Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Financial Rounds FAQ

Note: Updated 10/25/2007

I looked up the other day and realized that I've been running Financial Rounds for over 7 1/2 years now (and have exceeded 400,000 hits and 1,000 subscribers). That makes me pretty small fry in the bigger blogosphere, but I'm very happy with it. If you've been reading for a while, you've picked up a lot of info on who I am, my background, and so on. But in case you're new to Financial Rounds, this will hopefully answer some of the questions you may have. So, welcome to the Financial Rounds FAQ page -- I'll update it periodically as time goes on. If you want to go back to the main page, you can click here. And if you want to contact me, you can send me emails at unknownprofessor-at-hotmail-dot-com.

When did you start the blog, and why?
I started blogging in February of 2005 mostly as a way to keep track of all the random Internet stuff I come across (like many nerds, I spend FAR too much time online). Originally, I thought it would be a good way to help me remember some of the interesting Internet resources (and bizarrely humorous stuff) I though might be useful in the classes I teach. And of course, once I started, it's just become a habit.

Why blog anonymously, and why the name "The Unknown Professor"?
I try to keep my blogging identity separate from my work one. So I thought it would be best to blog under a pseudonym. There's always the possibility that some of my colleagues might be offended by something I've written, or they might be afraid that I'll use the blog to air my department's dirty laundry. And that's always a temptation -- in any setting whee there are people involved, there will be stupidity, lack of common sense, or just plain nastiness (present company included). As the members of a group of guys I used to meet for breakfast with every Saturday would say, "We are not an impressive species".

So, rather than take the chance, I decided to play it safe. But it makes things interesting -- not knowing my identity forces people to evaluate what I say solely on its own merits (for all you know, I'm really a dog). In addition, I have to be careful not to reveal too many details on my research or my school.

My pseudonym comes from the late-70's comic known as the Unknown Comic, who did his incredibly schlocky comedy routine with a paper bag over his head. I guess that means at some point, I'll have to upload a picture of me at the blackboard with a paper bag over my head.

What's your background?
I received a Ph.D. in finance sometime in the 1990s from a pretty good (not top-tier, but pretty solid) university (FYI - for those of you who are wondering what's involved in getting a Ph.D., click here). Since then, I've been a college professor at a number of universities (including one stint where I was a visiting professor at a pretty good research school for a couple of years). I've published research in a number of areas (some are kind of accounting-ish, but most are squarely in the midstream of finance), and at one time or another I've taught classes on just about everything but derivatives and multinational finance. I'm interested in most finance topics (and a fair number of accounting ones too), and blogging helps keep me aware of a broader set of things that I otherwise might.

What topics do you blog about?
I pretty much write about whatever strikes my fancy. However, there are a couple of areas that I keep coming back to. I'd guess about half my posts are related to either Finance or Economics, and are usually prompted by things I come across in the news. For finance topics, I mostly comment on corporate finance and investment topics (after all, they're the topics I teach and do research on for the most part). I regularly discuss the trials, tribulations, joys, and general weirdness of the academic life. And of course, there's always my family: the Unknown Wife, Son, and Daughter (and others).

How about some personal information?
I'm middle-aged, been married to the same woman for pretty much forever, and have two great kids: the Unknown Baby Boy (age 2) and the Unknown Daughter (age 10). My formative years were spent in a blue-collar, northeast USA mill town where much of the town had immigrated from the same small Northern Italian village in the early 1900s. Many of my older relatives (and there were a lot, since I'm Italian on my father's side) spoke fluent Italian, and one of my relatives actually made his own salami and cured it in his basement (he may have actually caused a trichinosis epidemic in my hometown, and I may have caught it, but that's a story for another day).

Most of my later perspective on life comes from three things: I became a born-again Christian in my late teens, and have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by many wonderful, mature older folks who have been willing to kick my hiney when it's needed (and that occurs much more often than it should). I've been married to the Unknown Wife since just about forever, and she has most of the qualities I lack - tact, grace, and a great sense of what people are thinking and feeling. Were it not for her, I wouldn't even have the minimal levels of people skills I currently have (see Italian immigrant mill-town upbringing above). And finally, I had a child that suffered through a long battle with cancer before passing away a few years ago.

What are your favorite blogs:
I read FAR too many blogs, and definitely need to cull my feed reader. But there are some constant favorites: In the Econonomics area, I read Marginal Revolution, Econlog, Gregg Mankiw, and Freakonomics pretty much daily. For academic-related finance, Jim Mahar's far and away leads a relatively small pack. For non-academic finance, I regularly read Abnormal Returns and. And as for others, there's Protein Wisdom, Evangelical Outpost, and

Do you give investment advice (or stock picks)?
If you mean do I give stock recommendations, the answer is definitely no. I often comment on particular companies or investment vehicles, but mostly as a means to show how some goings on or other illustrates a larger finance or economics point. After all, I'm a believer that markets are efficient (or sufficiently close enough that you and I can't beat them consistently). So, giving stock picks would be inconsistent.

What makes your blog different from all the rest?
Other than Jim Mahar's, I'm still one of a relatively small group of bloggers who look at the finance world from the perspective of a finance academic. So, I'm naturally skeptical, and can comment on things from the perspective of what academic research has to say on the topic of the day (at least, when it has something to say). I also have a fairly good sense of humor and don't take myself too seriously (having been married to the Unknown Wife for 16 years has cured me of that). Finally, I may be one of the few bloggers that provide a window into the life of a finance professor.

Do you want to trade links?
While I occasionally find myself linkslutting, it's usually because I think something I've written might be interesting to other bloggers. I'm not big on link exchanges. If you think Financial Rounds is worth linking to, please do - I appreciate the traffic. Likewise, if you think your blog might be of interest to my readers, send me an email (unknownprofessor-at-hotmail-dot-com) and I'll be glad to take a look at it. If I think it'll be of interest to my readers (or if it strikes my fancy), I'll be glad to link to it without expecting a reciprocal link. Likewise if you've either written or come across something you think I might find interesting, send it along. Many of my favorite blogs were initially recommended by some of my readers.

I'm thinking of getting a Ph.D in Finance. Can I email you some questions?
Absolutely! I get about a dozen questions a month in that vein. It's one of the surprising parts of the blogging experience - a lot of my readers have questions about the life of a finance professor, grad school, research, and other related topics. There's a surprising lack of info out there that's available in an easily digestible form. So ask away. My advice is free, and usually fairly priced.

If you have any other questions, please send them in to (just remove the hyphens) unknownprofessor-at-hotmail-dot-com.


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