Blair’s Science Desk

1. Welcome to my science desk

· Blair Fix

For three years now I’ve been blogging over at Economics from the Top Down. I mostly write about my research, but every now and then I write a post about research methods.

I’ve decided that I’d like to separate these two aspects of my writing. On Economics from the Top Down, I’ll continue to share deep dives into topics that interest me. These posts often take months to create, and typically involve analyzing tons of data and writing thousands of lines of code.

On Science Desk, I’m going to post shorter pieces with tips and tricks about doing empirical research. I imagine there will be lots of talk about R, peppered with other musings about working with Linux and doing sciency stuff on computers.

On that front, I’m trying a new method for creating this site. Instead of working with WordPress, I’m writing the blog using Hugo, an engine for generating static websites.

Here’s the difference. With WordPress, the content of your website is stored in a database. When someone visits the site, the content is retrieved from the database and rendered (by the server) into HTML, which you can then see in your browser. The advantage of this approach is that it is flexible. You can change the look of your website with the click of a button. The disadvantage is that there is a lot of technical overhead, which slows things down.

In contrast, a static site has no database. It’s just plain HTML. Now, you can code this type of site by hand, but that’s tedious, especially if you’re updating frequently. Enter static site generators like Hugo. They allow you to write content in markdown and apply themes much like you would in WordPress. But the difference is that you render the site on your computer. Then you send the static site to the web server, which shares it with other people.

There are two things I like about this approach:

  1. Static websites are blazing fast to load.
  2. You can manage everything about the site from the command line.

I’m excited about using Hugo to create this blog because it keeps my entire workflow in the command line, which is where the rest of my research lives.

As you can see, this site is delightfully minimal. I’ve done that on purpose … a reaction to my growing fatigue with bloated sites that constantly demand your attention. There will be no hype here, just straightforward talk about the daily task of doing science. If that interests you, stay tuned.