Other gubbins

My top ten blogs 2012

TOP10It’s that time of year again. A year ago I offered, for the first time, a list of my top ten blogs. I’ve continued reading all those blogs regularly during 2012. So this year’s list has been harder to compile. Thinking about who to include isn’t a challenge. The challenge has been who to leave out.

Even if you are disciplined and restrict yourself only to blogs you know will regularly offer high quality material, you could spend your entire life reading blog posts. Especially if your interests are quite eclectic. If I listed out all the blogs that I keep an eye on then it would probably total somewhere near a hundred, although I don’t necessarily read them all that frequently.

So when I say this is a list of my “top” blogs, what do I mean?

I focus on individual bloggers rather than group blogs. And I focus on independent bloggers rather than professionals or journalists who happen also to run a blog. As a post at A very public sociologist recently discussed, the line between these categories is becoming rather blurred, certainly for political bloggers. Two or three of those in my top ten this year have started blogging for a more mainstream media outlet. In fact, several of my favourite bloggers – David Allen Green, Alex Andreou, Steve Baxter, Richard Morris – now blog primarily at the New Statesman. However, I’m not too fussy about demarcation. As long as someone is still operating their own blog then I’ve included them.

For a blog to get into my top ten it has to generate a genuine sense of anticipation. I’m looking out for, and looking forward to, the next post. That doesn’t mean I’ll agree with it. But if I don’t then I’ll enjoy the experience of disagreeing along the way. There are blogs – The Enlightenment economist, Redbrick, Whitehall Watch and Mainly macro – that meet all those criteria but didn’t make it into the top ten this year. I thought about moving to a top 20, but that would just demonstrate my indecision!

So here are my top ten blogs for 2012, in reverse order:

10.       A Dragon’s Bestfriend by Puffles’ bestest buddy. Puffles the Dragon Fairy is a bit of a Twitter celebrity. He’s a key curator of content relating to UK policy and politics. His “bestest buddy” – who I met for the first time in Bristol this year – continues to produce well-informed posts on a range of topics including questioning and critiquing contemporary policy, policy making and public service reform.

9.         If you’ve not read it then it’s hard to describe what The blog that Peter wrote is about, apart from being about things that Peter is interested in. It covers politics, the media, the law, literature, contemporary culture, equalities issues, and challenging bigotry of different types. What it is about is fiercely intelligent, well-written, well-researched and well-illustrated blog posts.

8.         Mark Thompson is a blogger who always offers thought-provoking analysis of contemporary political and policy developments from a firmly liberal perspective. He wasn’t too active in the blogosphere earlier in the year, for very understandable reasons. But he still won the Liberal Democrat Voice Blog of the year award. He’s subsequently relaunched his House of Comments podcast and is now blogging at Independent Voices.

7.         Rick at Flipchart Fairytales posts some very informative and evidence-based analysis on key macroeconomic issues such as growth rates and public debt, as well as on changes in regulation, leadership, intra-organisational relations and labour markets. His posts this year feel like they have been a bit more HR focused than last year – although I’ve not really checked that assertion very thoroughly! – but they always offer something of substance to chew on.

6.         Noahpinion is a blog primarily about economics, written for economists, but it also includes the occasional foray into natural science and futurology. Most of the posts are a little technical, though not formal, and they’re all written in an accessible style. The blog has the most extraordinarily active comments threads of any independent blog I have come across. The author, Noah Smith, is Assistant Professor of Finance at Stony Brook. The blog combines posts addressing contemporary policy questions with posts on theoretical issues or the methodology and epistemology of economics. In terms of my interest in economics, that is almost the perfect combination!

5.         By inclination I am a student of politics more than a participant in the political process. Long years as an academic mean I’m always slightly semi-detached rather than fully committed. So I enjoy reading A blog from the backroom because Hopi Sen gives a good flavour of the sort of considerations that come into play when working out the next move in the political game. Sen writes from a perspective that doesn’t resonate with me hugely – the fiscally conservative end of the Labour party – but he has a great grasp of the complexities that political strategists of all stripes are having to wrestle with. He also produces posts with remarkable rapidity in response to key political developments. So his posts can often be the first commentary I see on an issue.

4.         Frances Coppola at Coppola Comment continues to provide some of the clearest expositions of the banking problems at the heart of the financial crisis. I like the way that Frances combines an (ex)insider’s understanding of the banking industry with a willingness to try new perspectives or to come at things from a different angle. She has consistently and repeatedly expressed concerns that the banking reform agenda is barking up the wrong tree. In fact, her post on the topic yesterday – Why do we never learn? – should be compulsory reading.

3.         Jules Birch (Inside Edge/Jules Birch) is the key commentator on contemporary developments in housing policy in England and Wales. This year he has set up his own blog to carry posts that don’t appear on Inside Edge. This blog is a must read for me as a housing researcher. Both Jules and I often blog in response to a policy announcements or the release of the most recent Think Tank report. If it looks like this is likely then I write my posts before looking at his. While this is mostly about framing my view independently of what others are saying, it is also because experience suggests that when I do read Jules’ post it turns out more often than not we are saying something along very similar lines.

2.         Alex Andreou (New Statesman/Sturdyblog) offers forthright and highly critical commentary on contemporary political developments. His commentary on the impact of austerity upon Greece has been infused with barely suppressed fury. What I like about his posts is that they often come at an issue from an offbeat or unconventional angle. By posing questions in a different way he throws into sharp relief some of the questionable presumptions or underlying absurdities of the positions adopted by politicians. By no means do I always agree with him, but I always enjoy reading whatever he has to say.

1.         It was No 1 last year and it’s No 1 this year. One of the easiest decisions in compiling this list was that Stumbling and mumbling by Chris Dillow should hold on to the top spot. The blog focuses on economics, but covers a wide range of topics in an accessible and non-technical way. The posts often pick up on something that has been in the news and apply some economic reasoning to the issue. The posts are, without fail, thought-provoking. The blog is essential reading, for me at least!

So that’s my list for this year. If there are blogs and bloggers here that you’re not familiar with then I encourage you to check them out. They may be very different in focus and feel, but they all offer high quality content that will get you thinking.

Image: © Tr3 – Fotolia.com

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