13 September 2005

The Tribble Fall-Out, and what we can do about it

When Ivan Tribble published his response to the blogstorm following his initial column, I chose not to respond. I had said everything I had to say on the topic, and several commentators more eloquent than I had much to say on the topic, particularly fellow Cliopatriarchs Mark Grimsley and Sharon Howard. The consensus, after Tribble I and Tribble II, is that bloggers are very aware of the obligation they have to speak responsibly in the blogosphere, especially those bloggers who are not pseudonymous. Having recognized that, all of Tribble’s detractors had a variety of reasons why their blogs enhance their scholarship, their teaching, and other aspects of their professional and personal lives. I admonished potential employers not to fear the blog, but to embrace it.

I expected that Tribble’s poison would have little effect, but I was wrong. It is even worse: Tribble’s drivel has become even more twisted in the telling and is being peddled at job-hunting seminars. I was at a CV and cover letter writing workshop sponsored by Harvard’s OCS today, in which we were told that the Chronicle of Higher Education had reported that bloggers were not getting jobs because they wrote terrible things about their colleagues, and then job committees found out about this by checking the URLs bloggers had listed on their CVs. Actually none of Tribble’s victims had committed that particular blogging crime, but it seems that Tribble has trickled down in an especially anti-blog way that characterizes all blogs as career-destroying gossip sheets. In fact, it seems to be translating into an anti-web attitude completely: my cohort and I were further advised to google ourselves and attempt to get anything that looks less than appetizing “removed from the web.” (I’m not sure how one goes about doing that.) I’m checking with friends at other universities to see if an anti-blog attitude is prevalent in job-placement seminars away from Harvard as well, but I suspect that it is.

I do think bloggers, especially blogging graduate students, need to stand up for themselves now. So, I propose the following:

I would like to hear from all blogging graduate students in the humanities and social sciences, pseudonymous and non-pseudonymous. Please send me an email [rgoetz AT fas DOT harvard DOT edu] with the following information:

  1. Your blog’s title and URL
  2. Whether or not you are on the job market
  3. If you include your blog on your CV or other job applications material
  4. If you’ve interviewed before, were you asked questions about your blog? Did blogging come up at any other time in the process?
  5. Briefly or not so briefly, why do you blog?

Please let me know if I have your permission to blog the information you share with me (anonymously of course).

I will use this information to create a blogroll exclusively of grad students at (a)musings of a grad student. Beyond the blogroll, it is my goal to get a sense of whether or not blogging grad students are really at a disadvantage in the job process. I’ll share my conclusions in subsequent posts.

UPDATE Per Jonathan Dresner's suggestion from the comments at Cliopatria, I would also like to hear from professors who blog, pseudonymously or otherwise:

  1. whether or not your department knows you blog
  2. whether or not your colleagues have commented, positively or negatively, on your blogging
  3. whether or not your blog has come up in tenure or promotion reviews, positively or negatively
  4. briefly or not so briefly, why do you blog?
  5. anything else you feel is pertinent that I should know about

I won't be making a blogroll from this information. As with the grad students, all your comments will be held in confidence, anonymously, unless you specify otherwise. [rgoetz AT fas DOT harvard DOT edu]

Unless blogging grad students can communicate why we find blogging useful to our research, teaching, and professional networks, I am afraid that Tribble’s anti-blog attitude will become the accepted conventional wisdom. So I see this as a first step to gathering some material about what we do, why we do it, and how it helps us be better scholars and teachers.


At Wednesday, September 14, 2005 10:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rebecca -

1 - my department doesn't know I blog (I have at least one colleague who's wandered in to chat while I had a typepad page up, who may have seen the "New Post for New Kid on the Hallway" page, and who may know enough about blogs to have figured out what this means, but if he has, he hasn't let me know!).

2 - because they don't know, they haven't commented on my blogging. But for that matter, I haven't heard any of my colleagues comment on blogging at all. Apart from the colleague above, I have another colleague whom I suspect of knowing what blogs are. The rest of them - it wouldn't shock me if they knew what blogs were, but it wouldn't shock me if they didn't, either (apart from the news hype about political bloggers, maybe).

