December
27th 2008
Archie’s wiki smackdown

Posted under: jobs

Archie doesn’t sound like someone I’d necessarily want to work with, but he’s damned funny on the subject of academic job wikis.  Remember kids, “everybody loses unless you just say no to the wiki-crack.”  RYS published a rebuttal here, and here’s one of Historiann’s greatest hits on this topic.)

9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Archie’s wiki smackdown”

  1. Susan on 27 Dec 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    Well, since the information on the wiki is anonymous, it can mean all sorts of things. .. but surely academics know to check your sources?
    But I do think Archie offers applicants a useful reminder about the vagaries of the search process.

  2. Notorious Ph.D. on 27 Dec 2008 at 1:15 pm #

    Archie may have a point or two, but in defense of the Wiki, I have to say that it’s the only way that I found out that I wasn’t in contention for the dreamjob I applied for this year. I received neither form-letter rejection nor acknowledgment of application from the institution itself. So the wiki allowed me to get on with my life about two and a half weeks earlier than I otherwise would have.

  3. The_Myth on 27 Dec 2008 at 4:26 pm #

    Here’s [one of] my problem[s] with Archie’s little rant:

    If 200 job applicants sent in the jumbo portfolios that most job searches demand up-front [you know: transcripts from grad school, undergrad, high school; letters of recommendation; teaching philosophy, complete with detailed syllabi; writing sample; detailed cover letter that intuits exactly what the search committee wants but didn't articulate in the 50-word ad; vial of blood; contract for the soul of firstborn child; etc.), then why can't his institution send form rejection letters to the 150+ applicants who didn't make the first cut.

    E-mail's cheap, requiring nothing but sweat-equity. Typing in 150 or so e-mail addresses to be sent via blind carbon copy shouldn't be all that trying for some office cog to do over the course of a week. Heck, I used to do it for 50+ students as a TA back before Blackboard and WebCT came into common use. And I had tons of other stuff to do as well.

    As Notorious says above, getting a rejection at least would allow one to stop wondering and move on.

    I mean, if Archie's so disgusted by most of the applicants, then a simple little "Thank you for applying, but you did not make the first short list, which we generated based on factors X, Y, and Z" sort of letter is better than just ignoring everyone because you're too lazy to be professional [which seems to be the standard nowadays].

  4. Professor Zero on 28 Dec 2008 at 12:59 am #

    On rejection letters – I always figured it was no until they said yes, not the other way around. I also never assume our candidates do not have other offers, including offers they like better.

    My colleagues – grad students back in the day, faculty now – always say I am too pessimistic, but time and again reality has shown me that time spent looking at real estate in a place you don’t have an offer is time better spent working on a plan B, and time spent planning what courses candidate A will teach when the contract isn’t written yet is time better spent making sure you still have a candidate B. I do not need a wiki to tell me this.

    More seriously – it really seems to me to be a way to add to the angst and also to spread misinformation and paranoia. One thing I really liked about how grad school was for me was that there wasn’t too much of that, and one thing I didn’t like about assistant professordom was how much of that – much of it misconceived – my cohort brought with them from graduate school. To then also do it virtually … saints preserve us!

  5. squadratomagico on 28 Dec 2008 at 10:12 am #

    I came of age in pre-wiki days, and I recall a similar level of rumor and anxiety. Everyone I knew parsed ads word-by-word, looking for hidden meanings and clues; gossip flew about which ads were truly “open” and which ones were “inside jobs;” everyone asked one another what they’d heard and from where. The wiki just draws upon a larger pool for a perennial set of questions and rumor-mongering. I haven’t experienced it first-hand, but I imagine I would have preferred knowing as early as possible which schools have moved forward, and which had not.

    Archie certainly engages in some asshattery, but he’s got some funny lines and a few grains of truth amid the mullet jokes.

  6. Buzz on 28 Dec 2008 at 12:37 pm #

    In theoretical particle physics, we have a much more tasteful, moderated “Rumor Mill”: http://particle.physics.ucdavis.edu/rumor/doku.php

    What’s listed there is generally pretty accurate, although by no means complete. I didn’t find it a terrible useful resource, and it’s not generally expected to be, although it can tell you something about what your competitors are up to. It doesn’t delve deeply into speculation on what specific positions are looking for, which keeps it a quite respectable part of the job search process.

  7. Historiann on 28 Dec 2008 at 2:28 pm #

    I think the Wikis are exactly as Squadratomagico describes–a larger and more anonymous forum in which to share information, but as Archie suggests, there is no way to verify the “information” or ascertain the integrity or knowledge of its source. A friend of mine applied for a job and was told by the search chair that they’d be skipping the convention and going straight to campus interviews before Christmas–and yet, someone posted “AHA interview requested” and the date. Which would you believe? There are too many people posting too much either honestly incorrect or intentionally misleading information for it to be useful, and it seems to feed everyone’s paranoia. So, I mostly agree with Archie that “everybody loses unless you just say no to the wiki-crack.”

    But I also agree with Notorious and The_Myth that letting people know via e-mail that they didn’t make the first cut is only courteous, and that that should happen immediately after the notifications have been sent out to the people who did make the first cut. I thought that Archie’s carping about the basic courtesy of rejection letters was needlessly aggressive and short-sighted.

  8. Indyanna on 29 Dec 2008 at 6:43 am #

    I don’t follow the Wikis but in truth I was a little skanked-out by Archie’s rant. When you start seeing the “trailer park” metaphors in the second paragraph, you’re probably not in for a nice democratic day. No doubt that the wikis largely provide a new and more volatile way to broadcast the old paranoia, but most of the dissertators I talk to see them as at least a first-strike effort to subvert the mysterious secrecy of the marketplace. Somebody once said that Americans have a “they-laughed-at-Columbus” mentalite, but if somebody else decides to scrap the beta version and take wiki to version 2.2, or to hire an agent, or find a way to cultivate knowing leakers, who knows where it goes next?

    People fairly new to the system (like less than 25 years) may not appreciate how thinly-rooted in the constitutional soil of academia the search committee itself is, or the department-based hiring system that it fronts, for that matter, or that it could be uprooted like Lehman Bros. It developed in very recent and very particular historical circumstances, and things change quickly in those areas. Like all governance systems–even effectively repressive ones–it depends on the consent of the governed, and wiki might be an early sign of that consent being withdrawn. If you watch how the academic powers that be are currently dancing to the tune of “accountability” in the assessment patch–to the detriment of faculty autonomy–it wouldn’t take too much for the same cyclone to jump the highway into the personnel-recruitment tent. Archie’s histrionics in defense of an ancien regime (which, like most ancien regimes, is much newer than the term would make you think) would make a poster-child for “end it don’t mend it.”

    Historiann’s proferred remedial triad of conscientiousness, competence, and courtesy on both sides of an unpleasant process is very salutary and ought to be adopted as a matter of common sense. But at Archie’s level of insider meanness, it would seem almost like putting listerine on an abcess. (Vitamins on frosted flakes?) I live on both ends of the state, but what’s in “Allentown” that would generate, much less justify, such levels of acidulous hauteur in an academic? Did Billy Joel just go there on a bad day?

  9. Historiann on 29 Dec 2008 at 9:12 am #

    Indyanna, I don’t know if you’ve served on a search committee recently, but I have–and I’ve seen a lot of applications that don’t address the specific requirements listed in the job ad–usually because these applicants don’t have the relevant training or experience. (Why do they bother? It’s a mystery.) So, I understand some of Archie’s crankiness, and I think he’s got good advice, which is to read the job ads and not the job wiki.

    He’s not nice about it–but what about the job search process is *nice*?

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