"Until recently, the economics profession largely controlled the production, dissemination and interpretation of economic data. Now there’s a new trend afoot: do-it-yourself macroeconomics, in which ordinary citizens pull apart the data and come to their own conclusions.
The democratization of economics owes much to the financial crisis that first hit in 2007. That ongoing catastrophe, which few economists predicted, tarnished the profession’s reputation, prompting some to look elsewhere for answers. They turned to — where else? — the Internet, where vast amounts of economic data that had once been hidden from public view were now online. Sites like FRED, maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, enabled anyone with a connection to the Web to download data on everything from local home-price indexes to credit-card balances to weekly fluctuations in diesel prices.
At the same time, a growing army of knowledgeable “econo-bloggers” began analyzing the data available online. Strikingly, many of the authors of these blogs — the brains behind the Big Picture, Calculated Risk, Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis and others — aren’t academic economists but people with real-world experience in financial markets." (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/12/19/magazine/ideas2010.html)