3 - nope (for reasons above). But then, I probably wouldn't try to make it part of the tenure process b/c there's a lot of personal content and no specifically research related material (except in the broadest sense). Conversely, if I ever did "come out" under my own name, I'd cut the personal material and speak more specifically about my research, so then it would be more appropriate for some kind of tenure review, but I would be unlikely to come out until post-tenure.

I think, though, that I would always be more interested in the kind of community-building aspect of blogs (see below) so that the blog would be more relevant in terms of professional research per se. But that's just my take for me, not a comment on blogging in general.

4 - I blog for the sense of community and to connect with a group of like-minded people - like-minded not in the sense that they agree with everything I say, but they face similar issues/concerns that I do as a jr. prof. Oh, and I've "met" lots of wonderful folks who aren't academics, too. It's nice to find a group of people I can talk with about this kind of stuff, who aren't ever going to be sitting on my tenure review or competing for resources with me!

I think that's it. :-)

At Wednesday, September 14, 2005 11:47:00 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

Thanks New Kid!

Please, more responses! In the comments or email them to rgoetz AT fas DOT harvard DOT edu

At Wednesday, September 14, 2005 11:55:00 PM, Blogger J. Otto Pohl said...

Well I am no longer a graduate student nor am I a professor. I do have a Ph.D. and several pages of academic publications including two books. I have also been applying to various lecturships for over a year now. Finally, I have a blog which is under my own name, but it does not appear on my CV. I think other factors make it highly unlikely I will ever get a job in academia. I thus do not consider my blog to be a consideration for employment one way or the other.

At Thursday, September 15, 2005 7:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And those of us who are not [technically] in the humanities and social sciences?

At Thursday, September 15, 2005 7:58:00 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

bill--send it on anyway! (please!)

At Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the way now.

I'm pretty sure I count as an outlier, though, no matter what your framing premises are....

At Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh -- and I forgot to say (because it's not always obvious): I'm a kind of graduate student. First year, in fact. But Cf. previous comment....

At Sunday, September 18, 2005 2:02:00 AM, Blogger Richard Y Chappell said...

Hi Rebecca, to help collect the desired data I've incorporated some of your questions into a Go-meme: see here. As explained there, it provides bloggers with a good incentive to participate, so it should help you get more responses. Do consider joining in yourself! :)

At Tuesday, September 20, 2005 2:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was told that I mustn't blog because it could be really bad for my career. PhD in UK

At Tuesday, September 20, 2005 9:37:00 AM, Blogger Bora Zivkovic said...

I did Richard's go-meme. If you are interested, it can be found here:

At Friday, September 23, 2005 10:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rebecca!

My blog is "Building Wings," at http://www.beanbagcentral.com/tanya

I am a first-year graduate student - not on the job market as of yet, but had my blog continously throughout my last few years in the professional world.

I have never and WILL NEVER put my blog on my CV or other application materials (unless forced to disclose it, say, on a paper application where they specifically ask for such a thing).

In the non-academic world, I was never asked questions about blogging. I worked at a pretty internet-savvy firm, although my boss was frankly clueless. I've had a practice of keeping things mum as much as possible - never really talk about colleagues (school or work), try not to identify where i attend school/work, etc. I've seen folks get into really hairy situations, so I've tried to be uber-careful.

I've blogged since before blogging was even a term known to the masses. My first website, back in 1998, was a blog (it's long gone by now). I blogged in the form of a subscription-based mass email from late 1998 to 1999. I became an "official" blogger in 2000 and have been between Xanga, Livejournal, and now, my "real" blog at beanbagcentral (hosted by a friend). I've always considered myself a writer, and I blog because I like to have an audience and craft things with that in mind. It's fun. It's catharsis. It's a place where I can say, "DANG, that book really sucked and last week really sucked, but I'm still here and it will get better!"

Like a diary, only not so intimate.

Will be back soon to read more of what you've written! Also - on my blog I've linked a few academics I found. they're the last 3-4 on my blogroll.

