Three weeks ago, I asked for some input about the blog, and the possibility of a fundraiser. Many of you were so kind as to say “attagirl”, give me lots of good advice, as well as offers of assistance, both in comments and privately. I feel guilty that I have not been able to thank you all, since I continue to be chronically time stressed (my inbox is a war zone, and I do hope to get back to those of you I have not yet responded to by the weekend).
Many of you hopefully see a new favicon, courtesy reader Duarte Guerreiro, in place of our old Blogger B which hung around despite the fact that we’ve been off Blogger for over two years. The little “n” was more readable in grey than in orange. I can see it in Firefox but not Safari, sadly. My tech guy might get that fixed.
One suggestion was a weekly or bi-weekly videocast. I’ve checked with Scott Sanders (I jokingly call him Movie Guy) who did our ECONNED trailer. It anticipated OWS in interesting ways. I mentioned I’d never seen anyone look decent in a home video set-up. His comment:
The problem with a home video setup is the lighting. Cameras are excellent and inexpensive these days, at least compared to just a few years ago. Editing software is cheap as well, and you could do almost anything you’d need with an inexpensive Mac.
Lighting is the real issue. To make people look their best you really need some skillful handling of professional grade lighting gear…
I’m thinking that maybe audio might be a good route for you at this point. You could assemble a really top notch interview system for far less than a video system. Also, anything other than a fully professional setup with video is going to look, well, amateur. With a decent audio system you could make some really high quality audio recordings in almost any location. And you could probably carry everything you’d need in a briefcase.
People love their video, I get that. But a well-produced audio program is going to present you in a very favorable light, much more so than a half-measure video effort.
Personally, for anything over about 5 minutes, I generally prefer audio anyway. I can listen while I do other things, like fight the LA traffic.
Frankly, audio is a ton easier (you have NO idea how much time you wind up wasting on TV greasepaint and hair).
And while we are on audio, a digression. One thing that COULD make me much more productive is dictating my posts. I am the world’s slowest touch typist and when I briefly tried dictation, I was very good at it. But the reviews of Dragon Dictate for the Mac are terrible, as in 2 stars. It is not at all the same product as for Windows. And I have no patience with learning software. Has anyone here used Dragon Dictate (the Mac version) successfully? How long did it take you to get to be productive? What strategies do you use?
I’ve also come to realize my inbox is really symptomatic of a bigger problem. I now have too many relationships to manage. Too many people send me messages that I just can’t get to, and many of these are people I really do have dealings with (as in I’ve met). This is now coming at the expense of the blog and my having anything that remotely resembles a life. So filtering is not an answer, this is a matter of absolute load. A secretary would be an answer (and someone kindly volunteered from afar), but the blog would not support a full time secretary, and a full time helper person’s duties would include inbox, troll patrol, research, and assembling some of the Links. And as you can imagine, I’m loath to turn over access to my inbox to anyone other than a full time employee. Aargh.
Reader wunsacon asked what I’d rather be doing. Truth be told, I’m a nerd. I’d be happier if I were less distracted and could write and research more, and spend less time on running my life. That includes spending some time at OWS (research can include fieldwork). And yes, I do have great fun debunking financial services industry and political propaganda. Although writing ECONNED in such a compressed time frame was a bit hellish, it did require me to read quite a few books and articles, and I miss doing deep dive research.
Reader sleeper suggested reports from the field, as reports on local economic conditions. That might be interesting if we could get enough dispersion. I’ve included some over the transom posts that I found intriguing (Daniel Pennell on MERS based on his presentations to the Virginia legislature, Timothy Fong on protests in California aimed at disrupting foreclosures). So regional developments that have national implications are clearly of interest too.
Dan Duncan suggested this:
Embed Wolfram’s CDF functionality into your site.
Then, get Richard to make contact with some folks at Wolfram to hook up with some contributors. There are many incredibly bright mathematicians, economists, traders and other scientists who would love to have the NC platform.
There’s so much you could do with this…No other financial blogger has anything like it.
The CDF player will allow the reader to interact directly with the blog post.
It’s hard to describe unless you’re familiar with Mathematica. [I don't think Matlab has anything like this.]
Take this Wolfram post after the Japan earthquake. The author does a great job in explaining the earthquake engineering:
Download the free CDF player and you’ll see…The ability to interact with the presentation makes it much more interesting. Unlike most passive interactions with web content, this actually sticks in the mid of the reader.
The reason why this hasn’t caught on yet, IMO, is that most of the Wolfram posts focus on the code for the Mathematica wonks. Once Wolfram–or bloggers– focus more on the end presentation, the appreciation for this will grow.
If you do try the CDF Player, check out this post on US debt for another example as it relates to your subject matter.
Here, you’ll see the over-emphasis on code, which you’d obviously eschew. But at the end you’ll see an interaction between 3 month T-Bill yield and Velocity of $ over time. It really is interesting to watch the data points cluster over the years…until 2009 and 2010.
These kinds of interactive presentations would be interesting, unique and could be thoughtfully applied to a wide variety of subjects.
The point would be to attract more math/quant types who might do interesting data visualizations. Sadly, Richard Smith is having to cut back the time he spends on the blog (:-( ), but I’ve asked a couple of hard core math types what they think. Reader input also appreciated.
A lot of you suggested finding volunteers, but my experience is unless it is a well defined task of a specific time duration (like research support for ECONNED), there is a lot of filtering and churn. So this can be selectively helpful, but it isn’t necessarily generally helpful. Having said that, one thing that might be useful is if I had 3-5 people who could advise me on tech matters (like what it would take for the Dan Duncan suggestion above). Requests are likely to be infrequent, but they are the sort of thing I can’t resolve quickly on my own.
Reader BenE suggested adding ads to my RSS reader. I asked my ad service, and they said they are getting to that, but RSS ads don’t pay all that much.
Some people suggested I not post on weekends, or alternatively, have some designated weekend posters. The latter idea appeals to me if I can find some receptive writers.
Some of you asked re subscriptions. I’m at a bit of a loss here. I pinged Jane Hamsher, and she said the options were not good, that Paypal was pretty user and publisher friendly, but they take a lot out in fees, and the others are a huge hassle to implement. I’m seeing about getting that implemented.
I know some of you are leery of Paypal (which is what I use for my tip jar) and I would be loath using them to debit funds from my bank account. But if you use a credit card for payment, you can look to the credit card company’s rules for protection (I’d never handle a dispute through PayPal, I’d go straight to the credit card company). The alternative is to mail me a check or money order.
Finally, some of you would like a T shirt. I would like a T shirt too. But that is hassle for me and the name of the game is distraction minimization.