Friday, March 26, 2010

Following Up On The Job Market Wiki Situation

As we near the end of the '09 - '10 job market cycle, I thought it would be worth reassessing the various job-market wikis we've been using. I found that although I didn't initially prefer it (see discussion here), I spent the most time on the phylo wiki this season. I like the color coding and the way jobs with status changes would be moved to the top, which made it easy to tell what was different from one visit to the next. But I also missed the tiered-and-alphabetized structure of the first wiki, which made it much easier to find the schools you are really interested in. Of course, the phylo wiki's ability to create customized RSS feeds sort of solves that problem. But I used those RSS feeds for only a very short period of time; with it there was no point in obsessively refreshing the webpage looking for updates, and I am sick, very sick.

It looks like the Academic Jobs wiki never really caught on, and that people stopped using it altogether in January. It looks like phylo wins.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

I thought the first version of Phylo was awful. People seemed to be messing with it a lot - moving a job status back after some one else had moved it forward, listing jobs as canceled et cetera. After the other job wiki started, however, they made changes to Phylo - listing status changes by ip addresses, adding a comment feature. Those changes seemed to fix the problems. There was really no need to use the other wiki after that.

zombie said...

I found that I migrated to Phylo after a while. Although it is harder to find things when they are not listed alphabetically, at this point, it is more useful to have the most recent stuff moved up to the top. I check it often enough that it matters.

Doesn't seem like the other wiki has much activity, which also diminishes its usefulness, in a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way.

Although at this point in the season, checking the wikis is like reading the obituaries. Am I dead there yet? Oh... I am. But maybe I'm still alive over... nope. Dead there too.

Anonymous said...

I used the Phylo wiki almost exclusively. One feature I did not at all like about the Phylo wiki was that it listed your IP address if you changed the status. Listing the IP address took away an important bit of anonymity, especially if, like me, you live in an area with one only philosophy PhD program. I'd imagine that listing the IP probably did a lot to discourage pranksters from screwing with the updates, but I think it also discouraged people from making legitimate updates and so making the wiki even more valuable a tool for information.

Anonymous said...

You nailed it, Zombie: "Although at this point in the season, checking the wikis is like reading the obituaries. Am I dead there yet? Oh... I am. But maybe I'm still alive over... nope. Dead there too." Thanks for the laugh.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:32. Good point. Several friends I know who had interviews never updated the wiki because of IP tracking. There is something to be said for anonymity.

david morrow said...

I'm one of the creators of the Phylo wiki. I just want people to know that we're happy to hear people's suggestions and criticisms. Once more people have had a chance to comment, I'll post our thoughts on here to get everyone's feedback on possible changes.

Anonymous said...

This is off topic, I know, but I was hoping to get some response to the following two words:



Any statement from JD (or others) on this important matter?

Thank you for your attention. Now back to the wiki.

Anonymous said...

1. Add "alphabetize" to the "sorted by" list.

2. Add AOCs (and the ability to restrict by them).

3. If possible, make it so that menus don't just pop up automatically. (Browsing through the page, I have tons of things I don't intend to be looking at popping up. It would be nice if you had to click on them in order to get the menus.)

4. I've never tried changing a school's status, so I don't know if this is a legitimate worry... But I'd wondered whether (since it's so easy to unintentionally open menus) people might be unintentionally changing the statuses of schools. If so, making it so that you actually have to click to open menus might help. Putting in (if one doesn't already exist) a "yes, I mean to make this change" button could also help.

But in general, love the wiki! Thanks for making and continuing to improve on it.

zombie said...

I agree that the IP trackability issue likely discourages updating of the wiki. This hit me when I added a new job listing. I felt kind of "exposed" once I realized that the school could, if they were so inclined, easily identify me as the applicant who posted the job, given my location and the unlikelihood of there being other applicants here. Maybe not a problem in the big cities, but some of us are Outlanders.

I don't know how to get around the problem of mischief-makers anonymously changing job statuses, but I do know that I am disinclined to post updates (even benign ones) when I know I can be identified.

