This post contains a lot of data about blog readership, and some excellent extrapolations of known statistics. According to the table therein, I am somewhat better received than a typical C-list, and somewhere below the typical B-list blogger (which makes me feel great since I don't have any porn on my site). Let me be modest and round down to the C-list.
Worldwide, the typical C-list blogger gets read for about 13 person-hours per day. I think most of my readers are American, but I'll also use the lowball statistic from the article that 40% of readers are American. The last piece of information is that the average wage in the U.S. is about $13/hr. Putting these together (13 x 0.4 x 13) suggests that my blog writing is producing value added of no less than $68/day.
Let's compare that to my academic job. Using my 9 month salary, and assuming two 18 week semesters (so that includes, retreats, grading, commencement and so on), and 40 hours per week during that time, my university values my time at about $50/hr.
So there you have it: the non-monetary valuation placed on blogging by the market is substantially higher than the monetary valuation placed on me by my employer. Of course, I am providing most of that blogging value as consumer surplus to my readers, but I now have some idea of how hard I should be working them over to convert that into producer surplus.
I'd be remiss if I didn't quote one of the comparisons made by the source post that got my attention:
three years the average B-list blogger will be getting significantly more reader
attention than the average unsyndicated US newspaper article or column,
and the average A-list blogger will be getting almost as much reader
attention as the average US daily paper.
Blogging and rapping are siblings. Who knew? But seriously, I think this Slate piece by Josh Levin entitled "Rappers and Bloggers: Separated at Birth" ought to be taken very seriously by people who are trying to figure out why they blog, or why they read blogs.
And, not so seriously, don't you just love this train of thought:
And don't forget those silly, silly names. Even if he didn't flaunt his devotion to pimping and pit bulls, you'd probably guess Snoop Dogg is a rapper. And Fedlawyerguy—yeah, probably a blogger. But the "blogger or rapper?" parlor game can stump even the nerdiest gangsta. Does uggabugga hate on wack emcees or wack Charles Krauthammer? What about Mad Kane?
Big Noyd, Justus League, Uppity Negro, Little Brother, Cold Fury, and
South Knox Bubba? (Answers: blogger, blogger, rapper, rap group,
blogger, rap group, blogger, blogger.)
...I read very few books. In fact, the only time I read books is when I'm
traveling, at the airport and on a plane. There are only two authors I
have ever gone out of my way to read...
As if I didn't recognize that already. I'm relatively sure he can sing more sitcom theme songs than I can (although I do have a soft spot for The Log Song). And I really wonder what he does in the W.C.
A serious (and hard) version of that is that there is actually a literature called fair division which explores techniques for ensuring envy free division for different numbers of participants. It ain't easy. But it is amusing, and probably instructive to readers who are not economists.
It turns out that fair division between two parties has been well understood since ancient times. Suppose you want to divide a cake. Have one person cut it, and the other choose their slice first. This works because if the first person divides the cake unfairly they will lose. This is simple, neat, and workable in practice.
But, here is a simple explanation for what you need to do for fair division between 3 people. The idea to carry away from this is if it is this hard to divide up a cake fairly, how can you ever have a conspiracy in which spoils are divided without fomenting envy which may make the whole thing fall apart? (There are a bunch of methods to divide 3 ways, but this is an easy way with desirable properties).
Oddly, to divide a cake between 3 people, you actually need a fourth person to act as your referee.
The referee moves the knife across the cake from left to right.
The players are instructed to say stop when their subjective view is that the referee has reached a point that divides the cake into 1/3 and 2/3. Call the first person to crack Abel.
Mark the cake along the line of the knife, but don't cut it yet.
Have Abel make a second mark, parallel to the first one, that divides the bigger portion in half.
Now let the other players, Baker and Charley, indicate the piece they want. If Abel did the last step correctly, there is a good chance that Baker and Charley will indicate different pieces. If so, cut the cake along the marks, give Baker and Charley their choices, give Abel the last slice, and you're done.
This is the ideal case. If Baker and Charley choose the same piece, there are several more steps. Click the link below if you are curious.
