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Felix Salmon once advised me that it doesn’t matter when you post a blog. People read all the time and check their feeders in the morning anyway.

Having experimented with this a bit I can say that its more or less wrong. Especially with the rise of twitter, it makes an enormous difference both in traffic and linkage when a blog piece posts.

Posting early morning or very late afternoon seems to work best.

In the early morning professional bloggers seem to be searching for their stories and pick up on an interesting tweet title. In the later afternoon they seem to be putting together their link dumps and are likewise sensitive to an interesting headline.

In keeping with long standing research headlines also seem to be a big deal. Not just with readers but with professionals as well. Presumably they are simply looking for something that will appeal to their readers. Lets say that Winking smile

GOP Stupidity.


After reading through the Modeled Behavior Twitter stream and playing around with Google’s new Ngram database (and the Google Body Browser), I had an epiphany, which I immediately tweeted:

Here’s an interesting comparison, but I defy you to counter it: Google (Labs) is the modern-day Bell Labs…

For anyone who would like to read an interesting, if not rather rosy view of Bell Labs in the heyday of its operations, check out the book The Rape of Ma Bell, by Constantine Raymond Kraus and Alfred W. Duerig.

Bell Labs was the research and development arm of the AT&T conglomerate. It subsequently became Lucent Technologies, and then was integrated into the Alcatel-Lucent conglomerate. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

At its peak, Bell Laboratories was the premier facility of its type, developing a wide range of revolutionary technologies, including radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, information theory, the UNIX operating system, the C programming language and the C++ programming language. Seven Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work completed at Bell Laboratories.

The theme of a productive arm of an organization funding wild research has even transcended the physical universe into popular narratives of late. In Avatar, Giovannia Ribisi’s character, in a tussle with Sigourney Weaver’s character, reveals that it is their revenue stream that keeps her research functioning. Similarly, in GI Joe, Christopher Eccleston’s character informs Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character that once they conquer the world, he can perform all the research he wishes.* Not to mention, the famous conspiracy theories surrounding Nikola Tesla involve the same sort of relationship.

Web 2.0 companies are particularly interested in this sort of symbiotic relationship between profit-generating arms, and public goods research. Was AT&T a glimpse into the future? Will we see more of this?

*Forgive me for not remembering the characters’ names!

Riffing off of Adam’s post on the NYC food stamp decision, I have found it useful to think of the issue through the lens of the excess cash balance mechanism (or in this case, excess stamp balance mechanism).

For those who may not be familiar, this is a concept in which adding to the supply of money causes investment/spending to increase due to individuals and firms having cash that is sitting idle, earning no return. It is a fundamental concept in “monetary disequilibrium”, and I think that it applies here.

First, let me state that regardless of the particulars of the issue, my position is that this is well outside of my comfortable level of paternalism. I had a Twitter conversation with (I believe) Adam last night about the issue, in which he brought up the fact that this could be a cheap way to buy health, and thus is comparatively libertarian at the margin, but it still doesn’t inspire me. That is why comments like this from Melanie B strike me as odd:

If you provide low-income individuals and families with vouchers to purchase foods, especially if those individuals also receive Medicaid or other gov’t-subsidized medical care, it is totally counter-intuitive to allow the use of such vouchers on items that do not assist with nutrition (as the mission-in-the-name clearly states).

In any case, on to a quick note about how I’m currently thinking about the issue. Suppose you have $100, which you consume completely in each period. You average 10% a period on foods that are now banned, thus giving you an “excess stamp balance” each period of $10. In the cash economy, people rid themselves of excess cash balances in three ways; increasing their stock of wealth by saving (by hoarding dollars or buying antiques, etc. [in a Nick Rowe economy]), engaging in higher current consumption, or delaying current consumption by loaning the cash out (i.e. buying stocks/bonds).

Unfortunately, in the food stamp economy, it is only possible save in a roundabout way (not in currency)*, as I don’t think that food stamp accounts accumulate interest (but correct me if I’m wrong!). People could definitely consume more (different) foodstuffs, or they could loan out the funds. I’m using loan here very loosely to describe the act of barter exchange. It seems to be fairly common for people to organize trades in which they purchase food items for other people, who then pay cash for the items that the person using food stamps wants…and then they trade the items.

I think the most likely set of substitute transactions is the barter situation, but even if increased consumption is the result of having an excess stamp balance, that of course doesn’t guarantee a healthy diet. However, it is possible that for some people the extra stamps will be enough to push them out of inferior good territory, which would actually be a Pareto superior outcome, which would come at very little cost.

*As Rebecca Burlingame points out in the comments:

Temporary savings = frozen dinners, which can be eaten next week or month. Long term savings = honey or something sugar preserved like syrup or jam, can be eaten next year!

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