Frequently Asked Questions about EconLog

EconLog FAQ


EconLog is an ongoing collection of short, topical articles and insights on the week’s issues in economics, edited by Arnold Kling and Bryan Caplan. Three to six new articles (also called entries or posts) are added each week. Entries take current topics in the news and highlight educational, objective economic analyses. They also offer discussion questions designed to focus thinking for readers or for classroom use. Readers are encouraged to send in (post) their comments.

Frequently Asked Questions



 Q: Who selects and prepares the material for EconLog?


 Q: What’s the relationship between Arnold Kling’s Great Questions of Economics and EconLog?

    Great Questions of Economics (GQE) was the predecessor to EconLog. GQE articles run from 2002January 2003. EconLog, adding new features such as the ability to add comments, continues from late January 2003 to the present. All GQE articles are permanently archived on EconLog and are searched via standard keyword searches using the EconLog Search engine (see below for details).


 Q: The articles on EconLog’s Main page change every few days. How can I link to EconLog articles from my website or for classroom use?

    Clicking an article title sends your browser to the Permanent Link for that article. That url will not change, so you may reliably copy the url from your browser address window.

    Every EconLog article has a Permanent Link (sometimes called a permalink). Any time you see a link to the Permanent Link, you can be sure that clicking it will take you to the one definitive page for that article, a page that includes the complete content of the article, along with up-to-date comments made by readers.

    To browse complete annual lists of the permanent links of article titles, go to the EconLog Archives pages.


 Q: What are the Categories for? Are the Category pages permanent?

    Articles on EconLog are classified into one or more broad topics, called, Categories, when they are first posted. By selecting a particular category, you will get an instant browser page with all the articles within that category. If you have a specific topic in mind, the appropriate category page can be a very fast way to get information and links from lots of related articles at once.

    Although the Category page URLs are relatively stable, we do not recommend linking to them. If categories get too large over time, they may be split up. New categories are also added periodically, and some articles may be reclassified. To link to a specific article, go the Permanent Link for that article.


 Q: Can I link directly to specific comments?

    Yes. If you View the Page Source from the Permanent Link page for an article, you will see the permanent anchor “name” tags for the comments on that page. The link is then the url in the browser window followed by a sharp sign (#), followed by the tag name.


 Q: I’ve never posted comments to a blog, newsgroup, or board before. What do I do?

    If you see an entry that strikes your fancy, first read the other comments. If comments are allowed, then at the bottom of the page or pop-up window you will find a form to add your own comment.

    1. Name Required: Fill in your name in the space provided.

      Most people use their first and last names, or an abbreviated variant (e.g., TimB for Tim Borland). Feel free to use a nickname if you have a standard nickname you already go by online. What you use for your login name for email or a screen name for IM is probably fine.
      Pick a unique name! Don’t use just a common first name (e.g., Lynn, Scott, Steve) without a last name because another person may also use that name to post comments on EconLog. Your comments could easily be confused with those of people with whom you disagree. Nicknames you may think are creative or even a name that is rightfully yours but common may have been used already. (Examples: Anonymous, Another Bob, Dave Smith.)
      In item 5. below you’ll also get the chance to store your name on your computer using cookies, for future EconLog reference.


    2. Email address/URL:

    2a. Email Address Required: Fill in your correct, working email address. It will not appear online.

    We retain the right to delete comments associated with inaccessible email addresses.
      Why is your email address required? Security.
      Examples of our use of your email address: If someone else were to claim to be you and want to cancel one of your posts, we would email you first to verify the request. We send occasional verification or warning emails to individual commenters for various other comment-related reasons.
      Privacy note: Email addresses provided by our commenters are not given out by us to anyone, used for spam or mass mailings of any sort, nor used for any purposes other than our internal records and site security.

2b. URL Optional: If you have a website, you can fill that URL in. It will show online as a link around your name. Check it when you Preview your post in Step 4. You’ll be offered the option to save the URL in Step 5.

3. Comment. Type or paste your comments into the text area in the form. Keep your comments brief, polite, and to the point! Edit as much as you like. Nothing you type into the form is ever posted or visible to anyone else unless you select the Post button (step 4 below).

    You can use the buttons above the form to emphasize or indent text, and to add links. Details below.
    Hint for newcomers: Do not close the Comment or Preview window till you are done altogether, as a backup. Experienced form-users know that it’s a good idea to highlight and copy anything substantial they have composed before switching or closing any windows, or even if the phone rings, lest the whole thing get lost by accident. You can alternatively type your comment into your own word processor and then copy and paste it into the form window. Formatting such as italics won’t transfer, but if your browser crashes or you accidentally close the window, at least you won’t lose what you so-thoughtfully composed!


