We have been blogging for two years now.  When we turned 1 I started writing a sequence of posts on Why I Blog.  Here’s a few of them.  As a final why-thought I would like to say that while blogging often feels like shirking, in fact the number one reason that keeps me going when I start to worry I am running out of ideas is that this blog has proved to be a huge boon to my research.

Sandeep and I started writing Torture on this blog.  Simply put, that paper would not exist if Cheap Talk did not exist.  This post I wrote recently about overbooking set me thinking for a day or two and now, with ideas from Daniel Garrett and Toomas Hinnosaar, the three of us are writing a paper on it. These are the concrete products but there are many more benefits that are harder to measure but easily as important.

First, if you look at the tag vapor mill, you will find a trail of ideas that I have written down, each of which has the potential to be a real research project.  A number of them I intend to work on when I have the time.  Second, its a true cliche that writing about “the real world” makes you a better theorist. Sometimes you learn that crucial assumptions are too restrictive to explain a story. Sometimes you find a new appreciation of just how far they go.  And not even the most prolific “applied theorists” get the opportunity to write as frequently and about the kind of wide-interest topics as a blogger gets.

Done with the why, onto the how.  Blogging is a big commitment and you learn only very slowly how to do it efficiently.  Given the amount of time I spend staring at a blank text editor I still have a lot to learn myself.  But I’ll write a few things I picked up.  For starters let me tell you how Sandeep and I started this blog because I think we did something smart that I would recommend to anybody who was thinking about jumping in.

We blogged to ourselves for about a month.  It was a a real dress rehearsal: we used the WordPress blog that we are using now, we wrote posts about once a day, but nobody read them because nobody knew the blog existed. This was mainly to see what it would be like to try to write on a daily basis.  If it looked like we wouldn’t be able to keep it going we would just call it off and nobody would know we were failures.

But when we finally decided that it was a go, it had a second benefit.  Before going public, we archived all of the posts we had written already and scheduled them to be published a day at a time over the next several weeks.  Here’s why this is such a great idea.  Blogging requires momentum.  Unless you are a highly unusual person, it is impossible to conjure up something to write about on a daily basis.  Instead, what you do is collect ideas, allow them to percolate around in your head for awhile and then write them down when they are ripe. It takes months before there’s enough in the pipeline to keep you actively writing. Having a headstart gives you the lead time you need to reach that cruising speed.

(Drawing: Riding The Wave from www.f1me.net)