At Friday, September 23, 2005 10:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a second year graduate student and I do have a blog. I would NEVER put it on my CV, it's under a name that is not my own, and it is locked from public view. I have also been advised to be aware that I'll be (potentially) accountable for anything that I blog. Academia is just too political to take those sorts of chances...

At Saturday, September 24, 2005 4:20:00 AM, Blogger Glen Fuller said...

Nice work, Rebecca. I have replied to you via email, but I just wanted to express my support here.

'Prof Tribble' still did not reply in his second column to what I thought was the obvious problem with his anti-blog stance: if the workplace is really so bad that those hiring new workers do not want the 'dirty laudry' aired, then isn't it more a question of senior academics pulling their own socks up and stop acting like a bunch of spoilt baby boomer babies, rather than not hiring anyone who will tell the world about it. Treat young academics with respect and you'll get respect back. Run your department like a bad caricature of the worst excesses found in, for example, Bourdieu's research on academia, then in this day and age of mobile academics you should expect bad workplace reviews.

Doesn't the position Tribble respresent just another example of the way employers are trying to restrict the mobility of labour? How many grad students expect to get an academic job let alone make tenure? How many people would want to work for the university that Tribble works at?

At Saturday, September 24, 2005 4:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a student. I am 37 and have life experience ;p

But it's all about believing in what you're doing. If people don't like it, sure that's part of how it works in life. A lot of people will not like it and prefer other ways, or prefer other blogs and bla bla bla. But if YOU like it, there's is nothing to stop you from doing it. No brain issues. Simply do it and tell everyone about it, because you need readers :)

At Saturday, September 24, 2005 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a non-blogger, I (like Tribble) may just not "get it," but I simply don't understand what people found so objectionable about his column, or the follow-up. He's telling people to be careful what they put online: is this news to anyone?

Many who blog no doubt are much more careful about what they write than some of the job candidates Tribble described. Most of the folks who have responded to Tribble's column with eloquent defenses of their own blogging practices no doubt fall into this category. Great! Then Tribble's warning doesn't apply to you.

Others may not care what anyone thinks of their blog, or whether it might cost them a job. They're obviously entitled to take that view. Again, I don't see why Tribble's comments would offend anyone in this category: his warning is presumably meant for those academic job candidates who can't afford to be so cavalier about their job prospects.

I understand that many were shocked by the fact that some of Tribble's colleagues feared that a newly hired blogger might badmouth the department. Petty, small-minded curmudgeons on academic search committees - will the wonders never cease. Those offended by the curmudgeons' attitude are free to confine their job applications to committees comprised exclusively of more enlightened folk. That would be at least 90% fewer applications than they'd otherwise send out.

From the experiences of Tribble and his colleagues, however, there seem to be people out there applying for academic jobs, most of whom I assume really want those jobs, who haven't figured out that search committees will google them, or haven't realized that the content of their blogs shows them at far less than their best. Let's face it: we've all read blogs that would raise a committee's red flags. For heaven's sake: listing the jobs you've applied for on a blog, ranked in order of preference?

I suppose there's an argument to be made that such excessively open bloggers actually help search committees narrow in on better candidates (including better blogging candidates). And it obviously helps the other candidates. But Tribble apparently felt badly that otherwise promising young scholars were needlessly shooting themselves in the foot, and so issued a head's up. I don't see what's wrong with that. Whether it's coming from Tribble or from faculty running a job-hunt workshop, it's just advice. If you don't like it, don't follow it. No harm no foul.

At Saturday, September 24, 2005 7:34:00 PM, Blogger Miz P said...

1) http://infodva.blogspot.com/

2) Yep.

3) Nope. It's not that sort of blog, really.

4) No and no.

5) I blog because if I don't, I might kill someone or myself. Gotta say it somewhere!

At Wednesday, September 28, 2005 1:21:00 PM, Blogger Dale Winling said...


Not on job market (dual program: 2nd year PhD/1st year Masters). Some dept. faculty might know but think it's a minor diversion. Blogging gives me a chance to discuss ideas and issues that I'm interested in that don't come up in class. Blogging activity declines during the school year.

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