The Most Useful Skill I Learned in College
I think I’m about to do something that could change my career trajectory as a professor. And it’s being made possible thanks to one weekend of work from my undergraduate years.
I’ll tell you about it below, but first some updates.
New Video This Week
It has been a long time since I have posted a long-form video. Part of this is because we have a new baby (video about that here). Part of it is because my viral short made me seriously question whether long-form was appropriate anymore.
But I want to give long-form another shot. When looking at what I could offer that was unique to YouTube, I realized something: videos on macroeconomic topics across countries do really well. This has been true for so long that xkcd joked about it 12 years ago.
The problem for me is that I have a pretty limited knowledge on macro topics in other countries. I feel like if I were to do in one month videos on Turkey, Japan, and Russia, none of those topics would receive the attention they need. It would be a rush job, I’d probably get a lot wrong, and it would do nothing to help you. So I’m not going that route.
Where does that leave me? Well, I also saw that no one is doing consistent videos on development economics. When I searched “Why are countries poor” I was underwhelmed by the results. This is one of the most important questions in economics! And since I specialize in development economics, I felt that this was a niche I could fill.
So be on the lookout for the first video in my new series on development economics. It will be out this week (hopefully Tuesday, but Wednesday by the latest) and will be titled “Nobody Knows Why Countries Are Poor” with the following thumbnail.
I’m also looking at doing some live teaching. I’m actually terrible at teaching on YouTube and way better live. So I’m investigating the option to livestream some lectures.
My big question for you: What topics would you be interested in? They could be topics in economics, applying for graduate school, or careers in economics. Whatever you’re interested in! I’m just trying to get a feel for what people want to hear.
If you have suggestions, leave a comment.
The Most Useful Skill
So what is this skill I acquired in one weekend?
I’ve mentioned it on videos before: learn how to scrape websites.
Just this last week I was told about a great dataset that was available online. The problem was that it was not consolidated in one spot. As I explored it, I realized it would be super easy to scrape. Furthermore, as I tested it out, I realized there was hidden data that I could grab too! When I told my friend, he asked how I had discovered it all. It all came back to what I learned when I first started scraping websites.
At first I was surprised by how much value I had gotten out of learning this simple programming trick. But then I remembered that Google is one of the most valuable companies in the world, and it’s core technology comes from scraping the entire internet. Frankly, it’s amazing that the same skill that created a $1.8 trillion company is the same skill that you can learn in one weekend messing around with Perl or Python.
So what’s stopping you from investing in yourself? Go learn how to scrape websites.