4. Preview, Edit, Post, or Cancel your comments.

    Preview. The Preview window is required before you can post a comment. Select the Preview button to see how your comment will look online to others, check whether any links you’ve included are broken, re-edit your comment, or find links to reread the original article or previous comments. You can re-Preview your comment as many times as you like.

      Check any links you included to make sure they are not broken! Suggestion: right-click your links in the online view at the top of the Preview page to open them in a new window.
    Edit. Scroll to the page bottom and change your form entries in the box to edit them. Re-Preview and re-edit till you are satisfied.
    Cancel. You can cancel your comment any time by simply closing the comment or preview window, leaving the page, or clicking the Cancel button. Nothing you write is ever sent or posted to EconLog unless you select the Post button. Till then, it’s all on your own machine.
    Post. Select the Post button to post your comment when you are satisfied.
    Skipping too quickly through the Preview is the main source of errors by experienced and inexperienced commenters alike! So: re-read your comment in the Preview window even if you are sure it’s perfect. Check your grammar and links, and pull up the original article and other comments in a new window.

5. Additional Matters and Followups: Also available are some buttons and links that allow you to save or delete your personal information (name, email address, url) on your own machine, in case you are thinking of posting again some time. (This uses cookies.) You might also enjoy going back to the Permanent Link to see your Comment appear. You can also check the Latest Comments section in the Archives to see if anyone has responded.

If you accidentally post something you truly wish to remove or modify, you can try emailing the Econlib Webmaster from the address you filled in in Step 2a.


6. Advanced users: Posting boldface, italics, quoted text, links, and other basic html in comments in your comments. How smoothly the shortcut buttons function depends on your browser. These basic html commands and shortcut buttons are available:

To insert a link to a URL:

    Click the shortcut Link button above the comment box. Paste or type in the desired URL and click ok. The correct code will automatically be inserted in the comment box. It should look like this (substituting your URL):

      <a href=”http://stage.econlib.net”>http://stage.econlib.net</a>

    In the Preview and Posted view, it will look like this:

    In Netscape, the code is appended to the end of your comment. Cut and paste it if you want it to appear elsewhere. In IE you can highlight already-typed text and code it by clicking the shortcut button.

    If the code doesn’t look like that in your browser, then copy the above code to your comment box and paste in your desired URLs in both spots. (Or, just paste the URL into your comment box so readers can see it even if it’s not a clickable link. For maximum availability to our readers, we recommend the display of the full URL in your comment, rather than, or at least in addition to, the page title or a linked word such as “here” or “link.”)

    Test any links by examining the Preview and Right-Clicking the link to open it in a new window. Broken links result in lots of complaints about your comment; or people may ignore your comment altogether. Whether or not you create a link, we recommend that you make sure the full URL shows in your comment, so that users can paste it to their browser address windows in a pinch.

To bold, italicize, or indent a short block of quoted text:

    Use the shortcut buttons (B, I, or quote) above the comment box to insert the correct code into your comment box. Insert your text between the codes. In Netscape, the code is appended to the end of your comment. Cut and paste it if you want it to appear elsewhere. In IE you can highlight already-typed text and code it by clicking a shortcut button.

    The code should end up looking like this:

      <b>Mike</b> is <i>the</i> one who first said <blockquote>That doesn’t work.</blockquote>
      results in

      Mike is the one who first said

      That doesn’t work.

    Preview your page to check the final look! N.B.: Do not include in blockquotes more than one paragraph at a time. Internal hard returns may be treated as the end of the blockquote when your comment is actually posted.

A few other html formatting codes are also available. The full available set is:

    a href, b, br, p, strong, em, ul, li, blockquote,

    for

    links, bold, break line, new paragraph, strong, emphasize, unnumbered list, bulleted item, indented blockquote,

    and also the entity codes (beginning with & and ending with ;):
    &lt;, &gt;

    for

    <, >

    N.B. To type a visible less-than symbol ( you must use the entity code &lt; rather than the keyboard ) may optionally be used to create the visible character in comments; but we recommend typing &gt; for greatest clarity.


 Q: Why is there sometimes no comment form?

    The ability to comment on old EconLog articles is restricted to reduce spam. If you do not see a comment form on the page, then comments are no longer allowed.


 Q: Help! I’m banned but I’ve done nothing wrong!

    Please email us at webmaster@econlib.org. We do regularly ban some service providers and IP addresses for submitting spam comments or spam trackbacks. If your access was accidentally precluded, we can probably restore it.

