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Thursday, July 07, 2005

So I've doomed myself to academic oblivion by blogging?

This week’s Chronicle of Higher Education includes a column by Ivan Tribble:  “Bloggers Need Not Apply: Job seekers need to eliminate as many negatives as possible, and in most cases a blog turns out to be a negative.”

Tribble (“the pseudonym of a humanities professor at a small liberal-arts college in the Midwest”) discusses his college’s recent hiring process and concludes that blogging can only hurt one’s chances of being hired as a faculty member.

A few choice excerpts:

"The pertinent question for bloggers is simply, Why? What is the purpose of broadcasting one's unfiltered thoughts to the whole wired world? It's not hard to imagine legitimate, constructive applications for such a forum. But it's also not hard to find examples of the worst kinds of uses.

A blog easily becomes a therapeutic outlet, a place to vent petty gripes and frustrations stemming from congested traffic, rude sales clerks, or unpleasant national news. It becomes an open diary or confessional booth, where inward thoughts are publicly aired.

Worst of all, for professional academics, it's a publishing medium with no vetting process, no review board, and no editor. The author is the sole judge of what constitutes publishable material, and the medium allows for instantaneous distribution. After wrapping up a juicy rant at 3 a.m., it only takes a few clicks to put it into global circulation."

He goes on to offer a doomsday scenario for bloggers:

Our blogger applicants came off reasonably well at the initial interviews, but once we hung up the phone and called up their blogs, we got to know ‘the real them’ -- better than we wanted, enough to conclude we didn't want to know more.

Okay, I agree with “Tribble” that if you are a professor blogging away about the most intimate details of your life, this obviously calls into question your personal and professional judgment.

But outside of these extreme cases, why does Tribble assume that expressing one’s academic and/or personal views without the formal benefit of “peer review” or some other "vetting process" is necessarily a bad thing? One of the obvious benefits of (sensible) blogging is that it forces you in some respects to silence the internal censor (as Daniel Solove has noted) which is the bane of writers and very likely the cause of many brilliant ideas going to the grave with their (would-be) author.

Second, a hiring committee certainly doesn’t want to know every detail of a candidate’s life. But I would hope that hiring committees would want to get to know the “real” candidate -- not just a suited-up, watered down version.

Indeed, I think that most successful people -- while certainly utilizing the various and necessary masks one must maintain in society – are successful in part because they bring themselves (the “real” person) to their vocation. They don’t leave their personality at the door.

And finally, a rhetorical question for Orin Kerr: has blogging ruined your career? 

Posted by Marcy Peek on July 7, 2005 at 07:51 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Spirited comment, Mr. Gowder. Well said.

Posted by: Plainsman | Jul 7, 2005 11:32:48 AM

I think this is just a manifestation of one of the many symptoms of the "iron cage of modernity" -- everyone's so damn paranoid about meeting these wild artificial post-industrial rules: dress like this, act like that, shake hands counterclockwise only, starting to the left of the highest ranking person, except on alternate tuesdays, don't speak out, don't take risks, don't dare to say what you mean and what everyone's thinking, for heaven's sake don't say anything that makes you look like you have crazy ideas, don't trust your intuition, don't follow passion, be professional, make a good impression, keep up with the computer, get good grades, get on law review, clerk for a federal judge, go to work at Cravath, Swaine and Moore --

and then the paranoid people, the "sensualists without heart, specialists without spirit," succeed, and get into power, and identify and reinforce their in-groups with the other paranoid people, and disdain the non-paranoid people, the authentic people, the colorful people, who don't follow their little rules, because if they accept someone who doesn't shave every day and doesn't wear the right suit and makes ferocious 3 am blog posts they implicitly criticize their own cowardice for failing to do so.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jul 7, 2005 10:15:25 AM

I think the Ivan Tribble (I Vant Trouble? Or just a Trouble with Tribbles reference?) article is a great...


... of the kind of bad career and interview advice we see from so many quarters nowadays.

People who want to sink themselves, will. Folks who are clueless as to success, and how their own actions might enable or prevent it, will probably remain so.

People who are outgoing or friendly or professional or competent or brilliant or quick or witty will make a good impression, whether they show up wearing the right suit or not, whether they blog or not. You can't blow it if you're the right person, and you probably can't hide it if you're not. And it's not that hard to be the right person; although not every single person has the potential, many more do than know it.

And yet, I'm still anonymous. I must be anticipating a deep background check when I apply for the job of Martha Stewart's personal secretary. "So... you say you've never served brisket on paper plates with plasticware? And that you always use the right kind of glass when serving wine to guests? We'll just check your blog..."

Posted by: Eh Nonymous | Jul 7, 2005 9:47:38 AM

The problem of academics imprudently writing something up and clicking "ENTER" at 3 a.m. and embarrassing themselves before the whole world existed well before blogging. E.g., in the late 90s, Larry Tribe posted a home page that is still the source of some joking: http://thebigmahatma.blogspot.com.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 7, 2005 9:47:34 AM

Please. I've got my own theories about blogging, and discretion's all well and good, but this sort of "hold back, don't reveal yourself, don't take chances" advice is a problem in academia, not a solution.

You're totally gonna be famous! Because of guest-blogging on this here weblog!

Posted by: david | Jul 7, 2005 9:18:27 AM

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