I published my first blog post in March 2018. Since then I’ve spent countless hours planning, drafting, and editing other posts. Academics might think those hours were wasted: “Why write blog posts when you could write research papers? Blogging won’t get you citations or tenure!” But I disagree with that criticism. Blogging complements my research rather than substitutes for it. Here are seven reasons:

  1. Blogging can lead to papers. My post on policymaking under uncertainty inspired Arthur Grimes and my paper on COVID-19 lockdowns. Blogging about nberwp meant I understood the data and context enough to write my paper on gender sorting among economists. Discussing the idea for a post with Adam Jaffe led to our paper on research funding and collaboration.

  2. Blogging increases my idea turnover. I have lots of research ideas. Some are worth pursuing and some are dead ends. I sort ideas by “testing” them: writing down toy models or exploring relevant data. Blogging lets me run those tests quickly and casually. It also lets me share my tests with readers. They can avoid dead ends I’ve reached, or salvage ideas I’ve abandoned if they see opportunities I don’t.

  3. Blogging promotes a creator mindset. When I encounter a new idea, one of my first thoughts is “how could I make that a blog post?” Blogging nudges me to think like a creator; to view ideas as opportunities to write something valuable. It also nudges me to focus on output as the source of value. No matter how long I spend writing posts, no one can read and benefit from them if they’re still on my computer. The goal is to publish. Academics have a similar goal.

  4. Blogging improves my writing. It gives me practice refining my ideas, (re)structuring arguments, and thinking about my audience. Writing papers gives me similar practice, but blogging yields the benefits faster because I can write blog posts faster.

  5. Blogging helps me learn. Most of my posts come from wanting to understand something. Sometimes it’s a problem encountered in my research (e.g., dyadic dependence or selection bias). Sometimes it’s a result from others’ research (e.g., on information gerrymandering or modeling human predictions). Sometimes it’s a technical paper (e.g., on communicating science or research incentives). Writing blog posts makes me engage with ideas and explain them in my own words.

  6. Blogging helps me connect ideas. Many of my posts build on previous posts. Sometimes this is clear in advance (as with, e.g., my posts on stable matchings with noisy and correlated preferences). Sometimes I realize the connection between posts while writing them. I love discovering how ideas are connected—indeed I’ve blogged about that here and here—and view it as an essential research skill. Blogging helps me practice that skill.

  7. Blogging is fun. (Yes, academics can have fun!) I enjoy thinking and writing. Blogging is a way to think and write. Most important, I can think and write about whatever I like—I don’t have to focus on topics that academics care about. I can blog about birds, gift exchanges, and running negative splits. I can even blog about Pok√©mon! And I get the benefits of thinking and writing without the pressure of academic evaluation.