Welcome, NY Times Readers (and a confession)

I woke up this morning to learn that Paul Krugman has given me another shout-out this A.M. This is about the 8th or 9th time he's linked to me, but only the 2nd time that he's mentioned me by name (usually it's just a text link to the relevant entry). The first time was last March, when he compared me favorably to the Lord of the Data Nerds, Nate Silver; this time my name is mentioned in the same paragraphs as Ezra Klein and Andrew Sullivan. Needless to say, I'm flattered and honored beyond measure.

Anyway, I wanted to welcome any first-time readers (I'm assuming there'll be more than a few of these today). Warning: While the actual Blog, Spreadsheets and Graphs are all completely up to date, the FAQ is over a year out of date. Yes, I'm still just a website developer from Michigan. I'm still typing this while wearing my bathrobe, and my wife still gets pissed if I'm working on the latest updates when I promised to unload the dishwasher. And no, I'm still not being paid for maintaining this site (although donations are always welcome, of course).

I'm still contacted for interviews and/or data fact-checking from time to time, and while I've never turned any of this down and appreciate the attention, it's also led to an awkward impasse in my life. Maintaining the site takes time. Sifting through up to 2 dozen ACA/healthcare-related articles or reports each day takes time. Responding to emails or discussing the latest numbers with reporters/researchers takes time. Usually, people in this position are either being paid by some media outlet/university/foundation/think tank/etc., or at least have some book that they're plugging. To date, I have neither (though I've mulled over the latter and may still do so if there seems to be sufficient interest).

I've been asked by more than one person (3 in the past few weeks, oddly enough) how I manage to maintain both the ACA Signups project as well as running my own full-time freelance website development business at the same time. The answer is, frankly, I don't...at least not very well, anyway. It isn't as crazy this time around as it was last March, of course (and probably never will be again), but it's still becoming more and more difficult to call this a "hobby" given the time commitment. Something's going to have to give soon; I'll either have to let this project fade away (as I originally intended to do last April) in order to refocus on my day job, or I'll have to find a way to justify the time spent on it beyond "caring about dissemination of accurate healthcare data as a public service". The donations people have made have helped, believe me, but there are limits. I've started down this path by posting the occasional special piece over at healthinsurance.org, but I'm still trying to have it both ways, and my sanity (and website client base) is suffering as a result.

So, to put it bluntly: Yes, I'm open to public speaking engagements, and if any book publishers out there are interested in talking, I'm game.

Anyway, in today's piece, Krugman states:

Yes, there is a tension between maintaining a conversational feel and producing pieces that can be read on their own. But it’s a tension, not a contradiction: you can, with effort, maintain a blogging style that makes regular readers feel that they’re part of an ongoing conversation yet makes individual posts meaningful to people who aren’t reading everything you write. A blog can be a floor wax and a dessert topping, if you work at it.

Here's my confession referred to in the title of this entry: The blog portion of this site was an accident. Longtime readers will note that for the first couple of months, this site consisted of literally nothing more than a domain name repointing to a Google Docs spreadsheet, with a crude version of The Graph pasted in at the bottom. The only reason I added a formal blog in the first place was simply to have an archive of the data source links, since the direct links to various news articles/etc would be broken within a week or two as the source article disappeared behind a firewall. I wanted to capture the relevant paragraph or whatever and lock it down, so I set up the blog. My first "real" blog entry (ie, one which wasn't just a placeholder for the raw data source) didn't happen until Christmas Day, 2013...and the subject was, of course, the now-infamous "But How Many Have PAID???" meme.

Before that, the actual ACA blog entries were all run through my account over at Daily Kos. In fact, here's the entry, from Oct. 11, 2013 which led to the creation of this project shortly thereafter:

Seriously, though, HHS should really start releasing the official (accurate) numbers of actual signups for all 50 states (or at the very least, the 36 states that they're responsible for) on a daily--or at least, weekly--basis. I don't care if it's a pitifully small number. 100,000? 10,000? 100? 10? Even if it's in single digits, release the damned numbers. Be upfront about it. Everyone knows by now how f****** up the website is, so be honest and just give out the accurate numbers as they come in.

Besides, that'll make it all the more impressive when those numbers start to (hopefully) skyrocket over the next 2 1/2 months.

I owe a hell of a lot to the folks over at dKos, not just for the surprise fundraiser they held for me last April (after the 2014 enrollment period was over, I should note, for any Conspiracy Theorists out there), which saved my ass bigtime last year, but also for helping promote my work both there and here over the past 15 months or so.

As an aside, I should note that Nate Silver also got his start over at Daily Kos; his last post there was back in December 2009 (note what the subject of his final dKos blog entry was, by the way...). FWIW, I still cross-post there, although it's usually just daily digests of my stuff here these days.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I also wanted to give a special shout-out to Chris Savage and the Eclectablog team here in Michigan. I'm included in the group shot, but the truth is I really just provide the hosting for the site. Chris and his crew are by far the best political bloggers for all things Michigan-related, and he deserves any help people can send his way. 

And with that...back to the number-crunching, and I do plan on updating the FAQ any day now...