benefits of incentivizing things we should be doing anyway. Finding ways to make a responsible life exciting is in fact the key to maintaining our liberty. Most people do not want to be martyrs. They want life to be fun.

The following tweet shows the character Dylan and his performance prize.

Behavioral scientists have documented lots of quirks in human behavior. We aren’t solely motivated by our (real wage) salaries to produce effort. The good news is that we are capable of self-reflection. We can make these quirks work for us. Lots of successful people will promise themselves a small reward at the end of the week if they accomplish something hard.

Perks aren’t all bad at work, but, on the other hand, Severance could make you more alert to genuine manipulation that is out there.

Watching Severance prompts good questions. Who are you? (That’s the opening line of the show.) What are you doing with your life? Whose purposes are you serving?

I liked the show because it has great characters, funny moments, and it gets you thinking. If you watch the show, don’t take it too seriously. Ben Stiller is a co-director. The man (the genius) brought us Zoolander (2001).

One give-away that this ain’t the new 1984 is a plot hole concerning how the main character Mark decided to sever himself and join the evil corporation. According to the show, his wife died and he was so sad that he quit his job as a history professor after three weeks of feeling sad. I know a lot of academics. History professors have worked too hard and too long to quit their jobs after three weeks of feeling sad. Take everything with a grain of salt from these writers. Mark’s general lack of executive control is at odds with the backstory that he once obtained a job as a history professor.

Severance is described as science fiction but it clearly takes place in the United States of America. For one thing, a “senator” has a role. For another thing, the work schedule is pretty American. This is a funny video on how Europeans view the American work schedule:

I have no idea how far down the rabbit hole the writers will feel like they have to do in Season 2. Will there be a role for a POTUS?

The second blog was posted to EWED: my thoughts about relating Severance to Artificial Intelligence.

A question this raises is whether we can develop AGI that will be content to never self-actualize.

And, back in May, OLL ran my first blog about Severance and drudgery.

The first line in the show is, “Who are you?” Themes about identity and purpose are explored alongside the thrilling hijinks of the prisoner innies. Outie Mark has nothing except his personal life to think about, which in his case is tragic. Innie Mark has nothing but work. Neither man is happy or complete.

Birmingham AL hosts The World Games

Have you heard of The World Games? It’s the Olympics for sports that are too random to be in the real Olympics. It is happening right now in Birmingham, AL. It’s not too late to get your tickets to see Canoe Polo.

For people interested in regional politics, this blog about the city successfully hosting a major event might be interesting. His references to people in “the suburbs” is something you won’t understand without some context and history. But you don’t have to be a local to learn that history, since everything is online.

Continue reading

Content moderation strategy

Anyone can comment on this blog. We’d love to see more comments. Challenging our ideas is fine. Telling us that you like our work is encouraging.

If you are in the know, then you assume we have a comment moderation policy, because everyone needs one. If you have never run a website then you might think it is possible to simply have an open form that anyone could type into and get immediately published on the platform.

Comments come in every day, but most of them never get posted. We are not against free speech or silencing an opposition. Most of the comments, if you can even call them comments, are spam. Sometimes spammers try to get posted by saying that they love the site, and sometimes the text seems like AI-generated pornography. The words are not written by humans or at least not humans who have actually read our content.

I don’t think it’s smart to be 100% transparent about our “algorithm” for filtering out this spam. That would make it easier to for bad actors to accomplish what they want to accomplish.

To our human readers, please comment. Your comment will get posted, although sometimes it might take a minute or even hours to get through. We are not censoring ideas, yet we need a moderation policy or else this place would not be fun. People would not want to wade through spam.

Elon Musk buying Twitter is the big news this week. He wants to enhance free speech on the site and, according to him, make it more open and fun. Some fans are hoping that he will make the content moderation and ban policy more transparent. Maybe that’s possible. Maybe he can improve the site.

My point is that if you have not been on the admin side of an internet forum then you might not realize the challenge it presents. There are trade offs involved. I believe that there can be improvements to the current system at Twitter. However, if you want to be taken seriously be tech folk then ask for a system that is possible. A substantially better experience might be incompatible with the site being free to users.

In our case, we could improve our system at EWED. Real people who comment will not like the lag, and fixing that is a technical problem. More time and money could solve it, but this site makes no money.

The economics insight is that you get what you pay for. Studio executives make the movies they believe you will pay for. We get the politicians we bother to vote for. Journalists report what they get paid to write.

