Why? Five-oh-oh

This is the five hundredth post on this blog. It is, of course, an entirely arbitrary milestone, but it nonetheless causes you to reflect on why you do it. Five hundred posts translates into well over half a million words, at a rate of ten or so posts a month over nearly four years. That’s a lot of words, taking up a lot of time.

I have written before about why I blog. I have blogged on how I got started, and how I reconcile being a political blogger with my other identity as a senior academic. What I wrote then still holds true, although I’m conscious that in recent months my posts have tended not to roam quite so widely as in the past. I have concentrated more on topics that are close to my academic interests and my politics. So I have cycled through posts on housing policy, welfare reform and the tribulations of the Liberal Democrats. I’m not entirely sure why that is, except that when you’re busy elsewhere it is less intellectually demanding to blog on topics you know well.

I’m sure I’ll be looking further afield again some time pretty soon. [Read more...]


The Q#2 quintet, and more

Here are the five posts on this blog that recorded the most hits between April and June 2014:

  1. Uncertain terrain: Issues and challenges facing housing associations (11th May 2013)
  2. Ed’s brave housing proposal (1st May)
  3. Welfare reforms: the evidence mounts (9th April)
  4. Why is Owen Jones so annoying? (4th July 2013)
  5. The government is solving the housing crisis, apparently (31st May)

[Read more...]



I received an email today from someone relatively new to Twitter asking me about hashtags and how they are used.

Below is an elaboration on the email I sent back. I thought there might be someone else out there who might find it useful.

Hashtags have two quite different purposes on Twitter. As far as I can tell, one of them is the intended use and the other has grown up as a convention.
[Read more...]


Grappling with big ideas

I’ve just published some thoughts on last night’s Bristol Festival of Ideas event over at Medium.com:

Last night I attended a cracking event to mark the relaunch Pelican books, organised under the auspices of the Bristol Festival of Ideas. The authors of four of the initial five volumes published by Pelican in its new guise were present to give a 15 minute overview of their book and participate in a Q+A. The panel comprised Ha-Joon Chang, Robin Dunbar, Orlando Figes, and Bruce Hood. It was unfortunate that Melissa Lane, the fifth author, was unavailable because that resulted in an all-male panel.

Ha-Joon Chang kicked off by wondering why, when they have opinions on all sorts of contentious topics about which they have no especial expertise, most people feel economics should be left to ‘experts’.

You can read the rest of the post here.


The Q#1 quintet, and more

Here are the five posts on this blog that recorded the most hits between January and March 2014:

  1. Uncertain terrain: Issues and challenges facing housing associations (11th May 2013)
  2. Why is Owen Jones so annoying? (4th July 2013)
  3. My top ten blogs 2013 (29th Dec 2013)
  4. A voyage of rediscovery (4th Jan)
  5. Vince on “social housing” (30th Jan)

[Read more...]


One academic online

Blue bird sitting on ropeYesterday I took part in an event introducing social media to members of academic staff. I was asked to come along and act as one of two live case studies. I was there to share my experiences. The aim was to illustrate the possibilities and highlight some of the issues. The organizers suggested we each address the same set of questions. We offered very different perspectives.

I only had 10 minutes or so to talk and it felt a bit rushed. So I decided to elaborate on the presentation I gave on the day and turn it into something a bit more coherent. The document below is the result. I hope it is of some interest to others who are thinking of starting out. [Read more...]


The Q#4 quintet

Here are the five posts on this blog that recorded the most hits between October and December 2013:

  1. On signs you’re reading bad criticism of economics (4th Nov)
  2. Uncertain terrain: Issues and challenges facing housing associations (11th May)
  3. Would post-crash economics be a step backward? (21st Nov)
  4. The Bedroom Tax vote: sticking the knife into the Libdems (12th Nov)
  5. Why is Owen Jones so annoying? (4th July)

November was, by quite a large margin, the busiest month so far on the blog.

This has been an unusual quarter. [Read more...]


My top ten posts of 2013

TOP10This has been a good year for this blog. Although the audience remains relatively modest, traffic has nearly doubled compared with 2012. Thanks for reading.

The blog spent all year in the ebuzzing monthly politics top 100. Such rankings are not to be taken too seriously, but being there is better than not being there! I’m grateful to everyone who thought one of my posts worth retweeting, liking or linking to.

Thanks also to those who crossposted my posts to other group blogs and to all those who took the time to comment on one of my posts during the year.

Here, in reverse order, are my top ten most popular posts of 2013: [Read more...]


My top ten blogs 2013

TOP10Welcome to my third annual list of my top ten blogs.

I have continued to read all the blogs in my previous lists, although a couple of bloggers took a bit of a break this year. So I am discovering that the process of compiling a top ten gets progressively more difficult every year. The challenge is who to leave out. I again considered moving to a top twenty, but resisted the temptation.

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. These categories are, though, becoming increasingly blurred. In particular, there is a steady stream of bloggers who make the transition from independence to contributing to a blogging platform such as the New Statesman, the Guardian‘s Comment is Free, or Independent Voices.

Overall, I’m not too fussy about demarcation. As long as someone is still pretty active on their own blog then I’ve considered including them. Otherwise the basis for inclusion is largely subjective. [Read more...]


Does Twitter’s future lie in broadcasting?

Blue bird tweets and sings on smartphoneGiven a relatively trouble-free IPO only a month ago and Twitter’s plans to broaden its services in future, it might perhaps seem a bit perverse to reflect on whether its time as the social media channel we know and love is passing.

But I wonder.

No technology is forever. Most will eventually be rendered obsolete. The half-life of web-based technologies would appear shorter than most.

But there are more specific reasons for reflecting on the fate of Twitter.

A few days ago Puffles’ Bestest Buddy blogged raising questions about the future of Puffles. The character of Puffles was created three years ago as an expedient – to provide anonymity in order to comment on contemporary policy and politics while still a member of the civil service. If you have been following since those days then you’ll know that a lot has happened to BB since then and the rationale for Puffles no longer exists. But in the meantime Puffles has become a bit of a Twitter celebrity. Should Puffles be retired and the cloak of anonymity dropped? In fact, the cloak of anonymity was dropped a while ago. It isn’t difficult to find out who BB is, if you are so inclined. Yet the Twitter account still speaks as Puffles. Would it be better to step out from behind the veil?

Puffles’ situation raises particular issues, but it also encapsulates challenges that most likely face many tweeters with a substantial following.

[Read more...]