Guest post by Richard Anderson
On June 3, 2010, the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis introduced the first Internet social networking web site for economics and business. The new web site <www.thefrednetwork.com> is a namesake of the Bank’s popular FRED data service, the most widely used free source of United States economic data on the Internet.
The FRED Network will permit economists and the public to communicate more easily with the data analysts that support FRED, as well as with economists both at St. Louis and elsewhere in the world. The web site is a “dual-threaded” design, meaning each user can select both the topics of interest and the site’s users with whom they wish to communicate. Unlike unfiltered Internet blogs, users will not have to sort through commentary of little interest to locate useful information.
Social networking web sites help people find others with similar interests, exchange knowledge about both data and research projects, solve problems, and develop new ideas. Also, companies learn from their customers by reading customer comments.
“The FRED Network will improve communication between the Bank staff and our customers,” said one staff member. “In the past, we answered most questions via email and only one person saw the information. Now, we can answer within The FRED Network and all customers with that interest will see the information.”
Social networking brings together like-minded people, whether users of FRED data or top-level professionals pursuing complex research.
A unique feature of The FRED Network is the ability for each user to write their own blog. Each user’s blog is available to all other users who sign up to receive that user’s commentary. The unique design of The FRED Network allows each user to read blogs from selected users while excluding ones they do not care to read. This feature allows users who are passionate to write about their interests and expertise, while allowing users who do not wish to receive that commentary need not do so.