Mandatory academic blogging

In today’s Age, James McConvill (La Trobe) argues that all law academics should be blogging. The idea is that this will make their work more accessible quickly. Moreover, he argues that:

So government funding is being pumped into a system that is based on an interpretive community of academics competing for the article with the largest number of footnotes and most sophisticated use of prose.

Why not reallocate that funding towards law academics reaching out to the world through effective blogging? Blogs can be easily found through a simple Google search (unlike many Australian law reviews, which are still only available in hard copy via the library, and American law reviews, many of which are accessible only viaWestlaw or Lexis), making them a handy source of research for students,practitioners and other academics.

Of course, why stop with law academics, why not anyone in the social sciences including economics?

Let me put this succintly: I couldn’t agree with this less. There are real problems associated with blogging. First, it takes time. Second, not that many people read them. Third, academic journal articles are peer reviewed and that leads to a significant improvement in quality. A blog entry has no similar check. Finally, if its accessibility we want, then governments should make the libraries and authored work more accessible. For instance, versions of papers should be posted online so they can be indexed by Google Scholar.

It would be a mistake to blindly mandate or otherwise incentivise blogging; an activity without peer checking. Not even in teaching are academics really afforded that luxury.

Boredom Alert

Boing boing reports on a device that will tell a person if they are boring.

The “emotional social intelligence prosthetic device” is a camera that clips on eyeglasses and feeds images to a small computer that uses image recognition software to characterize emotions. If the listener doesn’t seem to be engaged, the device vibrates to alert the wearer.

I suspect I might have been shaken to death by marginal revenue this week. This surely is in the category “you don’t want to find out this way.”

Under the cover

Having a hard time fending off people in the train when you are reading Core Economics for Managers? You know, all those people who want to know where you purchased it. Try this courtesy of Freakonomics.

My favourite is: “How to murder your Professor and get away with it”

Exam questions

My MBA class just had their Mid-Term test. One question (click here) was based on the blog entry, “Oh Honestly!” (posted 14th February, 2006). It was the only entry where someone asked: “will this be on the exam?” I answered “yes” about 10 days ago after I had written the test. I can’t guarantee I will always do that but thanks to the anonymous student in provoking me to think of a test question.

Pass the grade

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Just as well. See how you go by clicking above.

Effective emailing

Dan Drezner identifies a New York Times story on emailing professors. I definitely couldn’t let that pass without highlighting it here.

Email is definitely the best way to approach me outside of class. It also makes a quick reply possible.

But I do get students emailing me apologising for missing class; including with excuses. That is all very nice but when I have 70 plus students, I am unlikely to notice and in any case I figure class attendence is a student’s responsibility; so turn up if you want to! Of course, if you are unwell I hope you return to health too and if you have a job interview, good luck. But traffic (!), enough with the excuses already.

News for Econ Students

News for Econ Students

Just to show that I ain’t that evil, here is another blog with interesting exam ideas and other information for economics students.

I particularly liked this post on price discrimination at Starbucks. I’ll have to ask for a ‘secret’ cappucino the next time I am there.

Attracting eyeballs: The Dark Side

When you embark upon writing a blog like this (as I have done), you can’t help but turn to wonder how you get a readership. Even if what you say is interesting, there are so many alternatives for most people, that getting noticed is a problem.

My approach was to see if I had any sources of power I could leverage (at least in away that was not ultimately self-destructive. That is, I turned immediately to the dark-side of market power.

Here is what I have done. I have 80 fresh faced MBA students starting the compulsory Managerial Economics subject here at Melbourne Business School. I like to come up with exam questions based on current business topics (that is, true). So I told them that I would use this blog as the source for those questions. If the students want a little less surprise in the exam, they should read this blog regularly.

So there you have it: I have some power to get my student’s attention and have leveraged that to build readership of this blog.

Fortunately, there is a subtle efficiency here. My main trouble in getting good ideas for exam questions is not coming up with them (I think of them all the time). It is remembering them. By commiting myself to write interesting ideas here I also make it easier for myself in writing the exam.

Actually, even this little exercise has given me an exam idea: am I really going to gain a good following from my dark-side eyeballs strategy? Tune in on exam day to find out!

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