Monday, January 21, 2008

The Impact of Blogging on Sorting Out Differences of Fact

Tim Worstall, the prominent, independent UK blogger, picks up the ‘did he or didn’t he’ visit a pin factory before writing about the division of labour in Wealth Of Nations in The Business magazine (here): Trading Floor - The Business Blog (here)

“A Tiny Technology Story

Tim Harford's new book (the follow up to Undercover Economist) is hardly out of the starting gates and already there's been some criticism. OK, OK, the actual point is very minor: did Adam Smith actually visit a pin factory or was he cribbing from earlier writers? Tim says the latter, Gavin Kennedy insists that he put up or....
Well, you can see how it all worked out here. Yes, he did and Tim H is a very naughty boy. As are some of the others. My only involvement in all of this was tweaking Tim's nose about it via email when the original point was noted.
Aside from all of this trivia, there's one other thing I think interesting. The speed with which all of this was worked out. The original contention, that Smith didn't, was published last Wednesday, as was the assertion that he did (we're still in panto season, aren't we?)

We're now only at Monday and we've got the whole thing sorted, down to the footnotes of which earlier writers he did reference, as well as who was at fault for the implication that he hadn't also visited such a manufactury himself.

That's really rather quick, don't you think? Only two decades ago this would have taken months of back and forth letters (of the type that Bernard Levin loved so much) in the TLS or some such, perhaps the NYRB or LRB.”

Tim, as usual, say’s it all I think.


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