What to Post About

meme of cat staring at keyboard with writer's blockI like to think that there’s a variety of types of writing. They run a long a spectrum and you’ve most likely done the writing at both ends. At one end is what I call academic writing. That’s what you’ve done for years in school. It’s all those essays, research papers, lab reports, term papers, and, yes, even those 1-3 paragraph things you post on some Desire2Learn forum in response to your professor’s “prompt”. Academic writing tends to be formal. It tends to be dry. It’s primarily you responding to some topic or prompt or trigger or question your professor posed. You’ve got limited ability to talk about what you want to talk about (yes, I know every professor says “write about what interests you as long it’s about this topic” — how’s that supposed to work?).  What’s more, the writing assignment is disposable. Professor assigns. You write. Professor reads (yes, we do read them). Professor grades. End of life for the written piece. I’m right with the cat for academic writing. It produces anxiety because it’s likely being graded – grammar and spelling count! And then it’s read once and disappears! What kind of nonsense is that? You’re expected to write drafts and then re-write. You’re expected to adopt a persona or voice. And don’t get me started on footnotes. I don’t know about you, but academic writing tends to really give me writer’s block.

I hear you. You’re feeling a little like the cat.  What to write? What to post?  This course, I hope, is different. I hope this is a social course.

At the other end of our writing spectrum is stuff most of you do everyday – those short, often grammatically incorrect or funny status updates on Facebook, or those text messages or Tweets or your latest Pinterest postings. What’s key about this writing is that it’s both inspired and shared. Let’s call it social writing since we tend to use social media for it. You see something on the Web that reminds you of something your friend said yesterday. So you post/share that thing on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or Pinterest or wherever. Social writing also reveals more of the “real you” and less of an adopted persona. Social writing is fun because it’s inspired (I said inspired, not always profound). You share it. It becomes part of a conversation and relationship you have with others.


Maybe you’ve taken traditional online classes before and you’re familiar with the “Discussion Forum” dance.  There’s a form in D2L. I, the professor, am supposed to ask some sort of “critical thinking question” – a question that no matter how hard I try, ends up having at most a couple of interesting answers if not blatantly obvious ones.  Everybody posts an answer. If you’re the 3rd or 4th to post you already pretty much repeating what everybody else said. It’s boring. Students try to find what buzzwords were in the chapter readings and blend them into some wandering non-committal answer. Maybe you are supposed to “reply” to at least 1 or 2 others – a requirement that has you trying to find how many different ways you can say “I agree”.  It’s all boring and highly forgettable.

Social Reading

The traditional forum also doesn’t improve your learning in my opinion. So I’ve been exploring some different ways to get some discussion – some dialogue – going in a class. This class is my latest variation on this experiment.  I call it “social reading”.  Think of this site as more of a Facebook or Twitter than as a traditional class forum.  As you’ve probably noticed, the home page of this website is a simple, blog-type stream. (See the screen shot to right) When you are logged in, there’s a box at the top where you can enter some comments. You type click on what type of post you want (more about that later here), type in what you have to say, and click post. It’s easy. In fact, it’s not unlike Facebook or Twitter or other social media.  That’s by design.

So what are you supposed to post about?  Whatever is relevant and important to you.  Basically, this course is a lot of reading. I hope it triggers some (a lot?) of thinking on your part. I really, really hope the readings trigger you to make connections between ideas. When you’re reading, you should post whatever is coming into your mind (assuming it’s safe to say in public!).  If you read something that strikes you as “Oh! I didn’t know that!”, write a quick post. Share it.  When a concept finally comes together, share the experience. Maybe (and I really hope this happens) you’re inspired to go look somewhere else on the Web for some info or idea that’s even partially related to what we’re reading. Share it. Post it.

Here’s the thing about this course. While you might not have had a course in comparative economic systems before – heck you may not have ever had an economics course – I’m not assuming that the flow of ideas or information is all from-Professor-to-student.  You’ve got unique experience. You’ve got your own ideas. Those ideas are changing, evolving. I want all of us to share those ideas with each  other. Together we can generate more ideas and insights.

Types of Posts

As you can see from the screen shot, there are four buttons that enable you to pick different types of posts: “Status Update”, “Blog Post”, “Quote”, and “Link”. For most of your posts, especially early in the course, you’ll probably want to use Status Update or Quote.  Status Update is a lot like a Facebook post. You don’t have a title for it. It’s just the comment.  Use this when you’ve got a quick, simple thought to say. Quote is the other type you’ll use. Let’s say you’ve read something on another website – maybe you found an article in some online magazine or news site that you want to draw to our attention. Use the Quote type. Besides your comment box, it adds another box where you can copy-and-paste the link to that other site.  When you get to more thoughtful pieces, perhaps longer, you can use the Blog Post.  It adds a box for title.

You can enhance your posts by clicking on the Add Media button. It will walk you through how paste an image from the Web (using only the image’s URL) or upload from your own computer. If you find a really interesting YouTube you think we should watch, use the Quote post type and simply put the URL to the YouTube video on it’s own line.  WordPress software will take care of the rest.