Twitter could create a paid user tier. Paid users would be entitled to speak to a human on staff at Twitter in the event that they get censored and have the option of an appeals process.

I am used to getting a lot of services for free online. New companies roll out a huge free initial offering to harvest users and data. I have spent most of my adult life in that roll out phase. Eventually the party stops and investors want to see a revenue stream. Maybe I should start paying for the internet services I value. Maybe part of the reason the conversation is so rancorous is that we are transitioning away from everything being free. Inventing social media is sort of like humans discovering fire and cocaine at the same time! We are still figuring out how to use these tools effectively and safely.

I think a bad scenario happens if we cannot transition over to a patronage model. Remaining trapped in a free stuff mentality would be worse in the long run. I hope Napster didn’t ruin me. In an ideal world, I would be willing to pay for social media and also never spend more than 2 hours a day scrolling on any open platform. We should try for that. We should supplement our online reading with content that has made it past a publisher. For now, one way to get around Twitter censorship is to buy and read books.

The New Econ Bloggers

On the Bretton Goods podcast, host Pradyumna Prasad asked student Trevor Chow about blogs. To start the segment, Prasad noted that there has been an increase in what he called “econ blogs” in the past 2-3 years. Will that trend continue? Prasad believes that this is not sustainable because: 1) he thinks the paid subscriber model will not support many writers, which leads to 2) bloggers writing for free will run out of time and energy.

Chow replied that he thinks the recent explosion is partly due to Substack, which makes it easy to start blogging. Chow described the current climate as a “flourishing blogosphere.” He assumes that some people started during a Covid shutdown when the opportunity cost was low. Some of the younger people might shift their focus, as he did when his interests changed, but he believes that many of the blogs started in this phase are here to stay. Both young men think about longevity.

Prasad asked, “What are the qualities of the most successful bloggers across time?”

Chow replied that the only blog that has influenced him “across time” is Marginal Revolution, partly because few writers stick with blogging. Chow thinks a successful blogger over time would find a special niche. I have a similar intuition, even though MR is not about a niche topic. If everyone is checking MR for their “daily links”, then it’s unlikely that inferior new aggregator blogs will attract large numbers of readers. Also, Twitter largely fills that role now.

The fact that duration was discussed more than quality is interesting. To blog is to enter a network and join a community. Part of sticking around for a while is not just writing but also reading and paying attention to the work of others. Good writing is a necessary but not sufficient component of what would be considered a successful blog.

As an economist, I was happy to hear Prasad open this segment by talking about “econ blogs”. Econ blogging occurs when people are interesting online, even if the topic is outside of the traditional domain of economists. I think this is partly due to Tyler Cowen both being prolific and also willing to engage non-standard thinkers.

I enjoyed the podcast. It raised some questions which I posed to Tyler Cowen, the OG econ blogger. We all know that MR generates a high level of engagement, today. My first question was:

1. What was the evolution of reader engagement with MR? How long did you work before a lot of people were reading, commenting? 

Cowen: It took us 3-4 years to have a lot of readers. but I never tracked the numbers very closely. When I started, I was thrilled by the notion of 5,000 readers a day — of course we have done many times more than that.

2. The consensus is that many new people have started since 2020, which I believe is something that you called for. Do you now see the space as, in some sense, saturated, or would you encourage more people to keep joining now? 

Cowen: I don’t think it is saturated now.

 3. For bloggers who started since 2020, should they quit if the opportunity cost increases? 

Cowen: The main thing is simply whether you enjoy it and learn from it!  If so, reason to continue. That sounds trivial, but it is really the bottom line.

Should the new bloggers keep going? Yes, if you enjoy it and learn from it. Is it too late to start? No, if you will enjoy blogging and learn from it.

The blog form is better than a 280-character tweet for capturing nuance. Something I learn from blogging, which might not be obvious from the outside, is that I have some bad ideas. Sometimes trying to write out a piece teaches me that I had an unsupported thought. It would be good if more people would stop scrolling for an hour a week and try to write out an argument.  

Co-blogger Mike alerted me to this comic:

This is one frame of a long SMBC comic strip https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/liberal-education

The comic first describes a cynical take on academia, with which I don’t fully agree. Then, the woman paints a picture of an alternative haven for intellectual conversation. Can econ blogs be an old pub where the people are always and only there in earnest? “Most people don’t even want to go in, and you certainly don’t get credentials for descending the stairs.”