You are probably thinking "you must be kidding". I'm not. If this method seems bizarre, you need to recognize that this is what is necessary to be fair and to avoid envy. If people don't do this, you should also conclude that their divisions will engender envy.
The way an economist thinks about this is that 1) if there is a method to divide things without envy, and 2) people don't use it, then 3) their divisions must engender envy. Then we go out and look for evidence of envy arising from (presumably unfair) divisions made in the real world. This is easy to find, and it is reasonable to conclude that envy is what makes conspiracies fall apart.
Dividing into more than 3 parts, or over sets of discrete objects is even harder.
P.S. I've been following Brams on and off since reading his book Biblical Games as an undergraduate. In it, he shows how the god of the old testament follows strategies that are rational and optimal from a game theoretic perspective.
Apparently the legacy media pay more attention to press releases than journal articles. The new study from Norway has a press release, but the article is nowhere to be found on the internet. My source was an accessible discussion from a readily available peer reviewed source.
I've been reading a story where the (primitive) extraction of mercury from cinnabar plays an important role. I knew next to nothing about cinnabar (other than it is an ore, and maybe that it was red), so off to the internet I went.
I've spend a couple of hours over the last few weeks reading this stuff. I eventually shifted from cinnabar and mercury, to why steel making has been known for so long, and yet didn't become common until the latter half of the 19th century.
The first bits of trivia come from the site History of Metals. It never really occurred to me, but most metals were not known until the last few centuries. The reason was the inability to get enough energy into the ore to get the metal to separate out. For example, the alloy bronze (copper and tin) is ancient because both metals can be obtained at wood fire temperatures, but brass is only 225 years old because zinc is substituted for tin, and wasn't available before the 17th century.
Then there is the story of iron and steel. I didn't know that iron is almost never found in an easy to use form (mostly from meteorites) and was considered a precious metal at times. Later, they figured out how to obtain it by smelting. The problem was that it was strong, but somewhat brittle.
Steel is an iron alloy that is much less brittle (that much I knew). I didn't know that the big deal with steel up to about 500 years ago was that a steel sword could be much longer than an iron one because it was less brittle. Now that makes a lot of sense.
But, what's the big deal about making steel? I knew they had trouble making it, and that this had something to do with impurities, but that was the end of it. These related sites (History of Steel, and Damascene Technique in Metal Working) are written from a detective work perspective, and are fairly accessible to the novice.
So, here's the deal. You melt some ore and extract some fairly pure iron. This comes out in small chunks called blooms. So, what do you do with it? The impurities are important. If it has a lot of carbon in it you get iron for casting: it melts at a low temperature so you can pour it, but it is too brittle for weapons. If it is low in carbon you get wrought iron, which is far less brittle, but tougher to work with.
In the old days the way that you made steel was that you cleaned up the impurities in wrought iron. To do this, you heat up the iron and beat the impurities out (or break them up into smaller pieces). Even better, you can beat it really flat, and then either stack multiple pieces, twist multiple pieces, or fold over the one piece, and beat repeatedly. I always understood that the beating helped to shape the metal, but no one ever made it clear that this was what strengthened it too (neither did my 6th grade metal shop teacher who had no clue why I broke two shafts for my screwdriver project). This is where the idea of Damascus steel and Damascene methods comes in - its the beating of the wrought iron that makes it into steel.
There is also the effect of cooling and heating the wrought iron. Cooling it properly gets the chemistry right to make wrought iron into steel. Heating it (with charcoal or coke) is what increases the concentration of the carbon that imparts strength (but you can't use coal which is loaded with different impurities).
And where does the Bessemer process come in? We all learn in history that this was important, but what was the big deal? Bessemer came up with the idea that rather than heating good impurities into and beating bad impurities out of wrought iron, you could instead start with the already carbon rich (and cheap) cast iron. Melt it down and blow air through it (thus, the blast furnace) to get the excess carbon out. And here's the neat trick: blowing the air through it keeps it hot (because of chemical reactions), and you can even gage the amount of impurities left in the steel by the temperature you get the molten steel too. I thought that was pretty cool.
Now ... if only this would come up in a fashionable circle so that I could use all this as a conversational gambit.
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