What About the Project?

Eventually in the second half of the course, you’ll create an entire webpage(s) for your book review/project. There will be more and more detailed instructions later for how to do that.  When it comes to creating the page (as opposed to these posts), there are more tools in WordPress that make writing and editing easier and also allow you to create really interesting pages.

Any More Ideas for Posts?

Again, there’s a variety of ways to use a blog (that’s what this is  – a group blog).  Here’s an incomplete list of some of the things you can do and how you can format a post (in no particular order). You could write…

  1. essay posts.  Essays tend to be longer than other posts.  They could be topical as in “here’s what I think about some aspect of healthcare” or they can be self-reflective as in “as I did x I realized that y which I didn’t know before”.  Topical essays can be explanatory such as “here’s how the healthcare system is funded in Lukistan”.  Or they can be advocacy where you argue for a point of view such as “I’m opposed to such and such because x, y, and z”.
  2. quick comments.  You read something in a book, or in somebody else’s blog (in the class or not), or you see some news item, or something on TV.  You’re inspired to comment – the kind of comment you might make to somebody if they’re sitting next to you and share your interests. Tell us. Sure some of these will be short.  But you’ll also find that by the time you explain or link to what triggered your comment (remember your reader doesn’t know till you tell them) and then explain your comment, you’ll have a nice little post.
  3. share memes.  You see a meme (picture with caption like the cat above) on the Web or you made one. It’s funny or thought-provoking. Post it.
  4. share videos.  Surf the web -especially Ted talks and the YouTubes.  There’s a lot of videos of about topics related  to comparative economic systems or some aspect of them. If you find one you found interesting or thought provoking, post it and offer a brief explanation of why you agree/disagree or like/don’t like it or how it relates to something else we’ve discussed.
  5. found other blog posts or articles and coment. This is actually one of the easiest things to do.  You surf the web at economic type sites or blogs, or just the news. You find an article or news story.  You can copy excerpts of what you’ve found, link to it, and explain your view or reaction or opinion.  (please don’t copy the entire Web article and format the quoted part properly – it’s easy just highlight the quoted part you’ve pasted into the editor and then click the button with the quote-mark on it)
  6. a reaction or response to one of the posts your fellow students or I have made.  I would love to see students doing this. Please remember to be civil and quote the other blog post properly.
  7. a review of a book or movie, including a summary of it. Actually, you’ll need to do this at least once for the book review assignment.
  8. an open letter to somebody, assuming it’s on a subject related to comparative economic systems.  You don’t like how the government is handling some issue or you have a better idea for how the UN can reduce world poverty? Write a post as an open letter. It is in fact, open. This is your soapbox to the world.

I’m looking for you to try a variety of types of posts.  You don’t “have to” do all of them, but I do suggest trying some different things. Find out what your own inner-blogger likes writing.

Where to find inspiration

Surf the web. Follow links. Go to the library. I’m serious. You probably don’t have a lot of courses where the professor tells you to just surf the web, but I’m telling you to surf. But by surfing the web I don’t mean endlessly clicking refresh on your Facebook page. I mean reading somebody else’s blog or news article and click and follow the links in it. Then follow the links in that page. Or find a YouTube video and then check out the suggestions for related-videos that YouTube makes.

In the coming days I’m going to create some posts with lists of other blogs and sites I follow regularly to get economic news and commentary. When I make those posts, they’ll also show up under the “Resources” tab on the home-page menu. In the meantime, I suggest you browse or search a few of these:

  • My own econproph.com blog. I haven’t posted a lot in the past year, but I’ll be firing up again soon for this course. Try clicking on one of the categories or tags from the right and viewing the related posts.
  • Paul Krugman’s blog at the New York Times at https://www.google.com/. Regardless of how you may feel about his politics, Paul is a consummate blogger and writer. It’s worth looking at just for style tips! But he’s also a really smart guy.
  • The Angrybearblog.com.  This is a group of commentators who offer their perspectives on economic news and events.
  • At NakedCapitalism.com, you’ll find a lot of rather lengthy blog posts, many of them about international economic issues or the economic system here (often critical).  You’ll also find a daily post listing all kinds of links to news stories and other commentary and the Antidote du Jour.  It’s a great place to start surfing. The Antidote du Jour is Yves Smith’s daily picture of cute animals.

 How we’re different in this course

picture of woman concerned about what to write because she has lots of new followers on her blogIn most courses, the basic dynamic is
Professor tells students stuff > Professor tells students what he/she wants them to tell him/her back >Students tell the same stuff back to the Professor > Professor gives grade. 

That’s not what’s gonna happen here. Picture this course as if we’re all seated in a big circle. We all go out and find and learn stuff about comparing economic systems. We share what we find. We comment and converse on it. And we all learn.  Of course, I’ll do a lot of sharing.  There will be some things that I will insist you read and then I’ll have short quiz questions (I’ll flag those posts!). But for the most part, you’re helping to co-teach this class along with everybody else.

As for the grading? Trust me. Just have some fun, write some stuff, share some stuff. The “grading” will work out just fine.