Plugging into the network is a great way to keep up with developments in the economy. And I'm not only referring to a computer network, although that's an essential tool and you can find lots of great resources on the Atlanta Fed's website. I also mean a network of people.

My network recently expanded to include the Atlanta Economic Club (AEC). The AEC is the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Business Economists (NABE). Our monthly meetings are a great way to plug into the people network. You can find a list of local affiliates on the NABE website. There are also a number of events sponsored by local chambers of commerce, business associations, community and economic development agencies, and universities that are excellent opportunities to learn about what's happening in your local economy.

The people whom I've met are not policy wonks and data nerds like me (although some do share my affliction to some degree); rather, they are folks who simply want to learn more about what is going on in the economy. And we learn not only from the formal presentations that take place at these events, but also simply by spending time talking and listening to people who share similar interests.

A middle ground between the computer network and the people network exists in the world of economics. I'm referring to the economics blogosphere. Plugging into this network has no geographic limits and exposes readers to the latest thinking of some of the world's leading economists. Most economics bloggers invite comments that can lead to thoughtful discussions. A substantial list of economics blogs can be found on the NABE website. I'd be remiss if I didn't note the Atlanta Fed's macroblog, which is widely recognized as one of the most thoughtful economics blogs out there. Also, in addition to SouthPoint, other Reserve Banks write about regional economic conditions. For example, the Chicago Fed comments on its regional economy in its "Midwest Economy" blog.

At the end of the day, we can learn only so much from data and economic models. Listening to, and learning from, each other are just as important. Whether you do it via the computer network through the blogosphere, or through the people network by joining a local club like the AEC, it is time well spent.

Photo of Mike ChrisztBy Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department