Becker-Posner blog up and running

by Eszter Hargittai on December 5, 2004

A few days ago Henry pointed us to the Becker-Posner blog. I see now that they have posted an introductory entry.

Blogging is a major new social, political, and economic phenomenon. It is a fresh and striking exemplification of Friedrich Hayek’s thesis that knowledge is widely distributed among people and that the challenge to society is to create mechanisms for pooling that knowledge. The powerful mechanism that was the focus of Hayek’s work, as as of economists generally, is the price system (the market). The newest mechanism is the “blogosphere.” There are 4 million blogs. The internet enables the instantaneous pooling (and hence correction, refinement, and amplification) of the ideas and opinions, facts and images, reportage and scholarship, generated by bloggers.

It looks like the blog will have comments, and for now they plan on posting once per week, on Mondays. (According to Technorati the 4 million figure may be a low estimate, the number of blogs tracked is closer to 5 million as of today.)

One issue that keeps coming up regarding academic blogs (that is, blogs by academics) is whether there is any peer review involved. I think the above comment again suggests that there can be valuable post-publication peer review on blogs either through comments or response posts on others’ blogs.

Philosophy and Wine

by Brian on December 5, 2004

It’s a commonly heard complaint that philosophy and philosophers are too divorced from the real world and practical considerations. I always thought this kind of concern was overblown, but nevertheless I’m glad to see philosophy brought into contact with the real world in new and interesting ways. As in this Friday’s “Philosophy and Wine conference”: at the University of London. The philosophers who are speaking are quite distinguished – Roger Scruton, Kent Bach and Barry Smith – and there is a wine tasting as part of the conference, so it looks like it should be a lot of fun. Any readers in London with a spare Friday and an interest in, er, philosophy of wine should pop along.

Academic Job Markets and Status Hierarchies

by Kieran Healy on December 5, 2004

Over at “Brian Leiter’s blog”:, there’s a debate going on about the role of publications in the hiring process. “Keith DeRose”: is arguing that a graduate student’s publication record should be given a larger role than it often is:

bq. [W]hich graduate school one gets into and what job one initially lands tragically does very much to determine how well one is likely to do, long-term. It often happens for instance, that extremely talented philosophers who deserve to do as well as those landing the great jobs instead end up at some low-prestige job with a heavy teaching load. Every now and then, one of them quite heroically overcomes the odds of having to write while teaching so much and puts out a bunch of excellent papers in really good journals (which at least often they’re able to do largely b/c the journals use blind review!). But, too often, they can’t get the people with the power in the profession (& who know that the candidate works at a low-prestige place) to take their work seriously. They lose out to candidates (the “chosen ones”) who, despite their very cushy teaching loads, publish little in good journals but who have something that all too often proves more valuable on a CV: a high-prestige institutional affiliation.

The data strongly back Keith up on this point, but they also suggest that the probability that things will change is not very high. Studies of academic disciplines show that by far the most important predictor of departmental prestige is the exchange of graduate students within hiring networks. These networks shouldn’t really be called job markets, incidentally, because they lack most of the features normally considered necessary for a market to exist.

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by Eszter Hargittai on December 5, 2004

I’ve been meaning to post about the blogging software WordPress and a recent announcement from our hosting service Dreamhost now gives me even more reason to do so. WordPress is a great free blogging software that I decided to use for my own blog back in the summer when I was upgrading various parts of my site. It is free both in the sense that you don’t have to pay for a copy and in the sense that you have the freedom to modify its code. It is filled with wonderful features such as no rebuilding when making changes to your template and efficient ways of dealing with comment spam. WordPress is committed to offering cool features of other programs such as MT’s Trackback. It also offers importers for Movable Type, Greymatter, Blogger, b2, and Textpattern with others forthcoming (Nucleus and pMachine). Moreover, it is quite easy to install, definitely much more straight forward than some other programs such as Movable Type. When they say it takes five minutes they aren’t kidding (granted, some more general prior technical knowledge can be very helpful).

But wait! If you don’t have five minutes to spare (and perhaps you’re lacking some of those technical basics) then Dreamhost is the way to go. A few days ago they announced automatic installation of WordPress on Dreamhost accounts. We at CT use Dreamhost for our hosting service as do I for my own sites. I highly recommend them. Their prices are extremely reasonable and the services just keep getting better.[1]

Once you are done with the installation, all sorts of styles are available to alter the default one. For those just a tiny bit more ambitious but without the necessary prior knowledge, it’s possible to pick up the requisite PHP and CSS know-how within an afternoon (okay, based on prior HTML skills and a certain amount of geek determination) to make additional changes to the designs. All-in-all, I’ve been very happy with WordPress having used it for about three months now. And the Dreamhost install option is awesome.[2]

fn1. Full disclosure: if you sign up for their services through the above link, CT will get a referral fee.

fn2. I will be setting up blogs for about thirty students in a month so I welcome any feature that assists the process.