    Did you give a functioning email address with your comment? If you gave a mistyped or nonfunctional email address, or if your spam filter removed our test email to you before you saw it, you may be banned. Email us at webmaster@econlib.org from your functioning email address, and respond to the email we send you, to restore your access.

    EconLog is committed to providing a civilized space for rational debate and discussion. Dissent is welcomed. No one is banned for content.

    EconLog standards and policies for warning and banning commenters are discussed in these posts:


 Q: What are the “Trackback” links about?

    Trackbacks are links to outside sites that link to and discuss specific EconLog articles. Click any Trackback link to be taken to a small popup window listing links to some other sites that link to that EconLog article.


 Q: How do you know who links to EconLog?

    Many sites linking to EconLog use automatic software that pings us when they link to us. (We similarly ping other sites when we link to them.)

    Pinging is a kind of site-to-site electronic notification that a link has been published, available through Moveable Type (MT) and a few other types of blogging software. Pinging can be done by hand or set up to occur automatically.

    A few sites email us directly to let us know they are linking to us. We also find a few linking sites through word of mouth or search engines.

 Q: My website links to EconLog articles. How do I ping EconLog articles?

    First, feel free to email us. We are glad to hear from you or to help you set up automated pinging.

    If you use MT software, you can automate pinging:

      Recommended method: To entirely automate pinging, go to MT Editing Menu/Blog Configuration/Preferences/”Publicity / Remote Interfaces / TrackBack” and add the EconLog URL (http://stage.econlib.net) to the form to enter your list of “Sites to Notify when you update your blog.” Once you add this URL to your Preferences, EconLog will automatically be informed and updated within minutes of whenever you publish a link to any article on EconLog. For more information, see the subsection “Auto-discovery” in the Beginner’s Guide to Trackback. You may also need to hand-set Auto-Discovery to ON.

      Another good method: By creating a custom page (or “Bookmarklet”) which you then use to create/edit/publish your own entries, you can individually select to ping the specific URL you link to in that entry. For more information, see the subsection “The Bookmarklet” in the Beginner’s Guide to Trackback..

      Hand-pinging: If you prefer not to do automated pings or for some reason your software didn’t do it for you on previous entries, you can hand-ping any EconLog entry. Find the Trackback Ping URL to hand-ping by opening the pop-up Trackback window for the Permanent Link to which you are linking. Further instructions are in the Beginner’s Guide to Trackback.

    With automated pinging, our Trackback link to your site will be registered within minutes, visible by popping up the Trackback window for the EconLog article to which you link. (Updating of the numerical Trackback counter may take a day or so. Please be patient.


 Q: What are the “Syndicate this Site” links about? What are Newsreaders? What are RSS feeds?

    In the last few years, many blogs (e.g., EconLog), some newspapers, and various other frequently-updated websites commonly offer a free automated feature: Any time they add something new to their site, they simultaneously provide an automated short summary file with the additions, all provided in a standardized format available to all.

      The instantaneous standardized summary is called an RSS feed. To take advantage of and organize all this free material, other portal-like websites and inexpensive downloadable software packages called “Newsreaders” or “News Aggregators” offer users the opportunity to select or subscribe to up-to-date headlines and short excerpts, all aggregated from dozens of other sites of their choosing and presented in unified formats.


       Q: What exactly is an RSS feed? An RSS feed is a standardized XML-based file from which Newsreaders can cull information. They are generally provided free of charge by the originating website or blog. RSS stands for RDF Site Summary or, more generally, Rich Site Summary. RSS feeds usually have extensions of .rdf or .xml. Whatever the extension, they are all applications of various simplified forms of XML. They let the originating site syndicate itself by being available any time of the day or night to Newsreaders and News Aggregators combing the web for such standardized files.


     Q: Why do you offer more than one kind of RSS file? How can I choose between the index.rdf file and the index.xml file?

      Some people like to see only headlines, or only headlines and short excerpts, with the option to go to the originating site via a link. Others prefer to read the whole article without going to the originating site.

      Also: Different newsreaders sometimes only recognize only one type of file, or may not take advantage of the full range of features. Both the EconLog rdf file (http://stage.econlib.net/index.rdf) and xml file (http://stage.econlib.net/index.xml) conform to all specified standards. Most Newsreader software lets you pick one or both. If one doesn’t work perfectly, try the other.

     Q: I’m interested! How do I pick a Newsreader or News Aggregator?

      A quality Newsreader lets you specify an update-schedule (first thing in the morning? once every hour?) and a list of your favorite websites and blogs, so that you are alerted to the latest posts from those sites without having to click through your list just to see if there’s anything new yet.