Blogging and academic jobs

by Henry Farrell on September 14, 2005

“Ralph Luker”: has a round-up post of reactions to the second “Ivan Tribble” “missive”: on blogging and academia. This is something that I’ll be speaking to substantively in the near future in a longer piece; for the moment, I just want to observe that blogging has been helpful in a very practical but unexpected way to my academic career. I moved last year from the University of Toronto to George Washington University (I loved Toronto and the university, but had good personal reasons, unconnected to the Department, to move). I know for a fact that my blogging at Crooked Timber played a minor (but real) role in helping me land my current job – one of the people involved in the job search for a new position was a CT reader, clicked through to my homepage, and saw that my research interests seemed a plausible fit with the Department’s needs. I suspect that the blog only played a marginal role in helping bring me to the attention of my current Department, but when you are one of many people applying for a job, every bit of name recognition helps. I can easily imagine how some kinds of blogging wouldn’t be helpful – but the vast majority of academic blogs that I read don’t fit into the rather peculiar stereotype that Tribble seems keen to perpetuate.

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Crooked Timber » » Academic Blogging
09.14.05 at 9:41 pm



Monica Lewinsky 09.14.05 at 4:33 pm

“Every bit of name recognition helps…..”

Suggest rewrite.


Rebecca 09.14.05 at 9:14 pm

I’m glad to hear you think your blog helped you gain employment…

If you wouldn’t mind taking my blogging survey, I would really appreciate it. I’m hoping to build more support/understanding of blogging in academia.


Seth Finkelstein 09.15.05 at 12:22 am

“I just want to observe that blogging has been helpful in a very practical but unexpected way to my academic career.”

Ah, but note, this is a classic example of “survivorship bias”. If blogging had NOT been helpful, you’d be unlikely to be posting that on a well-read academic blog (not impossible, but much less likely).

I don’t mean the following applies to you, but in general: A certain type of blog evangelism strikes me as very similar to the process of selling quack medicine. Any medical quack can usually produce a list of glowing testimonials – “I tried Dr. Blog’s All-Purpose Cure-All, and I lost weight, my health improved, I became a magnet for hot members of the appropriate sex, and my career skyrocketed”. If one does a scientific analysis, and shows there’s no therapeutic positive effect, or even an overall negative effect, the person can always say, “Well, it worked for me!”.

But in real medicine, there’s a saying, there are no effects without side-effects. Even the safest drugs sometimes kill people through allergic reactions. And it’s not because the patient has a bad attitude, or was weak of faith.

In much discussion of blogging, I see very little recognition of what seems to me to be an elemental point – if there are substantial positive effects, there must almost certainly be substantial negative effects. Now, it may be the negative is outweighed by the positive, or can be managed. But there seems almost an outright blindness, an unwillingness to acknowledge that negative effects can and will happen, intrinsically, as part of the nature of the endeavor.

I suspect a large part of this result comes from the fact that blogs have been prominently “sold” by a certain huckster-type, somewhat akin to the quack-medicine man, but here in love with the supposed benefits of personal self-revelation. It’s a current version of “Let It All Hang Out”. Many of these people are relatively wealthy, so they don’t have to worry about career-climbing. Others are professional “outrage-mongers”, and well-studied in the ways of making the “personal” marketable.

I see cautions as just a mild corrective to the overbearing hype and cultism, where the potential negatives deserve far more examination than they presently receive. Ever seen the package inserts for even over-the-counter medicine? As in “DO NOT take this if …”. It’s easy to parody that sort of warning. But on the other hand, the purveyors of the text equivalent of patent tonics, should be called to greater account.


meik roemer 09.16.05 at 11:20 am

Academic blogging is still in its infancy here in Germany, but as far as I understand, there is a difference between a dooce-like journal and an academic blog. Academia mostly IS about publishing your “ideas”, so what is the difference in the long run between blogging your ideas or get them published in a magazine? You will always make some friends with your research and there will always be some catfighting….

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