Rules for Participating in the MacroMOOC

The purpose of this website is to provide a structure for collaborative exploration of current questions in macroeconomics of interest to the participants.  The questions are “big” in the sense that they have no unique “correct” answer, but our assumption is that by exploring them as a diverse group each of us can get closer to an answer.

To enter the discussion, click on the Questions tab in the header above. If you don’t already have an avatar, please click on Gravatar to set one up so that your posts will be associated with your photo (or other image).  Each discussion thread starts with a question.  Next to each question is a balloon with a number inside, indicating the number of comments or follow-up questions posted in response.  If you click on the balloon, you’ll open the discussion thread.  From here you can reply to any of the existing comments or questions.  (If you pose a follow-up question, please stay within the existing question stream, that is, post your sub-question under the initial question to keep the discussion as organized as possible.)

As a participant, your goal should not be to “win” a debate, but rather to obtain a better understanding of the different perspectives expressed, especially views different than your own.  Before you judge or criticize what someone posts, make sure you understand it.  If you’re not sure, ask for a clarification or better yet try to paraphrase what you think they meant and ask if that’s what they meant.  No one has a monopoly on truth.  Make sure you don’t criticize people, only views, and when you criticize a view do it respectfully!

Think carefully before you post a question or comment.  Assertions will be more persuasive if they are based on authoritative sources.  Your Cousin Fred’s webpage is probably less authoritative than a published study from an expert at Harvard or Cambridge University.  Similarly, a document from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, an agency which provides objective, scientific studies, is more authoritative than a study from the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress which tends to follow the biases of whichever political party is in the majority.  A good source of information about how to evaluate sources is at .   If you make an assertion based on facts, you should cite your sources, preferably in the form of a url so others can draw their own conclusions from the sources.

The first step in the process of exploring a question on the MacroMOOC should be to identify the facts.  For example, what is was the story in the Specter article?  What exactly is money?

What conclusions can we draw ?  For example, were Deli-Dollars an example of money?  Why or why not?  Conclusions should be of two types: based on the evidence, and based on one’s values.  It’s important to differentiate between the two when you post to the conversation.

The website is similar to Reddit, in that the software allows you to vote on comments.  The way you vote is to move your cursor over the balloon next to a comment.You can’t vote on questions, though. The best way to indicate the quality of a question is to leave a thoughtful comment, and then let others vote the comment up.  You can’t vote on comments you author.   (What follows is inspired by the Reddit Reddiquette page.)

  • Your voting shouldn’t be based on whether you agree or disagree with a comment.  Instead you should vote up a comment that contributes to the conversation, that enhances your understanding of the topic, and vote down a comment that does the opposite.
  • Your voting should be based on the content of the comment, not who the author is, or because they disagree with you.
  • If you vote something down, consider posting an explanation of why as constructive criticism.
  • Since comments that lack content, like “good comment” or “lol,” etc do not contribute to the conversation, they should be avoided!

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