Applicantus said...

I second Anon 7:22 on the "do you really want to make this change" button suggestion. I rather like the way menus just pop up, but once such a popping menu resulted in me changing a status unintentionally (which I immediately changed back, of course) - but judging by the number of similar traces I noticed, this happened to others too.

david morrow said...

Thanks for the suggestions on the Phylo wiki. They're all very helpful. Some initial responses:

1. You can already alphabetize (and sort on a few other things, too). At the top of the list, it says, "Sorted by: Last Updated." If you click on 'Last Updated', you'll see a list of options.

But I take your point that this is not very obvious. Poor user interface design on my part. We'll try to make it more obvious and post a screencast showing some options like this.

2. Menus on mouseover vs. on click. There may be an intermediate option: menus appear when you click or hover over a link for more than (say) half a second. The intermediate option might make the thing run even slower. We'll look into it. Other votes on mouseover vs. click?

3. Confirmation button. I really like this idea. Maybe a little pop-up asking you to confirm and allowing you to enter a quick comment (e.g., "contacted by email") directly from the main interface?

And the two biggies...

4. IP tracking. The other wikis do this, too -- it's just less obvious, and there's no direct link to anything like InfoSniper. I suspect the extra steps needed to identify someone on the other wikis is enough to deter a lot of snooping.

Obviously, we need to find a better balance between protecting anonymity and deterring wiki vandalism. We'll give this some thought.

5. AOCs. We'd been resistant to doing this at first for several reasons. We'll have to revisit the issue. One important question on this point: Do people want to see AOCs because they would use that information to decide whether to click through to the actual job ad? Do they want to see AOCs because it helps them distinguish similar jobs? Or are there other reasons that people want to see AOCs?

Thanks again. Please keep the suggestions coming.

Anonymous said...


I don't mean this personally, as I do appreciate your selfless service to us job seekers. But I've run across quite a few problems with new wiki. Some of which were amended promptly (like this disclaimer dialogue box), but more serious problems still remain.

I have tried on several occasions to add new jobs to the wiki. Whether logged in or not, I have been unable to add a job listing to it. I thought it might be a problem specific to Firefox, but I've had no luck using IE to add jobs either. For this reason, there are several jobs for which I was/am a candidate about which I can receive no information. I've made the appropriate additions to the text-based wiki, but so few people have been updating that site that I (unfortunately?) have to go old-school and wait for rejection letters to get any updates whatsoever.

I mean this comment in the spirit of making positive improvements to the site as it exists. If for some reason I'm doing something simple and bullheadedly wrong, please do let me know.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Info-Sniper: if I had to choose between 1) a wiki with IP tracking, less information, and less vandalism and 2) a wiki with no IP tracking, more information, and more vandalism, then I would choose the former.

Even if the Info-Sniper discourages updates on the part of those in locales with weak anonymity, there are still plenty of people in more anonymous locations who can update.

david morrow said...

Anon 8:19,

No offense taken. I appreciate your input, and I'm sorry to hear that bugs in the wiki kept you from getting information about a job that interested you. There was a period in December where I screwed things up and the system wouldn't accept new listings from non-administrators. Even after I fixed that, there are sometimes bugs. We're going to overhaul the job entry form, moving it to its own page and making it less buggy.

Re: IP Tracking. We've decided to pursue a middle road on this. We'll remove links to InfoSniper. IP information will still be available if you click through to the full job listing page, though the IP will be truncated in the main interface, enabling users to tell when a single user has made multiple updates.

Re: AOCs. We're going to try adding AOCs for the 2010/11 job season, if we can iron out some technical issues. We'll see how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Phylo still has a lot of false information. For example, Joliet Junior College has been listed as "Offer Made" for quite some time, but I know for a fact that they have only just decided who to invite for campus interviews. Also, Phylo claims that Virginia Tech made an offer on 31 March, but I got an email from Virginia Tech on 24 March stating that they had just made their initial selection of candidates and asking for a writing sample. Surely they didn't make an offer 1 week after asking for writing samples.