Tim Harford is an economist, the FT's Undercover Economist, and I really enjoy what he does, wherever he does it. The FT, Books, his BBC radio show More or Less and also guest appearances on other podcasts. Aside from subscribing to More or Less, though, I don't actually stalk him to see what he's up to. So it was a pleasant surprise to find Tim's article The Problem With Facts drip out of the firehose I try to sip from. It's a fine article, about how Big Tobacco provided the canonical example of the field now known as agnotology. 1
When I got to the end, I saw that the piece had originally appeared in the FT magazine and that Tim had placed it on his own website about a week after it was in the FT, which is great for me because I seldom see the FT. Weirdly, comments on the article on Tim's site were closed, while on the FT there was a slew (333 at the last count) of mostly healthy comments including a discussion of what the article actually said. No further contribution from the author, but that's perfectly OK.
One of the comments, from "Dave", said:
Bravo. Wonderful. This article cuts to the heart of our era.
This important article should be made available to non-subscribers via social media.
I just replied to that, pointing out that the article was indeed available to non-subscribers on the author's own website.
And that reminded me of a fabulous article by my friend Chris Aldrich, on The IndieWeb and Journalism. Chris was writing about how another journalist, Marina Werner, was unwittingly espousing some of the principles of the indieweb in her personal website.
There's little point in my rehashing the points Chris made, of how Marina Werner's site is doing so much and could, with a little work, do so much more to own her content, easily syndicate it more widely, and promote sane discussion of her work and ideas. Tim Harford, whose site, like Marina Werner's, is built on WordPress, could do a lot worse than consider some of Chris Aldrich's advice.
What with the rise of Mastodon and many other expressions of dissatisfaction with the way we have all become sharecroppers in the shadow of the big internet silos, many people beyond just journalists must be thinking about how to make more of their online presence. Indieweb needs to become easier, that's for sure; pressure from people who want it will help that along.
I feel sure that it ought to be agnostology, but maybe not. ↩